The Kokoda Track Campaign

Brief history

The Kokoda Track Campaign was part of the Pacific War during the World War 2. The campaign consisted of a series of battles fought from July 1942 to January 1943 between Japanese and Australian forces over the Owen Stanley Ranges of Papua New Guinea.

The Owen Stanley Ranges campaign was the third prong of a Japanese attack to gain possession of Port Moresby.
Their first, a naval movement, had been frustrated in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942. Their second attack carried out in August 1942 on Milne Bay resulted in defeat. Japanese then have suffered their first reverse while in battle on land.
The third prong in the region was to cross over the Owen Stanley Rangers from Buna-Gona came very close to success, reaching within twenty five miles of Port Moresby.

A small Australian force known as “Maroubra Force” arrived at Buna on July 21st, 1942, as the first Japanese forces in the strength of 1500 men landed at Gona, eight miles to the west. The first clash between Australian soldiers supported by elements from the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the opposing Japanese troops took place on the 23rd of July. Australian forces were heavily outnumbered, and from this moment they began long and bloody withdrawal over the Owen Stanley Range.

Kokoda is a small plateau on the north-east slopes of the Owen Stanley Range with small air-strip. The retention of this air-strip, for at least as long as it would take Australians to fly in supplies and reinforcements, was of great importance. However, the remnants of “Maroubra Force”, exhausted by a month’s constant fighting, were unable to achieve this. Valiant in their efforts they have even recaptured the plateau after initially being driven out by Japanese. Japanese need for this air-strip was of equal importance as they required a forward base at Kokoda for their drive over the ranges along the “Kokoda Trail” to Port Moresby, and they struck before Australians were able to muster sufficient strength.

The initiative now remained with the enemy and Australian withdrawal began again – through Isurava, Alola, Templeton’s Crossing, Myola, Efogi, Menari and Nauro until at Ioribaiwa Ridge, beyond which the Japanese could not be permitted to penetrate, a final stand was made.

The Japanese had now inherited all the difficulties of an extended supply line.
For the last fortnight there was a comparative lull in the fighting during which both sides have consolidated their positions.

Australian forces, however, had a surprise for the enemy: 25-pounder guns were brought from Port Moresby to the road head at Ower’s Corner and then laboriously dragged into position at Imita Ridge, and opened fire on the enemy’s barricades. It was now turn for the Japanese to suffer what Australians had suffered in the preceding two months. Heavy shelling smashed their defense lines and now was a time for aggressive patrols to inflict severe losses on enemies positions.
On 25 September 1942, when the Japanese could see the lights of Port Moresby, the Japanese general was ordered to withdraw his army to the beachheads at Gona-Buna.
On the morning of September 28th Australian forces were closing in and it became evident that the enemy was withdrawing. The chase was now on.
Port Moresby had been saved.