WELCOME TO SOC'S COMMENTARY PAGE ON ALL THINGS KOKODA.
THERE IS SO MUCH HAPPENING THESE DAYS AND SO MANY OPERATORS SEEM TO PUT THEIR BIB IN ABOUT EVENTS TO DO WITH KOKODA AND PAPUA NEW GUINEA IN GENERAL THAT I HAVE DECIDED I WILL JOIN THE QUEUE.
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AN UPDATE (posted 8th January 2012)
It is a while since I have written anything on this blog because my life has taken a few different turns of late and my priorities have changed although much of my time is still spent on all things Kokoda. 2010 was a challenge going through treatment for bowel cancer and celebrating getting through that successfully with a trip to Europe to catch up with our daughters plus a visit to Stuttgart where my father Capt Bert Kienzle spent some years in the 1920s. A interesting journey ,since which of course, my wife's biography of Dad has been published and hit the bestseller list in the lead up to Father's Day. I and the rest of my family are so happy and proud that at last it is 'out there' about what an amazing man Dad was and what a huge part he played in the Kokoda campaign, indeed the history of Kokoda and PNG for many years. ( read the testimonials for the book, called "The Architect of Kokoda"on our Newsletter page).
In March this year, we moved to Cairns having bought a business up here but despite being flat out learning the game, in May I took a group of trekkers, many of whom were descendants of diggers, for a 'definitive history tour' that started at the Beachheads and went to Ower's Corner with many stops along the way at places that most people don't visit. The "Lost Battlefield' which I visited many times in my youth had been made 'out of bounds' which was a bit frustratingn but we did visit the area where Captain Sam Templeton was last seen near Oivi Creek. Of course, there is no REAL evidence that he was buried there ( 'The Bone Man' who claims to have buried Sam was still in Rabaul when Sam disappeared). Unfortunately, while at the beachheads, forgetting that I was no longer a 80kg youth, but a 100kg 'old'man, I tore my Achilles while hopping on one leg across the sand. Thanks to chemotherapy, my nerves did not advise my brain how much damage I had done and I managed to walk the Trail with only 50% of the tendon functioning, but I am suffering now and as an operation would be fairly pointless, it may mean no more trips to Kokoda.
As a result of Robyn's book, we have had phone calls from all over Australia, from all sorts of people including many diggers who love the way the story was told. I always enjoy talking to these old blokes and learn something new every time. Other people from Bert's past have come out of the woodwork and of course, this has kept my interest alive and helped me decide that, heel permiiting, I might take groups of genuinely interested people, who want the truth ( no gym junkies" been there done that" types will be considered).
I will be at the Australian War Memorial with Rob when she gives a paper at the big Conference being held there in September for the 70 year anniversary of the Pacific campaign: hopefully also at The Shrine of Remembrance and a Book Club 'do' at Bowral. "The beat goes on"
I hope everyone who visits our wesbite has read or will read THE BOOK, as although Rob tried not to tread on TOO many toes, it does SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT on a lot of things.
KOKODA DISCOVERIES NOVEMBER 1942 - TEMPLETON ETC (Posted 7th Nov)
KOKODA DISCOVERIES NOVEMBER 2010 (Posted 6th November)
Rob and I have just returned from 4 days in PNG as the guests of the Kokoda Track Authority and the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority to attend the inaugural Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels Day at Kokoda on the 3rd November, 68 years after the retaking of Kokoda in 1942.
This was a great event and took a lot of organising. It all came together pretty well on the day and it was great to catch up with a lot of my old PNG mates, many of whom I have not seen for 27 years – they came from far and wide for this occasion. It was also satisfying to hear their pleasure when I gave most of my speech in Motu and talked about the great job their fathers and grandfathers had done during the war. I described to them what had happened at Kokoda 68 years ago and also explained the significance of the Memorial to the Fuzzy Wuzzies built by my father in 1959.
While on this trip back – my first this year – it was great to have Rob with me but it was a bit disappointing because of transport problems not be able to take her back to Mamba although as she said , it is often best not to ‘go back’ but to just remember things as they were. We did however get time to head down to Oivi and go with Terence from Eora Village along the track they took Mr Nishimura when he returned to try and identify where he supposedly came across Sam Templeton’s body in 1942.
