The Kokoda Trail is a part across the Owen Stanley Range between Popondetta and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. The Japanese and Allied Forces used this path to fight and each other in the Kokoda Campaign during the Second World War from 1942 – 1945.
The Second World War began in 1939. In mid 1941; the Japanese troops started moving towards Papua New Guinea in their Pacific War Campaign. By the second week of March 1942, they were already in Rabaul, and eventually took control of Lae and Salamaua on the North – East coast of Papua New Guinea.
On May the 4th 1942, a Japanese convoy left Rabaul and was on the way to attack Port Moresby. However on the 7th and 8th May 1942, they were met by the opposite forces (the Australians and the Americans) and attached them, forcing them to return to Rabaul. This battle was commonly known as the Coral Sea Battle.
The Japanese troops did not give it up easily. They wanted to make a second attempt to capture Port Moresby. This time they decided to walk across the steep and rugged mountains of Owen Stanley Range.On July 21st 1942, the Japanese troops landed at Gona, Buna and Sanananda. This was the begging of the Kokoda Campaign.
The Australian troops set our from their camp a Owens corner- about thirty (30) kilometers from Port Moresby. They had to act quickly to stop the Japanese from capturing Kokoda and its airfield which was the most strategic point for the Japanese to use in order to capture Port Moresby. However, on July 29th 1942-the much advanced Japanese troops captured Kokoda forcing the Australians to move back to Deniki. The battle became fierce between the two enemies and lasted for four (4) months.
On August 8th 1942, the Australian troops recaptured Kokoda only for a day before been abandoned into the hands of the Japanese. The Australians were weak, tired and helpless due to heavy engagement, wet and muddy condition. They suffered much from lack of food and medical supply causing them malaria, dysentery and starvation. It was one of the most difficult places in the world to fight. But the Australian troops were greatly assisted by the Local Papua New Guineans.
Another heavy attach from the Japanese was faced by the Australians between 14th -26th August 1942, and were forced to withdraw to Isurava from Deniki. With much casualties and many Australian Soldiers were killed. 172 missing in action on a single day. Another 130 very badly wounded were airlifted to Port Moresby and further to Australia for urgent Medical attention.
One soldier wrote a poem about the Local Papua New Guinean Herons. The poem was printed in a magazine and newspaper in Australia. The people who read the poem then knew how much the people from Papua New Guinea had assisted and were very grateful.
THE FUZZY WUZZY ANGELS: POEM
Brining back the badly wounded
Just as steady as the horse
Using leaves to keep the rain off
And as gentle as a nurse
Slow and careful in bad places
On the awful mountain track
The look upon their faces
Would make you think that
Christ was black.
From August 26th –early September 1942, the Japanese troops were about 5000 in number compared to the Australians having only 400 brave soldiers on the ground between Kokoda and Isurava. One of the brave man in the Australian side was Private Bruce Kingsbury. The fight became intensified at this stage and the Japanese were gaining more grounds and the Australians could not get pass them. On August 29th Private Kingsbury of the 2/14 battalion charged the japs by himself in action, making way for other soldiers to get through, but he was shot dead at a close range by the enemy. He was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery.
By mid September 1942, the Australians were reduced to only 300 strong men and they retaliated. By this time the Japs were weak, sick and tired. On October 8th 1942, the Australians attacked them hard and strong to the end of their might. The Japs withdrew its troops from Isurava back to Kokoda and were eventually pushed back to Oivi and Gorai. Moved further to Wairope and then to Awala and finally to their base at Gona, Buna and Sanananda.
On November 2nd 1942, the Australian troops took control of Kokoda after heavy and fierce fighting with the enemy for four (4) months. Kokoda and Port Moresby were now safe in the hands of the Australians and also the Americans who joined the war later. The Kokoda battle ended in January 1943, but the whole of Second World War continued until 1945. The Japanese lost the battle and the war ended.