Much depended on terrain:
then there was this, which tends to correlate with other reports:
Remembering the war in New Guinea
What did the soldiers eat? (QnA)
Module name: Unknown theme (All groups perspective)
This page was contributed by Mr Stephen Robinson (Department of Veteran's Affairs)
Australian rations were initially of low quality, and included biscuits, bully beef, chocolate, tea and sugar. To make matters worse, however, much of the supply had been stacked in the open and spoiled in the intense heat. In late 1942, new ration types replaced the "bully beef and biscuits" standard ration, and included tinned fruit, dried potatoes, sausages, vegetables, jam, butter and beans. Dehydrated mutton was also a standard ration and was considered one of the finest foods of the campaign.
During the Kokoda campaign rations were scarce because all supplies were unloaded at Port Moresby from a single wharf that was ill-equipped to handle the volume of cargo and was subject to frequent air attack.
One method for food to reach Kokoda from Port Moresby was by Papuan carriers. This was impractical, however, because in the eight days it would take to complete the walk the carrier would consume a large proportion of his own load in food. It was more practical for carriers to bring in other items such as ammunition. Transporting supplies by vehicle was also out of the question as what roads there were quickly became pack-horse trails and then walking tracks as the jungle closed in. Building adequate roads would have been impossible given the time constraints and the terrain, and so the clear solution to the issue of supplies was large-scale air transport. Planes could land at Kokoda airstrip or drop supplies by parachute. When the 39th Battalion moved north to meet the Japanese at Kokoda, logistical command at Port Moresby planned to air drop their supplies. Flights were made that each carried 4,200 pounds of ration packs, and the transport planes became know as "biscuit Bombers".
On 16 August 1942, a devastating Japanese air raid hit the airfields at Port Moresby and all transport aircraft were destroyed or damaged. More serious than the loss of other aircraft, the destruction of the "biscuit Bombers" compromised the Australian supply situation. Brigadier Potts could not deploy his battalions as a consolidated force because he could only feed his companies one at a time.
The supply situation improved when the 2/4th Company AASC arrived in New Guinea and began sorting and packing supplies: one million rations in case lots had to be broken into stacks of forty each with 25,000 rations. Australians on the Kokoda Track could get food at staging posts that were stationed at strategic points along the trail. One such post was Uberi, which consisted of six or eight huts where soldiers could rest and have a meal. Hot coffee and cake was provided by the Salvation Army at Red Shield posts along the trail.
There were, however, severe shortages of food at times, and front-line units did capture and cook Japanese rice. In early August 1942, captured rice was the only food available to A Company of the 39th Battalion. While there were shortages, resupply of standard rations was largely achieved, even when the Australian supply lines were stretched to their limit.
Standard Japanese rations consisted of polished rice, biscuits and other preserved foods. Rations could also include vegetables, meat, fish, soy sauce, sugar, barely, soy bean paste, beer and sake. Meat was usually rationed to once or twice per week. In New Guinea, covers were placed over food due to the wet climate and there were rules not to mix wet rice and with dry rice. Wet rice was to be cooked first by roasting it into hard rice balls.
The Japanese largely failed to adequately supply rations for their troops. This was caused initially by false assumptions about the nature of the campaign. The Japanese had little knowledge of the interior of New Guinea where the decisive battles on the Kokoda trail were to be fought, and assumed wrongly that it would be possible for their troops to scavenge or forage for food along the way. Their invasion plan was for the South Seas Force to land at Buna, quickly advance overland to Kokoda and then capture Port Moresby. Ryuto Force was to land near Buna and establish a supply base for the South Seas Force. Major General HORII’s force was only allocated two weeks of supplies.
The Sakigawa Transport Unit was responsible for creating food dumps (mainly rice), road creation and maintenance, and transport of food. Disaster struck this unit on 1 August 1942 when the transport ship Kotoku Maru was bombed and went down with 11 vehicles and many personnel. Later, the Sakigawa Transport Unit acquired ten trucks and began transporting rice from the landing areas to new supply dumps. It was estimated that carriers could deliver three tons of supplies a day, regardless of weather. When a resupply mission was accomplished, however, it was often the case that the forward Japanese units had already advanced out of the area. At this stage, the first signs of concern began to show over the amount of food reaching front-line units.
