A Kokoda chronology

 

This work depicts the fighting at Parit Sulong by the men of the 2/15th Australian Field Regiment. A 25 pounder gun is in the lower right corner. This battle became the scene of a massacre at the hands of the Japanese.
Action at Parit Sulong, January 1942, Murray Griffin 1943. [Oil on hardboard 64.5 x 81.5 cm AWM 24477]
Action at Parit Sulong, January 1942, Murray Griffin 1943. [Oil on hardboard 64.5 x 81.5 cm AWM 24477]

1941

Sunday 7 December 1941

The war in the Pacific begins

  • On 8 December 1941 the Japanese launched surprise attacks on the United States fleet at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii (where local time was 7 December), the United States base in Manila in the Philippines, and on the British Army in Malaya.

Tuesday 9 December

Japan invades Malaya and Thailand

  • The invasion of Malaya begins shortly after midnight on 8 December 1941. On 9 December, No 8 Squadron, which also had gone into action, is evacuated from Kuantan airfield. On 10 December, the destroyer HMAS Vampire becomes the first Australian ship in action against the Japanese when HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales are sunk off the east coast of Malaya by enemy aircraft.
  • Read the full story of the Japanese advance, including the invasion of Malaya.

Wednesday 10 December

Australia declares war on Japan

  • Australia declares war on Japan.

1942

Saturday 3 January

Allies arrive in Port Moresby

Friday 23 January

Japanese invade Australian Rabaul

  • Rabaul, the peacetime capital of the Australian Mandated Territory of New Guinea, falls to the Japanese on 23 January 1942. The small Australian garrison, Lark Force, is overwhelmed and most of its troops, including six army nurses, captured. Approximately 400 of the troops subsequently escape to the mainland and another 160 are massacred at Tol Plantation. Kavieng, also directly to the north east of Papua is invaded...
  • Read the full story of the Japanese advance, including the invasion of Rabaul

Tuesday 3 February

Port Moresby first bombed

Saturday 14 February

Military rule formally declared in Papua

  • Military rule is formally declared and Civil Government in Papua is suspended.

Sunday 15 February

Singapore surrenders

  • On 15 February 1942, General Edgar Percival, the British commander in Singapore, calls for a ceasefire and makes the difficult decision to surrender. He signs the surrender document that evening at the Ford Factory on Bukit Timah Road. After days of desperate fighting, all British Empire troops are to lay down their arms at 8.30 that night. More than 100,000 troops (including 14,972 Australians) become prisoners of war together with hundreds of European civilians who are interned...
  • Read the full story of the Japanese advance, including the surrender of Singapore.

Thursday 19 February

Japanese first bomb Darwin

  • On 19 February 1942, Darwin suffers its first and most devastating air raid and the Australian mainland is directly attacked for the first time... Darwin is subjected to a further 63 bombing raids, intermittently, until the last in November 1943. None are as devastating as this first one...
  • Read the full story of the Japanese attacks on Australia, including the air raids on Darwin and northern Australia.

Monday 23 February

Fall of Timor

  • The Japanese attack Dili in East Timor about midnight on 19-20 February... Other Japanese forces come ashore at Koepang where the Australians fight valiantly but are split by the Japanese advance. In West Timor, the Australians under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel William Leggatt, many of them sick or wounded, are short of ammunition, food and water. They fight a far superior force for four days but the Japanese systematically overrun their positions when Leggatt surrenders with his 1123 men on 23 February. Dutch West Timor is surrendered to the Japanese invading forces...
  • Read the full story of the Fall of Timor.

Sunday 8 March

Japanese land on mainland New Guinea

  • Imperial Japanese Army and Navy forces land at Lae and Salamaua on the northern New Guinea coast, aiming to establish airbases to attack Port Moresby.

Thursday 12 March

Fall of Java

  • Java falls to the Japanese after its defence by an assortment of Dutch colonial, British, Australian and American forces. With the Allied surrender in Java the Japanese had attained, in just over three months, an empire in the Pacific and south-east Asia...
  • Read the full story of the Fall of Java.

Thursday 18 April

MacArthur appointed Commander-in-Chief of SW Pacifc

  • General Douglas MacArthur is appointed the Commander-in-Chief of the South West Pacific area.

Monday 4 May

The Battle of the Coral Sea

  • A Japanese infantry regiment, aboard transport ships and with a strong escort of destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers, was en route from Rabaul to invade Port Moresby. An American and Australian fleet attacked the Japanese, forcing them to abandon the attempt. The Japanese lost the carrier Shoho and the Americans lost the carrier Lexington.
  • Read the full story of the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Friday 8 May

Philippines Falls

  • Philippines fall to Japanese forces. Three Japanese infantry regiments which participated in this campaign are now available for operations against New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

Sunday 31 May

Japanese subs enter Sydney Harbour

  • In May and June 1942 the war was brought home to Australians on the east coast when the Japanese attacked Sydney Harbour from the sea. In the late afternoon of 31 May 1942 three Japanese submarines, I-22, I-24 and I-27, sitting about seven nautical miles (13 kilometres) out from Sydney Harbour, each launched a Type A midget submarine for an attack on shipping in Sydney Harbour. One of the Japanese midget subs fired a torpedo which sunk HMAS Kuttabul...
  • Read the full story at Australia's War 1939-1945.

Wednesday 3 June

The Battle of Midway in the central Pacific

  • The Battle of Midway in the central Pacific takes place. Japanese naval power is checked with the loss of four aircraft carriers.

Tuesday 14 June

Japanese decide to attack Port Moresby overland

  • Japanese command decides that the advance on Port Moresby would be overland, from north to south. They begin planning the landing that would take the Japanese forces across the Owen Stanley Range, via the Kokoda track, to Port Moresby.