It was a very difficult walk over some pretty rough terrain and I can’t imagine how hard it was for the boys to carry the old Japanese gentleman up and down the steep slippery slopes, along narrow cliffside ledges for a couple of hours. On the way we saw Australian foxholes which would have been dug during the second battle at Oivi in November 1942. This area was a field of blood during that time – more than 600 Japanese dead and 130 Australians – a definitive strategic victory planned by General Vasey in consultation with Dad who knew the area. We eventually reached the point where Nishimura claimed to have come across an Australian officer with a sword in his stomach lying dead by the side of the track. He claims other men told him that this was Sam Templeton who had been murdered by a Japanese officer, after his wounding, capture and interrogation some days earlier. The officer supposedly lost his cool and stabbed Sam when he derisively said that the Japanese had no hope of victory as 80,000 Australian soldiers awaited them in Moresby.
Terence pointed out where they had dug looking for remnants of Sam’s body but nothing was found. Despite this, Wayne Wetherall of Kokoda Spirit has erected a plaque near the site that says:
Captain Samuel Victor Templeton V50190
Commander B Company 39th Australian infantry Battalion
Executed near this spot at Oivi on 26.07.42
His Spirit Will Live Forever
LEST WE FORGET
Proudly donated & unveiled by Wayne Wetherall Kokoda Spirit 29.09.10
Actually the plaque is close to what is a magnificent waterfall – one of a few created by the Oivi creek as it cascades down the ridge. At the base of the approx 50 high fall is a great swimming hole. A beautiful place to bring tourists in the future?
The mystery of Sam Templeton has always been of interest to me and my family. Dad is responsible for immortalising Sam more than anyone else by the fact that he named Templeton’s Crossing after him. Would the search for Sam have been so intense if his name was not so well known? Or would he have been just another of the lost soldiers? Certainly he was the first Officer to die in the campaign and he heroically, some say recklessly insisted that he be the one, rather than one of his runners, to head back towards Kokoda to check if the enemy had surrounded their position, and get word to troops coming from Kokoda that the Japanese were about to breach the ridge. The men with him say that soon after he disappeared into the jungle, they heard several shots and when they never saw Sam again, figured he was the target of those shots. Most significantly, it warned them that the Japanese had indeed got around behind them and so it was that they laid low until dark and followed Sainopa to safety.
Logistically, the location of Sam’ s body as stated by Nishimura makes no sense to me at all. Oivi Village during the war was to the left i.e. north of the current road to Popondetta. Sam would have headed in the general direction back along the road from that old Oivi to Kokoda. The point where Wetherall has claimed he was executed is back down the bottom of the ridge along Oivi Creek, the one that Sainopa led the troops along. The evidence of fighting in this area is because as I have said, it was the site of the November battle.
How did Sam get there? If he was wounded & taken prisoner why would they take him in this south easterly direction when they were in fact advancing north west at the time??
Nishimura’s 2nd Btn of the 144th Regiment was still in Rabaul when Templeton disappeared. He arrived at Kokoda on the 4th August. Why was he in this position away from the main advancing line of troops?? How could he identify Sam? Why would an advancing Japanese officer leave his sword in the body of his victim? They valued their swords and always took them with them – especially as they were advancing not retreating.
THE TIME LINE:
21 July 1942: Japanese land 5th Sasebo Special Landing Party & Yokoyama Advance party at Buna/Gona
23 July 1942:First contact between Aus. and Jap. troops at Awala
24 July 1942: Aus. troops and PIB fall back to west side Kumusi River. Col Owen flys in to KKD
25 July 1942: 1st Aus. KIA at Gorari, Sydney Moffatt 39th BTN
26 July 1942: Aussies make a stand at Oivi, Japs. attack 3pm. Capt Sam Templeton goes missing when making his way back to Kokoda from Oivi to warn advancing troops of Jap. progress. Men at Oivi hear shots fired soon after Sam's departure. This warns them enemy has cut off their retreat to Kokoda. That night aroung 10.15pm Corporal Sainopa leads them to safety along Oivi Ck up to Deniki
27 July 1942: Owen and men fall baclk from Kokoda to Deniki
28 July 1942: Men from Oivi arrive Denki and advise Owen Kokoda not occupied. Minus the 5 men now MIA from Oivi action, he returns with BCoy and makes a stand at Kokoda
29th July 1942: Nishimura 2nd Btn 144th Regiment lands in Papua.
4th August 1942: Nishimura arrives at Kokoda. The battle at Oivi has been over and Sam has been missing for 8 days by now.
8th-10th August 1942: Second battle for Kokoda
I have mentioned in previous blogs about the letter from a Japanese surgeon to my father saying he met and treated Sam at Deniki – he was convinced that was the officer’s name but again, this story made little sense and was discarded as not possible as I believe so should Nishimura’s probably be.
