Kokoda Trail - the Australian Attack

Kokoda Trail - the Australian Attack

Kokoda Trail - the Australian Attack

Map showing the Australian counter-attack along the Kokoda Trail of 26 September-12 November 1942. The dates show the length of time that each Japanese defensive position held out.


Work samples

Students explored the experience of Australians during World War II. They developed a series of inquiry questions in relation to the events and significance of the Kokoda campaign. Students presented their findings as a report, using the inquiry questions as the organising frame. The task, including time to proof-read and edit the final report, was completed in class and in the school library over five 50-minute lessons as well as for homework.

Achievement standard

By the end of Year 10, students refer to key events, the actions of individuals and groups, and beliefs and values to explain patterns of change and continuity over time. They analyse the causes and effects of events and developments and explain their relative importance. They explain the context for people’s actions in the past. Students explain the significance of events and developments from a range of perspectives. They explain different interpretations of the past and recognise the evidence used to support these interpretations.

Students sequence events and developments within a chronological framework, and identify relationships between events across different places and periods of time. When researching, students develop, evaluate and modify questions to frame a historical inquiry. They process, analyse and synthesise information from a range of primary and secondary sources and use it as evidence to answer inquiry questions. Students analyse sources to identify motivations, values and attitudes. When evaluating these sources, they analyse and draw conclusions about their usefulness, taking into account their origin, purpose and context. They develop and justify their own interpretations about the past. Students develop texts, particularly explanations and discussions, incorporating historical argument. In developing these texts and organising and presenting their arguments, they use historical terms and concepts, evidence identified in sources, and they reference these sources.


Kokoda: An epic in Australian history?

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Kokoda: Beyond the Legend. ed. / Karl James. 1st. ed. Cambridge, UK : Cambridge University Press, 2017. p. 288-305.

Research output : Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter

T1 - Kokoda: An epic in Australian history?

N2 - Some twenty-five years ago, on 26 April 1992, I flew over the Owen Stanley Range in a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-130 transport aircraft with Prime Minister Paul Keating as his historical adviser. We landed at Popondetta and then boarded an RAAF Caribou for the short flight to Kokoda. Along the way I tried to describe the Kokoda campaign to the Prime Minister, who, I must say, absorbed the facts and figures with commendable speed and accuracy. At Kokoda Keating was scheduled to lay wreaths on the memorial stones to the troops who had fought on the Kokoda Trail. He duly laid the wreaths on the ‘official’ memorials, but then moved to an unofficial memorial with plaques from the different battalions that had fought in the campaign. While I explained what the battalions had done, Keating said to me, ‘I haven’t got a wreath for this one - what will I do?’ Before I could gather my thoughts, he stepped forward and kissed the ground at the base of the memorial stone. For a moment I thought he had had a heart attack and had fallen over. The Prime Minister then moved to a dais and delivered a speech, which as far I could see was given ‘off the cuff’. Among other things, when referring to the Kokoda battles, he said: '… this was the first and only time that we’ve fought against an enemy to prevent the invasion of Australia … This was the place where I believe the depth and the soul of the Australian nation was confirmed.’ The previous day at a ceremony in Port Moresby Keating had expounded on the same theme, stating that Kokoda was ‘the most famous battle in Australia’s history’. He continued that the Australians in Papua New Guinea ‘fought and died, not in defence of the old world, but the new world … it might be said that, for Australians, the battles in Papua New Guinea were the most important ever fought.’ At a luncheon held after the Kokoda visit, Keating said that the morning had been ‘the most moving day of my public life’.

AB - Some twenty-five years ago, on 26 April 1992, I flew over the Owen Stanley Range in a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-130 transport aircraft with Prime Minister Paul Keating as his historical adviser. We landed at Popondetta and then boarded an RAAF Caribou for the short flight to Kokoda. Along the way I tried to describe the Kokoda campaign to the Prime Minister, who, I must say, absorbed the facts and figures with commendable speed and accuracy. At Kokoda Keating was scheduled to lay wreaths on the memorial stones to the troops who had fought on the Kokoda Trail. He duly laid the wreaths on the ‘official’ memorials, but then moved to an unofficial memorial with plaques from the different battalions that had fought in the campaign. While I explained what the battalions had done, Keating said to me, ‘I haven’t got a wreath for this one - what will I do?’ Before I could gather my thoughts, he stepped forward and kissed the ground at the base of the memorial stone. For a moment I thought he had had a heart attack and had fallen over. The Prime Minister then moved to a dais and delivered a speech, which as far I could see was given ‘off the cuff’. Among other things, when referring to the Kokoda battles, he said: '… this was the first and only time that we’ve fought against an enemy to prevent the invasion of Australia … This was the place where I believe the depth and the soul of the Australian nation was confirmed.’ The previous day at a ceremony in Port Moresby Keating had expounded on the same theme, stating that Kokoda was ‘the most famous battle in Australia’s history’. He continued that the Australians in Papua New Guinea ‘fought and died, not in defence of the old world, but the new world … it might be said that, for Australians, the battles in Papua New Guinea were the most important ever fought.’ At a luncheon held after the Kokoda visit, Keating said that the morning had been ‘the most moving day of my public life’.


