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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The Tide Turns

Retaking Kokoda: Kokoda recaptured, 2 November 1942

The first Australians to re-enter Kokoda were the men of a patrol led by Lt Frederick Winkle of 2/6 Independent Company...

Kokoda Plateau. This ground was defended by the Australians at both the first and second Kokoda engagements. Here also on 3 November 1942 the Maroubra Force commander, General George Vasey, marked the recapture of Kokoda with a flag-raising ceremony witnessed by 25th Brigade. Now monuments commemorating the soldiers from both sides line the plateau edge. [Photo: Peter Williams]
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3 November 1942, Papua. The Australian flag is raised over Kokoda, watched by soldiers of 25th Australian Infantry Brigade. [Photo: John McNeil] [AWM 013572]

3 November 1942, Papua. The Australian flag is raised over Kokoda, watched by soldiers of 25th Australian Infantry Brigade. [Photo: John McNeil] [AWM 013572] ... Enlarge

In the morning fog on 25 October 1942, while the two armies fought at Eora-Templeton’s 25 kilometres to the south, Winkle, having come from an Australian patrol base in the Yodda valley, crossed the Kokoda airstrip and entered Kokoda government station. There he saw a few Japanese gathered around a fire. Unobserved, Winkle and his men investigated further. Eventually they were fired on and withdrew.

It is however 2 November 1942, when the Australians returned permanently, which is the official date of the recapture of Kokoda. On that day a patrol from 2/31st Battalion, the vanguard of Maroubra Force, entered Kokoda Government Station to find the Japanese had left two days before. By the afternoon the whole battalion had arrived and secured the area, capturing also Kokoda village, two kilometres away to the east on the track leading to the north coast.

Video Still of Kokoda Plateau

At Kokoda Plateau, four monuments, one of them Japanese, line the plateau edge.

The recapture of Kokoda signifies an important step in ejecting the Japanese from Papua. Its practical importance was in the recapture of the airstrip, the only one between Port Moresby and the north coast. The strip had not been used by the Japanese and the grass was almost a metre high. Cutting this and removing the obstacles the Japanese had placed took time, but by 4 November aircraft from Port Moresby were landing regularly. Now Maroubra Force could rely on a steady stream of supplies and reinforcements coming in while the wounded and sick could be flown out.

On 3 November the Maroubra Force commander, General George Vasey, marked the occasion with a flag-raising ceremony witnessed by 25th Brigade. The flag used at Kokoda was later raised to mark Australian victories at Buna-Gona, Sattleberg and Wareo.