80th anniversary

Papuan campaign, 1942 - 43

Papuan Campaign 1942-1943

The opening months of 1942 were perhaps the darkest days of the Second World War for Australia, with the seemingly unstoppable advance of Imperial Japanese forces across Asia and into the Pacific. The Japanese were intent on capturing Port Moresby on the south coast of Papua and isolating the Australian mainland.

As Japan’s defeat in the battle of the Coral Sea prevented the capture of Port Moresby by sea, the Japanese decided to attack it by land. Landing on Papua’s north coast in July 1942, Japanese forces advanced inland across the Owen Stanley Range along what would become known as the Kokoda Trail; they also landed at Milne Bay but were decisively defeated. The Japanese were eventually forced to withdraw back across the Kokoda Trail. Final bloody battles in Papua were fought on the beaches at Buna, Gona and Sanananda.

The campaign along the Kokoda Trail would become an epic feat of endurance, featuring hand-to-hand combat and many acts of individual bravery.

Last Post Ceremony

4.45pm

The 80th anniversary of the Japanese invasion of Papua will be commemorated in a Last Post Ceremony on 21 July 2022. The ceremony will remember the service of Lance Corporal Dennis Hackett, 39th Battalion.

More information

Timeline 1942 - 1943

Kokoda, Milne Bay, Buna, Gona, and Sanananda

Learn more about the Papuan campaign using our detailed timeline featuring Kokoda, Milne Bay, Buna, Gona and Sanananda.

 

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Kokoda

This video uses footage shot by Damien Parer in Papua New Guinea.

The original footage was used to make the Academy Award winning documentary film 'Kokoda Front Line!'. F01212

Veteran of Kokoda

The Memorial is honoured to have spoken with many veterans of Kokoda during the years. Read their first-hand accounts.

'I was lucky with my life'

A bullet left a crease in his helmet in Syria, one passed through the sleeve of his greatcoat in Greece, and a sniper’s bullet lodged in his jaw at Kokoda - but Kelvin Koorey made it home.

'There are no winners'

Ninety-six-year-old Dick Payten was just 20 years old when he served as a bombardier in the Middle East and New Guinea.

'I was very lucky'

Ninety-eight-year-old Richard Lewis will never forget the sound of bullets going past his head in New Guinea.

'It was him or me'

George Palmer’s face is forever linked with Kokoda. Here he shares his story.

'You just tried your best to keep yourself alive'

He was cut off from his platoon for 14 days with only a couple of biscuits to eat, and was shot by the Japanese at Kokoda, but Cyril Allender still considers himself lucky.

'Mateship meant everything'

Ninety-eight-year-old Bill Grayden knows all too well about the horrors of war.

'It was the hairiest thing in the world'

Bruce Robertson was a wireless operator during the Second World War when he heard something through his headset that didn’t make sense.

'An inspiration to all'

When Brigadier Kenneth Eather asked permission to pull his troops back to Imita Ridge during the Kokoda campaign he was warned, “There won’t be any withdrawal from the Imita position."

'We were just ordinary people'

Veterans Les Cook and Len Griffiths remember Kokoda.

Remembering the battle of Milne Bay

Veterans Ted Bousen and Bill Hansen share their stories as they commemorate the 75th anniversary of the battle.

Digitised collections

The items below have been digitised for the public; they detail first-hand accounts of the Kokoda campaign.

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