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To understand the significance of the Battle of Kokoda to Australia, it helps to familiarize oneself with the regional geography. On the southern coast of the extended peninsula that comprises eastern Papua New Guinea is Port Moresby, an important seaport the control of which was the object of considerable struggle between Imperial Japan and the British colony of Australia, and near which was the only airstrip capable of supporting the kind of aircraft -- mainly bombers -- that the Japanese desperately wanted for the purpose of attacking Australia proper. As much as Japan wanted control of Port Moresby and of that airstrip, Australia was equally determined to deny its adversary. The key battle over Papua New Guinea, then, occurred over these objectives. A road running through the dense jungle linking villages to the port, known as the Kokoda Track, became the scene of many battles, the most significant of which was the Battle of Kokoda, a village at the midway point between Port Moresby to the south and Gona to the north. During that battle, according to the Australian Government, more than 600 of its soldier were killed and almost 1,700 more wounded. While costly in terms of men lost, the battle was successful in preventing the Japanese invaders of Papua New Guinea from achieving their goal of capturing Port Moresby. For this reason, the Battle of Kokoda remains highly venerated among Australians.
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