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HarperCollins 2005

The astonishing story of the first major land defeat of the Japanese Imperial Army, fought along a Papuan jungle track they called ‘the world’s worst killing field’.

In this balanced account, I reconstruct the history of both Australian and Japanese forces in a battle of unrelenting ferocity, fought back and forth along the Kokoda Track, 145 km of river crossings and precipitous descents.

Defeat was unthinkable: the Australian soldier was fighting for his homeland against an unyielding aggressor; the Japanese were ordered to fight to the death to conquer ‘Greater East Asia’.

To understand what happened here, I trekked the Kokoda Track and retraced the flow of the battle over the Owen Stanley Mountains, meeting elderly local men en route who had served as stretcher bearers during the war.


At sunset a low chant, a primitive dirge, rose from the jungle below the escarpment. It paused. Then a Japanese voice shouted, ‘That should frighten you!’ … Smoke candles burst on the edge of the jungle, and through the
cloud the Japanese came.


‘Intelligently structured and beautifully written, Kokoda is a substantial book that will appeal to scholars, students, history buffs and readers with an interest in World War II.’

The Age

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