Galahodi Delidelito - Oral History interview recorded on 24 March 2017 at Gamadoudou, Milne Bay Province
Mr Galahodi Delidelito tells the story of his two grandfathers namely Panuela Laulauaga (his father's father) and Mado Fanohi (his mother's father). Mr Panuela Laulauaga was recruited as a carrier while Mr Mado Fanohi a carrier and butcher of the Australian army during the war.
This is a recording done by Elizabeth Taulehebo on the 24th March 2017 held at Gamadoudou for interviewee, Galahodi Delidelito. In this interview Galahodi will tell the story of his two grandfathers, firstly named Panuela Laulauaga.
Tell us what he did, his experience during the war and how old was he? Tell us what his role was.
My grandfather Panuela Laulauaga was probably married with two children when the war came in 1945 (1942). The third one my father was born in 1945 here at Gamadoudou US supply base camp. He was born in their Aidpost, hospital. He was named after an American soldier 'Blondie' so if you look at our Common Roll, Blondie is in the Common Roll.
My grandfather Laulauaga, when the Australian administration came to recruit for war carriers or otherwise helpers or whatever he willingly gave himself to volunteer. He was recruited and was placed at Giligili landing base. So he was all his time from 1942 to 1945 with the stevedoring, unloading cargo and soldiers. So most of times he was with stevedoring from 1942 to 1945.
There were some stories which he said were, there were times when barges land with marines, some of them he said were without beard. And when ships land and they were coming in, they fell with their bags and their army shoes and he had to lift them up and take them ashore. When the barge land at the beach, the doors open and the marines come out. And he says that most of them were in their . mostly teenagers very young without beard from 16, 18 and above. He was mostly helping some of them.
Most of the time at Giligili was bombed. The Japanese flew over this range here and all over the bay and all their bombs were targeted for Giligili Airstrip and the Landing Base. So when the planes come, there was an Air Raid and he says they had to run into pits and take cover and when bombings finished they come out and continue with their work.
At their free times he said, they go to Waema and climb breadfruits and burn and eat. When the cargoes come in or when the air raids come the soldiers go to fetch them back to take cover or to unload ships. So that's Laulauaga. What my bubu was doing from 1942 to 1945.
He said food was in abundance, canned food, rice and flour.
But the only hardship in there was they never rest properly. They don't sleep properly. Most of the time they are alert and they are all working most of the time.
Giligili was you know, there were heavy rains in like months of June to October was heavy rains at Giligili and around the bay and it was very hard for them. A lot of mosquitoes but they worked day and night until when ships don't come or there were no air raids then they set them free. Time for them to rest, walk around and relax.
He did not tell me of any deaths with the young people, especially the nationals that were recruited with him, there were no stories about any of them dying in the action of the war or whatever.
He was married at that time with two children, they were already teenagers. And the Australian Administration took them to Sivalai, the wife and the two elder children with my daddy who was born in 1945 here at the Army's camp and then after the birth, the Australian Administration came and took them away because there was heavy fighting whole of '42 and '43 here in the bay so they have to take them out for cover.
They [war labourers/carriers] were not allowed to go and visit families.
When he came and when big planes come and fly, he says 'ay maybe this is war'
So there are times when very big planes come very low to go to land at Giligili Airport, he sometimes says, 'Hey! This must be war'. That's one of the things I heard from his mother. That was after the war when they resettled here.
This was in . Because I was born in the sixties so this was in late sixties and early seventies.
And then he was blind. And also he was blind. I do not know but he was blind after serving the war. When he came back and he was blind in the late fifties and sixties, he was completely blind.
Good memories were like beef, canned beef, big ones and Tom Pipers, you know and very big buns and biscuits. A lot of biscuits and crackers. Those are his good memories.
For Infantry, they were alright except the, they call them MPs, the Military Police. These are Australians and they said he was not happy with them. Whenever they sit with these other marines, those are only soldiers. They tell stories and they want to crack jokes or whatever but the MPS come and dispatch them. Or they go somewhere and leave them alone. They shouldn't be talking or socializing with them. So those are some of the bad things. The MPs were their worst enemies.
When I was born, I learnt that my bubu was blind and I thought that he was born blind but later I learnt that he also served as a Carrier during the war. So from there I learnt that he was not born blind.
But I've never heard of him complaining about like some nationals who served during the war as Infantries and as Carriers who were recognized. Because in those days we do not have access to the information like newspapers and radio, where they gave respect or whatever honour to some of these carriers and some of those soldiers who served. Now we don't have that information so I don't know and has never heard about him in those days so he never gave us his comments, whether he was happy with them or not, that we don't know.
War time story of Mado Fanohi
Mado Fanohi is my mother's dad. My mother was born in 1948 that was after the war. My grandfather Mado was also recruited as a Carrier.
And for the first six months he says, first half of 1942 he was with the stevedoring but for the rest of the months for the year 1942 to 1945, he worked as a butcher. They recruited him as a butcher.
And during the air raids, they also called him up to help the gunners. Those very big machine guns that were protecting Giligili landing base and airport. So he was a butcher and at the times of air raids he was taken away and he helped the soldiers to carry these bombs or whatever, the heavy shells and they passed them as an assembly line all the way to the pit blast* So somebody had to throw these cartridges in and somebody has to launch them out to the planes. So most of the time he was helping as a butcher and the person who was also with the soldiers, helping them with the bombings, carrying these heavy bombs to the guns.
There were quite a number of other nationals with him from Milne Bay. They were helping the gunners especially loading these heavy machine guns with bombs.
