Philip Tuleya - Oral History interview recorded on 01 April 2017 at Sineyada, Milne Bay Province


Mr Philip Tuleya tells the story of his father Mr Tuleya Ilaitia who was recruited by the Papuan Infantry Battalion as a driver and afterwards joined the army 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 held at Sineyada village, Yaneyanene ward on the 1st of April 2017 and interviewee is Philip Tuleya, who will be talking about his father Tuleya Ilaitia who was a PIB soldier during the war. This interview is held by Elizabeth Taulehebo, Keimelo Gima and Anne Dickson-Waiko.
My father joined the army. When he joined the army he was too young to go and fight so what they did is they put him as a driver for the army for about few months and then when he matured or grew a bit and then he went on the war. So about a year or how many months and then when Battalion they are short of manpower, and then they took him into fighting the Japanese.
He was in Milne Bay and maybe the war at Popondetta, Kokoda Trail because he was the last person to go in there, PIB. And they were at Kokoda, Buna, I don't know, he was there. And he couldn't stay long with the army there and not long and then like planes were circling and throwing peace papers down. And the war was about to end when he went in. He was a driver for maybe one year or one year six months something like that. He was driving from here Giligili down to Wahuhuba, around here. He was in Moresby driving also. Okay after this PIB maybe they were the first people to bring up PIR.
I'm not really sure what kind of trucks he was driving because they were international trucks or what they call them, army trucks, and jeeps. And that's the only story I can remember. After that he was a driver and then he went into army, they put him to fight. He was with the Papuan Infantry Battalion. And you know this Japanese they call them Australian niggers because at that time when air raids or what they use them. When if air raids on that means they go and fight. Maybe they fight for few minutes and then that siren will come on again, the air raid, and then they stop to have rest or like that.
Okay during that time you know like the Japanese when they hear that siren they sit down to rest and eat or something like that. These Australian niggers like my dad and his group they don't know how to rest. When Japanese having rest, that's the time, they go and attack them you know. That's why they call them Australian negroes or niggers. Yes my father killed Japanese but he did not tell me how many he killed because I don't stay around with my dad because two of us used to argue at that time so I was with my cousin brother and late David Tembill, I was with him for a very long time. He was a rifle man.
At first he was scared or something like that and after he killed somebody and then he feel like he have confidence, like you know if your first time to do it, you'll feel nervous and after that . may be he killed some Japanese that's why he feel strong to fight until the war ended.
Yeah actually he used to tell me about how he was fighting the Japanese and like he tells me about these custom ways you know. Like his mother was a witchcraft something like that to protect him from fighting but what he told me is they were at Buna and very hard to go in to the mainland because the ship dropped them off in the sea and they have to swim. Day and night they have to float on the sea because when they try to go inside, Japanese were there so they have to float and some of them sank and died even like the Australians. But like we Papuans, their mothers or their uncles, they provided them with something like fish or shark whatever to float, because you can float on the salt water for about twenty-four hours with heavy things on you. So what they did is those things came to help them floating. Like dolphins or sharks or crocodiles, you know it depends on the old people. Some of them who were dying were helped. They were only helping them like you know so that's how they survived. But when they joined none of them died. Only few because they were with magic. That's what my dad told me. Yeah traditional protection. But it's war so them, they think that we'll fight, survive or we have to fight and die. Before the recruitment goes, that's what they have to tell them so that's the story.
All his brothers were joining the army and he was the youngest that time so they stopped him not to join. But he forced himself to go and to put his name in. Like our grandmother is from North coast and then she came to Laviam and like married, divorce, marry, divorce and she have so many children like half-brothers and half-sisters. That's why so my dad, his dad is different. And the other brothers, they have different dads but the same mother. About six of them joined. All half-brothers, six of them, because Levi, Geladia; maybe one of the cousins, he's now working with me . that's the other Tuleya's son. He got married to Suau. Okay, my dad got married here. All the brothers they survived and came back and all of them were there and they died. They did not die during the war, they were safe and came back here and they died.
My grandmother had the power to save them. Like nowadays we have balau here and then sorcery and witchcraft. At that time you know they help their children to go and if they say you go and join the army then you can go and if they stop them that means they're going to die. When they ask and they say okay, they are okay. That's why when they went, all of them came back, but one of them, that's Levi Toesina, he was scared that's why he didn't go for war, because they found out that he went and he didn't go with the army to fight, he was hiding somewhere sleeping away and then somehow they found him. So they brought him back and he was in the kitchen as a cook. That was during their training.
But at that time they don't train like nowadays, you can train for six months. That one is maybe about two to three days and you go. That was war was on already.
My mother was . her dad was an eleven policeman during the war so all these people here when war was coming, nobody was here, all of them have to move to Naura, Baraga. So everybody, even people at Rabe, Laviam, Maiwara, and Gabugabuna they have to go to Baraga and stay there. And from there my grandfather, he was like an eleven policeman so he looked those people there. I mean the people from here they went up. You know he just stand and anybody going out he have to tell him, he say, hey! You don't have to go out that way because of soldiers are everywhere. And then what if you like these kitty hawks or what these small planes they used to attack and then they throw bomb and you are dead. So for safety, they put them in Baraga and looked after. But they have military police and .
They have airport, the first airport was at Kainako. They have supplies from boats, I mean sea or by plane, helicopter. But Baraga you know that time is you have enough food not like nowadays. They supplied them about this fifty kg those type of bags rice and meat, this six pound meat, tinned meat. They have that one so nobody was getting hungry at that time. Even the soldiers too. So that's what my grandfather told me. They have meat in their house and rice and they supplied them. That was my grandfather from my mother.
