In 1942, in the midst of World War II, the allied forces in the Pacific fought a series of naval battles. In one, known as the battle of the Coral Sea, the allied fleet was, for the first time, victorious against the Japanese fleet. This battle thwarted any attempt by the Japanese to invade New Guinea via sea at Port Moresby. This resulted in the Japanese forces, making an overland assault across the Owen Stanley Ranges and along the Kokoda Track. It was this overland assault for the capture of Port Moresby, which led to a fierce campaign on the Kokoda Trail. This battle signified an important event in Australia's history, because of the severe threat of invasion of Australia and the impact it had in shaping the Australian identity.
The physical threat of invasion by the Japanese Imperial army was very real. The Japanese army had not been defeated and the battle of the Coral Sea had only turned an invasion fleet away and the Japanese navy remained very powerful. For the first and only time since European settlement Australia faced the prospect of a foreign invasion. According to the allied commander, General MacArthur believed, essentially, if the Japanese army gained control of Port Moresby, the result would have been disastrous (Horner, 2002). The base of Port Moresby, was in such a position that its loss would leave northern Australia entirely open to attack. The battle of Kokoda in many ways was similar to the landing at Gallipoli in terms of heroism and identity. However, Australia was not directly threatened by the events at Gallipoli as it was by those of Kokoda. David Horner, one of Australia's leading historians, viewed the importance of Kokoda by stating "In relation to the direct security of the nation, no Australians have fought more important battles than those who struggled through the Papua's Owen Stanley Range during and August and September 1942" (Edgar, 1999).
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