The first extensive combat occurred on the Kokoda Trail. This was an unimproved path that crissed the Owen Stanley Mountains, part of New Guinea's mountainous spine. The southern terminus was Ower's Corner, approximately 40 km north-east of Port Moresby on the southern coast along the Gulf of Papua, an inlet of the Coral Sea. The northern terminus was village of Wairopi near the northern coast and Japanese bases. After being turned back by American aircraft carriers in the Coral Sea (May 1942) the Japanese decided to use the Trail in an effort to cross the Owen Stanley Mountains to seze Port Moresby by land (July 1942). Suddenly Papuans near the Trail found themselves in the Middle of the Pacific War. This was the only significant Japanese move into the New Guinea interior. The Japanese needed help moving supplies and equipment. We are not sure to what extent the Japanese used the Papuans as bearers. Wevbelieve they tried, but treated thenm vrutally and they disappeared unto the jungle. The Japanese soon short of food. For the most part they were ordered to find food along the trail. And the soldiers were not about to fee natives while they starved. As a result, the soldiers were soon on thir own. They began eating the pack animals they had. The Japanese were extrordinarily brutal in the Pacific War, but their soldiers had an incrdable devotion, albeit to an evil cause. How they could have pushed across the Owen Stanleys without adquate food supplies and carrying all their heavy equipment is an accomplishment of monumental proporttions. The Australian stopped the Japanese a few miles from Port Moresby. The Japanese were forced to withdraw back over the Trail. What began as a retreat tuned into a rout. Few Japanese survived the fighting along the Trail and made it back to their coastal bases. Japanese Major General Tomitaro Horii drowned while attempting to cross the Kumusi River at Wairopi. This same dynamic of Japanese brotality and seized the food of the Papuans as well as their women destroyed Japanese relations with the coastal people as well. The Australians on the other hand treated their bearers well. And they became trusted allies, not only carrying supplies and equipment, but tenderly bearing the wounded to aid stations. The Papuans became a welcome sight for the embattled Australian soldiers on the Trail--the Fuzzy Wuzzie Angels. Anything that moved on the trail had to be carried in or out or dropped by American C-47 cargo aircraft. Many Australian soldiers remember the streacher bearrs with considerable affection. It cemented a bond between them.
Gratzer, Vunce. The school that Fell from the Sky: The Fred Hargesheimer Story.
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