My grandfather (father's side), I never saw him. I was still not born and he passed away.
My father's experiences with the Australians like they call them 'Joe' or what at that time. So they cooperate and they call each other Joe like mate. They call them Joe. Americans they started Joe. Hey Joe. He was with the soldiers because at that time, there were New Zealanders, Americans and the Australians and then Negroes, these American Negroes. And they have Australian Niggers. So that's what my dad used to tell me.
When he's happy then he tells me stories. My dad is a shortitempered man and if he tells me and I don't do that thing, he chase me.
I don't know if there any Australian Aboriginals that came because he did not tell me.
Like the Force was short of soldiers at that time, they were in rush and they have to recruit around here to get the number high so they can fight the Japanese. So that's what actually happened. He told me that the Japanese, they fight like animals you know even though they are short but they keep on fighting until they die. They have something like drug or what so they drug themselves and they fight. So they don't get scared. Maybe you saw them in the movie, the first group will come, and fall and the second group will come. Those who are falling down, they have scratches or what bullet, they keep on fighting. Because they got drunk or something like that.
The Australians were you know the Australians fought is normal so they follow the siren but the Japanese when the siren is on and they are moving, they don't get scared or die or what they just go forward and forward.
The Australian niggers, we don't know how they fight because sometimes, my dad told me that when they fought with guns and you know those heavy packs, they are too heavy for them, what they do is they throw away the gun and they use bayonet. So they go worse. At the time when the Japanese are having rest that's the time they attack them with bayonets. They have to cut their necks off. That's why they call them these Australian niggers. They fight like animals or what they call them. They were fearless, fearless as the Japanese.
But if you are normal like this then you get scared. When you see your friend is killed and you see the blood and you get scared. But my dad tells me that when they killed the Japanese, they get the blood and wash with it so they feel that their body is strong and then they fight.
That's normally what they do during tribal fights before the white men came, so that's what they were doing during the war. So when you see the blood you feel strong.
When this army came in with the uniform he felt happy to wear the uniform. So he say I wear this on and I feel smart.
Some of them, that's further up that way Wahuhuba; some of the village people, they help the Japanese because the Japanese were basing up there, around this way is the Americans and the Australians. So when first the Japanese came in, they have to go into Wahuhuba and from there one of the elders, their leader Sikana . but my dad told me, Sikana is not a Japanese he's mix Tufi and he was fighting for the Japanese. He's mix Tufi and I don't know Japan or . So you know that time Japanese were short and fat, have kind of straight hair but as for Sikana is . maybe my father saw Sikana. He was not Japanese because he was thin and tall. He didn't tell me about Sikana, but he just say that Sikana is not from Japan. He is one of the Papua New Guineans but he's not a Japanese. So he had to run from Wahuhuba all the way down to Giligili. He knew where to go. When they drop him off there (Wahuhuba), he started running off to Giligili.
But at first you know the Japanese when they came in, they saw a small light at Wahuhuba and they thought that was Giligili already and then they went in. But when they went in it was the wrong place so what they did is Sikana had to run from there down to Giligili, in search of Giligili. So from Wahuhuba all the way to somewhere at Waema, he reached Giligili already but somewhere there, they killed him there and they have to pull him back to . Two brothers, the Australians or the Americans killed him.
They (Japanese) were travelling by ship so they could not see the lights here . So when they like you know at that time people they don't light lights or something like that, they stay in the dark, including here at Giligili, everywhere. So at that time when they were moving in they saw somebody maybe lit a hurricane lamp and when they saw that light they thought that it was already Giligili. He told me so many stories but I cannot remember them because he cannot complete the stories and he have to go to another one. He tells us about a few seconds and then he thinks of another one and then he goes to another one.
He told me that they went by these . there are some pontoons at Ladava you have seen them so they used those ones there to go in there and went to Buna.
That's another uncle, they were in Bougainville . there's another PIB soldier, the children are still there. This Collen family. Okay, one of the PIBS is from Abau but he got married here and he died already. But the son is here. . That's Ebuma is the old and the son is Suki, next of kin.
Yes, when my father and others went to Buna, they join the other PIBs there and fought side by side. All the black soldiers, Papuans, PIBs or what do they call them. Because they have Australian Battalion, American battalion and them is PIB so they say Papuan Infantry Battalion.
Like you know all of have them have to know each other so they fight side by side.
When at Buna because only the PIBs were there, they are the first people to . at Buna. There were Australians but the Australian negroes have to go first. They put them first. He did not tell me why they put them first. They were like the second or third Australian battalion, the PIBs. So the Australians tried and it was really hard for them so the PIBS have to go in. yeah that's what they said, the Australians asked the PIBs to go ahead. So they tried to go, it's very hard for them to go in because the Japanese are so strong. And then like my dad was using something like for protection so once he go in and so like they used to do something so they fire the gun or what to make these Japanese confuse and then they have to go in. So they have the guns were heavy and the packs they have to throw them and they just used the bayonets to kill the Japanese.
Their mother was protecting them. Like the mother is a witchcraft, you know those times. There were some Western people too, Daru people, Kerema, all the way Milne Bay and across to Popondetta. My father saw those people. I mean the PIBs know each other so all of them were together and they have to fight against the Japanese. So that's it.
I was still young when my dad passed away. I'm now fifty-three years old.
Thank you.

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“Philip Tuleya - Oral History interview recorded on 01 April 2017 at Sineyada, Milne Bay Province,” Voices from the War, accessed June 16, 2024,