‘McArches’ on Kokoda

The debate about any American connotation of the name  ‘Kokoda Trail’ is about to warm up with the construction of a set of ‘golden arches’ at the entrance to the trail/track at Kokoda.

Anzac trekkers coming of the trail/track were almost reaching for their wallets as they spied the Kokoda ‘McArches‘ looming in the mist towards the end of their fast-food deprivation across the Owen Stanley Ranges. They could almost hear the young Orokaiva cashier asking if they would like fries with their bully beef.

A bronze plaque on the ‘McArches’ is dedicated to Japan and Kokoda.  It talks erroneously about an Australian ‘retreat’ (which is not a phase of war) and describes how ‘six thousand Japanese fought bravely during their southerly advance’.

Bravely!  The beheading of five Australian missionary women on Buna beach; the bayoneting of an Australian nurse and teacher, May Hayman and Mavis Parkinson, in front of their own shallow graves near Sangara; the massacre of Australian prisoners at Tol Plantation; and the cannibalisation of Australian soldiers on the Kokoda Trail were hardly acts of bravery – they were horrendous war crimes and should never be airbrushed from our wartime history.

The plaque advises: ‘Although Australians acknowledged and feared their fighting skills the Japanese fought under a different code of conduct and as a consequence never gained the respect of their foes.’

The Japanese may well have had superior numbers and weaponry in their advance across the Kokoda Trail but there is no evidence of Australians ‘fearing their fighting skills’. Australian commanders – General Tubby Allen, Brigadier Arnold Potts, Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Honner and a host of others never doubted the ability of their men to halt the Japanese advance over the Owen Stanley Ranges.  Bruce Kingsbury, Charlie McCallum, ‘Butch’ Bissett, Claude Nye, Lefty Langridge and many of their mates who gave their lives in heroic acts of self-sacrifice did not display any fear or respect for the Japanese who were thought to be invincible at that stage of the Pacific War.

The steel arches were put in place without the knowledge or approval of the Returned Services League, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Australian WW11 veterans associations, or the PNG Kokoda Track Authority. The ill-conceived placement of an unauthorised and inappropriate memorial structure reinforces the need for a master memorial plan to be developed for the Kokoda Trail.

In the meantime Australian trekkers should walk around the Kokoda arches rather than through them as a mark of disrespect towards the attempt to airbush Japanese atrocities from the Kokoda campaign.

Comments

  1. Nathan Clarke says:

    The soonner the master memorial plan is developed the better. Who does this clown think he is, having completed the the track from Owers corner to Kokoda, I thought that this was place of symbolism and walked through the “McArches” With a sense of closure only to get through them and turn back to see the memorial to the Japanese on the other side, and then later discover that the placement and design of the arches had not been approved or designed by any of the authorities involved in the track. I guess that’s what happens when you give an out of work builder, with lots of spare time a stick welder and some welding rods, oh and the power that comes with a set of cammos and a slouch hat!!! I just hope that next time I walk the track with Adventure Kokoda that this piece of useless and disrespectful steel has been demolished and our courageous Australians and fellow Papuans are hounered in the way that they should be. Like Charlie suggested walk around the bloody things in the mean time. Nathan Clarke ADVENTURE KOKODA Trekker 2011.

  2. STEVE MITCHELL says:

    Totally agree with Charlie’s comments. Any memorial should be set up only with consultation with the appropriate authorities (especially the local people). Any plaques should only reflect the true nature of the Aussie Diggers and the brutal Japanese enemy. The bravery of the local people should never be forgotten either.

  3. Joanne says:

    Although I’m not surprised that some body/group could go ahead and erect what I consider an insult to the memory of those that fought to protect Australia, I am extremely disappointed that it has been done by Australians; Australians that are supposed to be educating those of us that were unaware of how horrendous the Kokoda experience was for our troops, and those wonderful people of PNG that helped in the campaign. This action needs serious review, and what about involving the locals.

