Past times: World War II & Kokoda Feed

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)


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


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


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


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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Charlie Lynn receives Order of Australia for going the extra mile

Charlie Lynn
Charlie Lynn - "“I had seen many beautiful memorials at battlefields but there was nothing at Kokoda”

KAYLA OSBORNE | Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser (NSW)

CAMDEN - Charlie Lynn has crossed the strenuous Kokoda Track 92 times, served in NSW parliament and been awarded Papua New Guinea’s second highest honour.

Yesterday he added another achievement to his list as a recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia.

Mr Lynn was given the prestigious title for service to the people and parliament of NSW.

The Camden resident said he was humbled to receive the Queen’s Birthday Honour.

“I was greatly honoured to receive the Officer of the Order of Logohu in Papua New Guinea two years ago and I feel greatly honoured again,” Mr Lynn said. “Honestly it was a real surprise – there are people out there who have done much more than me.”

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Losing Kokoda: $50 million & dishonouring our military heritage

Trekking Kokoda (Charlie Lynn)
Crossing a stream on the Kokoda Trail - too little to show for $50 million of Australian taxpayers' money

CHARLIE LYNN | Spectator Australia

SYDNEY - The ‘blackbirding curse’ is as damaging to Papua New Guinea’s adventure tourism industry as the ‘resource curse’ is to mining and exploration.

‘Blackbirding’ was a term given to the coercion of native people from PNG to work as cheap labour in Queensland’s sugar plantations in the latter part of the nineteenth century. When the extent of the exploitation became known it was outlawed as a form of slavery.

The ‘resource curse’ refers to the paradox that countries with an abundance of natural resources tend to have less economic growth, less democracy and worse development outcomes than countries with fewer natural resources.

Over the past decade 45,000 Australians from all walks of life have trekked across the Kokoda Trail. Their reasons are many and varied but the wartime significance combined with a sense of adventure in the land of the unexpected is the most compelling motivation.

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When war came to Australian Papua: Poppy & lantana side by side

Doug Robbins  Anzac Day  Springbrook. 2018
Ex kiap Doug Robbins' speech to Springbrook's Anzac Day ceremony yesterday


SPRINGBROOK, QUEENSLAND - The past year marked 75 years since, sadly, too many Australian lives were lost during World War II fighting in the South West Pacific Area – and on Australian soil.

Following Pearl Harbour, Darwin at the north of mainland Australia, was bombed in February 1942 with loss of many servicemen and civilians. Then Broome was bombed the next month.

We know that Darwin is part of Australia, but little is acknowledged that Papua, a former British Colony in the south-east quarter of the island of New Guinea and only four kilometres from the Torres Strait Islands of Queensland, was a Territory of Australia for almost 100 years to 1975.

The fierce jungle battles of Kokoda, Milne Bay and the Beachheads were fought on what was then Australian soil.

In August 1942, at the same time as Kokoda, Australian Forces were defending airfields at Milne Bay to protect Port Moresby and Australia to the south. Milne Bay was free of fighting by September.

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Anzac Day 3: Death of Yamamoto marked on Bougainville

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

CHRIS CAROLA | The Associated Press

ALBANY, NY — A group from the United States and Japan is trekking to a remote Pacific island jungle to document what is considered one of the most important wreck sites of World War II: where American fighters shot down a Japanese bomber carrying the mastermind of the Pearl Harbour attack.

Three members of a New York-based WWII research organisation and a Japanese aviation expert recently visited the crash site on Bougainville last Wednesday, the 75th anniversary of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s death.

Yamamoto had spent several years in the US earlier in his military career, studying at Harvard University and admiring America’s industrial might. In the aftermath of Pearl Harbour, he was quite possibly the most hated man in America.

“As long as he lived, the Japanese navy was a threat,” said Donald A Davis, a Colorado-based writer who told the story of Operation Vengeance in a 2005 book. “He was feared in the Pacific.”

Historians generally credit Yamamoto, an innovative proponent of air power, with the idea of attacking the US Pacific fleet and convincing Japanese military leaders that his plan could work.

