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Kokoda Battles Historical Poetry By Mike Mcarthur

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#46 mikmac1959


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Posted 27 July 2011 - 08:49 PM


In New Guinea on the Owen Stanley Mountain range,
Australia as a country came of age.
Her troops took on the might of the Japanese army,
As the invaders advanced toward Port Moresby.

Heavily outnumbered employed a fighting retreat,
Carefully selecting where the two armies would meet.
After about six weeks of bitter fighting,
The fresh 2/27th came forward and dug in.

At Mission Ridge took up positions astride the track,
A and B Company’s forward, C and D to the back.
The depleted 2/14th and 2/16th sister battalions,
Climbed Mission Ridge and fell back through them.

The 2/14th settled on the high ground to their rear,
And set up a linear defence position here.
The 2/16th took up positions back further still,
Higher up nearer the top of Brigade Hill.

Neither Battalion expecting to engage the enemy,
Prepared for when pressure became too heavy,
To allow the 2/27th to safely fall back,
With the knowledge the Australians controlled the track.

4.30am the 8th September in misty moon light,
The Japanese attacked with all of their might.
Intense fire to the front, repulsed by Brens, rifles and grenades,
As daylight broke the whole battalion copped the same.

At the same time in the distance they could hear,
The firing of weapons and mayhem to their rear.
In a clever manoeuvre the Japanese had out flanked them,
Isolating them, cutting them off from their sister battalions.

The battle raged on and by mid afternoon,
Ammunition was getting low to add to the gloom.
Now impossible to be resupplied by brigade,
Meant that it was critical another plan was made.

Attempts were made to break through the Japanese,
But they were unsuccessful taking heavy casualties.
The surrounded 2/27th were left only one option,
Had to go bush to escape annihilation.

Next morning Captain Charles Sims,
Took 74 of the fittest with him.
Forged ahead on an alternate track to see,
If Menari Village was in the hands of the enemy.

D and B Company’s carried out rearguard actions,
Prevented the enemy pursuing the rest of the Battalion.
B Company even carried out a short counter attack,
Making the enemy flee from this part of the track.

In the party now sixty natives and over 300 men,
With  fourteen stretcher cases amongst them.
When bad news came back that Menari ahead,
Was in enemy hands they made for Nauro instead.

Through virgin jungle they had to hack,
About one mile east and parallel to the main track.
Lieutenant Colonel Geoff Cooper led the battalion,
Going was arduous, each stretcher required eight men.

9pm that night they dossed down wet and miserable,
In the undergrowth near Menari on a steep hill.
September 10th they struggled on the same way,
Only managed to travel three kilometres all day.

Passed through a native garden, rations were low,
Couldn’t stop for the sugar cane or sweet potato.
Fearing the garden was under enemy observation,
The C.O. ordered his men to continue on.

At a snails pace they continued for days,
Some hit with dysentery, many in a bad way.
D company returned to the garden they’d walked through,
Desperate now must get food for this ravenous crew.

They were able to make a successful foray,
Portions of vegetables for each man that day.
Some of the native carriers began to desert,
Now the diggers carried their mates that were hurt.

Many of the wounded were in great pain,
In the wounds the “Doc” let the maggots remain.
Eating out the rotting flesh, keeping it clean,
In order to ward off the onset of gangrene.

By September 15th with Nauro not far away,
Absolutely exhausted, more crushing news that day.
The Japanese already occupied the village below,
The report caused extreme anguish and sorrow.

Nauro their great hope, had been on their minds,
Devastated now, have to lift one more time.
Thankfully at least a little good fortune,
Found Australian rations in the jungle near them.

Delivered to the village earlier in the campaign,
Dropped to the ground from low flying planes.
Some scattered wide and missed the mark,
So a handful of dried apricots for each before dark.

This helped raise morale, put them in good stead,
Every fibre of inner strength these men would need.
Still faced many gruelling days ahead of them,
These fatigued men of the 2/27th Battalion.

Carrying the stretchers became too hard to bare,
The C.O. decided to leave the injured there.
Corporal Johnny Burns stayed with the wounded men,
Left food and a small group, to help attend to them.

