The Kokoda Campaign Jul – Nov 1942
Following a landing near Gona, on the north coast of Papua, on the night of 21/22 July, Japanese forces attempted to advance south overland through the mountains of the Owen Stanley Range to seize Port Morseby as part of a strategy of isolating Australia from the United States.
Initially only limited Australian forces were available to oppose them; and, after making rapid progress, the Japanese South Sea Detachment clashed with under-strength Australian forces from the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the Australian 39th Battalion on 23 July at Awala, forcing them back to Kokoda. Following a confused night battle on 28/29 July, the Australians were again forced to withdraw. The Australians attempted to recapture Kokoda on 8 August without success, which resulted in heavy casualties on both sides; and the 39th Battalion was subsequently forced to withdraw over the Owen Stanley Range, down the Kokoda Track towards Isurava.
The Japanese failed to press their assault, enabling reinforcements from Australia to bolster the forces. The Australians faced significant supply problems and the Japanese advance resumed forcing the Australians to mount a series of delaying actions as they fell back down the Kokoda Track to Imita Ridge, in sight of Port Moresby.
Having outrun his supply lines and following the reverses suffered by the Japanese at Guadalcanal, the Japanese now went on to the defensive, marking the limit of the Japanese advance southwards. The Japanese subsequently began to withdraw on 24 September to establish a defensive position on the north coast and were finally defeated in the Battle of Buna-Gona.