Australasia 1942: Kokoda Trail
Unable to take Port Moresby by sea, the Japanese attempted to reach it by crossing New Guinea's Owen Stanley Range via the narrow and steep Kokoda Trail. There they were met by the Australians and for months the two sides fought back and forth over some of the most extreme terrain in the world, before American successes on Guadalcanal forced the Japanese to abandon their efforts.
31 May–8 Jun 1942 Attack on Sydney Harbour▲
On the night of 31 May—1 June 1942, three Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour in an attempt to sink Allied ships, but were detected. Two of the midget submarines were forced to scuttle while the third only managed to sink the converted ferry HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 sailors, before being wrecked off Sydney’s northern beaches. The five fleet submarines that had transported the midget submarines to Australia then proceeded to raid the coastal shipping routes, bombarding Sydney and Newcastle in the early morning of 8 June.
4–7 Jun 1942 Battle of Midway▲
In an attempt to lure the US Pacific Fleet’s few remaining aircraft carriers into a trap, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched an offensive against Midway Atoll. Warned of Japanese plans by its code-breakers, the US was prepared for the attack and successfully ambushed the Japanese force, sinking all four of its major aircraft carriers—Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu—and a heavy cruiser for the loss of just the carrier Yorktown and a destroyer.
9 Jul 1942 Henderson Field▲
Japanese engineers and construction teams—over 2,500 men in all—began work on an airfield at Lunga Point on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. The project was observed by Coastwatchers—British personnel and Solomon Islanders working behind enemy lines on the islands—and reported, prompting the United States to make plans to land on Guadalcanal and capture the airfield (which they would name ‘Henderson Field’).
21 Jul–16 Nov 1942 Kokoda Trail campaign▲
Japanese troops landed near Gona, on the north coast of the island of New Guinea and part of the Australian Territory of Papua, the starting point of their attempt to capture Port Moresby by advancing south over the Owen Stanley Range using the Kokoda Trail. On 23 July they were met by Australian forces at Awala, south of Kokoda, with whom they fought a series of battles before eventually being forced to withdraw. The Australians retook Kokoda on 2 November, reaching the north end of the track by 16 November.
7–8 Aug 1942 Guadalcanal Landings▲
At 09:10 on 7 August, 11,000 US Marines under the command of Major General Alexander Vandegrift came ashore on Guadalcanal, in the British Solomon Islands, between Koli and Lunga Points. They encountered little resistance, capturing their main objective—an airfield under construction by the Japanese—by 16:00 on 8 August. Meanwhile Japanese aircraft attacked the invasion fleet from Rabaul, damaging a transport and a destroyer.
18 Aug–10 Nov 1942 Japanese offensives in Guadalcanal▲
Japan landed forces on Guadalcanal, attacking the US position at Henderson Field on 21 August only to be repulsed. Additional attacks were made in September and October but also failed. On 1 November, US General Vandergrift began expanding the bridgehead on both sides of Henderson Field, defeating a Japanese force unloading at Tetere and dispersing the remaining Japanese into the jungle by 10 November.
24–25 Aug 1942 Battle of the Eastern Solomons▲
While moving to support a Japanese counteroffensive on Guadalcanal, Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo’s fleet—including two fleet carriers and one light carrier—clashed with Admiral Frank Fletcher’s two fleet carriers and their accompanying force to the east of Malaita, Solomon Islands. After Japan lost their light carrier and a destroyer while heavily damaging the US carrier Enterprise, both sides chose to withdraw from the area.