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Women’s wartime memories cast new light on a grim time

Memories of war
(L-R) researcher Margaret Embahe, interviewees Angela Arasepa and Alberta Doiko, researcher Mavis Tongia

VICTORIA STEAD | The Conversation

MELBOURNE - November 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Kokoda Track Campaign of World War II.

The campaign involved a series of battles between Allied and Japanese forces along the mountainous 96km track connecting Kokoda Station, in Papua New Guinea’s Oro Province, with the capital Port Moresby.

‘Kokoda’ has become iconic in Australian national narratives of the war. Its commemoration most commonly invokes images of Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, local carriers who assisted Allied forces and whose relationships with Australian soldiers are frequently described in terms of “mateship” and “brotherly bonds”.

But there is good reason to look beyond these narratives. Feminist historians and scholars of conflict have urged us to be attentive to the effects of wars on women, as well as to the roles they have played even in seemingly impossible circumstances.

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War experts discover secret jungle road on Kokoda Track

Matthew Kelly and John SterenbergSTAFF REPORTER | Northern Territory News

WAR experts have made a stunning discovery along the Kokoda Track — a secret jungle road built by the Japanese.

Australian archaeologists found ‘Jap Road’, as the locals call it, while unearthing the mysteries of the ‘lost battlefield’ of Etoa.

It is invisible from the air due to the impenetrable tree canopy, as is another pathway dubbed the ‘Jap Track’.

The battleground, where up to 70 undiscovered bodies still lie, is a treasure trove for officials investigating the Kokoda Campaign, which began 75 years ago this weekend and was part of Australia’s first genuine fight for survival — the brutal World War Two conflict in Papua New Guinea.

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PNG WW2 veterans’ anniversary invitations close this Friday

On the Sanananda ...KEITH JACKSON

AUSTRALIAN Veterans’ Affairs Minister Dan Tehan is encouraging veterans from some of the important Papua New Guinean campaigns of World War II to nominate to attend two important commemorations to be held in Canberra later this year.

Time is running out, though, and nominations to receive support to attend the commemorations of the Battles of Milne Bay, Kokoda, Buna, Gona and Sanananda close this coming Friday.

Mr Tehan said the government will arrange return travel and accommodation for eligible veterans and an accompanying carer from their home location to attend the ceremonies at the Australian War Memorial.

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Project Recover finds missing WW2 B-25 bombers off PNG

Underwater wreck of a WWII B-25 bomber (Project Recover)ROBERT MONROE | Phys Org Website

TWO B-25 bombers associated with American servicemen missing in action from World War II were recently documented in the waters off Papua New Guinea by Project Recover.

The project is a collaborative team of marine scientists, archaeologists and volunteers who have combined efforts to locate aircraft and associated MIAs from World War II.

The B-25 bomber is one of the most iconic aircraft of World War II, with nearly 10,000 of the famous warbirds conducting a variety of missions—from bombing to photo reconnaissance, to submarine patrols, and the historic raid over Tokyo.

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Eli Dickson & memories of the Battle of Milne Bay

Eli  War Memories  Milne Bay (Kerry Drysdale)DISNYDER GEE | Alotau District Community

ELI Dickson was one of the witnesses to the War Crimes Tribunal that investigated the torture and killing of 59 Milne Bay people and a number of Australian soldiers in August-September 1942.

Eli's story is known to all families related to him so, if you’re ever down at the village of small Wagawaga, they'll tell you.

If I can just briefly recall, Eli was taken from the Dickson's home at small Wagawaga by Japanese troops who wanted him to show them the way to Giligili, where there was an Allied airfield.

It was in the early hours of the night when he was taken and none of his family members knew except his mother who suspected something wasn't right when he didn't return after sending him to the beach to check what the noises were.

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Australia, PNG & Kokoda – an icon of true nation-building


NOW the patriotic and nationalistic breast-beating has subsided for another year it is worth considering what the annual Australian Anzac Day ritual means for Papua New Guinea.

