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Kokoda [Hardcover]

Paul Ham
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 Oct 2004
Focussing on the infamous Kokoda Track campaign, this tale has been told from both sides of the conflict. In a balanced portrayal, it also recounts both the Australian and Japanese perspectives of the hellish Papuan jungle trail.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd; 1st edition (27 Oct 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0732276934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0732276935
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.2 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,613,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Ham has spent the past 16 years writing 20th century military, political and diplomatic history. He has written five critically acclaimed books: '1914: THE YEAR THE WORLD ENDED' (published by Random House Australia in 2013 and Random House UK in 2014); 'SANDAKAN' (Random House Australia 2011, Random House UK 2013); 'HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI' (HarperCollins Australia 2010, Random House UK 2011, Thomas Dunne USA 2014), and 'KOKODA' and 'VIETNAM: THE AUSTRALIAN WAR' (HarperCollins Australia, 2005 and 2007, respectively). Two have inspired ABC documentaries, which he co-wrote and/or narrated. Ham is a regular contributor to the Kindle Single platform and a former foreign correspondent for The London Sunday Times. He has a Masters degree in Economic History from the London School of Economics, and lives in Sydney and Paris.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly gripping and intelligent modern history 22 Jan 2008
This is a fantastic book. The author, who in a former life was a financial journalist for the Sunday Times combines a historian's passion for accuracy with the newspaperman's ability to tell a good story by clothing his framework with the testimonies of those who were actually there. Strangely enough, the Japanese do not emerge as monsters.

It's all horribly vivid. Makes you glad you weren't actually there.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent history of an horrific campaign 19 Nov 2012
By Chic
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I bought this book in anticipation of walking the Kokoda Trail myself and only having the faintest of ideas of what the campaign involved.
The book provided extremely informative descriptions from the build-up to the campaign through to its conclusion. It also provides accounts from all perspectives: the politicians, high command, through the ranks to the soldiers on the ground from both the Australian and Japanese sides. It quotes extensively from diaries and papers from the campaign and integrates these well into the history. The writing is gripping without being sensationalist.
It is an excellent read for anyone interested in the Pacific Campaigns of World War II or in walking the Kokoda Trail.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on Kokoda Campaign 20 Feb 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Military history is a difficult balancing act. The author must convey the horror of war, with any especial factors relevant to the campaign, but they also must convey the larger picture. A book that only says 'war is hell' respects the soldiers who fought in one regard, but it is strangely disrespectful in assuming that they were there as happy robots, fighting and dying for no particular reason. Paul Ham avoids this basic error, despite the fact that the Kokoda campaign could easily qualify as one of the most harrowing of World War Two, which is saying something given the vast scope of the conflict. Instead, we get a beautifully balanced work that sources from the Japanese perspective as well as the Allied. Paul is great with sources, and the key ones are directly referenced in the relevant chapters as well as in the traditional end notes. When fighting is described then we know why the action was fought and there are chapters that deal with the highest levels of command, including Britain and Churchill's role against the steely determination by the Austrailian government to get its professional army home from the Middle East. One example is the infamous Rabbit speech by General Blamey to the Austrailian Brigade that performed the fighting retreat into Port Moresby. Most authors describe the incident with a withering contempt for the General. Paul Ham places it in context and raises the possibility that it was really a public speaking disaster, but no more than that, and backs the possibility with referenced sources.

The maps are excellent, and on the Kindle edition are easy to enlarge and study. Crucially, they are in the right place relative to the text and so greatly add to the understanding of the work. This is easily the best book available on this absolutely critical campaign.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very easy to read........... 8 Nov 2011
This seems to a very difficult book to get in Europe at a reasonable price. However, I found it an excellent read with I believe adequate detail for the professional historian but also easy enough to read for a more casual reader. The maps aren't brilliant and at times there are references within the text to places that are not visible on maps which can lead to slight confusion. This doesn't detract from the overall quality of the read which makes use of accounts of veterans who were in New Guinea and Papua to paint the misery that the soldiers faced. Paul Ham also doesn't sit on the fence with his views on some of the Allied commanders in the campaign.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Comprehensive History 25 April 2007
By Hugh Bird - Published on Amazon.com
Paul Ham has managed to bring alive a time and place that we are now over half a century removed from.

