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War History World War II in Papua New Guinea. Australian and Japanese soldier who fought the battle, died and buried in Bomana (Port Moresby), Lae cemetary, Wewak, Relics and Wreckages.

 
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Old 30-11-2002, 03:24 PM
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Rabaul – A Town Steeped In War History

By Steven Mago

There is no place in Papua New Guinea that holds countless physical reminders of the two world wars than scenic Rabaul, the provincial capital of East New Britain. Rabaul is found on the eastern half of the island of New Britain, and was a major Japanese naval base and stronghold that was bypassed by Allied forces, but remained occupied by the Japanese until the end of the war after it was neutralized from the air by Allied fighters and bombers.

After the twin volcanic eruptions that devastated this beautiful town in 1994, the administrative capital was moved to Kokopo, which has been redeveloped as a thriving township, backed up by Tokua Airport, the Catholic mission-run Vunapope Hospital and a bustling town life.

But many people still hold an emotional attachment to the “old” and devastated Rabaul and as I write, it’s being slowly developed to retain some of its former glory. Rabaul still has a major strategic importance because of its deep harbor and wharf facility and safe anchorage for all major cargo, cruise ships and coastal vessels. Interestingly, Rabaul's harbor is a massive flooded caldera of an ancient volcano.

Rabaul was the Japanese Naval Headquarters in the South Pacific, and was wisely bypassed by Allied invasion forces. At the height of the war, 97,000 Japanese troops were stationed in Rabaul and its surrounding areas. There were also thousands of Allied POW's, slave laborers and even 800 prostitutes from Korean and Japan.

Rabaul Golf Course :
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Old 30-11-2002, 03:26 PM
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Rabaul remained in Japanese hands for the duration of the war and was subject to almost daily air raids at the height of the war. Americans dropped 20,000 tons of bombs on the town and nearby areas. Over 50 ships were sunk in the harbor during the war.

This is why today, Rabaul continues to attract a significant number of tourists from overseas especially from Japan. Since the rebuilding of Rabaul and Kokopo, tourism has picked up and the local tourism industry is seeing a steady growth of business that has largely been attributed to the weekly flight to and from Narita, Tokyo.

Submarine Base :
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Old 30-11-2002, 03:29 PM
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For those interested in war history, there are many interesting points of interest that are worthy of a visit. They serve as a reminder of the pivotal role that Rabaul played in the history of WWII. Anyone planning a tour of Rabaul should note the following points of interest:
  • Kokopo – the new administrative centre of East New Britain and location of an Allied war cemetery and museum. Kokopo was also the German colonial capital, and it’s where you can find the remains of Queen Emma's mansion.
  • Kokopo War & Cultural Museum – It’s a branch of the National Museum in Port Moresby. It contains an impressive collection of Japanese vehicles, munitions and relics.
  • Karavia – This is where you will find five Japanese barges lined up nose to tail in a long passage cut into the hill by POW labor. Presumably, they were used to ferry supplies around the coast at night, or held in readiness in case of emergency.
  • Malmaluan – The underground command centre located at Malmaluan Village (Also know as Coastwatcher's Lookout) off the Vuruga (Burma) Road and offers the best views in the area. It’s also the Coastwatchers Memorial and has a B-17 wreck.
  • Submarine Bay – Japanese used this area to provision submarines. It’s located on the northern side of Rabaul, about 10 minutes from the town and it’s a vertical reef wall that drops over 75 meters underwater. Japanese used it to provision submarines here during the war from a network of tunnels dug into the side wall.
Scenic View of Rabaul :
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Old 30-11-2002, 03:33 PM
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  • Takubar – This is where you will find a sunken ship in 5m of water
  • Simpson Harbor – 54 Japanese ships were sunk here during the war
  • Watom Island – British POWs interned on this island by the Japanese
  • Matupit – Island in Simpson Harbor where the author (Steven Mago) was born
  • Lakunai – Lakunai (East Field), known by the Japanese as Rabinjikku, or “lower Rabaul”, and to the locals of Matupit as Rapindik. This was a Japanese fighter and bomber strip that was covered in ash in 1994. This airfield was built by the Australians prior to WWII. During the war, this was the primary Japanese fighter airstrip at Rabaul.
  • Vunakanau – (West Field, Upper Rabaul) RAAF airfield expanded by the Japanese as a major complex. Prior to the war, the Australian RAAF had six Wirraways based here. They were the only aircraft launched in a desperate attempt to counter the overwhelming Japanese invasion force. USAAF POW's were put to use as labor at the airstrip. It was a major base located just outside Rabaul. It was pounded by Allied bombers throughout the war
  • Tobera – Japanese airfield and wrecks
  • Rapopo – Japanese airfield, today a coconut and cocoa plantation
  • Kerevat – Japanese airfield also known as Tavelo
Tolai Fish Net ;
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Old 30-11-2002, 03:35 PM
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  • Bitapaka Allied War Cemetery - Located near Kokopo, this cemetery is the grave site for soldiers from the Australian capture of the German headquarters of German New Guinea in during WWI in 1914 and Australian, Papuan, British and colonial Indian troops who died in the struggle with the Japanese.
  • Tunnel Hill - The hillsides around Rabaul which are are honeycombed with tunnels and caverns built by the Japanese. During the war, Japanese dug 500km of tunnels around the Gazelle Peninsula for storage, hospitals, bunkers, gun storage and barracks.
  • Sulphur Creek Sea-plane Base - Japanese seaplanes were based here and it was also used as a servicing area. It serviced large seaplanes, including the Mavis and Emily. The concrete ramp is still present to this day, although it has not been used since the war.
  • Japanese War Memorial – Located on Namanula Hill, this war Memorial commands one of the best views of Rabaul and overlooks the harbor. Interestingly, this is the main Japanese memorial in the Pacific.
  • Anti-aircraft and Search Light Command Bunker - Also know as "The Admiral's Bunker". This is the bunker where Admiral Yamamoto supposedly spent his last night before being shot down over Bougainville.
  • Japanese Floating Crane – Found along the Blue Lagoon (Kokopo Highway) a further up the road from Karavia, is a huge crane towed here from Singapore, but bombed as soon as it arrived and never actually used.

