Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Green hell.

The Kokoda Trail on the island of New Guinea was the site of some of the nastiest, most miserable fighting of the Second World War and hikers have recently stumbled across one of the many little battlefields that made up the campaign, all overgrown with jungle:
The site about half a mile from the village of Eora Creek was believed to be the location of the last major battle that was pivotal in Australia’s campaign against the Japanese in Papau New Guinea.

Although the site was known to local villages, jungles reclaimed it after the battle of Eora Creek. Although locals hunted on the plateau surrounding the site, they avoided the 600-square-meter battle ground because of a belief that spirits of the dead were still present in the "lost battlefield."
Very sensible, those natives. The spirits of the dead, known by my people as "unexploded ordnance", almost certainly haunt that battlefield. Let's hope that the amateur archaeologists have half the sense of the locals.

10 comments:

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

One of the most pivotal battles of WWII that no one knows about.

Anonymous said...

Tam,

You never fail to disappoint....have not even had breakfast yet and have learned something new, interesting and thought provoking. Stumbled across "Pawn Stars" last night on the history channel and watched with facination as some fellow sold original maps and related documents that his father carried as he ferried troops onto the beaches of Iwo Jima. A museum curator reviewed the items and said they were priceless. The guy sold them to the pawn shop for $2,200...amazing. A sad way to celebrate Memorial Day and a sad comment on the state of our society and economy. Tom from Lake McQueeney.

staghounds said...

If an Australian is walking along the trail in New Guinea, steps a few yards off the trail to dig a slit trench, and his shovel strikes a Japanese grenade that kills him, does his widow get a WWII survivor's pension?

Idle lawyer curiosity. The Kaiser and Hitler (or maybe George V, Wilson, and FDR) still kill a few Frenchmen every year. I'm sure there is an answer to the pension question.

ExurbanKevin said...

My father-in-law was in that battle.

He never spoke about it to my mother-in-law: I was the only one he ever mentioned it too, and then only briefly.

R.I.P. Riley.

Themadlemming said...

I hadn't heard of this, though I did catch the Misfits reference.

Joe in PNG said...

I currently live on the site of a former WW2 Japanese outpost. And it is amazing what kind of stuff one can find. About a month ago I kicked up a .50 BMG slug not too far from an old bomb crater. If I head out to sea about a mile, we've got an old B-25G resting under 60 feet of water. But no grenades yet (thank God).

As for the Kokoda trail, it is quite amazing to see the many, many Australians coming over to hike the Trail.

DirtCrashr said...

When my father in law was in the convalescent hospital dying (or "not-convalescing"), one of his room-mates was an old guy who said he "tramped all up and down those mountains" - of course he sometimes thought I was someone else, so who knows the exact truth of that - but over the weekend I bought and just finished reading "The Ghost Mountain Boys."

At that battle-site, Eora Creek, they found evidence of cannibalism by the Japanese who had tied Australians to trees and cut strips of flesh from their dead (presumably) bodies. It (the flesh) was also found bundled, wrapped in leaves to be eaten later - and the action recorded in the diary of a Lieutenant Sakamoto, "Because of the food shortage some companies have been eating human flesh...The taste was said to be good."
It made the Aussies really-really mad.

Bubblehead Les said...

While serving in the Navy, I had to spend some time on Guam. I got into a conversation with a sailor who was assigned to the old U.S.S. Proteus, the submarine tender. I asked him what one could do for fun on such a small island. He told me that one popular activity was to go on a jungle hike. But this was no day on the Appalachian Trail! People would get together in small groups, take good maps and lots of ribbons. They would take a compass bearing, go slowly on that heading for about an hour or so, then come back. The ribbons would be used to mark any found unexploded ordinance, it would be marked on the map, and then they would turn the maps over to the EOD detachment. Monday morning, you could hear the KaBooms coming out of the jungle. When asked if I wanted to go along on a hike, I politely declined, knowing what a klutz I am. Of course, today such a simple act of clearing must be replaced by a robot, the bomb squad, the FBI, Homeland Security, and a big multimedia press conference with 20 politicians and the mayor talking about how well they did their job.

Kristopher said...

Mheh.

Locals avoid the north beach at Betio Island in the Tarawa atoll for the same reason.

UXO rounds get loose from the coral, and start rocking in the surf till they self arm, and then occasionally go boom for no damned reason.

DirtCrashr said...

There are no ghosts and the dead who were eaten don't get to wave bony sepulchral fingers across the ocean crying out. The lads of today are steeped in multiculturalism and no nobody is better than anyotherbody, it cannot be.