On the 17th Sergeant Raffety was sent with all haste,
With  a small party forged ahead to find the base.
Made good time and got there three days ahead,
Told of the circumstances and what was needed.

The search party sent, missed the lost battalion,
But located the wounded and retrieved them.
The 2/27th continued through the rough stuff,
Walking now unencumbered but still bloody tough.

September 22nd  started pretty much the same,
Headed off early to do it all again.
Hopes at their lowest as they struggled on,
Then at 1200pm a discovery to end their marathon.

There in the ground were two tracks met,
Was a stick with a piece of paper attached to it.
It read simply ’92 this way’ and every man new,
Somewhere ahead was Battalion HQ.

An hour later they got the thrill of their lives,
As a patrol of the 2/14th came into sight.
Every man now skinny and in a shocking state,
A gruelling fourteen days but now they were safe.

Amazingly the starving Lost Battalion,
Had bush bashed all the way to Itiki plantation.
Owers’ Corner only four kilometres slightly North East,
Almost unbelievable, a super human feat.

Off for a bath in a nearby stream,
The worst mob of wrecks ever seen.
For lunch four biscuits and jam to eat,
And a chocolate for a special treat.

It is hard to imagine their hopes and fears,
The disappointments, achievements and tears.
The sheer determination and will to survive,
Was it true Aussie spirit that kept them alive?

#47 mikmac1959


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Posted 04 January 2012 - 03:08 PM

Hi all,
seasons greetings for 2012.
Been a while since I posted one of my poems.
I see many people have read them but with no
feed back don't know if any one enjoys them or want
me to post more on a regular basis.
I am working on an E book that will cover the campaign
from the 1st encounter to the beach head battles

This one gives a different pospective , please let me know
if you enjoyed it. it's called

The Japanese Soldier.

Of the savage battles on Kokoda , many are aware,
Scores of heroic acts occurred in the jungle there.
Australian soldiers’ courage and sacrifice are legendary,
But what of their foes, certainly a fanatical enemy?

Numerous acts of brutality can not be denied,
And barbaric episodes certainly horrified.
What made them so ruthless will time let us see,
Why this army was as merciless, as any in history.

I don’t intend to place blame for that bloody mess,
And have no desire to recommend forgiveness.
I want to tell their story to help understand,
Why this ferocious army invaded foreign lands.

To get some perspective we’ll wind back the clock,
With its expanding population Japan took stock.
Despite rapid growth it lacked iron ore, and oil.
Resources were needed or progress would be spoiled.

Much tension as the moderate’s wanted simple trade,
The military leaders sought to use force and invade.
Eventually in July 1940 the military took over,  
The Emperor still ruled, but they answered to no other.

Back in 1920 under the flag of the rising sun,
This quest for supremacy had already begun.
At school military training for Japanese boys,
Marching, firing rifles, real weapons not toys.

Lessons in Hand to hand combat every day,
These bouts were serious not just for play.
Daily they were told, they must understand,
That it was their calling to fight for Japan.

They were constantly reminded of Japans destiny,
A leading military force this country will be.
At 20 all men were conscripted into the Army,
Be worthy to serve, for the glory of your country.

Now the army approach was quite distinct,
Recruit each battalion, from the same district.
The theory was, each others family was known,
So disgrace for loved ones, if cowardice was shown.

In the city of Kochi grew a rare breed of men,
Descendents of the warriors who deposed the Shogun.
The might of the Kochi warriors in the previous century,
Put the Emperor back in power defeating his enemy.

The Samaria warrior had a proud history,
Of honour, but soon, these descendents would see,
The training received wasn’t honourable in any way,
It was brutal, they were beaten by officers most days.

Efforts to use initiative were frowned upon,
Learn to comply, orders would never be wrong.
Just obey them with honour, don’t hesitate,
Fight and die for the emperor, heroism their fate.

Best weapon they possessed as a body of men,
Is that death hold no fear, for any of them.
Taught this lesson from a young age, now beaten in,
Death on the battlefield was a beginning, not an end.

