Papua New Guinea war historian, Maclaren Jude Hiari MBE, is currently researching and documenting the recollections of war experiences of native carriers, medical orderlies, policemen and soldiers during World War Two in Papua New Guinea, particularly the Kokoda Trial and the ‘Bloody’ Buna Campaigns. Using this research, he has also been making representations to both the Australian and the Papua New Guinea Governments to recognise and honour the sacrifices made by some of these “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels”.

In this article, he talks about the sufferings and sacrifices made by these ‘forgotten’ “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels” during the Kokoda Trail Battle which have been unheard of, and which are not recognized and recorded by Australians, and about the background history on the establishment of the Kokoda Living Memorial by the Australian Government in 1995. He also talks about the need for any overseas aid planned for 18,000 Kokoda people to be channelled to all of them, not just those Biage, and Koiari along the Kokoda Trail, and the few around Kokoda Town.

It is in response to New South Wales politician and Kokoda Trail campaigner, Charlie Lynn, who had established the Kokoda Memorial Foundation for education scholarships for Kokoda children, and the retired Anglican Archbishop, Sir David Hand’s comments about ensuring the planned technical assistance be channelled to benefit all Kokoda people.

In a Weekend article published in the Post Courier newspaper on February 20, 2004, Charlie Lynn revealed that he came to Papua New Guinea to collect names of schoolchildren from all villages along the Kokoda Trail whose “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel” grandfathers provided vital support to Australian soldiers during World War II for purposes of an educational scholarship to be provided by the Kokoda Memorial Foundation.

As Chairman of the Kokoda Memorial Foundation, Mr Lynn visited and inspected the rundown facilities of the Sogeri National High School, Iarowari High School and the Sogeri Primary School. He made a commitment to look for assistance in Australia, as well as push for the establishment of sister school relationships with schools in Australia.

Mr Lynn announced that the Kokoda Memorial Foundation would be providing educational scholarships for the best two students, male and female, from villages along the Kokoda Trail to study either at Iarowari High School or Sogeri National High School, and then hopefully, for those who want to go onto university. He said the Foundation aimed to introduce scholarships to 25 students per year within five years, and up to 250 students at the national high school, as well as those who wish to go onto university, and then come back as teachers.

“I would hope we would be able to develop some leadership programmes for them so that I would hope that the national leaders of Papua New Guinea come through this Foundation. I think that’s achievable. Maybe, we can look at Rhodes scholars coming out of this programme.

Mr Lynn said the Kokoda Memorial Foundation would co-ordinate all fundraising and dealing with both Australian and Papua New Guinea Governments for the future development of the Kokoda Trail and its people.

“In the past, the emphasis has been on the development of buildings which I don’t think has been right. I think the way of the future is the development of the people and supporting them to become leaders. That’s the way I see it going and I think we would work almost full-time to make it happen because it will happen because we have got the support of some very good people and the Australian High Commission”.

Mr Lynn said the other important development in the Foundation would be the establishment of sister school relationships between village schools, Sogeri National High School, Iarowari High School and Sogeri Primary School, with schools in Australia. This would enable them to be assisted with desperately needed teaching aids such as library books, computers and stationery. The schools need support to refurbish classrooms and the boarding facilities so the organizations in Australia like the Lions and the Rotary will be approached to co-ordinate the support and assistance.

The Kokoda Memorial Foundation has high profile Board of Directors including the former Sydney Swans Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Templeton, writer Patrick Lindsay, actor Yahoo Serious, former KPMG Peat Marwick partner Peter Thomas, lawyers Graham Cowley and Julian Marks, filmmakers Paul Croll, and the University of Western Sydney student, Genevieve Nelson.

The Kokoda Memorial Foundation was established in 2003 to help develop a self-sustaining eco adventure trekking industry for the Mountain Koiari and the Orokaivan people who live along the Kokoda Trail, as an Australian legacy to the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels for their sacrifice over 60 years ago.

