Lesley Momoko - Oral History interview recorded on 02 April 2017 at Madina, New Ireland Province
He tells about experiences of the invasion by Japanese in his village, how villagers fed the Japanese by selling food to them and make food gardens for them. Villagers were divided into different groups and locations to do certain tasks for them. These happened after the Americans destroyed their ship carrying food supplies. He also witnessed execution of innocent locals, especially the men. This created tensions between the local men and the Japanese that the locals also retalisted by killing some Japanese.
Thank you Francis and Lesley for joining us on this interview. We are now conducting an interview on the 2nd of April 2017 in Madina village, New Ireland province. We will begin with Lesley Momoko. Lesley was a young man when war came to New Ireland Province, so we will ask him a few questions and he will tell us what he remembers about the war.
Lesley could you remember how old or how big you were when the war started? And who were the people that came? Was it the Japanese or the white man? Please tell us your story.
Well, it was the Japanese that came
Sorry, Could you speak up?
Sure, when the war came to Kavieng it brought huge ships and army aeroplanes that threw bombs on us. It also brought great fear which ruled our land and our people. During the day the Japanese patrolled our roads. The ships ashore fired machine guns as the army planes continued to drop bombs, those on land open fired at their own will. Every one of us would seek cover in the bushes every time the planes come out. And once the sky is cleared and silent we would slowly crawl back out of the bushes. People would compose and sing songs about the war, they would sing and say 'oh Japanese! You have turned our bushes into a huge playing field which you play in it. We are in this together.' During the war we would sell our food to the Japanese, sometimes we just gave our food whenever the ships comes and demands. To those ah. what do you call them. navy or something, Japanese! (Confused with words). Soon these Japanese also referred to as the Kenpeitais, came and stayed with us in the bush. However, when one of us does something wrong the Kenpeitais would take him, lock him up and shoot him to death. Size doesn't really matter to the Kempeitais, big or small they will still shoot you or cut your neck off. Some of those whom I once knew have had their neck chopped off by the Japanese. I could remember Suri, Albert, Kapil and Kirisio. They had their neck chopped off in the bushes of Luburuna, inside a huge Oval. One of them that was about to be executed hid inside a tunnel hole until the war ended. Nevertheless, he was also killed when he came out.
Were these men executed because of breaking the rules? And were there any white men when the Japanese invaded or was it just you locals?
I don't know why these good men were executed. Maybe they did wrong, maybe not, we all don't know. And as far as I could remember it was just us locals at first, no white man. then we after the Japanese invasion, we were all living together and working for them.
Were you down at the coast or up in the bushes with the Japanese?
We were down at the coast. Soon they knew, some of them reported that we were here. So the Japanese came and took our families. And they were all forced to work.
What work were given to the locals at Madina when they were apprehended?
They were told to do huge gardens for the Japanese, all because of their shortage of food supply after their ships were destroyed by the American war planes.
And your women, were they told to work?
Yes, our women carried food and market from their garden to the bushes and gardens far outside Luburuhat were some Japanese were stationed. These huge gardens were scattered throughout the stations. So our women travelled from one station to another making sure that all gardens are attended to and there is enough supply for the Japanese soldiers.
Were you by any chance taught to speak in their language?
Yes! People were taught to speak in Japanese. Some of us had the chance to learn it at a very young age.
Would you be able to recall any more experiences or stories which involves your people and the Japanese?
We had a few dangerous bunch that roam our bushes. They were our big man. And they too were out killing Japanese soldiers. These are few men who couldn't bear to see our women being forced around and our people being beaten and mistreated.
Your big man killed the Japanese?
Well, we didn't just let the Japanese kill us. We also killed them when we had the chance.
Do you know why your big man started killing these Japanese? Were they just mad? Or were their wives forced or taken away from them or something?
All the above. This big man used to sit on top of the coconut and shoot down any aeroplanes or soldiers that passes by. When they shoot at us, we shoot at them. When they kill us, we kill them back.