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5th AF c1943
5th AF March 10, 1943
5th AF Nov 18, 1943
312th BG c1944
Nigel Daw 1972
Air Niugini 1980
Justin Taylan 2005
Justin Taylan 2005
Lat 3 32' 60S Long 143 37' 60E Wewak is located on Wewak Point on the north coast of New Guinea. Also known as "Wewak Town". Prewar and during the Pacific War located in the Sepik District of the Territory of New Guinea. Today located in Wewak District of East Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea and is the provincial capital.
To the west borders Dallman Harbor (West Wewak Harbor) and beyond Cape Wom. To the east borders Wewak Harbor, Wirui, Wewak Airfield (Wewak Central), Mission Point, Kreer and Boram (Cape Boram) and Cape Moem. To the northwest is Raboin Island and beyond to the north are Muschu Island and Kairiru Island.
Wewak Point was developed into Wewak Town with buildings, houses a dock and other facilities supporting commerce and the Catholic missions operating in the area. By late 1942, most colonial officials and families fled the Wewak area, fearing an eminent Japanese attack.
On December 18, 1942 at 8:00pm four ships arrive in Wewak Harbor landing the Japanese Army 20th Division unopposed between Wewak to Wirui. By December 19, 1942 at 2:00am unloading had completed with roughly 2,000 troops and supplies on the beach. Afterwards, troops used barges to move down the north coast of New Guinea to occupy Madang.
Immediately, the Japanese developed the Wewak area into a major base area and expanded prewar airfields and built airfields including Wewak Airfield (Wirui, Wewak Central), Boram Airfield. To the west was Dagua Airfield (But East) and But Airfield (But West). Offshore was Kairiru Seaplane Base. These bases created an air bridge from Hollandia (190 miles to the west) and Hansa Bay and Madang (100 and 160 miles southeast). The Allied base at Port Moresby was roughly 468 miles to the southeast.
The Wewak area became the largest concentration of Japanese Army troops on the New Guinea mainland. Wewak Point was used as the headquarters of the Japanese Navy, until relocated to the offshore islands of Muschu Island and Kairuru Island.
Allied aircraft targeted Wewak with hundreds of missions by bomber and fighter aircraft. To escape the air rads, the Japanese dug extensive defensive fortifications including tunnels and bunkers.
Allied missions against Wewak (Town) and Wewak Airfield
December 30, 1942–December 8, 1944
Wewak Point was used as the headquarters of the Japanese Navy, until relocated to offshore Kairiru Island. By late April 1944, Wewak was bypassed by Allied forces after U.S. landings further to the west at Hollandia and Ataipe, with Australain Army troops advancing from the east. Afterwards, Wreak was largely cutoff from resupply or reinforcement.
During May 1945, Australian Army troops advancing from the west assaulted Wewak Point and defeated the Japanese defenders fighting from tunnel entrances to the death. Although starving and without hope of survival, the Japanese still fought vigorously from tunnel entrances until killed. Afterwards, the Wewak area became a staging area to support the Australian Army advance inland in pursuit of the remainder of the 18th Army until the end of the Pacific War and official surrender of Japan. On September 11, 1945 the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) 18th Army commander Lt. General Hatazō Adachi surrendered at Kiarivu. On September 13, 1945 the formal Japanese surrender took place at Wom Point.
Japanese Tunnels on Wewak Point
The Japanese built tunnels and fornications on Wewak Point into the rising coral rock face of the point. Most of these tunnels are "U" shaped, with two nearby entrances connected by a small connecting tunnel segment. Some of the second entrances are sealed due to landslides since the war, or are otherwise hard to find. These "U" shaped tunnels extend all around the cliff face of the point on the east, north and western sides. Most are completely empty, aside from fallen rubble or other refuse.
