Isurava provided as good a delaying position as could be found amongst the terrain on the Kokoda track.
The combination of creeks with the ability to view and fire upon the natural obstacles, the dense belts of jungle vegetation and the steep terrain leading up to a relative flat topped knoll which the militia battalion occupied on 13 – 19 August 1942. Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Honner assumed command on 16 August of the 39th Battalion and was ordered to hold the enemy advance on the northern side of the Owen Stanley Range until relieved by the AIF.
The 39th Battalion were in a very poor shape due to strenuous fighting and were weak from lack of resupply, sleep and shelter. However arrival of the AIF made up of the 2/14th and 2/16th Battalions lifted the militia’s sprits just prior to the Japanese advance to contact. The Japanese commenced with two battalions to lead the assault while bring up a further four battalions and two engineer units as immediate support the battle was at full fury on 28 August. Repeated heavy attacks on all sections made it clear that time was running out for the defence position on 29 August, attacks and counter attacks resulted in actions like that of Private Bruce Kingsbury who was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross at the age of 24.
Did you know: In August 2002 a memorial was opened on the battle site by the prime ministers of Papua New Guinea (Michael Somare) and Australia (John Howard). The remaining veterans’ started a quest to find the site in 1997 which is now a place of pilgrimage for all who walk the track today. Seventy six Australians fell during the battle of Isurava and at the rest house area.
Source: Field Guide to the Kokoda Track, Bill James