RAAF units which landed were prepared to man perimeters and fight if necessary, specially trained guards being included in the leading elements.
They were officered by experienced ex-AMF men. F/Lt F. (Smokey) Dawson, of Yarram, Vic, was a sergeant in the 2/22 at Rabaul when the Japs landed. F/Lt Les Beardsell, of Geelong, was a sergeant in the 2/2 Field Regiment (artillery) in Libya and Greece and was wounded fighting German paratroopers on a Crete airstrip.
An unbelievably difficult landing beach, a grim battle for the vital airstrip, destruction of enemy raiding parties, a backdrop of dust, and a string of refugees coming down from the hills that is the picture of the first six days.
Somehow the 10,000 tons of heavy engineering equipment were got ashore. Houses were probed for booby traps and taken over as residences, but stores could not be unpacked because, as the Army advanced, the RAAF engineers pushed forward, ready to go into action on preparing the strip.
When the big rangy Dyaks-the last word in prehistoric man, it seemed emerged from the fastness of the rain forest, Australians watched them open-mouthed. Their bodies were covered with long hair and hanging from their elongated ear lobes seemed to be everything but the kitchen sink.
Working from dawn until dusk was a small team of eight RAAF bomb dis¬posal men. The two officers-F/Lt Ralph Taylor, of Tenterfield, NSW, who won the US Silver Star for work in the Admiralty Islands, and F/Lt Maurice Dunkley, of Sydney were gleefully riding on the back of a big truck astride a 1000 lb Jap sea mine when interviewed.
The Japs used sea mines, depth charges and landmines in the ground over which the Australians advanced. In the squad were Sgt K. Pieper, of Swan Hill; LAC G. Germain, of Mel¬bourne; LAC W. L. O'Connor, of Mur¬willumbah, NSW; LAC C. Paddle, of Mosman, NSW; LAC M. Anderson, of Port Pirie, SA; LAC G. Marven, of Albert Park, Vic; LAC Tom Reidy, of Newcastle; and LAC G. Lawson, of East Melbourne.
Taylor, Reidy, and Lawson came ashore with the first wave on invasion day.
Probably the squad's most intrepid mission was to go to the airstrip the night before its capture and search out some of the mines planted by the Japs, who were covering the strip with fire' from surrounding country.
During the first week, the bomb dis¬posal boys stole the show from the more spectacular flying squadrons waiting to get on to the strip.
The guards soon had to fight. Manning several hundred yards of thick country on the outskirts of a bivouac area for RAAF construction units and flying squadron ground staff, the guards routed and destroyed four members of a well armed Jap raiding party.
Shortly after 2230 hours on the Friday the day after the landing, LAC W. T. Stevens, of Grafton, NSW, and LAC Ron Kleidon, of Bundaberg, were attacked by a Jap with a grenade. Although dazed by the explosion, Stevens opened fire with his Tommy gun and killed the Jap with two shots in the dark.