Book review: The Architect of Kokoda
THE ARCHITECT OF KOKODA
Author: Robyn Kienzle
Publisher: Hachette Australia
THE name of Bert Kienzle rates an almost fleeting mention in many of the excellent books written about the famous Kokoda campaign in New Guinea in the Second World War.
The famous battles which raged over the Kokoda Track are credited with turning the tide of the Japanese advances through the Pacific and saving Australia from possible invasion.
The Japanese were stopped by fierce Australian defence, poor supply lines and the efforts by men like Bert who pioneered the trail and then organised vast numbers of native carriers to carry food and ammunition to the troops and evacuate the wounded.
Crucially, he found areas high in the mountains where supplies could be air-dropped to exhausted troops needing lots of help against a determined enemy.
His knowledge of Papua-New Guinea was crucial in helping Australia's rattled army, firstly retreat in the face of fierce opposition and then turn and attack with such ferocity that the Japanese were eventually forced out of the territory.
This is why Bert's daughter-in-law Robyn Kienzle has described Bert as the "man who made the Kokoda Track".
This excellent book describes his progression from a young boy in Fiji, to his family's internment in the First World War as German sympathisers, to his early work in New Guinea and then development of plantations and gold mines in the Kokoda area in the north of the country.
His life reads like a Boys Own manual of adventures in a unique time in history.
This is an excellent book, well written and incredibly interesting.
Robyn Kienzle has done much to fill in a gap in the Kokoda story and give Bert Kienzle the recognition he justly deserves.
She quotes Peter FitzSimons, author of the best-seller Kokoda, as saying of Bert, "In my humble opinion, Bert Kienzle did more than another single man to make Australian victory possible."