On the way back from this investigatory trek of ours, we were taken into Eora village where they had a spread of fresh coconut juice, pineapple and pawpaw for us and Terence asked me to identify this gun they had found ‘in the bush’ – when and where not specified. Imagine my amazement to see, almost in working order, a Vicker’s Machine Gun standing out in the weather on a block of cement along with a couple of rusty Japanese Nambus(a light Machine Gun) and an Aussie 303 and an Aussie Bren Gun. There is no way this particular piece of armoury had been in the jungle for 68 years. Given a couple of hours I think I could have got it working. It brought to mind a Vickers Machine Gun that I believe the army donated to the Kokoda museum pre Independence that was confiscated when all possible arms were collected up as at the time there were fears the Papua Besena movement led by Josephine Abaijah might start an uprising. A bit of a mystery but I have put my good friend & military sleuth Gary Traynor of Kokoda Historical www.kokodahistorical.com.au and Medals Gone Missing www.medalsgonemissing.com.au onto it. Gary believes there was only one Vickers in the Kokoda area and it had a smooth water jacket - this one is ribbed.
Soc, David Jinga, Terence & villagers with Vickers.
Type of Japanese Gun found at Eora Village,Popondetta Rd
So, this site of Wayne’s plaque – donated and unveiled by himself – is certainly worth visiting for its beauty and its significance as a battle field in the November 1942 fighting at Oivi – but the site of Templeton’s Grave?? I doubt it – but would be happy to be PROVED wrong if only for the sake of his family. I somehow think we will never know the true story.
ARCHWAY FOR KOKODA ( Posted 7th November)
I am told that a generous Kokoda supporter Mr Eric Winn is planning to put in an Archway at the Kokoda end of the Trail similar to the one at Ower's Corner, so that trekkers have some point of completion when they walk the track from Ower's to Kokoda. I think this is a great idea but was concerned to hear that the plan is to locate it near the Hospital. Also I am concerned that KTA was not initially consulted on this addition to the Trail. I honestly believe that KTA should be consulted on all matters relating to the Trail, any constructions, plaques, donations etc should all fit in with their plans for the Track otherwise it becomes a hotchpotch of ad hoc well meaning but misguided efforts.
The start/finish point for the Kokoda Trail at Kokoda is at the end of the plateau where Colonel Owen was killed and where the first major battle raged in July 1942. If the Archway is put back at the Hospital, people have not yet finished the trek. It would be like running a marathon but not breaking the ribbon on the finishing line. I firmly believe the Archway should be at the entrance to the Memorial Park, approx in the position of the Archway that was built for Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels Day - see below picture. This is not only the entrance to the battlefield from which the Trail got its name, but it will encourage trekkers to take the time to visit the Monuments and the Museum, all of which are an important part of the whole history and the Kokoda experience. I note that there are still some trekkers who go straight down the hill and catch their plane without visiting the Memorial Park and its many worthwhile features. In my opinion, they have not done the job properly or done Kokoda justice.
I look forward to talking to Eric and other interested parties including KTA before a final decision is made on the location of what should be a great addition to the Kokoda Trail.
ARCHWAY AT KOKODA (posted 8th November 2010)
I also learned on this last trip that a generous Kokoda supporter Mr Eric Winn wishes to build an archway at Kokoda along the lines of the one at Ower's Corner so trekkers have a marked finishing point when they do the trek from Ower's to Kokoda. This is a great idea but PLEASE - PUT IT IN THE RIGHT PLACE!! Putting it beside the Hospital as planned means that trekkers who then stop there have not finished the Trail. The Kokoda Trail starts at the end of the Kokoda plateau where the first major battle occurred and where Colonel Owen was killed. It is also the site of all the Memorials and the Museum which are a key part of the KokodaTrail and its history. People who do not visit these sites, and there are still quite a few who just head straight down the hill to the airstrip, have not truly completed the track or done it real justice.The ARCHWAY SHOULD THEREFORE BE AT THE ENTRANCE TO THIS MEMORIAL PARK around about the site where they put the archway to greet us for Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels' Day. Let's get it right this time by cooperation amongst those who want this to happen and those who have the facts to make a decision on where it should be. I have spoken to KTA about this and will try to get in touch with Eric. LESSONS OF THE KOKODA AIR CRASH(posted 8th August 2010)
With the anniversary of the horrific aircrash at Kokoda on the 11th August, the article in The Australian on the 31st July was interesting if a little lacking in positivity.
Follow the Link to read the article
What the article does not value enough is the work that has been done on the Kokoda Airstrip during the last year.
