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    Wewak (Wewak Point) East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)

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c1930s
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5th AF c1943

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5th AF March 10, 1943

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5th AF Nov 18, 1943

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312th BG c1944

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Justin Taylan 2005



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Justin Taylan 2005

Location
Lat 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".

Wartime History
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.

American 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]."

Roy 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
Located 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.

The 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 16, 1981."

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, Ltd."

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.

References
Australian Army in New Guinea - Wewak
Wewak Japanese WWII Tunnel System

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Last Updated
August 27, 2014

 

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