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Kokoda

Recaptured

[Since early in March 1942, when the Japanese had seized various bases in northern New Guinea, Australian forces had been attempting to drive them out. Australian militia units (C.M.F.), disdainfully called 'chocolate soldiers' by the volunteers of the A.I.F., played a significant role in this action. The Japanese captured the inland village of Kokoda from the Australians at the end of July 1942, and then pushed across the southern ridges of the Owen Stanley Range towards Port Moresby. On 28 September, ten days after their arrival near the southern coast, they were forced to retreat, and by 2 November the Australians had pushed them back to Kokoda. The village was then captured without further resistance from the Japanese. The recapture of the Kokoda Track became an important symbol of Australian military prowess, and the incident was used to boost national morale, as by articles such as the following from The Canberra Times:]



Private Bruce Kingsbury,
awarded the Victoria Cross
for bravery in action
on the Kokoda Track



Kokoda in our hands affords a geographic measurement of Australian achievement since the change from defensive to offensive in the New Guinea area beginning with the storming of the Ioribaiwa Ridge at the end of September. This advance over forty miles of the worst mountain and jungle country in which fighting has yet taken place on any front, is a military achievement adding to the renown of the Australians as fighters, but these Australians are the same Australians as were forced to retreat before the Japanese onslaught that at one stage came close to imperilling Port Moresby. The valour of the now advancing Australians is no less than those thousands of good Australians who are pent somewhere in Malaya, in Java, and in other Japanese-occupied territory. The only difference between the troops now pressing on towards Buna and these others is that now our men have the equipment and air support essential to cope with an enemy long prepared and backed with tremendous military resources.

Another measure of the change in the New Guinea campaign is in the psychological approach. We have now abandoned completely our awe of or trust in the Owen Stanley Range as a defensive barrier. This range of mountains has ceased to be a military term, and has been relegated to being a mere geographical name. It remains, however, a big factor in our lines of supply and communication, but by no means as seriously as when our men had to fight without air superiroity.

Pressing on beyond Kokoda, our forces are between 60 and 70 miles from Buna, but we must brace ourselves for serious fighting before Buna can be restored to our hands. Behind those Japanese troops who have been dislodged from Kokoda is the might of Japan, a country with more than ten times the manpower of Australia. By bombing their supply line forward from Kokoda, we have enabled our forces to turn the tables on the enemy, but in the country now ahead, the enemy will undoubtedly put up fierce resistance. The clearing of Japanese forces from New Guinea is one of the tasks that must be accomplished, but it will not be made easy for us by the enemy. To those materials that have been given to our forces to enable them to advance to Kokoda must now be added without stint all that Australia can throw into the fight.

The Canberra Times, 4 November 1942


The Association for the Advancement of Australian Culture