The Kochi men formed part of the 144th Regiment,
A powerful force of the South Seas detachment.
Sent to create the envisaged Greater East Asian order,
Any one who resisted would have to be slaughtered.

Now their leaders had devised a grand plan,
That included the capture of the great southern land.
All resistance to date had been easily repressed,
Take New Guinea now, Australia is next.

They landed at Buna, on 20th July 42.
Given twenty days rations, orders were few,
Follow the track to the capital, take control,
To attack Australia, Port Moresby, will play a leading role.

With camouflaged uniforms they were well prepared,
Battle hardened, confidence something they shared.
Helmets disguised with foliage, trained to live off the land,
Or the spoils of victory, what ever came to hand.

Their leader Major General Horii’s strategy was clear,
It had worked elsewhere, so it should work here.
Once forward scouts engaged the enemy on the track,
Pin them down with mortar shelling and frontal attacks.

Meanwhile others, would probe for the flanks out wide,
Then in a pincer movement, cut them of from each side.
Harass the positions with relentless fighting,
Exhaust them, then an offensive thrust to win.

But the troops weren’t warned of the terrible terrain,
The oppressive humidity and the driving rain.
Their exact location, they never knew,
Nor the names of the villages they walked through.

They new nothing at all of the Australian Army,
Their firepower, strength, the numbers there’d be.
Not enemy troop locations or what was in store,
Let alone the type of guns or artillery they bore.

Few meetings with superiors, to talk battle tactics,
Little reconnaissance, to determine potential threats.
What waited for them, they did not know,    
Taken to a location, lined up and ordered to go.

These charges became known as Banzai attacks,
Just following orders or actions of obsessive maniacs?
They only ever new the Australians were nearby,
When the grenades and bullets started to fly.

Our boys in contrast were well informed,
Of the enemy’s superior strength, they were for-warned.
The Aussies soon worked out how Horii’s plan went,
Placed sentries each side, stop the flanking movement.

Although highly out numbered, they avoided defeat,
Hold as long as they could, then a fighting retreat.
The Japanese met resistance, they didn’t expect,
Warriors from Australia, gained their respect.

For months the battles raged along the Kokoda track,
The outnumbered diggers, holding the invaders back.
Major battles at Isurava, Mission Ridge and Brigade Hill.
Slowed the advance, with many on both sides killed.

At 4pm 16th September Ioribaiwa Ridge fell.
A bloody four day battle, artillery caused hell,
This meant the Japanese, were 90% of the way,
If unimpeded, they could walk, to Moresby in a day.

From high on the summit, looking off to the south,
The shimmering sea of Port Moresby, no doubt.
Now they could see the object of the invasion,
For nearly two months now, close to an obsession.

Amazingly, as the soldiers, almost smelt victory,
Major General Horii, could clearly see.
His ambitious timetable, had been derailed,
Staunch resistance meant, this invasion had failed.

The advance had stalled, with each fighting retreat,
Supply lines over extended, now little left to eat.
Simply no possibility, to keep pushing on,
Fresh allied troops and artillery, victory had gone.          

Many factors had brought, his army to its knees,
The Diggers tactics, the jungle, hunger and disease.
Starting out with over ten thousand, fit fighting men,
The campaign so far, had claimed nearly half of them.

Most of those left, were in a deplorable state,
With malaria causing sweats, and uncontrollable shakes.
Racked with Dengue Fever, Jungle Rot and Dysentery,
And the dreaded Scrub Typhus would kill so many.

No word existed, in the Japanese lexicon for retreat,
Never before, had a Japanese officer, admitted defeat.
To keep marching forward, had been the only way,
But Imperial Army history, was to change on that day.

And though Moresby was insight, they’d got so near,
The order came, “change direction, advance to the rear”.
The command came to most, as a crushing blow,
Caused feelings of failure, anger, and great sorrow.

It went against everything, they’d ever been taught,
And shattered the purpose, for which they had fought.
What now for these warriors, programmed since birth,
Turned back now, still determined to prove their worth.

