World War II battlefield found
June 7th, 2010
02:31 PM ET

Lost WWII battlefield found -– war dead included

An Australian trekker said he has discovered the site of a significant World War II battle in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, complete with the remains of Japanese soldiers right where they fell almost 70 years ago.

Former army Capt. Brian Freeman, an expert on the Kokoda Trail – a 60-mile trek through rugged mountainous country and rainforest of the island – said Monday he was led to the Eora Creek battle site where he found the remains of the soldiers.

The site about half a mile from the village of Eora Creek was believed to be the location of the last major battle that was pivotal in Australia’s campaign against the Japanese in Papau New Guinea.

Although the site was known to local villages, jungles reclaimed it after the battle of Eora Creek. Although locals hunted on the plateau surrounding the site, they avoided the 600-square-meter battle ground because of a belief that spirits of the dead were still present in the "lost battlefield."

What this means is that the site has apparently remained untouched since 1942.

“On our inaugural trek, we were hoping to find the remnants of a make-shift Japanese hospital and, potentially, relics of guns and ammunition. I never anticipated that we would find war dead,” Freeman said in a statement.

Freeman trekked to the site for the first time on April 23.

“It was as if time has stood still. We found ammunition running out in a line from the rifle that was dropped as the Japanese advanced to the rear,” Freeman said.

Freeman said extensive research on battle maps and diaries led them to believe that the Japanese had a medical facility in the area during the Japanese advance and its location had remained a mystery until now.

The team found kidney-shaped medical dishes at the site, pointing to evidence that the find was indeed the site of a Japanese hospital.

The presence of large rectangular pits, referred to as rifle pits, also indicated that the location was also a significant Japanese defensive position.

“However, it was the discovery of a Japanese soldier sitting up against a tree, only centimeters from the surface still in his helmet, with his boots nearby that began to tell the human story,” Freeman said.

The battle of Eora Creek is said to be the single most costly clash of the Kokoda campaign, although different sources cite different casualty figures.

Freeman's group says 79 Australians died and 145 were wounded, while the Australian War Memorial website says 99 were killed and 192 wounded.

Freeman said they are working with respective governments to repatriate the fallen solders and preserve the site in its “current pristine condition." Until then, no groups will be permitted to trek the site.

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Filed under: Australia • Japan • Papua New Guinea • World
soundoff (257 Responses)
  1. Barbie T

    Chills is what I get....that's incredible .

    June 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Completely agree...it's incredible to think that so much of what was found was in such good condition – like the boots shown in the photos. this story brought back memories of all the stories my grandfather shared with us before he passed about his years of service with the USMC in the Pacific during WWII.

      June 8, 2010 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Doubter

      We're talking about a rain forest. How can those marker sticks still be standing? 70 years of rain forest type weather, causing bug infested mud, those bugs chewing away at the base of the markers, not to mention the affects of foliage growth. Left pristine or not, Mother Earth reclaims territory much faster than this weather exposed find portrays. No doubt, closure would be wonderful for the fallen, but I'm thinking the gentleman leader is trying to get a book published or other gain by creating two minutes of fame.

      June 8, 2010 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
    • cd

      Those of you who are hung up on the markers need to re read the story. The markers have not been there for 70 yrs, they were placed there by the guys who found the place in April.

      June 8, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      OH NOES the markar sticks! I hav horribul readin comprehenshun and everyting must be a conspirucy!!!1!

      June 8, 2010 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • svscnn

      I don't see anything in the slideshow or article body that clearly indicates who placed the markers.

      June 8, 2010 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • bhall1821

      The site seems similar to other sites I have visited around the Pacific Theater of WWII. Peleliu has the same climate and it is amazing what is still being found on that island. There are a lot of places within the Pacific that haven’t been touched in almost seventy years. It is so cool to find locations where time has stood still and evidence of human war actives are still present.

      Yes, all the ammunition and grenades are still active and pose a serious threat to researchers. When we conduct field studies of Pacific Battlefields, we always have a weapons expert with us and follow the rule of don’t touch or handle unexploded or live ordinance. We also apply this rule to human remains until the proper agencies can be notified and full archaeological and anthropological surveys can be completed.

      June 8, 2010 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • steven

      The site looks genuine and the massive decay of the weapons, ammunition and the helms marking those graves does certainly look like 70 years has passed. Either way a very haunting and chilling snapshot from history.

      June 8, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • noway

      Sorry, but the picture is staged. I don't doubt the find, but come on, helments on sticks and two small sticks holding up shell casings after 70 years in the tropics. No way.

      June 8, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • alexx

      does anyone else find it odd that they claim this australian man "discovered" this site, and is getting credit. Although it has been known to the native population for a long while it seems.

      June 8, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      Of couse some of the pictures were "staged". They are in a old battlefield that is littered with bodies- of course they are going to mark the locations of the bodies so that as they move through the site they dont accidentially step on someones remains. (although putting the helmets up on sticks, while traditional, does seems a bit melodramatic...)
      And yes, they did prop some of the items they found up against a tree to get a better picture- which actually is a pretty stupid thing to do as the explosives in those things get more unstable over time. Personally I wouldn't have touched the old ordnance for fear of adding another casualty to the battlefields list.

