The Australian War Memorial is today commemorating 80 years since the beginning of the Kokoda campaign in World War II. An AAP piece appears in many newspapers today, including comments from Dr Karl James, War Memorial historian.
Whether or not Kokoda ‘saved Australia’, or was part of a ‘Battle for Australia’ which did so, has long been a subject for debate, even for schoolchildren. We will not go into that much here, though others will. Dr James’ quoted remarks are reasonably balanced, though he draws a long bow (rather in the fashion of recently installed War Memorial Chair, Dr Brendan Nelson), when he says, ‘Remembering Kokoda reminds us of what it means to be an Australian’.
The most important fact about the Kokoda Campaign is that it led to the deaths of more than 2600 soldiers, Japanese, Australian and American, as well as perhaps 150 New Guinean civilian porters. Every one of those deaths was a tragedy. Amdrew Brown’s AAP piece mentions only ‘the 641 lives lost during the campaign’, that is, Australian lives.
Below are some Kokoda resources on the Honest History website. You can also use our Search engine.
- A memoir from Nick Walsh, who was there.
- Anthony Cooper on the significance – or not so much – of Kokoda.
- Tom O’Lincoln in 2011 on whether Kokoda is more important than Gallipoli – including a link to a 2017 piece from Karl James.
- How young were the Australians at Kokoda?
- War Memorial Director Anderson once wrote a children’s book, K is for Kokoda: An A to Z of Australia and the Second World War. We reviewed the Director’s three children’s books here but can’t tell you what he said about Kokoda because we’ve mislaid our copy. Including ‘Kokoda’ in the title, however, suggests Mr Anderson or his publishers thought Kokoda was particularly important. (As did Prime Minister Keating.) We think the book is still able to be purchased.
21 July 2022