Francis Jossan and Paparas Mokis - Oral History interview recorded on 16 May 2017 at Luburua, New Ireland,PNG

Description

Mr Jossan tells about what he witnessed with the Japanese when they invaded his village. He also tells of how the Japanese taught some skills to people and how used the people to do different tasks for them as labourers. He also explains how the Japanese penalised the people when they did not comply to the commands given.

Mr Mokis supports details in Mr Jossan's story but relates to the stories as told to him by an elder (relative). He also tells about how the Japanese forcefully took away local women from their husbands; the husbands were punished by either death or beating or imprisionment if they tried to defend their wives.

Language

Interview

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.


Transcript:
[Interviewer]
We are now with Francis Jossan and Paparas Mokis in Luburua village. We are conducting the interview on the 16th of May 2017. Thank you Francis and Paparas for meeting with the both of us and Dr Ritchie.
How big were you two? Were you still young boys or were you already grown men when war came to New Ireland province? I'll leave it at that and we shall begin. Also what were some of the things that you two saw, especially you Francis, how the war started? Who were the people that came? And what exactly happened?
[Francis]
Well, I was born in 1940, sorry I meant 1936.
[Interviewer]
OK, so you were already a big boy when they came.
[Francis]
No, not really. 36, 37, 38, 39, 40 year which the war started.
[Interviewer]
And where were you then? Here in the village or in the bush?
[Francis]
I was still here in Luburua when the war started. The Japanese arrived in Kavieng with their ships, the armies then followed the Boluminski Highway with their huge trucks and motorbikes.
As they travelled they openly fired their weapons at their own will. It was so frightening
[Interviewer]
Did they shoot any people?
[Francis]
No, they wanted to practise authority by creating fear among every local. They travelled and controlled most of the Boluminski Highway with their motorbikes in 1940 when they first came.
[Paparas]
They used an aggressive approach when they came.
[Interviewer]
And did some come here or did they all gather at one place?
[Francis]
In 1940 all the Japanese soldiers travelled straight to Namatanai and built one of their main stations there. They then started their operation in 1941, that's when they travelled out and tried to dominate the area by settling separately in different villages of New Ireland province.
The first who came up here, were the ones you went and saw.
[Interviewer]
In the cave?
[Francis]
Yes, in the cave. That's the place where the Japanese man controlled. What was his name?
[Interviewer]
Kabaghasie?
[Francis]
Samasawa.
[Paparas]
Samasawa.
[Interviewer]
Samasawa?
[Francis]
Yes, Samasawa.
[Interviewer]
Was he a Japanese?
[Francis]
Yes, He's was the person that cuts peoples neck. The man who cuts throats.
[Interviewer]
Were there a lot of Japanese soldiers who were with him? To support, guard and practise authority in that area?
[Francis]
Of course, A lot of Japanese were working together with him up there.
[Interviewer]
What did they call themselves, Kenpeitais?
[Francis]
Kenpeitai.
[Paparas]
Yes the. Kenpeitai.
[Francis]
The Japanese Kenpeitais.
[Paparas]
Kenpeietai Executioners.
[Interviewer]
Oh, they are an execution team right?
[Paparas]
Exactly. executioners.
[Interviewer]
Including all their platoons?
[Paparas]
Yes, even their platoons.
[Interviewer]
Okay. So you are saying that, there was a group up there and another over here.
[Francis]
I think I should share a few things about that group.
[Interviewer]
Sure, go right ahead.
[Francis]
It was that group up there that was responsible for cutting peoples' throats. Whenever one disobeyed, no matter how far. Namatanai or wherever, they would report and send them up there to have their throat slit.
[Paparas]
So this was like the execution centre for New Ireland.
[Interviewer]
Was it for only men or both genders?
[Paparas]
Well, from where we resided women too were part of that system. There were a few heartless Japanese who never considered the significance and role of a women.
[Francis]
Most women who misbehaved in front of the Japanese usually ended up being threatened. You misbehave they will take your women too, no discriminations or what so ever, it was all part of the communists law they enforced. (Looks over to Paparas). Yeah, the soldiers up there was responsible for slitting our people's throat. There were also other soldiers from other camps, they were referred to as Nematais.
[Paparas]
Nematai. sorry I don't know how you'd spell in Japanese.
[Interviewer]
Just speak in Tok Pisin for now.
[Francis]
This group, they were in charge of overseeing the gardening. They were in charge of rice gardens as well as different kinds of sweet potatoes. They monitored the two food development sites, they also led out in educating young children within their area of dominance.
[Paparas]
They came in full program like agriculture, carpentry ., what else?
[Interviewer]
What about poultry?
[Paparas]
Yes, teaching, education.
[Interviewer]
But let me guess, they taught in their own language, right?
[Paparas]
Yes, they spoke and sang songs in Japanese.
[Francis]
You can follow through some, other languages you cannot.
[Interviewer]
But you can speak, listen or follow through?
No, but in singsing yes.

