Under director Brendan Nelson, the Australian War Memorial published the book "Kokoda beyond the Legend" in 2017. The book contains chapters that without any historical justification falsely diminish the magnificent Kokoda achievement in 1942 and falsely smear Australia's Kokoda heroes as lesser fighters than the Japanese they defeated on the Kokoda Track.


Left: The book "Kokoda beyond the Legend" was published by the Australian War Memorial in 2017 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda fighting; RIGHT: Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson; Below: The Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The book "Kokoda beyond the Legend" was published despite my prior warnings that the book would contain a false denial of the strategic importance of Kokoda as a part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1942 and subject Australia's Kokoda heroes to vile and untrue smears. I believe that deliberate publication by the AWM of a Kokoda “treatment” that falsely demeans the magnificent Kokoda achievement and falsely denigrates our Kokoda heroes has brought shame on our national war memorial and fairly earns this treatment the description fake history.

Kokoda is an iconic part of Australia's military history, and I believe that many Australians will resent Kokoda being tarnished falsely by the Australian War Memorial under Brendan Nelson. A detailed REVIEW AND EXPOSURE of the shameful historical distortions contained in several chapters of this treatment of Kokoda may cause some Australians to feel that there has been a collapse of historical scholarship at the Australian War Memorial under director Brendan Nelson. Nelson has received nine documents from me relating to these Kokoda issues between April 2017 and September 2018. He has not challenged my views, he has simply ignored all of those nine communications, which included written invitations from me to defend false and insulting claims in his book's treatment of Kokoda. This churlishness on the part of a director of Australia's national war memorial should not cut it with those Australians who still revere the men who fought, bled, suffered, and died on the Kokoda Track defending soil that was part of Australia in 1942 to stop the Japanese capturing the strategically vital Port Moresby that was also part of Australia in 1942. 

This discourteous treatment of correspondence may appear very strange in a director of Australia's national war memorial; but perhaps an examination of Brendan Nelson's working and private life can provide clues to what some might view as inappropriate churlishness and arrogance in a director. Brendan Nelson insists on calling himself "Dr" Nelson but I could find no evidence that he had achieved a PhD from rigorous academic study, and he has not practised medicine since 1996. If Wikipedia is correct, controversy has been associated with much of Nelson's working life. His leadership of the federal Liberal Party and federal Opposition lasted only ten months before he was removed. He has been married three times. After reading the account of his life in Wikipedia, I have been wondering what might have persuaded anyone that a politician whose life has been marked by controversy was qualified to be director of the nation's war memorial. Rumours were circulating in 2018 that Brendan Nelson might be considered for appointment as Governor-General following Sir Peter Cosgrove, but after Nelson's very controversial attitude to Kokoda received public airing in 2017 and 2018, I suspect that those Australians who view Kokoda as a magnificent and heroic achievement that blocked an invasion of a part of Australia by Japanese troops in 1942 would have been relieved to hear that the prestigious appointment would go to the governor of New South Wales General David Hurley.

If a Labor Government holds office in Canberra after May 2019, I hope that action will be taken to restore the function of the Australian War Memorial to that of a memorial and not a publisher of false history that demeans a great achievement like Kokoda and smears falsely the men who fought, bled, suffered, and died on the Kokoda Track. Having created massive public controversy between 2002 and 2005*, the Military History Section of the Australian War Memorial was significantly cleansed between 2005 and 2008. However, the publication of "Kokoda beyond the Legend" shows that cleansing was inadequate. The Military History Section needs another cleansing of trendy Marxist postmodernism that encourages scepticism towards a nation's great military achievements. * That controversy is addressed on this website.

The Council of the Australian War Memorial cannot escape criticism for the appalling denigration of Kokoda and Australia's Kokoda heroes in "Kokoda beyond the Legend". The Council is responsible for "...the conduct and control of the affairs of the Memorial", and it appears to have done nothing since the departure of Dr Peter Stanley in 2006 to restore genuine historical scholarship to the national war memorial. The membership of the Council needs to be reviewed after May 2019, and any identified time-servers replaced by people who really care about Australia's military history and respect the sacrifices made by Australians in war. AND SEE BELOW!


Many Australians, and especially many war veterans who were disgusted by the Australian War Memorial's publication of "Kokoda beyond the Legend" in 2017, with several chapters containing false denials of the strategic importance of Kokoda as a part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1942 and subjecting Australia's Kokoda heroes to vile and untrue smears, were likely to be delighted to hear that Director Brendan Nelson will leave the Australian War Memorial at the end of 2019.


The Minister for Veterans' Affairs, the Honourable Darren Chester announced on 8 October 2019 the appointment of former Australian Prime MInister the Honourable Tony Abbott to the Council of the Australian War Memorial. My criticism of the Memorial Council above cannot apply to Tony Abbott who is on record as a person who cares deeply about Australia's military history and the sacrifices made by Australian men and women in war. This is an outstanding appointment, and one likely to please greatly Australia's veteran community which has been disgusted since 2002 by regular insulting and utterly false attacks emanating from the Memorial and directed against Australia, its people, its military history, including the Anzacs, and the character of wartime Prime Minister John Curtin.


JKB small

James Kenneth Bowen, BA; LLB (University of Queensland) *
Pacific War historian and convener Battle for Australia and Pacific War historical societies
* Concise CV 

The national war memorial belongs to the people of Australia and not to its director Brendan Nelson or his staff historians who appear to relish igniting wholly unjustified public controversy over Australia's war history. This happened from 2002 to 2005 until Australia's political leaders at that time intervened publicly. The national war memorial is sacred ground; not a university campus. It should not be used as a platform from which its staff can express or publish offensive, insulting, and strongly challenged personal views that lack sound historical foundation and diminish the achievements and sacrifices of those who died defending Australia from Japanese military aggression at places that included Sydney, Darwin, Broome, Rabaul, Timor, Ambon, Coral Sea, Kokoda, Milne Bay, the Beachheads, Wau, and Guadalcanal.

