Why was it so difficult for the Australians to fight on the Kokoda Trail in 1942 during WW2? The battle of the Kokoda Trail occurred from July 1942 until January 1943 and is known as one of the most important battles of WW2. Located in Papua New Guinea, the Australian soldiers fought against the Japanese army in order to protect Australia. The Kokoda was the ‘bloodiest’ of all battles in WW2 and included great involvement from the Australian soldiers. It was very difficult for the soldiers to fight in the battle.
They had to rely on the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels for help while they were struggling with the conditions and illnesses that the battle had to offer. The Kokoda Trail was a very difficult battle to be involved in and the Australian soldiers looked to and relied on the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels for help and assistance. The Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels were the indigenous people of Papua New Guinea. The Australians gave them their nickname because of their crazy and fuzzy hair. As the war was very difficult, the Fuzzy Wuzzys got involved and helped out the Australians as much as they could.
As there was no time to help the sick and wounded, the soldiers had to rely on the Fuzzy Wuzzys to treat them. They would turn into ‘human ambulances’ and carry the wounded back to their village where they would then treat them and make them feel better (Ham, 2004, p. 211). When the Australians were injured they would take off the bandages and rub their wounds with bush medicine or give them what they needed to have a fast recovery. The Fuzzy Wuzzys would be there at every call at any time of the day or night to assist the patients.
Considering they knew nothing about the war until the troops started moved through their area, they were very generous and kind-hearted. P Ham stated “The men were not the only ones helping; the woman would carry the food too” (Ham, 2004, p. 211). The Fuzzy Wuzzys also helped the men come to terms with the conditions and what was happening during that time. If it wasn’t for the Fuzzy Wuzzys the conditions and circumstances would have been far more difficult to deal with.
While the battle was taking place, the soldiers formed a close friendship with the Fuzzy Wuzzys and the relationship they had made them even more determined to keep on fighting. Because the soldiers had formed a good friendship with the Fuzzy Wuzzys, they knew that they could count on them to be there when the soldiers needed them the most. They usually needed them the most to help and mend the sick and injured, deliver food to them while fighting or help protect the frontline from the enemy (Lindsay, 2009, p. 62).
The Fuzzy Wuzzys saved hundreds of soldier’s lives and Australia has hailed them as heroes’ for their brave commitment. Without them, the soldiers wouldn’t have been able to win due to the difficult conditions. Throughout the battle of Kokoda there were many problems that the soldiers had to overcome due to the difficult conditions such as shortages in food, ammunition and equipment that they required. Apart from the difficult fighting, half of the men died from the harsh conditions such as exhaustion and lack of food and water. The soldiers were fighting every minute and it became very exhausting.
The terrain was undulated to the extreme and there was no short cut. There was only one way and that always meant they had to climb the steepest mountains. Bill James stated “A modern day bushwalker could walk the same distance in one hour that it took the soldiers all night to do” (James, 2006, p. 53). This proves that the conditions of the track made it very difficult to survive especially when they were exhausted and some wounded. Along with the difficult conditions, the soldiers had to carry all of their belonging on their back.
They were required to carry 25-30kg of food, ammunition and equipment. ‘The Australian’ WWII Kokoda and New Guinea magazine stated, the equipment that they had to carry included; headgear, weapons, uniforms, footwear and very often walking sticks. Carrying all of this made everything far more difficult. The Australians struggled with food and ammunition because it was so difficult to get the supplies up the track due to the conditions. Sometimes, by the time the food and materials reached the soldiers it was either wet from the rain or half of it got lost on the way.
Dealing with the food and ammunition shortages, the track conditions they also had to deal with the weather. While fighting on the Kokoda it rained almost every day. Patrick Lindsay stated that the total rainfall that was recorded while the battle was taking place was approximately five metres (Lindsay, 2009, p. 55). The rainfall along with the other conditions made it extremely difficult for the Australians to fight. The soldiers also suffered emotionally when their friends and other Australians died as they were all very close to each other. Some statistics from the Field Guide to Kokoda howed that there was over 400 Australian soldiers killed due to the fighting and sicknesses and 1600 wounded. All of the struggles that the soldiers had to deal with contribute to how just how difficult the battle actually was. At the battle of Kokoda, the conditions were so difficult and beyond imaginable that it caused many illnesses and diseases that the soldiers had to overcome. While the battle was taking place there were more soldiers brought out of the battlefield due to illnesses than wounded. Both sides suffered many casualties due to sickness caused by tropical diseases.
Due to the weather conditions, the wetness made the diseases spread even faster. The most common tropical diseases were malaria, parasitic infections and diseases caused by insects and mosquitoes (The Kokoda Trail). As these diseases were spreading around the soldiers, some of the time they had to call in doctors to operate. Saying this, the doctors could not operate near the front line due to the atrocious conditions and the continual attacks from the Japanese. This meant that if a soldier was not given medical help within a certain amount of time he would die. This happened in some cases.
Men with serious wounds would get little treatment to ease the pain. McKinlay stated that they needed eight men to relieve the wounded and eight men to carry the stretcher (McKinlay, 2004, p. 45). Carrying a wounded soldier was a very difficult task. Through some parts of the track a stretcher had to be passed hand over hand up hill. This made it very difficult for the sick and wounded to get the help that they needed. Not only did the wetness cause the tropical diseases. Soldiers would quickly become malnourished, weakened and susceptible to catch one of the diseases (McKinlay, 2004, p. 5). Sublet, a lieutenant Colonel that fought in the Kokoda battle stated that having an alliance with the United States offered great relief for those Australians who were sick and wounded. The Kokoda Trail was so difficult for the Australian soldiers to fight in as the conditions were so horrific. The soldiers were faced with supply shortages, illnesses and wounds along with the help from The Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. The Kokoda Trail was an important part in Australian history and all of the soldiers are to be remembered and honoured as heroes for protecting our country.