Past times: World War II & Kokoda Feed

Setting the record straight on Chard’s Kokoda

“I believe that those of us with a stake in PNG's history have a responsibility to call out this book. It is not history. I would ask that you consider publishing my review at PNG Attitude and reach an informed audience who may further spread the word” - Neil Gow

Isurava

NEIL GOW

REVIEW - Presumably Daniel Lane’s book, ‘The Digger of Kokoda’, has been written and published to praise the qualities of the Australian soldiers involved in the Papuan campaign in 1942 and highlight these qualities through one man’s story.

These qualities are enshrined on the Isurava Memorial on the Kokoda Trail – courage, mateship, sacrifice and endurance.

Continue reading "Setting the record straight on Chard’s Kokoda" »


Rabaul has been left out of our national story

Six weeks later, on January 23, 1942, Japan invaded Rabaul, and within six months Diana's father, uncle, and most of the nearly 2,000 Australian soldiers and civilians who had been left behind were dead

Diana Martell
Diana Martell was forced to leave her father and uncle behind in Rabaul (Ian Townsend, ABC RN))

IAN TOWNSEND
| ABC Radio National

SYDNEY - While Kokoda continues to loom large in the minds of Australians, Rabaul hardly resonates.

But relatives of the nearly 2,000 Australian soldiers and civilians who were left behind when Japan invaded the island of New Britain have not forgotten what happened in 1942.

Continue reading "Rabaul has been left out of our national story" »


The mountain cave that harboured Sgt Ryan

Ryan hid in a cave in the mountains of Sarewagat, 1,000 metres above sea level in a steep, densely forested valley with a fast flowing river

Peter Ryan - just 18 when called to war
Peter Ryan MM - just 18 when called to war

JACOB KUMAI

OLIN – This is my place, Olin; a little village in Nawaeb District, Morobe Province.

Some years ago, I was told by my great-grandfather about a World War II soldier who was assisted by the natives of this area to escape from the Japanese.

Continue reading "The mountain cave that harboured Sgt Ryan" »


Peter Ryan’s story of endurance & courage

Warrant Officer Ryan did not blame the Papua New Guineans for prevaricating about which side to choose when they sometimes preferred to help neither. Even when betrayed to the Japanese, Ryan understood that the same dynamic was at work

Overland - Ryan top
Peter Ryan - a young man, just 18, when he was called to war

CHRIS OVERLAND

Fear Drive My Feet by Peter Ryan, Text Publishing Company, new edition with introduction by Peter Pierce, 2015, 336 pages. ISBN: 9781925240054. Purchase from Booktopia: paperback $13.50 (ebook) $12.75

ADELAIDE - I have just finished reading Peter Ryan’s book ‘Fear drive my feet’, first published in 1959.

Ryan tells the story of his nearly two years patrolling in the mountainous country adjacent to the Markham Valley as an intelligence operative during World War II.

Continue reading "Peter Ryan’s story of endurance & courage" »


An elegy for an ended war & an uneasy peace

The resplendent rugged terrain of Oro does not easily reveal the stories of those ragged bloody heroes, foreign and local alike, who trudged across this landscape 80 years ago

Bablis - beach of peace

GREGORY BABLIS
| Ples Singsing - A PNG Writer's Blog

GORARI ORO - I wrote this poem sitting in my house in the middle of Gorari village thinking about this beautiful land that is steeped in the history of World War II as well as its own traditional history.

The title of the poem, 'Oro to This Place of War and Peace', points to Oro as knowing war and continuing to know it through its lingering effects and consequent materiality even in this time of peace.

Continue reading "An elegy for an ended war & an uneasy peace" »


Rabaul-born Philip (Hooky) Street dies at 91

The government's insensitivity to the widows and children continued long after the war until, in 2009, a small group from the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia formed a task force to do address the long official silence

Rabaul's main street 1942
Rabaul's main street as it was just before the Japanese invasion in 1942

KEITH JACKSON

NOOSA – The family of Philip (Hooky) Street, who died recently in Sydney aged 91, was among the small Australian population of Rabaul just before the Japanese invasion in January 1942.

Most of those families lost their husbands and fathers, who stayed behind while the women and children were hurriedly evacuated.

Continue reading "Rabaul-born Philip (Hooky) Street dies at 91" »


Kokoda Trail fails when bureaucracy prevails

The legislation smacks of colonialism and will result in PNG becoming the only country in the world to manage its most popular tourism destination as an environmental resource

Kokoda trail

HON CHARLIE LYNN OL
Adventure Kokoda | The National

SYDNEY - The proposed Kokoda Track Management Authority Bill is based on a false premise.

It is not a Papua New Guinea bill. It was developed in secret by an Australian aid official from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Canberra.

Continue reading "Kokoda Trail fails when bureaucracy prevails" »


Rabaul, Anzac & memories of war & peace

Anzac - dawn service rabaul
The RSL Cenotaph, a clear sky and a calm morning provided the perfect setting for this year's Anzac Day dawn service in Rabaul 

SUSIE McGRADE

RABAUL – In a year that marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Rabaul, more than 80 people attended Rabaul’s Anzac Day dawn service this year, which was hosted by the Rabaul Historical Society at the RSL Cenotaph.

The battle saw a small Australian overwhelmed by Japanese forces in late 1942 and it became the as the main Japanese naval base for the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns.

Continue reading "Rabaul, Anzac & memories of war & peace" »


My story of Kokoda – blood & guts aplenty

Painting by U Ikara
Japanese troops manhandle a field gun along the Kokoda Trail (Painting by U Ikara)

ROB BARCLAY
| Writer, Artist, Former Patrol Officer

MELBOURNE – For eons the 96 kilometre Port Moresby to Kokoda bush track was used by the superbly fit local people who, encountering difficult terrain obstacles, climbed right over them.

The patrol post at Kokoda was established by Captain CAW Monckton (1873-1936), the “tough, efficient, quick-witted and ruthless” magistrate and explorer.

Continue reading "My story of Kokoda – blood & guts aplenty" »


Jumping into history with the 2/4th Light


 
Anzac - 5 September 1943   (AWM)
Markham Valley, New Guinea, 5 September 1943. Screened by dense smoke, paratroopers of 503 US Paratroop Infantry Regiment and gunners of 2/4th Australian Field Regiment with 25 pounder guns land unopposed at Nadzab during the advance on Lae by the 7th Australian Division

COLONEL ARTHUR BURKE

BRISBANE - ‘Jump, you bastards, jump!’ Ian George (Robbie) Robertson exited badly and plummeted head first downwards.

Then he heard a loud crack and was wrenched upright and upwards. His parachute snapped open and blossomed in the cool air.

For only the second time in his life, this young soldier experienced the exhilaration of floating above the earth.

Continue reading "Jumping into history with the 2/4th Light" »


Kokoda: Angels & Diggers begat bureaucrats

William Dargie  Stretcher bearers in the Owen Stanleys  1943  oil on canvas
Stretcher bearers in the Owen Stanleys (William Dargie, oil on canvas, 1943). That their legacy is bogged down in bureaucracy dishonours them

CHARLIE LYNN
| Kokoda Treks | Edited

SYDNEY – In 1990, on the 75th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign in World War I, Australian prime minister Bob Hawke allocated $10 million so a group of 52 veterans and their carers could visit Anzac Cove in Turkey to commemorate the occasion.

25 years later, prime minister Tony Abbott allocated $100 million to establish the Sir John Monash Centre at Villiers-Bretonneux to honour the centenary of the Anzacs landing on the shores of Gallipoli.

Continue reading "Kokoda: Angels & Diggers begat bureaucrats" »


Track’s horror story unites the present

Lark japanese rabaul
Japanese troops parade after the fall of Rabaul, late January 1942. On 4 February 160 Australian Lark Force soldiers who escaped the invasion were captured and murdered in the vicinity of Tol and Waitavalo plantations

GREGORY BABLIS
| Ples Singsing

TOL, NEW BRITAIN - The Lark Force Track is a little-known wartime walking trail with a big history.

Located in East New Britain Province, it runs from the Warongoi River in the north to Tol, Wide Bay, along the south coast.

The track is named after the 2/22 Lark Force Battalion, an Australian force sent to guard Rabaul and its important harbour.

Continue reading "Track’s horror story unites the present" »


The remarkable Doc Vernon, doctor to the troops

Soldiers of the Australian 39th Battalion  Kokoda campaign  1942 (AWM)
Soldiers of the Australian 39th Battalion,  Kokoda campaign,  1942 (Australian War Memorial)

KEITH JACKSON

NOOSA – After graduating with a BA in history and English literature, Adrian Clack spent six years as a history teacher and school counsellor.

He then served 12 years as a police officer before, in 2017, making his passion for military history a major pursuit.

Since then Adrian has completed 15 crossings of the Kokoda Track as a guide and historian for On Track Expeditions.

Continue reading "The remarkable Doc Vernon, doctor to the troops " »


The Kokoda Trail & the enemy within

Enemy-Within cartoonCHARLIE LYNN
| Adventure Kokoda

SYDNEY - A 1,400% increase in the number of Australians trekking Kokoda after the opening of the Isurava Memorial in 2002 would normally be hailed an outstanding result for Papua New Guinean tourism and our shared wartime heritage.

But for Canberra based envirocrats, lurking within the corridors of the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts (DEWHA), it had all the hallmarks of an environmental Armageddon.

Continue reading "The Kokoda Trail & the enemy within" »


Captain Happ & his New Guinea memento

Len Happ (R) of Park Ridge with local villager next to his fighter plane  Little Joe.
Captain Len Happ (right) with a fellow aviator and local villager alongside his fighter plane,  Little Joe, at Gusap

STAFF WRITER
| Chicago Daily Herald

CHICAGO - In the early phases of the Pacific War, Captain and operations officer Len Happ was based at Gusap Air Base, just south of Lae.

From the war zone in 1943, Happ sent a rare native tribal bow set with several arrows to his home in Park Ridge, Illinois.

Continue reading "Captain Happ & his New Guinea memento" »


On winning whatever the price

World War II Japanese gun on Kangu Beach  south Bougainville
World War II Japanese artillery piece on Kangu Beach, near Buin south Bougainville

SIMON PENTANU MP
|  Edited

‘Only the dead have seen the end of war’ – Plato

KIETA - These are my thoughts from looking around Buin in south Bougainville every time I travel there. It is a great place, like other regions on the island.

It is also where I first saw, in 1964, the menace of war in the relics that all wars leave behind. The relics of Buin are from World War II, when Bougainville came under Japanese control.

Continue reading "On winning whatever the price" »


Don’t make history a fairy tale

Beach at Henry Reid Bay
Beach at Henry Reid Bay

GREGORY BABLIS
| Edited extracts

TOL, EAST NEW BRITAIN - Cultures around the world have different concepts of history and of time.

The historicity of a people or place crystallizes in many forms etched in the environment, landscape, language, stories and material culture. Legends, myths, fairy tales, creation stories or origin stories are just some examples.

Continue reading "Don’t make history a fairy tale" »


The image that stunned our readers

Marina Amaral
Marina Amaral in her studio. An exceptional artist, 76,000 viewers can't be wrong

KEITH JACKSON

NOOSA - On Monday, PNG Attitude published a famous World War II photograph, newly colourised by Brazilian artist Marina Amaral.

It proved to be an instant hit with many thousands of readers.

Some 76,000 people viewed the image and the accompanying story. Nearly 1,000 engaged actively with comments, likes and shares.

Continue reading "The image that stunned our readers" »


Revisiting an iconic image of comradeship

Private George Whittington & Raphael Oimbari colour Private George Whittington & Raphael Oimbari b&wKEITH JACKSON & SOURCES

NOOSA – Marina Amaral is a self-taught Brazilian artist known for her colourisations of historical black and white photographs.

The process involves historical research to determine the colours of each object pictured with colourisation often taking more than a month to complete.

Continue reading "Revisiting an iconic image of comradeship" »


That Christmas Day, 1942

Carriers walked long distances
Carriers walked long distances carrying heavy loads of wounded troops supplies and equipment (Damien Parer,  1942)

EDITED BY KEITH JACKSON
| Compiled from Voices from the War *

PORT MORESBY -World War II meant that many young Papua New Guinean men had to leave their villages in the service of the Australian and American military forces.

They worked as carriers, medical orderlies, police, cooks and in other service jobs. Sometimes this service lasted until the war ended.

Continue reading "That Christmas Day, 1942" »


The story of Warrant Officer Yauwiga DCM

Lt Cdr Pryce-Jones  presents Loyal Services Medal to Sergeant Major Yauwiga
Lieutenant Commander Pryce-Jones of the Naval Intelligence Division responsible for Coastwatcher operations, presents the Loyal Services Medal to Sergeant Yauwiga,  Guadalcanal, October 1943

KEITH JACKSON

With thanks to Joe Herman in the USA who suggested this story to mark US Veterans Day in which we pay tribute to all Papua New Guineans who have served in war and those from other countries who have fought in PNG. This article is based on writings by Steven Winduo, Steve Rusbridge, Phil Fitzpatrick, Dennis Burns, the Australian War Memorial and the PNG Post-Courier.

NOOSA – When Paul Yauwiga Wankunale, known as Yauwiga, from Kusaun village in the Kubalia area of the East Sepik Province came into view, he immediately presented himself as an unusual man.

“He was the only famous Papua New Guinean fuzzy wuzzy angel with a blue eye,” wrote academic and author Steven Winduo.

Continue reading "The story of Warrant Officer Yauwiga DCM" »


For God, country or what? Kumaniel’s war

Nepe Kumaniel and familyDaughter Nancy (PNG meri blouse & fedora) & Nepe with family members, 14 August 2015. Nepe is survived by 5 children, 19 grandchildren, 29 greatgrandchildren and 1 great-greatgrandchild (left of Nancy)

GREGORY BABLIS

FIFE, SCOTLAND - The Oral History Project of Papua New Guinea’s National Museum & Art Gallery and the Military Heritage Project are essentially a national search for common identity and, dare I say, a national consciousness, in a country where divisive diversity is the norm.

The former participates in this search through a blending of different stories while the latter does so through the preservation of the materiality of World War II.

Continue reading "For God, country or what? Kumaniel’s war" »


It was a real labour of love

Artist Lisa Hilli
Artist Lisa Hilli paid tribute to the FMI Sisters through her art creating a large digital photographic collage of an image of the Sisters and 45 hand-embroidered cinctures.

CLAIRE HUNTER
| Australian War Memorial

CANBERRA - When the Japanese invaded Rabaul on New Britain in January 1942, a group of 45 Daughters of Mary Immaculate (FMI) Sisters refused to give up their faith.

Instead, they risked their lives to help save hundreds of Australian and European missionaries and civilian detainees who were held captive by the Japanese for three and a half years, first at Vunapope and then in the dense jungle of Ramale.

Continue reading "It was a real labour of love" »


A soldier’ story

Bren gun carrier fitted with Bren light machine gun and Vickers .303 sub-machine gun (Digger History)
Bren gun carrier fitted with Bren light machine gun and Vickers .303 sub-machine gun (Digger History)

ROSS WILKINSON

MELBOURNE - Recently I have been involved in a project with a Papua New Guinean colleague to investigate the service history of some ex-servicemen buried at Port Moresby’s 9 Mile Cemetery.

During the course of this project, the history of one of the names evoked memories of my own father’s service in World War II.

Continue reading "A soldier’ story" »


In defence of the new world

Paul Keating
Paul Keating - "The Australians who served here in Papua New Guinea fought and died, not in the defence of the old world, but the new world.  Their world"

PAUL KEATING

The 1992 Anzac Day speech by Paul Keating at Ela Beach. Extract from Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM, by Don Watson (Random House)

PREAMBLE BY DON WATSON - Keating strode gracefully to the microphone [at Bomana War Cemetery] and began: "This is ground made sacred by the bravery and sacrifice of those who lie buried here." It did have a ring to it.

Later that morning he delivered the big Anzac Day address outdoors in Moresby. It was mildly inflammatory. The Anzac legend binds Australians and "defines us to ourselves", he said. But legends "should not stifle us. They should not constrain us when we have to change".

Continue reading "In defence of the new world" »


What's with these new Kokoda 'kiaps'?

New kiaps
Charlie Lynn argues it's about time the Kokoda Track came under the management of locals not imported park rangers

CHARLIE LYNN

SYDNEY – The Australian foreign affairs department (DFAT) 'Kokoda Initiative' has managed the Kokoda Trail through their surrogate Kokoda Track Authority for the past 11 years at a cost of more than $50 million (K105 million).

But in that time they have not been able to identify a single Papua New Guinean with the expertise to maintain the trail in a safe condition and protect the local environment.

Continue reading "What's with these new Kokoda 'kiaps'?" »


Want to do Kokoda; read this first

Rick Antonson
Rick Antonson's book on the Kokoda Track is praised for its insights and the historical research that went into its writing

PHIL FITZPATRICK

Walking with Ghosts in Papua New Guinea: Crossing the Kokoda Trail in the Last Wild Place on Earth by Rick Antonson, Skyhorse Publishing, New York, 2019, 260 pages, ISBN:9781510705661, hardcover AU$39.89, eBook AU$21.99 from Amazon Australia

TUMBY BAY - Walking along parts of the Kokoda Trail in the early 1970s it didn’t strike me as being any more rugged or arduous than other tracks I had walked as a kiap.

A 200 kilometre long track between Port Moresby and Buna on the north coast had, after all, been in use since the early 1900s.

Continue reading "Want to do Kokoda; read this first" »


Executed for helping the wrong side

Binaru sawmill
The storyteller Otto Dirumbi stands on the right of this photo taken at the Binaru sawmill in 1968

ROBERT FORSTER

NORTHUMBRIA, UK - Otto Dirumbi stands on the right of this picture which was taken in late 1968 at Binaru near Bundi in Madang Province.

Otto, from Karisokora village, was in charge of the saw. Beside him is Michel Waia with and Albert Atove on the left.

Otto was a storyteller and on many evenings after dinner led the recollections and musings of the 12 or so fellow workers who slept in the same communal hut.

Continue reading "Executed for helping the wrong side" »


The finding of Major Donn Young, aviator

Major Donn Young
Major Donn Young - who died with Major Bill Benn in 1943 when their bomber crashed in the Owen Stanleys

DIANA STANCY CORRELL | Military Times

VIENNA, USA - A World War II Army Air Corps aviator has been buried at Arlington this week with full military honours — thanks to the dogged efforts of a Philadelphia businessman who made multiple treks to the jungles of Papua New Guinea.

The remains of Major Donn Young were originally found more than 20 years ago by Fred Hagen, a Philadelphia construction company owner who originally went looking for the remains and aircraft of his great-uncle, Major Bill Benn in 1995.

Continue reading "The finding of Major Donn Young, aviator" »


Remains of US soldier killed in PNG identified & to be laid to rest

John E Bainbridge
John E Bainbridge - killed in PNG during World War II, his body remained unidentified for 75 years

KEITH JACKSON | Source: WMTV, Madison, Wisconsin

WASHINGTON DC - In 1942, John E Bainbridge from Sheboygan, Wisconsin in the United States was just 23 when he was killed in a World War II battle in Papua New Guinea.

According to the US government, efforts to find Bainbridge’s body failed but, in 1943, remains of an unidentified American soldier had been interred at a US Armed Forces Cemetery in PNG, where they were designated ‘Unknown X-135’.

After the war, the remains were moved to the Philippines and re- interred at the American Cemetery there.

In 2017, the remains were disinterred and sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Continue reading "Remains of US soldier killed in PNG identified & to be laid to rest" »


Kokoda tour operators: Please improve your game

Lynn Morrison
Charlie Lynn with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison. Lynn was an MP in Morrison's home state of NSW

CHARLIE LYNN | Adventure Kokoda Blog | Edited extracts

SYDNEY – I’ve had documents forwarded to me that include some remarks made to a recent Kokoda Tour Operators Association (KTOA) forum in Port Moresby.

KTOA was established to look after the interests of a small but vocal group of Australian based operators of eco-tours in Papua New Guinea.

According to the documents passed to me, Association president Sue Fitcher told the forum:

“It is time to call out those who would choose to damage and destroy the industry for whatever warped vested interests they have – who would know.

“We have talked about some of the claims and accusations that have been made earlier; it is interesting to note that [these] are rarely, if ever, made in person but through others or from the safety of sitting behind a computer and ranting through social media.

Continue reading "Kokoda tour operators: Please improve your game" »


Trail bureaucrats hijack $5 million Kokoda trekker payments

Campsite toilet on Imita Ridge (Lynn)
Campsite toilet on Imita Ridge (Lynn)

CHARLIE LYNN

SYDNEY - Over the past decade more than $5 million (K11.8 million) has been hijacked from Kokoda trekkers by unaccountable Australian and Papua New Guinean bureaucrats.

This money had been paid in good faith to meet trekkers’ basic needs in the form of adequate campsites and a safe trail. The fees were also meant to provide for shared community benefits for villagers along the trail.

However, since Australian government officials assumed control of the emerging Kokoda trekking industry in 2008, not a single dollar has been spent to improve campsites, toilets or management systems to meet the needs of the trekkers.

Nobody knows where the money has gone because the bureaucrats involved have never produced an audited financial report.

Continue reading "Trail bureaucrats hijack $5 million Kokoda trekker payments" »


The Kokoda shame: A continuing tale of a Trail of Woe

Rashmii and Tracie
Rashmii  Amoah Bell and Tracie Watson, general manager of Adventure Kokoda, which imposes standards Rashmii believes all trek companies should observe

RASHMII BELL

BRISBANE, DECEMBER 2018 - His question came as I expected it would and as it echoed through the earpiece, I felt a movement of the boulders of anxiety wedged in my chest.

Shifting from one heel to the other, leaning back against the kitchen countertop to steady myself, I proceeded with the conversation.

DE was calling from somewhere along the road that snakes it way up to Sogeri. His calls were irregular but always brief and purposeful.

Seconds passed as my mind quickly arranged a response of uninspiring words. Words unworthy of the travel DE had undertaken from his village and his effort in borrowing a mobile phone from his cousin.

Unlike several of his Adventure Kokoda counterparts whom I ‘friended’ online, my trek carrier’s resistance to social media meant that I received a phone call. The boulders settled uneasily in the pit of my stomach.

Sensing my unease, DE’s kind nature moved him to banter. With Christmas approaching, he humoured me with instruction to not get carried away with indulgences and I playfully interrogated him about the shenanigans of his recent birthday in November.

Continue reading "The Kokoda shame: A continuing tale of a Trail of Woe" »


Air war over Papua New Guinea was like a fireworks display

Night skyKATRINA LOVELL | Warrnambool Standard

WARRNAMBOOL, VIC - The gunfire in the skies above New Guinea during World War II was like a fireworks display, according to Warrnambool's Keith Keilar.

The 99-year-old was first deployed to Palestine for 12 months before being send to New Guinea after signing up in 1940 at the age of 20.

Mr Keilar was a contractor in Woolsthorpe working on trucks building roads across the district when he joined the war effort.

He left Australia for Palestine aboard the Queen Mary which was part of a convoy of three ships including the luxury liners Aquatania and Queen Elizabeth which had been converted to troop ships.

Continue reading "Air war over Papua New Guinea was like a fireworks display" »


When World War II came to PNG: The 10 key battles of 1942

Anzac - Rabaul
Australian soldiers retreating from Rabaul cross the Warangoi-Adler River in the Bainings Mountains

CONTRIBUTORS | Military Wikia and Wikipedia

Battle of Rabaul (23 January – February 1942) Japanese victory

The Battle of Rabaul, known by the Japanese as Operation R, was fought on New Britain in January and February 1942. It was a strategically significant defeat of Allied forces by Japan in the Pacific campaign of World War II.

Following the capture of Rabaul, Japanese forces turned it into a major base and proceeded to invade mainland New Guinea, advancing toward Port Moresby. Hostilities on the neighbouring island of New Ireland are also usually considered to be part of the same battle.

Rabaul was important because of its proximity to the Japanese territory of the Caroline Islands, site of a major Imperial Japanese Navy base on Truk.

Battle of Port Moresby (3 February 1942 – 17 August 1943) Allied victory

The Battle of Port Moresby was an aerial battle fought between aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), United States Army Air Force (USAAF) and aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy over Port Moresby.

Continue reading "When World War II came to PNG: The 10 key battles of 1942" »


Daughter’s Easter pilgrimage honoured father’s heroic death

Markus Lohtmann
Army Chaplain Markus Lohrmann - "a very compassionate and caring person; a very loving person; a very Godly man"

BRIAN ALBRECHT | Cleveland Plain Dealer (USA)

BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio – Two years ago on an Easter afternoon, Marcia Luecke waded into the waters off a Pacific island beach where her father had died during World War II, and honoured the sacrifice of a man she never knew.

Luecke was only 18 months old when her father Markus Lohrmann, an Army chaplain, leaped into the waters off Goodenough Island in Papua New Guinea on 6 March 1944.

Lohrmann had been aboard a small boat with other soldiers when the engine suddenly quit. They were unable to radio back to their base for help.

As the craft drifted, potentially toward Japanese-held waters, the chaplain offered to swim to their base on the island.

Two other men joined him, but when the soldiers reached the beach, the chaplain was not among them.

They swam back and found his body. Efforts to resuscitate Lohrmann on the beach failed.

Seventy-three years later his daughter stood on that very same beach, the highlight of a journey that included evading a crocodile, and a forced, emergency helicopter landing.

But it was important for her to be there.

“I was never able to be with him, so I wanted to at least be at the last place he was, where he was called to heaven,” she recently said.

Continue reading "Daughter’s Easter pilgrimage honoured father’s heroic death" »


Fair carry could create 150 Kokoda jobs over Anzac period

Porter and trekker

CHARLIE LYNN | Kokoda Treks Blog

SYDNEY – As many as 600 trekkers will be on the Kokoda Trail during the Anzac period over the next fortnight.

The Kokoda Tour Operators Association (KTOA), established to protect the interests of their members, has refused to adopt the World War II army standard of 18 kg, imposed in 1942, as the maximum weight allowed to be carried by PNG wartime carriers.

Instead, the KTOA adopted a weight of 22.5 kg, a number worked out by an Australian bureaucrat who had never trekked the Trail.

That 4.5 kg difference, in addition to imposing a greater burden on carriers, will lead to the loss of 150 jobs for local Koiari and Orokaiva villagers during the Anzac period.

Continue reading "Fair carry could create 150 Kokoda jobs over Anzac period" »


Kokoda: Is world heritage ambition killing the military heritage?

WW2 troops on the Kokoda TrailCHARLIE LYNN | Edited

SYDNEY - Since Australian environment officials assumed control of the Kokoda trekking industry in 2009, trekker numbers have declined by almost 50% from 5,621 in 2008 to 3,033 in 2018 – despite an injection of more than $50 million of aid funding.

The official response to the decline invariably refers to an aircraft crash in 2009 and a couple of deaths around the same period. The reality today is that, whenever the crash site is pointed out to trekkers, the usual response is ‘what crash?’

Prior to the discovery of the $3 billion Kodu gold and copper deposit on the southern slopes of the Kokoda Trail near Mt Bini there was no interest in the area or its people from either the PNG or Australian governments.  The appearance of bulldozers from Frontier Resources in 2006 changed that.

Continue reading "Kokoda: Is world heritage ambition killing the military heritage?" »


After $50 million, Kokoda suffers from Australian meddling

Major Charlie Lynn
Major Charlie Lynn

CHARLIE LYNN | Spectator Australia

SYDNEY - Community museums and trade centres under construction along the Kokoda Trail are the latest taxpayer funded folly of our so-called ‘Australian – PNG Partnership’.

The use of ‘partnership’ by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade operatives in Port Moresby is an oxymoron based on the principle of ‘we pay – you agree’ and it’s indicative of the empathetic divide between them and the people they are supposed to serve.

In this case there has been no consultation with trekkers or local villagers to see if such an initiative would meet their needs and no cost benefit analysis to justify the expenditure of other people’s money.

Apart from a few rusted rifles, rotted boots and mortar shells community museums will have little to display – and apart from the odd bilum bag or carved stick, villages along the trail have little to trade.

Continue reading "After $50 million, Kokoda suffers from Australian meddling" »


How the Kokoda Trail almost killed me; & why I’d do it again

Scott on the Kokoda Trail
Scott on the Kokoda Trail - gutsy, passionate and very, very persistent

SCOTT PHILLIPS | The Motley Fool

SYDNEY - It didn’t exactly end the way I expected. I finished… walked every bloody step of the aptly nicknamed ‘bloody track’, but the last hill was really hard.

‘Jesus, that last hill was tough’, I said to my mate Simon just after we walked through the archway that marked the end of the 120km, eight-day trek.

‘No mate, that was easy’ he said. And I realised how crook I was.

Fair to say, that night was tough, and I felt like death warmed up when I woke the next day for my flight home. Fast forward a few days, and I was in an intensive care bed back in Australia.

But we’ll get there.

Continue reading "How the Kokoda Trail almost killed me; & why I’d do it again" »


Pursuing the better welfare of Kokoda Trail guides & carriers

Adventure Kokoda team
Members of the Adventure Kokoda team - Charlie Lynn ensures the highest standards are maintained for his trekking company

CHARLIE LYNN

Edited extracts from a submission by Adventure Kokoda on the welfare of Papua New Guinean guides and carriers engaged in the Kokoda trekking industry. Link here to the full submission

PORT MORESBY - The welfare of PNG guides and carriers has been a contentious subject for some years, however the recent death of a carrier who was allegedly overloaded by an Australian trek operator has brought the issue of their exploitation to the forefront of the debate.

A recent forum organised by the Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) in Brisbane resulted in the CEO of PNG Tourism calling for a response to the issues raised but which could not be properly addressed due to agenda and time constraints.

This response to the draft minutes of the forum is based on the collective views of Adventure Kokoda trek leaders who have a combined total of 130 years professional army experience and who have led more than 520 expeditions across the trail over the past 27 years.

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Kokoda barricades: Official disengagement leads to Trail unrest

Kokoda - the fee noticeRASHMII BELL

BRISBANE – The words were handwritten on a torn white plastic sheet, and the images appeared on Australia’s Channel 9 news on Sunday.

Reason for collection of gate fees

  1. You trekkers payed K350.00 to KTA, but that never reach the landowners in terms of service for the last 10 years
  2. For the last 10 years landowners never received ward allocation
  3. The landowners want KTA chairman to step down before gate will be open
  4. For that reason, we are collecting half of that K350.00 which is K175.00 for road to pass through

Plis pay K175.00 cash now to walk

On Remembrance Day, journalist Tim Davies presented a disturbing news story even as companion media were beginning to focus on the exorbitant expenditure of staging the APEC meetings in Port Moresby.

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Trail of Woe: Deep commemoration & missing interpretation

RASHMII AMOAH BELL

Rashmii and Charlie at Isurava
Rashmii Amoah Bell and Charlie Lynn at the Isurava memorial

The seventh in a series of articles about the need to improve the conditions and sustainable development of the trek tourism industry along the Kokoda Trail. The articles are drawn from Rashmii’s observations and conversations with Papua New Guinean guides, carriers, campsite owners and communities as she trekked the Trail from 6 -17 August, 2018

ON THE TRAIL - Collapsing on top of the clay-baked ground, my trek group seeks refuge from the midday heat under the cool of an awning.

A stream of loose dust swirls past, dancing toward the row of aged banana trees bordering the edge of Menari village. I reach for the nozzle of my hydration bladder and take three appreciative sips.

Beside me, trek mates use the interval to rummage through their backpacks and Band-aid strips, jelly beans and small bottles of sunscreen are offered around – along with tips about redistributing weight in the packs.

I’ve been accompanying trekkers nominated by New South Wales RSL clubs who are participating in their annual Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge in partnership with Adventure Kokoda.

Fourteen of the group are employees of RSL branches and two are soldiers serving with the Australian Army. Like trek leader Charlie and the trek guide, their daily khakis are enviably immaculate despite the daily grind of uphill climbs and unsteady clambering through swamps.

It is a multicultural group reflective of contemporary Australia and it is the first visit to Papua New Guinea for all 16 participants.

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Trail of Woe: Inadequate infrastructure mars the Kokoda Trail

Brown River crossing
Brown River crossing - Adventure Kokoda carriers guide trekkers across a fallen tree 'bridge'

RASHMII AMOAH BELL

Sixth in a series of articles about the need to improve the conditions and sustainable development of the trek tourism industry along the Kokoda Trail. The articles are drawn from Rashmii’s observations and conversations with Papua New Guinean guides, carriers, campsite owners and communities as she trekked the Trail from 6-17 August

ON THE TRAIL – My guide and carrier DE and I have developed a vocabulary of sorts.

Extending his arm back toward me, low-slung and with fingers splayed, DE warns of a winding navigation of Emoo Creek.

At a standstill facing me, hand elevated and shoulders curled towards his chest, DE’s eye movements map out a path to safely manoeuvre the slime-coated incline of Nauro Lookout.

With short, clear instructions received from over my shoulder, he gently insists on my full concentration when clambering amongst floating logs in swamps and he steadies my balance through light pressure on the small backpack on my shoulders.

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Trail of Woe: Dispossession – no joy for women in Kokoda tourism

Kokoda - Lunch of baked goods and fruit prepared by women of Abuari village
A treat of baked goods and fruit prepared by women of Abuari village - part of a project supported by Adventure Kokoda

RASHMII AMOAH BELL

Fifth in a series of articles about the need to improve trek tourism along the Kokoda Trail. The articles are drawn from Rashmii’s observations and conversations with Papua New Guinean guides, carriers, campsite owners and communities as she trekked the Trail from 6 -17 August 2018

ON THE TRAIL - Atop a moss-covered fallen tree trunk bananas speckled with brown spots lie next to bundles of light globe-sized passionfruit.

A baby blue shawl thrown across an elderly woman’s bony frame complements the deep orange sweet jelly produce positioned beside her. She lowers her eyes as the trek group edges past her towards the forest border.

Standing a few metres away, trek leader Charlie Lynn rehashes his presentation as I tap my fingers across the keypad of my phone. I note details of mortar relics resting in an open, rusting cage in the forest bordering Myola 1 village.

An absence of information boards on the Trail means Charlie’s thorough knowledge of World War II’s Kokoda campaign is crucial. Today is the sixth day I’ve been learning about the military history behind our long 10-day pilgrimage.