      June 8, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Las a. reath

      @Doubter

      Those marker sticks were just planted by the people who found the site. the helmets were on the ground for 70 years!

      June 8, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • David J.

      found the Eora Creek locations on Google Earth. LAT 8°59'47.90"S, LONG 147°44'31.48"E. Also found the complete wiki history of the WW2 battles that took place there, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kokoda_Track_campaign .

      June 9, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Gail

    Very interesting; a time capsule. I hope there's some place where I can read about it in more depth.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Gail
      I agree, I'm looking forward to reading more of this Historical find.

      June 7, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • ian

      indeed me as well

      June 8, 2010 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  3. Crysti

    Imagine how many families will get closure. A physical manifestation of closure.

    June 7, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jack Brobecker

    damiao, nobody is interested in your blog

    June 7, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ramon

    what great news!! I just love histories about W W II , i bet there is anothers places like this, this was one of the greatest events on earth, see this thing its like get in a time machine.

    June 7, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. desert voice

    They will finally be buried with military honors. A place like this should be turned into a wax museum, with all soldiers depicted in the positions in which they were found. If there were Catholics, there should be a cross erected for them! May all those souls find true peace!

    June 7, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • UmakemeLaugh

      Are you paying?

      June 8, 2010 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Britt

      Why just the catholics? This wasn't a religious battlefield, anyway....it shouldn't be marked up with signs and symbols.

      June 8, 2010 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mathews

    That gave me the chills! Similar details here: http://www.tacticalrss.com/?content=1550

    June 7, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cieje3

    I just hope that this doesn't result in a resurgence of WW2 videogames..

    June 7, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      Wait....what? You hope this doesn't result in more WWII video games? You prefer WWI? How random. Go back to bed.

      June 8, 2010 at 3:12 am | Report abuse |
    • CPT Obvious

      Why does that even matter?

      June 8, 2010 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jerome

    its great news finding a ww2 battle site littered with bodies of past enemies?

    June 7, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moonwolf

      It is – the history, well, that's for historians. But there's the remains of soldiers there that deserve the chance to finally go home, or be reburied. As you pointed out, they're *past* enemies.

      June 7, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrSmith2U

      What is your problem? Read Sgt Sanders comment posted @ 7:10pm today. 'Nuff said!

      June 8, 2010 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Andacar

      If the original veterans and past combatants have long since gotten over it, why can't you? Honor the fallen, and let them be at peace.

      June 8, 2010 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Kristen

      Denying the atrocities that one side committed is NOT the same as "getting over it". Until full disclosure and apologies are made there will be no closure. Not for the surviving soldiers and victims and not for the generations that have come since this conflict ended. In the US we condemn our President for randomly apologizing for every single wrong we have ever committed. It is time to embrace that philosophy and enforce it on our friends.

      June 8, 2010 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Open Minded

      @Kristen...

      I'd love to hear more about the apologies the President has made. Links?

      June 8, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ron

    It's kind of amazing that any of that stuff survived 70 years in a rain forest...

    June 7, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • louie welborne

      rthey didnt survive this was set up

      June 7, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • NyteShayde

      Set up? Take off the tin foil hat, guy.

      June 7, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sixmile

    I have a hard time believing that the photo of the helmets on poles is authentic, 68 years and typhoons & hurricanes just happened to avoid this on spot and the helmets never blew off ? The rusted holes in the helmets prove they were in the ground. Shame on the picture taker

    June 7, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • NyteShayde

      Uh huh, because you were there. You're so smart you know everything. Could you please tell me the meaning of life while you're channeling the omnipotent power of the universe?

      June 7, 2010 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • babyfacemagee

      Sixmile – You're not too bright are you. If you actually read the article (which you obviously didn't) you would know that the poles with the helmets on them were set up by the people who found the site to mark the place where soldier's bodies were found. Nobody claims they were like that when they found the site.

      June 7, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • thaddeus

      sixmile, after you've bothered going back to read it, you can also do some basic research and discover png doesn't get hurricanes and typhoons.

      June 7, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • dUMB

      He's 2 short of "8mile"

      June 7, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bruce

      sixmile is right. This is a fake. Half a mile from the village? No way do the local teenagers not go in there and take things over 68 years. No way do all the villagers leave valuable knives, canteens, shovels, etc. alone. It's a fake.

      June 7, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Youngdz79

      Okay Bruce you need to reread the article it states that the locals stayed away from it because of there beliefs.

      June 7, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      Bruce, wouldn't it be totally amazing if people in other parts of the world didn't think like you think, act like you act, and believe what you believe? Impossible I know, but how cool would that be?

      June 8, 2010 at 3:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Obviously none discussing and even worse, those who discount this as fiction have NEVER been in a triple canopy jungle.
      So, please keep your expertise in flipping burgers away from things you know nothing about! Just go back, dump a little more moron milk onto your stupid flakes and leave those with working brains and experience in more than our home towns alone.

