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Volume 19 Number 2

Chief of Army Foreword – Littoral Manoeuvre

On the morning of 4 September 1943, soldiers from the 9th Australian Division disembarked from landing craft and waded ashore on marshy landing sites some 15 kilometres east of the town of Lae in occupied New Guinea.

Screened by five destroyers whose naval gunfire hammered away at the tree line ahead of the assaulting Australians, the 9th Division’s landing near Lae was a relatively bloodless action that had the distinction of being the first major amphibious landing conducted by Australians since Gallipoli.

The 7th Australian Division air-landed at nearby Nadzab airfield, and through dense jungle, assaulted Lae from the west. The two Australian divisions then raced each other to Lae, their rapid overland advance delayed by rivers swollen with monsoonal rain and a determined enemy.

The application of decisive joint operations on the ground and in close quarters fighting saw Lae fall to the Australians on 15 September – marking the start of a series of successful operations that extended along the north coast of New Guinea.

Perhaps what is most remarkable about the capture of Lae was not its role in the liberation of occupied New Guinea, but the speed and effectiveness of the 9th Division’s transformation to meet the circumstances of the day.

For most of 1941 and 1942, the 9th Division had been in North Africa, fighting major engagements at Benghazi, Tobruk and El Alamein against the forces of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps. Then at the start of 1943, it was recalled to Australia and rapidly adapted for amphibious operations and jungle warfare in the Pacific littorals against the forces of Imperial Japan. Lae was its first major action in the new theatre – and it was a resounding success.

This volume of The Australian Army Journal coincides with the 80th Anniversary of the joint forcible entry operations at Lae. Operation Postern, as it was known, serves as a timely reminder that our Army has always adapted to our nation’s changing strategic circumstances, and indeed the changing character of war.

An understanding of our history helps to prepare our Army for the challenges of the future. We can learn a great deal from the hard won experience of those whom have gone before us. Our history can inspire confidence in uncertain times.

Today, our Army is transforming – optimising for littoral manoeuvre operations by the sea, land and air as part of the integrated force. We must continue to adapt, drawing upon what we have learned from our history of conducting littoral manoeuvre in our region and beyond.

This issue brings together and applies the focus of distinguished historians on Australian operations in the littorals of German New Guinea (1914), Gallipoli (1915), Lae (1943), Borneo (1945) and East Timor (1999) – among others. Common to all is the challenge of achieving balance between war’s enduring nature and its ever-changing character.

Our Army must harness the capacity of its intellect and innovative nature. The Australian Army Journal is an important way in which you can engage in contest of ideas and the professional discourse on the future of our Army, a national institution, a profession and fighting force.

Reflecting on our past ensures that we continue to learn from the service and the sacrifice of those who came before us – and all that they created, for our Army and our nation.

 

 

LTGEN Simon Stuart, AO DSC

CHIEF OF ARMY

Journal Articles

The (Re)Rise of the Archipelagic Army: Geography, History, and the Ongoing Utility of Land Power in Australia’s Littoral Arc—A Primer
Peter Dean
Tenets for Littoral Operations
Matthew Scott
Supplies Over the Shore: Logistics and Australian Littoral Operations
Rhys Crawley
The 9th Division and the use of the Littoral in the Huon Peninsula Campaign September 1943–January 1944
Thomas Richardson
The Littoral Challenges of Operation ASTUTE, 2006
William Westerman
Unsinkable Ships? Theoretical and Historical Groundings of Joint Operations for Sea Control
Richard Dunley
Corbett Down Under: Sir Julian Corbett, Maritime Strategy, and Australian Land Power in the Indo-Pacific Arc
Ash Zimmerlie
Stand-in Manoeuvre in a Contested Littoral Environment
David Kilcullen

Journal Book Reviews

Born of Fire and Ash: Australian Operations in Response to the East Timor Crisis, 1999–2000 by Craig Stockings
Jean Bou
The War Game. Australian War Leadership from Gallipoli to Iraq by David Horner
John Nash
Urban Warfare in the Twenty-First Century by Anthony King
Charles Knight
War, Strategy, and Military Effectiveness by Williamson Murray
Chris Roberts
Attachment Size
Australian Army Journal Volume XIX Number 2, 2023 (8.04 MB) 8.04 MB