[Mihalic] getting it right can really matter!
bja406 at coombs.anu.edu.au
Thu Jan 20 10:36:01 EST 2005
I very much doubt the accuracy of Fortune's account and wonder where he
heard it and why he felt the need to publish it. He must have known it
wasn't completely true and if he didn't know then he should have.
In my 'spare' time I have been looking at wartime executions in the Sepik
and although they were almost certainly extra-legal, I have yet to find one
in which the victim had not been either actively and voluntarily helping
the Japanese against the Australians/Americans, or was guilty of the murder
of Europeans in particular, and sometimes other villagers.
The Australians involved (they were ANGAU officers) understood that as
non-citizens of Australia there was no legal reason for New Guineans not to
assist the Japanese. Nor were they legally bound to help the
Australians. So it was just a matter of fundamental practicalities - beat
the Japanese as quickly as possible. If that required a few recalcitrants
to be "bumped off", as they put it, so be it. Villagers who led Japanese
patrols to their locations directly threatened their lives and the lives of
their police and carriers. Messages were sent through village "agents" (men
loyal to the Australians) to village men who were helping the Japanese,
warning them to leave the Japanese and to come across to the Australian
lines. If they refused, and persisted working as guides and advisers they
got their names onto a blacklist and were fair game if captured.
The Australians all spoke excellent pidgin (as good or better than Fortune
I imagine) and had been in the Sepik for many years before the war, as
patrol officers, gold miners or surveyors. In a number of cases the
Australians spent two or three periods of over 100 days on patrol behind or
close to Japanese lines. (By the end of the war a number were showing signs
of what is now called post-traumatic stress. I know of one who was
diagnosed while on leave in Australia and was not allowed to go back, he
was in such a bad way). By the end of the war they had become hardened to
death and destruction and were perhaps psychologically the worse for wear,
but I am certain they would not have had someone shot on the basis of one
question. And I am sure they knew all about the positive negative in pidgin.
A very interesting questions remains unanswered. Who were the pro-Japanese
village men and women - (there were some and it possible some women were
shot), why did they side so enthusiastically with the Japanese initially
and why did they stick with them to the bitter, and for some, the dead end?
Many seem to have been Catholic catechists, but not too many survived the
war to tell their stories.
At 02:39 PM 19-01-05 -0500, Lise Dobrin wrote:
>They asked him in pidgin 'you no help him Japanese,' and he, vouching for
>his loyalty and affirming the negative, answered 'yes,' and was shot
>without futher interrogation."
Dr Bryant Allen
Land Management Group
Department of Human Geography
Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies
The Australian National University
ACT 0200 Australia
ANU CRICOS Provider Number is 00120C
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