Stan Gajda

Nauru

The Japanese occupation of Nauru spanned only some four years but tangible reminders of that time can still be seen whenever a drive is taken around the island. At frequent intervals around the coastline concrete bunkers and block-houses built by the Japanese still stand, some apparently unchanged by the passage of nearly fifty years.

Preserving
Nauru History


Stan Gajda looking for war relics on the bottom of the Nauru boat harbor in 1984. Many small arms rounds were recovered and one live 25mm AA round and even a $10 banknote which was used to supply liquid refreshment!

Nauru Zero Fighters
In the vicinity of Rev. Aingimea's residence can be found some remains of the famous Japanese Zero fighter. All that remains today is the partial centre section only and is in a swampy area. There was a fighter strip in this area during the war and some aircraft were simply left standing in the bush around the edge of the airfield. During the 1960's clearing operations for housing caused most of these fairly intact aircraft to be destroyed. At least one plane was covered over on the beach during seawall extensions.

In 1983 a quantity of aircraft structure pieces were shipped to Australia and donated to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to assist in the restoration of a Zero fighter being undertaken by that museum. This restoration was completed in 1989 and is probably one of the best and most authentic examples of the A6M2 Zero fighter in existence in the world today. A trip over to Buota and into the bush nearby will reveal many wartime relics such as bomb craters and bits of bombs in many area, a near complete Japanese aircraft engine and parts of old steam locomotives.

Zero Restoration
When I heard that there were still zeros in Nauru I took a job there and eventually exported to Australia for the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Canberra two engines and a six-cubic metre crate of airframe parts which were used in their zero restoration which is now complete and an excellent job too.

Lost Zero
Mitsubishi Zero in Aingimea's yard, Nauru 1983. In 1988 they wanted to put a water tank here so the plane was flattened by a wheel loader and taken to the dump. It is buried out of sight now and lost.

Zero Cockpit

Zero Cockpit & Fuselage
I recovered the fuselage splice joint off this for the Canberra AWM in 1984. The remainder was buried when the swamp behind was filled in about 1990. Also buried were wings and undercarriages. I also recovered two engines from here which went to the AWM.

Zero Cockpit
Another Zero cockpit/fuselage section in the swamp in Nauru. This was partly destroyed since the photo (1984) but I have saved the front half and the floor of this piece which is stored at the Nauru Museum

A6M

Zero Tail
Zero tail unit from the one that went to the dump. This stuff is part of the six cubic metres of parts I sent to the Canberra AWM plus two engines in 1984 for their own zero restoration.

A6M

Nakajima Zero
A Nakajima Zero upside down in pig swill on the edge of the swamp. I recovered this in 1997. In 1983 the undercart legs still folded by hand. Was on its wheels until about 1970 when the overgrown airfield and the revetment that it was sitting in was bulldozed for housing.

G4M

G4M Betty
At Yaren near the eastern end of the airfield on Anton's land. Demolished by housing people in 1971.

G4M
Another shot of the Betty. Fuselage propped up on oil drums. Demolished by housing people in 1971.
A6M
A6M Zero
Formally located on the fighter strip at Meneng district still on its concrete hardstand/revetment. Demolished by housing people in 1971.

Six Inch Naval Guns
There are many smaller shelters and machine-gun nests in the cliffs and hillsides particularly on the western side of the island and small artifacts can still be sometimes found at or near these sites. Other major points of interest are the four big double-barrelled anti-aircraft guns still sited on their mountings on Command Ridge and near the rubbish dump at topside.

Eight other British built single shot six inch naval guns made at the turn of the century were sited in pairs at equal spaces around Nauru. These are above the airport terminal, above the squash courts (made in 1894), at Ijuw and above the Kaiser College. One of the A.W. 6" guns on Nauru. This one is at Ijuw.
One of the Jap Armstrong Whitworth 6" guns on Nauru. This is one of two that were fitted with armoured shields straight of the cruiser mountings. This one is at Ewa and is partly dismantled.

There were also two 6" guns above Denig at the site of present-day Cliff Lodge. An expedition to find these was mounted one day and after a minimum of climbing and hacking with the bush knife the breech end of a British built six inch naval gun was exposed protruding from the hillside and within sight of the Cliff Lodge residence. The site on which the house next to Cliff Lodge stands must have been a six inch gun emplacement and after the war the site was cleared and the gun simply pushed down the hill a bit.

And, because all the other guns are set in pairs it would seem reasonable to assume that another gun must have been within 50 metres of this gun site, probably on the present site of Cliff Lodge. This would have become buried during house-site preperations.

After clearing the rubble and debris away from the breech of the gun and looking inside the barrel it was discovered that this gun still had an unfired shell in it's chamber. Why or how this had occurred and escaped everybody's notice including the occupying Australian force (which destroyed everything Japanese) and the intervening 50 odd years, one can only speculate but this gun still had a shell up the spout. Amazing but true.

