In the historical pages of the Pacific War, Japan, part of the Second World War, wages Indonesia Papua conflict in the South Pacific region from 1941-1945. The cruelty of the Pacific War is still embedded in the memories of several witnesses.
Fijian Soldiers and the Seizure of Military Bases in Papua
Indonesia Papua conflict—Melanesians from Fiji enlisted to serve in the Australian army during World War II, unlike Melanesians from other South Pacific nations. They also fought against Japanese troops in the Pacific Ocean, especially in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor, a United States Navy base in Hawaii, by Japanese troops on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, finally triggered US involvement in World War Two. After destroying the US Navy base, Japan waged war in the South Pacific.
At that time, most of the South Pacific region was a colony of Australia, Britain, France, and the Netherlands. At that time, the Dutch controlled the Nederlands Nieuw Guinea, the area now known as West Papua or the Land of Papua. Japan wants to invade Australia, the leading US ally in the Pacific Ocean.
This situation made the Australian and British troops highly prepare. They immediately prepare as many as 6,660 Fijian Melanesians to be trained and armed. The British and Australian governments combined the Fijian Melanesian soldiers into the Pacific Regiment and became part of the US-led Allied army.
New Georgia Pattern for Victory
As we address Indonesia Papua conflict, we need to look more into DC Harton’s book. In his book New Georgia Pattern for Victory, Horton details how the Allied armies staged Operation Cartwheel against Imperial Japanese troops.
“The 25th Infantry Division fought there from June 30 to October 7, 1943. As many as 210 troops from Fiji from the Pacific Regiment died in the Battle of Guadalcanal,” Horton wrote.
In addition, hundreds of African-American soldiers were in the American Allied armies. They are primarily members of the Combat Engineers who build bridges and bases for the US Air Force.
Japan and the United States
On April 19, 1942, the Japanese army built naval bases in Humbold Bay, Youtefa, and Sarmi in Papua. Japan also made air bases in Sentani, Tami, Vanimo, and Wewak.
The US only destroyed the main Japanese bases in Hollandia and Sentani in March 1944. Hans Ohee (84 years), a resident of Asei Village, said that US warplanes flying over Lake Sentani destroyed a Japanese military base.
“We ran to hide in the swamps of the sago forest. Many bombs didn’t explode so that we could survive,” said Ohee.
Indonesia Papua conflict also felt the flames of the Pacific War in Biak. By 1942, Japanese troops had occupied Biak Island and its surroundings, including Numfor Island. The Japanese army then built three runways on the South Coast of Mokmer, Sorido, and Borokoe.
Th Wospakrik said he had to accept a job as a foreman to supervise Biak residents. Also Japanese hired to build the runway for Mokmer airport, which is now Frans Kaisiepo International Airport. His brother-in-law, teacher Jakobus Bokorsjom, also felt like the foreman of the runway construction for the Japanese soldiers.
At that time, his wife and eldest son Wospakrik fled, hiding in coral caves between Urfu and Samber villages in Biak. “Yes, we chose to be the foreman because we got a promise from the Japanese army [that we] would be sent to school to become doctors,” Wospakrik stated.
Wospakrik said that many Biak people wanted to be killed by the army because the Japanese military was stringent and disciplined in supervising forced labor. Wospakrik also continued to try to protect the Biak people whom the Japanese soldiers employed.
The Silent Witness of Biak Island of Indonesia Papua conflict
On April 28 – July 9, 1944, the United States Allied troops intensified their attacks. They also invaded Biak on May 27, 1944. The 41st Infantry Division landed an amphibious tank at Bosnik, starting an Indonesia Papua conflict.
At that time, Biak was defended by 12,000 Japanese of the Japanese 37th Division led by Colonel Kuzume. Wospakrik recalled how the Japanese soldiers hid in the caves, later called Japanese caves.
Wospakrik, Bokorsjom, and other Mokmer field’s worker had to save themselves from the fierce battle that destroyed the Japanese power in Biak. Luckily, Wospakrik and Bokorsjom survived the violence of the war. They were able to work as teachers from sending in the Nederlands Nieuw Guinea.