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Battles of Milne Bay and Kokoda and the Beachheads – Canberra

75th anniversaries of the Battle of Milne Bay and Kokoda and the Beachheads – Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Milne Bay
Service 75th anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay commemoration
Date 25 August 2017
Venue Australian War Memorial, Canberra
Attendance By invitation to eligible veteran nominations
Nominations Close on 16 June 2017


Reputed to be the first defeat of a Japanese amphibious landing in the Second World War, Milne Bay was one of the key actions of the Papuan campaign.  In August 1942 Japanese troops began landing on Milne Bay’s northern shore and advanced towards the Allied airfields that were their objective.  The Japanese sought to seize the area as a base from which to provide aerial and naval support to the troops advancing on Port Moresby across the Owen Stanely range and for attacks on northern Australia and Port Moresby.  After landing they had to march 11 kilometres to their first objective having also underestimated the number of Australian and United States troops in the area.  There was some heavy fighting, but the Japanese could not overcome the combination of infantry and airpower.  The survivors were evacuated by ship over several nights or tried to make their way overland to the base at Buna.  More than 370 Australians were killed or wounded while the Japanese suffered almost 1500 casualties.

Kokoda and the Beachheads
Service 75th anniversary of Kokoda and the Beachheads commemorations
Date 2 November 2017
Venue Australian War Memorial, Canberra
Attendance By invitation to eligible veteran nominations
Nominations Close on 11 August 2017


The Kokoda Track links Owers’ Corner, some 40 kilometres north-east of Port Moresby with the village of Wairopi on the northern edge of the Owen Stanley ranges.  From Wairopi the Track runs to Awala from where it becomes a network of paths passing through tropical lowlands to the coastal swamps and the settlements of Buna, Gona and Sanananda on Papua’s north coast.  The first encounter between Japanese and Australians took place on 23 July 1942 at Awala, from where began a fighting withdrawal that carried the Australians back to Imita Ridge – some 50 kilometres from Port Moresby – on 17 September 1942.  By 2 November 1942 the Australians had retaken Kokoda.  The last action fought along the Track took place between Oivi and Gorari and ended on 11 November 1942, after which the Australians reached Wairopi unopposed.  

The fight to drive the Japanese from their beachhead strongholds at Buna, Gona and Sanananda is known collectively as the beachhead battles.  Australian troops assaulted Gona in November 1942.  It took more than two weeks of fighting to destroy the Japanese garrison.  At Buna in December 1942 and January 1943 United States and Australian troops took two weeks to prevail over a strong network of defences.  The final beachhead battle was fought at Sanananda in January 1943.  Again United States and Australian troops faced a difficult task against a strongly held position, finally breaking Japanese resistance after ten days fighting.  More than 2800 Australians were killed, wounded or evacuated with illness during the beachhead battles.


A veteran nomination form (PDF 122 KB)  and veteran medical information form (PDF 165 KB) are required to be completed for the commemoration nomination process. Nominees will be required to undergo a medical assessment to confirm suitability for travel to Canberra. DVA will arrange for return travel and accommodation for veterans and an accompanying carer from the home location.

A letter to be provided to General Practitioners  is also available to assist with the medical clearance process.

Nominations should be emailed or posted to DVA to be received by the specified closing date.

Contact Information

Department Veterans’ Affairs
GPO Box 9998
Telephone: (02) 6289 6057

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