In our Newsletters at the time of the crash, we noted that I had spent some time with Kokoda Track Authority staff on the consulting trip I did with them in June-July expressing my concern at the state of the airstrip. The strip had shrunk to less than half the length it used to be in the 80s when I lived at Kokoda. It had no markers and only one ratty windsock. The grass was not mowed often enough and when it was, the clippings were left on the 'runway' creating a thick layer of mulch that meant the gravel base that our family was contracted to install in the late 1950s, was buried under several feet of vegetable matter. My concern was that an aircraft would flip- on landing or that and accident would be caused by the lack of visibility of the strip from the air where, without markers and with the slapstick mowing jobs that were done, it was hard to distinguish airstrip from surrounds. My wife had also raised her concerns at the meeting of KTA meeting of Tour Operators held earlier in 2009.
Tragically, our concerns proved well grounded. Although, as mentioned in the Article above, no proper investigation has been carried out as to the cause of the crash, I , with my intimate knowledge gained over many many trips back and forth by air from Kokoda to Moresby over the years, and talking to the local people since the crash, believe it was a case of the pilot making an approach to land in weather that involved a series of scuds/cloud banks moving across the field that limited her visibility. Had the airstrip been properly maintained and clearly designated by markers and mowed area,she may not have needed to abort as it would seem she was all set to land then, still at some height above the field, she pulled out and tried to climb fast and head back to Port Moresby. She must have become disoriented because, if she had had the hours flying the Company claimed she had, including many succesful take-off and landings at Kokoda, she would have known you cannot head into the Kokoda Gap until you have reach an altitude of at least 4000 ft . Aircraft like the one she was flying cannot climb fast enough to get to the 7500 - 8000 feet required to cross the Gap in time it they head straight in.
The Kokoda Track Authority with funds from the Australian Government has now made significant improvements to the Kokoda Airstrip. The extremities of the field are now clearly marked with the required yellow cones, the mowed runway area has been extended to a far safer length and the grass is being cut more regularly and efficiently. This is a huge improvement to the safety of flying into Kokoda.
THE LOST BATTLEFIELD OF KOKODA” - posted 14th June 2010
I have kept my mouth shut until now on this issue because I don’t want to be accused of sour grapes or to upset the diggers who may be feeling some sense of remembrance and closure out of all this. However the PS/BS goes on and the phone has been running hot, so here I go again!
When I first returned to walk the Trail in 2006, after an absence of many years, one of the things that surprised me was that people did not appear to know about or be visiting the infamous battle sites along the ridge above Eora Creek. This was a horrific battle in the campaign where the enemy literally rained down their firepower on the Aussie troops who were hunkered down in the dark, dank depths of the cold and clammy creek. Lucky for the Aussies the enemy had not spread themselves to the highest point and Major Ian Hutchinson had the gumption to lead a group of men up to the high point and carry out a surprise attack on the Japanese, giving them a bit of their own medicine so that they soon ran for their lives.
In 2006, I met up with a village elder from Alola and suggested he should open up part of the ridge area and take tourists there, charging them a small fee in return for him protecting and caring for the area. I told him to protect the main area of the site or it would just be looted and destroyed. Things are quiet on the track this year and the young blokes of the village have obviously decided to cash in. They have always been great story tellers my Papuan mates. Their “ secret place” as they called it – I doubt any even knew it was there until 2006!! Being on a ridge it certainly is not suitable for gardens.
As people who have trekked with me know, I take time on all my trips to teach the local porters and group leaders, whether from our group or working with some other tour company, as much of the history as I can at each point along the way. I tell it all in Motu so there is no misunderstanding. Most listen and soak it up like sponges, appreciating that someone is taking the time to share the correct history with them for the future. The result has been a renewed interest on behalf of these descendants of the ‘fuzzy wuzzies’, and a willingness to explore beyond the immediate track area – hence, “discoveries” like this.
In the post war years of the late 40s, numerous patrols were sent out to locate and remove the bodies of Aussie diggers buried along the track. In most cases, those found from about Efogi to Kokoda ended up in the war cemetery at Kokoda, located where the school now is. They were then dug up again and moved to Bomana in the early 50s. In each case, only parts of the remains were dug up so bits and pieces of skeleton and bone were left behind. Those not identified were buried at Bomana as “Known unto God”. Usually these patrols were accompanied by some of Dad’s ‘fuzzy wuzzies’ from the war. I myself explored much of this “Lost Battle Site” in the 1960s. I would be surprised, but pleased for the families, if they find and identify any Aussies in this area who have never been officially located. Hopefully, DNA can be used to verify their identities.
