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

History of the track before the war

Before the war the Kokoda track was one of several tracks that connected the Mambare River valley in the north with Port Moresby in the south...

For hundreds of years Papuans have crossed the Owen Stanley Range by a north-south track that ends in the valley of the Mambare River at Kokoda. [Photo: Peter Williams]
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The eastern tail of Papua New Guinea is divided down its centre by the Owen Stanley Range. For 2000 years, if not longer, several tracks have snaked across the range, connecting the south coast with the north coast. Prior to the establishment of the British protectorate of Papua in 1884 the Kokoda track was not the most prominent of the various ways to travel over the mountains.

The range was first crossed by a non-Papuan in 1889. This was the British explorer George Bedford, though he did not choose to use the Kokoda track. The Kokoda track first came to prominence with the opening of the Yodda goldfield in 1900. Yodda is north west of Kokoda in the valley of the Mambare River. It was thought the Kokoda track might supplement the Sanananda-Kokoda track in servicing the new goldfield but this did not happen. In 1904 a fortnightly mail service was established along the track. Though an airfield was built at Kokoda the mail service continued until the war began.

The path out of Port Moresby towards the southern end of the track was upgraded to a vehicular road with the discovery of copper in the area. Percy McDonald, who gave his name to McDonald's Corner, was the first to drive a vehicle along it in 1928.