Should The Kokoda Campaign Be Considered Significant In Australia's History Essay

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History is basically about past events that can be associated with a place, a thing or someone, and there are so many of such events all over the world of which Kokoda track campaign is one. Kokoda campaign is about the area that was attacked on Australian territory by Japanese forces back in the year 1942 during World War II. This was tagged the Pacific War portion of the World War.
Kokoda campaign is around Papua New Guinea, a part of the Australian territory at that time. As the Axis (of which Japan was a part) continued their advance on Allied countries in Europe, the Japanese considered invading Australia in furtherance of their assault in the Pacific coast. However, after considerable thoughts in its imperial general headquarter, the idea of invading Australia was dropped because Australia was considered as a country whose military might was too strong for Japan. Thereafter, the thought of separating Australia forces from the US forces in the Pacific was invented and given a push by the Japanese forces by an invasion on the Owen Stanley Ranges (Kokoda Trekking) in order to capture Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. Before then, Australians were of the opinion that they are faced with a threat of Japanese invasion, so had to look for ways of planning a response to the perceived attack on its territory.
That was the first real threat to the Australian nation and the first test of its military forces’ strength (Stephens). The Australian intelligence was limited by issues such as waging war in a terrain that was unfamiliar, having a map that is out-of-date and being unable to do an effective aerial photography of the war in which the war was fought. Nonetheless, with the aid of other Allied forces, the Japanese were forced to surrender in November of the same year the attack was launched, 1942 (The Kokoda Track).
The debate now is if the campaign should be considered a part of Australian history or not. On one side, it will be a yes because it is in history that the campaign took place in an area that was then within Australian territory and that was the event that has helped in building-up the Australian the strengths and weakness of its military, improve individual and unit training as well as building a strong logistic and medical infrastructure. Another lesson learnt from the cut-off of supply to ground forces is focusing on increasing military airpower.
On the other hand however, it may be argued that the historical place in which the event took place is no longer under the control of Australia, so it should be forgotten in Australian history and associated with the country now in control of the attacked area.
Looking at both arguments, there are valid points in both and it is possible to take either side, however, if reference is to be made to the effect that the war campaign had on the military forces of Australia, the side according Kokoda campaign a place in Australian history may be well supported.


Jungle warfare

Theme
Year level
Learning area

Use the following additional activities and discussion questions to encourage students (in small groups or as a whole class) to think more deeply about this defining moment.

Questions for discussion

Did Japan ever intend to invade Australia, as many Australians feared, in the Second World War?

Do you agree with the National Museum of Australia that the battles on the Kokoda Trail were a defining moment in Australian history? Explain your answer.

Image activities

Look carefully at all the images for this defining moment. Tell this story in pictures by placing them in whatever order you think works best. Write a short caption under each image.

Which three images do you think are the most important for telling this story? Why?

If you could pick only one image to represent this story, which one would you choose? Why?

Finding out more

1. What else would you like to know about this defining moment? Write a list of questions and then share these with your classmates. As a group create a final list of three questions and conduct some research to find the answers.

Northern Territory Library, PH0808/0004

In a snapshot

After Singapore fell to the Japanese Army in February 1942, the focus of the Pacific War moved closer to Australia. Japanese forces bombed Darwin and launched an attack to try to capture the capital city of Papua, Port Moresby. Australian troops battled for seven desperate months on the Kokoda Trail to protect Port Moresby. By January 1943 Australian troops had helped to defeat the Japanese forces on Papua and stop Japan’s advance across the Pacific.

Oil tanks in Darwin on fire after bombing, 1942

Northern Territory Library, PH0808/0004

Can you find out?

What was the Japanese bombing of Darwin and northern Australia meant to do?

How many people died in the bombing of Darwin and how many times was Darwin bombed?

What was the Kokoda Trail and why was the fighting there so important?

What was the Pacific War?

