Petilani Taulowani - Oral History interview recorded on 24 March 2017 at Gamadoudou, Milne Bay Province


Mr Petilani Segu tells a story of himself working as a carpenter at a place called Motumotu in Kerema when the war came to the Pacific and how he joined the army to fight in 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 third recording done by Elizabeth Taulehebo date the 24 March 2017 held at Gamadoudou ward. The interviewee is Petilani Taulowani. He will tell the story about his father Petilani Segu.
As I was born after the war so I won't tell you much about the war but I know what my father tells me during the war.
My father he was sent to Kwato Island where this Mission was and trained as a carpenter. After that he went to work at Kerema, at a place called Motumotu I think it's a gold mine. While they were working there they heard that war was coming, it will come through the Pacific Islands. He was there working under the Australian government, they called the company NPC or they called it Australian Petroleum Company, APC. They send them down there and he was working down there plenty of them from Gamadoudou my uncles at uh by Buhutu and all of them.
After that when the war was coming to the Pacific Islands, their parents went and saw the government for their children had to come back, so that's when my father came back here. He came after maybe few years and then the war reached the Pacific then to Papua New Guinea. So from there my father was a carpenter .
I think my father when he came here was married already but I was not born yet. He was married and then the war came that's what my uncle said. My mother and the family, whole family went to Suau. The government took them over to Suau because you know it's very dangerous living here because they can drop bombs or whatever . They were here, the army bases are here, navy base and so that's why this is the place where they used to base but for the place where they fight or war is over at Tawala side. So when they recruit all these people, my father and others went to Tawala to work there. Their base was at Giligili. They used to work there.
Some of them they used to build hospital somewhere at Balaga, a place called Balaga near Naura over there. They built hospitals and after that they came back to where Americans were building this Gurney Airport so some of them went and work there. And also . because bases were everywhere at Waigani and Hagita so they used to go and work here and there. That's why . they call them carriers but he was like a labourer. They took them as war carriers but he got a trade they have to . people they got trade they have to . work there. So at that time that's what my father told me but same time they give them gun and bullets like to defend themselves. So Japanese when they come they can fire at them something like that. That's what they did.
And they worked up to Wahuhuba side and they go Ahioma, Wagawaga because his cousin brothers are there Osineru Dickson and the others. And that's how these people, how they worked. And after that when the war ended at 2005 [1945] whoever those Japanese being escaping, some of them got no ammunitions or whatever like bullets ran away and some of them went to hide somewhere in the bushes. So the government of Australia told them to go hunt for them and bring them there and send them to prison in Australia or maybe back to America and then when their time serves enough they will send them back to Japan so that what's they do all the time .
Search for those, war is finish and they got no bullets or ammunitions whatever so they escape because they are going to shoot them .. Some at Wahuhuba and also Lelehoa inland and further up that way.
At that time my father and . but some other . Esekiela, Wedega and all these other families over there they were all with them . so [unclear]
They captured some Japanese at Lelehoa and further up somewhere inside the sago palms while they are hiding away there and then . Like sometimes they got no kaikai and they have to cut through and like they try to beg from the village people and that's how they captured them and reported to the Army and Defence to come and get them and that's what they used to do until like you know war .
Americans and Australians, New Zealanders also went back again. And after that all these disposals come and they start shifting away all whatever war wreckages . war relics to take them back to Australia or where where . until whatever.
And I was born in . when the war finished in 1945. My mother and the family and my uncle all of them they came here and from there because their father and mother got married already but didn't have any children because of the war.
My father didn't tell me whether his long absence away from his wife during the war, affected him because you know they came and they recruit them and he can't do anything because this is the war. It's not like going for work or whatever . but because this is something different because this is the war so they have to go and see.
My mother and the families have to go to Suau to live there because the government provided them with rations until such time when the war was over.
Then I was born in 1946. But still there were some armies around here. They were disposing off these army wreckages and what not, ammunitions like the trucks and whatever, steamer and machineguns. All these things were shifted out but few I've seen them and when all these things were disposing I saw them. My mother and I used to go around and see them my father and . My father returned home after the war. He came back and they went wherever our parents, our mother and bubus were living at Suau. They took them back to their places . from here and that's when I was born.
[Rima Doboela]
There was plenty food, enough for us. Each house they have to count how many people in the house so they supply that amount.