For an excellent map of the Australian and Japanese positions during this battle, refer to McCarthy’s official history or Bill James’” Guide to the Kokoda Track” which reproduces the map. Note however, that there was not a Village at Eora Ck before the War. There were a couple of old huts from the mail trail days, then the new ones Dad had built early in the piece that were damaged by the Japanese on their advance. Note also that the Battle for Eora Creek was the second major battle of the Australian Advance, the first was at Templetons’ Crossing ( of which there is only one – there was no such thing as Templeton’s 1 and Templeton’s 2 during the war) - the CROSSING OF TWO TRACKS named by my father in memory of Captain Sam Templeton. What is mistakenly called Templeton’s 1 was actually Station 1 or Dump 1 – one of the many supply depots Dad set up during the Campaign. Bill James is the one of the few modern authors on Kokoda who has got all this right.
How DO you lose a 130 ha battlefield? They have certainly never been lost to me. If those who thought they were "lost" would just put their EGOs aside and ask me , my father and the true Fuzzy Wuzzies told me where all the battle sites were and I visited most at some stage in my life.
EMAIL RECEIVED AUGUST 2010 FROM IAN TABARA , A BINANDERE OF PAPUA( posted 5th September 2010
" I read your article about the lost battlefields at Kokoda and sad to say you're correct. By way of an explanation, I suggest that locals don't know because they were not part of the war effort. Lance Corpral Bagimo and Corporal Giae who encountered the Japs at Awala were two cousins from Binandere who had with them some of their cousins as carriers. I suggest that Kokoda people will not know the stories but Binanderes would know from stories told by those who returned".
Kokoda Historical & Komplete Kokoda Interviewed by Radio Sport - (posted 25th May 2010)
One month ago, on ANZAC eve David Howell, head guide and historian for Kokoda Historical was on the Kokoda Track. Over the satellite phone he was interviewed by Andrew Kruse of Radio Sport 927.
I was also interviewed for the same radio segment. To hear this interview, please follow the link
Track vs Trail - (posted 21st May 2010)
This old debate has raised its head again in some circulating emails.Here was my response to all and sundry:
Hi All – wow , this debate still causes people to get hot under the collar. I used to be like that, mainly because I grew up at Kokoda and it was always called The Trail – in fact, if people said they were going to walk “The Trail” everyone knew they meant the Kokoda Trail. Of late, however, I realise “what’s in a name” – if the diggers remember it as a track and want to call it so, they have earned the right to do so – having said that, my father would probably beg to differ if he was alive – and he was called “The Man who blazed the Trail” and ” The Architect of the Kokoda Trail” in newspaper articles in Australia in 1943.
We need to distinguish here between the pre 1900s tracks that existed from village to village,(there were no real tracks over the vabula” – no man’s land areas between tribes), the more defined Mail trail that was developed in the early 1900s and used until the early 1930s, and the Trail that was ultimately used during the Campaign. Much of that War Trail was cut by my father and his helpers – often under instruction from his superiors. I don’t think anyone will truly appreciate this fact about my father until they have read his biography - my wife is about to sign with a publisher on this. Please remember that the diggers were young blokes who did not really know where they were or what they were doing a lot of the time ( no fault of theirs) - their focus was on the section of track they were walking and/or fighting along at any one time. As my father said. “ The route over the Owen Stanleys is made up of a myriad of tracks, but there is only one real War Trail” he often needed to make this distinction when locating lost personnel, identifying enemy positions from native intel etc. etc - I could go on.When I take people over the Trail, as we move from place to place we refer to the track from A to B – when they have finished the whole journey, I say you have now walked the Kokoda Trail – which goes from Kokoda to McDonald’s Corner. From Kokoda to the Coast is the Kokoda-Gona Road.Cec Driscoll recalls just before he set of with Dad and Capt Sam Templeton in early July ‘42, they were told they were going on the Kokoda trail across the mountains. When they got there it was just a bloody track, and that’s what they called it forthwith!!The PNG Govt gazetted it as the Kokoda Trail.My father was born in Fiji, a British Citizen – as were all Aussies until we started to be issued with Australian passports in 1949. He put his life on the line for Papua, his home and Australia – he certainly thought of himself as Australian. The word trail is an English word and is used all over the place in Australia to describe marked routes over significant distances. However, I agree that Australians use the term track a lot more than trail – ‘what’s the track like down to the beach “etc. so I empathise with the diggers on this.Anyway, call it what you like. What is important is to treat the track/trail, its people, its history and its heroes with the respect they deserve. Unfortunately, with the EGOtourism that is going on along the track these days, that is not happening and that concerns me more than any exercise in semantics. Let us never forgetCourage Endurance Mateship Sacrifice.Cheers to all
More on Captain Sam Templeton (posted 7th May 2010)
My comment on the recent Sunday program and all the other publicity of late surrounding this story, is this:
I sincerely hope that they find some proof of Captain Sam Templeton's resting place other than the word of a very old Japanese gentleman who has suddenly now, after nearly 70 years, remembered an incident he did not appear to have mentioned (?) in any other interviews, including all the interviews he had with Charles Happell for his book “ The Bone Man of Kokoda”. To ring Captain Templeton's son Reg Templeton who is a frail old man and give him what may be a false sense of closure would be too cruel if not true. Reg corresponded with my father Bert over the years in his search for a place to visit to honour his father. I also corresponded with him more recently when I sent him a copy of the letter my father received from Dr Hiroshi Yanagisawa which I learned had never been sent on to Reg.
