Phil Bradley 2009
8° 52' 60S Long 147° 43' 60E Kokoda is an inland location on a small plateau 200' / 60m at an elevation of 1,446' / 440m in New Guinea. Also spelled "Kodoka". Located to the northwest is Saga, Mamba and the Yodda Valley. To the south is the start of the Kokoda Trail over the Owen Stanley Range towards Deniki and Isurava. To the southwest is Kokoda Airfield. Today located in Oro Province in Papua
New Guinea (PNG).
The Australian administration established
Kokoda Station at this location and planted rubber trees in the vicinity to harvest natural rubber.
On June 24, 1942 Australian Army General Blame ordered Kokoda to be defended. General Morris created the "Marabou Force" that included the 39th Battalion (Militia), less one company, a detachment from the Papuan Infantry Battalion (PIB), plus supply and medical detachments in support.
After the July 21-22, 1942 Japanese landing on the north coast and began to rapidly advance inland towards Kokoda. At that time, the "Marabou Force" was yet to fully occupy the Kokoda area. A single platoon commanded by Lt. Garland was at Kokoda defending Kokoda Airfield. Other forces were still crossing the Kokoda Trail or were moved elsewhere including Rivi, Rigor and Ayala.
On July 23, Lt. Col. William T. Owen (C. O. 39th Battalion) was flown was flown from Port Moresby to Kokoda Airfield at 4pm as the Japanese had advanced with several platoons to engage the Japanese and ambushed them near Rigor, then returned to Kokoda on July 25 to radio to request two companies of reinforcements. Instead, a single C-47 flew two flights to Kokoda Airfield delivering 14 and 15 men each flight, a single platoon.
Afterwards, the Australians withdrew southward along the Kokoda Trail to Deniki, Instead of defending the high ground at Kokoda Station, which could easily be outflanked by the superior number of advancing enemy troops. Before departing, all remaining supplies were set on fire.
Realizing they had abandoned Kokoda prematurely, Lt. Col Owen and his troops reoccupied the area and defended positions on the plateau of Kokoda Station including defensive trenches. On July 28, two C-47s attempted to land at Kokoda, but found the runway was blocked by obstacles and was considered too dangerous to land for fear of an enemy air attack.
First Defensive Battle of Kokoda
As the Japanese advanced towards Kokoda, only a few hundred Australians defended Kokoda Station. On July 28 during the late afternoon, the Japanese began firing machine guns and mortars at Kokoda Station plateau and attempted to climb the 200' elevation overnight advancing on the northern slope on July 29 at 2am. During the attack, Lt. Col Owen was hit by a sniper and killed in action, posthumously he earned the U. S. Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). Major Watson took command as the plateau was being overrun and hand-to-hand combat happened before the surviving platoon was ordered to withdraw to Deniki arriving in the morning. By July 29 at dawn, the Japanese occupied Kokoda Station and the entire Kokoda area. The Japanese also suffered heavy casualties and incorrectly believed they faced 1,200 Australians defenders.
Second Defensive Battle of Kokoda
On August 7, 1942 Major Cameron (now C. O. 39th Battalion) ordered a counter attack against Kokoda, unaware of the size of the Japanese force. Advancing from Deniki, D Company only reached Pirivi before before being repelled. C Company reached Fiawani Creek before meeting enemy fire. Only A Company managed to reach Kokoda Airfield and then took up positions at Kokoda Station, without opposition. They even fired a flare to signal that was not observed at Deniki and located Lt. Col. Owen's body and buried him.
On August 9, the Japanese made several counterattacks that were repulsed. On August 10, the position was sniped and probing attacks were made with a mortar bombardment at 6:45pm before the force was ordered to withdraw to the southwest over Kokoda Airfield via Naro then rejoined the Kokoda Track near Isurava by August 13. In total, the Australians suffered 22 KIA in the two battles at Kokoda.
Japanese Occupation of Kokoda
During August 10 until November 2, 1942
the Japanese Army 144th Infantry Regiment commanded
Horii occupied Kokoda and used the area as a logistical base area in support of their advance over the Kokoda Trail. During their occupation, the area and surrounding gardens and rubber plantation areas became overgrown. The Japanese did not utilize Kokoda Airfield. By late October, the Japanese withdrew from Kokoda to the east to Rivi and Rigor
Allied missions against Kokoda and Kokoda Airfield
August 3 - October 4, 1942
On November 2, 1942 at noon Australian forces re-occupied Kokoda Station without opposition and had a flag raising ceremony atop the plateau. On November 5, 1942 they occupied Kokoda Airfield and the first Allied aircraft landed by noon. Afterwards, Kokoda was an Australian base area in support of their advance eastward along the road towards Rivi and Rigor and during the battles at that location.
Kokoda Trail is the name of the foot track that links
Kokoda over the Owen Stanley Range.
A small museum was set up in
the 1970's by the Keinzle family and the local district office.
Built prewar, occupied by the Japanese, recaptured and used to resupply Australian troops still in use today.
Kokoda War Cemetery
Australian cemetery established at this location after November 2, 1942. Graves included casualties from Kokoda, Efogi and Wairopi. Later in the war, all the graves were exhumed and reinterred at Soputa then transported to Bomana War Cemetery for permanent burial.
Japanese War Cemetery
Japanese burials located adjacent to the Kokoda War Cemetery.
Kokoda Station Memorials
Several monuments are located atop Kokoda Station, including an Australian monument, Papuan monument and Japanese monument built with the cooperation of Bert Kienzle with a Japanese 75mm mountain gun barrel. This gun was recovered from Rigor and taken to the Kienzel property at Yodda then was mounted at the Japanese monument during the late 1960s.
P-40E Warhawk Serial Number 41-36243 Tail 82
Crashed near Kokoda, inland from "Road No. 2"
Pilot Jackson crashed September 5, 1942 near Kokoda
Field Guide to the Kokoda Track pages 362 (map Isurava to Kokoda), 363 (map profile Isurava to Kokoda), 368 (map 1944), 372-389
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August 28, 2020