The Northern Territory news Tue 28 Feb 2017
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News Corp Australia
16 EDUCATION TUESDAY FEBRUARY 28 2017 NTNE01Z01MA - V2 fter bombing Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Japanese headed south to invade British territories. drawing Australia into the war against Japan. The Japanese seemed unstoppable until one of their first major defeats on land in New Guinea in 1942. a path over the Owen Stanley Ranges from Buna to Port Moresby, known as the Kokoda Track. Australians fought the Japanese in impossible jungle terrain and, with American help, repelled an amphibious landing at Milne Bay. The campaign marked a turning point in the Pacific theatre of World War II. This year will be the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign. BACKGROUND Surprised by the speed of their advance across Asia and the Pacific up to April1942. Japanese military leaders debated what to do next. Knowing that Australia could be used as a base for operations against Japanese territories conquered in South-East Asia and the South Pacific, the Japanese looked to New Guinea as a possible base for operations against Australia, perhaps to cut the country off, attack strategic points or possibly to invade. After landing in Rabaul on January 23. 1942 to establish a base. they slowly advanced toward New Guinea. capturing Lae in March. In May an invasion fleet. headed for Port Moresby, was met by US and Australian ships resulting in defeat at the Battle of Coral Sea, fought from May 4 to May 8. 1942. As an alternative plan the Japanese tried to capture Port Moresby by land. Landing at Gona and Buna on the northeast coast of New Guinea on July 21. they began the trek along the Kokoda Track toward Port Moresby. AUSTRALIAN EXPERIENCE Troops from the 39th Citizens Military Force (CMF) were the first Australians to fight the Japanese on the track. They were nicknamed "Chockos". or Chocolate Soldiers. because they were expected to melt in the heat of battle. But the under-trained, under-equipped and mostly under-20 Chockos fought with tenacity and determination. After the first retreats they were joined by seasoned AIF troops. The Australians fought a numerically superior Japanese force and initially were not prepared for jungle warfare. Their .. ;;_, . . ' ~ Buna N Port Moresby V About7000 Au~tralians died in New G~1~ea in World War 11 but It IS estimated that the Japanese lost around 127,000. khaki uniforms stood out in the jungle and gave no protection against insects, rain or the chill of night. They were only issued with a half blanket to sleep under. but carried up to 30kg of equipment, mostly useless in the jungle, including outdated Lee Enfield rifles. The track was often so steep and muddy that it was almost impossible for the overburdened troops to make progress. Not understanding the difficulties. their commanders Thomas Blarney and Douglas MacArthur at times chastised the Australians for their efforts. JAPANESE SOLDIERS Australians on the Kokoda Track were surprised by how tenacious. well-equipped and tall the Japanese were. Many were hardened veterans who had fought in China or Malaya. The Japanese soldiers lived by a warrior's code. Bushido. which emphasised "allegiance to the emperor. self-sacrifice and deprivation, faith, trust in officers and fellow soldiers. and uprightness. thrift, valour, frugality, honour and a highly developed sense of shame". It was thought dishonourable to surrender and be taken prisoner (although many were) and often in battle they took no prisoners. Confident they could reach Port Moresby in days, the Japanese took less than two weeks' supplies and were told to live off the land if the campaign went longer. When they met unexpected resistance they suffered heavy losses and became exhausted and dispirited. CAPTAIN SAM TEMPLETON Templeton's Crossing No.1 and No.2 were named after Captain Sam Templeton. who commanded B Company of the 39th Battalion. His company made the first stands against the Japanese. While his troops held out at Oivi, he walked into the jungle alone to warn D Company. which was coming from l<okoda. that it might encounter Japanese along the track. A burst of machinegun fire was heard from his direction and he was never seen again. FUZZY WUZZY ANGELS The Australians were helped by New Guinea natives, who became known as the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. As B Company of the 39th Battalion marched across the track in early July, their commander asked officers Bert Kienzle. an Australian who had lived in New Guinea. and Dr Geoffrey Vernon, to hire native carriers. Many were from the l<oiari tribes who knew the territory well. They stayed with the army throughout the campaign, whereas natives hired by the Japanese rebelled against the emperor's abusive soldiers and deserted them. The Austra lians' carriers were skilled at bushcraft and negotiating the tough terrain. They carried in supplies and carried out wounded soldiers. MILNE BAY Near midnight on August 25, 1942, Japanese troops landed at Milne Bay to set up an air base to support the assault on Port Moresby via the Kokoda Track. The Allies had been warned of a possible attack and sent 8800 men there to prepare for an Allied assault on Rabaul. The Japanese were repelled in 12 days of intense fighting. The last Japanese t roops evacuated by September 6. Victory at Milne Bay was the first defeat of a