During the Second World War, Australia fought as a member of the Allied forces with countries including Britain, the United States, France and the Soviet Union. The Allies fought against the Axis powers, which included Germany, Italy and Japan. Although much of the fighting in the Second World War took place in Europe, when Japan entered the war in December 1941 fighting increased in Asia and countries in the Pacific Ocean. This has become known as the Pacific War.

Research task

Find out which other parts of Australia were bombed during the Second World War.

Australian soldiers crossing Brown’s River on the Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea

Australian War Memorial 027060

Why was Darwin bombed?

In February 1942 the Japanese Army captured Singapore, which was Britain’s main military base in South-East Asia. Japan then invaded Timor and at the same time bombed the northern Australian city of Darwin.

Darwin was an important military base for Australia and the United States in the Pacific War. The Japanese bombing was designed to damage Allied equipment and make it more difficult for the Allies to send supplies to Timor.

The bombing left 243 people dead and up to 400 wounded. Most of the city’s infrastructure was destroyed. Many Darwin residents were worried that the bombing was the beginning of an invasion and decided to leave the city. Japan bombed Darwin another 63 times during the war, as well as other towns in northern Australia.

Australian soldiers on the Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea

Australian War Memorial 027056

Oil tanks in Darwin on fire after bombing, 1942

Northern Territory Library, PH0808/0004

Piece of shrapnel or bomb fragment from a bomb dropped on Darwin, 1942

National Museum of Australia

A propaganda poster referring to the threat of Japanese invasion, 1942

Australian War Memorial ARTV09225

Australian soldiers rest in the jungle on the Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea, 1942

Australian War Memorial 027013

Australian troops and Papuan carriers on the Kokoda Trail, 1942

Australian War Memorial 027050

Map of the Kokoda Trail, Territory of Papua

Australian soldiers crossing Brown’s River on the Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea

Australian War Memorial 027060

View Gallery

Australian soldiers on the Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea

Australian War Memorial 027056

View Gallery

Oil tanks in Darwin on fire after bombing, 1942

Northern Territory Library, PH0808/0004

View Gallery

Piece of shrapnel or bomb fragment from a bomb dropped on Darwin, 1942

National Museum of Australia

View Gallery

A propaganda poster referring to the threat of Japanese invasion, 1942

Australian War Memorial ARTV09225

View Gallery

Australian soldiers rest in the jungle on the Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea, 1942

Australian War Memorial 027013

View Gallery

Australian troops and Papuan carriers on the Kokoda Trail, 1942

Australian War Memorial 027050

View Gallery

Map of the Kokoda Trail, Territory of Papua

View Gallery

Australian soldiers crossing Brown’s River on the Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea

Australian War Memorial 027060

How did Japan try to capture Port Moresby?

The Japanese Army planned to capture Port Moresby. If they succeeded it would be easier for them to bomb and possibly invade northern Australia.

Japanese forces had already tried to invade Port Moresby once before, in January 1942, but had been turned back by the United States Navy, with Australian support, during the Battle of the Coral Sea. In July 1942 Japan tried again. It planned to attack Port Moresby from both the sea and the land.

Research task

Japan also attacked another part of Australia during the Second World War, using midget submarines. Find out where this took place and what happened.

A propaganda poster referring to the threat of Japanese invasion, 1942

Australian War Memorial ARTV09225

On 21 July 1942 the Japanese Army landed at the towns of Buna and Gona on the northern side of Papua. The only way to reach Port Moresby from the north was by walking the Kokoda Trail, a long and rough track over the island’s mountains.

Papuan and Australian military units attacked the Japanese Army, but by 24 July the Japanese had more than 4000 troops on shore while the Australians had only 420 troops. These Australian troops were known as Maroubra Force.

For nearly two months Japanese forces managed to slowly travel along the Kokoda Trail, forcing the Australian troops back. By 14 September Japanese forces had reached Ioribaiwa Ridge, which was only 40 kilometres away from Port Moresby.

‘In the Kokoda battle, [the Australian soldiers’] qualities of adaptability and individual initiative enabled them to show tremendous ability as fighting men in the jungle. They were superb.’

Why did the tide of battle turn?

The United States had invaded Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands in August 1942. This forced Japan to send some of its troops from Papua to try to defend Guadalcanal. At the same time, Maroubra Force had improved their jungle warfare skills and more troops had been sent from Australia as reinforcements.

This gave the Australian troops an opportunity to go on the attack. As a result, they managed to push the Japanese troops north along the Kokoda Trail, and finally all the way back to the towns of Buna and Gona. For three months Australian and American troops fought the Japanese forces, until January 1943 when Japan withdrew from Papua.

Research task

Research the conditions that troops faced on the Kokoda Trail. What can you find out about disease, weather conditions, the terrain, insects, food supplies and anything else that would have affected the troops on both sides?

