Book Reviews

There have been many books published on the Kokoda Campaign as well as the many other campaigns fought by Australians in Papua New Guinea during both the First and Second World Wars. Below you will find a selection of publications which have been read by Kokoda Historical and are recommend by us.

Many great publications are now out of print and along with being quite expensive they are hard to obtain. Therefore where possible, we have given a link to where one may purchase these titles either through the current publisher, in our own store or from specality book retailers. We hope you enjoy your reading!

Mud Over Blood

Stories from the 39th Infantry Battalion, 1941-43 Kokoda to Gona

This is a wonderful book compiled by Carl Johnson, it gives the reader the perfect insight to what the men of the 39th went through on the Kokoda Track.

This book is made up of first hand accounts from the people who were there. The other great thing about it is you can put a face to the names as Carl as done a wonderful job compiling a pictorial album of many of the members of the 39th Battalion. This book is well worth a look.

Complied by Carl Johnson

ISBN 095810603-7
History House 2006

To Kokoda And Beyond

The Story of the 39th Battalion 1941-1943

This book gives a complete account of the 39th Battalion with lots of personal stories. Compiled by Victor Austin who was a member of the 39th Battalion, this book also contains many photos some of which are not often published.

By Victor Austin

ISBN 0-522-84379-4
Melbourne University Press 1988

Men of the 2/14th Battalion

The Human Face of a Fighting Unit in the Second World War

This book is compiled by Jim McAllester who was the original intelligence officer of the 2/14th ,with a forward by Lieutenant Colonel P.E. Rhoden.

Not only does this book tell many personal accounts of the individual members of the 2/14th but like To Kokoda and Beyond it is full of photographs not published anywhere else.

This is a hard book to come across but it is well worth the effort to track down.

By J.C. McAllester

ISBN 07-316-8581-4
2/14 Battalion Association 1990

Those Ragged Bloody Heroes

Peter Brune is quite simply the greatest historian of the Kokoda campaign, this book is what started me off on my quest for knowledge about the battles fought along the Kokoda Track. Those Ragged Bloody Heroes was written at a time when Kokoda was not as well known as it is today to many Australians.

Peter Brune’s passion and dedication to accuracy makes this book a must for anyone walking the Kokoda Track. Ragged Bloody Heroes is still available in most book shops.

by Peter Brune

ISBN 1-86373-264-0
Allen & Unwin 1991

A Bastard of a Place

The Australians in Papua

This book continues the account of Australians in Papua New Guinea and covers not only Kokoda but Milne Bay, Gone, Buna and Sanananda with the same historical accuracy as you would expect from Peter Brune.

If you wish to learn of the other battles that took place in New Guinea along with the Kokoda campaign then this book is certainly a must, you can still find this book sold in most good book stores.

By Peter Brune

ISBN 1-74114-403-5
Allen & Unwin 2003

Ralph Honner

Kokoda Hero

First published under the title We Band of Brothers this re-release is a biography of Lt Col Ralph Honner commander of the famous 39th Battalion. Peter Brune was friends with Ralph Honner and had access to his personal letters. This book is a great insight into a true Australian hero.

by Peter Brune

ISBN 978-174175-372-1
Allen & Unwin 2007

The Silent Men

Following the story of a handful of men from the 2/14th Battalion who would all become members of the most highly decorated section within the British Empire. Bruce Kingsbury, Alan Avery, Harry Saunders, Teddy Bear, Stan and Butch Bisset to name a few. This is their story all the way from Syria to Gona.

by Peter Dornan

ISBN 1-86448-991
Allen & Unwin 1999

Kokoda Commander

The Life of Major-General "Tubby" Alen

Kokoda Commander is the story of Major General Tubby Allen, a remarkable Australian who served his country in both the First and Second World Wars.

Arthur 'Tubby' Allen commanded 1000 men in battle at the age of 23 in the First World War. A generation later, he took the first Australian troops to the Second World War, and with them won two great battles in Libya in January 1941.

In the next six months, he led his troops in battle against three different enemies in three different continents: Africa, Europe, and Asia. In New Guinea in October 1942, he led the successful fightback along the Kokoda Trail that led to the defeat of the Japanese.

Major-General Allen became a legendary figure to thousands of Australian troops. However, by the end of 1942, despite his victories, his army career was virtually over. Within another two years, he was out of the army.

