battle of mubo

Trekking Kokoda: Unraveling the Battle of Mubo

Introduction – Battle of Mubo

Trekking the Kokoda Track is a journey through history, retracing the footsteps of the brave Australians who fought in the challenging terrains of Papua New Guinea during World War II. One of the pivotal events along the Kokoda Campaign was the Battle of Mubo, an intense conflict that unfolded in the Mubo area in July 1943. In this article, we delve into the significant actions, key players, and the strategic importance of the Battle of Mubo.

The Prelude: Late January 1943

As the Australian forces advanced into the territory of New Guinea, late January 1943 marked the beginning of a series of actions around Mubo. The Japanese defensive positions around Mount Tambu and the airfield near Wau set the stage for the ensuing battle that would form part of the wider Salamaua–Lae campaign.

The Terrain and Flank Movements

Situated southwest of Mubo, the area around Bobdubi presented a challenging battleground. The Japanese forces, specifically Hidemitsu Nakano’s 51st Division, formed a defensive position around Lababia Ridge, aiming to harass and halt the Australian advancements.

Actions in the Mubo Area

The Battle of Mubo, fought in the early stages of July 1943, saw the Australian 17th Brigade, under the command of Brigadier Murray Moten, advancing into the surroundings of Wau. Their objective was to draw reinforcements away from Lae and initiate a seaborne landing planned for mid-September.

Australian Advancements and Japanese Withdrawal

The Australian force, primarily consisting of the 17th Brigade, engaged in intense fighting around Mubo. Over the course of several days, the actions included a series of maneuvers and assaults on Japanese positions. The Australians strategically isolated a Japanese company, compelling a withdrawal towards Mubo.

The Critical Airfield: Wau

The Battle of Mubo was intricately connected to the broader objective of securing the vital airfield around Wau. The Australian and US forces, with Major General Stanley at the helm, aimed to capture this strategic point, later in the month, forcing the Japanese to withdraw from Mubo.

Harassment and Reinforcements

Simultaneously, an independent company began harassing Japanese troops around Mubo, adding pressure to the already strained Japanese forces. The intention was to draw attention away from Lae and create an opportunity for the planned seaborne landing.

The Climax: July 12

By July 12, the Japanese forces were forced into a precarious situation. The Australian 17th Brigade’s persistent assaults and harassment tactics compelled the Japanese to withdraw further. The Battle of Mubo was reaching its climax, with heavy losses on both sides.

Japanese Retreat and the Wider Campaign

Between April 22 and May 29, the Japanese faced significant setbacks, leading to a withdrawal from Mubo. The Battle of Mubo formed an integral part of the wider Salamaua–Lae campaign, contributing to the overall success of the Allied forces in the region.


The Battle of Mubo, with its connection to the Kokoda Campaign and the broader war efforts in the Pacific, holds a special place in the historical narrative of Australia’s wartime engagements. As trekkers traverse the Kokoda Track, they can reflect on the sacrifices and valor displayed during the Battle of Mubo, a testament to the resilience of the Australian forces in the unforgiving terrains of Papua New Guinea.


Q: What was the Battle?

A: The Battle of Mubo was a series of battles that took place in the Mubo area of the territory of New Guinea between Australian and Japanese forces in early July 1943.

Q: Why was the Battle significant?

A: The Battle of Mubo formed part of the larger Battle of Wau and was a critical engagement in the New Guinea campaign during World War II.

Q: Where did the Battle take place?

A: The Battle of Mubo took place in the Mubo area of the territory of New Guinea, which is situated southwest of Mubo and near Nassau Bay.

Q: What were the main forces involved in the Battle?

A: The Battle of Mubo involved mainly Australian and Japanese forces. The Australian force consisted mainly of the 17th Brigade.

Q: What was the outcome of the Battle?

A: The Australian forces successfully repelled the Japanese, who subsequently withdrew towards Mubo after their failed attempt to capture the vital airfield around the area.

Q: When did the Battle take place?

A: The Battle of Mubo took place in early July 1943, with significant fighting around Wau and in the Mubo area of the New Guinea territory.

Q: How many Japanese forces were involved in the Battle?

A: An estimated 950 Japanese forces were involved in the Battle of Mubo.

Q: What were the key locations involved in the Battle?

A: The Battle of Mubo centered around the Mubo and Salamaua areas, with Japanese positions around Nassau Bay playing a crucial role in the conflict.

Q: What units were involved in the Battle?

A: The 66th Infantry Regiment was among the Japanese forces which took part in the Battle of Mubo.

Q: What was the significance of the Battle for the Australian forces?

A: The Australian forces, consisting mainly of the 17th Brigade, successfully defended the area and turned back the Japanese forces, earning two battle honours for their role in the conflict.

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