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USAAF November 1943
Justin Taylan 2006
Tunnel Hill (Tunnel Hill Road) is located on the Gazelle Peninsula at the northeastern tip of New Britain Island. The road spans from Malaguna Road at the western edge of Rabaul to the northwest through the ridge and connects to the north coast road at Tanoura bordering Talili Bay. Tunnel Hill Road connects to Observatory Ridge (Volcano Observatory). During the German administration known as "Ratavul Tunnel" or "Ratavul Pass Road". Also known as "Tunnel Hill" or "Tunnel Hill Road". Also called "Tanoura Pass" for Tanoura. Today located in East New Britain Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Built during the German administration as a tunnel known as "Ratavul Tunnel" or "Ratavul Pass Road". Originally, the tunnel was dug by hand and shored up with timbers to form the tunnel. After an earthquake, the tunnel collapsed. Later, it was dug out again and expanded into a road cut known as "Tunnel Hill" or "Tunnel Hill Road".
Tunnel Hill POW Camp (Cave Camp)
Afterwards, twenty-two prisoners remained at Tunnel Hill POW Camp. During late March 1944, the prisoners were moved to a wooden shed at a nearby location dubbed "Death Valley" were twelve died. In early November 1944 the remaining prisoners were moved to a wooden shed at "Banana Plantation" compound. At this location, Japanese conduct malaria medical experiments on the prisoners and four more died including two from the experiments.
Towards the end of the Pacific War, to cover up the executions and war crimes, the Japanese claimed that approximately forty Allied prisoners were killed by Allied bombing during an air raid while at Talili Bay and their bodies were exhumed and cremated. The ashes were placed into a single box. The Japanese rehearsed a story that the prisoners were killed when an Allied bomb scored a direct hit on their shelter. This was a lie to cover up the murders.
In September 1945 when the Allies occupied the Rabaul area, 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 box with their cremated remains. The Allies divided the cremated ashes the Japanese claimed were those killed at Talili Bay proportionally based on the number of victims (22 Americans and 8 Australians) with 3/4 of the ashes to the Americans and 1/4 of the ashes to the Australians.
The Australian ashes were buried at Bita Paka Cemetery at collective grave E, C, 5-11.
The 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 grave 980-934.
Despite interrogations of 6th Kempei Tai officers and personnel, the Allies did not prosecute the massacre or deaths at Tunnel Hill as war crimes.
Testimonial of Jose Holguin (1948) by Jose Holguin
"Later in the day and about 1830, 2 March 1944, the Japanese guards loaded us into a truck and we departed from the area of Sixth Field Kempei Tai Headquarters, Prisoner of War Camp, Rabaul, New Britain. The truck arrived at Tunnel, Hill Prisoner of War Camp Cave, Rabaul, New Britain. about 1915 hours on 2 March 1944."
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.
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