This live round has since been removed and was found to be an armour piercing round weighing about 45 kilos and made of solid high tensile steel. Shells like this are generally not explosive and this one has been mated up to an appropriate brass case and is now on view at the Nauru Museum.

Command Ridge
A little while ago, I thought that Command Ridge was worth having a bit of a look at, even though I had investigated every nook and cranny on that ridge back in 1983-84 after the Big Fire, which had laid the entire hilltop bare and revealed many traces of the wartime Japanese occupation. In those days it was relatively easy to scout around and pick up numerous and varied war relics such as cartridge cases, rice bowls, bottles (Dai Nippon Brewery Co.) and other things along the that same line of interest. I had reckoned then that I had seen and found all there was on that hill so my expeditions these days were more of a reminiscence than a relic hunt. Well, it is amazing just what a fellow sees when his previous interests had followed only a bracket of the possible range of artifacts. This is what I saw during a recent look-around at Command Ridge:

A bit of a climb down from where they put in the Digital Phone antenna and there lying on the ground was the Jap wartime radio chassis that I had seen and left some nine years ago. So far so good.... A bit of an embankment, and, what's this! A bunch of damaged radio valves (most of you out there would only know transistors and ICs) and a couple of intact wartime Japanese light bulbs. And a typewriter crumbling away in the earth but with the date when it was made in 1937 perfectly legible. And a bit further along was a large white enamel basin. So what you might say? Turned it over and there was the Japanese Naval Insignia stamped in blue on the bottom! Then twist and turn past a couple of pinnacles and we come upon a concrete bunker built into the rock formation with steps to go in and a secondary escape tunnel out through to the other side. A little bit further and there was the place where the Japanese were going to build a bunker but it was never finished. Evidently the war was ended and so did this individual requirement and the job was abandoned.

How do I know that this site was going to be a bunker? Because all of the rebar-rods were there all bent to shape and stacked up and the site had been excavated. The workers had built a fireplace at one end out of a fuel drum (Japanese drums were hand welded and were stamped with a Kanji character) and they had left some of their tools scattered about including a shovel still in the fireplace. So there! Scattered throughout this area are 200 litre fuel drums buried full depth with the tops off. Invariably these are full of water. A nice Japanese Navy brass uniform button was found close to one once. The purpose of this arrangement was to make gardening compost from human waste and according to Albert Ellis (in his 1946 book) these were very smelly when the Australians arrived in September 1945 and all had to be treated with quick-lime. Other finds in this area included fragments of earthenware rice bowls decorated with a distinctive pattern. Sometimes enough bits are found to reconstruct a section of bowl that reveals the original shape, size and pattern. There appears to be quite a few different variations. Zinc sheet shell fuse canisters are sometimes encountered in the undergrowth.

Also frequently seen, are the metal rice bowls, enamelled blue outside and white inside, all of which are stamped with the Imperial Japanese Naval insignia. Only the other day I passed a tourist up on the Ridge who was making his way to one of the big gun positions and he had in his hand a fired 13mm heavy machine gun cartridge case. He had just picked it up along the path. Cartridges are interesting because they can tell you when they were made and by whom. This one was made in the Yokosuka Arsenal (near Tokyo) in 1942. And I thought that there were no more left up on Command Ridge! It just goes to show you.

Japanese Command Complex
Up on the Gongosan, as they used to call it fifty years ago. We have looked at Command Ridge and now I would like to take you further along the Ridge for a better look around and perhaps let on about a few things that are now probably forgotten. One of the most amazing things that I still haven't got over is the amount of undergrowth present along many parts of Command Ridge. This prolific undergrowth completely obscures many of the interesting features that were installed by the Japanese that would be of interest to tourists and explorers alike. If you go left at the top of the road that ends at the salt water tanks and enter the undergrowth immediately past the digital phone installation you may come across a gun mounting that originally held twin 13 mm Type 95 heavy machine guns.

All that remains here now is the base mount with the gun brackets. These ant-aircraft gun installations enabled the gunner to sit on the mount and track the target with the aid of an optical sight and by cranking the appropriate handles. There were a number of these twin mounts up there and there are still three sets to be seen. One still rotates about its base and had escaped my observations from previous years and was only discovered in 1993 when battling through the undergrowth with a machete. At this point but over along the ocean side slope starts a zig-zag trench system that continues along the ridge at this level until within sight of the tanks at the fuel farm. At intervals there are branch-offs that lead to machine gun nest positions and to rifle pits.

One of the machine gun nests not far along from the salt water tanks looks fine when observed from the lower slopes, but a look over the top of the firing slit reveals an enormous hole about fourty feet across and ten feet deep where an American bomb of at least 1,000lbs had scored a hit.

Japanese Bunker
One of the many bunkers found all over Nauru. This one is at Ewa.
Inside the Bunker
Bob Lindley inside one of the Nauru bunkers.

