The Empire of the Sun sits at the gates of Australia having already badly mauled the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour, overrun China, Malaya, Singapore, the Philippines, Dutch East Indies and much of New Guinea. Seemingly invincible and masters of jungle warfare, Japan occupies Rabaul, commences bombing raids on Darwin and sails bringing the might of her aircraft carriers further south in preparation for the invasion of mainland Australia.
Along with the US fleet, the Royal Australian Navy plans to engage the Japanese in May 1942, and the Battle of Coral Sea, fought off the coast of Townsville up to the Solomon Islands begins. The first aircraft carrier battle ever fought in the history of naval warfare, it was a turning point in the Pacific war and the first major defeat Japan suffered in WWII. No longer able to operate with impunity at sea, Japan was forced to secure a land-based airstrip in southern New Guinea to provide air cover for their planned invasion.
Preparations are rushed on the “Brisbane-line”, the plan to evacuate northern Australia, denying food and resources to the enemy, over extending their supply lines and ultimately stopping them on prepared defensive positions in the Great Dividing Range. Tank traps can still be seen today along the Mt Lindsey Highway in Tenterfield if you venture into the New England tablelands of northern NSW.
Milne Bay on the eastern tip of New Guinea and Port Moresby are the only two suitable locations for air operations against the Australian mainland. Kokoda Track famous as an epic struggle of human endurance sees Japanese forces surge over the Owen Stanley Ranges over July-November 1942. Kokoda became the entire focus of Japan’s effort after they were repulsed and suffered their first major defeat in a land battle at Milne Bay in August.
Closer to home, walk over to our own Kenmore War Memorial and see the tribute to the brave Fuzzy Wuzzy angels who carried both our wounded and supplies over the Kokoda Track. On the first Wednesday of September each year commemorations take place across our nation remembering the Battle for Australia.
“Lest We Forget”