  4. Ed Chapman says:

    Inappropriate and ill informed. It should be removed.

    Lest We forget.

  5. Harry Jones says:

    Yes charlie I agree, without a consolidated, well thought out and controlled approach to the Track this sort of action will prevail. No doubt the persons who placed it there had some good intentions (although the dedications seem to have a bias and the financiers may have had japanese backing). Liaison with all the appropriate authorities and bodies must be the way to go. There should be no discord around a place so sacred, or violation of the memory of those who passed that way never to return.
    Harry Jones

  6. This act is disgraceful and therefore should be removed.
    From this Blog it shows how missinformed this fool of a man is, why erect anything without prior acknowledgement
    whether he believed it was in the best interest of everyone. This man should be made to pull these hideous things down.
    I still can’t believe the size of those hideous pieces of metal.
    If this man is trying to own the track is a Sargent major attitude an authority firstly rip him a new one and put him in his place, secondly cancel or suspend any of his tours.
    This really makes my blood boil.
    regards
    Dan

  7. Grant Halloran says:

    One word…boofhead. I still find the whole lack of coordinated ‘regulation’ of the trail pretty perplexing really.

  8. Stuart Bryce says:

    The significance of Kokoda is such that no single entity has the right to erect anything on or in the vicinity without a full consultative process with the real stakeholders taking place. Winn’s actions amount to degradation of sacred ground. The monuments are to Eric Winn alone and are in proportion to the size of his ego.
    Stuart Bryce

  9. Sue Boyton says:

    This act is both disgraceful and disrespectful. Consultation with the appropriate authorities and most importantly the local people is a must, and to think an Aussie did this?

  10. Paul Jarrett says:

    If these abominations can be erected without any consultation with any person or entity then they can be demolished without authority or permission, get rid of them, they are a disgrace and are the lowest form of disrespect to the brave Diggers and Native Carriers who gave their lives for us. I’m going over soon to do the walk again and seriously thinking of how these things can be taken down. Who does this idiot think he is!

  11. Well Charlie i have to disagree with you about the so called golden McArches . Mabe you where being “To Polite”. As to me they look like his bat n balls so kick em hard for us. With the arches they are not even the same “ARC’S”. Take em down.

    Why and What?, is going on in his head that he needs to take or make his glory from the Soliders that had more Fear Heartache and Guts that we or I could ever imagine in their times of service.

    It is their History and Gloy to their country that we are gifted to live in today.
    We got to get it right for them.

    ” LEST WE FORGET ”

    Jason Quick

  12. Lorraine Christopher says:

    No individual entity has any right to erect anything in such a sacred place. There are a number of key stakeholders who have earned the right to be consulted on what would be the most appropriate mark of remembrance & respect.

    As this was not authorised by the appropriate people, it should be pulled down with out delay.

  13. Wayne Cochrane says:

    I am currently preparing to do the walk from Owers to Kakoda and will definitely be walking around these things.
    Many good men fought and died for what we have today and there memory should not be disrespected in any manner. Its is our duty to remember what they did for us and not let that memory be tarnished in any way. If these and many other brave men and women did not go through what they did and sacrifice there lives, what we take for granted today would be very different.
    I don’t know who this joker thinks he is but he definitely has no right to erect anything in such a sacred place. No one has the right to take a decision to build something like this with out proper debate from the authorities involved.

    Something needs to be done about having these things removed immediately.

    Regards

    Wayne Cochrane

  14. Brian McBain says:

    Good on you Charlie for bringing this to our attention. What right or otherwise does anybody, let alone this bloke, think they have, to not only consider designing some form of gateway, but have the temerity to actually go ahead and build the bloody thing, without any discussion or consultation with anybody else who might have a stake in this whole issue. As for the history of the campaign, where did he get his information from? I don’t know the bloke, but he seems to have some misguided intentions, and as Stuart puts it, the monuments seem to be an acknowledgement of his own ego. Lets get this sorted out.

