The Battle Of The Kokoda Trail

In the rugged mountains of Papua New Guinea, 625 Australians were killed, and more than 1,000 were injured.

It was perhaps the most significant campaign fought by Australians during World War Two.

After previously being thwarted in their effort to capture Port Moresby, the Japanese planned to use the Kokoda Trail to advance on the city and form a base for attacking the Australian mainland.

On 21 July 1942, the Japanese landed at Gona on the north coast of Papua. Soon, a full-scale offensive developed.

Men of the 2/31 Australian Infantry Battalion stop for a rest in the jungle between Nauro and Menari [Image: Australian War Memorial, 027013]

In terrible conditions, Australians fought a series of battles over the next four months. Supplies were scarce, and tropical diseases such as malaria hit the men’s ability to fight.

The track runs over mountains and cuts through around almost 100 kilometres of dense jungle. All supplies had to be carried as much of the track could only be travelled on foot.

In January 1943, Japanese resistance on Papua finally ceased. When all was said and done, 600 Australians were killed and 1600 wounded. The Japanese had more than 10,000 fatalities.

A captured Japanese 70mm howitzer and Juki medium machine gun [Image: Australian War Memorial, 013644]

The Kokoda Trail was a crucial point in stopping the Japanese advance across the Pacific and towards Australia.

Many Australians now walk the track to pay tribute to the bravery and dedication shown by the Australian soldiers. Even without the pressure of war and with a professional guide, walkers have died on the track, which takes around eight days to complete.

Discuss this article

Newsletter

Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
Submit