Its name is synonymous with resilience, bravery and courage, and eight decades on the role of Australian troops at Kokoda is still being remembered with pride.

Thursday marks 80 years since the beginning of the World War II Kokoda campaign in Papua New Guinea.

Commemorations will be held marking the anniversary, with a special Last Post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra honouring the 641 lives lost during the campaign.

The memorial’s head of military history Dr Karl James said Kokoda played a crucial role during Australia’s efforts in World War II.

“Kokoda has become one of Australia’s best-known wartime campaigns,” he said. 

“It has come to represent qualities such as courage, sacrifice and mateship.

“Remembering Kokoda reminds us of what it means to be an Australian.”

Following the fall of Singapore and the bombing of Darwin in early 1942, the war in the Pacific had moved closer to Australia.

Japanese forces were looking to capture PNG’s capital Port Moresby and further isolate the Australian mainland.

On July 21, the Japanese landed near Gona on Papua New Guinea’s north coast, moving inland across the Owen Stanley Range, the route which would later become known as the Kokoda Trail.

Dr James said the steep terrain and muddy conditions along the trail made for challenging conditions for Australian forces.

“The five-month Kokoda campaign would become an epic feat of endurance, requiring hand-to-hand combat and many acts of individual bravery,” Dr James said.

“Eighty years on, it is important to continue to honour those veterans still with us today and to highlight Australia’s long connections with our Pacific neighbours.”

Australian forces, along with Papuan support, fought many battles at Kokoda and Isurava during the campaign along the trail.

After hard-won successes at Templeton’s Crossing and Eora Crossing, Kokoda was liberated in early November 1942.

While Kokoda would become synonymous with Australian efforts during World War II and the conflict in the Pacific, Dr James said it also had broader significance.

“Australia emerged from World War II industrialised and confident, with a sophisticated relationship with Britain, a new friendship with the United States of America and ready to engage with Asia and the Pacific,” he said.

“The significance and understanding of Australia’s involvement in World War II evolves because of how we remember. 

“It is crucial for Australia to remember and share this knowledge.”