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Photographs courtesy of the Australian Defence Force

 

Excitement builds in the lead up to Kokoda

August 2017

Training in full swing in preparation for Kokoda

July 2017

Operation Legacy Australia Kokoda Challenge 2017 (OP LAKC 17) reached a significant milestone recently, by bringing together Legacy youth from across Australia and their Australian Defence Force (ADF) Mentors for the first time on Exercise POPONDETTA PRELUDE.

Footage courtesy of the Australian Defence Force
 

The history of Kokoda

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Kokoda – one of the bloodiest and most significant campaigns for Australian forces in World War II.

More Australians died in the seven months of fighting in Papua New Guinea than in any other campaign.

Australian Diggers on the Kokoda Track
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Australian Diggers on the Kokoda Track
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Australian Diggers on the Kokoda Track
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Australian Diggers on the Kokoda Track
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Australian Diggers on the Kokoda Track
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Australian Diggers on the Kokoda Track
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Australian Diggers on the Kokoda Track
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Australian Diggers on the Kokoda Track
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Australian Diggers on the Kokoda Track
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Australian Diggers on the Kokoda Track
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Australian Diggers on the Kokoda Track
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Australian Diggers on the Kokoda Track
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In July 1942, Japanese forces landed on the northern coast of Papua, with the objective to make their way along the Kokoda Track and capture Port Moresby on the southern coast - giving them control of Papua, and a base from which to attack the Australian mainland and shipping in the Pacific.

The Kokoda Track cuts through 96 kilometres of dense jungle and over mountains. Much of it can only be travelled on foot, which meant that all supplies and heavy equipment had to be carried.

The Kokoda action lasted until November 1942 and is remembered as one of the most difficult operations by Australian troops in World War II.

Conditions were appalling - it rained most of the time and the trail was almost impenetrable in parts with dense rainforest, muddy ground, agonising steep ascents and descents.

Despite winning some hard-fought battles, Australian troops were forced to retreat towards Port Moresby. Supplies ran short and tropical diseases such as malaria reduced the fighting ability of the men. There were few stretchers to carry the wounded, and even badly wounded men were forced to walk.

The indigenous Papuan population had suffered badly at the hands of the Japanese, and many were fiercely loyal to the Australian forces: they cared for the retreating wounded Australian soldiers, who nicknamed them ‘fuzzy-wuzzy angels’.

By early September 1942, the Japanese were within 48 kilometres of Port Moresby, but they were now far from their own supply base on the northern coast, and faced the difficulties of moving supplies and weapons along the narrow, mountainous track.

At the same time, American forces had occupied the island of Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands, east of Papua. They could use the island as a base to attack Japanese shipping. In response, the Japanese command decided to concentrate on Guadalcanal and withdrew their forces from Papua, even though they were within sight of their objective in Port Moresby.

Australian and American troops followed the retreating Japanese along the track, and fought them when they reached their coastal base at Buna-Gona. They defeated the Japanese, but Allied casualties were extremely high.

More than 600 Australian troops died in fighting throughout the Kokoda operation, and more than 1600 were wounded. Over 4,000 soldiers suffered from tropical diseases. Estimates of the Japanese dead are uncertain, but are probably even higher than the Allied casualties, because of the Japanese military tradition of committing suicide rather than surrendering.

 

You can support OP LAKC 17

If you or your organisation would like to make a tax-deductable donation in support of Operation Legacy Australia Kokoda Challenge 2017, visit:
www.everydayhero.com.au/event/LegacyKokoda2017

 

Official launch of Operation Legacy Australia Kokoda Challenge 2017

16 November 2016

Major General Stuart Smith AO, DSC, Legacy Australia Ambassador and former Legacy ward, has today launched a joint initiative which will see Australian Defence Force (ADF) Members mentor Legacy youth in a leadership development challenge, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda Campaign.

“Our support of Operation Legacy Australia Kokoda Challenge 2017 (OP LAKC 17) symbolises our commitment to caring for the dependants of those that have died or become incapacitated following their military service. Defence veterans mentoring Legacy youths reflects the true spirit of Legacy. The 75th anniversary of the Second World War Battle of Kokoda, where so many Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen distinguished themselves, will provide a wonderful inspiration.”
 
Kokoda has its place in Australia’s national identity. Often depicted as the ultimate physical challenge for contemporary Australian pilgrims, this journey will reveal the best in both ADF members and Legacy youth.
 
Set as a leadership challenge for Legacy youth and an opportunity for veterans to work through post deployment issues, OP LAKC 17 will involve a group of around 20 – 25 Legacy youth, accompanied by serving ADF veterans, walking the Kokoda Trail during Legacy Week (August/September) 2017.
 
Legacy Australia Chairman, Mr Tony Ralph welcomes the full support of Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, AC for this initiative. “Legacy Australia plays a unique role in the support of Defence force families, where a member has given their life or health in service of our nation. OP LAKC 17 provides a vehicle in which Legacy can support the ADF in their duty as the Defence family to look after itself by those who have served and returned.”
 
Mr Ralph announced the first Legacy youth and first ADF mentor to be nominated for the initiative. 16 year old Ronan Gotch from Canberra Legacy will work towards conquering the Owen Stanley Ranges with his ADF mentor WO1 T. 
 
“Early in our planning phase, we expressed a hope that we could find ADF mentors who had served with the family member of our Legacy youth. In this instance, WO1 T served with Ronan’s and in my eyes this a wonderful pairing.”
 
Legacy Australia welcomes on board our corporate partners Peet Limited and QinetiQ for what is expected to be a thoroughly challenging and rewarding project for all involved. For more information on how you might like to partner with Legacy Australia for OP LAKC 17, email kokoda@legacy.com.au.

 

 

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