A large Japanese bunker and tunnel is located near the Bunker on the Somare residence. It is a large, concrete tunnel construction, with stair case leading upward. Filled in with sand from the stairs side, the only entrance is through the tunnel portion. This tunnel is empty. Locals reported that electrical lights and wiring was present inside it until the early 1970s.
Jack Renwick, RAAF PBY Flight Engineer recalls:
"It was said that the artillery gun that shot down the the aircraft [on November 10, 1944] was a weapon they called 'one shot Charley'. One shot Charley would let the first in line go, then turn up his lights and then let fire... as soon as he hit an aircraft he'd go back into the hill/ The gun was in a tunnel in the hill on rails. And because of the fact it was in the tunnel it was probably there at the end of the war. They couldn't destroy that."
Japanese Bunker (Somare Residence)
Located at on the north-eastern side of Wewak point, below the Somare family residence is a large concrete bunker above ground. It has four entrances with stairs leading downwards into a square room. It is empty, aside from some refuse.
Japanese Navy Hospital and Hospital Tunnel
The Japanese Navy built a hospital building on Wewak Point. The staff included Japanese female nurses. Due to Allied bombing, they were evacuated during March 1944 transported via the Philippines back to Japan.
Tetsuo Watanabe writes in Naval Land Unit that Vanished in the Jungle, page 59:
"The navy built a well equipped hospital on the peninsula which was a beautiful place like paradise in our dreams. It was surrounded by coconut trees planted neatly in a line, lemon trees and hibiscuses. There were even nurses in white uniforms until about March 1944."
Today, one of the larger tunnels is known locally as the "Hospital Tunnel".
Jack Renwick, recalls post war disposal of the contents of Wewak Point tunnels:
"[After the war] I worked in a clothing factory... [the boss] would go down to a disposals sale and buy the whole lot. When the war was over the government was selling contents of all Japanese camps and tunnels. [One of the boss' sons] went to New Guinea. He went to make a bid for the contents of some particular tunnel. This one was used by the Japanese as a hospital tunnel and they had medical supplies in there. He bought thousands of bandages and field dressings and brought them back to Australia [to be resold]."
Roy Worcester Historic Center (Closed)
Open during the late 1960's to early 1970's at the site of the present day Ela Motors
East Sepik Provincial Government Office
Located on Wewak Point. A small store nearby has a display of some collected Japanese relics, including a machine gun, mortar, helmets and canteens.
New Wewak Hotel
Located at the north-west tip of Wewak Point. Since 1984, managed by Shizuka Kawabata, who served in the Japanese Navy in Japan during the Pacific War. Japanese visitors usually stay at this hotel when visiting.
PNG / Japan Peace Park
Located across the street from the Windjammer Hotel. This park was built September 16, 1981. Destroyed by vandals in 2003, it was rebuilt and reopened with a security guard. The grounds are maintained by various church groups monthly. During visits by Japanese tourist, flags are displayed and electricity available at the site. The facility has a Japanese and PNG flag pole, a lily pond and memorial building with plaques in Japanese, English and Tok Pidgin.
The memorial plaque reads: "In Memory of all those who sacrificed their lives on land and at sea and around New Guinea during World War II and in dedication to world peace. Construction by the Japanese Government in cooperation with the Government of Papua New Guinea on September 16, 1981."
A plaque related to construction reads: "For the construction of this monument Japanese ex-service league for East New Guinea and Japan-Papua New Guinea Goodwill Society have given their cooperation for this rest house. The stage and open air theater and so on. Architect Supervisor Kiyonori Kiutake. Memorial Plate Designer Hiroshi Ogawa, Constructor Hakoneueki Landscape Construction, Ltd."
The park is built next to the location of a former Japanese mass grave, where the remains of Japanese defenders were buried by the Australian Army. The grave was excavated in 1955 and the remains returned to Japan. The Japanese mass grave marker indicates the position of the former grave site.
Australian Army in New Guinea - Wewak
Wewak Japanese WWII Tunnel System
Topographic Map July 1944
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