The place of Anzac Day in the Australian psyche is complex. At its most simplistic, it is about remembering the soldiers who died in our many and often pointless wars.

At a deeper level it is about Australia’s place in the world and how that is expressed.

This level of expression has been changing over the years. It had a good kick along in political terms in the Hawke and especially the Howard years, when the association with nationalism strengthened.

In the beginning Anzac Day was about empire. The British Empire. While Gallipoli proved largely pointless and unnecessary – it was, after all, a military defeat - it was seized upon by politicians to herald Australia’s arrival, not as a nation but as a respected, contributing part of empire.

Continue reading "Australia, PNG & Kokoda – an icon of true nation-building" »

The significance of the anniversary of Kokoda

Bablis_GregGREGORY BABLIS | DevPolicy Blog

‘HISTORY’ and ‘commemoration’ are distinguishable terms. For instance, while Papua New Guinea and Australia share a history spurred from the events of the Kokoda Campaign, our analyses, understandings, perspectives and experiences of the war are subjective and thus different.

Commemoration is centred on the present and is concerned with the values that people in the present can derive from the events, good or bad, of the past.

Although both history and commemoration are related to the past, they serve different functions. For different countries, the reasons for commemorating certain events will be similar, but the histories surrounding the events must be different because they inform different national narratives.

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Cosgrove pays tribute to Australians & PNGns who fought in WW2

PNG veteran & Sir Peter Cosgrove - comrades in armsAAP

AUSTRALIANS will never forget the courage of those who fell in the jungles of Papua New Guinea nor the "national treasures" who survived the worst conditions of warfare.

Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove made that pledge as he delivered the Anzac dawn service address yesterday at the Bomana War Cemetery near Port Moresby.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign and the Battle of Milne Bay, which formed part of the New Guinea campaign in World War II.

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Mateship & friendship stand side-by-side on the Kokoda Track

Peter O'BrienPETER O’BRIEN | The Interpretive Design Company

“Australian-funded projects have removed “mateship” from the lexicon used in Papua New Guinea to describe the heroism of Diggers fighting the Japanese on the ­Kokoda Track, in what a prominent critic [Charlie Lynn] describes as politically correct revisionism to “demilitarise” the battleground’s history in the lead up to its 75th anniversary” – Ean Higgins, The Australian, 20 March 2017

FROM November 2015 until May 2016 The Interpretive Design Company was contracted to provide a range of services for the Australian Government Kokoda Initiative Taskforce.

At the time we partnered with communication specialist, John Pastorelli of Ochre Learning.

Working with the Australian government and the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA) we consulted with key partners from both nations to develop an interpretive display that primarily presented the wartime experiences and cultural heritage of the Papuan and New Guinean people.

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The decision of 1919 that has significant implications for today


THE battles along the Kokoda Track 75 years ago are regarded as some of the most important battles fought by Australians in World War II.

Few Australians realise, however, but for some boring treaty negotiations 23 years earlier, the Kokoda campaign and all of World War II could have played out very differently for Australia.

Following World War I, people expected Germany’s Pacific possessions to be allocated to a British ally - Japan.

As a loyal ally, Japan had declared war on Germany in 1914 and, as part of its alliance agreements, its responsibilities included pursuing and destroying the German East Asiatic Squadron and protection of the shipping lanes for Allied commerce in the Pacific.

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PNG historians record the other side of the WWII story

War wreckage at WagawagaERIC TLOZEK | Australian Broadcasting Corporation

A SMALL team of Papua New Guinean historians has visited one of the most crucial battle sites of World War II to record the stories of those who remember it.

The team, from the University of Papua New Guinea, spent three weeks in Milne Bay, the scene of a Japanese offensive in August of 1942.

The story of the brutal battle, in which Australian and United States troops inflicted the first decisive defeat of the Japanese on land of the war, is well documented by Australian historians.

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First flight to Tadji - remembering the liberation of Aitape

Arch Simpson's Kittyhawk on a raid in PNG (artist Geoffrey Pentland)ROB PARER

LAST Saturday was the anniversary of the day in 1944 that General Macarthur's liberation force took Aitape and Hollandia, the largest amphibious operation of the South Pacific war.

Within 42 hours of the landing, No 62 Works Wing of the Royal Australian Air Force had Tadji airfield ready for the Australian Kittyhawks of 78 Fighter Wing to land. The airstrip was a soggy mess.

Australian RAAF Flight Sergeant Arch Simpson (below) tells the story…..

WE set off from Cape Gloster in West New Britain on the long hop to Tadji Airstrip knowing that there was, as yet, nowhere for us to land - no properly prepared strip, only an area that had previously been a small enemy airstrip.

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Ian Townsend’s ‘Line of Fire’: The ‘spies’ who never came back

Detail from cover of Line of FireROSS FITZGERALD | The Australian

Line of Fire by Ian Townsend, Fourth Estate, 309pp, $29.99

IAN Townsend’s third book, Line of Fire, a work of nonfiction, is excellent. It follows two fine novels: Affection (2007), based on the 1900 plague outbreak in north Queensland, and The Devil’s Eye, centred on the worst cyclone in Australian history.

The Queensland radio journalist and author has a talent for discovering little-known events and fleshing them out to make history come alive. His new book is a gripping yarn of espionage and war.

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Mateship (Australia’s word of honour) and Kokoda

MateshipNIKKI GEMMELL | The Australian

IT’S A word that presses all our national buttons. One of those go-to terms for politicians seeking an easy emotional resonance.

As a nation we’ve claimed it and desexualised it and morphed it into something deeply endearing; it’s held fiercely in our national psyche. It’s mateship. A term of colonial Australia used as vividly back then as it is now.

From the German for comrade, related to the concept of having a meal together, it was brought to these shores by the convicts. It evokes Depression drifters and diggers, six o-clock swills and smokos, tradies and truckies.

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Disgust as Kokoda memorial to be held in Canberra not PNG

Malcolm Turnbull arrives in an Australian Army helicopter at the Kokoda Track  April 2017 (AAP)STEFAN ARMBRUSTER

PRIME minister Malcolm Turnbull on Saturday visited Kokoda and laid a wreath at the Bomana war cemetery outside Port Moresby, and there will be a ceremony held in Canberra in November.

Kokoda is considered Australia’s most significant battle of the war in the Pacific, in which the Japanese were for the first time defeated on land.

Veteran George Palmer points to his figure in one of the most famous Kokoda campaign photographs by Damien Parer: of Australian soldiers trudging through the mud.

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Commemorating the controversial battle of Porton plantation

The Battle of PortonREG YATES

AFTER PNG Attitude published my ‘PNG Adventurous Training Guide' recently, I received an invitation from James Warar, headman of Porton Plantation in Bougainville, to let interested people know about the commemoration of a controversial World War II battle at the plantation.

The 31/51st Battalion of the Australian Military Force attacked Imperial Japanese soldiers defending the plantation from 8-11 June 1945. The commemoration will be held on Saturday 10 June 2017 at Porton.

But the Australian assault made several mistakes and the attack did not go according to plan.

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Kokoda – a balanced, non-conspiratorial view is what we need

Australians on the Kokoda Track  1942CHRIS OVERLAND

WHILE the story of the battle on the Kokoda Track is clearly and unequivocally military in nature and mostly about the men involved, it is also true to say that the women and children caught up in the conflict have been largely ignored.

I have read a lot about the Kokoda campaign and do not recall any mention of women or children. It seems inconceivable that they were simply not there, even if they had hidden in the bush to avoid the combatants.

It would be a worthwhile addition to the history of the Kokoda battle if someone could undertake a research project to discover and describe the experiences of the women and children who were caught up in the conflict.

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Charlie Lynn pounces on attempt to take ‘mateship’ out of Kokoda

Charlie LynnEAN HIGGINS | The Australian

AUSTRALIAN-funded projects have removed “mateship” from the lexicon used in Papua New Guinea to describe the heroism of Diggers fighting the Japanese on the ­Kokoda Track, in what a prominent critic describes as politically correct revisionism to “demilitarise” the battleground’s history in the lead up to its 75th anniversary.

According to former Australian Army major, Vietnam War veteran and NSW Liberal state MP Charlie Lynn, who for the past 25 years has run treks on the ­Kokoda Track, $65 million of Australian taxpayers’ money has been directed through “a conga line of consultants” to green-leaning and leftist development projects promoting Australian liberal values such as gender equity on the track.

At the same time, he claims, bridges and toilets on the track have fallen into disrepair and Australian-sponsored aid projects such as schools have no desks and clinics no medicines.

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75 years on, shocking Tol Massacre forgotten

Tol Plantation killing fieldMAX UECHTRITZ

IT WAS one of the most callous atrocities of the Pacific war.

Seventy-five years yesterday, 160 Australian prisoners were bayoneted, beheaded, shot or burned alive by Japanese troops – on what was then Australian territory.

So horrific was the Tol Massacre on the island of New Britain that the Australian government suppressed details for 47 years.

That this tragedy is barely remembered and rarely commemorated blights Australia’s national conscience and to this day rankles the distressed families of the victims.

Few Australians know of the carnage at neighbouring Tol and Waitavalo plantations  - nor that it came soon after one of the most shameful episodes of our war when 1,400 diggers and civilians were abandoned as ‘hostages to fortune’ ahead of the Japanese invasion of Rabaul on 23 January 1942.

Rabaul was the capital of Australian-mandated New Guinea and was protected by a tiny garrison consisting mainly of the 2/22nd Battalion Lark Force.

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Restorers finds curious signature hidden in a WW2 warplane

Section of P-47 showing names 'Eva and Edith,' two unknown war workersTRISTIN HOPPER | Regina Leader-Post (Canada)

THE fighter plane known as P-47D-23RA managed to survive World War II in the Pacific.

Unlike many others from that era, it then dodged the scrapyard torch when it was abandoned in Papua New Guinea, where it spent decades in the yard of a private home.

And throughout these years, this P-47 Thunderbolt held a secret: a grease pencil signature inscribed inside the wing which read ‘Eva + Edith’.

“There are many more similar tales buried within these aircraft,” said Sara Zimmerman of AirCorps Aviation based in Minnesota, a company specialising in flight-worthy restorations of World War II aircraft.

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The story how Aitape War Museum lost aircraft worth millions

B25 Mitchell Bomber 'Feather Merchant' at Aitape High SchoolROB PARER

OVER many years, American billionaire David Tallichet (1922-2007) was interested in the World War II aircraft left behind in the Sepik.

Tallichet, who made his fortune as ‘the father of the themed restaurant’, had piloted bombers over Europe in World War II and his post-war hobby was in restoring some of these aircraft.

He corresponded with me on a number of occasions and, coming from a family of aviators myself, I was always eager to help where I could.

There were other guys like him in the 1970s, such as John White from the Australian War Memorial who when in Aitape loved talking to Rev Fr Urban Reid, who as Flying Officer Danny Reid DFC was the only Allied pilot to shoot down of one of the Luftwaffe’s rarest aircraft, an Arado AR-234 jet.

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Fred Schipke befriended enemy in World War II aftermath

Fred Schipke (Anna Rogers)JANESSA EKERT | The Cairns Post

IN THE aftermath of World War II, an Aussie and Japanese soldier became friends.

Cairns man Fred Schipke had been stationed in Bougainville with the 16th Field Company Royal Australian Engineers when peace was declared.

Mr Schipke was sent to New Britain. “Peace had just been declared in August and we went over in September,” he said.

He said his first job was to fix the main runway of the Vunakanau air base so supplies could be brought in. Mr Schipke and two others ran the bulldozer 24 hours a day.

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Is the story of the execution of chief Karao’s wife & child true?

Japanese prisoners arriving at Brisbane from New Guinea,RYOTA NISHINO

I HAVE been working on a project on Japanese travel writers’ accounts of Pacific War battle sites.

Your readers seem to be a fount of knowledge about Papua New Guinea and the Pacific War and I have a question to ask.

One Japanese travel writer has related an anecdote of a New Guinean chief, Karao (I am uncertain of the spelling) who was apparently a ‘big man’ in the Wewak area during the war.

He took pity on the Japanese and fed and looked after them.

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Great tributes as the last Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel dies


FAOLE Bokoi, the last living Papua New Guinean link with the World War II battles of the Kokoda Track, died in the early hours of yesterday morning

He came from Manari village on the Track and was the last surviving Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel.

The Angels were so-named by Australian soldiers to refer to Papua New Guineans who assisted and escorted injured troops along the Track.

Some 650 Australian lives were lost in the Kokoda campaign and it is said this number would have been much greater had it not been for the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

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Let’s declare Kokoda a consultant free zone

Charlie LynnCHARLIE LYNN | Kokoda Nuisleta

THE most important asset in the development of a sustainable trekking industry along the Kokoda Trail is the client who pays for the journey.

Without him or her there will be no trek fees, no employment for guides and carriers, no shared benefits for villages, no campsite fees – no sustainable trekking industry.

Of equal importance in a country with complex traditions regarding customary land ownership are local landowners.

Unfortunately the people in charge of dispensing government aid programs from Australia seem to have little appreciation of these essential basics.

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Lt Barney Nelson – my friend who fought in PNG in World War II

US soldiers on the beaches of Aitape, 22 April 1944DANIEL KUMBON

WHEN I met him in the United States, Barney Nelson, a jovial 72-year old, told me where his friends were killed in New Guinea.

Lt Barney Nelson was a veteran of the war in the Pacific – and he was to become my instant hero.

After all those years Barney still remembered two Melanesian Pidgin words - kaikai (food) and meri (woman).

He rang me quite unexpectedly one morning as I began to settle down to work at The Plain Dealer, a newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio. He was excited and fired questions at machine-gun pace.

“How are you doing? Where in New Guinea do you come from? Buna? Aitape? Is Port Moresby still the capital? Do you know Milne Bay? Is…”

“Now, wait a moment sir, how did you know my name?” I interrupted.

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Allegations of misuse of trekkers' fees by Kokoda Track Authority

Trekkers on the Kokoda Track (Charlie Lynn)RORY CALLINAN | Fairfax Media

A row over the Kokoda Track's supervision has escalated with trekking companies alleging the track's management authority had not only failed to look after local landowners but also misused fees collected from trekkers.

The Papua New Guinea government's Kokoda Track Authority which oversees the historic trail came under fire last week after it emerged disaffected landowners on the track were fencing off key battlefield landmarks and demanding payment for access.

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I will fear no evil: for thou art with me: Part Two, 1944

The graves of the Missionary SistersKEN WRIGHT

THE Japanese armed forces did not always act in a brutal manner or have callous disregard for the lives of civilians and prisoners of war during World War II. But, sadly, such acts of humanity were rare.

The following abridged description is taken from the diary of Father John Tschauder SVD who, on 6 February 1944, describes a voyage on the Dorish Maru carrying captured Catholic missionaries to Hollandia in former Dutch New Guinea.

The name Dorish Maru was a pidginized version of the Yorishime Maru  because the missionaries didn’t understand the Japanese pronunciation and ‘maru’ meaning merchant ship.

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I will fear no evil: for thou art with me: Part One, 1943

Japanese garrison on Kairiru Island 1945 (Australian War Memorial)KEN WRIGHT

DURING World War II, the citizens of neutral nations, and even countries in alliance with Japan, suffered badly at the hands of the Japanese military and naval forces.

If the Japanese perceived a hint of threat from an individual or group, the response was usually extremely violent and often murderous. A case in question was the ‘execution’ at sea of over 40 German nationals in New Guinea in 1943 by the Imperial Japanese Navy.

The Germans in question, Roman Catholic priests and nuns and Protestant missionaries ministering to the local population, would have been, because of their nationality, under the protection of the Nazi regime.

