Battle of Timor

The War in the Pacific

Australasia 1943.0114

Battle of Timor

Australia, New Zealand and World War II in the South Pacific (14 January 1943)

Historical Map of Australia, New Zealand & the Southwest Pacific

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Australians and Dutch took over the weakly-defended Portuguese colony in eastern Timor. While most of Timor fell to Japan in February 1942, the mostly-Australian Allied forces continued to hold out in eastern Timor, fighting a guerrilla war against the Japanese until early 1943.

Main Events

Battle of Buna-Gona

Following the conclusion of the Kokoda Trail campaign, Australian troops of the 30th Brigade advanced on Japanese-occupied Buna and Gona, on the north coast of the island of New Guinea. They were joined by the US 32nd Division, arriving via the Kapa Kapa Trail, and together expelled the Japanese despite suffering substantial casualties from both combat and disease.

Allied withdrawal from Timor

In the early morning of 1 December 1942, Japanese aircraft sank the Australian corvette HMAS Armidale while it was transporting fresh Dutch troops to support the extended Allied guerrilla campaign against the Japanese in Timor. This disaster, and the increasing numbers of Japanese troops arriving, prompted the Allies to wind down their campaign on the island, and, on 11-12 December, the mostly-Australian Sparrow Force - the main Allied force in Timor - was evacuated with Portuguese civilians by the Dutch destroyer HNLMS Tjerk Hiddes. The other Allied units in eastern Timor - Lancer Force, S Force, and Z Special Unit - all withdrew in early 1943.

Operation Ke

On 12 December 1942, the Japanese Navy proposed that Guadalcanal be abandoned. After discussions with the army staff and the formal endorsement of the Emperor, the evacuation - Operation Ke - began on 14 January 1943. Misinterpreting the Japanese evacuation fleet movements as a buildup for a new offensive, the US pulled back its forces on the island, allowing the Japanese to leave largely unmolested.

Surrender of the Sixth Army

On 31 January Soviet forces advancing on the remaining German positions in Stalingrad reach the headquarters of German Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, commander of the Sixth Army, in the southern pocket and capture him. Two days later,on 2 February, the remainder of the Sixth Army under General Strecker surrenders to the Soviets, ending organized Axis resistance in the city.

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