Kokoda Campaign and the Beachheads

November 02, 2018

On 2 November 1942, Australian troops re-took the foothills village of Kokoda – at the northern end of the Kokoda Track (on the island of New Guinea) – against the forces of the Japanese Empire in WWII. This paved the way to Australia successfully ending the gruelling Kokoda Track Campaign later that month – which had been going on since 21 July of that year.

The Campaign pushed the Japanese forces all the way back to their coastal strongholds or beachheads at Buna, Gona and Sanananda. The victory was pivotal to the Allies (ie Australian and US forces) securing Port Moresby – then Australia territory – and gaining the ascendancy over the Japanese on New Guinea and the region for the rest of WWII.

  • Port Moresby was a base highly sought by the Japanese during WWII to prosecute their war effort in, and plans for, the region.

Kokoda village was strategically significant for being the only airfield along the Track, to fly in supplies and re-stock the effort. It was the access to supplies – that otherwise had to be transported by foot – that was so critical and largely determined the fortunes of the combatants during the campaign of attrition along the Track.

The Track’s terrain and conditions were atrocious (and now legend) and grossly underestimated by the commanders of both sides – not unlike other famous battles in Australia’s history. But the courage, perseverance and success of the Aussie troops in such adversity – during the most pivotal battle in history for the direct security of Australia – stands as great testament to the fighting and patriotic spirit in our defence forces then and to this day.

During the Kokoda Campaign, some 625 Australians were killed, 1,600 wounded and a striking 4,000 fell ill (due much to the tropical conditions, bugs and diseases), compared with 2,500 Japanese killed and 4,500 other casualties.

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
  • 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 ArmyAir 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.

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