The Kokoda story is a quintessential Australian tale of the underdog beating the team expected to win. The Australian militia was a poorly trained and equipped group of soldiers who were sent in to Papua New Guinea (a tropical country north of Australia) during World War II to stop the Japanese from reaching Port Moresby, the capital. It was feared that if the Japanese invaded Port Moresby, they would then have easy access to Australia. The inexperienced militia, especially the 39th Battalion, was used as 'speed bumps', to stop the Japanese. They fought a 'fighting withdrawal' – in which they would fight the enemy, then retreat, then fight, then retreat – along the Kokoda Track.
In spite of the difficult conditions – fierce disease-carrying insects, mud, lack of food, supplies and communication, coping with the wounded and dead, orders that were at times inept – and negative propaganda by some officers (both Australian and American), politicians and the media – this was the 'first successful Allied offensive against Japan in the Pacific War in WWII' (p 3).
Peter Macinnis is a science writer who got his break by writing textbooks. He also wrote 'rude letters for a Minister of Education' – he says that this gave him the chance to be rude while somebody else took the blame.
He has been a teacher, a writer of science talks for radio and a writer of science for an online encyclopedia. He has also worked in museums.
Source: Black Dog Books (used with permission)