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    Saint John's Mission (Barakam, Bagaram) East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
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Justin Taylan 2003

Location
Lat 3° 22' 0S Long 143° 33' 0E  Saint John's Mission is located at Barakam (Bagaram) on the southern shore of Kairiru Island. To the south is Kairiru Strait and beyond Muschu Island. Also known as St. John's Mission, Barakam, Bakaram or Bagaram. Prewar and during the Pacific War located in the Territory of New Guinea. Today located in Wewak District of East Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Prewar
The Roman Catholic church established Saint John's Mission (St. John's Mission) at this location, including a church, convent, church cemetery and a plantation of coconut palms harvesting copra.

Wartime History
During December 1942, occupied by the Japanese for the duration of the Pacific War. Used by the Japanese Navy for the duration of the Pacific War.

St. John's Mission was used as the Japanese Navy headquarters on Kairiru and also as the shore facilities for the Kairiru Seaplane Base offshore.

During April 1943 until August 1944 Saint John's Mission was attacked by Allied aircraft and PT Boats. On March 21, 1944 the mission was largely destroyed by American bombing.

Allied missions against Kairiru
April 10 1943 - August 27, 1944

Between September 1943 to April 1945, Japanese Navy on Kairiru Island was responsible for the detention, interrogation, torture and execution of at least eight Allied Prisoners Of War (POW) including six American and two Australian in the vicinity of Saint John's Mission.

During September 1943, the entire crew of B-25D Mitchell 41-30319 were executed at Saint John's Mission:
Pilot F/O John D. Blain, T-120110 (POW, MIA / KIA, BR) Breckenridge, TX
Co-Pilot F/O Charles P. Wells, T-186489 (POW, MIA / KIA, BR) Ashland, KY
Navigator SSgt William F. Green, 15104526 (POW, MIA / KIA) Whitehouse, OH
Radio SSgt Robert J. Capocefalo, 32377421 (POW, MIA / KIA) Syracuse, NY
Gunner SSgt Jack Bowman, 14063635 (POW, MIA / KIA) Johnson City, TN

During the middle of October 1943, the entire crew of B-25D 41-30561 were captured and detained on Kairiru. The two officers Stookey and Evans were transported to Rabaul. The three enlisted men were executed on Kairiru:
Engineer SSgt Ernest S. Roberts, 18069713 (POW, executed, MIA / BNR) CO
Radio SSgt Max Gerstein, 35355778 (POW, executed, MIA / BNR) Indianapolis, IN
Gunner SSgt Thomas H. Laird, 34444568 (POW, executed, MIA / BNR) Savannah, GA

On May 31, 1944 a group of approximately thiry Japanese assembled to watch the execution of 2nd Lt. Robert E. Thorpe pilot of P-47D Thunderbolt 42-22661 . His last words were "What time is it?”" before he was beheaded by Hiroshi Odazawa using a sword.

During the middle of April 1945, at least two Australian Army "Z Force" commandos from "Operation Copper" were executed on Kairuru.

Kairiru Seaplane Base
Used by the Japanese Navy for F1M2 Petes until April 1944

Postwar
Saint John's Mission was rebuilt as a Catholic Mission.

Today
Saint John's Mission remains in use today.

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Last Updated
May 23, 2020

 

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May 31, 1944

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