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    Isurava Oro Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)
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Phil Bradley 2003

Lat 9° 0' 0S Long 147° 43' 60E  Isurava is at an elevation of 4,324' / 1,318m located along the Kokoda Trail in the Owen Stanley Range in Oro Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG). From Isurava, it is roughly a half day walk northward to Kokoda and a half day walk southward to Alola (Alolo).

The prewar Isurava village was located along the Kokoda Trail. Another trail extends eastward to Asigari then onward to Kaile.

Wartime History
During June 1942, a New Guinea Force (NGF) reconnaissance report by Lt. W. A. Palmer and W. E. Young identified Isurava as a possible defensive position.

During August 13-19, the Australian Army 39th Battalion of militia assembled at Isurava to establish defensive positions to block an enemy advance over the trail. On August 16, 1942 39th Battalion commanding officer Lt. Col. Ralph Honner arrived at Isurava.

The Japanese patrols began to probe the area, indicating an impeding assault. By late August, the militia were exhausted by fighting, deprived of sleep, poor food and heavy rains.

Battle of Isurava
On August 26, the militia men were relieved by AIF infantry from the 21st Brigade under the command of Brigadier Arnold Potts including the 2/14th Battalion and 2/16th Battalion. Meanwhile, the Japanese advanced two battalions including four battalions and two engineer units. They began firing mountain guns, mortars and machine guns at the defenders.

On August 27, the Japanese had cut off an Australian patrol 500m north of the village and efforts by C Company, 2/14th Battalion failed to relieve them. At 4pm, the Japanese made a frontal attack up the Kokoda Trail encountering E Company defenses. Meanwhile a small Japanese force attempted to outflank the position.

During the night of August 27-28, heavy rains fell in the area and the Japanese attack resumed from dawn to 8am, while Japanese forces attempted to outflank the C Company positions and kept attacking all afternoon until the evening. In total approximately 350 Japanese casualties were inflicted.

At dawn on August 29, heavy Japanese attacks began and the Australian defenders managed to repelled two assaults before their line was broken and forced the Australians to commit their reserves. In an attempt to repel the enemy, Private Bruce Kingsbury rushed forward with a Bren gun and firing from his hip to clear a path through the enemy before being shot by a sniper from the forest and posthumously earned the Victoria Cross (VC). The location where he was killed became known as "Kingsbury Rock".

By the end of the day, the Japanese had suffered an estimated 500 casualties and the Australians 17 KIA and 48 wounded. In total, 75 Australians died during the Battle of Isurava and the Isurava Rest House. During the night, the Australians began withdrawing with their wounded under fire. On August 30, Brigadier Potts ordered the remaining Australians to withdraw southward to Alolo (Alola).

American missions against Isurava
September 3 - October 27, 1942

September 3, 1942
(5th AF) P-400s bomb and strafe the Isurava area.

September 5, 1942
(5th AF) P-400s strafe Isurava.

October 25, 1942
(5th AF) A-20s bomb and strafe the Isurava-Kokoda Trail.

October 27, 1942
(5th AF) A-20s hit trails around Isurava.

The present day Isurva village, built postwar is located further to the north at an elevation of 5,416' / 1,650m. Originally, a battlefield plaque was located at this new village before the original site was identified.

Isurava War Memorial
During 2000, the Battle of Isurava battlefield was rediscovered and the Isurava War Memorial was constructed at the defensive position of C Company, north of wartime Isurava village. The memorial consists of three black granite pillars were airlifted to Isurava to construct the memorial that overlooks the Kokoda Pass and valley below. Each of the four stones is inscribed with a single word: courage, endurance, mateship, sacrifice.

Dedicated in August 2002 by Australian Prime Minister, John Howard and PNG Prime Minister, Michael Somare. Ten veterans attended the dedication including RSL president Maj. Gen Peter Phillips (retired). This memorial was the first of three memorial upgrades, including Popondetta and Milne Bay memorial upgrades and re-dedications during 2002. There is an adjacent helicopter landing pad at the memorial, and a guest house in Isurava for visitors. Since then, the memorial has become a place of pilgrimage for Australian trekkers and for dawn services on ANZAC Day.

Kingsbury Rock
Large rock to the north of the Isurava War Memorial. The low side of the rock was the location where Private Bruce Kingsbury was killed by an enemy sniper after rushing forward with a Bren gun and firing from the hip, just forward of the C Company positions.

Kokoda Track - Station 14 Isurava
Field Guide to the Kokoda Track pages 312-313 (maps) 319-322, 327-357, 360-361, 362-363 (maps)

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Last Updated
September 9, 2018


Map Kokoda Trail


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