  15. Stephen Davies says:

    Anything other than a dignified monument is unnecessary. The problem is, I guess, that more and more people are walking the Kokoda Track, and it is a physical challenge and a tourist “thing to do”, rather than a history lesson and mark of respect.

    The idea of sanitising history is seen, if anyone needs a lesson in this, at the Changi museum in Singapore. Years ago, the memorial and chapel had exhibits that were faithfull to history, and very graphic. As the number of Japanese visiting Singapore, and Changi, increased the exhibition was sanitised by the Singapore authorities so that it accorded more with what the Japanese are taught about their own history of WW II, ie very little. Let’s not allow that to happen in PNG.

  16. Fiona Foster says:

    What a joke! How can this be allowed, as stated before if no permission to put these monuments up why can’t they be taken down just as quickly?
    Why does this joker think he can erect something of this scale without the permission of the KTA, the war graves committee, War memorial, and veterans? Because he knows he would have been told NO.
    We can not allow people to put up memorials at will as it will desecrate the track and its sentimental value and meaning to many Australians.
    Was it commissioned by the Japanese? To my knowledge they only have 2 memorials along the track as they do not want to recognise what happened during their advance, so why acknowledge their bravery? Of course they fought under a different code of conduct- who else captured and killed the enemy in the fashion they did, and wonder why we as Aussie did not respect them?
    I will also be trekking later this year and will not walk through, take photo’s and hope that Simon will not even discuss this ‘monument’

  17. Tracey O'Connell says:

    The monuments should be pulled down – they are disrespectful and it is a disgrace that they could be erected without consultation from the appropriate stakeholders!

  18. Jeff Cox says:

    If they are not approved by any authority take them down.

  19. John van der Woude says:

    Well done Charlie , thanks for bring it to our attention. What has McDonalds got to do with Australian history. Their commercialisation has no ethics. I think the locals should determine what goes where through proper channels.One ‘digger’ and a shovel will fix this.

  20. Daniel Jones says:

    Absolutely!!!
    ALL momorials etc should be placed through a governing body with a proper understanding of the war.
    To say ‘Although Australians acknowledged and feared their fighting skills the Japanese fought under a different code of conduct and as a consequence never gained the respect of their foes.’ is nothing short of disrespectful and as bad as MacArthur who claimed the Aussies ‘wouldn’t fight’ during the war!!! To say Aussies feared their fighting skills, it is best I leave my opinion unwritten due to the much offence language that would follow with it!!!
    To glorify such horrendious and barbaric acts of what was an enemy of the country at the time that was coming to take over boggles the mind, and for us to acknowledge what even the Japenese dont teach in their schools and would rather forget and prop it up as something that should be looked up to is disgusting!!!
    Please, I would ask that a proper governing body be made to oversee what is an important task and to stop cowboys from coming in and placing whatever they want wherever they want on what truely is sacred ground!!!

  21. Kathie Collins OAM says:

    I am really surprised that anyone would erect anything on another country’s land without seeking permission. Given the sacredness of the track, I would have thought that permission would have been sought.

    At that stage it would have been made apparent that a great deal of discussion would have to take place regarding any additional memorial type figues on the track.

    Mainly I beieve it is offensive to the people of the Kokoda Track. It actually shows total disregard for the locals.

    Has anyone spoken to the person responsible?

    I would actually skip the walking aropunf the arches and actually take them down, unless, of course the locals are happy with the situation. In the end it is their country.

  22. Kathie Collins OAM says:

    I am really surprised that anyone would erect anything on another country’s land without seeking permission. Given the sacredness of the track, I would have thought that permission would have been sought.

    At that stage it would have been made apparent that a great deal of discussion would have to take place regarding any additional memorial type figues on the track.

    Mainly I beieve it is offensive to the people of the Kokoda Track. It actually shows total disregard and disrespect for the locals.

    Has anyone spoken to the person responsible?

    I would actually skip the walking around the arches and actually take them down, unless, of course the locals are happy with the situation. In the end it is their country.