Anyway, continuing along the visible track that meanders south along Command Ridge a stone structure may be noticed on the right. This is one of the many underground bunkers along here, this one being built on the highest part of the island, something like 265ft above sea level and it used to have a trig point on it ten years ago. The bunker entrance has been cleaned out a bit and now it is easy to enter the passage and have a look around inside. There is some Japanese writing on one of the walls. The stone wall is circular and there is a set of steps on the southern side and if one takes the trouble to battle through all the vegetation then you will be rewarded with being able to stand on the concrete roof of the bunker. The doorway is much more difficult to find as it is obscured by a mound of earth as well as shrubs etc., but it is facing the track just before the stairs.

Near this bunker but on the ocean side of it and heavily obscured by undergrowth and fallen trees is another 13mm gun mounting, set up in a circular stone enclosure. The mounting shows signs of the demolition charges used by the Australian occupation troops to destroy the installation. A bit more of searching from here in a westerly direction will lead to some gun firing slits becoming apparent in the stones and pinnacles.

If you ever find the entrance then there are five rooms here all interconnected and at two levels that are separated by a steel rung ladder. The Japanese made an ingenious use of an existing rock formations by concrete reinforcement, overburden coverage and camouflage. Some of these bunkers are only given away by the firing apertures. Once back on the path/track and a bit further along another large circular stone structure will be encountered again on the right. This is a most interesting heavy anti-aircraft gun installation. There are two entrances into this position and both are a little difficult to penetrate due to the undergrowth but these can be found by following the wall to the left or to the right.

Inside is a large rotating mounting complete with heavy guns of 127mm calibre. The barrels are pointing skyward and have had the muzzles blown apart by the Australians. The whole installation was powered by a large Yanmah diesel generator (you climbed a ladder and greased the valve gear from a platform) which powered the electric motors which then drove the hydraulic pumps. The guns were moved horizontally and vertically by hydraulic motors. The generators were taken out after the war by Camillo Scotty's father and he put them all together under one roof and created Nauru's first commercial power station!

The guns were semi-automatic in operation in that the chambering of the rounds and extraction of the empty cases was done automatically. The attending crew followed the gun around as it tracked the target and simply threw the live rounds onto the cradles at the breech assembly.

The ammunition was stored in crates of twelve rounds each that were spaced at regular intervals in recesses along the inside perimeter of the wall. This ensured ammo was readily available no matter which direction the gun was pointed. This gun installation still has an ammo crate underneath the mounting and the recesses in the wall can still be clearly seen. The ammunition was most impressive. Each shell weighed around ninety pounds complete and was a fixed round (shell and case together) and was about a metre long. (Have a look at the ammo crate!). The gun was capable of firing the 50lb projectile to a height of 35,000 feet and the shell was exploded by a timed fuse only.

Also, the guns were fired simultaneously electrically, as the shell cases were fitted with electrical primers. The target was tracked by rangefinder and the fuses timed by a predictor linked to the rangefinder. Shells could also be set by hand and by making an educated guess. No, I am not making this up, I have actually found and picked up bits and pieces of a lot of the operating gear related to these guns and I have also read the book. Fuses are sometimes picked up out in the fields where they have lain after falling to earth after exploding at their targets. Primers and even the large cartridge cases have been picked up by me on or near the Ridge. But you have to look hard!

These guns have been fired in anger many times and have probably caused casualties among American bomber and fighter crews. The 127mm gun installation near the tank farm did in fact shoot down an American bomber with the total loss of the crew:

The B-25G twin-engined bomber #4264977, lifted off the runway at Butaritari in the Gilbert Islands a little after a quarter past eight in the morning of Thursday the 29th June 1944. On board were Karl James the pilot, Alexander Cheropovich the co-pilot, John Keeling the navigator, Frank Kapla the radio operator-gunner, Harry Stockton the engineer-gunner and Benedict Jasper the armourer-gunner, all members of the 41st Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Force.

Twelve aircraft left Butaritari that day and after gaining height while circling above the lagoon and formatting up into four flights of three planes each, the Group set a course of 329 degrees true and headed for Nauru. Eight of the twelve B-25s on this particular flight were the G model of which only 200 were built, making it a rare bird even in those days. These Gs were the most heavily armed plane ever built for their size because of the 76mm M1 howitzer gun installed in the nose.

The remaining armament consisted of four 0.50 inch machine guns in two pods on either side or both sides of the nose, (the configuration varied) twin 0.50s in the Martin mid-upper power turret and a single 0.50 in a tail mounting. The main gun was sighted by firing the nose machine guns. When hits were observed on the target, the 76mm gun was triggered, sending a 20lb high explosive shell into the target. The B-25G was eventually withdrawn from service after a number of losses due to unexplained mid-air explosions occurred during low level attacks.

One of the aircraft (#051) heading for Nauru had to turn back after more than an hour and a half into the mission and return to Butaritari after experiencing trouble with both engines. The remaining eleven B-25s continued on and shortly before reaching Nauru the formation split up into its four individual groups and approached different targets at around 10,000 feet altitude on the western side of the island from four different directions.