[Interviewer]
OK, so you were saying that . another Japanese group were in charge of the gardens and were also teaching people crafting skills right.
[Francis Jossan]
Yes, they were.
[Interviewer]
And were children the only ones taught different skills or were parents and adults too involved?
[Francis Jossan]
Well, sometimes both the parents and adults get involved.
[Paparas Mokis]
One of our elder named Edward Ekau, told me a story about how the Japanese came and began producing iron and soap right here.
What they do is . The Japanese would cut down ton trees, burn it till it becomes charcoal, mix it with some chemicals and then add it to other materials to make iron. You know, different types of iron such as . hooks for holding wood in place and many more.
[Interviewer]
So one group were specifically put in charge of this?
[Paparas Mokis]
Yes, while the other was in charge of producing soap. Edward also told me that they did produce other useful things such as salt. Its process involves going to the reef and collecting white foam of crushing waves that meet and crash. What do you call it, bubbles?
[Interviewer]
Yes
[Paparas Mokis]
Yeah, so they collected all these to make salt, like the old man said.
[Interviewer]
Soap?
[Paparas Mokis/Francis Jossan]
Salt.
[Paparas Mokis]
There is a well that was dug here.
[Interviewer]
What's the water well used for, washing?
[Paparas Mokis]
Yes and other different purposes. it was up to them to do whatever they wanted to do with it. And these are some of the many handy techniques we learnt and benefited from in regard to our natural resources around us.
[Interviewer]
And do you still use this well today?
[Paparas Mokis]
Of course, the Robinson Gute family who are currently living in the area still uses it today. You know. for their daily chores and more.
[Francis Jossan]
This well water is very clean, they even it for cooking and drinking.
[Paparas Mokis]
And I bet people are using it right now as we speak.
[Francis Jossan]
My dad was there when they dug the well. And we all benefited from it, good clean water.
[Interviewer]
By the way, did some of the Japanese got married to the native women?
[Paparas Mokis]
Yes.
[Interviewer]
Really? The Japanese? Did they bribe the villagers or something?
[Francis Jossan]
Well, they'll just walk up to a girl and say "You come". Who will say otherwise or try stopping them.
[Francis Jossan]
Even if a Japanese comes and take my wife I will not do anything. If I speak against or try defending my wife, they will cut my head off.
[Interviewer]
So were there any half Japanese children born?
[Paparas Mokis]
There certainly would be I suppose but somewhere
[Francis Jossan]
I believe there is never the less, I personally haven't seen one
[Paparas Mokis]
The plan was that all the men were to be gathered to dig a big hole which they would later be killed and dump into leaving only our women alive. eventually the Japanese race would prevail and the native Papua New Guineans would be no more
[Interviewer]
Did their plan succeed or fail?
[Paparas Mokis]
It was so close to happening when the Americans made history by striking the heart of Japan with the Hiroshima bombing.
[Interviewer]
OK. Now apart from the harsh punishment, the torturing and the executions etc., we've heard that these Japanese have made changes in the peoples' lives. They taught different crafting skills, techniques and ways of producing things such as soap, iron and salt as mentioned earlier.
[Paparas Mokis]
Iron as in nails, hooks, bolts, posts and so on.
[Interviewer]
Are there any incidence were young girls and women were pulled or taken by force?
[Francis Jossan]
Yes, they were taken at their early age. to some place somewhere and left there to do dirty things.
[Paparas Mokis]
Sex slave or something
[Interviewer]
Are there any more situations that involved the people, for instance; working?
[Paparas Mokis]
Yeah, working in the garden and all that. proper cultivation, planting of banana and sweet potatoes and things like that. Some of the programs that they implemented were good however they were too cruel in all their treatments. There are also things that were never really talked about. Mainly treasures, gold and exploration mining and all that. Maybe valuable things were left behind during the evacuation, things like gold bars and so forth and I believe there are also locations which we might look into later on. But for now we look and talk about the general information concerning the war that took place. Despite all that took place, I believe it was because of our minerals that led them here. well that's about it.
[Interviewer]
But there are no stories in relation to our people helping the Japanese digging our minerals?
[Francis Jossan]
No, there isn't.
[Paparas Mokis]
What Edward told me was that if such work were to take place, they would bring over and use the people of Namatanai to do the mining and not our own people of Luburua. Simply because it's easier to confuse them in regard to the location site and were the golds are dug and hidden. So the people will have no idea about these.
[Interviewer]
Locations
[Paparas Mokis]
Aha. (agrees)
[Interviewer]
(Sighs in amazement).
[Paparas Mokis]
So after the war these men will be sent back to Namatanai without any idea where they dug gold or were they hid it.
