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    Tanoura East New Britain Province Papua New Guinea
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USAAF November 1943

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Justin Taylan 2019
Location
Tanoura is located on the Gazelle Peninsula at the northeastern tip of New Britain Island. Borders Talili Bay to the east and connected by a coastal road to a junction with Tunnel Hill Road. Today located in East New Britain Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Wartime History
During late January 1942 occupied by the Japanese when they occupied the Rabaul area. The area to the north and south was used as a landing area for small boats.

Talili Bay Massacre / Tunnel Hill Massacre / Tunnel Hill Incident

During March 4-5, 1944 after heavy Allied bombing raids against Rabaul, thirty-one Allied prisoners were removed from Tunnel Hill POW Camp and never seen again. These executions became known as the "Tunnel Hill Massacre" or "Tunnel Hill Incident" for the Tunnel Hill POW Camp. Also known as "Talili Bay Massacre" for the execution site along Talili Bay. All three names refer to the same execution event.

On March 4, 1944 a group of fifteen prisoners were removed from Tunnel Hill POW Camp and walked to Tanoura at the edge of Talili Bay and executed. On March 5, 1944 a second group of sixteen prisoners were removed from Tunnel Hill POW Camp and walked to Tanoura at the edge of Talili Bay and executed. Precisely how the prisoners were executed is unknown. The thirty-one Allied Prisoners Of War (POWs) executed March 4-5, 1944 were:

  1. Major Ralph Cheli pilot B-25D 41-30117 Medal of Honor, posthumously group burial Jefferson Barracks
  2. 2nd Lt Thomas F. Doyle bombardier B-24D 41-24101 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  3. 2nd Lt Alston F. Sugden navigator B-24D 41-24101 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  4. Sgt Raymond J. Farnell Jr. gunner B-24D 41-24101 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  5. Sgt Michael H. Kicera engineer B-25D 41-30094 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  6. TSgt John M. Barron radio B-25D 41-30094 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  7. SSgt William C. Harris gunner B-25D 41-30094 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  8. Major Frederick K. Koebig navigator B-24D "Pretty Praire Special" 41-24186 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  9. 1st Lt Anthony Kuhn bombardier B-24D "Pretty Praire Special" 41-24186 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  10. SSgt Lawson Stewart engineer B-24D "Pretty Praire Special" 41-24186 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  11. Cpl Vincent Wasilevski asst eng B-24D "Pretty Praire Special" 41-24186 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  12. SSgt Edward T. Constantin gunner B-24D "Pretty Praire Special" 41-24186 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  13. SSgt Romulus F. Mull gunner B-24D "Pretty Praire Special" 41-24186 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  14. Lt. Joseph W. Hill pilot P-40F 41-19838 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  15. Captain Alexander R. Berry pilot TBF Avenger 06109 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  16. 1st Lt. Andrew J. Borders, Jr. pilot P-40F 41-14107 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  17. 1st Lt. John P. Cox pilot P-38H 42-66892 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  18. 1st Lt. Donald L. Stookey pilot B-25D 41-30561 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  19. 2nd Lt. Herschel D. Evans co-pilot B-25D 41-30561 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  20. 1st Lt. Walter T. Mayberry pilot F4U 02351 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  21. Pfc Paul F. Mc Cleaf gunner SBD-5 36230 group burial Jefferson Barracks
  22. 1st Lt Roger Hugh Brindos pilot F4U Corsair 17914 burial Manila American Cemetery
  23. F/O Kenneth D. Kirschner pilot P-38H Lightning 42-66580 burial Golden Gate Cemetery
  24. Cpl John Fenwick W/AG Catalina A24-43 burial E, C, 5-11 Bita Paka Cemetery
  25. F/Sgt Henry L. Murphy W/AG Catalina A24-34 burial E, C, 5-11 Bita Paka Cemetery
  26. F/O Frank R. Pocknee navigator Catalina A24-34 burial E, C, 5-11 Bita Paka Cemetery
  27. Sgt Fred Woolley engineer Catalina A24-34 burial E, C, 5-11 Bita Paka Cemetery
  28. Sgt Ernest Hubert Kraehe engineer Catalina A24-34 burial E, C, 5-11 Bita Paka Cemetery
  29. F/Sgt Donald C. Kirkwood nav Beaufighter A19-141 burial E, C, 5-11 Bita Paka Cemetery
  30. F/Sgt Colin E. Wein pilot Beaufighter A19-141 burial E, C, 5-11 Bita Paka Cemetery
  31. F/Sgt Gordon R. Thomas W/AG Boston A28-15 burial E, C, 5-11 Bita Paka Cemetery

Recovery of Remains
Towards the end of the Pacific War, fearing war crimes prosecution and to destroy the evidence of these executions, the Japanese exhumed and cremated all the bodies buried at Tanoura and placed the ashes in boxes.

