DOES THE CHAIRMAN OF THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL COUNCIL KERRY STOKES FIND THE MEMORIAL'S PUBLICATION OF A FALSE AND DEMEANING TREATMENT OF KOKODA AND AUSTRALIA'S KOKODA HEROES TOO DIFFICULT FOR HIM TO RESOLVE? VIEW HIS EXTRAORDINARY RESPONSE BELOW?

James Bowen BA; LLB (University of Queensland)



Left: James Bowen, after attending a 50th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam War; Middle: Major James Bowen at Australian Task Force HQ Nui Dat, South Vietnam, during the communist Tet Offensive in 1968; Right: 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.

I have made very clear to Mr Stokes my belief that deliberate publication by Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson of a Kokoda “treatment” that falsely demeans the magnificent Kokoda achievement and falsely dishonours as lesser fighters than the Japanese the Australian Kokoda heroes who fought, bled, suffered, and died on the Kokoda Track to block a Japanese invasion of soil that was Australian in 1942 has brought shame on the Australian War Memorial. That shame is comparable to the massive controversy and public shame (hotline) visited on the Memorial by its Military History Section under Dr Peter Stanley from 2002 to 2005.

Mr Stokes should be aware that I am not only an experienced lawyer, an army officer who served in Vietnam with the Australian Army in 1968, but also a graduate military historian who has studied Japanese history and who specialises in the dynamics of the Pacific War, and in particular, 1942. My CV is in the public arena.

The very brief reply by Mr Stokes to me reads as follows:

I find it significant that Kerry Stokes makes no attempt to address the failure of Brendan Nelson to respond to any of nine communications from me relating to “Kokoda beyond the Legend”, and I am left with the impression that the Memorial council is embarrassed by Nelson’s cavalier behaviour, and so chooses the easy option of failing to address it.

I can see nothing in his reply that suggests Mr Stokes has any appreciation of the very serious historical issues raised by the Memorial book “Kokoda beyond the Legend”. He does not seize upon any point of criticsm that I have made and suggest that it can be challenged with contrary evidence. I believe that Australians can reasonably draw a conclusion from Mr Stokes’s slight and dismissive reply that he cannot dispute my accusations that three chapters of the Kokoda book contain false treatments of Kokoda that are intended to demean a magnificent Australian military achievement.

My Stokes is a business tycoon and not a specialist historian, and I can understand his apparent failure to appreciate from very clear historical evidence how distressing it is likely to be for many Australians to learn that their national war memorial has undertaken the publishing of a treatment, it is certainly undeserving of the description history, that falsely demeans the magnificent Kokoda achievement in 1942 as ridden with myths and dishonours Australia’s Kokoda heroes with false slurs on their fighting ability compared with the soldiers of the powerful Japanese army that they defeated on the Kokoda Track.

I suspect that many Australians may share my view that the deliberate demeaning of the magnificent Kokoda achievement by the Australian War Memorial’s publication of “Kokoda beyond the Legend” points to the need for a review of appointments to the council of the Memorial, and perhaps the need to appoint an eminent historian of the calibre of Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Blainey, AC as the next chairman of the council rather than a businessman.

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KERRY STOKES AC - AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL - KOKODA