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Kokoda (ATOM Study Guide)

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SKU: SG717
Year Levels: 7-12
Streaming Content: Kokoda

From the corridors of power to the blood-stained battlefields of the Papua New Guinea highlands, Kokoda (Don Featherstone, 2009), tells the story of the brutal World War Two military campaign between Australia and Japan that changed the course of Australian history.

WHILE most Australians have heard of the Kokoda Track – the scene of an eight-month campaign that led to the defeat of the advancing Imperial Japanese Army and proved a turning point for the Allies in World War Two – few know much about the struggle that forged its treacherous reputation. No army had fought in such terrible conditions; no General believed it possible.

Fought without mercy by foes with everything to lose, the ferocious battle for the Kokoda Track saw bravery and atrocity, and noble and malicious intent on both sides.

From day one of the Kokoda campaign, the fighting was politicised, mismanaged and mythologised.

Kokoda delves behind the myths of war to tell the story from both sides of the conflict, giving an authentic and comprehensive account of the desperate confusion of war, the intricate connections between the frontline soldiers and military high command, and the political agendas that influenced the campaign and continue to percolate through contemporary Australian society.

The series follows in the footsteps of Australia's ill-equipped and poorly trained conscripts, the 'chocolate soldiers', and the battle-hardened troops of the Australian Imperial Forces, walking the treacherous 98-kilometre jungle trail from Port Moresby to Kokoda, then on to the blood-stained battlegrounds of Gona, Buna and Sanananda.

The two-hour documentary series includes interviews with Australian and Japanese veterans and historians, previously unpublished documents and letters to loved ones, as well as archival footage, footage from the track and dramatisations filmed in Australia and Papua New Guinea. The diaries of embedded war correspondents Okada Seizo and Chester Wilmot paint an intimate picture of how soldiers on both sides felt during the battles.

The series introduces the key commanders, including controversial American General Douglas MacArthur, Australia's General Sir Thomas Blamey and Japanese Commander Tomitaro Horii, for whom defeat in a campaign that had cost thousands of Japanese lives was intolerable.

Kokoda examines the Australian public's response to military campaigns – both then and now – and the myths that they engender.

The two x 57-minute documentary series is based on the best-selling book, Kokoda, by Paul Ham (HarperCollins Australia, Sydney, 2004).

Curriculum Applicability

Kokoda is a suitable classroom resource for middle to upper secondary students in:

  • History
  • Society and Environment
  • Australian Studies
  • English
  • Media Studies

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