Kokoda Trail: Who owns the naming rights?

The Kokoda Trail Book CoverDuring the 50th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign, Prime Minister Paul Keating, kissed the ground at Kokoda and awakened Australians to the significance of the Kokoda campaign.  His action generated much talkback noise about whether it was a trail or a track.  The noise increased in as anti-American sentiment grew after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  The voices eventually prevailed and on the 60th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign Prime Ministers’ John Howard and Sir Michael Somare opened the Isurava Memorial which had the word ‘Kokoda Track’ embedded into it. All signage between McDonald’s Corner and Kokoda referred to the ‘Kokoda Trail’ prior to this.

The 70th anniversary period offers an opportunity for a sober review of the debate.

The origin of the official name, ‘Kokoda Trail’, dates back to 1947 when an Australian Battles Nomenclature Committee was established to define the battles in the Pacific. Their final report in 1958 adopted ‘Kokoda Trail’ as the official Commonwealth battle honour which was awarded to 10 infantry battalions and the Papuan Infantry Regiment. [Read more…]

Battle Honour: ‘Kokoda Trail’

The Battle Honour ‘ Kokoda Trail’ was awarded for participation in operations in Papua along the path that ran between Ower’s Corner, outside of Port Moresby, and the village of Wairopi, on the west bank of the Kumusi River during the period 22 July 1942 – 13 November 1942. This path was known as both the Kokoda Trail and the Kokoda Track and the former was adopted by the Battles Nomenclature Committee as the official British Commonwealth battle honour in October 1957. The honour encompasses both the retreat from the north coast of Papua to Imita Ridge (July-September), and the advance from Imitia Ridge back to Wairopi (September-November). Subsidiary honours were awarded for seven separate engagements.

Reference: Australian War Memorial http://www.awm.gov.au/units/event_247.asp

‘The Kokoda Trail’ – it’s about respect for Papua New Guinea and the men who fought across it!

 ‘The acceptance of the official name of the Kokoda Trail is a keenly contested point of debate in Australia.  Does it belong to the nation which retains sovereign ownership of the land between McDonald’s Corner and Kokoda i.e. Papua New Guinea?  Or to the 10 Australian Battalions and the Papuan Infantry Battalion whose battle honours are emblazoned with the name ‘Kokoda Trail’?  Or to modern day commentators who dislike the name ‘trail’ because of its American connotation?’

During the 50th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign, Prime Minister Paul Keating, kissed the ground at Kokoda and awakened Australians to the significance of the Kokoda campaign.  His action generated much talkback noise about whether it was a ‘trail’ or a ‘track’.  The noise increased as anti-American sentiment grew amongst the commentariat after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  The voices eventually prevailed and, on the 60th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign, Prime Ministers’ John Howard and Sir Michael Somare opened the Isurava Memorial which had the word ‘Kokoda Track’ embedded into it.

This was in spite of the fact that all signage between McDonald’s Corner and Kokoda since the end of the war has referred to the ‘Kokoda Trail’.

The 70th anniversary offers an opportunity for a sober review of the debate. [Read more…]