Aiva Dileina - Oral History interview recorded on 27 March 2017 at Maiwara, Milne Bay Province


Mrs Aiva Dilenia tells the story of her father Mr Asario Douglas who was recruited by the Papuan Infantry Battalion as a soldier during the war.



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.

This is an interview with Aiva Dileina and she's from Maiwara village, taped on the 27th of March 2017. Anne Dickson-Waiko is doing the interview and with her are Keimelo Gima and Elizabeth Taulehebo. Aiva is going to talk about her father Asalio Douglas who was a PIB soldier during the war.
My father Asario Douglas was taken up by his uncle also name by Asario Bonesi to Kwato Island to be trained up there but then unfortunately he did not want to be trained, he wanted to come home and stay with his parents. He wanted to be trained as a carpenter and unfortunately he did not want to be trained because the uncle was there training also and because he did not want to be trained but to come home and stay with the parents so he came back home. And while living in the village with his parents, he went up to Rabe village and met up with his cousin brothers, Titus and there's another one I could not recall his name but he met up with these two men and then they planned because their uncles have been killed during the world war. So they had made a plan to also join the army. And so while planning to join the army, a recruiting came around and they were recruited. That was in the 1940s. And then he came back home to live with the parents. And made up a plan with the cousin brothers at Rabe to join the army. Not long recruiting officers came around to recruit men to go in.
So he went in with these men and there are some from this village to join the army that were the PIBs at that time so they went in there and went to Moresby. So from Moresby they were transported to Bougainville. They got on the boat, I cannot recall the boat's name but they got on a ship I mean and they went down to Bougainville. And while in Bougainville, they did not launch at the wharf or beach but they threw them out in the sea to swim ashore. Because war was already there and the boat cannot go in to launch at the wharf. So they threw them down at the sea but among all the men that were recruited, my father Asario Douglas was the youngest among them. At that time he was about eighteen or nineteen years old. And so they were thrown into the sea to swim ashore to face the battle there. And because he was a very young man among them he was so young among the men, all the men there. Some of the elderly men there were supporting him to swim but in swimming he was the first man to swim ashore. And he called to his friends that war is already here. That was in Buin. And so they swam ashore there with their packs so they struggle to swim ashore. The distance was not really far; it could be from that point, Ladava point and swimming across to this side where Buin is. So they have to swim ashore but then you know at that time it was almost to be over. That would be somewhere in 1944 or 1945. So it was almost over when they were there.
So they swim ashore and then not long . some of their friends were killed also and the war was over also so they have to get them back to Port Moresby. He stayed at Bougainville for few months and the war ended so they sent them back to Port Moresby. You know he told us that he went in there with some of his friends and there was a man from Taupota too, he was always supported by the man. The Taupota man was older. His name was Gerald so he was with that man. And he took him as his father and they were in that war and that old was the one taking him around and trying to protect him not to be killed by bombs so you know he was there he said but in fighting he tried to avoid himself from the enemies because the old man was advising him not to go in front and . so yeah the old man is always there in the front with other elderly people while him at the back following them you know. Yeah, there were other boys his age. And the older man . He was carrying a gun with him. He was firing also at the same time. He did not tell us how many or the number of people he killed. He did not. But he just told us that he was among the men that were fighting and shooting.
Yes, he said that it was dangerous but in the war he was also thinking back to his parents. And he said, 'why I am here leaving my parents to die' you know he was thinking that way. And then I sometimes think of his words and I cry. He left his parents. 'Why I am here to die?' while my parents are there. He realised that it was somebody's war that he went into, something that he never experienced and you know he's fighting also in somebody's behalf.
He said the war was too hot and he cannot go any further because he came back home. He said that the whites were on the other side and the Japanese were away also from the whites.
Yes, yes he came across some black Americans.
He did not really tell us about his relationship with the soldiers but you know he was just telling us only about the war that was going on in Bougainville. And he said that you know going through a war like this is very very hard. It's too difficult. It's too dangerous, that you know our people here cannot go through; only a man who can really sacrifice his life to go to a war like this.
No, he was not properly trained. You know it was only a gun. It was long time ones, not like now they have those weapons that are . but that was a gun that they gave them to use. I don't know what they call them. He did not realise how bad the war was at the time he was to join. As I have said at the beginning, there were some of their uncles who went into the PIB and then were shot during the war. They were shot or killed during the war and that caused that anger in them and decided to join in to take their revenge, that's what he actually told us. that because of their uncles, he met up with the cousins up at Rabe and because of their uncles who joined early and they were killed and that make them to have that anger in them to get revenge and that's why they decided to go in.