At the time Germany was an ally of Japan following the September 1940 Tri-partite Pact signed in Berlin between Germany, Italy and Japan, creating the Axis partnership. The Catholic German priests and nuns, as religious representatives were also under the protection of the Vatican in Rome, a neutral nation.

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Simbu rediscovers a connection with one of its early kiaps

George Tuckey's gravePETER TURNER

THIS is the story of Patrol Officer George Charlton Tuckey, who was born at Monkseaton, United Kingdom, on 21 June 1913 and died in Kundiawa in 1946.

Tuckey enlisted in the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles as a Sergeant, probably in Bulolo, just before World War II. On 22 January 1942 he re-enlisted at Bulldog with the wartime CMF (Citizen Military Forces) with the rank of Lieutenant and serial number NG2247.

He was transferred to the Australian Infantry Forces (AIF) on 13 January 1943 also with the rank of Lieutenant and serial number NGX309.

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PNG's first heroes: warriors who laid the foundation of a nation

Private A Baldwin, 2 33 Battalion, receives a drink of water from Papuan stretcher-bearers, October 1942 [AWM]JOHN FOWKE

UPON reflection - following the appearance of my piece on the wartime executions at Higaturu and in recognition that there is an efflorescence of internet commentary by a new generation of Australian Pacific experts in the year of the Anzac centenary - I think it is as well to recall in clarity the early days of Australia’s military intervention in Papua.

This article is derived from two pieces previously published in PNG Attitude. I also commend the blog’s archival section Past Times -WWII and Kokoda as a resource to newly-hatched Pacific experts and other people interested in the reality of Australia in PNG during World War II.

The original battalions of Australian soldiers to arrive in Port Moresby were not volunteers. As is well-known, they were conscripts. 

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The executions at Higaturu revisited


In August 2008, PNG Attitude published a carefully researched and erudite piece of writing by John Fowke entitled The War in Papua – The Executions at Higaturu. Here, with some revisions, John has provided a longish extract that adds real depth to the article and subsequent commentary that appeared a week ago under the headline, The Higaturu hangings complicate Australia’s national narrative….

AMONG the Australians who worked as government officers in pre-war Papua, and who later served in the Army’s on-the-ground village liaison and logistics unit, ANGAU, was Thomas Grahamslaw.

Grahamslaw later became Chief Collector of Customs in pre-independence PNG. He retired late in the sixties. In 1971, aged 70, he wrote a personal memoir detailing his experiences as an ANGAU officer in the Moresby-Milne Bay-Buna-Gona-Popondetta areas in 1942-43.

The memoir was published in 1971 in the then-widely-read Australian magazine, Pacific Islands Monthly, and it has been quoted from and referred to many times since.

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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, published by Random House....

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". Anzac did not "confer on us a duty to see that the world stands still". John Curtin understood this when, after Singapore fell, he turned to the US. "We know that Australia can go and Britain still hold on. We are therefore determined that Australia shall not go," he said.

For Keating, the young men who fought and died in New Guinea and other parts of Asia and the Pacific fought for "the future they believed their country held". That night all the journalists I spoke to except a very drunk one said what a good speech it was. The drunk one said it was "shit". 

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I do not know

Plaque at BomanaMICHAEL DOM

An entry in the Crocodile Prize
Kina Securities Award for Poetry

I do not know what made them go,
Those brave young blokes so long ago,
Those faithful sons you sent to war.
Was it glory, mateship, honour;
For freedom, from violent foe?

And when they fell, so far from home,
Did their souls rest whence they had roamed?
Does God forgive you their horror?
               I do not know.

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Anzac Day at Bomana War Cemetery, Port Moresby, 1970

Dawn Service at BomanaPETER COMMERFORD

IT was my first time in Papua New Guinea, or ‘The Territory’ as it was known before independence.

It had been a roller coaster couple of weeks for me, beginning with the first blast of hot air as the cabin door opened after we landed at Jackson’s Airport, Port Moresby.

This was followed by the exhilaration of realising I had actually arrived to teach in Papua New Guinea.

