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?

    Native bearers carrying wounded thumbnail

    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 ...

About the Kokoda Track: 1942 and Today

Overview

The Kokoda track was the setting for a famous event in Australian history, one which still resonates in the national consciousness today...

Map of Kokoda

[Note: Flash Player is required to view the zoomable version of this map].

What is on this site

The core of this site concerns the Kokoda track - or the Kokoda trail as it is sometimes called. The Battle of Kokoda was a four-month struggle which began with the Japanese landing in Papua in July 1942. The Japanese strategy was to take Port Moresby via a track over the Owen Stanley Range. Along this track were fought engagements between the Japanese and the Australians at Kokoda, Deniki, Isurava, Eora, Efogi, Templeton’s Crossing, Ioribaiwa and Oivi-Gorari.

The jungle warfare on the Kokoda track did not occur in isolation: You will also find here accounts of the other battles in Papua (as the southern half of mainland Papua New Guinea was once called). At the Battle of Milne Bay a second Japanese attempt to land in Papua was defeated and at the Battle of Buna-Gona, which ended in January 1943, the Japanese army in Papua was finally destroyed. There was fighting on the sea and in the air. At the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942, the Royal Australian Navy contributed to repulsing the first Japanese attempt to land in Papua and the Royal Australian Air Force lost over 200 men in attacks on Japanese land forces and shipping.

A typical section of the track looking north from the vicinity of Menari. [Photo: Peter Williams]

A typical section of the track looking north from the vicinity of Menari. [Photo: Peter Williams] ... Enlarge

About 120,000 people were engaged in the fighting in Papua, either as combatants or supporting the fighting troops on both sides. In Australia the story of the fuzzy wuzzy angels is well known but thousands of Papuans and New Guineans also participated on the Japanese side. The Americans made an important contribution to the war in Papua and fought a concurrent battle against the Japanese on the island of Guadalcanal.

The post-war revival of interest in the Kokoda track has given rise to new problems. Now over 5000 Australians walk the track each year and there is concern that this has a detrimental environmental effect. For the Koiari people, through whose land the track winds, there are issues of track ownership and remuneration. There is also the question of mining. In 2008 an Australian company, Frontier Resources, was refused permission to mine for copper near the Kokoda track.

To deal with disputes, to promote trekking with a low environmental impact and to develop revenue for local communities, the Kokoda Track Foundation (2003) and the Kokoda Track Authority (2004) were established. In 2008 the Governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia signed a joint understanding which may result in a World Heritage nomination for the Owen Stanley Range.