New book: The Battles for Kokoda Plateau


The Battles for Kokoda Plateau

Three weeks of hell defending the gateway to the Owen Stanleys

By David W Cameron

Published by Allen & Unwin
RRP $32.99 in paperback | 
ISBN 9781760529550

Author David Cameron has written an impressive list of books, mostly about Anzacs and Gallipoli. With this new book, he has turned his attention to what is arguably the most important engagement for Australian troops in World War II, stopping the Japanese advance on Port Moresby, via a route most military experts thought impossible to attempt.

On 21 July 1942, a large Japanese reconnaissance mission landed along the north-eastern coastline of Papua. This is the story of the three weeks of battle by a small Australian militia force, the 39th Battalion, supported by the 1st Papua Infantry Battalion and the Royal Papuan Constabulary, to keep the Japanese at bay.

Outnumbered by at least three to one, they fought courageously to hold the Kokoda Plateau – the gateway to the Owen Stanleys.

Critically short of ammunition and food and stranded in the fetid swamps and lowland jungles, they did everything they could to keep the Kokoda airstrip out of Japanese hands.

Not far away, and desperately trying to reach the Australians, were two groups of Anglican missionaries trapped behind enemy lines. With each passing day the parties grew, joined by lost Australian soldiers and downed American airmen. Theirs is a story of tragedy and betrayal and the subject of war crimes trials in the aftermath of the war.

Using letters, diaries and other first-hand accounts, including Japanese accounts, Cameron has written a very detailed and thorough account of what occurred at the northern foot of the Owen Stanleys in late July and early August 1942.

These stories deserve to be firmly embedded into the Kokoda legend.

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