Piece of shrapnel or bomb fragment from a bomb dropped on Darwin, 1942

National Museum of Australia

More than 600 Australian soldiers were killed and 1600 wounded in the battles along the Kokoda Trail. More than 10,000 Japanese soldiers died. Troops on both sides suffered from disease and exhaustion in the muddy and steep conditions.

The victory on the Kokoda Trail helped the Allies to turn the tide of the Pacific War.

Read a longer version of this Defining Moment on the National Museum of Australia’s website.

What did you learn?

What was the Japanese bombing of Darwin and northern Australia meant to do?

How many people died in the bombing of Darwin and how many times was Darwin bombed?


Kokoda Trail - the Australian Attack - History

The experiences of Australians serving in world war 2 focusing on the experiences of Australians fighting at Kokoda in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The Kokoda campaign consisted of a series of battles fought between July and November 1942 between Japanese and primarily Australian forces. The Kokoda track ran over some of the toughest terrain in the world. It was narrow, rugged through dense jungle and steep mountains.

KOKODA

ACTIVITY 1: YouTube video-KOKODA

-Students are to watch the above YouTube clip that describes a first hand account of the conditions and experiences of soldiers fighting at Kokoda.

-Students task is to write down 5 major points they have learnt from watching the video, you can write about the terrain, weather, landscape, the soldiers etc.

-Students are to write their points into a Google document and save to their HSIE folder

-Once completed class discussion about points discovered.

ACTIVITY 2: Fuzzy Wuzzies Poem Worksheet

-Students read the poem “The Fuzzy Wuzzies” attached at the bottom of the page

-Your task is to read the poem and answers the 4 questions at the bottom of the poem worksheet

-Save your work to your HSIE folder

ACTIVITY 3: Diary Entry

- Using the information you have gained from the past lessons learning about the experiences of Australians fighting at Kokoda you are to write a diary entry…

- Your task is to individually write a 1 half page diary entry pretending you are an Australian solider fighting at Kokoda, your diary entry must include:

-your experiences at Kokoda

-what are the conditions like

-what are the battles like

-how do you feel as an Australian soldier

-record your diary entry into a google document titled “My Kokoda Experience” and save to your HSIE folder

-You are to utilise the useful websites listed below to assist you with adding information into your diary entry task

USEFUL RESOURCES:

http://kokoda.commemoration.gov.au/ = This website is helpful for students learning about experiences of Australian soldiers at Kokoda as it covers all content areas that students will to need address when learning about Kokoda. The site has vital information about the landscape, timeline of events and provides first hand accounts from veterans who fought at Kokoda.

http://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/kokoda/ = The Australian War Memorial Website has dedicated a section specifically for Kokoda. This site is helpful to students studying the experiences of soldiers fighting at Kokoda as it gives detailed information about the battles fought during the campaign as well as primary records of accounts and memorabilia from Australian soldiers who fought at Kokoda

http://www.anzacday.org.au/history/ww2/bfa/kokoda.html = This website is useful for students as it gives visual imagery as well as information of the experiences Australian soldiers faced when they fought at Kokoda. This can further develop the students knowledge about the Kokoda Campaign and they in turn reflect this knowledge into their learning activities they produce.

The Fuzzy Wuzzies Worksheet = This source is helpful for students in multiple ways. Firstly it enables students to learn about an important feature of the Kokoda Campaign as well as enhancing their linguistic skills as they are required to interpret what the poem has to say about the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and Kokoda.


What is the Kokoda Track?

The Kokoda Track, or, Trail is popularly known and regarded as the 96 kilometre (60 mile) single file Track with a straight line distance of 60 kilometres (37 miles). The Track traverses the beautiful and rugged Owen Stanley Mountain Range commencing at Kokoda Village on the North side of the range and terminating at Owers Corner on the southern side of the range. The Kokoda Track/Trail has important significance for all Australians in the history of WWII. Walking the Track is gaining more and more international recognition in recent years, with increasing interest from trekkers coming from New Zealand and the USA.

Although it has a long history, for Australians the Kokoda Track holds a special significance – this is the location of a historic WWII battle between Australian and Japanese forces. In defeating the Japanese forces, 624 Australians were killed and 1023 were wounded fighting on the Kokoda Track and an additional 1261 Australians were killed with a staggering 2210 wounded in the final battles on the beaches at Buna and Gona, the very same beaches the Japanese forces landed on in July 1942 to commence their attack on Port Moresby.