This book explores the myths surrounding his command and once and for all gives an accurate account of the skill and leadership of one of our great military commanders.

by Stuart Braga

ISBN 0-19-551638-9
Oxford University Press 2004

Warrior of Kokoda

Warrior of Kokoda is the biography of Brigadier Arnold Potts who commanded the 21st Brigade on Brigade Hill. This book is well written and tells the story of a man who lead the fighting withdrawal of Maroubra force across the Kokoda Track. This story has all the drama of Pott’s dismissal by the Australian High Command and the politics that went with it.

by Bill Edgar

ISBN 1-86448-908-1
Allen & Unwin 1999

Retreat from Kokoda

Written in an era when the battles of Kokoda were still fresh in people’s minds, Retreat from Kokoda is one of the early books about the campaign. In paper back this book can sometimes be found in second hand book stores, it is well worth the read and leaves out all the political correctness that sometimes subdues the truth.

by Raymond Paull


Panther 1960

The Knights of Kokoda

Another book written not long after the war, The Knights of Kokoda is a great read, in paper back format and only 130 pages it still hits home the story of Kokoda. Recommended by men who were actually there. Very hard to come by so if you can get your hands on a copy hang on to it.

by Geoffrey Scott

Horwitz Publications 1963


This is a great beginner’s book for people who want to learn the history without to many confusing military abbreviations and numbers. Peter Fitzsimons has put the story of Kokoda in and easy read format and is great for everyone from school kids to veterans.

From an historical point of view it is a great read just for the interviews with Stan Bisset. It also did a lot for getting the message out there to the general public.

by Peter Fitzsimons

ISBN 0-7336-1615-1
Hodder 2004


This book tells the story from both sides with interviews not just from the Australian Diggers but also from the side of the Japanese. Paul Ham has done a wonderful job and if you are serious about learning the history of Kokoda then this book is more than a worthwhile read. You can easily find this in most book shops.

by Paul Ham

ISBN 0-7322-7693-4
Harper Collins 2004

Field Guide to the Kokoda Track

You can not trek Kokoda without this guide. The pages of my copy are stuck together with the mud of the Kokoda Track as this book is a vital part of my kit. I will always remember Bill James and Stan Bisset doing a rendition of Danny Boy on stage together in Sydney.

This book is well researched and contains a water proof map. With detailed descriptions of the various battle sites and interviews with many veterans this is truly a book that you must purchase.

It is available direct from

by Bill James

ISBN 0-9775704-0-1
Kokoda Press 2006

New Guinea 1942-44

There is one chapter in this book that would make any Australians blood boil if they read it, Cannibals and Revenge. Which deals with Australian soldiers been eaten by the Japanese. This book gives a great overview of all the New Guinea campaigns.

by Timothy Hall

ISBN 0-454-00321-8
Methuen Australia 1981

The Bone Man of Kokoda

This is the remarkable story of Kokichi Nishimura who fought with the infamous 144th Regiment along the Kokoda Track and how he returned after the war to find the remains of his lost comrades. All of our trekker's who pass by the small memorial built by Nishimura in the village of Efogi, usually hear his story from our resident guide Stanley.

Now for the first time everyone can put a face to the name and understand the extremes one person will go to in order to fulfill a promise. Author Charles Happell has done a wonderful job, this book is a must read for any Kokoda enthusiast.

by Charles Happell

ISBN 978-14050-3836-2
Macmillan 2007

The Architect of Kokoda

Bert Kienzle - The Man Who Made the Kokoda Track

This excellent book describes Bert Kienzle and his progression from a young boy in Fiji, to his family's internment in the First World War as German sympathisers, to his early work in New Guinea and then development of plantations and gold mines in the Kokoda area in the north of the country.

His knowledge of Papua-New Guinea was crucial in helping Australia's unprepared army, firstly retreat in the face of fierce opposition and then turn and attack with such ferocity that the Japanese were eventually forced out of the territory.

Robyn Kienzle, daughter-in-law has done much to fill in a gap in the Kokoda story and give Bert Kienzle the recognition he justly deserves.

By Robyn Kienzle

ISBN: 9780733627637
Hachette Australia

"Kokoda: That Bloody Track" - a factual graphic novel

Kokoda Historical is proud to announce the publication of "Kokoda: That Bloody Track", a factual graphic novel (or traditional comic) that tells the true story of the Kokoda Battles in July and August 1942.

Written by Dave Howell (founder of Kokoda Historical) this book is designed in a format that engages children and adults alike. The colourful format and engaging artwork is designed to encourage new readers.

This campaign is placed within the wider context of the Second World War. Eyewitness accounts and original diaries are included to add a personal perspective. The human tragedy of warfare is clear; warfare was (and is not) noble or glamorous. The Japanese perspective is included through the use of soldier's diaries. Where possible, Japanese and native languages (Motu and Pidjin) are included to provide a cultural balance with translation boxes included.

Kokoda was a tragedy - men and women suffered in a titanic struggle across the most forbidding terrain imaginable. The eventual Allied victory is placed within the cost with the many hundreds of damaged lives - Australian, Japanese, American and native.

This is the first part of two and is available in bookshops and newsagents now.

To order a signed copy ($9.95) of the book please email with your details

By David Howell
Edited by Hugh Dolan
Artwork by Tea Seroya

ISBN 9780987282910
ZBeach True Comics, Australia

Dave Howell with Peter Stone and his book "Hostages to Freedom"