National Capital District
The National Capital District is the location of Port Moresby, now PNG’s capital city and its political and administrative centre. It sits on the dry coastal hills lying between the sea and the precipitous Owen Stanley Range. During the War its main buildings were situated on the shore of Fairfax Harbour, a deep sea port with obvious strategic value to both Allies and the Japanese.
Before the War, Port Moresby was the headquarters of the colonial administration of the Territory of Papua and it continued to be the base of planning and operations during the conflict.
The first Australian troops arrived there in 1941, with more in January 1942, initially unloading stores from ships and digging air raid trenches and other facilities. As the War continued, Port Moresby was to see many thousands of Australian and American service people stationed there or transiting through on the way to other locations. Port Moresby was a major Allied air base, with seven airfields and a flying boat base in its majestic harbour, and was surrounded by anti-aircraft batteries.
Port Moresby experienced its first raid by Japanese bombers in early February 1942, and these continued throughout 1942 and into 1943, with diminishing frequency as the front line moved away from Port Moresby. In the War’s early months, a sea-borne invasion by Japanese forces was anticipated but this threat was reduced following the Battles of the Coral Sea and Milne Bay. The attempt to reach Port Moresby overland from Buna and Gona was also denied by Australian soldiers during the Kokoda campaign.
The town continued to be an important Allied centre throughout the War, even as the front line moved away into the Territory of New Guinea. A large war cemetery is located at Bomana, inland from Port Moresby.