Amogoye Mathias - Oral History interview recorded on 14 June 2017 at Salamaua, Morobe Province, PNG


Amogoye Mathias tells the story of her experiences as a child 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.

I am happy to give you my story. When the war started a plane came from Lizing point.
The plane that came fired guns towards Salamaua and the airstrip.
When the announcement of war came we had to dig holes. We were told whatever bombs drops we must hold sticks with our teeth to protect ourselves from choking on our tongues with shock.
We must keep the sticks between our teeth and hide in the holes until the bombs stop dropping and then we can come out.
When the planes come we must always hide in the holes and put sticks between our teeth.
For the first two days they shot at Salamaua and the airstrip and then on the third day they continued dropping bombs, so we ran away with our parents further up the river to Mayawang.
We hid at Mayawang but then returned to our original hiding place on the beach and saw that bombs had destroyed Salamaua and the airstrip too.
We saw that Salamaua was destroyed and the Americans had set a gun at Buansing and were shooting the Japanese at Salamaua, and some Japanese had already moved to Wau.
The Japanese were good to us and got local men to become carriers to go to Bolaliabo at Kamiatan. The men at Kamiatan took over as carriers and continued on with the Japanese.
The other Japanese stayed while the Allies shot them from Buangsing until the Japanese were forced to move away from Salamaua.
Yes, there were, there were.
They brought us out from our hiding places moved us all to Morobe Station.
The Americans brought us to Buangsing and selected the fit and healthy men to join them in the fight while the others were grouped with the women.
So after they grouped us, the ones who were unfit to fight were moved with us children and women to be moved down to Morobe Station. The fit men were told to help the Allied forces.
The barge took us to Morobe Station and at Lababia were saw Japanese planes and the guns at Lababia and Morobe started firing with the 4 guns on the barge firing too until one of the Japanese planes was shot down.
When they shot the Japanese plane down we were able to safely travel to Morobe Station. We stayed two days at Morobe Station and were then told to build shelters in the bush where we would stay for one month. After this time the Americans moved us to Morobe Station and then back home.
The bombs were dropping and killed five people in the garden. A bomb hit a tree and bits of wood struck the Luluai (councillor) in the balls and he died.
When the bomb dropped it also killed three others in a canoe from Laukanu. One of them died with child in her womb. The people buried them at Pula.
When we returned the government helped us with food for one whole year. After that we were able to grow our own food.
We stayed in the bush for two years………..
We were afraid of the Japanese and hid in the bush but the young boys would give the Japanese pawpaw at Yau near the mouth of the river.
The mothers hid a long way away in the mountains. The Americans used to help us and were good to us. We were afraid but they held our hands and assisted us through the bush. They gave us lollies and were very generous to us.
At this time there were not many of us children but we were all very afraid of the whiteman’s war.
The plane came dropping bombs and firing guns destroying everything. We fled to hide at Bola Bolang, Yau and Baelabang. We came back and forth from our hiding places because the bombs were still dropping. At night we used burning coconut leaves as lights to move around.
The bombs kept landing in the ocean and we could hear big explosions from the water splashing loudly.
We saw the bombs and hid waiting until the watchmen told us it was safe to come out. There were so many bombs that dropped into our ocean.
What can I say, we hid anywhere underneath rocks, in trees and holes in the ground.
Our mothers hid us under stones and in trees but our fathers would run back and forth checking whether it was safe to come out.
Our mothers would hide us in holes underneath stones or trees.
When we came back from Morobe most of us were too old for school so only 3 younger ones went back to school.
These three children went back to school and their names were Yandanguo, Ogeye and Inambye.
Once the school was running well, we bigger ones went back to school.
During the war we were only a few children so it was OK but I think if there were many children like today it would have been hard for our parents to protect us and many of us would have died.
They were only a few of us small ones so it was much easier for our parents to keep us out of harm’s way….[repeated].

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Deakin University
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“Amogoye Mathias - Oral History interview recorded on 14 June 2017 at Salamaua, Morobe Province, PNG,” Voices from the War, accessed June 20, 2024,