Veterans from both sides have been coming back to Papua
New Guinea for a number of years and I have always offered help to locate
and take back to their former battlefields and one case that stands
out the most or the one I will always remember is of a Japanese sergeant
and I would like to share with you briefly what happened.
Several years ago, I was contacted by a Japanese veteran
who fought here in New Guinea at Cape Gloucester on New Britain. He
was a Sergeant or the Japanese equivalent of that rank and if my memory
services me correctly, he was in charge of a anti-aircraft battery somewhere on
the heights overlooking the beaches of Cape Gloucester. This chap kept
a diary of his stay in the area and what was interesting to note was
that he had befriended a local from the village that he was closest
to and recorded the locals name.
The local's name was Jonas and after correspondence
with the veteran, I made a dummy run to see if I could track this local
down at his village in the Cape Gloucester area. I arrived and started
asking the council members of the village and they straight away told
me Jonas had died some 5-6 years pervious but his son was still alive.
I met with the son and told him of this Japanese sergeant and with out
a moments hesitation he produced his name and even took me to the gun
emplacements that made up the sergeant's "bunker".
After a short climb of 15 minutes or more we came out
on a magnificent view overlooking the surrounding area of Cape Gloucester
and shore enough there were the gun pits and remains of rusting guns
and other memorabilia. The son whose name was John told me his father
had a Japanese friend who he used to through a baseball to too while
away the hours when they had nothing to do. He also told me that one
day the veteran would return to see him again. I took a lot of notes
and on my return to Lae contacted the Japanese veteran who then wished
to bring his family out to see where he fought and to meet the son and
family of his former war time friend.
Anyway cutting a long story short the veteran did come
out about 6 months later with his family and spent 4-5 days wandering
the points of interest at Cape Gloucester. Sadly, however I received
word only some 3 months ago that the veteran had died the previous year
and could I pass on his regards to the village and especially the son
of his friend.
Feeling about recovery & restoration
Regarding aircraft restoration and recovery, I guess
I am in a gray area when it comes to this kind of thing. Over the years
I have seen some excellent land based wrecks still in excellent condition
be cut up for scrap and it breaks my heart to see this. I for one would
love to see the A/C go out to restorers through out the world or for
either static or returning them to flying status. Unfortunally Papua
New Guinea has no firm guide lines to these old relics and most locals
collect the scrap for sale however if an outsider was to try to collect
for later restoration he would be met with a mountain of paper work,
red tape and a huge "donation fee". Outsiders have taken planes
out with the permission of the powers that be but usually after a long
wait and then there is more damage to the aircraft.
The planes in the water however I feel should stay
there as once taken above water they start falling apart very rapidly
and I know of very few planes that have been taken from salt water and
made to a static display. At least the planes in the water will be looked
after buy responsible divers and operators for all to see. Perhaps in
the next 50 or so years there will be a product on the market that will
enshore seawater corrosion wont go further than it is.
Hopes For The Future
My hopes for Niugini Diving in the future are lots
of aircraft finds so can complete the documentary mentioned earlier.
ideally, I would like to spend more time researching and finding aircraft
full time. I get a great kick out of taking people to cruise the Islands,
and I guess I always will. they may not even be divers but just snorklers
who want to do a mixed bag of tricks on their vacation, these are the
things I love doing, a simple out door life on the sea.
Over the next few years, I would like to go after a
couple of wrecks of a Japanese destroyer, Japanese submarine I-22, Boston A28-3, Beaufort A9-2 and a number of other planes that I
know about, all of which will be posted to this site at later date.
I f any readers know any stories of ditched aircraft or know of any
in good condition under the water whether they be in PNG, Indonesia
or the Solomon's I would like to know about them and film them for a
documentary sub titled a "Sunken Air force" that I mentioned
previously in the interview.
I am currently doing a article for Sport diving Magazine
on the finding of Beaufighter A19-130 and also the recovery of the Missing In Action (MIA)
from Beaufort A9-217 both of which I have touched on here. Also, I have
an article about wreck diving in Air Niugini in Flight Magazine Paradise.
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