Damien Parer

Damien Parer is Australia's best known war cameraman...

His film Kokoda Front Line won an Oscar in 1943. Parer was killed the following year while filming United States Marines in battle.

Documentary made by celebrated war correspondent and cameraperson, Damien Peter Parer, and film-maker, Kenneth George Hall. It was filmed on location in New Guinea in 1942. In this footage, we see Australian troops along the Kokoda Track, the fighting conditions in the jungle, and the help of indigenous carriers to remove wounded soldiers from the front line. This film would have been shown at cinemas throughout Australia. It was one of 4 winners of the 15th Academy Awards for best documentary, and the first Australian film to win an Oscar. AWM F01582

Damien Peter Parer was born in Melbourne on 1 August 1912. As a small boy he wished to become a photographer or a film-maker. Prior to World War II he moved to Sydney where he found employment with the film director Charles Chauvel.

In 1940 Parer became an official war photographer. He went to the Middle East and filmed the Australians at war in Greece and North Africa. He returned to Australia in 1942.

Parer's next assignment was on the Kokoda track. Caught up in the Australian retreat after Isurava Parer had to abandon much of his equipment. He retained the rolls of film he had shot and they became the basis for Kokoda Front Line, a documentary which won an Academy Award. For the first time this film showed Australians at home what conditions were like for their soldiers along the track.

Later Parer filmed the fighting at Timor and Salamaua and flew in Australian Beaufighters to record the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Parer's film can be seen in the Cinesound newsreels Men of Timor, The Bismarck Convoy Smashed and Assault on Salamaua.

In August 1943 he left the Department of Information and took a post with the American company Paramount News. His first assignment was filming the United States Army Air Force in action in New Guinea. In 1944 he again returned to Australia and on 23 March married Marie Cotter.

His next assignment was with the United States Marines. He landed with them on Guam and Peleliu. Parer believed that to capture images of the faces of men in battle it was necessary to be close to the front line, sometimes even in front of it. On 17 September 1944 he was doing just this. His back was to the enemy, as he filmed marines advancing, when he was killed by Japanese fire.

Chester Wilmot, war correspondent and friend of Parer, wrote to his widow: 'He was such a fine man as well as a brilliant photographer. He made the camera speak as no other man I've ever known and his films gave an immortal portrait of the Australian soldier of this war.'

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Damien Parer, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 28 May 2024, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/kokoda-track-1942-1943/kokoda-track/about-kokoda-track-1942-and-today/damien-parer
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