We are here in Belifu village, in Tikana, Ward 14 Kavieng District. And we will be interviewing Pastor Epinari Panabung.
Today is the 2nd of April 2017. Pastor, thank you for coming to be with us.
Tell us about the war you had witnessed as a child.
Yeah, thank you. The war started here in 1942. The Japanese came and settled in Lafu and made Luburua their base. They also occupied various places as they taught some young people to speak Japanese. More Japanese settled in West Coast.
Some of our elders, including my father and his nephew Patrick Maris were carrying food to Luburua at that time to soldiers who were beheading our elders down at Luburua.
If someone did something wrong, my dad and others would take them to be reported and beheaded. The Japanese had occupied many areas including at West Coast including Namasalang, Musmus, and Pagatre. So at that time people feared them because the Japanese were bad. People, including our elders, made gardens for them. They worked for the Japanese and were ill-treated. If something wrong happens, they get beatings.
The war was about to end when a big Japanese ship arrived. It was huge and well decorated with branches and leaves that it looked like an island. It came from Maradavai where the plantation was; the Americans had been studying it for some time. They placed the first bomb.
They launched the first bomb at it and it hit the ship but kept going. Then they launched the second bomb; and finally the third one broke the ship as it approached Belifu shores. Many Japanese died and bodies drifted on the sea; others were smashed. That ship broke in the middle and the front part sank into the sea till it sat on a reef.
Many dead bodies were found. Our elders buried them in a big hole. Some were found alive and others were not found at all as their bodies were smashed.
They had done many things to the people. They also taught people, which was good. They were taught at Lufa under a stone.
They taught people how to count numbers in Japanese. I cannot tell more stories except. I only remember few as I was a child then and I was not too sure of that story.
But I am more familiar with this one because I witnessed it.
You said that there were bad things done. How about towards the women?
Did they do good or bad things?
They beat women too?
They beat them and did some bad things to them. Because they were here without their wives so they did bad things towards our women. They were armed. So people were scared to talk or do anything against them. So they did not fear anything.
Did the Japanese help them to carry food across?
No. They carried them on their shoulders and walked. They were prisoners. They follow this road to Luburua, leave the food and return. They did this everyday so they made gardens here for that purpose. They go and help others whose soldiers are also at Luburua.
Have you seen that place?
So that's where their base is.
So did they behead people there who did wrong?
Yes, there were people brought there from Panara, Kara and Tiga to Luburua. If ever they did something wrong and was proven in court, they were beheaded. Such things happened during the war. The Japanese mistreated the people. That was wrong but who would talk against that; there was no law against such at that time.
They came because of war and were overpowering so they could do anything. So when they beheaded our people they were like beheaded chicken. Such things happened. They mistreated our women; such things happened during the war.
Were there any foreigners here when the war started? Not Japanese, other foreigners.
None were here. No foreigners were here, am not sure.
Thank you so much.
Thank you for telling this story.
“Epineri Panambung - Oral History interview recorded on 02 April 2017 at Belifu, New Ireland Province,” Voices from the War, accessed September 23, 2023, https://pngvoices.deakin.edu.au/items/show/388.