Into the mountains

Before Deniki the fighting took place in low lying country north of the Owen Stanley Range...

Once the Japanese entered the Range in pursuit of the Australians two things changed. First the rugged, jungled slopes on which the fighting took place altered the tactics used. In the low country it was easy to march around the enemy flank to threaten their rear. In the mountains both sides were to find this was still possible, but extremely difficult and slow. The Kokoda track became the major tactical feature and if the Australians could block it, and not be cut off from supplies coming up the track, then they would stop the Japanese. Secondly Maroubra Force was strongly reinforced and, abandoning a delay and retire policy, the Australians made three determined but unsuccessful attempts to stop the Japanese at Isurava, Efogi and Ioribaiwa.

Templeton Plaque

A plaque erected at Templeton’s Crossing to mark the 50th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign. [Photo: Peter Williams]

Teaching and learning activities for the classroom

The engagement at Eora - the Japanese perspective

Major Koiwai Mitsuo (Japanese names have surname first) wrote an account of his participation in the engagement at Eora. Read this, and the account of the engagement in From Eora to Templeton's Crossing: 31 August to 5 September 1942 and answer the questions.

Koiwai's story begins on the morning of 2 September, after the Australians had withdrawn from their position overlooking Eora village.

'I thought it unusual for the hard working Australians to give up a position so quickly. Anyhow it was good news and took a load off my mind. Our loss since yesterday amounted to 17 dead and 27 wounded. This day we buried our dead in the mountains for the first time since landing in New Guinea. I issued an order to start the pursuit at 7am. Number 7 company, the most exhausted, was sent back. Numbers 5 and 6 company rested where they were while 8 and 12 companies took up the pursuit.'

Koiwai's superior, Colonel Yazawa Kiyomi, arrived to rebuke Koiwai for advancing too slowly when, as Yazawa said, 'There seemed to be no Australians about.'

'Since yesterday's failed attack he had not liked my cautious approach. He seemed to be anxious for a quick victory but it was not easy to attack the enemy without knowing where they were. Being too eager for a victory could result in delaying the pursuit and increasing our losses. This is the last thing a commander should do.'

The next day, 3 September, Koiwai's men caught up with the Australians.

'After considering all the options I decided to attack the enemy at night. I had 8 Company on hand but they had been worked very hard since 1 September so I could not push that company too much. I was looking forward to the arrival of 7 Company because of the quality of the commanders. Lt Nakao had experience in China and his Warrant Officer, Kaneshige, was also a great fighter with lots of experience. I had one artillery piece. It is usually not done to fire artillery at night but human psychology is kind of beyond tactics. My plan was that after firing a few shells at the enemy position and terrifying them out of their senses we would charge with bayonets and they would be in fear of us in the darkness of the jungle.

It all went as I had hoped. After hard fighting my men got in among the Australians. I then ordered them to hold their positions as I expected a counter attack. It never came and at dawn we were surprised to find that the Australians had again retreated.'

Answer each question in at least 20 words.

  1. How does Koiwai's version of events differ from that given in the website?
  2. Is there anything in Koiwai's version that you think might be incorrect?
  3. Considering both accounts, who would you say won the fight?
  4. What does Koiwai think of the Australians?
  5. Explain, in your own words, the reason for the tension between Koiwai and Yazawa.
  6. What things was Koiwai particularly worried about?
  7. What does Koiwai's account tell you about the problems faced by the Japanese?
  8. What can you tell from the account about Koiwai's personality?

Last updated: 12 March 2020

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), Into the mountains, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 20 October 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/kokoda-track-1942-1943/events/mountains
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