The Kokoda Memorial Foundation will co-ordinate fundraising through the annual Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Honner Leadership Oration in memory of the late Ralph Honner, Commander of the gallant 39th Militia Battalion in the Battle of Isurava in August 1942.

In an article published in the Post Courier on March 8 2004, Sir David Hand has called for proper recognition to be given to the “forgotten people” of the Kokoda Trail. He said Gona and Buna – where the Japanese first landed in 1942 – as well as the Wawonga villages in the Owen Stanley Ranges were often forgotten when mention was made of World War II and the Kokoda Trail.

“I wish to draw attention to the fact that the 1942 military action of World War II, so widely known as “The Kokoda Trail Campaign,” was only part of the whole experience by which the Japanese Army tried to cut across the Owen Stanley Range and hopefully make Port Moresby, the take-off point for an invasion of Australia.

“My credentials for entering the discussion are my own missionary ministry for many years in the Orokaiva and the adjacent areas”.

“My award of a chieftain’s Otohu by the Chief of Saga Village below Kokoda Government Station, for there is no separate village called Kokoda.

“And the offer of the villages local to Kokoda, to organise and provide free of charge assistance for my own ecumenical “Bishop’s Walk” in 1972, set up to recommend responsible self-support in the Papua New Guinea Church.

“At present, very belated official notice taken by Australia of what “Kokoda Trail” signified and still signifies, now attention is given to, for example, Isurava, or a school or medical station at Kokoda, or existing schools or services, needs careful sorting out and balancing.”

Sir David referred to the people of Gona-Buna area and the Wawonga Region who, he felt, must not be left out of consideration by those concerned to help.

The kick-off point of the “Kokoda Trail Campaign,” was not Kokoda, but Gona beach – where the Japanese landed on January 21 1942, at what is now Holy Cross Mission, Gona and additionally, Buna.

“The villages and food gardens from these villages were ransacked and many people were killed. When remaining people moved in again after the war, the area was a mess of bomb craters, shell holes and live ammunition dumps.

The present 2004 Dean of the Anglican Cathedral in Port Moresby, Father Walter Ataembo, will bare his back for you to show you the big wound he suffered as a post-war schoolboy, with friends, when they gathered sticks, made a fire and unknowingly ignited live explosives.

The first time Papua New Guineans were fired on by the enemy was the action 30 kilometres up the road to Kokoda at Arehe Creek and later near Awala in the central Orokaiva.

The so-called “War Damage Compensation” paid by the colonial government was, to my personal knowledge, scarcely more than a somewhat randomly organised effort.

Archbishop Hand also spoke strongly about the forgotten Wawonga people who were more Koiari of Central Province than Orokaiva of Northern Province.

The road over the Owen Stanley Mountain to Port Moresby, via Kokoda, Isurava, Kagi, Efogi etc crosses the Orokaiva/Koiari boundary. On the way from Templeton?s Crossing to Kagi, you cross the junctions to the Myola Lakes and to the Wawonga. The Wawonga people of the eastward fall to Emo River occupy 14 villages and are related, tribally and linguistically, not to the Orokaiva but to Koiari.

What goes for Koiari villages on the so-called ‘Kokoda Trail’ goes, or should go also, for all the Wawonga people. The fact that their nearest ‘way out’ is Orokaiva country, and therefore, Popondetta, is just chance. If they want a school or a church, or a medical aid post or an airstrip or a road or what-have-you, they should be ‘counted in’ with the Oro (Northern) Province and not with the central Province ? and so have come to feel ‘down and out’.

Archbishop Hand said: My thought and wish is not to downgrade the helpful thoughts and research of others; but to round out the thinking and planning, and make it well-researched, more all-inclusive, and fair to all. Let us not allow an over-glamorisation of specifically ‘Kokoda Trail’ and its people at the expense of others, whose claims are at least as great.

Mr Hiari said he has carefully studied the contents of both Charlie Lynn and Archbishop David Hand?s articles and offer the following remarks.

