The annual commemorative service for Kokoda Day will be held at the Picnic Ground, One Tree Hill, Dandenong Ranges National Park on Tuesday 8 August commencing at 1.00pm.
Representatives from the 39th Battalion Association will be in attendance with the Victorian opposition leader Mr John Pesutto, students from local schools, members from the Victoria Police Force, Parks Victoria staff and Trekkers. A prayer will be offered by Mary Holloway, a daughter of a veteran of the 39th Battalion. Poppies will be laid in tribute.
The Second World War battle for Kokoda took place in 1942. It allowed time for reinforcements from the AIF to cross the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea to join the 39th Battalion in the battles against the Japanese that took place over the next two weeks at Isurava. It was here that the brave men of the 39th Battalion came of age and demonstrated the courage and determination that would see them hailed forever as ‘Those Ragged Bloody Heroes’.
The 39th Battalion is the only Australian unit that has battle honour ‘Kokoda – Deniki’ for the battle at Kokoda Village.
The Battle for Kokoda Village
On 21 July 1942 the Japanese landed approximately 1500 troops at a beachhead called Gona on the northcoast of Papua. The Japanese Imperial Force planned to march across the Owen Stanley Ranges to the harbour township of Port Moresby on the south coast, to secure the vital airstrip and port facilities. Their next target was northern Australia.
The 39th Battalion, stationed at Port Moresby was ordered to cross the Owen Stanley Ranges and occupy the highland village of Kokoda, which had an airstrip considered invaluable for landing supplies and material.Some of the men thought they were fortunate to be flown to Kokoda, while others had the arduous task of trekking with full packs, supplies and ammunition, a task that proved too great for some.
Late in July 1942 approximately 80 soldiers of the39th Battalion and five members of the Papuan Infantry Battalion engaged the Japanese north of Kokoda. Greatly outnumbered, they managed to delay and confuse the Japanese with their aggressive tactics and ambushes. They returned to Kokoda on 28 July where a fierce battle took place.
On the evening of 29 July, the remnants of the Australians withdrew to Deniki and consolidated with the remainder of the 39th Battalion. On the morning of 8 August, the Battalion counterattacked, successfully retaking Kokoda.
Kokoda was held until 10 August against several Japanese attacks until running low of ammunition and supplies, the Battalion again withdrew to Deniki.