[Interviewer]
OK.
[Paparas Mokis]
But I believe there are locations that can be traced.
[Interviewer]
Is there anything else important you can remember concerning all these? I mean when you were young.
And after the war, where there any Japanese representatives that tried coming back and locating these sites?
[Paparas Mokis]
Yes, they did come back and search for those old rusty swords used for slitting throats, maybe they wanted to use it again or keep it as part of history or maybe they had other motives behind all these searches.
[Francis Jossan]
My dad and this big Japanese kenpeitai were the only two men who buried this slaughtering sword. However my dad already passed away.
[Paparas Mokis]
I don't know where exactly it is, but it's still around here somewhere.
[Interviewer]
The execution sword, it was buried
[Francis Jossan]
It had the head of the queen on it.
[Interviewer]
You mean the head of the queen was labelled on that sword?
[Paparas Mokis]
Is it the queen or the Japanese Superior. the boss
[Interviewer]
The overall Japanese boss
[Paparas Mokis]
Emperor
[Interviewer]
Ah the Emperor.
[Paparas Mokis]
It's still around here somewhere
[Interviewer]
So dad never told you or showed you where they buried it?
[Francis Jossan]
No, nothing at all. Dad comes from Bougainville and he used to live down at the station. he was still there when the second world war started that's why this Japanese man came close and made friends with my dad. He's a good man.
[Paparas Mokis]
Samasawa
[Francis Jossan]
Nether the less, dad never really trusted their friendship and would run out on him at times.
[Paparas Mokis]
But they were the two who buried the sword.
[Francis Jossan]
When the war ended around 1944, they buried this man slaughtering machine. A lot of people even the Japanese wanted to burry this thing but they all didn't.
[Interviewer]
So no one exactly knew even today.
[Francis Jossan]
No.
[Paparas Mokis]
In that case there could be hidden minerals and other valuables hidden by the Japanese.
[Interviewer]
So from your observation, the arrival of the Japanese must have brought both the good and the bad.
[Paparas Mokis]
The bad.
[Francis Jossan]
They came in with the good and the bad.
[Interviewer]
But their bad ways were even worse.
[Paparas Mokis]
Exactly, they showed us skills, techniques and taught us how to intercorporate our surrounding resources to make handy productive items like soap and iron but still their judgement and way of discipline is far more cruel as ever.
[Interviewer]
Would you know anyone when you were young who went in where they cut peoples' neck and came back out alive?
[Francis Jossan]
Where?
[Interviewer]
I believe Mr John Knox was the only man who came out of that place right? I mean his dad.
[Francis Jossan]
He was the only one that came out.
[Interviewer]
But all the others had their throat slit.
[Paparas Mokis]
Exactly, he's the only survivor.
[Francis Jossan]
You know what, my dad's last born and second born brother also had their throat slit.
[Paparas Mokis]
I'm sorry, they're my uncles too.
[Francis Jossan]
His name is Johnny.
[Interviewer]
Is Johnny his second name?
[Francis Jossan]
I'm not sure but we can just call him Johnny Jossan.
[Paparas Mokis]
JOSSAN. (pronounces and spells name)
[Francis Jossan]
His was dad second born brother, he was sent by the Japanese to climb a coconut but he never did and . as a result of this little mistake, he got his neck chopped off.
[Paparas Mokis]
Disobedience. (Jokes and Laughs). There is also one thing I would like to put forward to you, my dad (Junius Mokis) was a sword carrier executioner in Rabaul. He carried the sword used for slitting humans' throats and I believe it was a terrifying experience and a real nightmare to witness every men, women and children being slaughtered by the sword he carried. I had to return in my young days in 1978 – 1979, I approached the Japanese Embassy and petitioned if they could sort of compensate him for being a sword carrier which I also brought to court in Rabaul after the war. Later on the Japanese embassy replied and instructed me to write to the Australian High Commission, so I want to put this to you today if you can help look in to this matter.
[Francis Jossan]
Even one of my relatives was used as a watcher or watch dog
[Paparas Mokis]
Did you record my dad's name down.? Junius Mokis
[Francis Jossan]
It's Junius Mokis
[Paparas Mokis]
I think that's all about it.
[Interviewer]
Well in that case, thank you very much.
[interviewer – Jonathan Ritchie]
Thank you, Madam and sorry about the recorder running out battery.

Click to show/hide Additional Interview Details

Family Relationships

Interviewee

Francis Jossan
Paparas Mokis

Interviewee Gender

Interviewers

Interview Location

Interview Date

16/05/2017

Interview Duration

00:18:56:00

Interview Translator


Rights Holder

Deakin University
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike licence

Files

http://pngvoices.deakin.edu.au/files/temp/jossan-group-photo-2017.jpg

Citation

“Francis Jossan and Paparas Mokis - Oral History interview recorded on 16 May 2017 at Luburua, New Ireland,PNG,” Voices from the War, accessed October 23, 2018, http://pngvoices.deakin.edu.au/items/show/378.

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