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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About the Kokoda Track: 1942 and Today

Track or trail?

The terms Kokoda track and Kokoda trail were both in use during the Second World War and both are still commonly used today...

23 November 1942. Kokoda track. Wounded being brought in by native bearers. [Photo: George Silk] [AWM 013641]
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However, there has been considerable debate over which should be the preferred term.

The Australian official historian of the Kokoda campaign, Mr Dudley McCarthy, corresponded with and spoke to many Kokoda veterans. The fact that he chose ‘track’ carries considerable authority. He was certainly influenced by veterans, including senior officers such as Brigadier J E Lloyd, 16th Brigade commander, who said ‘we on the track referred to it as the track not the trail’. This terminology would seem to be in keeping with the names of other battle tracks such as the Bulldog track, Black Cat track and Sanananda track.

The official memorial located at Isurava, constructed by the Australian Government during 2002 as part of the commemorations for the 60th anniversary of the 1942 battles on the Kokoda track, uses the term track. There are other memorials located along the Kokoda track, erected by various individuals and organisations, which use Kokoda trail.

The Australian Army battle honour bears the name Kokoda trail. The battle honour was established in 1959, well after the war, and careful thought was given to the name it bore. The Australian War Memorial also uses trail in its displays.

Hank Nelson who included an appendix on the issue in his article ‘Kokoda; the track from history to politics’ published in the Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 38, Issue 1, 2003 concluded with the observation ‘Both “track” and “trail” seem certain to continue, although much of the evidence put forward so strongly by both sides is doubtful.’

Whatever the debate over nomenclature, it should not be allowed to overshadow the essential issue of appropriate commemoration of the Australian servicemen who in 1942 fought along that difficult route which crosses the rugged Owen Stanley Range.

The Kokoda ‘Track’ or ‘Trail’? BLOG by Australian War Memorial's Karl James (PDF, 4 pages 106 KB)