On (the evening of) 21 July 1942, the Kokoda Track Campaign or Battle of Kokoda Track began – a gruelling four month struggle by Australian forces (assisted by Papuans) to repel forces of the Japanese Empire.
After Australian and US naval forces repelled Japanese attempts to capture Port Moresby by sea in the May 1942 Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese aimed to capture the strategically-significant port by land. It was another pivotal battle against the Japanese in the Pacific War of WWII which Australian forces gallantly fought and eventually won.
Japanese troops landed near Gona, a town on New Guinea's north-eastern coastline. advancing south-west along the Kokoda track - over the rugged, barrier mountains of the Owen Stanley Range* and down towards Port Moresby on the island's southern coastline.
The perils of the Kokoda Track are now legend - steep terrain, high altitude, dense vegetation, tropical conditions and thick mud. These atrocious conditions combined to make the desperate and vicious jungle warfare a contest of supply lines, stretched by their inroads up the track from respective directions - Australia from Port Moresby, and Japan from Gona. Some 625 Australians were killed, 1,600 wounded and 4,000 fell ill, compared with 2,500 Japanese killed and 4,500 other casualties. Japan's heavy losses from US forces on Guadalcanal (one of the Solomon Islands) forced a Japanese withdrawal to the north coast. Australia and its allies defeated them there over the ensuing months. Port Moresby remained in Allied hands, protecting northern Australia from aerial attack.
Commemorate the beginning of the Battle of Kokoda Track by:
- if you’re near Canberra, visiting the Australian War Memorial there and absorbing the fuller context of the Battle of Kokoda and other key battles in WWII
- if you're in Sydney, visit the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway on Bray's Bay in Concord West or plan to go there for Kokoda Day commemorations on 3 November each year (the date the Australian flag was raised at Kokoda village)
- reading up more about the conflict at the Department of Veterans' Affairs website here
- planning a visit to Papua New Guinea and walking the Kokoda Track (or a part of it)
- going for a bushwalk - perhaps in steep terrain - imagining what it would be like having to carry all your supplies in far worse weather and terrain, let alone being shot at
- hiring the 2006 Australian film 'Kokoda' (trailer below: warning, graphic content) to get a sense of the intense physical and psychological pressure of the campaign
- having a meal and/or a drink down at your local Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) Club and paying respects to the men and women who have served our country and are doing so now
- following the Royal Australian Army, Air Force and/or Navy on Facebook to show your support for our land, air and sea defences, and/or
- sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, veterans, anti-nihilists, the historically-curious and fellow Aussie patriots.
*FUN FACT: Mount Bellamy, the highest point on the Kokoda Track, stands at 2,190 metres high. That's just 240 metres shy of the famous ruins of Macchu Pichu, in the Andes of South America (and just 38 metres shy of the top of Australia's highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko).
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