  23. Bill Thompson says:

    Dear Charlie

    It’s easy for people to miss the point of the “walk”, with so much emphasis has been placed on the physical effort and just finishing, and the personal sense of achievement rather than the journey.
    The journey is one of reflection, history, recognition, sympathy and respect. Apart from the compulsory medical check, you should make us pass a Kokoda history test as well before you approve our application.
    The more we recognise the owners of the lands the more likely that they will push for more say on the development of the track that reflects their needs, and as a by-product significant places of interest could be identified by Kokoda experts and then maintained and secured by them .
    When a people have nothing, something is better than not. Hence the arches.

    Bill Thompson

  24. Tricia says:

    What a shame that one can trek Kokoda and miss the whole point! These arches should be dismantled until proper consultation with the local and relevant authorities can provide a meaningful and significant memorial to our brave soldiers and local community who gave their lives so selflessly.

  25. Liz White says:

    My heart goes out to those surviving Kokoda veterans. They would be nothing other than horrified about this senseless and insensitive act. On this occasion only, I am relieved that my father is not still around – he would be so hurt! I am feeling hurt and have only trekked across this sacred ground to gain a better understanding of the whole campaign. What is Eric’s claim to fame?

  26. Julienne Murray says:

    Dear Charlie,

    There are too many tossers in this world that don’t get the importance of certain events, people and places, even when it is meticulously explained to them.

    I will gladly offer my services in assisting in the removal of the arches.
    I am sure Danni will come too.

    We must continue to honor our Australian soldiers in the most sacred and respectful ways.

    You are a man of great integrity Charlie. It has been an honor to meet you. The following saying is for you Charlie.

    “Real integrity is doing the right thing knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not”

    Best regards

    Julienne (Stalker) Murray

  27. Graeme Forbes says:

    I completely agree with Charlie Lynn. The McArches are an absolute bloody insult to our soldiers and to the Kokoda legacy.The McArches need to be removed and destroyed immediately.Please let Charlie and the relevant authorities take care of Kokoda and build appropiate monuments to our wonderful and brave soldiers who should never be forgotten. All Australians should be forever indebted to our diggers who served and fought and died for their country on the Kokoda Track in 1942

  28. Preston Darlington says:

    The arches themselves I dont have a big issue with (there needs to be some form of memorial along the trail to tell the story of what was) apart from maybe the history implications (people thinking the trail ended in that spot ect). more so If anything I’d hate to see the track become a commercialised product. If this guy can come out and put up a memorial of this size where ever he wants then whats stopping, advertisements along the track and other ‘tourists’ doing the same thing. Id like to see the track remain as it is.

  29. Jo Hardy says:

    Dear Charlie
    The sacredness of Kokoda could only be matched in the deeply rooted emotions that are stirred when this place is desecrated in some way…shame that perhaps well intentioned, is so very misinformed. The generous and loving people that populate the way along the Trek would easily have given permission for these arches, or any monument I would think, to be erected. The Australian and Papua peoples should be able to work together for the greater benefit of remembering both the Australian and Papuan blood that lines the trail in a respectful manner. Tis a complicated web of politics and bureaucracy interlaced with culture and tradition. You are a brave man Charlie, but just the one for the job!

  30. Ron West says:

    Oh Charlie,
    Without the control of structures or statements the Kokoda Trail/Track will be polluted with all forms of inaccurate statements and monuments. This control should come from The Kokoda Trail/Track Authority, or the future administering authority set up to stop well meaning individuals placing inappropriate structures or statements at the start/finish and along the Trail.
    Ill informed people may use the word “retreat” when the correct military tactical description is “Withdrawal”.
    Eric Winn if you are going to represent the thoughts and feelings of past Defence Force Personnel, dont be politically correct, and get it right, or they will come out in a hostile manner.
    Ron West Lt Col (Rtd)
    X- Snr Tactics Instructor, Military Operations.

