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. Kevin Moore

    Triple canopy jungle is a damp and humid environment, but due to the triple layers of foliage, not that much actual rain hits the jungle floor, dripping instead from the trees, most being absorbed in the upper levels of the canopy.. I've seen what the jungle can do. It doesn't surprise me that these things were found and in reasonable condition after 65 years.
    I don't think it staged based on the few pictures in the article. But with the find, more experienced investigators will come to examine and preserve the site and the truth will come out then.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  2. Kurt Haueisen

    In France there are areas around Verdun that are fenced off because of live ammo and artillery rounds. I grew up in that area and used to explore these areas with other kids.This was about 1958 to about 1962 and I will tell you that there are MANY bodies there.I even saw a heavy Machine Gun nest with bodies of both sides mixed together in there death throes.The helmets and boots were easy to spot in the deep forest.The admission to the site was a good beating by the Park Police or regular Police if you were caught and then delivered to your parents for another whipping.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. The_Mick

    If locals avoided the area because of suspected spirits, why is called "lost"?

    June 8, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. Kristina

    Mike, my grandfather also served in the Pacific with the USMC 4th Marine Divison. I know that many USMC served in the Pacific, but that would be amazing if our grandfathers had ever crossed paths. Did your grandfather ever speak of Father Redmond?
    As for the article, I am pleased that these soldiers remains can be recovered and finally be put to rest.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  5. obviously

    I don't buy it. Look at how green the plants are. This is clearly a photoshoop.

    I bet this is viral marketing for Scion's new car, the x40, so fast it will "leave your enimies in the dust".

    June 8, 2010 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  6. PappyLongLegs

    Cool. It would be weird being a veteran today looking back at this. You'd feel ancient.

    June 8, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. EGH129

    How can Obama blame Bush for this? There's got to be a way.

    June 8, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. wow...

    Is there any way to find out what asylum Veronique's IP address is registered to?

    June 8, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Vern Pringle

    Two points to make:
    (1) The locals treated this spot with reverance and respect.
    (2) I wonder, just like The Wilderness and Spotsylvania, how long it'll be before Walmart would want to build a Supercenter at this site?

    June 8, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mizh

    Amen, Scott. May they rest in peace.

    All the rest of these people who comment and can't spell for S**t and show their ignorance to the world need to shut up and get a life... maybe take English classes too.

    June 8, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. nurse

    I read this article with interest as my father served in the South Pacific in WWII. I started to read the comments and have only one to add: Can't anyone spell or use the king's English anymore? The grammar in most is terrible.

    June 8, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. shawna

    I lived on the Indonesian side of the island for a couple of years and saw some of the WW2 relics that are around. You can literally stumble arcoss them while digging the foundation for a house or while snorkling on the coast. As many people there are animist, I know for a fact that the villagers would have left the place alone. It takes alot of work for outside searchers to get the help of the local people in finding these kinds of things. To those saying the dead would not have been left, it is very easy to lose your place there and a raging battle, with people running through the jungle, I can find it very easy to believe that after the battle was done they could not find where they had been to collect the dead if they wanted to. It's not like today when you would have had a GPS reading to help. As to preservation, many of the items in the pictures had been buried over time, and all of the pictures represent items found and cateloged so that's why it looks "staged". I've seen stuff found on that island, and the various levels of decay are all consistent with the different materials stuff gets buried in.

    June 8, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. finkelstein

    i'm jewish!

    June 8, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MoreDetailsHere

    June 8, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bring them home

    The war is over, the fightings done
    The dead are lying in the sun.
    Give them peace get them home
    Bring them back from whence they’ve come
    Do not debate your wars or fights
    Do not debate your wrongs or rights.

    Let these heroes wear their welcome
    Let them lay in shade of sycamore
    Give their families a place to come
    To grieve their dead come home once more

    June 8, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
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