Though history now disputes that the Japanese forces were intent at the time of the Kokoda campaign to immediately push on from Port Moresby, once captured and invade Australia, it must be noted that all the brave, young Australian men, to a man, who fought and died on that jungle path believed if they did not stop the enemy on the Track, those Japanese soldiers would end up in the homes of their mums and dads, wives and girlfriends back in Australia. They fought to protect Australia.

Today, Australians acknowledge the significance of the Kokoda Campaign, and most importantly, that the Kokoda Campaign is as significant to our history as Gallipoli. The virtues of our 1915 Galipoli heroes of Mateship, Sacrifice, Courage and Endurance were replicated and enhanced by our fighting men on the Kokoda Track in 1942. These are values recognisable in our current armed forces today and virtues all Australians should aspire to in the conduct of their lives.

For seven months from July 1942, our troops fought hard and long battles, in appalling conditions with limited supplies and plagued by disease. Finally, on 2 November, our troops reoccupied Kokoda Village and by the end of January 1943, the Japanese forces that had invaded in July were finally destroyed on the beaches at Buna, Gona and Sanananda. and the battle was over.

After the war, the trail reverted to its prewar use as a communication and trade route to Port Moresby for the local people. Since 2003, it has become an increasingly popular location where Australians walk in the footsteps of heroes. For many Australians, completing the trek over the Track has become a rite of passage.

The Track finishes around 48 kilometres (30 miles) to the east of Port Moresby, crossing the isolated, rugged terrain of the mountains (only accessible by foot) from its start at the remote village destination of Kokoda located within the Ora Province. The most popular direction of travel is to commence in Kokoda Village and finish at Owers Corner. At its highest point close to the peak of Mount Bellamy the Track reaches a maximum height of 7,185 feet/ 2,190 meters above sea level.

The Track provides many challenges to even the most experienced adventurer, hot and intensely humid during the daytime and on occasions very cold at night with frequent torrential rainfall – this is certainly not for the faint-hearted. But, it is breathtakingly beautiful in parts, with enriching cultural interaction with predominantly the Koiari people and including the Orokaiva people living closer to the coast at Buna and Gona. The Trek is also an endurance test for trekkers who want to challenge themselves.

It can take anywhere between four and twelve days to complete the Track which just goes to show how tough and rugged the terrain can be.

The duration of the trek really depends upon the motivation as well as the fitness of the trekkers. Some local and experienced trekkers have been known to complete the distance in around one or up to three days. To complete the Track safely and sensibly and experience all it has to offer and still provide a true physical and mental challenge, a trek of 9 days is recommended.


Australasia 1942: Kokoda Trail

Unable to take Port Moresby by sea, the Japanese attempted to reach it by crossing New Guinea's Owen Stanley Range via the narrow and steep Kokoda Trail. There they were met by the Australians and for months the two sides fought back and forth over some of the most extreme terrain in the world, before American successes on Guadalcanal forced the Japanese to abandon their efforts.

Main Events

31 May–8 Jun 1942 Attack on Sydney Harbour▲

On the night of 31 May—1 June 1942, three Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour in an attempt to sink Allied ships, but were detected. Two of the midget submarines were forced to scuttle while the third only managed to sink the converted ferry HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 sailors, before being wrecked off Sydney’s northern beaches. The five fleet submarines that had transported the midget submarines to Australia then proceeded to raid the coastal shipping routes, bombarding Sydney and Newcastle in the early morning of 8 June. in wikipedia

4–7 Jun 1942 Battle of Midway▲

In an attempt to lure the US Pacific Fleet’s few remaining aircraft carriers into a trap, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched an offensive against Midway Atoll. Warned of Japanese plans by its code-breakers, the US was prepared for the attack and successfully ambushed the Japanese force, sinking all four of its major aircraft carriers—Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu—and a heavy cruiser for the loss of just the carrier Yorktown and a destroyer. in wikipedia

9 Jul 1942 Henderson Field▲

Japanese engineers and construction teams—over 2,500 men in all—began work on an airfield at Lunga Point on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. The project was observed by Coastwatchers—British personnel and Solomon Islanders working behind enemy lines on the islands—and reported, prompting the United States to make plans to land on Guadalcanal and capture the airfield (which they would name ‘Henderson Field’). in wikipedia

21 Jul–16 Nov 1942 Kokoda Trail campaign▲

Japanese troops landed near Gona, on the north coast of the island of New Guinea and part of the Australian Territory of Papua, the starting point of their attempt to capture Port Moresby by advancing south over the Owen Stanley Range using the Kokoda Trail. On 23 July they were met by Australian forces at Awala, south of Kokoda, with whom they fought a series of battles before eventually being forced to withdraw. The Australians retook Kokoda on 2 November, reaching the north end of the track by 16 November. in wikipedia

