Breakthrough in search for WW2 Capt Templeton's remains in PNG
One of the enduring mysteries of Australia's military campaign in Papua New Guinea during World War II may be close to being solved. The question of what happened to Captain Sam Templeton has intrigued historians for nearly 70 years. He disappeared near the northern end of the Kokoda Trail in 1942 and his remains were never found, but aan Australian tour operator and a former Japanese soldier, known as the Bone Man of Kokoda, claim to have found Captain Templeton's final resting place.
WEATHERALL: He was the first commander to lead the 39th battalion, the B company across the Kokoda Track. Had Captain Templeton and the boys of B company not been so successful early on in those initial battles, then the course of history could have been so much different.
FOX: Captain Templeton disappeared in July 1942 near Oivi while trying to warn reinforcements of the heavy Japanese presence in the area.
There are differing accounts of what happened to him. One says he was shot and killed when he ran into Japanese troops, another has him executed after being interrogated. Years later a local villager recalled seeing an Australian captain being held in a cage on the coast, waiting to be shipped to the Japanese base at Rabal. In any case his remains were never found.
But now Wayne Weatherall believes he may have solved the mystery after teaming up with a former Japanese soldier.
WEATHERALL: It's a significant thing for Australian history.
FOX: Kokichi Nishimura fought the Australians along the Kokoda Track and was the only man from his platoon to survive the campaign. When he left he promised he would come back to find his comrades' remains and return them to Japan for proper burials.
He went on to spend 25 years searching the track, found the remains of hundreds of Japanese soldiers and became known as the "Bone Man of Kokoda". Now frail and in his 90s Mr Nishimura returned to PNG for one last hunt - to find the famous Australian captain.
Speaking through an interpreter he says he let go of the hostility of the war years, long ago.
NISHIMURA (translated): Both Japanese soldiers and Australian soldiers very bravely and I have never thought that Australian soldiers an enemy.
FOX: It's a case he's intimately familiar with. Mr Weatherall says Mr Nishimura told him he buried Captain Templeton near Oivi after a Japanese officer killed him.
WEATHERALL: He was captured. He was dragged down to the officer's camp for interrogation and Templeton has told the Japanese officer that there is 80,000 Australian troops waiting for you in Port Moresby. How many of you will see out the day? So Templeton laughed at the Japanese officer and then the Japanese officer was very angry and has stabbed him with a sword into his stomach.
FOX: Sixty-eight years on Mr Nishimura still remembers the spot where the Captain was buried and last week he and Mr Weatherall returned there and spent several days digging for clues.
Mr Weatherall won't reveal if they found any human remains but says other artefacts indicate they could have located Captain Templeton's grave.
WEATHERALL: We have found what we believe could possibly be some personal effects like watches, compasses and things like that. Now we have to go through the correct process in speaking to the family. There are still some ongoing issues that we need to resolve to make sure that everybody is completely satisfied.
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