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In 1942, the only air strip in the Owen Stanley Range was at Kokoda village which was thus a vital supply centre and military objective. Kokoda was captured on 29 July, 1942 by 400 Japanese after a pitched battle against 80 Australian and Papuan soldiers. Kokoda was left undefended as the Japanese pursued the withdrawing Australians and it was briefly reoccupied by the Australians from 8 to 10 August. After that, the Japanese used Kokoda as an administrative and supply centre until it was finally retaken by the Australians on 2 November, 1942.

 Today, Kokoda is the administrative centre of the district. The road to Popondetta and the air field provide regional access.

Kokoda Trail Plaques - Master Text.

 The Japanese attack on Port Moresby in May 1942 was repulsed at the battle of the Coral Sea, a month later their navy was severely damaged at the Battle of Midway. These events prompted another approach to Moresby and on 22 July, 2,000 Japanese were landed near Gona with the aim of crossing the Owen Stanley Range via the tortuous Kokoda Trail (track).

During the next week 80 Australians and Papuans fought delaying actions, culminating in a battle at Kokoda Village. The Japanese force rose to 10,000 whilst advancing along the Kokoda Trail. They were constantly delayed by defensive action particularly at Isurava and Brigade Hill. However, by mid- September the Australians (reduced from 3,000 to 300 men) were forced back to Imita Ridge, 42 km from Moresby,

The Japanese were then ordered to withdraw as their 5,000 remaining men and supplies were totally exhausted, and their army at Guadacanal (Solomon Islands) was on the defensive against the Americans.

On 23 September the Australians, now 2,600 strong, moved northwards to recover the trail, encountering major opposition only at Templeton's and Era creek. Kokoda was entered unopposed on 2 November. The Japanese rearguard was destroyed near Gorari.

5,000 Japanese survived and joined 4,000 fresh troops around Gona and Buna, Australian and American forces captured these strongholds by January 1943 incurring heavy casualties on both sides.

The Papuan carriers played an important role in the defense of the Kokoda Trail, they transported Australian casualties and supplies. Their loyalty will be remembered forever.


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