He tells the tale Of the Kokoda Track campaign from the first day the Japanese ships appeared off the northern beaches of Papua New Guinea and the troops came ashore, through to their utter destruction many hard months later at the hands of the Australian and US troops.

He tells the story from the view of the soldier in the field, on both sides, to the perspectives of the highest offices of command and the egos at large there.

This was the first great reversal on land of the rampaging Japanese army. That a group of ragtag part time soldiers was able to slow them says something of the troops, and also of the terrain and conditions these troops were asked to fight in.

I asked for this book for a Christmas present and just stated the title thinking I would get the Peter FitzSimons book. I was a little disappointed when I found I had received this book instead. But I have to say by the time I had finished this book, the mistake was most welcome. I have not yet read the Peter FitzSimons book but I would have to say it would be hard pressed to top this book.

This is an outstanding read. There's not a wasted word or a dull sentence in the whole book. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in the campaigns of World War 2.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vivid, compelling, and balanced military history chronicle, worthy of the highest recommendation 18 Oct 2010
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Kokoda is the audiobook adaptation of journalist Paul Ham's chronicle of the bloody battles fought on the Papuan jungle trail during World War II. Australian forces struggled to defend their homeland; the Japanese were under strict orders to fight to the death in order to conquer "Greater East Asia". The conflict was fierce and savage, marked by acts of bravery on both sides. Kokoda is a vivid, compelling, and balanced military history chronicle, worthy of the highest recommendation. 17 CDs, 21 hours 30 minutes.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We could be speaking Japanese if not for some crucial mistakes. 7 Dec 2013
By Karen Goforth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Makes you cry to think of the wasted lives lost because of egos. A must read for the three way perspective. Was not aware of all of the real hardships these poor men endured for the freedom we enjoy and how close it was.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kokoda 28 July 2013
By kevin reilly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am a Pacific War history buff and can never seem to get enough of it, but after reading "Kokoda" opened a new area of reading for me. It was so interesting I would pull out my iPad to Google Earth to see the exact area of the "Kokoda Trail". Excellent read and prompted me to more Kindle books in that area such as "Coastwatchers, then "The Naval Battles for Guadalcanal", Then "the Japanese Destroyer Captain" and am now reading "The Airman and the Headhunters"! I make it a point to check the areas on "Google Earth" for locations and to get as exact as I can the areas that I'm reading about. Some of them were written by Australians or Australians and/or their families were interviewed. I would recommend these books to anyone who has this interest!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good account of Kokoda Campaign 25 Mar 2013
By Rob Matthews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am a Canadian who has read uncounted books and articles on Canadian, US, and UK accounts of military operations in both world wars. I bought this book because I know very little of Australian actions in wither world war. Am somewhat familiar with the desert campaign, again but not from the Australian perspective. I figured this would be a good starting point to learn the Australian point of view of the Pacific War.
I found this book well written and researched. Paul Horn wrote a book that gives an account of the campaign from the very top to bottom of both Allied and Japanese leadership. Having read Churchill's memoirs I found the account of the return of Australia's battle hardened troops compelling. Always thought it was a courageous decision to countermand the orders to divert Aussie troops to hopeless battlefields when they were needed back home.
Was not aware of the infighting between top Australian commanders, MacArthur, and other US commanders. This was a major difference between parallel leadership relationships that the Canadian Army experienced in Italy and Northwest Europe. The fact that the top leader did not fully support his field commanders made for most disturbing reading. It must have added to the stress felt by the brigade commanders in the latter part of the campaign.
The account of the various battles were well written and highlights the inadequacy of training, supplies, and equipment of the first Aussie units pushed into the fight. What is clear from this account was the toughness and fighting spirit that was harnessed early by good leadership. The rest of the campaign is described in vivid detail and does good justice to the front line troops involved.
I summary this is a very good account of the Kokoda campaign. It describes the decision making of the top leadership from Prime minister down to brigade commanders at the front. There is vivid description of the battles tempered with much of the political machinations that decided the fate justly or unjustly of the front line troops. The criticism of Douglas MacArthur's role in the campaign are biting and unfavourable. Americans will do themselves a service in reading this account prior to Hollywood releasing there next movie on this legendary hero.
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