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by Craig & Marutani
& Hajime Collie
Allen & Unwin  2009
368 pages
Index, photos
ISBN: 1741758394
Cover Price: $59.95
Language: English

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The Path of Infinite Sorrow
The Japanese on the Kokoda Track

This book, subtitled "The Japanese and the Kokoda Track", was published in Australia in 2009. It was written by Craig Collie, an Australian TV Producer; and Hajime Marutani, a Japanese Historian-researcher.

There are many books written on the Kokoda battles from the Australian [and American] perspective, but very little has been published in English on the Japanese experience and approach to this campaign . Most of what does exist are individual accounts and diaries of Japanese soldiers, some translated, some not.The Official Japanese histories are rather bland and indigestible.

I live in Port Moresby and have followed this campaign for twenty years, and have visited most of the relevant locations. I have aided visiting authors in their search for colour in their histories of this time, and held discussions late into the night with these authors about aspects of this campaign. You could say I know the Kokoda Battles very well.

This book is a very welcome addition to my bookshelf. The authors have searched out most [but not all]of the published data, much of it Japanese. They have made extensive use of Japanese veteran memoirs, interviews and captured diaries to colour the official records. Six Japanese vets were interviewed. To me much of the data was new [and missing from the Australian and American published material]. I was not able to detect any incorrect details or events [and that is high praise]

Possibly the most interesting factoid was that the full Japanese attack was unauthorized initially. Originally planned was a reconnaissance in force, to occupy Kokoda, and then to assess the ability and resource needs of a attack over the track against Port Moresby. However Lt Col Tsuji, an colorful soldier with strong political connections, previously involved in the successful Malay invasion, later a Parliamentary representative and unsuccessfully sought by the War crimes investigators, post war; blew into Rabaul, from Head office in Tokyo and without authority upgraded the Attack into a full invasion, which action after the event was reluctantly accepted by those with more responsibility than him.

Carping is minor, there is only weak discussion of Japanese aerial support [but several wrecks are to be found along the track corridor] Japanese artillery is moderately well covered, but again there are Japanese artillery pieces to be found in locations not described in the book. One puzzle remaining to me relates to Japanese patrols that seemingly bypassed Australian defenses at Imita Ridge and got a lot closer to Port Moresby. It would have been nice to have the Japanese version of these incidents.

For my money a further 6 or 10 Japanese vet interviews would have taken the book into a even higher level of research. Overall a very good book , covering a view of the Kokoda campaign that has long been missing. A "Must Buy" book for Kokoda Scholars. I hope that further Japanese books emerge on other campaigns, such as Guadacanal, Bougainville, and the Rabaul Occupation.
Review by John Douglas  

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Last Updated
November 25, 2022

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