We moved into it in the dark, occupied the positions which had been vacated and settled down to a night's guard and prepare for what we had anticipated the morrow was going to be. It so happened the next day, that was the start of the move of the Japanese from Kokoda across the Owen Stanleys.

Donald James Simonson MC, Lieutenant Platoon Commander of 39th Battalion. Listen to his account.

After the second engagement at Kokoda, Major Cameron retreated to Deniki to reorganise his force.

Heavy rain battered their morale and soaked them through. Sickness and strain had started to deplete their numbers.

Captain Symington sent word ahead from Kokoda. He estimated 1,000 to 2,000 Japanese were in the Yodda Valley. It was becoming clear that they intended to advance towards Deniki, so Cameron sent word to Port Moresby.

The Japanese commander, Tsukamoto, realised the importance of Deniki to the Australians. He applied pressure from every direction. He wanted them to believe he'd broken their line of defence.

Experience taught Tsukamoto that wearing the enemy down, making them anxious, and pushing them to the point of exhaustion would force them to retreat. The Japanese used the dense foliage to their advantage to move into position around Deniki.

At 5:30 am on 13 August, the Japanese launched their attack.

The Japanese came at them, shooting and scrambling up hills, four or five men at a time. The Allied forces held them back with grenades and small arms.

The onslaught continued from every angle until 1 am on 14 August. Soaked through and shivering, the exhausted defenders succumbed to Japanese tactics, fearing they were surrounded. Low on food and ammunition, Cameron ordered their withdrawal to Isurava early that morning.

When the Japanese troops advanced later to take Deniki, they found it already abandoned.

Papua New Guinea
12 to 14 August 1942
Image caption
Looking northward over a grass hut towards the Yodda Valley and Kokoda, 1,000 metres below. Australian soldiers of the 2nd/4th Field Ambulance, and Papuan carriers rest briefly at the hut as they make their way along the Kokoda Trail from Alola to Kokoda. Photo taken November 1942.
Image attribution
Australian War Memorial. AWM P02424.101. Photo by Alan O. Watson.