Philip Bradley’s latest book tells the extraordinary story of the Australian campaign against the Japanese in New Guinea’s Finisterre mountains in 1943-44.
One of Australia’s leading battlefield historians, he has written an enlightening re-examination of an important campaign following the experiences of the men from both sides. Using letters, diaries and memoirs from the veterans of the Ramu Valley campaign, including from the Japanese side, Phillip takes the reader onto the battlefield.
From the killing ground of Kaiapit to the treacherous heights of the Finisterre Range, for four months in 1943-44 the Australian army fought to drive the Japanese from their mountain strongholds. The most formidable position was the fortress-like Shaggy Ridge, its steep sides rising sharply to a knife-edge crest where battle was joined on a one-man front. Based on the accounts of over a hundred Australians, Americans and Japanese who served on, around and over the ridge, The Battle for Shaggy Ridge tells the story of this extraordinary struggle for control of the Ramu Valley in New Guinea.
February 1943: The Red Army’s stunning destruction of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad ignited Soviet morale across the Eastern Front. Flushed with the news, Stalin ordered his commanders to exploit the momentum and evict the hated enemy from Russian territory.
For German Field Marshal Erich von Manstein these conditions presented an unprecedented crisis. Left with battered forces to counter the moves of vastly superior numbers threatening to entrap his armies, Manstein found himself juggling Hitler’s manic “don’t surrender ground” battle directive and his own defence-to-offence approach.
His ultimate success in The Third Battle of Kharkov has been studied in military academies ever since as a case study in how victory can be snatched from the jaws of defeat by calm generalship, use of combined arms, and what Clausewitz called the massing of forces at the enemy’s ‘centre of gravity’. But it was no more than a pyrrhic victory, failing to halt the Soviet drive on Berlin.
Robert Muscat is President of the Military History Society of New South Wales and a former rifleman in the Australian Army Reserve. He holds two masters degrees in education and is currently a secondary school principal in NSW. He has written and spoken about military history in various forums. His last lecture was about Operation Cobra, Normandy 1944.
PHILLIP BRADLEY is the author of the ground-breaking Hell’s Battlefield and D-Day New Guinea, and a leading Australian military historian. His extensive research on the battlefield, in the archives and with the veterans of the campaign has given him an intimate knowledge of the battle for Shaggy Ridge. In this talk he will discuss the battle drawing on his research for the book.
Phillip Bradley’s The Battle For Shaggy Ridge is available for purchase at this link: