Book Reviews: March 2008

Payback by John Bell
Mount Kare Gold Rush, Papua New Guinea 1988-1994 by Dave Henton and Andi Flower
The Kavieng massacre, A war crime revealed by Raden Dunbar
Sepik Blu Longpela Muruk by David Wall

Payback by John Bell
ISBN 978 0 9802884 7 6 published by Info Publishing Pty Ltd 2008, 430pp plus embedded photographs. $29.95 plus P&P. Contact John Bell at PO Box 40, Airlie Beach 4802, Qld Ph: 07 49466558 or 0427 524045 or go to website

From the foreword of the book, written by Mrs Margaret Henderson: “Payback is a remarkable book … much more than a fictional saga … a thinly disguised story of the author’s own family … who had multiple interests… and suffered terribly during the Japanese invasion and occupation during WWII.
“Although the events described so graphically…[and] read like the product of an over-active imagination, they are in large part based on fact. The Author’s Notes elaborate the relationship between the reality and the fiction. John Bell has enhanced his story with meticulous research in to the PNG way of life in the inter-war years. The book is an authentic, detailed description of a life style that has gone forever.
“Payback is a compelling tour-de-force made all the more remarkable because of its factual basis. I commend it to you without reservation.”

Mount Kare Gold Rush, Papua New Guinea 1988-1994 by Dave Henton and Andi Flower
ISBN: 787-0-646-48281-1 Publisher: Mt Kare Gold Rush 2007, 352pp, soft & hard cover, 60 colour and b & w photos plus maps,
Cost: Soft Cover: $48.00 plus $14.95 p&p. Hard Cover $69.95 plus $14.95 p&p. Orders to:
PH: 07 5443 6344 Fax: 61 7 5443 9879 or: PO Box 678 Cotton Tree QLD 4558

The Kavieng Massacre, A War Crime Revealed by Raden Dunbar
ISBN 978 1 86351 368 5 B/W Published by Sally Milner Publishing 2007 ARRP $34.95 320pp Available from your local bookstore

Many PNGAA members will remember the World War 2 massacre by Japanese sailors of Australian and German civilian internees at Kavieng, New Ireland, in 1944. The month of March 2008 marks the sixty-fourth anniversary of that event, and coincidently, the sixtieth anniversary of the execution of Rear Admiral Ryukichi Tamura, the Japanese naval officer who originally ordered the executions. In March 1944 Admiral Tamura and his senior officers in Kavieng believed that New Ireland was about to be invaded by vastly superior American forces. On Friday 17 March 1944 he issued a secret, verbal order that “in the event of an allied landing the internees were to be secretly executed”.

The following Monday 20 March, the United States Navy delivered a massive four-hour bombardment on Kavieng, firing over 13,000 shells into the town. Admiral Tamura’s men took this to be the unmistakable sign that an American invasion was imminent, and immediately executed the 23 Australian and 7 German civilian internees who had been held in Kavieng since 1942.

On the day of the Kavieng massacre the Japanese could not know that the US bombardment they were experiencing was merely a “diversionary raid” designed to cover an actual US landing on another nearby island. In fact, only eight days before the massacre the US Joint Chiefs of Staff had cancelled the entire invasion of New Ireland when it had become apparent that the island was better suited to be “by-passed”.. Admiral Tamura and his men would only learn of this much later, at war’s end, when it became apparent they had committed a ghastly mistake. In August 1945 they embarked on a complicated process to thoroughly conceal the massacre, and were so successful in promoting their cover-up story it was for a long time accepted by the Australian government as the truth. Eventually, in June 1947 in Tokyo, a particularly persistent Australian war crimes investigator, Albert Klestadt, was able to finally uncover the real facts.

A new book, The Kavieng Massacre: A War Crime Revealed, was released during 2007. The author, Raden Dunbar, is related to one of the Kavieng victims – J.K.V.Griffin, a Burns Philp auditor and planter, was his maternal uncle. According to the author, he researched and wrote the story of the Kavieng massacre to discover the true fate of his uncle. To do this properly involved an investigation of the historical background of Kavieng and New Ireland; the Japanese invasion in early 1942 and the occupation years; Allied strategies and actions to re-take New Ireland from the Japanese; the Japanese concealment of the crime and its subsequent discovery by an Australian investigator; and the eventual non-revelation of all this by the Australian government to the affected families.

My interest in the book is that my father, although not one of the victims of the Kavieng Massacre but lost on the Montevideo Maru, knew many of those massacred at Kavieng. I found the book very interesting and engrossing and once you start to read it you do not want to put it down. The book is very well written and covers the subject thoroughly. It also contains many excellent black and white photos and maps. One very minor mistake I found was that the island of New Guinea is called Papua. The word Papua was first used for the south east part of the island in 1906 and is the Malaysian word for fuzzy wuzzy. The Indonesian part of New Guinea is now called West Papua.

I believe this book could bring closure to the many relatives of the men lost in the Kavieng massacre who want to find out what happened to these men.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in stories from the Second World War or who would like to read a very good factual book of how civilians were treated during the war by the Japanese.
George D. Oakes

Sepik Blu Longpela Muruk by David Wall
ISBN-10: 1845491688 Published by Swirl 2007 184 pages. Cost: $30.00 incl postage in Aust Order from David Wall, 152 Wilson St, Newtown 2042 NSW Ph: 02-95505053

David Wall’s first novel draws upon real life experiences in out-station PNG [Angoram] during the 1960s and 70s as ‘colonials’ came face to face with Self-Government and then, Independence. David Wall spent some eighteen years in PNG, largely as a Health Officer in rural areas, and weaves a tale based upon real and imaginary persons and situations and scattered with quaint but apt philosophical views and quotations…
At Angoram and along the Sepik River, we are introduced to the residents: priests, patrol officers, traders and others whose occupations are less clearly defined – a cast of eclectic characters who are skilfully portrayed.

White Papua New Guinea residents will understand, appreciate and enjoy this book greatly, Australians devoid of the ‘PNG Experience’ will perhaps be less convinced of its veracity but will be amazed if convinced that truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Anyway they will also enjoy it. Papua New Guinean nationals may have even more difficulty, but for the older literate citizens, it may help to provide some explanation for the odd behaviour of the expatriates they observed in their youth; some may even nostalgically wish to turn back the clock!
Peter Johnson

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