Milne Bay Province
Milne Bay Province takes in both the mainland coastal districts surrounding Milne Bay itself and the islands to the east and north, including Kiriwina, Fergusson, Goodenough, Woodlark and the Louisiade Archipelago.
Located at the eastern tip of the New Guinea mainland, Milne Bay’s strategic importance was rapidly recognised by the Australian and American allies and work began on constructing airfields and port facilities there in June 1942. Australian troops, with American support, began to arrive and by the time of the Japanese landings in late August of that year, there was a large enough contingent to be able to repel the invaders, after a battle that lasted two weeks.
Although the Japanese had been defeated in their attempt to seize the airfields, they remained a constant menace through their presence on some of the nearby islands and the frequent air attacks on the stores, depots, airfields and port facilities, continuing well into 1943. The area hosted a large population of Australian and American servicemen and women throughout the War. In 1943 more airfields were constructed on the islands including Kiriwina and Woodlark for the use of Allied aircraft engaged in the bombing of the main Japanese base at Rabaul for much of the rest of the War.
Both men and women from Milne Bay were recruited by the Allies – women as nurses and servants, men as carriers and in a range of support roles. A significant number of Papuan Infantry Battalion members came from Milne Bay and the nearby islands.