Education & security winners in PNG budget
Is justice compromised by Aussie largesse?

Remains of 22 PI Coastwatchers located


AT 65, I THOUGHT I would be slowing my pace a bit, restricting my travels as much as possible to cruise ship lectures, and the like.

However, I serendipitously entered into a research project that was not on my list just a few months ago. It all started when Daniele and I were on Dawn Princess.

A friend in Wellington sent me a newspaper article going back to 2002. It was innocuous in the sense that it was about a monument to a group of British subjects, mostly New Zealanders, who were posted on islands around the Pacific before Pearl Harbor to act as Coastwatchers.

After Pearl Harbor, for many of these Coastwatchers, their situation became tenuous as the Japanese moved rapidly south, taking one island group after another. In the northern Gilbert Islands - present day Kiribati - seven of these New Zealand Coastwatchers were captured and sent to Zentsuji POW Camp in Japan. They were the lucky ones.

Their colleagues in the southern Gilberts, including Tarawa, were held there and later decapitated by the Japanese. Their remains were never recovered.

In 1943, after the Marines took the island, they erected a memorial to the 22 dead Coastwatchers. Years later, it was replaced; and in 2002 it was in need of replacing.

Simple enough up to this point, but yours truly being an inveterate networker, I forwarded this article to a few hundred people I network with on Pacific War issues. Lo and behold, one of them got back to me, saying he had just returned from Tarawa and knew where the remains of the 22 Coastwatchers were buried, going so far as to say he had the GPS coordinates.

I thought that was not only exciting, but important, so I passed that information on, again to a few hundred I network with.

Now, several governments and an untold number of individuals have picked up the story. They include the civil governments of both Australia and New Zealand and their respective militaries. I have been called by Maori TV, the Auckland Herald, documentary filmmakers, historians and writers.

I am getting 20-30 emails a day and relatives of the Coastwatchers are popping out of the Panga.

Let it suffice to say that this story is not over, and if you want to know more about the Tarawa Coastwatchers, I suggest that you Google the subject. G’day, mates, and Happy Trails…


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Nolene De Luca

2016 and I have just returned from Tarawa Island. Nothing further has been done to try and recover the remains of the Coastwatchers. I have been shown the site where the remains are said to lie and intend to follow through with the Ministry of Defence, anyone interested to find out more? I am willing to share what information I have.
My email is [email protected]

Imy Pearson

They haven't been located but the American experts are on their way and are hopeful that the site we have located is identifiable.

This information was just sent to us from NZ Defence.

But with over 4,000 war dead in Tarawa it'll be hard to distinguish.

From Tiareti's daughter. I am a granddaughter of Charlie Owen.

Margaret Peters

R G Morgan was my father and was in the Navy. He was not killed by the Japanese. He died of a heart attack in 1993.

He was a radio operater and was the only R G Morgan enlisted in the Navy between 1933 and 1970.

Rebecca Schwass

In regards to Rex Hearn yes it is believed he was. he was a relative my nannie used to speak of him often

Adam Elliott

I got this list of the 17 coastwatchers and 5 Australians from

R.G. Morgan / A.L. Sadd / A.E. McKenna / L.B. Speedy / R. Jones / W.A.R. Parker / B. Cleary / A.C. Heenan / A.L. Taylor / C.J. Owen / R.A. Ellis / R.M. McKenzie / I.R. Handley / J.J. McCarthy / T.C. Murray / D.H. Howe / C.A. Kilpin / A.M. McArthur / H.R.C. Hearn / C.A. Pearsall / R.J. Hitchon / J.H. Nichol.

There is more detail at the web link.

This is a very interesting and sad story. It seems they were not part of the well known 'Ferdinand' coastwatcher network and I believe at least some of the Kiwis volunteered in New Zealand, rather than being recruited from those who already had 'in situ' experience.

Martin Hadlow

Bruce, Peter and other interested friends.

It seems that the remains of the beheaded Coastwatchers on Tarawa have just been located.

Excavations are currently underway at the site and there is renewed hope that DNA testing will finally bring closure to this brutal chapter in the Pacific war.

Full details are here:

Lest we forget.

Peter Lovel

Martin Hadlow - Thank you so much for your prompt reply.
As you say, "may they rest in peace", and may we never forget the absolute brutality of the Japanese WW2 regime.

I am currently working on a family history of the Lovel family of Australia. Rex Hearn was the grandson of an Australian Lovel. I will make sure that his ultimate sacrife is clearly embedded in the minds of the family and friends.

Martin Hadlow

Yes, Peter, the official British files for the GEIC (Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony) include Rex Hearn's name.

The file is headed "Memorials in GEIC to Radio Operators Murdered by the Japanese at Betio, Tarawa and Ocean Island in 1942".

The names on the file of those murdered (beheaded) are as follows:

Henry Rexton Cropper Hearn
Arthur Clarence Heenan
John Joseph McCarthy
Arthur Ernst McKenna
Reginald George Morgan
Thomas Colin Murray
Clifford Arnold Pearsall
Alan Leicester Taylor
Ronald Third

According to the file, the monument erected to them on Tarawa has the following wording:

"In the service of their country they faced death with courage undaunted".

I do not know if the monument still exists.

Lest we forget.

Peter Lovel

My question is for everyone.

Does the name Coastwatcher Corporal Rex Hearn NZ mean anything to anyone?

I am trying to ascertain if he was one of the Coastwatchers beheaded by the Japanese, or later sent to Japan and killed there. Also is his name on the monument?

Bruce M Petty

I have a question for everybody, and it has to do with the supposed reason for why the Japanese executed 22 coast watcher on Tarawa on or around 15 October 1942.

According to various sources, the reason the Japanese killed these men was in retaliation for the bombing of Tarawa by American airplanes.

One Catholic priest on the island who witnessed the events said that possibly four planes struck the island that day, and a ship or submarine was spotted off the coast.

However, by October 1942, Yorktown & Lexington were at the bottom of the ocean--May & June. Saratoga was in the yards being repaired from another torpedo hit, and Enterprise, Hornet & Wasp were engaged in the Solomons that October, with Hornet & Wasp both being sunk that month.

So, where did the planes come from that supposedly bombed Tarawa in October 1942? Can anybody help me answer this question?

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