7–8 Aug 1942 Guadalcanal Landings▲

At 09:10 on 7 August, 11,000 US Marines under the command of Major General Alexander Vandegrift came ashore on Guadalcanal, in the British Solomon Islands, between Koli and Lunga Points. They encountered little resistance, capturing their main objective—an airfield under construction by the Japanese—by 16:00 on 8 August. Meanwhile Japanese aircraft attacked the invasion fleet from Rabaul, damaging a transport and a destroyer. in wikipedia

18 Aug–10 Nov 1942 Japanese offensives in Guadalcanal▲

Japan landed forces on Guadalcanal, attacking the US position at Henderson Field on 21 August only to be repulsed. Additional attacks were made in September and October but also failed. On 1 November, US General Vandergrift began expanding the bridgehead on both sides of Henderson Field, defeating a Japanese force unloading at Tetere and dispersing the remaining Japanese into the jungle by 10 November. in wikipedia

24–25 Aug 1942 Battle of the Eastern Solomons▲

While moving to support a Japanese counteroffensive on Guadalcanal, Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo’s fleet—including two fleet carriers and one light carrier—clashed with Admiral Frank Fletcher’s two fleet carriers and their accompanying force to the east of Malaita, Solomon Islands. After Japan lost their light carrier and a destroyer while heavily damaging the US carrier Enterprise, both sides chose to withdraw from the area. in wikipedia


In 1942, WWII was on Australia’s doorstep for the very first time with the Japanese invasion of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. With most of our forces tied up in the Middle East, a group of young, inexperienced militia soldiers were tasked with intercepting the Japanese before they took Port Moresby from the north.

The average age of soldiers was early twenties with many teenagers – they were outgunned, undertrained and ill-equipped. Victory looked unlikely if not for the courage of the diggers and their indispensable alliance with PNG nationals, fondly named the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. Over four arduous months, the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels helped secure an Australian victory by forming a human supply chain along the Kokoda Track, moving food, ammunition and wounded soldiers to and from the front line.

By January 22nd 1943, the diggers had successfully warded off the advance, with less than 15% of the 20,000 strong Japanese force returning to their homeland. 2,339 Aussie diggers died honourably, and 3,632 were wounded in battle.

Since then, Kokoda has resonated with many Australians, and to replicate the diggers’ journey has become an essential rite of passage.

The trek is physically, mentally and spiritually demanding. It remains a powerful reminder of Australia and PNG’s shared history, teaching Australians young and old the true meaning of courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice. Importantly, it reaffirms our responsibility to the descendants of the PNG nationals who played such a pivotal and crucial role in the Kokoda Campaign.

The first main troops on the track were that of the 39th battalion, they were mostly young, undertrained and ill equipped. Victory looked unlikely if not for the courage of the diggers and their indispensable alliance with PNG nationals, fondly named the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

Over four arduous months, the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels helped secure an Australian victory by forming a human supply chain along the Kokoda Track, moving food, ammunition and wounded soldiers to and from the front line.

By January 22nd 1943, the Diggers had successfully warded off the advance, with less than 10% of the 14,000 strong Japanese force returning to their homeland. 491 Diggers died in action, 67 died of wounds, 66 missing presumed killed, 67 died if wounds & 1023 wounded in battle.

Since then, Kokoda has resonated with many Australians, and to replicate the Diggers’ journey has become an essential rite of passage.

The trek is physically, mentally and spiritually tough. It remains a powerful reminder of Australia and PNG’s shared history, teaching Australians young and old the true meaning of courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice. Importantly, it reaffirms our responsibility to the descendants of the PNG nationals who played such a crucial role in the Kokoda Campaign.

The Kokoda Track is a mostly very narrow path that links Owers Corner, approximately 40km northeast of Port Moresby and the small village of Wairopi, on the northern side of the Owen Stanley mountain range. From Wairopi, a crossing point on the Kumusi River, the Track was connected to the settlements of Buna, Gona and Sanananda on the north coast.

The Japanese having had their initial effort to capture Port Moresby by a seaborne evasion disrupted by their defeat at the battle of the Coral Sea, saw the Kokoda Track as a way by which to advance on it overland. Soldiers of the South Seas Detachment began landing at Gona on 21 July 1942, intending initially just to test the feasibility of the Kokoda Trail as a route of advance, but a full-scale offensive soon developed. The first fighting occurred between elements of the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the 39th Australian Infantry Battalion at Awala on 23 July. The Australian force was unable to hold back the Japanese, they were poorly equipped, had not yet developed effective jungle warfare tactics, and were fighting at the end of a very long and difficult supply line. A number of desperate delaying actions were fought as the Australians withdrew along the Track. They finally stopped on 17 September at Imita Ridge, the last natural obstacle along the Track, a mere 8km from the junction with the road to Port Moresby. The Japanese held the opposite ridge, 6km in the distant at Ioribaiwa, which was to be their final advance.