I will tell you the facts as I know them - no more no less!
In early July 1942, a site had been chosen at Dobodura, inland from Buna for an airbase to carry the war closer to the Japanese now firmly entrenched at Rabaul, licking their wounds and regrouping. New Guinea Force was instructed to supply a rifle company to secure Kokoda then move on to protect the American Engineer Regiment assigned to the construction of this forward base. Captain Sam Templeton and his men were chosen for this job and they were to march to the site over the mountains, their supplies to be shipped by sea to Buna. Having recently traversed this route himself, Capt Bert Kienzle was the obvious guide for these troops and he arranged with Templeton that they would depart on the 8th July.
They arrived safely at Kokoda whence Bert went out to his properties at the Yodda and stocked up on food and other supplies most of which he gave to Templeton to see him and his men through to the Coast. Bert & Sam then spent some time catching up with Captain Grahamslaw who then left on 16th July, accompanying Templeton on his way to take over stores ex the “Gili Gili’ now supposedly docked at Buna, and to supervise the transport of these stores from the coast to Kokoda
The battle trained Japanese Nankai Shitai landed at Buna on the 21st July with over two thousand troops and hundreds of pressganged and enslaved Rabaul natives. They advanced virtually unopposed engaging Templeton and his B Coy at Awala through Gorari and on to Oivi only three days later. Just over ninety men of ‘Maroubra Force’ which at the time was made up of B Coy plus some PIB and ANGAU personnel, against just under nine hundred - yet the Japanese believed they were outnumbered two to one! “Uncle Sam” Templeton, who Bert had come to like and respect as they crossed the mountains together, was killed in this battle. His body was never found.
Les Arnel, a runner for Templeton, told the story some years later, and this is the story the way most of the diggers remember it.
Les recalls that they took up positions on the edge of the small plateau on which the village of Oivi was located but when they saw the Japanese swarming up the ridge, they pulled back to the actual village and spread around its perimeter. Sam told Les and the other men to stay put while he reconnoitred back towards Kokoda to see if there were any enemy along that route. Les said Captain Templeton disappeared fast into the jungle and not long afterwards a shot rang out. Les would never see Sam again and he writes that he understands all that was found was his holster and haversack. Les and his mates were the ones then were led to safety by the heroic Sanopa. There were also some rumours that Templeton may have been killed by natives who sympathised with the Japanese which Les says is possible as quite a few of their Orokaiva carriers did desert them around this time. He concludes that Sam was killed by a person or persons unknown and his body removed some distance away. I have always felt that his body is probably amongst the ‘graves of the unknown’ at Bomana.
In The Bone Man of Kokoda, according to what Nishimura told the author, I quote”
“Nishimura and his mates from the 5th Company were aboard the Kotoku-Maru and came ashore at Basabu Beach on 29th July. Immediately, they began marching west towards Kokoda village, at the head of the Track, encountering few obstacles and arriving five days later”
This puts Nishimura as passing through Oivi, where there was no longer any fighting occurring, on about the 2nd August. Templeton disappeared, thought shot, on the 26th July. Even if he had been kept alive until the first Japanese troops moved on from Oivi, his corpse would have been at least 4, more likely 6, days in the jungle. Decomposition is fast in this environment.
Nishimura says he came across his corpse by the track at a small stream, with a small waterfall that now, 68 years later he recognised without trouble. There are plenty of waterfalls and streams in the area and they change course regularly with floods and particularly, recent cyclones.
