Battle of Lone Tree Hill
|The Battle of Lone Tree Hill (aka Battle of Wakde-Sarmi)|
|Part of Western New Guinea Campaign, World War II|
|United States||Empire of Japan|
|Commanders and leaders|
|General Walter Krueger||Lieutenant General Hachiro Tagami|
|Casualties and losses|
11,000 dead from sickness starvation,
17 tanks lost
Following the loss of Hollandia, to the east, in April 1944, the Toem-Wakde-Sarmi area was an isolated coastal salient for the Japanese. Nevertheless, elements of the Japanese 223rd and 224th Infantry Regiments, commanded by Lieutenant General Hachiro Tagami, were concentrated at Lone Tree Hill, overlooking Maffin Bay, and were blocking any further advance by the 158th Regimental Combat Team of the U. S. Army. The Japanese were in well-prepared positions, which included fortified caves. Meanwhile, the main body of the Japanese 223rd Infantry Regiment had outflanked the US units, and a battalion of the Japanese 224th Infantry Regiment, was retreating from Hollandia, towards the Toem-Wakde-Sarmi area.
Lone Tree Hill rose from a flat, coastal plain about 6,000 feet (1,800 m) west of the main jetty in Maffin Bay. The hill was named for a single tree depicted on its crest by U.S. maps; it was a coral formation, covered with dense tropical rain forest and undergrowth. It was about 175 feet (53 m) high, 3,600 feet (1,100 m) long north to south, and 3,300 feet (1,000 m) wide east to west. The north side was characterized by a steep slope. The eastern slope was fronted by a short, twisting stream which the Americans named Snaky River.
On 14 June, the US commander, General Walter Krueger, sent the U.S. 6th Infantry Division, to relieve the 158th RCT. After ten days of hard fighting, the US forces took Lone Tree Hill. The Japanese suffered more than 1,000 dead, including some trapped in collapsed caves. The U.S. Army suffered about 700 battle and 500 non-battle casualties. With Lone Tree Hill in American possession, Maffin Bay became a major staging base for six subsequent battles: Biak, Noemfoor, Sansapor, Leyte and Luzon.