About the Kokoda Track: 1942 and today

The Kokoda track was the setting for a famous event in Australian history, one which still resonates in the national consciousness today...

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The core of this site concerns the Kokoda track - or the Kokoda trail as it is sometimes called. The Battle of Kokoda was a four-month struggle which began with the Japanese landing in Papua in July 1942. The Japanese strategy was to take Port Moresby via a track over the Owen Stanley Range. Along this track were fought engagements between the Japanese and the Australians at Kokoda, Deniki, Isurava, Eora, Efogi, Templeton's Crossing, Ioribaiwa and Oivi-Gorari.

A typical section of the track looking north from the vicinity of Menari. [Photo: Peter Williams]

The jungle warfare on the Kokoda track did not occur in isolation: You will also find here accounts of the other battles in Papua (as the southern half of mainland Papua New Guinea was once called). At the Battle of Milne Bay a second Japanese attempt to land in Papua was defeated and at the Battle of Buna-Gona, which ended in January 1943, the Japanese army in Papua was finally destroyed. There was fighting on the sea and in the air. At the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942, the Royal Australian Navy contributed to repulsing the first Japanese attempt to land in Papua and the Royal Australian Air Force lost over 200 men in attacks on Japanese land forces and shipping.

About 120,000 people were engaged in the fighting in Papua, either as combatants or supporting the fighting troops on both sides. In Australia the story of the fuzzy wuzzy angels is well known but thousands of Papuans and New Guineans also participated on the Japanese side. The Americans made an important contribution to the war in Papua and fought a concurrent battle against the Japanese on the island of Guadalcanal.

The post-war revival of interest in the Kokoda track has given rise to new problems. Now over 5000 Australians walk the track each year and there is concern that this has a detrimental environmental effect. For the Koiari people, through whose land the track winds, there are issues of track ownership and remuneration. There is also the question of mining. In 2008 an Australian company, Frontier Resources, was refused permission to mine for copper near the Kokoda track.

To deal with disputes, to promote trekking with a low environmental impact and to develop revenue for local communities, the Kokoda Track Foundation (2003) and the Kokoda Track Authority (2004) were established. In 2008 the Governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia signed a joint understanding which may result in a World Heritage nomination for the Owen Stanley Range.

Last updated: 30 April 2020

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), About the Kokoda Track: 1942 and today, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 28 September 2021, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/kokoda-track-1942-1943/kokoda-track/about-kokoda-track-1942-and-today
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