The guns at Cliff Lodge, the guns on Command Ridge, the guns at the rubbish dump and the guns at both ends of the airfield were the targets for the four groups that day. The bomb load for each plane was 1200lbs of general purpose high explosive 100 pounders. B-25 #977 approached the airfield targets on a course of 239 degrees at 195 knots at 10,500 feet at around 10:20am and was flying through accurate and intense flak with the bomb doors open. Five seconds before the due bomb release, a 127mm shell exploded directly under the plane causing an immediate fire.

The plane then went up and over the lead aircraft and entered into a spin dive. The rear third of the fuselage and tail separated from the aircraft soon after and then the left wing came away as the plane continued to fall. The B-25 Mitchell continued to break up all the way down to impact point just east of the Gongosan in the middle of worked out diggings. The tail section came down near where Lesi Olsen's place is now. An eight foot long elevator section off the tail was still near there in 1983 with a tree growing through it. This part is now with the Canberra War Museum.

B-25 "Coral Princess"
Some of the B-25 "Coral Princess" wreckage in the pinnacles at Nauru. Other crew members of the Bomb Group saw the plane hit the ground, explode and burn. As the rest of the planes headed for home another explosion was observed at the crash site, giving off white smoke. No parachutes were sighted and most probably there were no survivors.

Two other aircraft were hit by flak during this raid, Mission No. M-283, plane #147 was hit twice and #595 was hit once in the centre of the fuselage. Fourty Nine years later, number #977 is still lying were it fell, mostly all there but somewhat scattered due to various activities over the years by different groups. The main disturbance made to the wreck was apparently by the Japanese who for some reason tried to recover the engines and wings. They used the overhead cableway that ran across from the Ridge to where the railway line runs now and succeeded in raising these objects out of the crash site and then put these bits up on the central then-un-mined area. The BPC people when they resumed mining here after the war dropped these remains into the pinnacles again after moving them about fifty metres.

The nose gun was dumped a little way up north of the main wreck and was found upright inside a circular hollow pinnacle. I saw it in there before Bob Gormley recovered this gun supposedly for the NPC Staff Club back in 1983 by means of flying fox. It was at the Field Workshops for a while undergoing restoration. The boys up there even got the breech block working at the time. There was no shell in it. This gun then disappeared for about six years and then was found one day in a certain person's garage. It was then recovered and has been on display outside Tony Adao's place facing the airfield ever since.

After having followed the B-25 Mitchell #977 on it's last flight to Nauru and the fiery end it met over the island, it was an amazing co-incidence to meet a photographer, Colin Thornton, from Australia who has done a lot of research into this incident, on the same day as the flight story was published. As a result, my own knowledge on this subject has been greatly expanded and I will take this opportunity to pass some of this information on to readers. This particular B-25G of the 42st Bomb Group had been named "Coral Princess" and Colin showed me a photo of the nose of this plane taken in Butaritari during the war. The nose art on the left side just forward of the cockpit comprised of a fairly well clad island lady in a dancing pose with the name across the top in bold letters. There were also 25 bombs indicating 25 completed missions painted close to the figure. This plane had also done many raids over the Marshall Islands and on one occasion had sunk a Japanese destroyer in Wotje lagoon with bombs and it's big 75mm gun. To mark this victory a small ship silhouette was also included with the 25 bombs and the "Coral Princess".

In 1983 I had picked up a piece of panelling in the wreckage and it had "...awa Doll" ("Tarawa Doll"?) scribbled on the inside in pencil together with a name "Mike Spurling". This piece is now with the Australian War Museum in Canberra. Mike Spurling had been one of the original crew members of #977 and had been aboard another aircraft during the Nauru raid and saw his plane go down. He passed away in October 1993. An expedition was mounted to have a look at the plane wreck with Colin. The wreck is about half way from the second big double gun mount and the NPC railway line and the main wreck site is in two localised areas not far apart but separated by pinnacles. The rocks are pretty high in this area with a probable average depth of about 30 feet and this is now fairly heavily overgrown making negotiating this terrain fairly treachourous. We reached the impact site where the main undercarriage legs and forward fuselage and cockpit fragments are located. There are a lot of small pieces comprising engine parts, radio parts, fittings, hoses and all sorts of things that make up an aeroplane. There are sections of sheet skin and fuselage that are compressed and burnt.

One large piece had survived fairly intact, this is the nose fairing with the opening for the 75mm gun muzzle with parts of the left side skin intact. Close examination showed the edges of a large painting and the feet of the Coral Princess were matched up from the nose photograph. We continued on through the pinnacles and came upon a large wing flap section and a radio set. Further on was a piece of heavy fuselage section and then the second main impact site. The impact sites are full of thousands of fragments of all components, engine parts and so on, and this second site has a heavy concentration of big and small pieces. It is obvious that the engines had come down here because of the large number of engine parts mixed up with the other debris. This is an area that would probably yield a lot of interesting artifacts if it was properly excavated and sieved. Some distance further on towards the railway line is the area where the tow wings, engines and propeller hubs lie.

