Review Blog

Feb 07 2011

The heroes of the Kokoda Track by Nicolas Brasch

cover image

Black dog books, 2011. ISBN 978 1742031347.
Recommended. Non fiction. Middle primary. With the heightened interest in the Kokoda Track, this book is fortuitous in dealing succinctly with what has become an Australian icon. Brasch, a well known writer of non fiction books for the younger reader, has written a highly readable account of the battle for supremacy in Papua. In 1942, the Japanese advance through the Pacific was like a tsunami. Landing an army on the northern coast of Papua, it was obvious to all but the leader of the Pacific forces, General Douglas MacArthur, and his staff, that the Japanese had every intention of going over the Owen Stanley Ranges, an impenetrable central line of mountains in Papua, taking Port Moresby and so cut supply lines from Australia to the troops in the Pacific.
Brasch explains the plight of the Australian forces in Papua. The men of the 39th and 53rd battalions were untrained and ill equipped. Many had been told they would not leave Australian soil, some were shanghaied, and some even took their tennis racquets expecting a tropical paradise. They were known as the 'chocolate soldiers' by others, because it was feared they would melt when coming into battle. But this proved not to be the case. They held the Japanese forces back for 4 months, resulting in the Japanese Army withdrawing. During that time, the bravery of the Papuans in supporting the Australians, keeping up supply lines and caring for the sick and wounded, became legendary.
Telling statistics at the end, demonstrate the tenacity of the Australian soldiers, and a double page spread is devoted to the Japanese point of view. Each double page pursues a different theme, and each page has letters, quotations, photos, maps and information set out in small bites, allowing the younger (and older) reader to grasp concepts a little at a time. And the whole is rounded off with a glossary and index, with further references on the publication page.
A whole lot of valuable and fascinating information is packed into its 32 pages, and is another in the excellent, Our Stories series of books, published by black dog books.
Fran Knight

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