Kokoda commemoration pays tribute to 39th battalion

Belgrave South Primary School paid tribute to the 39th Battalion.

At 98-years-old Alan “kanga” Moore is one of just a handful of surviving members of his battalion, the 39th, which was first to engage the Japanese at Kokoda.

Being a Kokoda veteran is a role he takes very seriously, so much so that despite the windy and cold conditions on August 8, he along with Belgrave South Primary School Students and residents of the Dandenongs came together at One Tree Hill Picnic Ground to remember and commemorate those soldiers, his friends, who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“77 years ago today the Japanese were pushed out of Kokoda for the first time by our A company and we did lose a few on that day, so it is a day of remembrance,” Mr Moore said

“Of all of us that were there at Kokoda in the 39th battalion, there are now only 12 of us alive, which can be expected as we’re all over 90.”

In January 1942, the 39th battalion was used to defend an airfield, but by June as the military situation worsened, the battalion received orders to move up the Kokoda Track to act as a blocking force against Japanese troops.

A month later and approximately 80 soldiers of the 39th battalion and five members of the Papuan Infantry Battalion engaged the Japanese, north of Kokoda. Ill-equipped and under-resourced against the experienced and better-prepared Japanese forces, the 39th battalion Australian soldiers bravely fought to hold the enemy at bay but were forced to withdraw.

On the morning of 8 August, the 39th battalion counter attacked and successfully retook the high village of Kokoda where it was held until 10 August.

During the service 39th Australian Infantry Battalion Association member, Alfred Mallia and President of the 39th Battalion Association, Merren Stockdale reminded those who gathered at the memorial about the importance of the battle that took place on 8 August 1942.

Minister for Veterans Robin Scott explained that although the battle did not win the war, it did delay the Japanese long enough for reinforcements to arrive, and paid tribute to the 39th battalion.

“The Japanese had been undefeated in an overwhelming series of campaigns, pushing into Indochina.”

“And, young Australians from the 39th who’d served in the citizen militia came forward to defend Australia in the New Guinea campaign and with bravery, determination and sacrifice, in the best traditions of the Australian military forces, the Japanese were held off, and the 39th battalion played a critical role in that struggle.”