When this area was inspected, the layout of the wreckage began to make sense. I had long maintained that all the parts located here had been brought in from the main wreck site, probably via the then existing cable-way by the Japanese for some unknown reason. The contemporary reports record that the left wing broke away from the plane as it fell and here at this site the left wing is impacted and firmly wedged into the pinnacles. This wing has the Star and Bars on the underside and has a lot of Kanji characters scratched into the paint. The other wing by contrast is just sitting inside the pinnacles with no wreck debris associated with it. The engines likewise are perched high up on top of the rocks and the propeller hubs are down in the crevices with the blades sawn off.

All the prop blades are missing but one can be seen concreted into a slab at the Batching Plant turn-off. The other blade is off a Zero fighter. Lying alongside the left wing was a large nose section up-side down together with the nose landing gear and the retracting mechanism. A section of the cockpit flooring was attached together with the crumpled side skin of the fuselage. When this nose section was cleared of rocks and rubble and turned over and examined, two rows of small yellow bombs and the small ship silhouette could be discerned. These marking are clearly visible in a photo of the nose of the bomber taken in Tarawa in December 1943. The nose gun port fairing does match up with the nose floor and side section. This was recovered in 1994 with the idea of creating an interesting exhibit of WW2 nose art and a rare exhibit of Nauruan aviation history.

Steam Locomotive
The little Orenstein and Koppel steam loco that used to sit by the NPC Engineering office and then at the Boulevard has been moved. It was taken to the Boilermaker's Shop for restoration work.

Why am I going on about old train's when I'm supposed to be writing about Nauru war history? Because these old trains were built before both world wars and they are about ninety years old and were built in Germany by Arthur Koppel and his mate Orenstein. When we moved the train we reckoned that we were going to put a couple of original railcars behind it for better effect. There are plenty of these old side tipping railcars and hoppers, didn't you know? Just go along the railway line above Buota and you will see plenty of them. So off we went with all the salvage gear and a jolly old expedition it was too, to go and pick up a couple of these railcars. You know, a bit of a clean, and a splash of paint and presto! you have a "restored" bit of history. The trouble was that nobody told us that all the old tipper railcars are of the same track gauge as the current railcars being used today.

They run on a track 34 inches wide and the old O & K locos were 24 inch. The original railcars are also quite a bit smaller and the hoppers probably held less than half of what the bigger ones would carry. This is where our problems began on obtaining an original railcar to suit the steam loco, there appeared to be none left. A few years back there used to be a yellow painted railcar attached to the rear of the old loco when it was in its previous position but it seems that was a non-original "big" railcar and was removed. Eventually, a railcar basic frame without fittings was found complete with wheels half buried at the foot of the cliffs at the golf course. Then a number of very rusty hoppers were found in the pinnacles near the running track at the place where a lot of the war-damaged cantilever sections were dumped in the '50s.

Restoration and rebuild of one railcar was then undertaken by the Topside Boilermakers Shop and with some clever substitution a nice hopper began to take shape, but it would have been better if the chassis had been in better condition..... Now we get back to the wartime bit. One day I decided to have a look in the area opposite the new office at the dump near where there is a track that leads to two 6 inch naval guns emplaced above the airport.

I'll bet most of you didn't know that this area had been mined out before the War (WW2 that is). It all looked a bit too recent but there are bunkers in there built into pinnacle formations that could not have been there before mining.

So I went into this area with a bush knife just to see what is in there and pretty soon I found a low hand-built stone wall amongst the diggings. Following this wall led me straight to an underground bunker entrance. This is a two room bunker with chimneys poking out of the ground to provide ventilation for the occupants. And obscuring this entrance and partially suspended across it was a nice and complete miniature railcar minus the hopper only! Just what we were looking for and found when needed.

This railcar was recovered the very next day and taken to topside for immediate repairs and fitting up with the hopper. This little railcar is now hooked up to it's loco right outside the Nauru Museum. The next loco is going to need a railcar as well. Does anybody out there know where there are any old miniature railcars?....... Near where I found the old railcar chassis for the Boulevard steam loco the other day, are to found a couple of single mounted six inch naval guns that were originally mounted on the decks of some of the first cruisers of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

These are of British manufacture and are part of the big arms deal made between the Japanese Navy and Armstrong Whitworth before the Great War of 1914-18. These particular guns were both made in 1910 and one has Japanese characters stamped on the breech. These guns are the same as the one on the hill below Cliff Lodge. What puts these gun emplacements apart from the other ones to be found around the island is that both of these positions are intact to a remarkable degree.