Living at Wards Strip Teachers’ College for the next four weeks for ‘Prac’ [practice teaching] was an incredible experience.

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The battlefield


Battlefield burial of three NCOs by Ivor Hele (Australian War Memorial, )CAROLINE EVARI

An entry in the Crocodile Prize
Kina Securities Award for Poetry

Dedicated to all who fought for their country
and to those who lost loved ones in war

Soldiers on guard on both sides
With weary hands on rifles
They watch their enemies

Bullets in exchange
Bombs sweep over
Flames and smoke rise in splendour

Swords and shields
Come clashing
Arrows of bitterness fly high

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Higaturu hangings complicate Australia’s national narrative

ANGAU officer recruits labourers for the US MarinesKIRSTIE CLOSE-BARRY & VICTORIA STEAD
| Australian Policy & History

DURING this one-hundredth anniversary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli, narratives of war and nationhood are in high circulation in Australia.

Despite its location on the other side of the world, many consider Gallipoli the ‘birthplace of the nation’. It was here, many believe, and various governments have told us, that Australians first spilt their blood for the benefit of the nation: Gallipoli was our baptism of fire.

Others, though, have sought to draw our attention to battles fought later in the twentieth century and on terrain closer to home. These should indeed figure in our national narratives, although not only for the reasons that are often given.

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The secret tunnels of the University of Papua New Guinea

Port_Moresby_bombs_in_harbour_1942PETER KRANZ

NOW this might sound like some James Bond thriller, but I assure you it is true. I have seen and experienced it.

There are secret tunnels beneath the University of Papua New Guinea. And death, murder, conspiracy and violence have taken place beneath its hallowed foundations.

You may care to type "WW2 ammunition dumps in Port Moresby" into your search engine before you continue reading*.

But all I need say here is that in World War II there was an extensive ammunition dump on the site where the University of PNG now sits.

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Despite volcano, Rabaul emerges as a war tourism destination

Reg Yates at Rabaul Anzac 2012KEITH JACKSON

NEW Zealand-born ex-Army officer Captain Reg Yates has been a regular visitor to Papua New Guinea for almost 30 years.

Last year he was a key organiser of a major commemoration of World War I events on the Gazelle Peninsula.

That centenary of Australian military deployment to the Gazelle was covered for Radio New Zealand International by journalist Johnny Blades.

Johnny interviewed Reg about the significance of wartime events which have emerged as one of PNG's major tourism assets.

“Australians and New Zealanders have always been well regarded by the Papua New Guineans,” Reg said. “They always treated each other with respect.”

Reg agreed with Johnny that PNG could make more of its crucial role in two world wars in terms of its value as a tourism destination.

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The mumuting of the foremast of SS Macdhui

Macdhui soon after sinking (PNGVR)LANCE MELBOURNE

THE Burns Philp ship SS Macdhui was a 4,480 ton passenger and cargo motor vessel servicing the east coast of Australia and ports in Papua and New Guinea.

Built by Barclay Curle & Co of Glasgow, Scotland and launched on 23 December 1930, she was bombed and sunk in Fairfax Harbour by Japanese aircraft in 1942 during the Pacific War.

Caught alongside the wharf at Port Moresby discharging cargo on 17 June, she suffered bomb damage. Next day, during another air raid, she was cut free and steered deeper into Fairfax Harbour to manoeuvre where, straddled by bombs and ablaze, she rolled onto her port side.

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Those concert parties of wartime PNG

Milne Bay concert party, 1942 (Roy Hodgkinson)
Milne Bay concert party, 1942, by Roy Hodgkinson (carbon pencil and crayons with watercolour). The members portrayed are listed below


THE armed forces of Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom have a great tradition of entertaining the troops in wartime through concert parties which bring popular entertainers to the frontline.

The tradition dates back to World War I when the generals decided to bring some light entertainment and comedy to the troops to keep their minds off more bloodthirsty matters.

The concert parties continued post-war in Malaysia (It aint' half hot mum, the popular television series used this as context), Vietnam and in other wars. As the Australian War Memorial recorded:

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