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Remembering the War in Papua New Guinea

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Remembering the War in Papua New Guinea

Interview with Eliab Kaplimut (Interview)
(Indigenous perspective)
This interview was conducted by Dr Iwamoto Hiromitsu and transcribed/translated by Pastor Jacob Aramans

Mi laik stori long taim bilong Namba Tu Bikpela Pait. Taim bilong Sekan Wol Woa na Japanis i kamap long New Ireland.

Nem bilong mi em Eliab Kaplimut. Mi bon long namba wan dei blong mun Mei 1932. Na mi bin stap inap olsem klostu 10 pela yia, bihin long taim mi bin bungim pait i kamap. Pait i kamap long 1942. Na dispela em long Sundei long apinon olsom long 2 kilok. Japanis paita ballus i stat dropim bomb lon Kavieng town na sut tu lon machine gun lon ballus i go daun. Olgeta haus lon town lon Kavieng i kisim pire olsem fire i kirap lon em. Igo inap tru lon 6 o kilok long avinoon em ol man long town na master wantaim ol Chinese ol i start wokabaut bihinim Westcoast side igo antap long Balkai na sampela i bihinim road ikam inap tru,ol i wokabaut ikam olsem long here.

Mi liklik istap long haus bihinim road igo inap outside. Namba tu dei ken lon dispela taim ol i tromoi bomb na sut nachine gun lon Kavieng town em ol Japanis soldias ol i kam daun long ol woa ship blong ol long buses long namel long Kavieng na ol i start march bihinim road igo highway, bihinim Bulumski Highway i go outside ken.Namel lon dispela yia five pela yia em woa i stap long long Papua Nuigini long New Ireland em mi nau bin kirap wantaim mama papa na lusim Navalus na bihinim road igo kamap long Parwailon dispela taim em mipela igo stap lon Parwailon shotpela taim tasol, mi ting tupela dei, tripela dei mipela i move go lon bush na stap lon bush nau.Taim mipela stap long bush em kaikai i short, wanem ol Japanese i wokim igat tupela kain lain Japanis i stap. Narapela lain ol kolim ol Kambetai, narapela lain ol i kolim ol Lemetai. Ol kambetai ol i bihinim wanpela tok tasol sapos man i wokim wron or i steal or wanem samtin em bai katim neck blong ol. Ol Lemetai em ol man i stap gut,ol i stap gut na helpim mipela long wok garden kamapim kaikai bekos dispela taim blong pait na kaikai i short. Nogat kaikai, tasol mipela stap wok lon garden long taim blong Japan em mipela wok lon grup.

Mi tu mi go insait lon pasin wok tu, wokim garden blong wanwan ples. Na garden i stap, wanpela ssamting Japani interest lon em i mipela katim cuscus, ol i katim saksak no samting mipela kisim lon taim blong taim Japanese. Ol kolim saksak tupela samtin em wanpela cuscus i gat flower lon em ol Japanese kolim saksak meri na saksak ino karim ol Japanese kolim saksak man. Olrait dispela saksak mipela wokim blong kaikai blong mipel.Narapela samtin gen lon taim blong nogat oil blong kookim kumu or meat, wild pig or wanem samtin fish tu. Mipela save sigarapim cocanas, olsem 100 or 200 log wanpela dei blong rausim wara igo long bigpela 44 gallan drum half, na boilim bai oil i kam up na kisim oil na storim lon bottol istap lon kukim meat na kumu long kaikai lon taim blong pait.

Dispela taim tu school istap blong ol Japanese tu ol i kirapim ples blong school lon taim blong fait em stap Uvitu we top up na antap lon bush. Na ol pikinini ol i save kam lon school lon hal em ol pikinini man na meri i stat lon namba five i kam Saliparuai long Luarum kirap lon Mangai Lurutu. Dispela Livutu antap long bush long ples blong skul na tisa. Japanis i tisim mipela long countim lon Japanese na singsing blong ol Japanese na sampela tok ples blong ol Japanese olsem ol i soim mipela long pasin blong manners. Ol sampela i save long em " arinato" em mean olsemm thank yu tru. Long tok good dei em " waiugudenus". Ol lainim mipela long stori na tanim long tok Japanese, ol stori tumbuna tokim long tisa bilong mipela long taim bilong skul.

