Australia's Mini-Dunkirk


Neville Lindsay


(c) 2005




In the closing stages of the Pacific War in 1945, Australia carried out a series of operations which were unrelated to the defeat of Japan - attacking bypassed Japanese garrisons in the Dutch East Indies and New Guinea and the Islands. With the US amphibious forces moving on the Philippines and towards Japan, these operations had to rest on Australian resources which were limited in scope and quantity.

One operation on Bougainville in the northern sector had run up against stiff opposition, and it was decided to carry out a small amphibious landing to outflank the position. Over-optimistic planning, limited fire support and environmental obstacles against a resourceful and determined enemy turned the landing into a nightmare from which it was difficult to extricate the force when failure became apparent.

The US forces understood that an amphibious operation, even with massive preparation and support, was a knife edge proposition. They were never impressed with the casual approach of Australian forces who relied largely on improvisation in an environment which was unforgiving of such an approach.

At Porton Plantation this caution was not heeded, with disastrous results. The story of Porton is a mixture of foolhardiness, heroism and a lesson in the fragility of amphibious operations, no matter what their scale. An example of a later attempt at a similar operation in Vietnam is given as a reminder of lessons not learnt.