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...Show Caption
The fighting there, against a Japanese invasion force, was perhaps the most significant battle fought by Australians in World War II.
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
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.