[Templeton's Crossing is] a place high on the range, cold at night, with mountain mists. Hot and humid of a day, thickly wooded. Maybe because of the time we were there and what was going on, a very forbidding place. With these gorges of the Eora Creek, and the other tributaries running nearby. Very difficult geographical country. And ideal for defence. But for some reason, the Japanese when they fell back across the Eora Creek, they must have fell back in a hurry, after Templeton’s battle, and never had time to reorganise properly.
Carlton Parrott, 6th Division. Listen to his account.
Pursuing the Japanese
The Japanese had pursued the Australians along the Kokoda Track for weeks in the jungle under extreme conditions. Now, the situation was reversed.
Now the Australians were on the offensive, in pursuit of the Japanese who were struggling to replenish their supplies. Australian troops found evidence of the Japanese eating inedible wood, grass, roots and fruits.
The Australians increased their firepower and reinforcements. This brought Maroubra Force to 4,600 men.
Lieutenant General Allen, the new commander of Maroubra Force, knew the difficulties of supplying extra troops in the jungle. He decided to alternate his two infantry brigades going forward, just as the Japanese had done during their advance.
The Australian High Command put pressure on Allen's force to advance faster. They wanted to secure Alola as a supply position as quickly as possible to support their advance.
Yet for the Japanese, their loss at Guadalcanal had a significant impact on their ability to send reinforcements. They ordered their troops to dig in and hold Eora and Templeton's Crossing.
The second engagement at Eora-Templeton’s Crossing
The Japanese positioned themselves on the two tracks leading north from Kagi. They had another regiment overlooking Templeton's Crossing where the tracks joined. Their fourth position was high ground above Eora Village on the far side of Eora Creek. This gave them a vantage point from which they were able to attack the Australians with their artillery.
After midday on 13 October, the Australians engaged the Japanese along the crest of a narrow ridge. The Japanese were hiding in one-man camouflaged pits, covered with branches, leaves and grass.
Australian troops came under heavy fire but only suffered minimal casualties. They couldn't make progress. The following day, the Japanese withdrew to their main position at Templeton's Crossing.
The Australians received more reinforcements while the Japanese force was depleted, starving and sick.
They pursed the Japanese from ridge to ridge. And soon after 4 pm on 16 October, Australian troops attacked. Fierce fighting continued for days until 20 October when the Australian 2/2nd Battalion broke the Japanese line on the high ground of their left flank.
This prompted a quick retreat by the Japanese. It was the first time on the Kokoda Track that the Australians had secured the Japanese defences.
The Japanese were so confident in holding Templeton's Crossing, they had withdrawn all but the frontline forces from the mountains. Their retreating troops had no further reinforcements. They had to send men from the Kokoda-Oivi area for support.
The Australians lost time while they scrambled to get into position to attack again. It wasn't until 28 October that they could threaten the high ground on their right and cause serious damage.
Meanwhile, the Japanese suffered another loss at Guadalcanal. This caused them to reconsider their position on the Kokoda Track. They decided to withdraw. On 28 October, the Australians attacked the retreating troops, catching them unawares. They inflicted a large number of casualties, but most of the force escaped.
During the second Eora-Templeton's engagement between 13 to 28 October, the Australians suffered 412 battle casualties against 244 Japanese. This was due to the careful defensive preparations the Japanese made.
The fighting at Eora Creek was one of the largest, most complicated operations on the Kokoda Track. Despite the losses, their success here paved the way for the Australians to move to Kokoda. This solved the supply problems that had plagued them so far.
Recapturing Kokoda and supplying the troops
From there, Major General George Vasey's 7th Division forces pursed the Japanese back to Kokoda. On 2 November, the small platoon of Australians entered the village. The Japanese had been seen there days before.
Now they found it abandoned.
By the afternoon, the whole battalion occupied Kokoda Village. At midday on 3 November, Vasey hoisted an Australian Flag at the Kokoda plateau before a small parade of soldiers. Kokoda Day is now observed on November 3 in Papua New Guinea and Australia.
But there was still more fighting to come.
The final battle at Oivi and Gorari
Within days of retaking Kokoda, the Australians had closed the gap between them and the Japanese on the way towards the north coast. Their next move was to capture the main Japanese base at Buna-Gona.
With ample supplies and ammunition being flown into Kokoda, the Australians had a huge advantage.
The Japanese, despite being together on one battlefield for the first time in the Kokoda campaign, were reduced to 2,800 men. They dug into the hills above Oivi, setting a reserve of troops at Gorari, further east. This was their last resort to block the enemy from reaching their coastal base.
Believing the way was clear, the 16th Brigade stumbled on the Japanese on 4 November. After three days of fighting, it was clear the position of the Japanese on Oivi Heights was too strong.
Vasey halted their efforts while he reinforced them with three more battalions. While this was happening, the 2/1st Battalion had taken the eastern route to intercept the Japanese. They lost a day by taking a wrong turn, but by 6 November, they were ready to head towards Gorari.
In the days following, the Japanese tried to block the Australians from multiple directions but were defeated at every turn. A general retreat was called by General Horii, but Lieutenant Colonel Tsukamoto did not get the order. His men forced their way through the surrounding Australian infantry and succeeded at great cost, sustaining many casualties. Colonel Yazawa, the regimental commander, ignored Horii's order to retreat and with his men, slipped away with his regiment to the coast.
During this final battle, all 15 Japanese artillery pieces were lost. Disorganised, the remaining troops embarked on a chaotic retreat across the Kumusi River. The Japanese would feel the loss of their artillery in the fighting to come at Buna and Gona.