Ol lainim mipela long physical education olsem exercise, olsem march, sanap long lain o taim mipela malolo ol tok "masmei" em mean malolo. Orait kam bek ken long wok ol i tok "kakari" em olsem yu start wok beitan. Ol lainim mipela long about turn long english na march igo kam na about turn long tok Japanese em "mariamekimhiresmi". Samting mi lusim skul long em long narapela tupela pikinini man na meri i wokim mistake long taim mipela istap long skul long taim blong drill o physical education o practisim march. Orait tupela pikinini i wokim ron na i laugh, tisa i koros na paitim tupela. Wanpela pikini i kisim 5pela 10 kanda (50), na narapela tu i same tasol. Long apinun ol i painim hard long wokabout.

Nem bilong Japanis tisa Mr Satu, tupela tisa na narapela mi lus tingting long nem blong em. Namba blong pikini igo long skul em klostu 100. Japanese i wokim bikpela haus blong skul. Nogat blackbod ol i toktok nating. Na ol Japanis tisa i tok long broken pidgin na ol i lainim mipela long Japanis. Orait mi lukim olsem tisa i paitim tupela, next dei mi ronowe, mi no tok save igo stap long ples na bihainim ol lain bilong coast ol watcher (spies) blong ol Japanis ol kolim ol "centiry". Na ol i stap long Nabris lukluk long 6 kilok apinun na pinis long 6 o'clock moning. Na ol wok long change, change na narapela lain i kisim long 6 kilok i go 12 kilok narapela kisim long 12 kilok igo long 6 kilok.

Orait mi stap wantaim ol long Nabris em namel long yia nau. Dispela five pela yias wo istap long PNG. Wanpela samtin kamap long watch long ol America soldias na Australia soldias igat sik guria, na i bin pundaun i go long solwara na mipela ino save long em na istap wanpela nait olgeta na ikam long shore. Na ol Centiry blong ol Japanese i poret long dispela taim. Na lukluk igo na lukim boat blong dispela man igat sik guria ikam long shore, em wanpela igo ripot long headquarters long Livatu long antap na i bin kisim body blong dispela man na planim. Long disla taim ken mi ronowe long Nabris igo stap long bus, stap wantaim mama papa na kirap nogut em wo i pinis. Ol balus pundaun ol leta tok wo pinis, em long 1945.

Captain bilong ol Japanis nem bilong em Tarosiki Imai. Taim wo i pinis em kam bek ken long 1980. Em kam lukluk long ples em bin stap long na cemetry tu. Cemetry blong ol istap klostu long ples mission blong mipela. Na disela taim mi tisa long yia 1980. Na Tarosiki Imai i bin bikpela man blong Lion's Club long Japan. Na taim em go bek, raitim pas tok olsem em bai donatim wanpela bas ikam long skul donation kam long Lion's Club na sampela Library Buks tu em salim. Tripela taim olgeta Tarosiki Imai. Mi igat 10pela pikini olgeta na last bon blong mi nem blong Tarosi Imai. Tarosi Imai i blong Lemetai i stap long ples blong mipela.

Eliab: My name is Eliab Kaplimut. I was born on the 1 May 1932. About ten years later the Second World War started and came to New Ireland. The Japanese arrived here and fighting started in1942 and that was on one Sunday.

It was on that Sunday afternoon at 2 o'clock when the Japanese fighter planes dropped bombs in Kavieng town and also used machine guns to shoot down enemy planes. All the houses in Kavieng were on fire as the bombs dropped on them.

All the residents including the Chinese, Europeans and others who were in the town started evacuating themselves from the town and walked towards the west coast and up to Balkai. Others continued on from there. I was a small boy at that time and lived in my house which was situated beside the road and I saw them walking down the road.

On the second day bombs were dropped and machine guns were fired on Kavieng. Japanese soldiers came down from warships on the beach near the bushes between Kavieng and the West Coast and started marching along the road towards Buluminski Highway.

The war lasted for three years here in Papua New Guinea and especially here in New Ireland. My father, mother and I left Navulus and went to Parwai. We lived at Pawai for a short while and then we moved into the bush and lived there. When we lived in the bush, food became scarce.

