Kokoda Day will be commemorated at a special ceremony on the Kokoda plateau in Papua New Guinea and at the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway in Sydney on 3rd of November 2011.
The commemoration will include a re-enactment of the flag raising ceremony which took place on the Kokoda plateau on the 3rd November 1942. Kokoda Day symbolises the turning of the tide in the war against Japan.
Japanese plans for a seaborne invasion of Port Moresby were thwarted by Australian and American naval forces in the battle of the Coral Sea (4 – 8 May 1942) and the battle of Midway (4 – 6 June 1942). This left them with the only option of a land assault over the Owen Stanley Ranges via the Kokoda Trail.
Japanese preparations and subsequent plans were continually disrupted by the heroic actions of our fighter pilots who continually bombed Rabaul and the Japanese landing fleets on the northern beaches at Buna and Gona.
The Kokoda campaign began with the first contact between the 39th Militia Battalion and the advancing Japanese South Seas Detachment at Awala (forward of Kokoda) on 24 July 1942. The first battle of Kokoda was fought on 27 July when the Australians were forced back into the Jungle. After a bitter and desperate campaign over the ensuring three months the Australians turned defeat into victory and recaptured Kokoda on 2nd November 1942. The Australian flag was raised at a parade held on the following day.
The victory would not have been possible without the support and sacrifice of the New Guinea wartime carriers – the legendary ‘fuzzy-wuzzy angels’. They were conscripted to carry supplies to the forward troops and carry the wounded out over some of the most inhospitable jungle terrain on the planed. Kokoda Day will honour their legacy.
Australia currently has two official commemorative days to remember their sacrifice in World War 1. Anzac Day which commemorates the landing of the Australian and New Zealand forces on the Gallipoli Peninsula and Remembrance Day which commemorates the end of the war to end all wars.
Australia’s role in World War 11 is commemorated with a ‘Victory in the Pacific Day’ on 15 August each year. This occasion does not resonate with young Australians who are now three generations removed from the war.
The recent popularity of trekking across the Kokoda Trail has created a growing awareness of the Kokoda campaign. Many Australians feel that Kokoda is now more relevant than Gallipoli. Some say that Gallipoli created a nation but Kokoda saved a nation. Others have reminded us that at Gallipoli we fought for Britain and lost – at Kokoda we fought for Australia and won.
The symbolism of the raising of the Australian flag on the Kokoda plateau on 3 November 1942 allows young Australian and Papua New Guineans to reflect on those four words etched into the four granite pillars at Isurava: Courage – Sacrifice – Mateship – Endurance’.