[Petilani Taulowani]
Sometimes you know we can't eat rice all the time so sometime people help them. Suau people help them with sago. Modewa is full of sago so they help them with sago or banana or something. They are very kind people too so they helped our people. But I can't tell how often they supply them with the rations because my uncles didn't tell me or also I was not born yet...
[Rima Doboela]
They supply us by boat that come to Sivalai and the government was there. And they brought rations there and every Saturday people go and collect their food, every Saturday. Yeah this flour, four litres drum flour and rice and tin stuff and everything. They supply enough for us to eat and live. We don't go hungry. Every week every Saturday we get rations once a week. From '42, '43' 44, 3 years. '45 no rations so everybody move back.
[Petilani Taulowani]
Because war was over so they can't give you supply. War is over so people have to start coming back.
[Rima Doboela]
People became lazy because they were being supplied all the time with rations. They got gardens over there. They plant potato for the, you know general to help them with native food, in addition to their rations supplied.
Because you know something like that they went there because they recruit them so that's their duty or work to be done. So they went and work for them. He didn't bother about anything or he didn't get scared whether they were going to die or not. They enjoyed it. Not only himself but plenty of people. Like people from here Gamadoudou, Tawala and everywhere. That's what they do.
No one was lost or died from Gamadoudou.
[Rima Doboela]
Only children died. we came back here then some of them died, after the war.
There were no casualties, they were all right. Everything was okay.
[Petilani Taulwani]
That's how they went and some of them believers lose hope. They went far away .doing whatever there. And some of our parents were coming back because they were trained at Kwato before the war that was during 1938 or something like that so that's . But everybody was all right. None died there. Even at Wagawaga too that's what we heard from our parents I mean our father when they came from the war. Everybody was all right. Like they came home safely.
[Rima Doboela]
When the war came, there was the feeling of excitement as well as fear. Because it was war and people will be killed. But then I did not worry much about it. I had to be strong in my heart anyway.
During the war, I don't recall women practising witchcraft or that sort to protect people.
No witch witch business and we don't use them.
The war brought good changes and bad changes. Some of the bad things were that people died, like I said. You know the witchcraft or sorcery, something like that when they came back from Suau. They used to use something that . after the war.
[Anna Peter]
Like part of jealousy to their relationship.. Some people like you know . they get want they can get and do what they can do and those jealousies are now still on. That means yeah and I'm talking to the women that let's use those powers or the witchcraft in a better way where we can live together and be happy and get rich or whatever. Like not every Papua New Guinean is using witchcraft. I can say that other countries too. Can you tell me is it true or? Or is it something to do with the whole world? Or its only Papua New Guinea?
Why I am asking is because we are always called witchcraft. So I am asking, is it only Papua New Guinea?
[Anne Dickson-Waiko]
No, there's witchcraft in other places.
[Anna Peter]
But we are always being you know hit on that but why I'm saying this is, I'm talking to the people that let's use it in a proper way, in a right way where we can you know I talk like.. Sorry I can add on this, I thought like in other countries they use it in a right way where they are developed in a better way. They can earn their living through this kind of life.
There were stories being heard in our area here that during the war there were experiences of it. People did use .witchcraft especially in a good way to protect their people.
Witchcraft was used in some good way to protect people so they were safe or otherwise they may have died.
[Rima Doboela]
I think to me because . I can't tell anything about that anyway every . it might have happened but you don't know, we can't tell ... But I only heard one story was that when they dropped the bomb at somewhere at Yaleuwa, it was . found hanging on one of these plants or something on the rope or. That's what I heard from a woman, her name is Meiyala or something. That's what I heard from people. Only by stories but I don't see it and I don't believe. And I can't tell you whether it's true or not. That's what they say.
But we don't know some of in each woman's hearts or whatever they do we can't tell you.
[Petilani Taulowani]
Some of the people where they are living, the Army officers used to live and the Army .
But some others were living where the rations shops, I mean they call them the supply stores were. They don't really . But somehow where we are living was the residing place for the armies, where the armies used to live . They built them properly.
Because they are ordinary people but the only thing they said is they separated it for blacks and the whites. Australians, New Zealanders and Americans and also these black Americans. They lived separately but they still worked together, fight together whatever. But they lived separately I don't know why. We can't tell.

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“Petilani Taulowani - Oral History interview recorded on 24 March 2017 at Gamadoudou, Milne Bay Province,” Voices from the War, accessed April 16, 2024,