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Australian specialist rediscovers lost Kokoda battlefield

06-08-2010 08:52 BJT

CANBERRA, June 7 (Xinhua) -- A significant Australian battlefield from the Kokoda campaign has been rediscovered, complete with the remains of Japanese soldiers, weapons and military equipment left over from savage fighting in 1942, experts said on Monday.

The site of the battle of Eora Creek was discovered until Australian Kokoda track specialist Brian Freeman was guided by local villagers to the site in April.

Freeman said the plateau, which includes the battlefield, was a hunting ground for Alola village people but the battle site, covering some 600 square meters, had been avoided because of a belief that spirits of the dead were still present.

That means the site has apparently remained untouched since 1942.

"On our inaugural trek, we were hoping to find the remnants of a make-shift Japanese hospital and, potentially, relics of guns and ammunition. I never anticipated that we would find war dead," Freeman said in a statement.

"As soon as we realized that Japanese and, potentially, Australian soldiers were buried at the site, we discussed with the villagers the need for those men to be identified and returned home."

The battle of Eora Creek was the single most costly clash of the Kokoda campaign, although different sources cite different casualty figures.

Freeman's Lost Battlefield group said 79 Australians died with 145 wounded, while the Australian War Memorial website said 99 were killed and 192 wounded.

This occurred as Japanese forces withdrew along the trail, establishing strong rearguard positions on a ridge overlooking the Eora Creek crossing.

This was described by official historian Dudley McCarthy as offering the Japanese most favorable conditions for defense.

Australian troops encountered strong Japanese positions on Oct. 22, 1942 with fighting continuing for six days.

Freeman said a preliminary survey of the site revealed fighting positions, Japanese and Australian weapons, ammunition, helmets and other equipment.

Medical equipment was found at one position which was apparently used as a Japanese field hospital.

Freeman said the remains of three Japanese soldiers were found.

He said the site should be retained in its current pristine condition.

"Our priority is to identify and repatriate the fallen soldiers and to honor their memory by ensuring all other elements remain intact and untouched," Freeman said.

The Kokoda Track campaign was part of the Pacific War of World War II. The campaign consisted of a series of battles fought from July to November 1942 between the Japanese and Australians in the territory of Papua.

Editor:Zheng Limin |Source: Xinhua

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