To cover up the executions and war crimes, the Japanese rehearsed a story that roughly forty Allied prisoners were killed at Tanoura when an Allied bomb scored a direct hit on their shelter at Talili Bay. This was a lie to cover up the murders.

In early September 1945 when the Australian military occupied Rabaul, they interrogated personnel from the 6th Kempei Tai who claimed the Allied prisoners who died during the Tunnel Hill Massacre (Talili Bay Massacre) were killed by an Allied bomb and turned over the boxes with their cremated remains.

These remains were turned over to the Australian Army 18th Australian War Graves Unit and determined to contain the remains of both Australians and Americans air men. The Australians proposed dividing the ashes proportionally 1/3 to represent the Australians and the remainder to represent the Americans. This proposal was accepted by American Graves Registration Service (AGRS).

Memorials
The Australian portion of ashes were buried at Bita Paka Cemetery at collective grave E, C, 5-11.

The American portions and two individual boxes were turned over to American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) at Finschafen. Two individuals Brindos and Kirschner were individually and transported to the Philippines and United States for permanent burial. Brindos was permanently buried at Manila American Cemetery at at plot D row 4 grave 259. Kirschner was permanently buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery at plot G site 2127B.

The portion of American ashes were transported aboard USAT Albert M. Boe as part of shipment SF-167-R to the United States. On March 21, 1950 the American ashes were buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at group burial section 78 graves 980-934.

References
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) Roger Hugh Brindos
(PDF Page 45) "Subject: Unidentified Cremated Remains 24 January 1947"
"2. A total of 28 U. S. and Australian personnel were cremated and the ashes placed in one small box. A suggestion by Australian Headquarters, Rabaul was agreeable with this office to accept three-fourths of the total quantity to represent the list of twenty-one U. S. personnel created as a group. Two U. S. airmen were reported to have been cremated separately and an individual box was received for. A total of twenty-three cremated remains were received by the search party.
a. The two individual boxes are lettered with Japanese characters which state only that one remains is of a higher rank than the other. No names were given."
Testimonial of Jose Holguin (1948) by Jose Holguin
"On 3 and 4 March 1944, forty prisoners of war were removed from the Tunnel Hill Prisoner of War Cave to a destination unknown to me and at the end of the war.  I asked Major MATSUDA [6th Field Kempeitai C. O.] as to what became of the men who were removed.  Major MATSUDA told me that the forty prisoners of war who were removed from the Tunnel Hill Prisoner of War Cave were killed on the beach of TALILI BAY while waiting to be transported to WATOM ISLAND. Major MATSUDA told me that these men were 'inside of tents clearly marked with large red cross identification markers but that this identification was ignored and bombed by American planes. Major MATSUDA also stated that many Japanese were killed as well as all of the forty prisoners of war as the result of this bombing attack by American planes.  If this unlikely story is true, it only proves the gross negligence exhibited by Major MATSUDA in easing the prisoners of war to the danger of bombing raids while the heat of battle was the most intense.  It is my sincere belief that Major MATSUDA is guilty of crimes against American and Allied Prisoners of War because of his gross negligence in providing for proper food, medical care, and allowing the mistreatment of prisoners of war by his subordinates and the betrayed completely his code of BUSHIDO as a Japanese officer."
Hostages To Freedom The Fall of Rabaul (1995) by Peter Stone pages 295, 296 (map), 297
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida pages 19 (footnote 12 - Tunnel Hill Massacre), 42 (6th Kempei Tai), 88 (6th Kempei Tai C.O.), 93-96 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners)
M.I.A. Over Rabaul South Pacific (1996) by John B. Kepchia page 61
Target Rabaul (2013) by Bruce Gamble pages 323-329
Thanks to Jose L. Holguin, Joseph G. Nason, John B. Kepchia, Henry Sakaida and Edward Rogers for additional information, research and analysis

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Last Updated
April 19, 2020

 

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