Kokoda, 1942: Japanese advance (Overview text)
Module name: Campaign history (All groups perspective)
This page was contributed by Dr John Moremon (Australian War Memorial)
The Japanese planned to complete their conquest of Papua and New Guinea by capturing Port Moresby.
In early 1942, the Australian garrison comprised about 2,500 soldiers and airmen. Japanese aircraft bombed the base regularly but in March Kittyhawk fighters arrived to defend it.
In June, Papuan troops trekked over the Owen Stanley Range to Buna. Next month, the 39th Battalion began deploying to the mountain village of Kokoda. However, on 22 July a Japanese force landed at Buna and soon captured Kokoda.
In August, the Japanese South Seas Detachment began its advance on Port Moresby by attacking Isurava, where the Australians had withdrawn. Four Australian battalions resisted for four days before retreating. A series of tough actions was fought along the Kokoda Track.
Papuans played a pivotal role by carrying supplies (for both armies) and evacuating casualties for the Australians. Their dedication and care in the latter role earned them admiration and the enduring epithet of “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels”.
In early September, the Japanese reached Ioribaiwa, near the southern edge of the mountains. The Australians, reinforced by a fresh brigade, withdrew to the last ridgeline to make a stand. On 14 September, however, the Japanese commander was ordered to withdraw his force, which had been seriously depleted by Australian resistance.
Kokoda (part 1):
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