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*Images courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.

On the 21st of July 1942 forces of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) landed at Gona, on the northern coast of what was then the Australian Territory of Papua, now Papua New Guinea.

This landing by the Japanese marked the opening of the Kokoda Campaign – a campaign by Australian forces of the New Guinea Force, based around the 7th Division – to defend Port Moresby, delay the IJA advance until additional Allied forces could muster, and ultimately defeat the IJA forces in Papua. Following the IJA landing, the Japanese quickly advanced inland, seeking an overland route across the Owen Stanley Mountain Range to capture Port Moresby. The most direct and traversable route was the Kokoda Trail, a pathway that snaked through the dense, mountainous and nearly impenetrable jungle of Papua New Guinea. The Kokoda Trail was to become the scene of one of the most well-known campaigns of Australian military history.

Over the next four months, Australian soldiers would twice traverse the Kokoda Trail: first withdrawing, then advancing. Major battles would be fought at Oivi, Kokoda Village, Isurava, Eora Creek, Templeton’s Crossing, Efogi, Mission Ridge/Brigade Hill, and Ioribaiwa. Australian victory at Oivi-Gorari over 05-11 November and reaching the Kumusi River on 13 November would signal the end of the Kokoda Campaign. Although further battles would be fought at Buna-Gona and Sanananda to secure Papua New Guinea, the hard-fought campaign across the appalling conditions of the Trail was over. 625 Australian soldiers were killed during the Kokoda Campaign, and over 1,600 wounded. Additionally, in excess of 4,000 soldiers became casualties due to illness. More than 150 Papuans died as members of the Papuan Infantry Battalion or as carriers of critical supplies and wounded along the Kokoda Trail.

The four month campaign was fought in some of the worst conditions Australian soldiers have fought in. The dense jungle, rugged and mountainous terrain, illness, and lack of supplies was just as deadly to Australian soldiers as the Japanese forces. While we know today that Japanese invasion of the Australian mainland was not planned, the Kokoda Campaign was seen at the time to be the final line of defence between the ever-advancing Japanese war machine and home. These factors, along with the skill, endurance, determination, and courage shown by the Australian soldiers have ensured that the Kokoda Campaign has a special place in Australian Army battle honours, and the Anzac legend.

The Cove proudly brings to you the third in our Australian Army Battle Honours Series, the history of Australia's Kokoda Campaign.

This video has been a collaboration between The Cove, Australian Army History Unit, Interserv, and Effective Animations.

Contemporary Tactical Companion

What lessons can we draw from the Kokoda Campaign? Despite taking place in the Second World War, there are many lessons still of relevance to the Profession of Arms. Watch our Kokoda Contemporary Tactical Companion video below for more.

*Images courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.

The Cove

The Cove is the Australian Army's home of the profession of arms. Download The Cove app and turn notifications on to be delivered professional military education content directly to your smartphone. For more on why it is important to develop your intellectual edge, watch our 'Smarter You = Smarter Army' video.