Firstly, I wish to tell the people of Australia and Papua New Guinea that the name “Kokoda” originates from the Orokaivan territory of the Northern Province, and not from the Koiari territory in the Central Province. Kokoda simply means ‘place of (human) skulls’. Original ancestral name of the small beautiful plateau is Pavau.

Secondly, the colonial British New Guinea Administration established a government station at Pavau in September 1903.

I have researched and completed writing both the history of the name ‘Kokoda’ and the history of the name ‘Kokoda Trail or Track’. The Secretary for the Department of Provincial Affairs and Local Level Government, Gei Ilagi, has asked me to recommend the appropriate name to the Minister for Intergovernment Relations, Sir Peter Barter, for approval. I will be submitting a report very soon.

Thirdly, I applaud Charlie Lynn’s efforts to establish the Kokoda Memorial Foundation and having a very high profile person to serve as members of the Board of Directors of the Foundation. The Foundation intends to offer educational scholarships to children from villages along the Kokoda Trail, and to seek help from Australia to refurbish classrooms and boarding facilities, and school supplies, and to develop the Kokoda Trail as a ‘memorial park’.

But I view Charlie Lynn’s efforts as a propaganda for helping only the Koiari schoolchildren and the Koiari people, and not the Orokaivan children and people. Charlie Lynn is making a big name for himself and generating millions and millions of kina from money raised in Australia while promoting Kokoda Trail. Charlie Lynn has a personal interest to pay a ‘lip service’ to the Koiari people, and NOT the Kokoda people. Kokoda and the Kokoda Trail are NOT the Koiari so Charlie Lynn, do not promote Kokoda Trail using Koiari for your self-interests.

Kokoda is a district in the Northern Province which is governed by Kokoda Local Level Government with 24 wards representing a total population of 18,000 people. Kokoda District has 16 community and primary schools, and one vocational centre. Schoolchildren from these schools will miss out from the educational scholarships offered by the Foundation because Charlie Lynn is using this Foundation for his commercial and political interests, and because he is only helping the Koiari people.

Fourthly, the Foundation is wholly controlled by Europeans in Australia with ‘very little or no say’ from people of Papua New Guinea, particularly those from Kokoda and Koiari.

I suggest that four persons (two each from Kokoda and Koiari) who are well vested with thorough knowledge and experience of the Orokaivan and the Koiari culture and the Kokoda Trail Battle be appointed to help identify projects for the funding by the Foundation.

Such appointments will indicate that Papua New Guineans are given the opportunities to participate and contribute meaningful to the best interests o their people, and not dictated by Europeans at their own interests.

Fifthly, I have conducted research on the Papua New Guineans aspects of World War II and have written 25 different research papers on the Kokoda Trail Battle.

From this research, I have found that more than 1,200 Orokaivan natives worked as carriers out of the total 5,000 carriers during the Kokoda Trail Battle along the track between Kokoda and Ilolo near Sogeri.

I have also discovered that 530 native carriers died of wounds, sickness, cold, hunger, and from the Japanese brutalities between Oivi Ridge and Ilolo between July and November 1942.

After the visit, I have prepared a Kokoda War Memorial Project Proposal based on three petitions on war compensation which were presented to the Australian Government the Prime Minister of Paua New Guinea, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, at Kokoda. Petitions were presented by the famous Fuzzy Wuzzy Angle, Raphael Oimbari; President of Kokoda Council, Rodney Suma; and the Oro Deputy Premier, Parmenas Cuthbert.

Late John Painap, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and National Executive Council and his boss, Brown Bai, Secretary for the Department of Prime Minister, together with the Prime Minister, Paias Wingti, are fully aware of me providing detailed information for the preparation of cabinet submission in February 1994. Cabinet Decision No 46/94 of March 1994 stands as the official reference.

Once the Kokoda Living Memorial Project was officially opened in September 1995, many individuals from Kokoda and in Australia began to promote the project as their own efforts.

