In early January, the bitterly fought Buna-Gona campaign on the eastern coast of New Guinea was concluding. Further up the coastline, 4000 Japanese troops of the veteran 51st Division landed in Salamaua, near Lae, and proceeded into the hinterland to capture Wau, a strategically located village in the New Guinean highlands with an airstrip. However, with fortunate timing for the Allies, the 17th Australian Brigade, in reserve at Milne Bay, was in the process of being airlifted to Wau to reinforce Kanga Force, a company of Australian commandos utilizing the airfield as a base. The critical encounter in this campaign actually occurred two kilometers from Wau, at a tiny village called Wandumi, defended by a recently airlifted company of Australians commanded by Captain Sherlock and a section of commandos. Each hour Sherlock’s men delayed the Japanese forces allowed additional elements of the brigade to be flown in to defend Wau.
Attacker: Japanese (Advanced and reinforcing elements of the 102nd Regimental Group, 51st Division)
Defender: Australian (Coy A, 2/6th Battalion, 17th Australian Brigade and elements of the 2/5th Independent Coy and Coy A, 2/5th Battalion, 17th Australian Brigade)