Lat 3° 39' 43S Long 152° 27' 12E Namatanai is located on the northern coast in the roughly the center of New Ireland. Also known as Namatani, Namatania, Namatano, Namatami and Namatenei. Borders Fangalawa Bay. Located to the northwest 35 miles away is Kavieng. Between 1884 until September 1914 part of Deutsch Neu Guinea (German New Guinea). Prewar and during the Pacific War located in the Territory of New Guinea. Today Namatanai is the district capital of Namatanai District. Today, located in Namatanai Rural LLG, Namatanai District, New Ireland Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Before to the start of the Pacific War, six Australian Army 1st Independent
Company commandos commanded by Cpl W. S. Rodgers were stationed at Namatanai. Before the Japanese landings, the commandos withdrew inland.
January 28, 1942 the Goya Maru landed Japanese troops at
Namatanai and searched the Namatanai Station and Namatanai village but
found no one and departed. On June 5, 1943 the Japanese civilian administration arrived to take control of the area. On June 15, 1943 a Chinese resident, Mr. Leong Cheung was shot in public in Namatanai. Starting in the middle of March 1944 attacked by Allied bombers.
American missions against Namatanai
March 17, 1944–May 28, 1944
Namatanai was occupied by the Japanese until the end of the Pacific War.
On September 19, 1945 in the morning HMAS Swan (U74) anchors in Fangalawa Bay at Namatanai. A Japanese delegation led by Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) General Ito commander Japanese forces on New Ireland was embarked to surrender to Australian Army Major General Kenneth W. Eather, commander 11th Division.
Afterwards, the Australians investigated the fate of the estimated
87 European civilians on New Ireland when the Japanese invaded in January 1942. Only seven were found to be alive: Rudolf Diercke at Namatanai and Father Gerard Peekel and five Catholic nuns Sisters M. Brigitta, M. Aquilina, M. Arkadia, M. Gustava and M. Aggesta who were all taken prisoner at Lamekot Catholic Mission on January 25, 1942 and were detained at Lakuramau Camp until released at the surrender ceremony and transported to Rabaul. Of the remaining eighty (including ten priests) with a few exceptions, no trace was ever found.
After the surrender, Japanese Army equipment including small arms, guns and tanks was gathered at
Namatanai. The disarmament was supervised by the Australian Army, 11th Infantry Battalion, 13th Infantry Brigade who also oversaw dumping the wartime material into the sea to render it useless. On October 29, 1945 corvette HMAS Kiama (J353) anchors at Fangalawa Bay near Namatanai and disembarks personnel from the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) who establish a sub-headquarters at Namatanai to oversea central New Ireland and offshore islands.
Small wartime airfield, still in use today
At the end of the war, Australian forces dumped Japanese tanks over the edge of of a cliff. Since then, the area has been used as a rubbish dump. The dump includes Type 95 Ha Go, Type 97 Chi Ha and amphibious tanks plus some coastal guns.
Brian Bennett visited in 1985:
"I went there and visited this site. There was a rotted tank on the reef and a larger pile stacked up with rubbish around it. I climbed down into the dump and got inside one of the tanks that was upside down and hard to get inside. Shining a torch, the interior was perfect - all the paint and lights still there. It was still leaking oil too. They all had their original exterior paint and Kanji and numbers on some too. The smaller weapons were missing, but the main guns were there still."
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October 25, 2020