kokoda paul ham

Exploring the Kokoda Track Campaign through – Kokoda by Paul Ham


The Kokoda Track, a treacherous 90-mile trail through the hellish Papuan jungle, witnessed one of the most infamous campaigns of World War II—the Kokoda Campaign. In his book “Kokoda,” Paul Ham intimately recounts the stories of the brave souls on both sides of the conflict, shedding light on the Australian and Japanese perspectives. This unique and balanced portrayal explores the fight to the death in a bid to conquer and defend the homeland against an unyielding aggressor.

The Kokoda Campaign Unveiled

Ham’s Kokoda takes readers on a journey along the Kokoda Track, where thousands fought and died during World War II. The compelling narrative unfolds as Australian and Japanese troops engaged in a war without mercy, battling back and forth along the treacherous trail. The defeat was unthinkable, and the river crossings became pivotal points in this struggle for supremacy.

Ordinary Soldiers and Extraordinary Sacrifices

The heart of Ham’s Kokoda lies in its portrayal of ordinary soldiers fighting for their homeland. Through letters and diary entries, the author tells of the unqualified Australian troops thrust into battles with casualty rates that shook the Australian military history. The swampy terrain of the Kokoda Trail became the world’s worst killing field, where brave souls on both sides made sacrifices that must never be forgotten.

Commanders and Controversies

Ham’s extensive research in Australia and Japan allows him to examine the role of commanders in sending ill-equipped troops into battles that resulted in near annihilation. The book critically assesses the decisions made along the Kokoda Track and questions the rationale behind putting unqualified troops in harm’s way.

Stories from Both Perspectives

“Kokoda” is told from both Australian and Japanese points of view, offering a unique insight into the motivations, fears, and experiences of soldiers on both sides. Ham’s narrative sways beyond mere military history; it delves into the human aspect, capturing the essence of individuals caught in the maelstrom of war.

The Impact of Kokoda

The Kokoda Campaign has left an indelible mark on history, and Ham’s Kokoda is an excellent account that brings forth the true magnitude of the battles fought along the infamous trail. The author, Paul Ham, known for his work as Australia correspondent for The Sunday, holds a degree in economic history from the London School of Economics, lending credibility to his extensive research and detailed storytelling.

Lessons from Kokoda

The author addresses controversial aspects, including the ill-equipped Australian troops confronted with the horrors of war, covering the reaction to Australian troops seeing combat for the first time ever. Ham writes with a compelling narrative that includes insights into the reactions of Australian soldiers and explores the Australian point of view on the Kokoda Track battles.


“Kokoda” by Paul Ham is a compelling and well-researched account of the infamous Kokoda Track campaign. It is a unique and balanced portrayal that not only examines the military strategies and battles but also delves into the human stories that transpired along the 145 km trail. The author’s extensive research in Australia and Japan provides a comprehensive understanding of the events, and the book serves as a poignant reminder of the courage and sacrifices of those who fought and died during the Pacific War. Paul Ham’s “Kokoda” is a must-read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of this pivotal chapter in military history.


Q: What is the book “Kokoda” by Paul Ham about?

A: “Kokoda” by Paul Ham is an account of the Kokoda Track campaign during World War II. It intimately relates the stories of the Australian soldiers fighting for their homeland in the hellish Papuan jungle trail.

Q: Who is the author of the book?

A: The author of the book “Kokoda” is Paul Ham, who has written a compelling story of the infamous Kokoda Track campaign.

Q: What are some key themes in the book by Paul Ham?

A: The book touches on themes such as courage, sacrifice, and the harrowing experiences of soldiers from both sides of the campaign. It also explores the impact of war on the soldiers and the local inhabitants of Papua.

Q: How does Paul Ham’s account of the Kokoda campaign differ from other accounts?

A: Paul Ham’s account of the Kokoda campaign provides a well-rounded perspective, delving into the experiences of not only the Australian soldiers but also the Japanese soldiers. It offers a comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced by both sides in the conflict.

Q: What impact did the Kokoda campaign have on the war in the Pacific?

A: The Kokoda campaign played a significant role in halting the Japanese advance towards Port Moresby and ultimately contributed to the defence of Australia. It was a pivotal moment in the greater East Asia and Pacific theatres of war.

Q: How does the book by Paul Ham depict the terrain and conditions of the Kokoda Track?

A: The book vividly describes the relentless and gruelling nature of the Papuan jungle trail where thousands fought back and forth along 90 miles of rugged and challenging terrain, giving readers a comprehensive understanding of the conditions faced by the soldiers.

Q: What are some of the personal stories shared in the book by Paul Ham?

A: “Kokoda” intimately relates the stories of the brave souls involved in the campaign, shedding light on their courage, sacrifices, and the impact of the conflict on their lives.

Q: How does the book by Paul Ham shed light on the experiences of both Australian and Japanese soldiers?

A: The book provides insights into the perspectives of both the Australian and Japanese forces, offering a balanced portrayal of the challenges and experiences faced by soldiers on both sides of the campaign.

Q: What is the significance of the Kokoda campaign in Australian military history?

A: The Kokoda campaign holds immense significance in Australian military history, symbolizing the bravery and resilience of the Australian soldiers who fought against the Japanese forces in the rugged terrain of Papua.

Q: What inspired Paul Ham to write “Kokoda”?

A: Paul Ham was inspired to write “Kokoda” after conducting extensive research and interviews with veterans, aiming to present a comprehensive and detailed account of the Kokoda Track and battles, ensuring that the courage and sacrifices of those involved are never forgotten.

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