View Full Version : Kokoda

10-06-2007, 04:10 PM

Kokoda movie shows the Australian participation in the war.

Kokoda was arguably Australia's most significant campaign of the Second World War. More Australians died in the seven months of fighting in Papua, and the Japanese came closer to Australia than in any other campaign.

The Kokoda Track (or Kokoda Trail) fighting was some of the most desperate and vicious encountered by Australian troops in the Second World War. Although the successful capture of Port Moresby was never going to be precursor to an invasion of Australia, victory on the Kokoda Track did ensure that Allied bases in northern Australia, vital in the coming counter-offensive against the Japanese, would not be seriously threatened by air attack. Approximately 625 Australians were killed along the Kokoda Track and over 1,600 were wounded. Casualties due to sickness exceeded 4,000.



Rising Sun*
10-09-2007, 07:31 AM
Just a few comments, to challenge the growing mythology about Kokoda in Australia and, apparently, even reaching to Brazil. :D

Kokoda wasn't anywhere near the most significant campaign Australia fought in WWII, judged by size of units involved and military achievements, and failures. Those occurred in North Africa, the Middle East, Greece and Crete, well before Japan attacked.

Even in the war against Japan, Kokoda is somewhat overrated. It has iconic status in the popular Australian mind which represents the same sort of simple symbolism that the flag raising on Iwo Jima inspires in Americans when the most important battle they fought and won was in Guadalcanal a couple of years earlier, stopping the Japanese in concert with the Australians in Papua in late 1942 - early 1943.

Milne Bay was a more important Australian action militarily at the time as it denied the Japanese a flanking base to support their Kokoda movement and isolate the Americans on Guadalcanal. It was also the first time a Japanese landing force was defeated and repulsed, which was of huge psychological and morale significance after Japan's endless victories to that point, and not just to Australian forces.

Kokoda was a courageously fought campaign in the retreat and the advance, by both sides, but once one gets past the local Australian commanders at about battalion to brigade level (some of whom weren't too good) it was an absolute disgrace and shambles run by MacArthur and his deputy, the Australian Gen Blamey, both of whom failed to appreciate the conditions under which their troops were fighting; both of whom failed to supply their men adequately with everything, including medical assistance; neither of whom even bothered to fly over the awful ground their men were fighting on, let alone move to the front, while making impossible demands of their men and local commanders based on maps and personal ambition; and both of whom manouevred to make others the scapegoats for the failures their own deficiencies caused.

The measure of these leading idiots is that at American HQ there was a strong view that the Australians should block the Japanese at a pass in the Owen Stanleys. None of these idiots had even flown over it, so they didn't realise that the "pass", unlike an American cowboy movie, was so wide that a blocking move was impossible without deploying several divisions with usual divisional artillery etc and air support at least, when only a couple of independent infantry battalions were available.

What's not understood in the popular and even a lot of supposedly serious treatments of the campaign is the role of the Australian artillery at the end of the Japanese advance and the start of the Japanese retreat, where some heroic efforts by gunners got their guns up where none thought they could go to support infantry, outgunning the Japanese for the first time in the campaign.

What's also ignored in the popular mythology is that while the fabled 39th Bn did heroic work, the 53rd Bn was poorly led and pretty much ran at times. There are sound reasons for these differences, but the fact remains that in the early stages half of the Australian forces on Kokoda did a pretty poor job.

But in the end Gen Horii was ordered to retreat when almost in sight of Moresby, for operational reasons to do with Guadalcanal and higher Japanese operational and strategic requirements. Not that he and his exhausted troops at the end of their weak supply lines facing Australians at the start of theirs would have done more than been slaughtered if they'd stayed. The Japanese still put up a magnificent fight in retreat, mauling the advancing Australians.

10-09-2007, 05:27 PM

apparently, even reaching to Brazil.

You´re welcome, Rising Sun =]

Milne Bay was a more important Australian action militarily at the time

Thank´s for this information, Rising. I like to learn on the participation of other nations in the second war. Australia in this case.

If you have more informations, it writes on them!!

This movie, in Brazil, is called "Legião de Heróis" ( Heroes Legion ).




Rising Sun*
10-09-2007, 08:28 PM
Cross Bones

Here's a good summary of Milne Bay. http://www.defence.gov.au/army/AHU/HISTORY/Battles/Milne_Bay.htm

What doesn't come out in the summary is just how close and fierce the fighting was. RAAF fighters were taking off on one of the airstrips and firing into Japanese positions at the end of the airstrip as soon as they got airborne.

The RAAF commander at Milne Bay, Bluey Truscott, defied orders to evacuate and remained with the troops. Here's a good summary about Truscott and the air war at Milne Bay. http://www.dropbears.com/f/felix_noble/truscott.htm

There was some savage stuff too, with some captured Australian troops found after the Japanese retreated, wired to trees with limbs hacked off while being bayoneted slowly to death. On the other hand, the Japanese got into cannibalism on the Kokoda Track, eating the flesh of Australian soldiers. Thigh meat seemed to be the most highly prized. That might have been for ritual rather than food reasons as some Japanese (e.g. Colonel Masanobu Tsuji, who as a senior staff officer was involved in the Japanese advance from Malaya onwards) reputedly claimed that eating their enemies gave them strength. That changed later in the Papuan campaign when the Japanese started eating some of their own dead when trapped by the Australians and Americans at Gona, Buna, and Sanananda where they had launched their Kokoda assault months earlier.