The Kokoda Track | Australians in World War II | The Pacific War

Exploring the site of the battle fought by Australians in World War II

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Special features

  • New Guineans on the Kokoda Track

    Sergeant Sanopa thumbnail

    The great majority of the 20,000 New Guineans who participated in the campaign did so as carriers of supplies for the Allies, though 800 men from the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the Royal Papuan Constabulary fought against the Japanese in 1942. more ...

  • Animated Battle Maps

    Animated Battle Maps thumbnail

    There were a number of key battles in the Papuan campaign. In the initial stages the Australians were forced to withdraw on numerous occasions, but as the tide turned they they were able to push the Japanese back to Gona and the coast. more ...

  • A Kokoda Timeline

    Kokoda Timeline thumbnail

    On July 7 1942 Australian troops (Maroubra Force) began operations along the Kokoda track. On July 21 Japanese forces landed near Buna and Gona on the north-east shore of Papua New Guinea. View an interactive timeline of the Kokoda campaign within the larger Pacific War. more ...

  • Track or Trail?

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    Kokoda track or the Kokoda trail? The official name is the Kokoda trail, but this term is rarely used in Australia. Pre-war documents referred to it as the 'overland mail route' and the 'Buna road' . Locally it is now called the Kokoda dala or Kokoda road and 'Kokoda road' was sometimes used during the war. more ...

  • Why Port Moresby?

    Painting of Japanese bombing of Port Moresby thumbnail

    Port Moresby was important because any Allied attack north through New Guinea towards Rabaul required Port Moresby as a base. Similarly for any attack south towards Australia, the Japanese required Port Moresby. more ...

  • A Fighting Retreat

    Lieutenant Colonel William Taylor Owen thumb

    At the first of two engagements at Kokoda the Japanese defeated Lieutenant Colonel Owen's force and captured the airstrip from which they expected to receive supplies from Rabaul. The combined Papuan/Australian force fell back to Deniki. more ...

  • The Stand at Isurava

    Soldiers of 2/14th Infantry Battalion thumbnail

    In late August both the Australians and the Japanese were greatly reinforced and prepared for a decisive battle at Isurava. While the Japanese were victorious they failed to achieve their main objective - the total destruction of Maroubra Force. more ...

  • Retaking Kokoda

    Kokoda Plateau

    In the morning fog on 25 October 1942, while the two armies fought at Eora-Templeton's 25 km to the south, Winkle, having come from an Australian patrol base in the Yodda valley, crossed the Kokoda airstrip and entered Kokoda Government Station. more ...

  • The Decisive Moment

    Australian burial party thumbnail

    As a result of the decisive defeat suffered by the Japanese at Oivi-Gorari they abandoned their plan to take Port Moresby and turned their attention to holding their base at Buna-Gona. The Japanese cut through the surrounding Australian infantry and retreated to the coast. more ...

  • Casualties

    Casualties of war thumbnail

    Casualty statistics are not reliable in every category. Numbers for those killed in action are accurate but Australians evacuated sick during the campaign can only be estimated. The situation is much worse when assessing the losses of the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy. more ...

Map of Kokoda

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The Kokoda Track 1942

In 1942, along a narrow track over the rugged mountains of Papua New Guinea, 625 Australians were killed and over 1000 wounded...

The Kokoda track looking north from the Maguli Range. The track leads to Nauro village, in the centre of the photograph, then drops down into the Brown River valley. It then climbs over the second most distant crest at a notch visible to the left of centre. This climb is known as 'the wall'. [Photo: Peter Williams]
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The fighting there, against a Japanese invasion force, was perhaps the most significant battle fought by Australians in World War II.

This site will help you to understand about this extraordinary event: Why it occurred, who was involved and what it was like to face death in the jungled mountains along the Kokoda track.

The Japanese landed near Gona on the north coast of Papua on 21 July 1942. In the next two months they drove the Australians and their Papuan allies back over the mountains towards Port Moresby, the Japanese objective. Port Moresby was vital to the defence of Australia. If they took Port Moresby the Japanese planned to begin a bombing offensive against north Queensland and, had they decided to invade Australia, the invasion would have been launched from Port Moresby. None of this came to pass. The Japanese approached to within 40 kilometres of their objective but the tide turned in September. Then the Australians, in a series of costly engagements, pushed the Japanese back the way they had come. By mid-November the Japanese were forced to abandon their plan to take Port Moresby. They retired to their north coast strongholds at Buna, Gona and Sanananda.