To get there you have to take the dirt road to the Topside area. Just past the rubbish dump is a large stock-pile of empty asphalt drums on the left. Here on the right is an overgrown turn-off. This track goes in through pre-WW2 diggings for about 60-70 metres and then branches left and right. This area is the top of the ridge above the airport terminal buildings. Almost opposite the branch-off is one of the guns. By taking the right branch and exploring along a little the other gun emplacement is easily found.

The big prickly cactus seem to be taking over this region and trying to move through here results in one being repeatedly stabbed by the hidden quills of these horrible plants. I usually take a bush knife into here and deliberately slash the points off if they're in my way but even this operation gets hazardous sometimes.
A visitor into here will notice large circular and rectangular structures amongst the undergrowth. The purpose of these I do not know but they may have housed a twin barreled 25mm gun for anti-aircraft protection and possibly the range-finders for the big guns. Also in the area are a number of underground bunkers and bomb-proof shelters.

The approaches to the guns themselves are by well made trenches with stone walls. Some parts of this look as though it was covered over but the roof(s) have fallen in long ago. The guns are mounted on a single pedestal that could swivel horizontally. There was also an elevating mechanism. These guns do not appear to have had the heavy two inch armoured shielded turrets like the two above Kayser College.
From photos I've seen taken in September 1945, these guns had a temporary roof covering the top of the emplacements with camouflage netting for concealment from the air. The steel posts that still stand either side of the guns were roof supports and some bits and pieces of steel mesh that held the camo netting are also still there. The gun emplacements have concrete floors but these are covered with rocks, dirt etc. Have a dig and you will see that the floor is there!

Although the guns were both destroyed by the Australian by blowing the ends off the barrels, both of the muzzle ends are still nearby. The other fittings are also lying about in the gun pits and I believe that a bit of cleaning and re-fitting would have both these gun emplacements looking very much like they were fifty years ago. Visitors to Nauru would love to have a look at something like that!

If the turn-off to the right is followed for about 50 metres another branch-off to the left is discerned. This is just past the overhead power lines. If a walk is taken along the top of the hill in a northly direction, it will be seen that the hillside has been divided up into terraces all neatly retained with stone walls. Here and there along the terraces are concrete floor slabs. Bits of iron and asbestos, bricks and other rubble are all that remain of the Japanese living quarters but the lay-out of this little settlement is fairly plain to see.

The hot baths that Japanese (officers) seemed to favour are still there, damaged but two of the places for the tubs are intact together with cement water tank nearby. There is a similar one at Bauda that I'll describe one day. There are also lots of smashed Japanese beer bottles (Dai Nippon and Kirrin Beer) around this area. This is another place that would be a boon with the tourists if some cleaning and development was undertaken. An exercise like this would probably uncover a lot of interesting bits and pieces as well. It is not hard to stop here and imagine how this area must have been during the height of the Japanese occupation during the Second World War.

Japanese porcelain cup
With Navy insignia from Nauru

Existing Pacific War Relics in Nauru
There are few reminders of Nauru's early historic past remaining on the island today. From the pre-European days there is virtually nothing and of the early European days there is also very little, the main relics being diaries and photographic records dating back not much more than 100 years. Phosphate mining commenced in the early 1900's with the first shipment going out in something like 1903 under German administration.

The main evidence of these early days can be seen in the mined out area behind MQ1 and north and south of this area. If an exploration is to be undertaken on foot in this wild and overgrown area many relics can be found in amongst the old diggings. Items like shovels, picks and similar gear have been left behind. Also to be seen in this region are odd bits and pieces from the second world war with bits of Japanese gear and parts of bombs and naval shells from the American bombardments are commonly seen on the surface.

Apart from the actual phosphate mining evidence and associated equipment, the other main items of historical interest to be seen today on Nauru are Japanese war relics from the period 1942 - 45.

If a visitor was to arrive by boat, then upon entry into the boat harbour the south wall of the entrance is heavily marked from aerial machine gun fire from the American planes during low level bombing attacks on the harbour/workshop area.

A walk along the north wall will show the position where the Japanese had an anti-aircraft gun situated. Further in from this wall just north of the hardware store building can be seen the large circular ring where a large artillery piece had been situated. A careful inspection of the cooling tower at the power station will reveal many marks from machine gun bullets in the concrete. The existing workshops such as the electrical through to the joinery shop were operating workshops during the war under Japanese rule and were badly damaged during air raids and rebuilt after the war.

The NPC head office was the Japanese Headquarters during the war and this building was only superficially damaged during air and sea attacks and an inspection of the outside walls will show many places where cement patches were applied to repair the damage and then painted over.

No.1 Cantilever still bears many bullet and shell holes throughout its structure and this damage can be seen today if a walk is taken along it. The calcine storage bin close to the cantilever was also heavily damaged and some shell and bullet holes still remain in the non-vital parts of the structure that was not replaced during post-war work. Proceeding north along the main road and just before the entrance to Location but on the opposite side can be seen a bunker built into the cliff top. In the course of a drive around the island there can be seen many large concrete bunkers mainly on the ocean side of the road. But a careful search on the inland side of the road will reveal many similar bunker positions on the hillsides, for instance, opposite the NGH, Kayser College, Cappelles and so on.