Yes, yes he saw the war here in Milne Bay around Giligili and Rabe areas. He was here in the village when the war came. In the village here, they have to tell them to move away from this place and go to Naura, they go right up there to be safeguarded there to be safe and my father went up. He has brother, their mother and father to take them away. And all these people in this village were all gone to Naura and this place was empty because Giligili is just close here. So they have to run away and stay up there until the war was over and they came back. My mother was born already and she was still small girl when they ran away to Naura. They build houses for themselves to live there as if they were from Naura so they have to live there, and make gardens. They have to survive on their own, garden food at that time they have garden foods to survive on. They told them that when they go because some of them just went this way to the other side of the swamp here and leave those bushes there but that's what they instructed them to do that they don't make fire during war and not to make noise. But these ones going up to Naura is little bit far.
I'm not really sure but this old man whom I was talking about from Taupota. He was the one who was really very close and supported him so I was thinking that it could be from this man, you know in may be giving him some traditional things to protect him. He survived and they all came back home.
What he brought and I saw was only bayonet. But he also tells us that this is how they use them during the war and how he gets a gun to . so that's how he has been telling us.
What he says is they are not good things; it's for something to kill with. It's not good thing.
As myself (son) I was trying to join the army for that, I was also thinking about my dad and I was trying to join the army but then my mother stopped me.
And then my last born brother's son joined the army and when he went there he saw our daddy's name there. When he joined the army, when he went there to be trained at Goldie River to become a soldier and later he went out to stay at Murray Barracks. Then he saw because he was also using Douglas and then from there they knew him that he was one of the Douglas, also from the previous. But this one, he's a big brother that's after me and two of my sisters and him, he wanted to join but our mother stopped him no to join. He wanted to go and follow the footsteps of our daddy but then mother stopped him because she knew that it's not good. She does not want him to go and also die. She said, your father survived but I don't want you to go and also be killed.
After the war they came back to Port Moresby and from Port Moresby, he came for his leave in 1956. In 1956 he came back home and he was just on leave but then when he came he met up with my mother so he got married and never returned. And that's where I was the first child. After the war, he continued to be with the PIB.
In here we described our father as a Japanese man because you know he's short and strong enough to face a war like that.
He was given some medals. So every time when remembrance of these ones here, she takes them up and she goes on behalf of our dad to go out there. At that time because I was not here, I was away working and because our old daddy was living with her so she has to keep them in a safe place so she's the one keeping them. And so when Remembrance Day like this, she's the one to go on our behalf.
My father was not compensated. To us is you know we are not satisfied because they had done something for the country and they should be compensated for that. Today some have already died, some are still around almost to die so it's good that the government of today should look at these people seriously and do something for them.
Yes, I feel that this is very important to share my father's story, because sometimes I think of my father telling me stories about this so I cry. He did something good for the benefit of Papua New Guinea country so as the next generation, generation after generation to come.
From Maiwara is one of our bubus, Naidi's uncle, that's Gilipaiyani. From here Maiwara, that's the only uncle, so the two of them. The cousins were from Rabe.
That's what I have he has been telling me, that's what I shared.
Because his stories are like half-half (incomplete). He'll tell stories about what did so half he'll story the sister here and then another one to the sister like that you know. His stories are half-half.
I only know one of the stories he told me was in Bougainville. He don't tell me about the good things of the war but only how he goes and how he train. What he was telling me about Bougainville, that they drop them in the sea and they swam up so they struggle to come up (ashore), because the Japanese are already on the beach so while they were firing down to them, they swam. They went towards them. So what he was saying is he was the first man to swim ashore because he was young. He said when we came to the beach and when we put our legs on the sand, Japanese are like rice, how they died and we just crawl over them. To struggle to go inside but he said uh we thank our mothers and fathers in the village because we all Milne Bay ones survived. They thanked their mothers and fathers in the village may be because of the traditional things used or some could go you know unseen to them to protect them. Instead of saying thanks to God, they said thanks to their mothers and fathers so that's what he was telling us.
But it was very hard.
At that time they don't have enough uniforms, maybe they have one and another extra one and they go there but food was alright but they don't sleep properly. He said they never sleep properly.
My father was taken to Australia and trained but he did not mentioned which part of Australia but what he showed me is only the leaf, I don't know what tree leaf but he got it from Australia and he out them inside his notebook. And he was telling me that this tree here is nothing but only in Australia. I don't know how long he stayed in Australia. That was after the war.
One of these aunties knows these things here so when my grandmother and father were worried about him because he was young and he went, and she told them that you don't have to worry. He'll go but I'll be there so that's what she said. That old lady also knows some other things, witchcraft. She is also a witch that is why she told my daddy's mother and father that they don't have to worry, she'll be there. When she says she will be there meant that she could fly or she could travel by another thing to go there. But actually what they told me about that lady was she had a boat, it's a turtle shell and that's her boat that she used to travel out with. So that's what they told me about her.
Okay, thanks very much.

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“Aiva Dileina - Oral History interview recorded on 27 March 2017 at Maiwara, Milne Bay Province,” Voices from the War, accessed April 16, 2024,