The Kokoda Track Today

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The Kokoda track region appears much as it did in 1942 when the Australian soldiers fought there. Along the track, trenches and rusted weapons can still be seen. There are almost none of the facilities a tourist might expect to find: no electricity, no shops, and each madly rushing stream is crossed by means of a simple log bridge. Following in the steps of the Australian soldiers remains a physically challenging task, to be attempted by only the fittest of bushwalkers amongst us.

The 96-kilometre Kokoda track wanders along narrow crests offering spectacular views, and falls into deep dark gorges where the thick green vegetation blocks out the daylight. The Australian and Papua New Guinea governments are considering seeking a World Heritage listing to continue to preserve this remarkably beautiful, pristine and historic environment.

This site, while not a substitute for walking that beautiful wild landscape, will help you understand more of the people, events, history and topography of a defining moment in Australian history.

This website was written for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs by Dr. Peter Williams. It is the result of three years research in Australia, Japan and Papua New Guinea.

Main Feature: Animated Maps of the Key Battles of the Kokoda Campaign

  • 2nd Kokoda

    Second Kokoda Map Thumbnail

    Second engagement at Kokoda 8 August 1942
    After the first Kokoda engagement on the night of 28/29 July, the Australians retreated to Deniki. Both sides awaited reinforcements. With the death of Owen at Kokoda Major Cameron arrived to take over Maroubra Force. more ...

  • Isurava

    Isurava Map Thumbnail

    The stand at Isurava: 26-31 August 1942
    In late August both the Australians and the Japanese were greatly reinforced and prepared for a decisive battle at Isurava. While the Japanese were victorious they failed to achieve their main objective - the total destruction of Maroubra Force. more ...

  • Eora 1

    Eora 1 Thumbnail

    From Eora to Templeton's Crossing: 31 August to 5 September 1942
    As a result of the defeat at Isurava the Australians withdrew rapidly south along the Kokoda track.Covering the withdrawal was a large rearguard composed of 2/16 and 2/14 Battalions. more ...

  • Efogi

    Efogi Map Thumbnail

    Disaster at Efogi 8 September 1942
    Better known in Australia as the battle of Mission Ridge-Brigade Hill, Efogi was, following Isurava, the next attempt to halt the Japanese advance. Again the Japanese were able to defeat the Australians by cutting the Kokoda track in their rear. more ...

  • Ioribaiwa

    Ioribaiwa Map Thumbnail

    Action at Ioribaiwa Ridge: 14-16 September 1942
    At Ioribaiwa, forty kilometres from Port Moresby, the Australians assembled for battle their largest force so far in the fighting in Papua. The Japanese attacked and, for the last time, drove the Australians from their position. more ...

  • Eora 2

    Eora 2 Thumbnail

    Australian advance to Eora: 13-27 October 1942
    After the Japanese retreat from Ioribaiwa Ridge they dug in to defend a series of positions along the Kokoda track from Templetons Crossing to Eora village ... there the Australians, in their first victory on the Kokoda track, overcame the Japanese... more ...

  • Oivi Gorari

    Oivi Map Thumbnail

    The decisive moment: Oivi-Gorari 10 November 1942
    As a result of the decisive defeat suffered by the Japanese at Oivi-Gorari they abandoned their plan to take Port Moresby and turned their attention to holding their base at Buna-Gona. more ...

  • Buna-Gona 1

    Buna-Gona 1 Map Thumbnail

    The Battle of the Beachheads: November 1942
    Anxious to seize the Japanese base in the Gona - Buna area before the arrival of Japanese reinforcements the Allies attempted a coup de main - a sudden bold attack - that would have succeeded... more ...

  • Buna-Gona 2

    Buna-Gona 2 Map Thumbnail

    The Battle of the Beachheads: December 1942
    The balance of forces shifted in December. Allied air power prevented any Japanese reinforcements landing after the middle of the month while the capacity of the Allied supply line grew. more ...

  • Buna-Gona 3

    Buna-Gona 3 Map Thumbnail

    The Battle of the Beachheads: January 1943
    By January 1943 it was apparent that the six month Japanese occupation of Papua was about to end... the defenders decided to abandon their defences and break out. more ...

  • Milne Bay

    Milne Bay Map Thumbnail

    Milne Bay: 26 August-6 September
    Milne Bay is on the eastern tail of New Guinea. In 1942 aircraft based there could project air power towards a number of vital strategic locations: Port Moresby, Sanananda, Lae, far north Queensland and across the Coral Sea to the Solomon Islands. more ...