In early September 1942, the South Seas Force reached Ioribaiwa, near the edge of the Owen Stanley Range. It had suffered hundreds of casualties in battle and from sickness and those remaining were weary from the effort and starving because supply lines had broken down. As the supply situation worsened, the Japanese began to supplement their rations with Papuan food and in many cases were able to acquire local produce such as tomatoes, papayas, bananas, sago, yams, cassava, coconuts and sugarcane, as well as pigs, chickens and ducks from villages. The Japanese discovered sweet potatoes along the coast – the most important cash crop and staple food for most Papuans – and appear to have assumed that similar food could be found growing wild inland, resulting in more ammunition than food being sent to the front.. Ultimately, the native foods of the jungle were inadequate to sustain the thousands of men and the severe lack of food caused starvation, malnutrition and desperation among the Japanese
In September 1942, HORII ordered serious ration restrictions. Rice rations were reduced to two-thirds of a pint for the physically active and half a pint for others. Commanders were urged to capture food supplies and live off the land. Foraging parties were organised. A few parachute drops of supplies were made but there was no real attempt to use aircraft to solve the supply problem. By October, requisitioning food from Papuans was failing as a strategy and even dried roots were being eaten. Discipline was breaking down – bags of rice were being stolen and supply units were consuming food intended for front-line units. Grass, roots and fruits that Papuans and Australians knew were inedible were being eaten by the Japanese. In mid-October a 41st Regiment document stated "officers and men realise the present condition of the formation cannot be helped. However, the men are gradually weakening in their physical condition due to lack of food and the continuous rain with no chance of recovery." The Japanese captured tainted rations along the Kokoda Trail and ate them quickly resulting in stomach pains, internal problems and widespread dysentery.
The Japanese retreat back down the Kokoda Track was pitiful. They were famished, ill and weary. Unable to carry much, they left a trail of discarded equipment and comrades who were too badly wounded or sick to carry on. The Japanese were so short of rations that some had resorted to cannibalism. On the overland retreat from Sio to Wewak, tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers perished, mostly as a result of sickness and malnutrition. New Guinea was the place, "where soldiers are sent into the jungle without supplies." This seems to have proven the Japanese saying that, "Java is heaven, Burma is hell, but you never come back alive from New Guinea."
The supply situation was different on the coast at Buna and Gona, however, thanks to a reliable Navy supply system. While the Japanese were incapable of adequately supplying the front line, Australians advancing towards Buna in December 1942 found large quantities of Japanese rice – bags of rice were even used to strengthen the walls of Japanese positions. After fighting Japanese troops weakened from hunger on their retreat from Kokoda, the Australians who advanced to the coast were shocked to discover that Japanese forces in the Buna-Gona area were determined and well supplied.
The nature of the Pacific War left many Japanese formations behind on islands. Japanese forces isolated on remote islands received no supplies from Japan and faced a battle against starvation. In 1944, the 55,000 men of the 18th Army were severed from the lines of supply and were fighting a solitary battle. The 18th Army was ordered to "simply carry out general holding operations to sustain key areas in the region". With only enough supplies in store to last two months, they were forced to become self-sufficient for supplies. Self-sufficiency could not be attained, however, for a force the size of the 18th Army even if the entire arable land that fed the 15,000 local inhabitants was confiscated. It was estimated that three months’ supplies could be obtained by felling and burning the virgin forests. These conditions were expressed by the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General YOSHIHARA: "There is death in staying, and death in going. We are facing disaster both in retreat and in advance."
The communication line between Rabaul and Japan was cut off in February 1943. From then on, all Japanese were forced to grow vegetables to complement the food shortage. The Japanese command in the isolated Island of Rabaul enforced a strict daily routine for soldiers: 40 per cent of the working day was dedicated to exercise, 30 per cent to fortress construction, and 30 per cent to garden work in order to achieve self-sufficiency in food. Wartime Japan was not yet fully industrialised and many of the servicemen had agricultural or small industry backgrounds. Therefore, their skills and diligence enabled them to survive the shortage of supplies. After the war, a member of the South East Force General Staff Office said: "Rabaul was almost like a small independent country after supplies from Japan had stopped". Japanese servicemen largely established self-sufficiency in Rabaul. By June 1943 Rabaul could produce 12 tonnes of food per day.