  31. Geoff Long says:

    Anything like this that’s placed on or near the Kokoda Trail must be removed if it was erected without proper consultation with, and the agreement of all interested parties / bodies in Australia and PNG including the local people.

  32. After now becoming aware of the McArches Memorial and the completely insensitive and may I say-treacherous-act by Eric Winn, I would like to share my anger and disgust in I hope, a way that will bring about positive change to this present unpalatable situation.
    Just as our fathers, relatives and mates fought against the advance of the Japanese army towards Australia in 1942, we must now fight for our brave and sacrificing forebears. Out of respect and homage, it is imperative that we demand ‘the accurate Kokoda story.’ Our former enemy and now strong friend, Japan, a generous aid donor to struggling Asian countries, and a responsible political and economic international performer, takes an active role in regional diplomacy (eg painstaking dialogue with North Korea)and humanitarian relief operations. This is in contrast to its past WW2 action of invading Asian countries on the premise of a “Great East Asian Co-prosperity Scheme”, purportedly an act to free South East Asia from colonial exploitation and to enable prosperity to this region-but read invasion, death and terror to its inhabitants. A country that has suffered horribly both in its post-war state and now present. An official government stance of ‘cloaking’ its wartime acts of invasion,aggression and barbarity and misleading its own people has culminated in some Japanese refusing to believe wartime facts . Please don’t misinterpret my meaning as animosity and perpetuation of old bias and hurt. The seeking of historical truth, justice and acknowledgement of atrocities is vital in contrast to misrepresentation of facts and the avoidance of truth. It is precisely such a thing as the McArches “Memorial’ that is a contradiction and violation of this seeking. This isn’t meaningless banter, but it is only through the seeking of truth and learning and understanding the reasons that lead to war that future generations can avoid war. It is our obligation to teach of the vileness of war in order to prevent it.
    I believe we all, in our own small way, can and need to pay homage and respect to the brave, tenacious Australian soldiers, some undertaking incredible acts of valour and equally the outstanding and magnificent Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, without whose support would have sytmied the progress made by Australian diggers and contributed to much more misery and hardship, through some type of dedication to their honour. Liasing with the respective PNG authorities to erect a truthful but sensitive memorial is imperative and I ask Australian and PNG authorities to protest against this present unacceptable situation.
    This perpetration of military falsehood, disrepect to the Australian soldiers of Kokoda and the Papuan New Guinea people, by ignoring their role in halting the advance of the Japanese and disrepect to PNG and Australian authorities is unacceptable. I have to question the motives of Eric Winn and potential benefactors of the “McArches” memorial. I think it important that we have an explanation from Eric as to the reason why he went about this apparent memorial in the way he did.

  33. Hugh Nalder says:

    Charlie

    Having read your summary and also having the benefit of a direct briefing from my brother John upon his recent return, I can only totally support your sentiments. Not sure now what in fact can be done about it, even though there is no doubt in my my memorials should be sanctioned by the proper bodies as you have outlined – otherwise we will always get results that are not well thought out, and will be either offensive or inappropriate. There is always of course the potential for our friends in PNG to “fix” the situation if they were of a supportive and like mind!!

  34. mike doyle says:

    how can someone do this without proper authority? perhaps Charlie you can arrange to have them pulled down without any authority – what could anyone do to you and your respected group? Arrange a trip so we can all bring our shovels…..

  35. Aaron Kent says:

    When you compare the quality of these disgraceful arches at either end of the trail to that of the awe inspiring monument at Isurava it really highlights how disrespectful this clown is, how he could have ever thought that what he was doing was going to be well received?. It just shows how naive his views of what our Diggers actually went through really are. You will have my full support Charlie in any efforts to have these arches torn down and a suitable memorial erected.

    I just hope to someday cross paths with Eric so I can let him know what I think of his ‘monument to ignorance’.

  36. Concerned Citizen says:

    Get your facts right, all of you. Law suit in the waiting with slanderous and defiling comments such as the above. Hope you can put your money where your mouths are….

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