My biggest question!! How did he identify Sam? I don’t think it was policy for officers to wear a name tag. Nishimura apparently ‘guessed’ it was Templeton because of the sword in his chest and the story told him by a soldier who witnessed his death - but surely all those soldiers had moved on to Kokoda by this stage?? I have never heard of any other incident where a Japanese soldier left his sword behind, especially when on an advance. I could go on and on with the unanswered questions! For the best information on Sam templeton's story go to www.kokodahistorical.com.au
A twist to this story that has been half reported in some books - if they had contacted us they would have learned the full story – was a tale told by Dr Hiroshi Yanagisawa who wrote a letter to my father in 1979 which opened up a whole other can of worms re Templeton’s eventual place of death. The full details of that letter will be in my wife’s biography of my father.
Apart from the mystery behind the location of his body, and the fact that he is considered the first officer killed in the Campaign, probablythe main reason for Sam Templeton’s apparent immortalisation is really the fact TEMPLETON’S CROSSING was named after him.
Bert Kienzle named Templeton’s Crossing in early August 1942 when he was cutting a new track from Myola 1 to rejoin the mail trail towards Eora Ck. This new track that he and his boys cut in one day, eventually joined up with the Eora Ck-Kagi track, that is, the old mail trail which was now being walked by the troops, downstream adjacent to Eora Creek. This junction of two tracks, one old one new, he called Templeton’s Crossing in memory of Sam Templeton who he had grown to like and respect in their journey across the trail the previous month.
In conclusion, my personal thoughts are that the whole show proved nothing. Much of the evidence they were looking at ( Japanese foxholes etc)would have been part of the much bigger battle that occurred at Oivi in November. As a boy, I roamed that area countless times, led by the Papuans who worked with my father during the campaign – the real fuzzy wuzzies. These fellows showing people around these days are their grandsons and great grandsons. We found all sorts of bodies, bones, helmets, weapons etc etc and the boys even led me to the Mountain Gun. There was not much they did not know. They never mentioned Captain Templeton. I showed many Japanese, including Sadashige Imanishi who was interviewed on the ABC program, around the area as well and nothing was ever said about Templeton.There will be a lot more about this in Dad’s biography.
I hope for the sake of the Captain SamTempleton’s family, this is not just one big publicity stunt.
SAM TEMPLETON ctd
Been a bit in the news of late about the search for Sam Templeton's remains at Oivi. Log on to our mates at www.kokodahistorical.com.au for lots of information about Sam and the theories of when and how he died but I will tell you a little what I know of Sam's movements before his death.
In early July 1942, my father Captain Bert Kienzle ( then a Lieutenant) was called to Ilolo( McDonald's Corner) where he began his many duties, mainly control of all native labour on what was to become the Line of Communication we now know as the Kokoda Trail.
No sooner had he commenced his duties than he was advised by Captain “Ned” Kelly of the 39th Btn, now, OIC of the L of C, that a Captain Sam Templeton CO of B Company of the 39th Battalion had been waiting for some days for someone to guide him across the Owen Stanleys to Kokoda. The Australian Army was no better off than the Japanese when it came to maps of this region; they had nothing worth using. A site had been chosen at Dobodura, inland from Buna for an airbase to carry the war closer to the Japanese now firmly entrenched at Rabaul, licking their wounds and regrouping. New Guinea Force was instructed to supply a rifle company to secure Kokoda then move on to protect the American Engineer Regiment assigned to the construction of this forward base. Templeton and his men were chosen for this job and they were to march to the site over the mountains, their supplies to be shipped by sea to Buna. Having recently traversed this route himself, Bert was the obvious guide for these troops and he arranged with Templeton that they would depart on the 8th July, giving him four days to get things organised at Ilolo.
Bert then put together a group of one hundred and forty carriers made up of a mixture from about fifteen different tribes from all over Papua – mainly Tufi, Kapakapa, Orokaiva, Goaribari and Kiwai - to escort Templeton and his troops. He intended to carry out his assignment of commencing establishment of an efficient Line of Communication across the Owen Stanleys even as he led B Coy to Kokoda. The Japanese were now regularly flying low over the Trail area, especially around Iorabiabiwa. They had obviously been ordered to recky the area on their way back from their bombing forays over Moresby and it was now becoming apparent that they did have plans to cross the Owen Stanleys.So,throughout this journey, Bert seconded the village people, Koiaris and Biagis, to improve the trail in their area and to build, improve and extend the accommodation facilities at the various staging camps along the way. Perhaps this, along with the other tracks he cut as the campaign progressed, is why many people believe that Bert really blazed much of what was to become the War trail.
