South West Pacific Area Campaign

Pacific Theatre Areas. Source.

SWPA Map

General Douglas MacArthur was appointed Supreme Allied Commander South-West Pacific Area (SWPA) on 18 April 1942. The South-West Pacific was one of three theatres of World War Two in the Pacific region between 1942 and 1945.

The South-West Pacific Area included Australia, the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies (excluding Sumatra), New Guinea (including the Bismarck Archipelago), and the western part of the Solomon Islands.

Within the SWPA, campaigns were waged with often heavy losses including:

  • Philippines (1941–42) (Battle of Bataan and Corregidor);
  • Solomon Islands campaign 1943–45;
  • New Guinea campaign, 1942–45 including:
    • Battle of the Coral Sea 4–8 May 1942, ( under US Navy command)
    • Kokoda Track campaign 1942,
    • Battle of Milne Bay (25 August – 7 September 1942)
    • Battles of Buna-Gona 1942,
    • Bismarck Sea 2 March 1943,
    • Salamaua-Lae campaign 1943,
    • Aitape-Wewak campaign 22 April 1944;
  • Battle of Timor 1942–43;
  • Battle of Leyte Gulf 20 October 1944; and
  • the Borneo campaign (1945).

The South West Pacific Area (SWPA) Gallery

The Gallery comprises examples of cooperation between Australian and US armed forces within the SWPA. The examples are:

  1. Royal Australian Navy and United States Navy
  2. The fight to overcome the threat of Malaria
  3. The Battle of Milne Bay (Australian infantry and US engineers
  4. The Battle of Bismarck Sea ( RAAF and US Army Air Force

The naval displays include the Battles of Coral Sea, Savo Island and Surigao Straight kamikaze attacks during the re-conquest of the Philippines. Items of naval equipment and uniforms form part of the display.

Malaria was a major threat to the progress of the Allied advance in SWPA. Australian Medical Corps conducted wide-ranging tests to develop anti-malarial drugs which were then mass produced by American pharmaceutical companies. This ensured that malaria was never as serious for the Allies as for the Japanese.

The Battle of Milne Bay was of particular importance to Australian forces. The battle thwarted the Japanese plans to capture Port Moresby and cut Australia off from the US. It was the first land defeat of the Japanese during the war in August 1942 and was seen as one of the turning points for the war in the Pacific.

The Battle of the Bismarck Sea was of major significance as it was the first time that aircraft alone had destroyed an invasion force.

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