Coral Sea, Kokoda and Milne Bay (May-September 1942)

The Japanese had no plans to invade Australia during the Second World War but they did plan to cut Australia's supply line with America by establishing bases in the south-west Pacific islands. In early May 1942, an American carrier force intercepted a Japanese carrier force in the Coral Sea and, after a fierce aerial battle - the Battle of the Coral Sea - the Japanese turned back. At the same time, hundreds of kilometres to the north, HMA Ships Hobart and Australia were part of a task force sent to intercept a Japanese invasion fleet heading for Port Moresby. This force was attacked by enemy aircraft but, as a result of the American action in the Coral Sea, the invasion fleet also turned back. These actions were the first major setbacks to the Japanese during their advance south in the Pacific Ocean area. One month later, after a further naval defeat in the Battle of Midway, they abandoned their plans to capture Fiji, Samoa and the New Hebrides.

However, between July and September 1942, Japanese land forces continued their efforts to take Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, fighting Australians on the Kokoda Track where they were eventually pushed back. In August 1942, Japanese marines landed at Milne Bay where Australian troops, together with RAAF Kittyhawk squadrons, defeated them. The Battle of Milne Bay was the first Japanese defeat on land in the Pacific War.

A military aircraft flying with mountains in the background.

A Beaufighter of No. 30 Squadron RAAF flies close to a rocky outcrop in the Owen Stanley Range in late 1942. RAAF and USAAF squadrons based in Port Moresby attacked Japanese supply bases on the north Papuan coast during the Kokoda campaign. No. 30 Squadron also strafed and bombed Japanese positions along the Kokoda Track during the Australian advance of October–November 1942. AWM OG0001

Kingsbury's Rock

Private Bruce Kingsbury, 2/14th Battalion, was born at Armadale in Melbourne. He enlisted in the AIF in May 1940 and was posted to the 2/14th Battalion in June. After serving in Egypt and Syria, he returned to Australia with the 7th Division in March 1942. His unit was sent to Port Moresby and in late August he was fighting the Japanese on the Kokoda Track.


Last updated: 27 February 2020

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), Coral Sea, Kokoda and Milne Bay (May-September 1942), DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 20 October 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/world-war-ii-1939-1945/events/coral-sea-kokoda-and-milne-bay-may-september-1942
Was this page helpful?