Roger Sykes      US Army 491st Port Battalion

Backgrond
At the time of WWII I was living in Elmira, NY with my dad and mom. Actually i was drafted (conscripted). After being sworn in the army. The Army decided where i would be assigned, i went to the 491st port battalion.

Oro Bay
Oro Bay: I remember the hot, humid, weather. I remember the constant traffic on the beach road. I think at that time perhaps two dozen ships were in harbor. Oro Bay was just a place to receive cargo and ship it to the forward areas. We were assigned to an area on chinamen ridge road. Where we set up camp area. It was at a height we could see all the whole bay area. My duties were those of a clerk in the 491st headquarters. My duties were strictly keeping personal records for The 491st Port Battalion.

Japanese Air Raids
I remember the aid raids almost every night up to early 1944. Lost a lot of sleep but fortunately no one was injured. The air raids are Best described by the Australian Gun Battery close to our camp. We had little contact with australians, except contract crane operators, heavy equipment operators. And various civilian people such as beach control.

 

American Airfieds
I remember the great air field at Dubodura. The head quarters of the 5th Air Force. Hundreds of fighters and cargo planes were there. There were many different strips made of metal marston matting. There was a small landing strip at Embi, about 3 miles from beach. I do not remember much activity on it.

Buna Battlefield
I visited the Buna battlefield [after the battle]. There was an American cemetery there. Later it was removed to the States. Also, a Japanese cemetery. Many old burned out landing barges and various equipment were left there. I went to Pongani by boat. All i remember there was an Angelican Mission School. Local people were assigned to labor camps by 'ANGAU' they in turn assigned workers where needed. My contact was limited to seeing them working in the area. I never got to know any local people during the war.

End of the War
I was at Oro Bay until the end of the war. After the war was ended, most buildings built by Americans were burned down. Ammo dumps were burned. Our camp on Chinamens Ridge was completely destroyed the day we left for Manila. Oro Bay was pretty well deserted in October 1945.

Returning to Oro Bay
I returned to Oro Bay with my wife in 1975. We got acquainted with some Angelican Hospital and school people. Went back several times through 1990 to help maintain the hospital and school. Not much changed from what I remembered. In the 1970s went there by road to within about a mile of the Pongani Mission. Then went through man high kunai grass to get there. As for me i am now a retired building contractor, moved from elmira New York to Sarasota Florida in 1994.

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