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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Jungle Warfare

Patrolling the jungle

Along the Kokoda track, and in the rugged jungle off to the side, both sides were continually patrolling...

October 1942, Papua. A patrol of the 2/31st Australian Infantry Battalion advancing along the banks of the Brown River south of Menari. [AWM 027081]
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As the jungle could easily conceal large numbers of men it was vital to know where the enemy was and what he was up to.

A patrol is a small group who leave the main body to seek information on the enemy. If the fingers of a hand are spread wide then the finger tips represent patrols, while the palm is the main body of troops which waits behind to act on the information the patrols obtain.

There is a tendency to consider the fighting along the Kokoda track as taking place on a narrow front. In mid-September 1942 the fighting, then at Ioribaiwa, occurred a kilometre or so on either side of the track but both armies had patrols out along a front of over 100 kilometres and sometimes deep behind the enemy front line. During the Ioribaiwa action Australian patrols from 2/6 Independent Company were searching for the enemy along the Vanapa River 50 kilometres north-west of Ioribaiwa and along the upper reaches of the Kumusi River, 70 kilometres to the north-east.

The 2/1 Pioneers patrolled the immediate flanks of the Australian force on Ioribaiwa ridge to see if the Japanese were looking for approaches to Port Moresby along the Brown and Goldie Rivers. The Japanese 41 Regiment was actively patrolling the same area for just this purpose. They also sent patrols out to the east and west to assure themselves that the Australian had not sent a large force around their flank.

The peculiar aspect of patrolling the vast jungle covered and rugged mountains of the Owen Stanley Range was that these patrols rarely encountered one another. Most patrols returned with no contact nor any sign of the enemy. For all the efforts of 2/1 Pioneer Battalion in the last two weeks of September their patrols encountered the Japanese just twice. On one of these occasions they clashed with the deepest known southward penetration of a Japanese patrol, on the Goldie River, well in the Australian rear and only 35 kilometres from Port Moresby.