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Researching PNG war legacies: Can you help?


LONDON - Greetings from England. I am a PhD student at King's College, London, and currently researching a project on the legacies of World War II across Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.

I came across PNG Attitude a while ago when I wrote my MA thesis (‘Bougainville During the War’).

Keith Jackson's testimony about Sergeant Yauwiga (here and here) provided an invaluable source for me, for which I'm extremely grateful.

I’ve found PNG Attitude really useful for unearthing information about the legacies of World War II, in particular JP Richards' contribution 'Shy Soldiers' about the Mimosa pudica weed.

I would like to connect to Mr Richard, if possible, and ask him further questions related to his splendid article. I wonder if there is anyone amongst your readers who could put me in touch with him?

Ed Pinfield can be contacted here

Also, I invite PNG Attitude readers to write to me, with as much detail as they like, about the legacies of World War II in Papua New Guinea, particularly those prevalent today.

It would be great to garner Papua New Guinean perspectives - and especially Indigenous views, which is the main aim of my project - so Western understanding of the impacts of the war beyond the combatants is better understood.

To be more specific, the legacies of the war could be related to flora or fauna that was introduced (such as the Giant African land snails of northern New Guinea, war recollections, and myths and legends, war tourism, places and artefacts associated with the war (such as the tunnels carved into the Rabaul caldera).

And I’m sure there is much more. I look forward to hearing from PNG Attitude readers.


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Ed Pinfield

Hi Bernard - Thanks for your reply. I tried to reply to your email but it failed to send no matter what I tried. So I'm posting my reply here in case you read it:

Regarding the Marston mat. I’m assuming local people have repurposed the material for domestic uses.

Perhaps you can elaborate on that and any other instances of WWII material/equipment still in use today?

Also, I’m guessing you have some connection to the Markham Valley area, if so, you may know about the invasive species of flora and fauna the Japanese and Allies introduced to the area during the war, which are still pests today.

Perhaps the most famous instance was the Giant African Snails the Japanese brought to New Guinea for food.

I believe that they are still about, but I have looked for recent articles about them but couldn’t find anything!

Also, the Japanese introduced the mimosa pudica (sensitive plant) weed to the area (nilnil gras in Tok Pisin) for several purposes.

Entomologists say this weed has spread across PNG in the post-war years, and has taken over plantations and small holdings all over PNG. Still about today. I wonder if you could say anything about it.

One other major alien plant was the Mikania Micrantha (American rope) which the Yanks spread across the Pacific as they used it for camouflage.

The plant has caused havoc for many PNG farmers, similar to the sensitive plant, as it smothers crops and pastures.

Ed Pinfield

Hi Sophia, yes, I am familiar with Deakin's project.

In fact, I am working with Jon Ritchie, who took a lot of the testimonies, to write an article for the Journal of Pacific History on Pacific Islanders in the service of the Japanese military during the Second World War.

Edward Pinfield

Thanks for the post! I’ve had a few people reach out to me already. I don't think there's much to add or change.

Feel free to share any enduring World War II legacies you have experienced across PNG.

I found out the other day that I’m presenting my paper on Bougainville at the World War II conference in Edinburgh in June.

Looking forward to sharing with the masses the gallantry and exploits of Pacific Islanders like Sargeant Yauwiga!

Sophie Constable

Hi Ed - Have you had a look at the PNG Voices Oral Histories project? I was thinking it might be helpful when thinking about how World War II is remembered:

Bernard Corden

Dear Edward, The Marston Mat, or perforated steel planking, is a legacy from WW2 and was used extensively for the rapid construction of temporary runways and landing strips throughout the Markham Valley:

There are two fascinating books by Phillip Bradley, "The Battle for Wau" (ISBN 9780521896818) and "To Salamaua" (ISBN 9780521763905), which may provide some valuable references towards your research project.

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