He was . At other times because there were lot of planes, they were firing, firing, firing until these machine guns come alight. The nets or whatever they throw over them to camouflage them caught on fire. They have to carry water with the buckets from nearby drains and puddles to put off the fire.
He said he really enjoyed it.
Sometimes bombs land nearby but there was never an experience of one landing where their gun is. He says that other times .
There was heavy shelling at Giligili but they were really protected. Bombs come but they don't explode. For the section where he is and the machine gun that they were holding, he said he had never experienced it being bombed. But other machine guns, bombs landed directly in them and there were casualties. Other buildings were bombed, parts of the airport- Giligili airport. And Giligili where the stevedoring was, the landing ground was also bombed several times.
But he says before the war, Giligili was filled with coconuts, big coconut plantation. At the time of bombing, all the coconuts were burnt out and only the stumps were standing.
The part that he enjoyed mostly was loading machine guns.
The ships, the Australians, maybe the Americans brought in loads and loads of sheep and cattle during the war from 1942 to 1945. So they brought the live animals in to Giligili and then they killed them and they take the skin out so he was slaughtering them. He said that they brought the animals from Australia and New Zealand.
First when a miner came to Gamadoudou, by the name of Kruger, he and other men were cowboys, looking after Kruger's horses. So from here they take the horses with rations all the way to Uloulo mine. And from Uloulo mine, they bring the deposit, raw ore with the horses down here. Because he said that his experience with the animals and when the Australian Administration came, they knew who he is after they recruited him so they took him into butcher. After the stevedoring, they took him into butcher.
So they slaughter the sheep or the cow and then they put the meat in the cooler and store them away. And then they get the hides and also store them away. Later like I said, when they learnt that he was very active, they also took him to help with the gunners.
He said, they preserve the hides and when the ships come they take them back. They take them down to the wharf at Giligili and the stevedoring take them away on the ships.
He said food was in abundance. They walk on food. We sleep with food. That was what he said. But the only problem was they don't rest. They don't rest. And a lot of mosquitoes and heavy rain.
For Giligili, there were only Australians. All the Americans were based here at Gamadoudou base. Mostly they [carriers/labourers] were with the Australians. . observe Americans and . But mostly Australians were teenagers and he says there were times when they were loading these guns and these young men feel exhausted and they fall, and he had to lift them up.
He was talking, . he was very masculine man .
He didn't make any mention of national women in the camps. During the war.
He didn't tell me that at the hospitals, there were women. He never came to a time when he got sick ..
The other interesting thing that he likes talking about was on planes. He says when the siren close, the planes fly here and they cover the bay . and make a shape of . shadows cover the . These were Japanese planes and they went to bomb Giligili.
The effects of the war is another thing, I can . When they came, in 1945  maybe the first three or four months they were here while there were bombings and warships coming in and planes .. After maybe four or five months and they move everybody from here. The Australian Administration came and burnt down the villagers' houses especially Gamadoudou Base camp. So when they came into to turn this place into an American landing base, they destroyed the place.
They burnt the houses. So like some important artefacts like war clubs, spears, boats and canoes, and all the important designs; all these things were burnt. A . supply when they came, all of Gamadoudou foreshore was full of pontoons. On the reefs, pontoons are still sitting. And then reefs were dug and trenches were made which I don't know for what reasons. And whole of Gamadoudou was full of spring waters, most of these spring waters were gone. And all the good land for gardening and all these were replaced by concrete slabs. Concrete slabs and rusty dumps and all these. So that was another experience when they came back.
After the war when they came back and those who were taken as recruits returned back was another experience. They cleared everything and rebuild their lives and homes.
When they returned, in 1946, 1947 there were still soldiers around. So they came and land, the Gamadoudou people landed at the hills . The Australian Military Police were guarding this place and all the wreckages left by the Americans, they were guarding them.
They don't want the locals to come and rip off things and take them. Those were some of the things he told me as his experiences.
If we ask Pastor Rima Doboela because he was a teenager when they returned back from Sivalai so otherwise he may have a good story to tell about the dumps or what the Americans left.
We heard that there was a company in Lae that went through Australian Administration and came and bought off all these dumps from Gamadoudou and took them all to Lae. But I do not know what year that was. But if we ask Elder Rima then he'll give us that year.
After the war, when we returned the government paid war compensation to the people and then Government collected everything as dump; and there was a ship that came from overseas and loaded all the dumps and took them overseas. Some were buried and some good ones [war remains] were dumped in the sea like dozers, graders, tipatrucks and others. But the bad ones remained here.
After that the Government took everything and paid war compensation. The war dumps were sold and the Government took the money, and that was in 1949.
Their main wharves, one is like pontoon at the shore where they used to come and anchor and the other one is like a 'tin'. Big ships used to come in and anchor next to it.
Like nowadays, you can have to internet to get more information about Gamadoudou US Base. You can access the aerial here and get whatever information you want.
But for younger generations, for myself, we have all these dumps- all the concrete- and all the land especially gardening sites is filled with corals and gravel and very hard for us to use it for agricultural practices. We suffer in some way but because we couldn't ask for compensation so it's left as it is. Or the means through which we can turn all these things [war dumps] to generate income for us, and this is one opportunity for us to take advantage of the war wrecks and everything about it.
“Galahodi Delidelito - Oral History interview recorded on 24 March 2017 at Gamadoudou, Milne Bay Province,” Voices from the War, accessed November 30, 2023, https://pngvoices.deakin.edu.au/items/show/337.