      I *AM* amazed on the condition of the helmets, they more than likely WERE still on the poles, as had they been on the soil and buried by the leaf litter on the jungle floor, they would've rusted completely away, save the folded rim of the helmet.
      The weapons and brass, unsurprising. I've stumbled upon older relics over my years of service in similar condition that were even older.

      It is LONG time past to bring these heroic soldiers home. Even as an enemy at the time to our nation, they were, each and every one of them, a hero to their nation.
      Send them home, with full military honors. It is my most sincere hope that their identification tags survived with their remains and they can be repatriated to their families, as well as their nation.
      It will bring closure for their families. And it is another reminder of a tragic chapter of human history, a reminder of when governments fail to use reason, but instead choose force, to accomplish their goals. Something that governments, reminded of the destruction and sacrifice of their citizens, will hopefully will say "never again" and negotiate, rather than use military adventurism as a state path.
      US Army, retired.

      June 8, 2010 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      You guyz dont understand!!! Dis must be fake cuz everything is a consirucy, even stoopid things that nobody would care aboot or bother faking!!!! durrrrr....

      June 8, 2010 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • chris

      @Steve
      OMG is that a CNN comment with proper grammar and punctuation and capitalization?!?
      My hat's off to you, sir, for your extraordinary skill and manners. May other commenters follow your good example.
      Kudos!

      June 8, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • retroflow

      @Steve – If you look closer, only one of the helmets shown seems to be somewhat intact after some 68 years of exposure to damp/wet. The severely rusted away sections on the others would point towards how the helmet was laying when it was found – The rusted through portions were in/on the ground or some other surface for quite a while. This may help in figuring how long the helmets have been on the stakes – In the very least, if the team didn't put the stakes in (I think they did), then the helmets were probably laying nearby and they set them back up? Look at the condition of the boots and small arms found. Not nearly as decayed as one might expect in such an environment.

      I've found Hubcaps from the mid-1930s/early '40s under trees that were in similar or better condition than the helmets. Of course, the climate was different but the period of manufacture was about the same.

      June 9, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. manny

    wow, so does that mean these guys were just abandoned during WWII? obviously noone came back for their bodies... Well, I think it was just the americans that believed in getting the bodies back from the battlefield, at that time. I could be wrong though.

    June 7, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • TsaniLK

      Actually, most all nations involved gave their fallen a proper burial. However, Americans generally left the enemy fallen lay where they died, unless they wished to use the area. The Germans for example always paid equal respect to enemy fallen, whenever possible, as did the British, at the beginin of the war.

      June 7, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

      No, they weren't "abandoned," they, like tens of thousands of others of many nations, were simply lost in the chaos of combat.

      June 7, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack W

      You are wrong. Hard to recover bodies from ground you just lost while the war is still being fought.

      June 7, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack W

      @Tsanilk – the Americans also respected the dead and offered propper burial, when possible. And, if you'll note – this was a battle involving Australian troops, not American.

      June 7, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Will

      @TsaniLK

      Actually the Germans did not, especially the 12th SS, they were not only the armor division but had a reputation for being brutal and often executed prisoners after interrogation then buried them in mass graves they also executed soldiers right on the battlefield rather than taking prisoners. British and Canadian allies were the most affected during the days following D-Day.

      June 8, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Manny, my friend, leaving the fallen on the field is sadly not unprecedented. Another commenter mentioned Little Bighorn, but at least they were buried where they were found. While touring the Gettysburg Battlefield, we were told that the Union and Confederate armies would treat each others wounded, but would not bury each others dead. Also, to be rather cold, in the Pacific in 1942 the live troops were perhaps to busy to go back and tend to the dead. For now, I hope the site is authentic (historian's skepticism) and if so I hope the remains found are treated with proper respect. It is a fascinating find, with stories to tell.

      June 8, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • zjkk

      You know, first thing in a war for every participants is to win. 🙂 Also, going back to the jungle islands to recover the remains would have been a waste of time, money and lives. You must think about it a little coldly.

      June 11, 2010 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. manny

    and british ofcourse

    June 7, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bob

    The photo caption said the human remains were marked with the sticks and helments by the searchers.

    June 7, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • rmsbl4

      It doesn't say that the searchers put up the sticks. It could be a comment by the searchers that the spots were(previously?) marked by the sticks. People are assuming the search party did this.

      June 8, 2010 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. Andrea M

    With all due respect to the fallen, finding a site like that is way too cool. As a history nerd, ti would have been amazing to walk into the area, completely untouched by humans since the last soldier fell.

    June 7, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • DonS

      I totally agree. I used to explore the desert mountains of Arizona looking for likely battle grounds for the fights between the apaches and the calvary. A old prospector and I found a spot – we found two canteens, which I had dated as being manufactured in 1861-1862. I still get chills holding that canteen, sits here behind my desk, thinking about what must have happened for a trooper to let go of his second most important piece of equipment.

      June 7, 2010 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack W

      Ditto – I've had the opportunity to walk several WWII battlefields in Germany as a kid. It's awe inspiring, chilling, and saddening all at once.

      June 7, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
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