Allies & Partners? The United States & Australia at Buna and Sanananda, South West Pacific Area November 1942 - January 1943


The nature of warfare involving coalitions is always fraught with difficulties. The competing strategic interests of each partner and the complications arising from two foreign armies working together inevitably leads to tension. The relationship between the United States and Australian during 1942/1943 is no exception.

One of the dominating images of this partnership centres on the relationship between the two senior military commanders in the South West Pacific Area, General Douglas MacArthur and General Sir Thomas Blamey. MacArthur’s comment, during the Kokoda campaign, that ‘these Australians won’t fight’ set the initial tone for the relationship. Blamey’s retort, during the subsequent campaign, that he would prefer to send in tired Australian troops over fresh American reinforcements, ‘as he knew they would fight’ only unravelled an already fragile relationship. By surveying the historiography as well as using documentary and oral history evidence from the commander and troops of the US 32nd and Australian 7th Infantry Divisions and Advanced New Guinea Force HQ this paper will explore the extent were these views were shared by the senior Australian and United States ground commanders in New Guinea who fought the battle of the beach heads from November 1942 to January 1943 . Furthermore it will investigate the nature of the operational command relations during this campaign and analyse the extent to which these partners were able to forge an effective working relationship on the battlefield.


Pacific War, Coalition Warfare, Australia, United States, Buna, Sanananda, 32nd Division, 7th Division, Eichelberger, Herring, war, jungle warfare, allies, south west pacific, Blamey, MacArthur


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The Author:

Dr Peter Dean