3 32' 60S Long 143 37' 60E Wewak is located on Wewak Point on the north coast of New Guinea. To the west is Cape
Wom. Borders Wewak Harbor and Mission Point to the east. Prewar, Wewak consisted of houses, buildings, a dock and other facilities. Also known as "Wewak Town".
During late 1942, most colonial officials and families
fled the Wewak area, fearing a Japanese attack. On December 18, 1942 occupied by the Japanese Army. Four ships landed unopposed between 8pm and 2am unloading roughly 2,000 troops and supplies onto the beach from Wewak to Wirui. Afterwards, troops used barges to move down the north coast to occupy Madang, and the transports departed.
Immediately, the Japanese developed the Wewak area into a major base area and expanded and built several airfields that were primarily used by the Japanese
Army Air Force (JAAF). These bases created an air bridge from Hollandia (190 miles to the west) and bases to the southeast including Hansa Bay and Madang (100 and 160 miles southeast). Also, it was nearer to Port Moresby (410 miles away).
Wewak area became
the largest concentration of Japanese Army troops on the New
Guinea mainland. Wewak Point was used as the
headquarters of the Japanese Navy, until relocated to Muschu Island and Kairuru Island.
Allied aircraft targeted Wewak with hundreds of missions by bomber and fighter aircraft. To escape the air rads, the Japanese dug
extensive defensive fortifications including tunnels and bunkers.
missions against Wewak (Town and Wewak Airfield)
December 30, 1942 - September 8, 1944
Wewak Point was used as the
headquarters of the Japanese Navy, until relocated to offshore Kairiru Island. Bypassed by Allied forces during late April 1944, Wewak was bypassed by the
Allied landings further to the west at Hollandia and Ataipe,
and became cutoff from resupply or reinforcement.
During May 1945, Australian Army troops advancing from the west assaulted Wewak Point and defeated the Japanese defenders fighting from tunnel entrances to the death. Although starving and without hope of survival, the Japanese still fought vigorously from tunnel entrances until they were killed.
On September 11, 1945 Japanese Army General Adachi surrendered at Kiarivu. The formal Japanese surrender took place on September 13, 1945 at Wom
Point to the west of Wewak. Of the 100,000 Japanese troops
of the 18th Army, only 13,000 survived the war to surrender.
Japanese Tunnels on Wewak Point
The Japanese built tunnels and fornications on Wewak
Point into the rising coral rock face of the point. Most of
these tunnels are "U" shaped, with two nearby entrances connected
by a small connecting tunnel segment. Some of the second entrances
are sealed due to landslides since the war, or are otherwise
hard to find. These "U" shaped tunnels extend all around the
cliff face of the point on the east, north and western sides. Most
are completely empty, aside from fallen rubble or other refuse.
A large Japanese bunker and tunnel is located near the Bunker on the
Sumari residence. It
is a large, concrete tunnel construction, with stair case leading
upward. Filled in with sand from the stairs side, the only
entrance is through the tunnel portion. This tunnel is empty. Locals
reported that electrical lights and wiring was present inside it
until the early 1970s.
Jack Renwick, RAAF PBY Flight Engineer recalls:
"It was said that the artillery gun that shot down the the aircraft [on
November 10, 1944] was a weapon they called 'one shot Charley'. One shot Charley
would let the first in line go, then turn up his lights and then let fire...
as soon as he hit an aircraft he'd go back into the hill/ The gun was in a tunnel
in the hill on rails. And because of the fact it was in the tunnel it was probably
there at the end of the war. They couldn't destroy that."
Japanese Bunker (Somare Residence)
Located at on the north-eastern side of Wewak point,
below the Somare family residence is a large concrete bunker
above ground. It has four entrances with stairs leading
downwards into a square room. It is empty, aside from some refuse.
Japanese Navy Hospital and Hospital Tunnel
The Japanese Navy built a hospital building on Wewak Point. The staff included Japanese female nurses. Due to Allied bombing, they were evacuated during March 1944 transported via the Philippines back to Japan.
Tetsuo Watanabe writes
in Naval Land Unit that Vanished
in the Jungle, page 59:
"The navy built a well equipped
hospital on the peninsula which was a beautiful place like paradise
in our dreams. It was surrounded by coconut trees planted neatly
in a line, lemon trees and hibiscuses. There were even nurses in
white uniforms until about March 1944."
Today, one of the larger tunnels is
known locally as the "Hospital Tunnel".
Jack Renwick, recalls post war disposal of the
contents of Wewak Point tunnels:
"[After the war] I worked in a clothing factory... [the boss] would go down
to a disposals sale and buy the whole lot. When the war was over the government
was selling contents of all Japanese camps and tunnels. [One of the boss' sons]
went to New Guinea. He went to make a bid for the contents of some particular
tunnel. This one was used by the Japanese as a hospital tunnel and they had medical
supplies in there. He bought thousands of bandages and field dressings and brought
them back to Australia [to be resold]."
Worcester's Historic Center (Closed)
Open during the late 1960's
to early 1970's at the site of the present day Ela Motors
East Sepik Provincial Government Office
Located on Wewak Point. A small store nearby has a display
of some collected Japanese relics, including a machine
gun, mortar, helmets and canteens.
New Wewak Hotel
Located at the north-west tip of Wewak Point. Since 1984, managed
by Shizuka Kawabata, who served in the Japanese Navy in Japan during
the Pacific War. Japanese
visitors usually stay at this hotel when visiting.
PNG / Japan Peace Park
across the street from the Windjammer Hotel. This
park was built September 16, 1981. Destroyed by vandals in
2003, it was rebuilt and reopened with a security guard. The grounds
are maintained by various church groups monthly. During visits by
Japanese tourist, flags are displayed and electricity available at
the site. The facility
has a Japanese and PNG flag pole, a lily pond and memorial building
with plaques in Japanese, English and Tok Pidgin.
memorial plaque reads: "In Memory of all those who sacrificed their
lives on land and at sea and around New Guinea during World War II
and in dedication to world peace. Construction by the Japanese Government
in cooperation with the Government of Papua New Guinea on September
A plaque related to construction reads: "For the
construction of this monument Japanese ex-service league for East
New Guinea and Japan-Papua New Guinea Goodwill Society have given
their cooperation for this rest house. The stage and open air theater
and so on. Architect Supervisor Kiyonori Kiutake. Memorial Plate
Designer Hiroshi Ogawa, Constructor Hakoneueki Landscape Construction,
The park is built next to the
location of a former Japanese mass grave, where the remains of Japanese defenders were buried by the Australian Army. The grave was excavated in 1955 and the
remains returned to Japan. The Japanese mass grave marker indicates the position of the former grave site.
Australian Army in New Guinea - Wewak
Wewak Japanese WWII Tunnel System
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September 12, 2013