There are a number of interesting bunkers in the airport area including bomb-proof shelters. A climb along the hillside almost anywhere above the airstrip will reveal many hidden bunkers some of which have more than two rooms. Immediately above the main airport terminal on the crest of the ridge are two single mounted six inch naval guns still on their mountings.

The bunkers and the earthworks associated with these guns such as tunnels and bunkers are still in existence and sometimes virtually intact, which is amazing to see now that some 50 years have passed.

One bunker in this area still has the heavy machine gun mount in place and the angle numbers still painted on the inside walls. Part of the concrete roof still retains part of the wooden formwork made out of Japanese packing crates with the writing still discernible.

Back on the main road and just clearing the southern end of the airfield on the left mainly but also in places on the right can be seen parts of the original Japanese concrete runway with sections of the perimeter drains for collecting rainwater still in place. These would have led to central collection points and the water was probably stored in large underground tanks which is the same system to be seen today on Taroa island in the Maloelap Atoll in the Marshall Islands.


Betty wreckage near the airfield at Nauru. Fuselage splice joint can be seen and some tail cone parts. Now in the Nauru museum.

G4M Betty Bomber Wreckage
A few hundred yards past this on the left in heavy bush at the base of the ridge is the remains of a Japanese Betty bomber which used to sit at the end of the airfield until the early 1970s but was bulldozed into the bush and destroyed.

The port wing and other pieces of this (or similar) aircraft can be found in the bush high up on the ridge behind Civic Centre. These parts were probably dumped there after the war.

6 Inch Naval Guns
A few hundred yards further south of the Betty wreckage right up on the ridge in the old diggings are two more 6 inch naval guns which were pulled up during phosphate mining and then dumped into the pinnacles. One gun is dated 1899.

All these six inch guns are of British manufacture and were originally mounted as deck guns on some of the Japanese Navy's first battleships in the early 1900's. The British firm of Armstrong Whitworth supplied most of the armament to the Japanese navy during those early days. After WW1 most of the ships were scrapped but the guns were retained in storage and during WW2 were used as coastal defence guns on many of the Japanese held Pacific islands. Identical guns have been seen by the author in Tarawa and the Marshall islands and photographs of similar gun positions in Rabaul in PNG. In all there are eight British made 6" Japanese coastal defence guns on Nauru. The other mountings exist at Ijuw and two more (including the best example) are on the ridge above Kayser College.

Japanese Power Station
Also here is the remains of the Japanese power station and the underground hospital bunker (partial access only). Nearby are the remains of the old railway workshops and near that again is the crash site of an American navy F6F Hellcat fighter from the carrier Bunker Hill that was shot down on the 8th December 1944. A track from Buta leads up to Command Ridge which is the main area of relics dating from the Japanese occupation days.

The top of the ridge is dotted with many bunkers of varying shapes and sizes. Some had big guns mounted inside them such as 75mm dual purpose naval guns and others had heavy and light machine guns. There is a command bunker complex and various other bomb-proof shelters. There are also two sets of double mounted 127mm dual purpose naval guns. These were semi-automatic in operation and were the main anti-aircraft defence guns.

One of these guns was responsible for the loss of the B-25G Mitchell bomber, discussed in an early part of this account. There are four sets of the 127mm guns on Nauru, the other two sets are near the rubbish tip near the top of a hill to the right of the tip. Nearby is a stone and concrete structure which looks like a large bunker but is in reality a wall that housed the range finder and probably the predictors for the anti-aircraft batteries. The tower for the range finder still stands inside the walled structure.

127mm

127mm AA Gun
One of the Jap Type 29 127mm AA guns on Command Ridge in Nauru in 1983. There are four sets of these there and they look exactly the same today. All the guns were damaged by the Australian occupation forces at the end of the war but these guns are still some of the best surviving examples in the Pacific.

127mm
127mm AA Gun
This is the best gun there, at the south end of Command Ridge. Some partial dismantling has taken place but most of the removed bits can be found still in the near vicinity of these guns.

Search Light Battery
Also at Command Ridge can be found an area which housed a search-light battery. This is a rectangular area protected by earth filled fuel drums. Bits of the search-light carbon rods can still be found within this enclosed area.On the ridge there are three twin mounts for the 13mm heavy machine guns. All are damaged but one working mounting could be built using parts from all three. If two guns could be found then this would make a fine display piece.

Trenches and barbed wire can still be discerned along the ridge in many places and small items of Japanese kit can still be picked up here and there. There are still other guns to be found around Nauru. One is a 25mm twin mount anti-aircraft gun which was removed from Command Ridge in 1982 and is in a private yard near Chris Quadina's place. This example is now part of the outdoor display at the Nauru Museum.

