By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
The Path of Infinite Sorrow: The Japanese on the Kokoda Track
By Craig Collie & Hajime Marutani (Allen & Unwin, $22.99, softcover, 324 pages)
Related for the first time through the personal experiences of the Japanese soldiers, the story of the bloody Kokoda campaign is emotionally draining.
Nevertheless, the Collie-Marutani collaboration is commanding in its re-examination of the campaign that was part of the World War II battle between Australian and Japanese forces in 1942.
It presents a new perspective on one of the most inhumane conflicts in Australian war history. The perilous Kokoda Track was over the mountainous spine of New Guinea.
The campaign narrative has been told from the Japanese point of view from personal recollections of Japanese soldiers and captured from diaries.
“We were all skin and bone, as if our stomachs were stuck to the inside wall of our back.”
The authors have sourced many avenues to skilfully construct this story and do not recoil from mentioning the atrocities perpetrated in the military operations. Maps detail the conflicts at the beachheads and along the track.
While the Australian encounters have frequently been told, the Japanese connection has remained the furtive enemy lurking in the dense undergrowth, better known for atrocities than their participation in battle.
This book serves a long-overdue purpose in putting forward the ‘other side’ of the story.
This version paints humane faces on the previously undetectable, callous enemy helping us to understand that all soldiers are individuals with human sentiments. Just like their opposition, the Japanese also endured many atrocities, suffering from hunger, getting wounded and dying.
They lived “…their own real-life heart of darkness” with the few who survived taking out of the “experience a deep, everlasting sorrow”.
Their heartaches, too, were immeasurable, their depth incalculable and the burden of grief arcane.
The Path of Infinite Sorrow is aptly named—and relays evocative visions.
Edition 399, 04 March 2014
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