After the establishment of this project, many people both in Papua New Guinea and Australia including Charlie Lynn launched publicity to promote the Kokoda Trial and the Kokoda Trail Campaign which has already attracted wide media publicity both in Papua New Guinea and Australia.

What were these individuals between 1942 and 1992? Why did they fail to recognise and honour our Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels before they passed away? After the majority of Fuzzy Wuzzies had faded away, these individuals are trying to promote their children for their self-interests and build credibility. It’s a great shame.

With regards to Archbishop David Hand’s comments, I have this to say. I am pleased to have a Statesmen like David Hand calling for proper recognition of the forgotten people of the Kokoda Trail, and ensuring that any aid programme must benefit all Kokoda people.

I support his call because I would like all the forgotten Orokaivan people between Gona, Buna, Soroputa, and Embara Creek, and the Kokoda people in the Kokoda District, including those Mountain Koiari people in the Wawonga Region of the Upper Kumusi Valley be recognized and any planned aid programmes to also benefit them. Such programmes should not only benefit the Mountain Koiari people of eight villages, but also on the northern side of the Owen Stanley Range and those in the Central Province. Such Programmes MSUT benefit both the 18,000 Kokoda people and some Orokaivan people between Gona, Buna, Soroputa and Embara Creek.

According to official war records, about 350 native carriers from the Wawonga Region helped the American soldiers from Jaure to Kumusi River Bridge at Ajeka, and from Jaure to Naunga, Gora and Dobuduru after they crossed the Owen Stanley Range from Port Moresby in September-October 1942. War records showed that 48 Orokaivan carriers from Sirorata, Asisi, Papaki, Ambene, Waju and Sengi Villages also helped the Australian soldiers from Sengi Village to Jaure before they crossed the Owen Stanley Range to Port Moresby and in return, helped the American soldiers from Jaure to Ajeka Village. These people must not be forgotten because they are from the undeveloped part of Kokoda District.

I further call on the Australian Government and the Australian people for proper recognition of the forgotten people in the Gulf, Central, Milne Bay, Morobe, Madang, Sepik, Manus, New Ireland, New Britain and Bougainville Provinces because these are some of the places where some fighting’s of World War II took place and where many properties of the people were damaged and destroyed.

The military action of the Kokoda Trail Campaign began when 3,000 Japanese soldiers supported by 1300 New Guinea native carriers, 200 Korean labourers and 50 horses landed at Gona and Buna on Thursday afternoon on July 21 1942. At Gona, Anglican missionaries, schoolchildren and the local people witnessed the Japanese shellings of the coastal bushes and villages before escaping. At Buna, 32 members o the Papuan Infantry Battalion, two Angau spotters, Angau Officer, Alan Champion, and village people witnessed the landings before escaping to Soputa and into the bushes. I have already written two papers on eyewitness accounts of the Japanese landings both at Gona and Buna respectively.

The Japanese ransacked and destroyed many of the native people?s properties and food gardens, as well as shooting dead many natives who opposed their intrusion.

About 3,000 Orokaivan natives supported the Japanese and betrayed some Australian and American Soldiers, civil Europeans and Anglican missionaries who were later killed by the Japanese. As a result of supporting a public enemy, the Australian Army hanged more than 40 Orokaivan men at Higaturu Government Station during 1943-1944. Manuscript titled ‘TAUBADAS PONDO’ is being compiled for publication.

I would like to clarify Archbishop David Hand’s assertion of the first military between Papua New Guineans and the Japanese soldiers taking place at Arehe Creek. According to two surviving PIB officers, Lieutenant William Wort and Lieutenant Alan Chalk, there were no encounter between the local soldiers and the Japanese at Arehe Creek on July 22 1942.

In fact, there were three warning shots fired by Police constable Christian Arek and his two friends, to warn Major Tom Grahamslaw and Lieutenant Jack McKenna, who were in the bush nearby when they saw the Japanese coming down the Buna Road to Arehe Creek.