There were two types of Japanese groups. One group was called Kempetai and other was known as Lemetai. The kempetai was the most feared group. If a person was caught stealing or committing an offence and found guilty they would put him to death. Their method of execution was to behead the prisoner. When a trouble maker was found guilty he would be put to death by this method of execution, cutting the necks off.

Lemetais were a very friendly group. They helped us and likewise we helped them, making gardens and helping them to grow their own food. During the war the Japanese food supply ran out. They tended to grow their own food. We made many gardens in every village. People were put into groups and worked in those groups.

One thing the Japanese were interested in was what we called cuscus. They called it saksak. It was not something we received during the Japanese occupation. There were two types of cuscus, one has the flower which the Japanese called saksak meri or female saksak. The one without the flower they refered to as saksak man or male saksak. We worked on saksak (sago) to produce our food.

Another thing was the production of cooking oil for their vegetables, meat and fish. We scrapped large numbers of dried coconuts, squeezed the milk into half a 44 gallon drum and then boiled it. After boiling it becomes like oil. The oil was then put into small containers and stored away for cooking purposes.

The Japanese also set up a school during the war. The school was situated at Uvitu where the top primary school now is. At that time it was up in the bush. The kids, including boys and girls, came from Sali, Paruai, Luarum, Mangai and Livitu. Livitu was situated up in the bush where the school was. We were taught by a Japanese teacher. The teacher taught us how to count and sing Japanese songs. One of the things that he taught us about was good manners. Arigato means thank you very much. Goodbye was waiugudenus (in Japanese). Whenever we met a Japanese we would say waingudenus.

They taught us how to interpret their language. They also taught us Japanese history. Furthermore they taught us physical eduaction, such as exercises, marching and how to stand in a line and when to have a rest. When they say masmei, they meant rest. To start work they would say kakare. In marching, they taught us how to march forward, swing our hands, to the right, to the left and about turn. In Japanese they would say mariamekim hiresmi.

On one occasion while we were doing marching practice a boy and a girl made a mistake and the teacher punished them with fifty strokes of the cane each. In the evening the boy and the girl could not walk properly.

There were two teachers that taught us. One was called Mr Satu and I can’t remember the other one’s name. The number of kids who went to the school was almost one hundred. The Japanese built a big house (classroom) for the school. There was no blackboard. They only spoke and did not actually write out any explanations of our lessons for us on the boards.

The Japanese teachers were able to speak a broken pidgin and taught us in Japanese. When we saw the Japanese teachers beat the two kids, we ran away the next day. I did not tell them. I ran away home and later I went and joined the coast watchers or “sentries” as the Japanese called them. We guarded the coasts and patrolled the beaches to make sure there were no enemies approaching. We worked in shifts. We would start at six o'clock in the evening up until midnight and then the next shift would take over from us while we went for a rest.

I worked with them on the beach and by then it was in the middle of the year. The three years of war was a frightening experience for us. One time as we watched on (the beach) something unusual happpened. Some of the Allied soldiers had some kind of sickness and fell into the sea. That was at night. The body was floating in the sea for a whole night. Next morning, his body was floating towards the beach. The Japanese were frightened when they saw this. One sentry reported the matter to the headquarters at Livatu. They took the body and buried it.

At that I ran away again,the second time. This time I went and stayed with my parents in the bush. At that time also to our surprise the war was ended. The planes flew above and dropped papers, sending the message to the people that the war was over. That was in 1945.

The captain of the Japannese was called Toashi Imai. When the war ended he went to pay a visit and to see the places he was at during the war. He also visited the cemetary which was situated near the mission station. I was a teacher at that time when he came. Toashi Imai was a man incharge (manager/director) of the Lion's Club in Japan.

When he went back he wrote to us saying that he would donate a bus and libraary books from the Lion's Club in Japan to our school. Eventually he sent them to us. I have ten kids and my last born was a boy which I named him Torashi Imai after that Japanese war vateran. Torashi Imai belonged to Lemetai group and these Lemetais lived with us in my village.

That is the end of my story.

Dr Iwamoto: Very good story. Thankyou very much.

Interview with Eliab Kaplimut (Interview)

(Indigenous perspective)
This interview was conducted by Dr Iwamoto Hiromitsu and transcribed/translated by Pastor Jacob Aramans

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