Kokoda Track Campaign 1942

(July 1942 – November 1942)

            Shortly before World War II began, Japan had already begun a campaign of invading and conquering valuable territory, both in Asia and the Pacific, particularly if such territories either helped replenish needed resources, or to fortify strategic positions to stave off attacks from other world powers. Australia was one such country that if the Japanese could take it over, then the Allies would lose a very valuable source of supplies and soldiers.

By 1941, Japan was close enough to New Guinea off the northern tip of Australia, to begin implementing her plan to take Port Moresby on the south side of Papua New Guinea, just across from Australia. While the Japanese landed soldiers on the northern side at Gona, the Japanese sent another landing group around the island towards Port Moresby, but it was stopped during the battle of the Coral Sea.

Consequently, the Japanese changed tactics and decided to land more troops at Gona and other areas along the northern coast. Then, they planned to travel through the country’s mountainous jungles on the 60-mile-long Kokoda Track that ran across the island, from the northeast point at Kokoda Village, to the southwest point at Owers’ Corner. From there, it would be a short trek towards Port Moresby on the southern coastline. The Kokoda Track Campaign began officially on July 21-22, 1942, with Japanese landings at both Gona and Buna on the northern coastline. From there, the Japanese forces began moving on Kokoda, pushing back on the 39th Australian Infantry Battalion and the local Papuan Infantry Battalion, which put up a fierce fight, but who had to retreat along the trail into the jungle. The two Allied groups would become known as the Maroubra Force.

Into the Jungle

            Once the Japanese had possession of the village of Kokoda, then they also had control of the only airfield in the island’s northern section. Meanwhile, Maroubra Force had retreated to Deniki, some four miles into the trail, and once there, launched a counterattack to regain control of Kokoda on August 8th, but failed. The Japanese forces continued to move along the trail, while the Maroubra Force had to retreat further along the trail, fighting every step of the way.

A valiant battle was fought at Isurava, after which the Allies retreated to Brigade Hill, where another battle was fought, proving to be disastrous for the Australians, and losing nearly the whole 27th Regiment reinforcement group on the adjoining Mission Ridge. Brigadier Arnold Potts of the Maroubra Force was later replaced by Brigadier Ken Eather, who was the commander at the next battle at Ioribaiwa Ridge. While there were far less losses in that battle, the Australians made a final retreat, and regrouped with new reinforcements for a last battle at Imita Ridge, some 30 miles from Port Moresby. Eather had already been informed by Allied Command, that he would have to hold Imita Ridge at all costs, to keep the Japanese from taking Port Moresby. There were to be no further retreats.

            As the battle at Imita Ridge began, the Japanese had already begun to run out of supplies and reinforcements, so when the Australians fought back, the Japanese had to retreat from where they had just come from. The Australians followed them, hounding them each mile down the track until they were finally pushed all the way back to Gona and Buna, and the Allies retook Kokoda in the process on November 2, 1942.

The Kokoda Track Campaign would be one of the most important decisive battles for the Australians during WW II, that is still remembered and honored today by Australians, even though the battle itself is not well-known internationally.



Australians Japanese
  • General Douglas MacArthur
  • General Sir Thomas Blamey
  • Arthur Allen
  • George Allen
  • Brigadier Arnold Potts
  • Brigadier Ken Eather
  • Major General Tomitarō Horii
  • Colonel Yokoyama Yosuke
  • 39th Battalion (4 platoons)
  • Papuan Infantry Battalion
  • Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF) 21st Brigade
  • 25th Brigade (Eather)
  • 12,000 total men involved with the Track
  • 144th Infantry Regiment (three battalions),
  • 41st Infantry Regiment (2nd and 3rd Battalions, with 1st Battalion to join later,
  • 1st Battalion, 55th Mountain Artillery Regiment
  • 6,000 total men involved with the Track
Australian Losses Japanese Losses
  • 625 Australians killed
  • 1,600 wounded
  • 4,000 ill
  • 150 New Guinean locals (PIB and porters)
  • 2,000 killed in battle
  • 3,000 died from disease and illness
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