The tactical situation, however, had now swung in favour of the Australians. Their artillery at Owers Corner was now in range and their supplies could be trucked most of the way forward whereas Japanese supplies had to be carried all the way from the north coast. As a result of severe losses suffered by the Japanese at the Guadalcanal following the American landing there, the South Seas Detachment was ordered to withdraw to the north coast of Papua and establish a defensive position there.

Australian troops of the 25th Brigade began to edge forward from Imita Ridge on 23 September the Japanese withdrew from Ioribaiwa the next day. In the course of their retreat the Japanese fought delaying actions every bit as determined as those of the Australians. Several difficult and costly battles were fought before the 16th and 25th Brigades crossed the Kumusi at Wairopi in mid-November heading for even more bitter fighting around the Japanese beachheads at Gona, Buna and Sanananda.

The Kokoda Track fighting was some of the most desperate and vicious encountered by Australian troops in the Second World War. Although the successful capture of Port Moresby was never going to be precursor to an invasion of Australia, victory on the Kokoda Trail did ensure that Allied bases in northern Australia, vital in the coming counter-offensive against the Japanese, would not be seriously threatened by air attack. Approximately 625 Australians were killed along the Kokoda Trail and over 1,600 were wounded. Casualties due to sickness exceeded 4,000.

"Kokoda Trail" and "Kokoda Track" have been used interchangeably since the Second World War and the former was adopted by the Battles Nomenclature Committee as the official British Commonwealth battle honour in October 1957.


Kokoda Trail - the Australian Attack - History

THE KOKODA CAMPAIGN ©

Japan's second Attempt to Capture Port Moresby and isolate Australia from the United States

Text and Web-site by James Bowen. Updated 9 June 2010

PACIFIC WAR BRIEFING NOTES

BRENDAN NELSON'S AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL PUBLISHES A FALSE AND SHAMEFUL DISTORTION OF KOKODA

The book "Kokoda beyond the Legend" contains chapters that deliberately, and without any historical justification, falsely diminish the magnificent Kokoda achievement in 1942 and falsely smear Australia's Kokoda heroes as lesser fighters than the Japanese they defeated on the Kokoda Track. The book was published despite timely warnings from Pacific War historian James Kenneth Bowen that the book would contain a false denial of the strategic importance of Kokoda and subject Australia's Kokoda heroes to vile and untrue smears.

Left: The book "Kokoda beyond the Legend" was published by the Australian War Memorial in 2017 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda fighting RIGHT: Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson.

Kokoda is an iconic part of Australia's military history, and I believe that many Australians will resent Kokoda being tarnished falsely by the Australian War Memorial under Brendan Nelson. A detailed REVIEW AND EXPOSURE of the shameful historical distortions contained in several chapters of this treatment of Kokoda may cause some Australians to feel that there has been a collapse of historical scholarship at the Australian War Memorial under director Brendan Nelson. Nelson has totally ignored written invitations from Pacific War historian James Kenneth Bowen to defend false and insulting claims in his book's treatment of Kokoda. He has also ignored a written suggestion that an apology is owed by him to Australians for publishing a false and insulting history of Kokoda in "Kokoda beyond the Legend". Some may view this dismissive attitude to arguably reasonable requests as possibly explaining Brendan Nelson's removal from leadership of the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party in 2009. Rumours were circulating in 2018 that Brendan Nelson might be considered for appointment as Governor General after Sir Peter Cosgrove, but after his very controversial attitude to Kokoda received public airing in 2017 and 2018, I suspect that those Australians who view Kokoda as a magnificent and heroic achievement that blocked an invasion of a part of Australia by Japanese troops in 1942 would have been relieved to hear that the prestigious appointment would go to New South Wales governor General David Hurley.

THE FORMER SENIOR HISTORIAN AT THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, DR PETER STANLEY*, DENIES THE GRAVITY OF THE JAPANESE THREAT TO AUSTRALIA IN 1942 AND REJECTS A DESCRIPTION OF AUSTRALIA'S KOKODA HEROES AS "MEN WHO SAVED AUSTRALIA".

