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May 18, 1944
Justin Taylan 1993
Walt Deas 2001
Lat 5° 10' 0S Long 145° 45' 0E Amron is a hilltop high ground near the north coast of New Guinea. Borders Alexishafen to the north, the North Coast Road to the east and further to the south is Madang. Also known as Amron Hill, Nob Nob or Nobanob. The Japanese referred to this location as "Moto Zan" or "Motozan". From the hilltop, there are excellent views of the north coast northward to Alexishafen and offshore islands. Prewar and during the Pacific War located in the Madang District of the Territory of New Guinea. Today located in Madang Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Prewar, the Yelbeck Catholic mission had a church and mission buildings. From the hilltop, there are excellent views of the north coast northward to Alexishafen and offshore islands.
On December 26, 1942 Amron was occupied by the Japanese Army as a high ground and lookout point. By March 27, 1943, the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) 18th Army Headquarters and Kempeitai (Military Police) had occupied the Catholic mission buildings.
Allied Prisoners Of War (POW) captured in the Madang-Alexishafen and north coast of New Guinea were transported to this location where the Japanese Army Kempeitai (Military Police) detained, interrogated, tortured and executed the prisoners.
According to postwar interrogations with Japanese prisoners, on least five occasions between June 1943 until April 1944, Prisoners were blindfolded and executed by bayoneting to death or beheading "down the mountain to the execution ground" then buried in a mass grave.
During June 1943, a number of American prisoners were executed. During postwar war crimes investigations, information available was considered insufficient to determine if this was the case. Likely, this execution included at least two Americans. Those executed likely include:
1) 1st Lt. Harlan L. Reid, pilot B-25C "Geronimo" 41-12980 ditched June 21, 1943 POW to Madang, missing
2) Captain Raymond A. Tabb co-pilot B-25C "Geronimo" 41-12980 ditched June 21, 1943 POW to Madang, missing
On August 31, 1943 five aviators who were taken prisoner and interrogated were blindfolded and led down from Amron by the Japanese and executed. Four crew members from B-25D 41-30118: Koscelnak, Ritacco, Anderson and Herry were tied between two posts and bayoneted to death. Also, Salvage the sole survivor of B-25D 41-30221 was executed.
The five executed were:
1) 2nd Lt. Owen H. Salvage, co-pilot B-25D 41-30221 ditched August 2, 1943
2) Captain Robert L. Herry, pilot B-25D "Green Dragon" 41-30118 ditched August 5, 1943
3) 2nd Lt Robert J. Koscelnak, co-pilot B-25D "Green Dragon" 41-30118 ditched August 5, 1943
4) 1st Lt Louis J. Ritacco, navigator B-25D "Green Dragon" 41-30118 ditched August 5, 1943
5) T/Sgt Hugh W. Anderson, radio B-25D "Green Dragon" 41-30118 ditched August 5, 1943
Post war affidavit L/Cpl Yasukuni Tani. (clerk at Amron for the Kempei Tai) states:
“The actual execution was to be three prisoners by Kempei Tai and two by headquarters Sentry Guard Unit. However, 1st Lt. Matsumoto’s Kempei Tai members said, “We will execute the three prisoners for the revenge of the death of our comrade, Cpl Nakano. This Matsumoto’s Unit had a conflict several weeks ago at Kesa village, which is located at the head of the Ramu River. The three prisoners were blindfolded and escorted down the mountain to the execution ground by the Kempei Tai members and Sgt Major Kawawa, Cpl Ishikawa and S. Pvt Ozawa. After about 20 minutes had elapsed, Matsumoto’s Kempei Tai group came back and said, 'The execution is over now, we will proceed back immediately” and walked towards Kempei Tai Headquarters."
Another execution happened sometime between late November 1943 to early March 1944 when the six crew of B-25D 41-30522 were executed by a rifle squad. Afterwards, natives from a nearby village were conscripted to dig their graves and bury the bodies. Postwar, the remains of Gullette, Mahan, and Lamb were recovered and identified.
The six executed included:
1) 1st Lt. Frank E. Gullette, Jr. pilot B-25D 41-30522
2) 2nd Lt. Jackson D. Harbert co-pilot B-25D 41-30522
3) 1st Lt. John R. Duggins bombardier/navigator B-25D 41-30522
4) SSgt Glen A. Lamb engineer B-25D 41-30522
5) T/Sgt Charles H. Mahan radio B-25D 41-30522
Also executed but remains Missing In Action (MIA):
6) Sgt Jack G. Hallack tail gunner B-25D 41-30522
During the middle or late March 1944, two Australians were also executed: F/Sgt Frank Graeme McDonald pilot Vengeance A27-276 and F/Sgt Leslie Stewart navigator Vengeance A27-82. Possibly, the date of this execution was March 31, 1944.
Finally, during the middle of April 1944 2nd Lt. Milton MacDonald pilot P-38J 42-104355 was executed.
During late April 1944, the Australian Army occupied Amron. When Japanese prisoners were asked about Allied prisoners, the Japanese stated they died in late August 1943 when the area "received a direct bomb hit... [American] fliers... were killed and also the mission horse which was grazing nearby." This was a lie to cover up the executions.
During 1948, American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) visited this area and with the help of New Guinea natives located the burial sites of the Allied aviators and exhumed a mass grave and individual graves. During 1952, the recovered remains were later identified as Gullette, Mahan, and Lamb of B-25D 41-30522.
No remnants of the Japanese occupation remain, other than the concrete foundations that the Lutheran Mission occupies today. According to the locals, there were some Japanese bunkers and fortifications in the area, but these were filled in after the war.
"The Story of the Japanese Invasion of New Guinea; the imprisonment of our missionaries of the Madang District, and how some lived to tell the story" page 4-5
ATIS Bulletin No. 453 (continued), Report No. 77 dated March 27, 1943 'MO Butai' states:
"It is decided to move [Japanese] Army HQ to Amron (11 km NW of Madang). Chief of staff and 34 men reached Amron by air. Amron Hill is named MOTO ZAN."
Madang page 147
John Chan (Chinese forced to work for Japanese Army Kempei Tai military police):
"My job was to walk down the [Nobonob] hill from Amron to Nagada Plantation once a day, to get fresh milk for the [Japanese Army] Colonel... one day I was called to see the execution of two young American airmen, whose plane had been shot down outside Riwo. They had been under harsh interrogation for a week. Occasionally, I was able to hear a few words of their questions and the airmen's replies. Finally the airmen were told they were to be taken to Japan as prisoners of war. Instead, they were executed the next day, it was a Saturday afternoon about 2pm."
Death At Amron by Walt Deas
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