Memorial historian Dr Karl James played a major role in publishing the controversial chapters in "Kokoda beyond the Legend". His role is developed in my published Amazon review of that book, and I believe that I have demonstrated in that review that Karl James is not qualified to write Kokoda history.

Does chairman of the Australian War Memorial council Kerry Stokes find the Memorial’s publication of a false treatment of Kokoda history too difficult for him to resolve?

Kerry Stokes, AC - Business tycoon, chairman of the television Seven Network, and chairman of the Council of the Australian War Memorial.

Mr Kerry Stokes was apprised by email dated 7 February 2019 of my criticisms of three chapters of the Australian War Memorial book “Kokoda beyond the Legend” after almost two years of failure by Memorial director Brendan Nelson to respond to nine attempts by me to achieve a response from him. View his extraordinary response.

Having failed to tarnish the leadership and character of Prime Minister John Curtin, the Australian War Memorial targets former Prime Minister Paul Keating In the false history chapters of “Kokoda beyond the Legend”.

Former Australian Prime Minister the Honourable Paul Keating

Two Australian Prime Ministers have been subjected to sustained attack by the Australian War Memorial. Both have been Labor prime ministers but their political alignment was not the apparent reason for the attacks on their judgment in national affairs.

Australia’s deeply respected wartime Labor Prime Minister John Curtin was subjected to bizarre and totally unjustified public attacks on his character and leadership by the Australian War Memorial in essays published by the Memorial’s English-born senior historian Dr Peter Stanley in 2002 and 2005. We can reasonably conclude from the tenor of those essays that Stanley targeted John Curtin for opprobrium because Curtin would not bow during Australia’s year of greatest peril from Japan in 1942 to what Stanley saw as the superior wisdom of his fellow Englishman and statesman hero British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Stanley never mentions that it was Churchill who betrayed Australia to a grave risk of Japanese occupation at the Arcadia Conference held after Pearl Harbor in Washington in December 1941.

Public criticism of Dr Stanley’s very controversial attacks on John Curtin from Prime MInister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kim Beazley, appear to have persuaded Stanley to drop his public attacks on Curtin and direct his attacks in 2006 to former Prime Minister Paul Keating. It appears that Paul Keating may have attracted hostility from the Australian War Memorial because he was viewed by Stanley as being a “nationalist” in the sense of promoting as desirable an Australian national identity instead of an “internationalist” identity. This criticism of undesirable so-called “nationalism” was first promoted by Peter Stanley in essays published from 2002 to 2006. 

In one published essay Stanley wrote:

“It seems to be that Australians want to believe that they were part of a war, that the war came close; that it mattered….Set against the prosaic reality, the desire is poignant and rather pathetic.” From the Stanley essay “Threat made manifest” (2005).

Peter Stanley was talking about Australia’s role in World War II, and this appalling comment ignores the 26,000 young Australian airmen sent to Britain to defend Britain against Nazi Germany. This appalling comment also ignores the four Australian AIF divisions sent overseas to defend Britain. No British divisions came to help Australia against the Japanese in 1942. There was not even one British platoon on the Kokoda Track in 1942. Stanley’s appalling comment appeared to be dismissive of the loss of thousands of lives defending Australia against Japanese attacks in 1942. In his essay “Threat made manifest”, Stanley dismissed the first bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942 in which over 500 were killed and wounded with the sneering description “small beer”. 

In an essay published in 2006, it appeared to be clear that Stanley’s offensive comments above quoted from “Threat made manifest” were probably directed at words spoken by Prime Minister Paul Keating at Port Moresby and on the Kokoda Track on 25 and 26 April 1992.

At Ela Beach, Port Moresby, giving the Anzac Day address, Paul Keating said: “…for Australians, the battles in Papua New Guinea were the most important ever fought”.

Standing next to Paul Keating at Kokoda on the following day, Dr David Horner recorded Paul Keating as saying of the Kokoda fighting:
“This was the first and only time that we’ve fought against an enemy to prevent the invasion of Australia…this was the place where I believe the depth and soul of the Australian nation was confirmed.” From David Horner’s chapter in “Kokoda beyond the Legend”.

In a very clear reference to Paul Keating’s words spoken about Kokoda in 1992, Peter Stanley said in his 2006 essay with reference to the growing emphasis on Kokoda:

“It (Kokoda) promotes relatively unimportant events close to Australia over important events far away, purely on a rather simplistic calculus of proximity.” From Stanley’s essay “Was there a Battle for Australia”.

Pacific War historians who actually understand competing Japanese and American strategies in 1942, and Dr Peter Stanley has neither claimed nor revealed to me such awareness in his published work, know that the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Kokoda Campaign, and the Guadalcanal Campaign were not “relatively unimportant events close to Australia”. The fate of Australia hung in the balance until the Japanese were defeated in these battles across the northern approaches to Australia.

In “Kokoda beyond the Legend”, Australian historians Professor David Horner and Dr Karl James reject Paul Keating’s reference to Kokoda as being a defence against Japanese invasion. Both historians claim that the Japanese did not invade or intend to invade any part of Australia in 1942. As will become clear, historical evidence proves that Paul Keating was right and Horner and James were wrong about Japanese invasion. The whole of the Kokoda Campaign in 1942 was fought to expel Japanese invaders from soil that was Australia’s in 1942. READ MORE on 1 June 2019.