The Kokoda Campaign, July-November 1942, an analysis

  • Peter Damian Williams

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    With the exception of a few scholars who are familiar with the Allied Translator and Interpreter Service (ATIS) collection, Japanese sources for the Kokoda campaign have not been closely examined by Australian researchers. These sources point towards a number of problems with Australian published accounts. Foremost, the Japanese did not outnumber the Australians and Papuans very often in their advance and when they did they did not outnumber them by much. In the subsequent Japanese retreat the Australians significantly outnumbered the Japanese.

    The second most important factor to emerge from Japanese sources is that the Japanese postponed their attack on Port Moresby in August 1942 and the plan was never revived. The Nankai Shitai’s advance into the Owen Stanley Range became more in the nature of a feint to distract Allied attention and resources away from Guadalcanal, the decisive battle of the war in the south west Pacific.

    The explanations offered in previous work for the various Australian defeats and victories in the Kokoda campaign have been based on an assumption the Japanese were always more numerous than they were and these works have not understood that the Japanese advance was not an attempt to take Port Moresby. As such their explanations for why the campaign turned out as it did are likely to fall short of a balanced account. Other reasons commonly given for Japanese failure concern poor intelligence, malaria and allied air interdiction of their supply line. None of these are satisfactory. It is rather that two other previously ignored factors are of more importance in understanding the course of events in the Owen Stanley Range from July to November 1942; the large number of artillery pieces the Japanese brought into the mountains and the unusually heavy rain of September 1942 which washed away their supply line. This thesis argues that in light of the above considerable revision is needed in current Australian accounts of the Kokoda campaign.
    Date of AwardJul 2008
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAlan Powell (Supervisor)

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