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Markham Valley

My attention has now turned to completing the chapter on the Markham valley campaign. This was the 7th Division, who weren't the best at their paperwork so I don't have anything to base the account on, except for Dexter's New Guinea Offensives , which is only about combat operations, although unusually authoritive, perhaps because Dexter was there.

However, I assembled some material. I found a nice, gabby war diary from the 2/3rd Air Maintenance Company that covered Nadzab pretty well. That left the upper Markham Valley largely unexplored. A book called Moresby to Manila by Troop Carrier tells the story of the transport aircraft, which is not properly covered in Craven & Cate, the US Army Air Force history. General Kenney Reports was discovered to contain few extra details. And I found a few tiny bits and pieces in the 7th Division's war diaries. In the end, I think the chapter is coming together, although it is (to me at least) noticeably thinner than the Finschhafen chapter and sort of tied up with wire.
Everyone agreed that the supply situation would remain precarious until the road was completed but both the 7th Division and the US 5th Air Force engineers concurred that this would take two months. However General Herring believed that reserves at Nadzab were sufficient to allow all maintenance flights to be suspended for a week or so after the capture of Kaiapit. He even put forward a bolder plan of moving on Dumpu first before Kaiapit but General Blamey did not approve; the Japanese were known to have built a road from Madang to the upper Ramu so their supply situation would be good whereas the Allies would be dependent on air supply at a time when fighter cover might be unavailable due to the upcoming Finschhafen operation.

Lieutenant E. Frazier, who had helped choose the site at Tsili Tsili, was sent to reconnoitre the Ramu Valley and landed a Piper Cub at a burned-off level area near the Leron River, not far from Kaiapit. Colonel D. W. Hutchison of the US 2nd Air Task Force approved the site for troop carriers on 16 September. The next day the 2/6th Independent Company, which had been waiting at Port Moresby since 13 September and had four false starts, was flown in from Port Moresby in a special flight of 13 Dakotas, led by Major F. Church, commander of the US 6th Troop Carrier Squadron. Two Dakotas were damaged in the landing and left on the strip, one a total loss. The commandoes of 2/6th Independent Company linked up with B Company, Papuan Infantry Battalion, which was operating in the area, and that evening received airdropped messages from General Vasey to occupy Kaiapit as soon as possible and prepare a landing strip for troop carrier aircraft.

An action on the morning of 20 September resulted in the capture of the town and the complete defeat of the enemy forces in and around Kaiapit. The 2/6th Independent Company lost 14 killed and 23 wounded; some 214 enemy bodies were counted. Lieutenant Frazier landed on the newly captured airstrip at 1230 and they began preparing a new strip. At 1700 the next afternoon, Colonel Hutchison flew in for a test landing in a Dakota. He collected the wounded and flew to Nadzab with them, to return about half an hour later with a load of rations and ammunition and Brigadier I. N. Dougherty, commander of the 21st Infantry Brigade, who took charge of the area. Taking advantage of good flying weather on 22 September, Colonel Hutchisons 18 Dakotas made 99 round trips from Nadzab to Kaiapit, bringing in Doughertys 2/16th Infantry Battalion. On 23 September, 45 fully-loaded Dakotas landed, bringing in the 2/27th Infantry Battalion direct from Port Moresby. Only 9 aircraft were available on 25 September but managed to 87 trips. However, the next day the US 5th Air Force restricted landings at Kaiapit to between the hours of 0930 and 1530, and 15 aircraft made only 44 trips.