Tuesday 7 July

Australian Kokoda operations begin

  • Warned that the Japanese may land on the north coast, Papuan and Australian troops begin operations along the Kokoda track.

Tuesday 21 July

Japanese forces land at Gona

  • The Japanese Yokoyama Advance Butai force lands at Gona to begin the advance south across the Owen Stanley Range, over the Kokoda track, to attack Port Moresby.

Wednesday 29 July

Japanese attack Kokoda

Tuesday 4 August

Cameron takes command of Maroubra Force

  • Lieutenant-Colonel Allan Cameron arrives to take command of what was now called "Maroubra Force".

Friday 7 August

US Marines land at Guadalcanal

Saturday 8 August

Second Kokoda

Thursday 13 August

Major General Allen arrives at Port Moresby

  • The 7th Australian Division is to reinforce the Australians along the Kokoda track. Its commander, Major General Allen, flies into Port Moresby.

Sunday 16 August

Lt Col Honner arrives at Isurava to command Maroubra Force

Saturday 23 August

Brigadier Potts assumes command of Maroubra Force

  • Brigadier Arnold Potts assumes command of Maroubra Force from Porter.

Monday 25 August

Japanese offensive: Milne Bay - Isurava

Friday 29 August

Private Bruce Kingsbury wins the only VC of the Kokoda campaign

  • The out-numbered Australians were defending Isurava. Firing his Bren gun from the hip, Kingsbury broke a path through the enemy to recapture the position. Felled by a sniper, he is awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously...
  • Find out about the decisive battle at Isurava here.
  • Read the full story of Private Kingsbury.

Sunday 31 August

Australians withdraw from Isurava

Sunday 6 September 1942—Friday 11 September 1942

Thursday 4 September

Japanese defeated at Milne Bay

Sunday 7 September

Japanese attack at Efogi

Wednesday 10 September

Potts recalled by Blamey

  • Blamed for the Australian defeats from Isurava to Brigade Hill, Brigadier Arnold Potts is recalled by General Thomas Blamey.

Tuesday 16 September

Japanese gain control of Ioribaiwa Ridge

  • After several days of heavy fighting, the Australian defences are shattered by the use of mountain gun fire. Shells burst in the tree foliage overhead, raining shell fragments onto the Australians below. The Japanese occupy Ioribaiwa Ridge and Australian forces pull back to Imita Ridge...
  • Find out more about the battle at Ioribaiwa Ridge in Into the Mountains: Action at Ioribaiwa Ridge: 14-16 September 1942.

Tuesday 23 September

General Blamey arrives Port Moresby

  • General Blamey arrives at Port Moresby to take personal command of New Guinea Force.

Sunday 28 September

Japanese withdrawal begins

  • Owing to defeats at Guadalcanal and the fear that the Australians may land in their rear, the Japanese retreat. When Brigadier Eather attacks Ioribaiwa Ridge, he finds the Japanese have gone...
  • Find out more about the Japanese retreat and Australian advance in The Tide Turns on this site.

Monday 29 September

Australian push back Japanese

  • Australian begin to push the Japanese back along the Kokoda track...
  • Find out more about the Japanese retreat and Australian advance in The Tide Turns on this site.

Tuesday 30 September

Australian re-enter Nauro

  • On 30 September, Australian 2/25th battalion patrols enter Nauro and find it unoccupied.

Monday 12 October

Japanese defeated at Eora-Templeton's

Wednesday 28 October

Australian Divisional Commander replaced

  • General MacArthur, dissatisfied with progress, has Major-General Arthur "Tubby" Allen removed. Major-General George Vasey is appointed to replace him. The Australian forces pursue the Japanese rearguard from Eora Creek to Alola.

Monday 2 November

Kokoda recaptured

Tuesday 3 November

General Vasey hoists Australian flag over Kokoda

  • Eather's 25th brigade move north from Deniki and enter the abandoned town of Kokoda on 2 November. A Japanese rearguard had left two days earlier. Just after 1100 hours, 3 November 1942, General Vasey hoists an Australian flag over Kokoda.

Wednesday 4 November

Japanese defeated at Oivi-Gorari

Friday 6 November

MacArther arrives Port Moresby

  • MacArther arrives in Port Moresby to take up residence

Monday 9 November

Blamey delivers 'Rabbits' speech

  • In a controversial address to the troops General Blamey is accused of implying that the men ran like rabbits during the Japanese advance along the Kokoda track.

Thursday 12 November

Naval battle at Guadalcanal

Monday 16 November

The Battle of Buna-Gona begins

Wednesday 9 December

Gona falls to the Australians

1943

Saturday 2 January

Buna falls to the Australians and Americans

Friday 22 January

Japanese final foothold annihilated

  • Final Japanese beach foothold at Sanananda annihilated. Remnants of the Japanese force escaped north along the coast towards Lae.

Saturday 23 January

Papuan Campaign ends

  • Official end to the Papuan Campaign.

Tuesday 2 March

The Battle of the Bismarck Sea

  • The Japanese sent a convoy of eight transports, with a destroyer escort, to reinforce their garrison at Lae in New Guinea. In three days of air attacks the Royal Australian Air Force and the United States Army Air Force sank all the transports and four of the destroyers. At least 2890 Japanese were killed.

1944

Saturday 24 April

Australians occupy Madang, New Guinea

  • Australian troops occupy Madang, New Guinea.

Saturday 26 October

Australians launch campaign in northern New Guinea

  • Australians launch Aitape-Wewak Campaign in northern New Guinea.

Saturday 4 November

Australians land on Bougainville and New Britain

  • Australian forces land on Bougainville and New Britain.

Last updated: 22 April 2020

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