Course Summary

The Battle for Australia 1942-43

The Land and its People

The physical and human geography of the eastern part of New Guinea particularly the Owen Stanley Range, the rugged nature of the terrain, and the origins and lifestyles of the indigenous peoples.

The Opposing Forces

The rise of Japanese militarism and imperial expansion 1931-1941 and of the aims underlying it. The lamentable state of disrepair into which the Australian defence policy had fallen in the interwar years. The disastrous consequences of the “Singapore strategy”  for the defence of Papua New Guinea.

Logistics & Casualities

The implications of the terrain for the supply of troops and the evacuation of casualties, the scale and type of conflict which characterises the Kokoda campaign.


The personalities, motivations and decision making of the commanders on both sides. The fateful nature of the choices made and the consequences for the men who fought.

 Japanese Attack and Australian Withdrawal

The battles at Isurava and Efogi (Mission Ridge and Brigade Hill) their consequences and the reaction of the Allied high command to the Australian withdrawal. The consequences of the battle at Milne Bay which defeated the second “pincer” of the Japanese attempt to capture Port Moresby. The disgraceful dismissal of commanders who had overseen the “defeat” on The Track.

Australian Counter Offensive

The Japanese retreat to the beachheads and the Australian counter-offensive. The battles of Templeton’s Crossing, Eora Creek and Oivi-Gorari and the continued ignorance of the Allied high command about the difficulties of jungle fighting

The Battle for the Beaches

The final and awful convulsions of the Battle for Australia at the beachheads – Gona, Buna, and Sanananda – between November 1942 and January 1943 and reasons why these battles were so costly in terms of Allied casualties and whether other strategies should have been employed.

Consequences and Reflections

This unit is intended as an overall evaluation of the causes, course and consequences of the Battle for Australia. It reaches conclusions – perhaps contentious – about what had been at stake, the overall direction of the campaign and the significance of the outcomes. Hopefully you will be well positioned to construct your own opinions about the worth of the conclusions made.


The  final unit puts a human face on the history of the Battle for Australia, by presenting some personal stories of those who had to undergo its trials.