Against all their teachings, to be defeated and survive,
A dishonour to all, to return home alive.
So as these proud warriors, were forced into retreat,
They still showed Bishido spirit, never accepting defeat

This fight to the death attitude, right to the end,
Surrender unthinkable, remember the samurai legend.
Not surprising numerous, suicide acts occurred,
Instead of surrender, death in battle preferred.

Over the next four months, many more soldiers died,
Bitter battles inflicting, heavy casualties on both sides.
When on 22nd January 43 fighting ended,
The invaders almost obliterated, few surrendered.

The diggers raised their flag, to claim victory,
They had fought with honour, for their country.
This bloody campaign, had come at much cost,
3 ˝ thousand wounded, over 2 thousand lives lost.

But the invaders, had suffered the largest loses,
Safety of the troops, not a concern of their officers.
For their entire lives, it was made crystal clear,
It was the calling of all, to fight and die here.

The 144th battalion sailed from Japan in 41,
Three thousand five hundred troops, all fit and young.
At wars end, only two hundred and thirty six made it back,
The rest killed in action, many on the Kokoda track.

Of the over seven thousand crack combat infantry,
Who six months previous, landed in New Guinea.
Just under 2 thousand managed to survive,
In battle or from disease, the rest of them died.

Even today Japanese records are sketchy,
Not interested to record a defeat, you see.
Estimates are of the 20,000 who landed,
13,000 were killed, most of the rest wounded.

And what of the proud young Koshi men
The conflicts had annihilated, so many of them,
Four thousand, eight hundred and ninety four,
Young men, their family would see no more.

Bomana War Cemetery, it is an awesome sight,
Lines and lines of headstones, all in stark white,
The final resting place, for many brave allies,
Here nearly four thousand, true heroes lie.

Of the Japanese war dead, there is nothing to see,
Just a small rock monument, at the village of Efogi.
Built by a Japanese veteran, who had later returned,
To honour fallen comrades, surely credit they’d earned.

I can’t determine if, what I feel is sympathy,
I understand why, they are hated by so many.
The numerous reports, of horrendous war crimes,
Cannibalism, massacres, the worst of all time?

But there is a part of me still, wants to ask why?
So many young Japanese men, had to die.
In their bloodline to be warriors,so it seems,
Or brainwashed to pursue, someone else’s dreams.

by M.G.McArthur

#48 mikmac1959


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Posted 02 October 2013 - 11:30 AM

Hi all I have almost  finished my E-book  of Kokoda Historical poems ( hopefully in the next month or so )
this is one I have just completed/ altered would like to share with you. Interested in your thoughts and comments it is called
My Kokoda Walk by M.G.McArthur
I went and walked,
the Kokoda Track.
Flew into Kokoda,
and then hiked back.
Only a 25 min
breathtaking flight.
Then a 9 day trek,
that altered my life.

Trained as much,
as life would allow,
but in that plane,
sweat covered my brow.
Pensively I peered,
at the scene below,
fear engulfed,
diluted all bravado.

I knew here,
I could not hide.
Fears and doubts,
My dickie knee,
ankle and backaches,
have I the fortitude,
that it takes.

Took a deep breath,
and started out,
smiling confidently,
concealing all doubts.
Soon discovered,
I wasn’t alone,
most trekkers had fears,
of their own.

Physically I adjusted,
to the landscape,
but was engulfed by an aura,
I couldn’t escape.
Each step the track,
inspired me,
Taught it’s not just,
the physicality.

Many places,
on the track,
grab your emotions
and hurl you back.
To battles where,
enemy progress was denied,
And sadly so many
courageous men died.

Often alone,
I’d shed a tear,
For heroic men,
who’d fought here.
I bowed my head,
because I knew,
I’ll always be indebted,
to those few.

At tracks end,
I knew I’d changed.
Consciousness forever,
flooded my very core,
for the brave men,
who’d won that brawl.

By a swirl of emotions,
I was king hit.
Relief for completing,
the arduous trip.
Overwhelmed with regret,
more wasn’t known,
of the vital struggle,
And bravery shown.

An empty feeling,
of dismay,
Aware so many,
still ignorant today.
Emotions felt,
Telltale signs of the Track.
Someone starts the trek,
a better person comes back.