After resting at Kokoda while Bert went out to his plantations at the Yodda and collected supplies, some of which he gave to the 39th boys to see them on their way to Buna, Sam set off to supervise transport of stores due in on the "Gili Gili" from Buna to Kokoda. This was the last time Bert saw Sam but when he heard of his death as he made the track from Myola Lake #1, that he had just discovered, along Eora Creek ridge to join the old mail Trail, he decided to name the JUNCTION where these two tracks met - his track from Myola and the old mail Trail - 'Templetons' Crossing' - out of respect for this man who he had come to like and admire on their hard slog across the Owen Stanleys.
We also have in our possession a letter Bert received from a member of the 39th Btn, Les Arnel, who was a runner with Templeton at the time he disappeared. Les recalls that they took up positions on the edge of the small plateau on which the village of Oivi was located but when they saw the Japanese swarming up the ridge, they pulled back to the actual village and spread around its perimeter. Sam told Les to stay put while he reconnoitered back towards Kokoda to see if there were any enemy along that route. Les said Sam disappeared fast into the jungle and not long afterwards shots rang out from the direction Sam had gone - confirming his suspcions that the enemy had now virtually surrounded the village. Les would never see Sam again and he writes that he understands all that was found was his holster and haversack. He concludes that Sam was killed by a person or persons unknown and his body removed some distance away
To read more about what Bert learned of Sam's death over the ensuing years, keep an eye out for my wife's biography of Bert "Architect of Kokoda" which should hit the bookshelves later this year. There are a few interesting twists to the story.
To invade or not to invade? - that is the question ( posted 14th December 2009)
At the many talks and presentations I have given lately, I am invariably asked two questions – is it Track or Trail ( we won’t go into that one just now) – and “what’s this rubbish we hear these days that Japan never intended to invade Australia ?– this usually from people who were alive and adult in 1942.
I have recently read two books - PETER STANLEY’s - “INVADING AUSTRALIA” and BOB WURTH’s - “1942” and seen an article on the net by Hank Nelson, Professor Emeritus of Pacific & Asian History at ANU titled “Tracking Kokoda”. I strongly support the conclusions reached by Bob Wurth that at the time the Kokoda campaign was occurring, the Japanese had every intention of using Moresby as a staging post to reach Darwin and ultimately all of Australia.
Let’s look back to what was happening at that time.January 1942 found Japan in the midst of good war news in southern Asia and Tokyo was considering ways to protect these gains in a strategy called “ Fringe Outposts Campaign”. There were two such fringe outposts, Guadalcanal on the left flank and Port Moresby on the right which guarded an entrance they later called Hells’ Gate. The left flank anchors on the south east tip of the Solomons while the right flank is the only important port of the south east shore of Papua, Port Moresby. Moresby was practically unknown to most Japanese and the Imperial Army had only one map of New Guinea which they had located amongst their dusty files – a British War office reference map dated 1915. Yet, on the 10th March when a detachment of South Sea Corps was attacked off Lae by sixty allied carrier planes, sinking several transports, the hot heads at Supreme HQ Tokyo were inflamed enough to give orders that Port Moresby should be taken with minimum delay.
The purpose of this exercise was to protect their large base at Rabaul. By taking Port Moresby not only could land based aircraft then not bomb Rabaul but it would open up Australia to direct and much closer land invasion.I have in my possession samples of the money the Japanese had printed for use when they landed in Australia. In Stanley’s book he says this money means nothing as they did not put “Australia” anywhere on the notes - so why issue it to the troops in the first place? No doubt because they intended to change the name anyway! There is also a map available of which I have a copy, that shows all the places in Australia that were bombed and/or flown over by Japanese planes during the war – there are 21 of them. WHY BOTHER IF THEY HAD NO INTENTIONS OF INVASION.
The point is that in hindsight it is easy to appease the victors by saying they had no intention of invading. The fact remains that in 1942, up until they were defeated at Milne Bay then Kokoda and Guadalcanal, they were heading our way like a runaway freight train and our diggers strongly believed that they were fighting for Australia’s very survival – this no one can deny!
Whilst we have never met I feel I know a lot about yourself and family.Being friends with Gail and Nathan as well as trekking Kokoda last September experiencing my 70th birthday whilst on the trek. I am great freinds with Wallace Lemeki whom I know you know well also. After my trek I stayed on in Kokoda for a few days as I could not see the point in walking so far just to fly out the next day.Whilst there together with Wallace I visited your old family home although accompanied by a security guard I was only allowed to walk around the outside in its days it must have been a magnificent home. Also visited Saga villlage a few times with Wallace and the Anglican Church there that your father built. I have just read your recent blog and can say that I agree with it and your comments fully.
Great to see some one who actually knows what is going on reporting on it.