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

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    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 ...

A Fighting Retreat

Overview

The month from the Japanese landing on 22 July 1942 to the action at Isurava can be seen as an Australian fighting retreat...

August 1942. Kokoda. Aerial photograph of the terrain south of Kokoda, taken by a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft at 25,000 feet, shows the tangle of mountains, ridges and gorges with dense, humid jungle and rainforest. The two Myola lakes, one large and one small, can be seen in the top right quarter. Eora Creek, which rises in the larger of the two lakes and proceeds to Kokoda via Isurava, can also be identified. [AWM P02018.125]
Show Caption

Allied Intelligence was aware that the Japanese force which had landed at Basabua was very much greater than that which the Papuans and Australians had on hand north of the Owen Stanley Range. It followed that if they stood and fought for long they would be surrounded and annihilated. Captain Sam Templeton, who commanded the Australians early in the campaign, told his subordinates: ‘Your action should be contact and rearguard only - no do or die stunts.’

Templeton's policy was followed during brief rearguard stands at Awala, Wairopi, Gorari and Oivi but the two Kokoda engagements were, to a degree, an exception. Whoever held the Kokoda airstrip could fly in reinforcements and supplies, a factor of such importance it was worth risking Maroubra Force in something more than a short rearguard fight. Lt Col William Owen, who took over after Templeton's capture at Oivi, stood at Kokoda but was defeated and Owen was killed. His successor, Major Alan Cameron, was briefly able to recapture the strip ten days later but he too was eventually forced to fall back into the mountains.

Teaching Aid Thumbnail

Teaching and Learning Activities for the Classroom

Planning to walk the Kokoda track

For the Teacher

This task can be done by students individually or as group work. Students should first make their own list of things to take with them on the Kokoda track. Then they can complete the worksheet. Alternatively the questions on the worksheet can be done as a class discussion.

For the Students

Have a close look at the photograph (at the top of the page) of the mountains which the Kokoda track winds its way through. Then make a list of at least 20 of the things you would need, and how many of each, for a ten day walk along the track. Remember that you have to carry everything yourself so keep it down to a bare minimum. The only things you don't have to take with you are water and food. Water can be obtained from mountain streams and three basic meals a day will be provided by the tour company which will guide you along the track. After you have completed your list compare it to the list made by experienced Kodoka track walkers and answer the questions there.

Hints

You will need the following; clothing, footwear, toiletries and camping equipment. There are many other things that you will need. Some of them will surprise you, so think carefully about what might be useful for a long walk in tropical mountains where there are no shops, hospitals or hotels.

Download printable worksheet of list and questions (PDF, 1 page 48 KB)