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Trail of Woe: Wartime gratitude morphs into a troubled present

Kokoda - hauskuk insait
The cook winds down from preparing the evening meal after a long day's trek (and cooking)

RASHMII AMOAH BELL

The fourth in a series of articles about issues of the trek tourism industry on the Kokoda Trail. The articles are drawn from Rashmii’s observations and conversations with Papua New Guinean guides, carriers, campsite owners and communities as she trekked the Trail from 6-17 August 2018

ON THE TRAIL - BOSKUK and Junior emerge from the haus kuk section of the trekkers’ dining hut with two stainless steel bowls of warm rinsing water and another filled with warm soapy water.

Taking turns, my fellow trekkers and I line up against the hand-built dining table chattering about the afternoon’s descent into this campsite at Ofi Creek as we wash our individual dishes and cutlery.

A pile of striped purple cleaning cloths are laid out for us to dry our implements before heading to our tents for the night.

I sit easily on the table’s bench seat, comfortably content after my meal of French onion soup, instant potato mash and tinned bully beef and hear DE’s gentle call from outside the hut’s thatched frame.

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Trail of Woe: Carrier welfare & poor practice on the Kokoda trek

Carriers' quarters
Carriers' quarter on the Kokoda Trail

RASHMII AMOAH BELL

The third in a series of articles about the need to improve conditions and sustainable development of the trek tourism industry along the Kokoda Trail. The articles are drawn from Rashmii’s observations and conversations with Papua New Guinean guides, carriers, campsite owners and communities as she trekked the Trail from 6 -17 August, 2018

ON THE TRAIL - Empty cans of chicken soup sit beside a small open fire, their metal charring slowly as flames flicker around them.

Boskuk moves about busily clearing the other end of a timber platform on which his assistant, Junior, and I recline.

He throws scraps of onion peel and ripped pasta packets into a garbage disposal bag as he makes his way towards us to inspect the evening’s dish washing efforts.

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Trail of Woe: Disregard & mismanagement blight an iconic trek

Kokoda Trail carrier helps a trekker
Carrier assists a trekker down a steep incline

RASHMII AMOAH BELL

Second in a series of articles about the need to improve the conditions and sustainable development of the trek tourism industry on the Kokoda Trail. The articles document Rashmii’s observations and conversations with Papua New Guinean guides, carriers, campsite owners and communities as she trekked the Trail from 6-17 August

ON THE TRAIL - IT is just on dusk at Agulogo campsite when an impromptu meeting takes place inside the trekkers’ dining hut.

A hand-built and much weathered column table flanked by snake-length benches sit on the earthen floor. Seated across from me in the candle light are three Papua New Guineans: one from Kokoda Initiative (KI) funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs; the other two from PNG’s Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA).

To my left is Adventure Kokoda trek leader Charlie Lynn and, at his suggestion, our trek guide and my carrier, DE. The sound of Brown River, in which I had bathed earlier, echoes around us.

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The end of an era of Kokoda Trail mismanagement

Charlie Lynn
Charlie Lynn OL OAM

CHARLIE LYNN | Kokoda Treks Blog

SYDNEY - The recent departure of the Papua New Guinea CEO of the Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) brings an end to a sorry saga of Australian mismanagement along the Kokoda Trail.

Prior to the arrival of Australian officials in 2008, the emerging Kokoda trekking industry was managed by Warren Bartlett, a former kiap on a PNG salary of $12,500.

During his tenure trekker numbers grew from 365 in 2002 to 5,621 in 2008 – a massive increase of 1,440%. Bartlett had no staff but was assisted by a part-time local secretary.

Under a ‘joint’ understanding signed by the Australian and PNG governments in 2008, Bartlett was replaced by an Australian CEO on an eye-watering six-figure salary and with a tenfold increase in staff and multi-million dollar budget.

The department of veterans affairs (DVA), which among other things has responsibility for our World War I heritage at Gallipoli and the Western Front in Europe, was not included in the ‘joint’ understanding apart from the allocation of $1 million for unspecified purposes.

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Trail of Woe: Bucks versus benefits; the ugly side of Kokoda

Bell 1 - Kokoda Trail entry
Kokoda trail or trial? Rashmii Bell's 10-day trek investigated who benefits from Kokoda tourism and why there's a need for urgent corrective action

RASHMII AMOAH BELL

The first of a series of articles about the need to improve the conditions and sustainable development of the tourism industry on the Kokoda Trail. The articles document my observations and conversations with Papua New Guinean guides, carriers, campsite owners and communities as I trekked the Trail from 6–17 August.

ON THE TRAIL - In 2017, I was invited by the Australian-based social enterprise, Kokoda Track Foundation (KTF), to facilitate two rural school book-making workshops in Oro Province.

While designated to act only in as a volunteer, all research, design, delivery and facilitation was assigned to me by the Foundation. On both occasions I achieved the assigned outcomes.

And so, having donated my time and talent to this organisation, it was with disappointment and regret to have it deny my sole and rightful authorship of ‘Butterflies along the Track’, the KTF’s Kokoda75 commemorative children’s book, funded by Australia’s foreign affairs department.

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