The former senior historian at the Australian War Memorial, Dr Peter Stanley, has claimed that the Japanese were not planning to make themselves masters of Australia in 1942 and that any Japanese threat to Australia in 1942 was greatly exaggerated by wartime Prime Minister John Curtin for his own political ends. See the chapter "Confronting 1942 revisionism by Dr Peter Stanley". Pacific War historian James Bowen argues that the Dr Stanley has reached incorrect conclusions about 1942 and Prime Minister Curtin based upon ignorance of Japan's hostile plans for Australia in 1942 and flawed research.

* Author's Note: Dr Stanley's sudden resignation from the Australian War Memorial in December 2006 surprised many. He resigned at the height of the furore over his controversial 1942 revisionism and public challenges to his scholarship in relation to that revisionism. In an interview with Lucinda Schmidt on 17 December 2008, Dr Stanley conceded that he had not handled the 1942 issue sensitively and had "learned from that". In an apparent attempt to explain his lack of understanding of the strategy and dynamics that shaped the course of the Pacific War in 1942, Dr Stanley claimed that he was "not the type of military historian who enjoys 'arid technical analysis' of battle strategy. Rather, he (claimed to be) fascinated by military social history - the human element of how people respond under great duress". In 2008, Dr Stanley declined an invitation to debate publicly with Pacific War historian James Bowen his controversial denial of the gravity of the Japanese threat to Australia in 1942.

Returning from the Battle of Isurava, soldiers of the 39th Australian Infantry Battalion trudge through deep mud on the hellish Kokoda Track. In heavy fighting under appalling conditions, these heroes have played a vital role at Kokoda, Deniki, and Isurava in blunting the momentum of the Japanese advance towards Australia. From right to left: Warrant Officer 2 R. Marsh, Privates G. Palmer, J. Manol, J. Tonkins, A. Forrester, and Gallipoli veteran Staff Sergeant J. Long. AWM 013288

If Port Moresby had been captured in 1942, the Japanese would have secured the anchor for their plan (Operation FS) to cut Australia off completely from American support. Much of northern Australia would have been brought within range of Japanese bombers operating from Port Moresby. The course of the Pacific War would almost certainly have been greatly changed. The heroic Australian Diggers who repulsed a much larger, and better equipped Japanese army under conditions of extraordinary hardship on the bloody Kokoda Track in 1942 deserve to be called "the men who saved Australia".

The capture of Port Moresby was of vital importance to Japan's military leaders in 1942. Port Moresby was situated on the southern coast of the Australian Territory of Papua and separated from the Australian mainland by a 500 kilometre stretch of the Coral Sea. Its capture would deny the Allies a forward base from which to launch air attacks on Japan's newly acquired military bases in the Australian Territory of New Guinea. With the whole of the island of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands under Japanese control, Japan could establish forward naval and air bases on these territories from which it could strike deeply into the Australian mainland and intercept military support for Australia from the United States. Port Moresby would also provide Japan with a springboard for an invasion of the Australian mainland when that became feasible. The first attempt by Japan to capture Port Moresby by means of a powerful seaborne invasion force occurred in the first week of May 1942. This attempt was frustrated by a joint United States and Australian naval task force at the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Despite Japan's massive defeat at the Battle of Midway, and the resulting loss of naval superiority over the United States Pacific Fleet, Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo was determined to press on with the plan to isolate Australia from the United States. The Imperial Japanese Navy had operational responsibility for Japanese military operations in the South-West Pacific area, including the plan to isolate Australia from the United States, but with four of its six best aircraft carriers lost at Midway, and Shokaku badly damaged at the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese Navy was no longer capable of mounting a seaborne invasion of Port Moresby. Faced with this dilemma, Japan's admirals decided to pass the task of capturing Port Moresby to the Japanese Army.

IS IT "KOKODA TRACK" OR "KOKODA TRAIL"?

In this treatment of the Kokoda Campaign, reference will be made to the "Kokoda Track". This was the name by which it was known to Australian soldiers who fought on it in 1942 and to the civilians who were living in Australia's Territory of Papua before the Japanese invaded it on 21 July 1942. Dissemination of war news in the South-West Pacific was controlled in 1942 by the American Supreme Commander, General Douglas MacArthur, and his personal American staff. "Trail" is not Australian usage. "Track" is not American usage. Americans speak of the Oregon Trail and the Santa Fe Trail. There is a very real possibility that the term "Kokoda Trail" was coined by an American member of General MacArthur's public relations staff writing in terms that would be understood by Americans. The Australian War Memorial has opted since 1992 to use the American term "Kokoda Trail" to describe the location of the most important battle fought by Australians on their own soil in World War II. However, the Memorial concedes that both "Track" and "Trail" have now become acceptable usages. Continued at.