Warning: This site contains stories of war. Some of these interviews may include detailed and graphic descriptions of events and experiences that may be disturbing for some individuals.
[Interviewer]: Is it OK you tell your story and capture you on video for this project?
When I was a little boy growing up in my village, I remember well what my parents used to tell me about their experiences during WWII that took place here in Salamaua.
Stories like they would dig a few holes you know, in the village during the day, they would be hiding inside the holes that they dug. That’s during the day and during the night the village elders would say the war is over now you can come out but if you hear the planes we will have to go back into the tunnels, we need to hide to get away from the fight. These are the stories my parents told me in the early days.
My father told me when he was a young man working in Rabaul, around 1937 or 38, he told me when the Japs were moving over from Rabaul to Buna, they were moving up the coast and they had to take him as a carrier.
My father was involved with that, the Japanese took him as a carrier. So they all left Rabaul and went to Buna and followed the coast up to Salamaua and were heading across to Lae, Madang and Wewak and all that.
When they got to Salamaua there were already Japanese setting up their base here. So my father and the other guys they were with the Allies, so they could not come to Salamaua. They had to swim from one point to the other, just to avoid the Japanese.
He was saying they had to do this during the night, during the dark, so the Japs cannot see them, and they did that and I remember my father was telling me quite a few of the carriers were Highlanders or people who could not swim. So when they jump into the sea that’s it, they cannot swim and they go down.
So he told me he was worried about his friends, but then he said well I’ve got to save myself too… you know… so sadly he just had to carry on and swim. He managed to get to the other side with others. That’s how they did it, he told me, yeah.
My father told me because the Japs were already here they recruited the young boys to be the carriers and also you know learn how to use the rifles. The Japs were already training them and sometime later, when the Allies came in they also had to recruit other young men…. To be on their side, to be on the Allied side you know.
To be carriers and again learn how to use rifles. In the end in my village they had two groups you know, half of the young men were with the Allies and the other half were with the Japs and everybody was fighting each other.
And I remember my father said to me later the village people realised that they were fighting each other, “why are we fighting each other?”, they say to themselves and then somehow the group that were with the Japs started to leave their rifles and run away.
Run away from the Japs and I think my father said that that group when they started to run away the Japs started to punish them.
[Interviewer]: And were there any repercussions after the war because the people here were fighting each other? Was there any conflict or was there any hurtful feeling towards one another or? Did this cause any problems afterwards?
My father actually said to me the village pople got together and were making jokes. Why are we fighting each other we are the same village, you know. There was nothing, no big deal. They just got together as one big village and that’s it, yeah.
Couple of things I still remember this is from my mum she told me. My first brother he must be already a strong young man, I don’t know how old but he was already recruited. My first brother during the war, so the Allies took him away. My father was involved in the fighting and my mum told me. She had to look after herself and one incident she was running away, and I think a bomb hit a pregnant woman and she ran past the woman and the woman was crying and asked my mum to help her and my mum said I’m scared, sorry I have to keep running…yeah.
My mum and dad didn’t tell me anything good about the Allies, but they told me a couple of bad things about the Japanese. They told me the Japanese would go into the garden and steal food. That’s one bad thing the Japs did.
The other bad thing my mum told me is that the Japs would boil water in a 44 gallon drum and anybody that disobeys them, they would pick them up and put them into the boiling hot water of the 44 gallon drum, I remember that well.
But with the Allies I didn’t hear anything bad or good about them from my mum.
From what they told me the Japs were more scared than the Allies… because they told me what the Japs did you know. They got harsh treatment form the Japs so they had to try their best to help the Japs because they were scared. But with the Allies they had no problems.
My mum and dad told me too that when they had the big fight here in Salamaua, the Japs were concentrated on the sea and all of a sudden the Allies walked from Wau down to Salamaua and pushed the Japs out to sea and that’s how they moved them to Lae and Madang and all that… yeah.
[Interviewer]: Do you know how that came about? Did they use the local scouts to navigate their way down from the mountain?
Most of the carriers are from Buna or Lababia, those carriers are from there. So they used those carriers to walk down from Wau to Salamaua.
[Interviewer]: Is there any else you want to add? Any incidents or stories that stick out in your memory about the affairs or tragedy or heroism that happened here or anything else you would like to add?
I think my mum and dad also told me that after the war the whole village were telling their own stories, how they got involved with the Japanese and the Allied. I remember there were some local heroes you know, they told their own stories about how many people they shot and how they survived and all that.
[Interviewer]: Are there any stories you can remember that you can tell us in detail?
My brother, my father told me, his brother was fighting on the other side. I think he was helping the Allies, I mean the Japs. My father was with the Allies and after the war his brother spoke about how many soldiers he shot down. He didn’t tell me the numbers but he said he shot a few people down.
So they all telling each other how many people they shot yeah after the war.
[Interviewer]: There were no problems between the people after the war?
My father told me after the war they were telling jokes about it you know. He said it was good fun, wow we fought against each other you know and now we are back together one village you know. They were laughing, making jokes and enjoying about what they did during the war… yeah.