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70 years since Australians begin battle for Kokoda

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Monday, 23 July 2012 VA055


The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, today encouraged Australians to reflect on the contribution of those who fought and died on the Kokoda Track in 1942 in defence of Australia.

“Today marks the 70th anniversary of the first encounter between Japanese and Australian forces on the Owen Stanley Ranges - a grueling and bloody battle fought during the Second World War that lasted more than four months,” Mr Snowdon said.

Mr Snowdon said in the first engagement of the campaign more than 38 men of the Papuan Infantry Battalion and a platoon of Australians of the 39th Battalion skillfully ambushed an approaching Japanese advance party.

The Japanese soldiers regrouped and, in the days following, continued to move inland towards Kokoda. After the fall of Kokoda on 17 September 1942, Australian troops conducted a fighting withdrawal as the Japanese advanced along the Kokoda Track almost to within sight of Port Moresby.

Mr Snowdon said over the next four months, between July and November 1942, Australians fought in appalling conditions, in some of the world’s most difficult terrain, in their efforts to halt the Japanese on the Kokoda track.

“In mid-September at Imita Ridge the Japanese thrust came to a halt and Australian forces compelled them to withdraw.

“By mid-November, following more hard fighting, the Australians had reached the Kumusi River and the battle for the Kokoda Track was finally over. Overall, more than 600 Australians had died and over 1000 were wounded, but they were one step closer to Victory in the Pacific,” Mr Snowdon said.

Overall, a further 15,000 Japanese and almost 1400 New Guineans died during the Papua New Guinea campaigns.

For more information on Australia’s actions on the Kokoda Track including access to an education resource visit

To access historical images of the Kokoda Track contact the Australian War Memorial at

Media inquiries: Minister Snowdon: Lidija Ivanovski 02 6277 7820 or 0407108 935 Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203