According to my research, 35 Papua soldiers and three Australian PIB officers made the first stand on the Kokoda Trail Campaign of World War II against the advancing guard of the South Seas Detachment of the Imperial Japanese Army on Soroputa Hill on the late afternoon of Saturday of July 23 1942.

This was the first baptism of fire, and Papua New Guinea soldiers caused the first Japanese casualties in World War II in Papua New Guinea when they killed about 45 Japanese. There were no Papua New Guinea casualties. Mystery of this first encounter is being documented in a manuscript titled ‘THE FIRST BAPTISM OF FIRE.’

After the successful conclusion of the Kokoda Trail Battle, the General Officer Commanding the Australian 7th Infantry Division, Major General George Vasey, arrived at Kokoda on November 3 1942 with men from the 2/33rd Battalion and other units of the 16thBrigade after the members of the 2.31st Battalion recaptured Kokoda unopposed from the Japanese on November 2 1942. General Vasey raised the Australian flag at Kokoda during a small ceremony to mark the recapture of Kokoda.

On November 6 1942, a small ceremony was held at Kokoda to thank the Papuan carriers for their valuable services rendered to the Australian soldiers during the Kokoda Trail Campaign. During the ceremony, General Vasey presented Long Service Medals to four outstanding Papuan natives for long service rendered and an issue of knives and clothes to each native. Names of these carriers are available with me. It was the first time in World War II that such recognition were given to the natives of Papua New Guinea.

In order to recognise the sacrifices made by Papuan carriers, particularly those in the Wawonga Region, I am now completing a manuscript titled HANNIBAL HAD ELEPHANTS which is based on the experiences of an American officer, Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Smith, Commander of 126th Infantry Regiment, and the experiences of American soldiers trekking over the Owen Stanley Range from Kapakapa near Port Moresby to Jaure, Kumusi River, Natunga, Bofu, Dobuduru and Oro Bay.

I am also completing another manuscript titled PAPUAN NATIVES – OUR BEST FRIENDS which is based on the experiences of another American officer, Captain Alfred Medendorp, Commander of the Anti-Tank and Cannon Companies of the 2nd Battalion of the 126th Infantry Regiment.

As a result of my research, I have completed writing the following research papers:

  • Australian Army’s hanging of Kokoda men.
  • Kokoda Living Memorial
  • The Battle of Isurava
  • The Battle of Brigade Hill
  • Massacre of Australian soldiers at Sengi Village
  • Just Who Named the Kokoda Trail
  • Who Inspired Green Shadows
  • Kokoda Track ? A Bloody Track
  • Fate of former Japanese-conscripted New Guinea Native Carriers
  • Why Too Much Attention on the Kokoda or Kokoda Trail Campaign
  • Architect of Kokoda Trail – Herbert Kienzle
  • Original Migration of Mountain Koiari (Biage and Chirima) People
  • Original Migration of the Kokoda Orokaiva People

After the war the greater part of payments under the War Damage Compensation Scheme in New Guinea were made because government stations in New Guinea which had been destroyed during the war, had to be rebuilt before full attention could be given to village affairs. Papua received smaller part of the war damage compensation because most government stations were intact after the war.

First payment of $174,000 under the War Damage Compensation Scheme were made after the civil administration resumed control of the administration of Papua New Guinea in 1946. A total of $27,233,500 was paid under the War Damage Compensation Scheme.

Payments made between 1947 & 1957 are listed below:

  • 1947 – $379,000
  • 1949 – $455,000
  • 1949 – $546,000
  • 1950 – $1,945,000
  • 1951 – $2,178,000
  • 1952 – $2,740,000
  • 1953 – $3,283,500
  • 1954 – $3,734,000
  • 1955 – $3,916,000
  • 1956 – $4,024,000
  • 1957 – $4,033,000

No Papua New Guinea, be a Koiarian or Orokaivan, has thoroughly researched and documented the experiences of the native aspects of the Kokoda Trail Campaign. But I have, and I have already written 25 papers on various episodes of the Kokoda Trail Campaign.

