Don Anian - Oral History interview recorded on 15 June 2017 at Salamaua, Morobe Province, PNG


Don Anian tells the story of his parent's experiences during WWII.



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.

[Interviewer]: Okay you can start by introducing yourself and is it okay we record this film of you?
Yes, it’s alright. You can listen to my story. My name is Don Anian and my brother is George and I’m from Laugui.
My father told me, about the war, like stories of long time ago. So, there’s two things dad and mom told me. About how the [Australian] government helped the people [soldiers and village people] during the war. The government supplied rice, tinned fish and other foods during the war.
My father said the government used to help them a lot, hence they don’t get low on food supplies. The other thing the government gives to help them is money. The aeroplanes would fly over and drop money down on them. My parents told me these two things the government does.
The foods were usually transported by boats by the kiaps, while aeroplanes carried money, and I don’t know, maybe the people were informed already and were all prepared to receive the money. When the money came down, everyone had to collect their own share. This is what my parents told me.
[Interviewer]: How much money did they put in each envelope and give?
That they (my parents) didn’t tell us, I don’t know how much money came down, they threw envelopes down at them and that’s all they told us but the amount we don’t know.
[Interviewer]: Did your parents tell you how they get food when the bombs came down, about how they went to their gardens or hunted pigs for food or how they went into the big forest to hunt? Are there any stories about how they fended for themselves during the war?
Just like every Papua New Guinean, they had gardens. Taro and banana gardens. They usually went up to their gardens and harvested food. The government didn’t allow people to make fire, so they used to hide from the government people and make fire to cook food. In the night there must not be any light, the Japanese must not see them making fire. If they (Japanese) saw them, they would throw bombs at them. So, making of fire was restricted. It was a big taboo (restriction).
My father told me that they used to have good relationship with both sides, the Japanese and the Australians (and Americans). They helped the soldiers well. The Japanese were so glad with the village people (for helping) that they gave them sweet biscuits and some other things.
They must be fair on both sides, not helping one and turning back on the other. If they helped one side only, the other would shoot them with guns. If you helped Australia, Japan would be angry and shoot you. That is why they helped both sides.
There wasn’t any dispute, they helped each other and lived together.
There was some man who went earlier to the village and informed the people about the war that will take place. Some heard the news while some did not. Those that did not heard that the war was coming were shocked and trembled with fear when they heard bomb blasts and war planes flying over them. They were so frightened and terrified. They were alert and looking, and searching for places to hide. The war planes would throw bombs, so they were all alert and watching.
I was a small boy then, now I’m 53 years of age, when I saw my father wanting to be a soldier and joining the army. Some men joined the Japanese while others joined Australia and America. There was an old man in our village who joined Australia and America and the Japanese shot him here (pointing to cheek). When he shot him here, it came out there (pointing to other cheek).
This old man was still alive, and we grew up to see it (scars) with our own eyes too. He told us about the story of the war and showed us where the Japanese shot him. Today we know of this story the old man has passed on. He died already.
[Interviewer]: How did the Japanese shoot him?
The Japanese soldier shot him with a gun over here (pointing to cheek). He was screaming when the bullet pierced through his cheeks. He fell face down on the mud and the men carried him away and attended to his wounds. He was alright, he did not die.
[Interviewer]: Why did the Japanese shoot him? Was he disobedient? What was the reason they shot him?
It was because he was on Australia and America’s side. The Japanese soldiers saw that he was crossing their territory, so they shot him. They did not shoot him in the head, they shot him here and when he screamed, the bullet came out there. He did recover afterwards, and we saw this old man when we grew up. But now he’s dead.

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Deakin University
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“Don Anian - Oral History interview recorded on 15 June 2017 at Salamaua, Morobe Province, PNG,” Voices from the War, accessed June 20, 2024,