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 (256 Responses)
  1. Tom

    "An Australian trekker said he has discovered the site of a significant World War II battle..." As far as I can see on the photos it was rather insignificant.

    June 8, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  2. dfielder

    What are the odds that "spirits of the dead" refer to the volatile unexploded munitions and possibly mines.

    June 8, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. gamer4life75

    Looks like a Bush Wookie Camp!! I hate gettin sniped by those damn Bush know who you are!!!!

    June 8, 2010 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. Kathy F

    Amazing find. I look forward to hearing more about this. WWII is always of interest. My cousin (who died 2 years ago) was at the foot of the hill when they raised the flag at Iwo Jima. We heard lots of stories through the years of the war from this American Hero. God Bless America

    June 8, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  5. Pockets

    Why do people always drag religion or god into something like this, next someone will call it a "miracle" that it was found. It had been known by the natives for years and years. The most important aspect to all this is that perhaps families will get closure of those identified thru DNA. Perhaps others lay out iin the jungles not unlike these men. I suppose not all have been accounted for, it makes for interesting reading. But keep "crosses" and religion and a non-existent god out of it.

    June 8, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. Pockets

    All wars are failures, no one wins or loses, just young men die. We are still animals evolving, slowly.

    June 8, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  7. chisel

    Veronique, I think you live in a different world. I was in both battles for Fallujah. The fist one was quick and minimal loss of life as the enemy was quickly exiting the city or hiding. The last and largest began Nov 9th 2004 late at night. I was part of the operational planning staff. On the 10th at 1200, the Marines stopped the push and played the Marine Hymn over load speakers not only to motivate but also let them know who we were and what they were facing. There were Army units to the South East near the cemetary, Marines primarily came in from across the bridge on the west sweeping south linking up with the Army then pushing north east. Other then Medical staff and 2 EOD teams augmenting ours there were no Seals involved. We did have a Lt Cmdr Leo R. who was part of the interogation team after it was over. The USMC, Army and local contacts had provided most of the intel gathered prior to this operation. Women at that time were not serving in special operation commands as active combatants and none of your story has a bit of truth that I can tell. Retired Captain under 30 who cant spell and have went to all these schools and countries graduating better then anyone else in history. Its an interesting story that gives us all a moment of pause. I dont claim to be an expert on the condition of items left in a jungle but battle fields are rediscovered all over the world and aids to our knowledge of history. Its sad you feel you need to make up lies to get attention.

    June 8, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  8. Lived a long time on Bougainville

    I lived a long time in the rural parts of Bougainville (in the Solomons) where there was a lot of WWII fighting. I think this is being pushed a bit hard, and probably there's some underlying who-knows-what going on, but as for the preservation, the undisturbed nature of the site, etc., I have no problem with that. As a few others have said, if you know anything about war materials and tropical rain forests, you're not going to be very surprised by this.

    In 1969 or 1970 (I can't remember) when I was on Bougainville, a largely complete US fighter, with pilot's skeleton still inside, was found within a few hundred yards of a well-traveled road. Even now, at a place called Torokina, there are so many old munitions and weapons that the US has sent teams to clean it all up.

    June 8, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. TheKid

    The woods are dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

    June 8, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. Matt

    Leave it be. The site needs to be left as it was found in order to pay the proper respects to those who died.

    June 8, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  11. moondogg

    If you think it iis impossible for such relics to exist or survive in a closed ecosystem, I suggest you look in our own back yard–the battle of Little big horn was fought over 134 years ago, most of the soldirs that were killed were left where they were discovered, some buried in shallow graves, but a few years ago, the area of the battlefield was subject to a brush fire, and when the land was cleared by the fire. skeletal remains,boots pieces of uniforms,bullet casings etc.were discovered in remarkable shape. and this area is in the middle of the plains, subject to all kinds of weather and scavengers..

    June 8, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  12. ummm...

    matt damon

    June 8, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mark

    My finger smells funny

    June 8, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  14. Omgami

    I have an Uncle that is a MIA from WWII and my heart always leaps when I hear of these findings. My father and his parents have passed on never knowing what became of their oldest son and brother. I know that any remaining surviors of the fallen soilders will appreciate knowing. I was just recently leafing through the box of papers, flag and purple heart awarded my Uncle and wondered if I might be fortunate enough to claim his remains in my lifetime.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  15. Cpl. E

    Awesome find. I'm excited to see more photos. I was reading a lot of the previous posts, and a lot of people were claiming the researchers should have taken before and after photos. As a Combat Correspondent for the Marine Corps, I'm pretty confident that they have taken hundreds if not thousands of photos BEFORE and AFTER they began working at the site. The ones posted were probably the only ones submitted at the time.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
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