No Papua New Guinea has recognised the sacrifices and contributions made by the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and made representations to both the Papua New Guinea and the Australian Governments but I have and I have already recommended Raphael Oimbari, Sergeant Benjamin Moide and the Koiarian carrier Batia Lega Oagi of Efogi Village to the Papua New Guinea Government for Queen’s Honours and Awards. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II has already awarded OBE to Raphael Oimbari, OBE to Sergeant Benjamin Moide and BEM to Batia Lega Oagi in 1994 and 1999 respectively Her Majesty has also honoured me with MBE in June 1999.

Papua New Guinea has recognized the sacrifices and contributions made by the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and made representations to both the Papua New Guinea and the Australian Governments.

Besides the efforts made by Australian individuals and organizations to promote and develop the Kokoda Trail, the National Government has established the Kokoda Track Local Level Government Special Purposes Authority under the Local Level Government Administration Act 1997 in June 2003 with the general purpose of assisting the implementation of the functions of the Koiari Rural Local Level Government and the Kokoda Rural Local Level Government.

I am both sad and disappointed that the Koiari members Kokoda Track Authority Management Committee are already using the Authority for the interests of the Koiari people and not the Kokoda and the Koiari people. The Authority office is only entertaining the Koiari people requests and enquiries. Biage Koiari have no land in Kokoda Town and around Kokoda, and they must not use the Authority to promote their self-interests on Kokoda soil.

The Australian High Commission must be warned not to continue spoon feeding the Koiari people because they are not the legitimate landowners in Kokoda. The Australian High Commission must talk to the true Kokoda landowners and work with them to promote the Kokoda Trail. I am prepared to recommend the names of the legitimate people for their own information and purposes. Benjamin Ijumi is not a true landowner of Kokoda land. He is a man with no culture because he purchased the ‘Hunjara people’s headdress.

The Kokoda Memorial Foundation, and the Authority must NOT use the Kokoda Trail and the history of the Kokoda Trial Campaign not only to promote World War II legacy for the present and future generations, and promote tourism related activities, but also they must carry out research and document the histories of the Kokoda Track, the Kokoda Trail Campaign, the Kekedo family, the Kienzle family, the Komere family, the name Kokoda, and Private Bruce Kingsbury for the benefits of the future generations.

Finally, I would like to present the significance of the name Kokoda or Kokoda Trail. There would be no Kokoda or Kokoda Trail today if there were no six K’s. The people need to know why these six K’s stand for, and understand why Kokoda or Kokoda Trail is getting too much attention both in Papua New Guinea and Australia.

•First K represents the name of one of the first two tribal warriors and chiefs of the Kokoda Orokaiva, KOMBERE, the first generation chief of the Tuna Clan of Saga Village who originally migrated from the Upper Kumusi Valley.
•Second K represents the name KOKODA which originated in February 1900. Kokoda is made up o two words, KOKO and DA. Kokoda means ‘skulls’ while Da means ‘place or village’. Therefore, Kokoda means ‘place of the skulls’.
•Third K represents the Kienzle family who first settled in the Yodda Valley in 1933 and who made an enormous contribution to the economic development of the Kokoda District, particularly in gold mining, cattle, farming and rubber plantation.
•Fourth K stands for KOKODA TRAIL – a native bush track connecting many other tracks with the remote villages on the Owen Stanley Range which was used by the natives for thousands of years before the white men first discovered it in 1879. During the war, it was described as “a trail of blood and iron”.
•Fifth K represents Kingsbury – Private Bruce Kingsbury of 2/14th Battalion who was posthumously awarded the Victoria when he lost his life in the Battle of Isurava on August 27, 1942.
•Sixth K represents the Kededo family who settled in Kokoda in 1947 and who made much contribution to welfare and educational services in the Kokoda District and the district administration.

Historical accounts on the six K’s have already been written and are available with me.

Maclaren Jude Hiari MBE
Kokoda-Buna Historical Foundation