Kokoda trail, Lost WWII battlefield found, war dead included

  • An Australian trekker said he has discovered the site of a significant World War II battle in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, complete with the remains of Japanese soldiers right where they fell almost 70 years ago.

    Former army Capt. Brian Freeman, an expert on the Kokoda Trail – a 60-mile trek through rugged mountainous country and rainforest of the island – said Monday he was led to the Eora Creek battle site where he found the remains of the soldiers.

    The site about half a mile from the village of Eora Creek was believed to be the location of the last major battle that was pivotal in Australia’s campaign against the Japanese in Papau New Guinea.

    Although the site was known to local villages, jungles reclaimed it after the battle of Eora Creek. Although locals hunted on the plateau surrounding the site, they avoided the 600-square-meter battle ground because of a belief that spirits of the dead were still present in the “lost battlefield.”

    What this means is that the site has apparently remained untouched since 1942.

    “On our inaugural trek, we were hoping to find the remnants of a make-shift Japanese hospital and, potentially, relics of guns and ammunition. I never anticipated that we would find war dead,” Freeman said in a statement.

    Freeman trekked to the site for the first time on April 23.

    “It was as if time has stood still. We found ammunition running out in a line from the rifle that was dropped as the Japanese advanced to the rear,” Freeman said.

    Freeman said extensive research on battle maps and diaries led them to believe that the Japanese had a medical facility in the area during the Japanese advance and its location had remained a mystery until now.

    The team found kidney-shaped medical dishes at the site, pointing to evidence that the find was indeed the site of a Japanese hospital.

    The presence of large rectangular pits, referred to as rifle pits, also indicated that the location was also a significant Japanese defensive position.

    “However, it was the discovery of a Japanese soldier sitting up against a tree, only centimeters from the surface still in his helmet, with his boots nearby that began to tell the human story,” Freeman said.

    The battle of Eora Creek is said to be the single most costly clash of the Kokoda campaign, although different sources cite different casualty figures.

    Freeman’s group says 79 Australians died and 145 were wounded, while the Australian War Memorial website says 99 were killed and 192 wounded.

    Freeman said they are working with respective governments to repatriate the fallen solders and preserve the site in its “current pristine condition." Until then, no groups will be permitted to trek the site.


  • Wow, this is an awesome find.

  • I just hope now that those soldiers can finally be given a proper burial.

  • They should be brought home as heros.

  • @timerover51:


    They should be brought home as heros.

    Having spent considerable time studying the behavior of Japanese troops throughout the Pacific Theater, I would not regard any Japanese soldier or sailor, dead or alive, as a hero.  The Australians, yes, the Japanese no.

    Next, the Japanese did not dig large rifle pits.  See the following website for information on Japanese defenses.


    It is an online edition of the US Army’s Handbook on Japanese Military Forces, 15 September 1944.  Take a look at the chapters covering Japanese island defenses and jungle warfare.  The large square pits could be the beginnings of a square bunker, but also could be latrines.  If they are lined with logs, then likely a bunker, if not, then likely a latrine.  Latrines would make sense if it was the site of a Japanese hospital unit.  If it was a medical unit there, they should find remains of Japanese surgical equipment and medication bottles.  When I was in the New Georgia group of the Solomon Islands in 2002 with National Geographic, I sent the TV Guide reporter and the National Geographic Internet reporter to check out some caves on the island of Kolombangara where a Japanese hospital unit was reported to have been located.  I went over with them prior to their going what they should be looking for out of my own copy of the Handbook.  They reported back that they found pretty much everything I had told them to look out for.  Of course, this hospital was located in a cave, so was much more likely to have a large amount of material preserved, but medicine bottles and surgical kits should still be apparent.

    Hopefully, a reasonably good military archaeologist will get out there to examine the site.

    Any person in uniform who died for country deserves a proper burial. I’ll let God be the Judge of a man’s character.

    Here is a story of mercy that moved me concerning the famous Japanese ace Saburo Sakai.

    “Early in 1942, Sakai was transferred to Tarakan Island in Borneo and fought in the Dutch East Indies. The Japanese high command had instructed fighter patrols to down all enemy aircraft encountered, whether they were armed or not. On a patrol with his Zero over Java, just after shooting down an enemy aircraft, Sakai encountered a civilian Dutch Douglas DC-3 flying at low altitude over dense jungle. Sakai initially assumed it was transporting important people and signaled to its pilot to follow him; the pilot did not obey. Sakai came down and got much closer to the DC-3. He spotted a blonde woman and a young child through the window, along with other passengers. The woman reminded him of Mrs. Martin, an American who had occasionally taught him as a child in middle school and had been good to him. He decided to ignore his orders and flew ahead of the pilot, signaling him to go ahead. The pilot and passengers saluted.”[3]

  • The story is support by personal on the DC-3. The plane encounter a Zero that had them in gun range and spared the plane. Suburo Sakai took credit for the encounter. I read of this in the publication, World War II monthly. It’s been several years ago.

  • There is no doubt about Japanese war crimes.

    My point is that the nation of Japan should have the right to bury the remains of the dead with honor. Unless certain remains can get postitively linked to a person who committed a crime, the remains should be honor as a person that answered the call of country and never came home.

  • '17 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    A more realistic distance is over 800 statute miles.

    Zero had a range of 1,600 miles, so yes thats consistent with Sakai’s account over Java.

    Also, they had over 400 Zeros in active service by July 1940.

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