The main bunker complex would be an interesting display area for visitors if it was cleaned up and properly developed. The 127mm guns could be restored to a substantial degree and preserved together with the amazingly intact fortifications. These areas would be of major interest to visitors.

Ewa Cave
Ewa is on the NW side of Nauru and the cave is near the gun with the shield. On Saturday 21st December 1996 I was told by Vaiuli Amoe about a cave at Ewa that he claimed contained human bones and that he thought that these bones might be from people executed by the Japanese during the war or even bones of Japanese soldiers. On the morning of Monday 23rd December, Vaiuli took me to Ewa and led me to the cave containing the alleged bones.

We approached the cliffs at a point in from the main road about 100 metres south of the Capelle store complex where there is a break in the cliff line. We climbed up the cliff face on the north side of the break and near the top we came across a stone machine-gun emplacement, a bunker and a concreted recess in the rocks.

Just north of the recess is a cave opening that is partly lined with horizontal fuel drums cemented together that made up a blast shelter for the Japanese in the cave opening. Upon entering this blast shelter a vertical hole could be seen at the rear of the cave that extended down maybe eight or ten metres.

From the top of the hole it could be seen that considerable activity had taken place recently at the bottom of the vertical cave and many bone fragments were visible. Vaiuli and myself then climbed down the rock walls to the bottom of this cave and I commenced my inspection.

The bottom of this vertical cave is approximately level and was about four metres long and about two metres wide and is oriented approximately north-south. The bottom is uneven and is full of different sized stones and boulders. At the northern side of this cave in the roof there is a round hole open to the weather about a metre in diameter and this hole allows debris to enter from the outside and fall to the bottom of the cave. Over the years a mound of about a metre in height has built up below the hole.

Vaiuli stated that his brother had climbed to the bottom of the hole last August just looking around and had spotted a small skull fragment in the surface of the debris mound. A little digging had uncovered more (finger) bones and fragments that were unmistakably human jaw bones with teeth.

Because these bones were below an old Japanese wartime emplacement, Vaiuli and the brother thought that the bones might be Japanese remains and that there may be bayonets and rifles buried with the bones. They went back with digging equipment and began moving stones and earth in the search for war relics.

Many bones were uncovered by these two men but no war relics of the kind they were reaching for were found. Some fired 6.5mm rifle cases were found, a cartridge stripper clip, a brass trigger guard from an old muzzle-loading rifle and some modern iron and aluminium junk were recovered. Also a curious stone object, about 50mm in diameter with a round hole in the centre and being about 20mm thick with a segment broken out of it was also recovered (in August).

I was shown these items just before we set off to the cave on the morning of the 23rd. Also shown were about twenty human teeth, nearly all being molars, some of which showed considerable wear indicating they had come from older mature people and three fragments of lower human jawbones, none matching.

The teeth were all but for one free of dental decay. This would be consistent with pre-colonial islander people who rarely had tooth trouble when subsisting on their natural diet. The jaw bones were unusually thick-boned which made them unlikely to be of Japanese or European origin and were probably Nauruan.

At the floor of the cave I could see several piles of bones placed on rock shelves and recesses that the relic hunters had placed during their excavations. The most notable feature of all these bones was that there were no intact major bones, all the bones appeared to have been deliberately broken or smashed a very long time ago.

Vaiuli stated that all the bones were recovered from within the debris mound that was immediately below the opening in the roof of the cave. This mound has not been fully excavated and is perhaps still 60% intact. The relic hunters had begun their searching by lifting and moving stones and other material near the south end of the cave floor and had worked their way up into the edge of the debris mound.

Also their digging has not extended down the bottom level of the debris mound, but the rock shifting and removal up to the mound had been to bed-rock, but nothing significant had been uncovered.

A large number of bone fragments had been placed on top of the mound just above the last digging area and an inspection in the open face of the mound revealed many more bone fragments still embedded in the soil.

By looking at the human jaw bone remains, these ranged in appearance from those of a child up to those of old people, and it could be seen that so far there was evidence of the remains of maybe eight bodies. Further investigation could lead to uncovering the remains of even more people.

The situation in this cave appears to me to be of an ancient Nauruan burial cave that has not been used as such for a very long time. The soil covering the bones in the debris mound indicates this. For some reason all the bones had been deliberately smashed also a long time ago, this may have been a custom to release the spirits according to some ancient belief.

If the remains were of Japanese soldiers or their victims, the bones would have been more or less intact and on or near the surface, and would be unlikely to include the remains of small children. Therefore it is my belief that the cave inspected by Vaiuli and myself is an old Nauruan burial cave similar to the caves described by visitors to the island early in the 20th century.

A proper excavation should be carried out and all the excavated material needs to be sieved. This would most likely uncover a number of ancient stone and shell artefacts that would be suitable for cultural display purposes. The human remains could also be relocated. Action of this kind would be dependant entirely on the wishes of the land-owner and of the inhabitants of nearby areas.

Return to Stan Gajda

 

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