I know all my life,
I will never forget,
my Kokoda experience,
the hardships I met.
Maybe I suffered,
on that “Bloody Track”,
but nothing compared,
to those 60 years back.

Highly outnumbered,
and under strength,
our brave diggers fought,
each inch of its length.
Against all odds,
They stood firm,
true Anzac spirit,
we’d do well to learn.

Now modern Aussies,
show their respect,
thousands each year,
do the Kokoda Trek.
In both directions,
the Owen Stanley’s are trodden,
so these heroics,
won’t ever be forgotten.

#49 johnnycash



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Posted 10 October 2013 - 12:55 PM

Awesome stuff Mike. Your last one sums up my trek perfectly. I haven't had time to read them all but your e-book would be a great idea.


The man in black.

#50 mikmac1959


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Posted 18 October 2013 - 03:10 PM

G'day read an interesting story the other day that showed the reflections of a kokoda veteran, thought I would turn some of it into a poem. I called it
A Kokoda Digger's Suffering by M.G.McArthur
What was it like,
on the Kokoda track,
as the diggers faced
the Japanese attack.
six to one,
faced the murderous,
mountain guns.

Deafening booms,
one after the other
Wait for the ground,
To shake and shudder.
and the flamin’ weather,
heavy rain each day.
Downpours threatened,
to wash all away.

Slippery, slimy, mud,
that never dried.
Sucked boots, wrenched feet,  
with every stride.
Lived, slept and fought
in that stinking muck,
Caused festering ulcers
From the smallest cut.

Fungal infections,
that ate flesh away,
Sickening sights,
haunt till dyeing day.
Then mid-morning
not to be outdone,
Clouds vanished, burned,
by the merciless sun.

Beat down on fatigued,
starving men,
Baked them all,
and weakened them.
Lying in ambush,
ready for battle,
Not a drop left in,
the water bottle.

So bloody hot,
wanted to scream
now too far distant,
the nearest stream.
Silently in wait,
trigger finger shaking,
Listen hard,
detect boots scraping.

Low as a snake,
In tall kunai grass,
that scratched and prickled
And cut like glass.
Eyes strain,
chest heaving,
they’ve crept so close,
hear laboured breathing.

Then cracking sounds,
as the enemy,
fired their weapons
through the trees.
Followed by,
a frenzied attack.
Fight like hell,
to beat them back.

Dodge bullets,
Drag out wounded mates.
If abandoned,
Death their certain fate.
No quarter given,
By either side,
capture meant simply,
You would die.

Fight tooth and nail,
In every brawl
Then a prearranged,
fighting withdrawal.
And it wasn’t just
the Japanese,
natural predators,
bought disease.

Attacks every day
At dusk and dawn,
malaria injections
By mosquito swarms.
Caused many to,
shiver and shake.

such misery,
pneumonia, diarrhoea
And dysentery
And that bloody track,
didn’t care,
mercy was shown,
To no one there.

When finally,
safely back at home
had nothing to say
wanted to be left alone.
Each Anzac day,
mates would march
But none keen to talk,
about the past.

Every year,
it was the same,
Subconscious monsters,
were unchained.
Stomach heaved,
and churned
Deep dark demons,
were returned.

Unleashing sinister,
Reek havoc on,
Ones sanity.
Until at last,
They came to find,
The key to relock,
Their troubled minds.

It was a rule,
not written down,
don’t discuss the horrors,
and most found,
it much better,
to speak of the larrikins
and the lighter side,
of that place they’d been.

A joke, a beer,  
feel safer then,
Hiding behind laughter
with the other men.
It took years before,
they’d ever tell.
Challenges faced,
In that living hell.

For so long
They’d refrained.
The horror endured
impossible to explain.
Had to be there,
couldn’t understand,
misery that attacks,
the essence of a man.

Thankfully now,
We’ve all been told.
Of the courage displayed
by our Kokoda heroes.
Not only suffering
On that bloody track,
But dealing with demons
When they came back.

hope you liked it, hope you let me know here if you did.

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