Operation Cobber – The Recapture of Port Moresby
Main Landing Force
1st Australian Division, 632nd Anti Tank Battalion, 2/5 Armoured Regiment, 1st RAA Jungle Regiment, 197th Coastal Anti Aircraft Artillery, 53rd Australian Light AA.
The first Allied ships to hit the Port Morseby area are two destroyers carrying out ASW duties and several minesweepers tasked with sweeping any defensive minefields. As it turned out no contact with an enemy minefield was made but several submarine contacts were made by the RAN minesweepers. The first assault ships to hit the actual beaches started to unload the soldiers of the 1st Australian Divison at 04:30. The first wave met little resistance as surprise was achieved as no pre landing bombardment was ordered. The second and third waves however did receive incoming fire form mortars, machine guns and inland artillery. No damage was sustained though the 6,000 ton USAT Red Jacket did report being struck by a torpedo that did not detonate on impact.
As the sun rose more and more small landing craft made the journey, under enemy fire, from shore ot ship ferrying men and equipment. At around o8:45 men began to arc their necks skywards as the drones of aircraft engines were starting to be heard above the sporadic enemy fire. Fears were quickly allayed when B-25 Mitchells of the 18th RAAF Squadron roared overhead at around 2,000 feet and proceeded to fly over the landing zone and further inland to drop their bombs on predetermined targets. These pilots were very familiar with Port Moresby having made many bombing sorties over the enemy held base.
By midday a substantial part of the 1st Australian Division was already ashore and holding a decent perimeter around the small beach head. Supplies and the guns of the 1st RAA Jungle Regiment were staring to come ashore and were being unlimbered by the gunners. Yet once again the air was filled with the sound of aerial engines, only this time far louder and in much greater quantity. The heavy bomber squadrons of the Seventh USAAF and V US Bomber Command also joined the battle to support the landings. These veteran bomber crews dropped a devastating load of high explosive on the main Japanese line of defence. Port Moresby had been recconed for months and as such Australia Command had a very good picture of where the Japanese strong points were and how to neutralise their support network.
The first Japanese response came in the form of a late afternoon bombardment that caused little disruption and no damage or losses at all. Ship’s crews and landing craft personnel were ordered to work through the night to have all the necessary manpower ashore by daybreak on the 6th April in order to make an initial assault. Intell had already determined that three marine units, of possibly batallion size, defended Port Morseby. It had been many weeks since an enemy fighter had been seen over Port Moresby once the heavies had neutralised it as a forward base.