Entrance to a Cave :
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Old 30-11-2002, 03:47 PM
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  • Rabaul Vulcanological Observatory - The winding road up to the Observation Center has a series of well developed cave and tunnel systems, as does nearly every other road and ravine in the town area of Rabaul.
  • Yamamoto Bunker – Map Room Chambers - Probably the most impressive feature of the bunker are the two circular map room chambers, both are identical and on opposite sides of the bunker, up narrow staircases. One chamber suffers from some contemporary graffiti and water damage, although even in that room, the maps are still in good shape.

Bitapaka War Cemetery in Rabaul :
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Old 30-11-2002, 03:56 PM
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Note: The author, Steven Mago is a journalist, travel writer and tourism promoter. He was born at Matupit Island, Rabaul, East New Britain Province and follows the history of his birthplace very closely. For war memorial and other tours of Rabaul, Steven will be more than happy to share his vast local knowledge with you.

Editors Note: If you wish to read any other articles written by Stephen Mago, please click on the 'Search' button top right hand side.
When the box appears simply type in Steven, followed by 'perform search'.


If you have enjoyed this article, please CLICK HERE for another story on Rabaul - titled 'Rust in Peace"


CLICK HERE for photographs of Rabaul Volcano

For other stories and photographs on Rabaul, please go to search as mentioned above and type in 'Rabaul', followed by 'perform search' and you will see many other items on this particular area of Papua New Guinea for your enjoyment.


War plane seen here in the waters of Rabaul :
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Old 15-08-2005, 05:44 AM
MadeInUSSR MadeInUSSR is offline
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Aussie,
do u use ICQ? Can we talk?
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Old 27-11-2005, 08:04 AM
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Hi aussie, I was wondering if you had access to a map of Rabaul town. Street map or road maps...
Any help would be appreciated
ta
sideiachick
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Old 21-04-2010, 08:27 AM
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Hi Aussie,
I enjoyed all what you wrote and the photo's of how i remember Rabaul the most beautiful place on earth.
I lived on a Plantation called Marau via Rabaul.
So true when my Sister and I came back to Australia we could not speak english only pigeon and felt so out of place even tho we were white, we never felt at home we were so use to mixing with natives and Chinese and we all got along so well.

My grandmother is buried in the European Cemetery in Rabaul do you happen to know if it's covered in Ash as well ?.

Thank You for the great reading i hope there will be more to read in the future.
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