NOOSA – United States’ president-elect Joe Biden is well acquainted with Papua New Guinea – two of his uncles fought there in World War II and one was killed, his body never found.
“Australia looked to America, and a generation of Americans - including two of my uncles - responded,” Biden said during a visit to Australia as US vice president in 2016.
“Both in New Guinea, one killed and one went home badly injured,” he said.
Biden’s mother, Jean Finnegan Biden, from Scranton in Pennsylvania, Biden’s birthplace, had four brothers, all of whom tried to enrol in the Army the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour in December 1941.
“Papua New Guinea, that's where my two uncles, ended up, in the Army Air Corps of the United States Army,” Biden said.
“My mother's number two brother, Ambrose Finnegan, is still remembered in Scranton as a leader. He was shot down, and his body was never found, in Papua New Guinea.
“And the other came home with malaria and was sick, off and on, for the better part of his life.”
“And I used to sneak out of the house with this Army Air Corps patch in my pocket to [show] to everybody in the neighbourhood I grew up in - an old Irish-Catholic neighbourhood.
“The day after Pearl Harbour my mom's four brothers went down to sign up for war service. Three of them got in.
“My uncle Ambrose Jr was a flier killed in New Guinea. Jack and Gerry did their part. But the army wouldn't take Blewitt.”
Given that two of his uncles fought side by side with Australians in PNG in World War II, and that one of them died there, Biden has a strong personal connection with our region.
“We forged the foundations of our alliance in iron and baptised it in blood”, he says. “Our shared home is the Asia-Pacific”.
“My mom had an expression from the time I was a kid,” he said in a speech made in the US. “She said, ‘Joey, look at me. Look in my eyes’. And I’m not exaggerating my word as a Biden. She said, ‘Look at me. Remember you are defined by your courage and you’re redeemed by your loyalty’. That was her code.”