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22 March 2017


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Thanks for these comments John. I was totally unaware of your work when I wrote my comments, so its pleasing to see that the work I was thinking about has already been done.

Your conclusions seem entirely sensible to me. Even when I was the ADO at Kokoda (1973/74), the villages along the track were small, so they had to be much smaller in the early 1940s.

Beating a retreat to bush or garden houses was a perfectly sensible response to the arrival of two armies bent upon mutual destruction.

While both sides tried to outflank each other by bush bashing, most of the manoeuvres took place on the existing tracks. This would have contained the combat zones and left people in the more remote bush unmolested unless they were found by accident.

I know that Captain Herbert Kienzle MBE, who recruited and managed the "Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels", insisted that they had access to the same medical services, rations and so forth as the troops. His pragmatic reasoning was that no carrier could be expected to work if their health and nutrition needs were ignored.

Nevertheless, as your research has confirmed, it is inevitable that some would have died due to wounds and disease, because that it was happened to the troops too.

Even after so much time has elapsed, it is a comforting thought to know that women and children almost certainly avoided being caught up in what was undeniably an extremely vicious and cruel battle.

Congratulations on your research work. It still is an arduous business to slog up the track and I doubt that you found any 5 star accommodation awaiting you.

I spent some five weeks in track villages 2010-14 and asking the questions you have raised was part of what I and my colleagues were doing.

The whole Kokoda Campaign may have lasted for 6 months but it was not as if the various battles amounted to a conflation over the whole area for 6 months. Fighting between Brigade Hill and Ioribaiwa in September 1943, for example, lasted for one month.

Another factor is that the villages were a lot smaller than one sees today when walking the track. We do have historic census books and they show that few villages had more than 60 people in them. Many were much smaller - perhaps on 25 people all up.

This puts a new light on what villagers needed to do to get out of the way. Villagers on the Central Province side of the mountains had plenty of warning and removed themselves to bush camps.

As we were doing family trees, I specifically asked who died during the Kokoda Campaign. The answer was that no deaths were attributable to explosions, bombs, spent rifle rounds at the eight or so villages where I asked this - in other words, there were no collateral casualties.

This does not mean to say that the dislocation and pollution of streams by thousands of soldiers from both sides trampling all over the place may not have had indirect effects, for example in raising infant mortality or causing outbreaks of malaria.

It would have placed a burden on women if their husbands left to become war carriers, but it was not like the impact of men leaving their villages for 3 years as indentured labourers (unless of course some of the men had already signed as labourers in Port Moresby before the war came to their area).

With such a small population it was also the case that few of the 'Fuzzy Fuzzy Angels' were recruited from the Kokoda Track area - it was 5 men here, 8 men at the next village, and so on. If there were 80 people in a big village, that is 40 males and of them half would have been children.

So a village of this size, even if 'all the men' went to work for ANGAU, could probably only supply a maximum 8 men fit enough to go. The thousands recruited to be carriers were made up of men from all over Papua. (Which means that the 'last Fuzzy Wuzzy' could actually be living in Daru or Misima.)

I came across several bad outcomes. At Kagi 'all the men' went to be carriers. All came back alive. One died shortly afterwards and this could have been war-related.

At Milei, 6 men went and none returned. They all died of dysentery at an aid station as what villagers called 'stebilada' which we know as the Golden Stairs on Imita Ridge. I think this might be one of the places where the Salvos had a rest station. Their fate is quite plausible.

I have to say I get cranky that we did all this work already and Charlie Lynn in particular disrespects anybody who does not think exactly like Charlie Lynn. We did the work but every couple of years a 'new' project is announced as if the old projects had never existed.

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