WW II Oral History Project in PNG

I recently received information regarding a new oral history project in Papua New Guinea titled, Voices from the War, that I believe is worth sharing. The project is a collection of recorded memories and stories of Papua New Guineans who lived during World War II.

According to the Voices from the War Website World War II came to Papua New Guinea at the beginning of 1942, and In its aftermath, nothing was ever the same for the people of these islands. There was no return to ‘normal’ life as it had existed before the War.

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The War had a profound impact on PNG, and on Papua New Guineans especially in those parts that suffered from destructive bombing and shelling like Rabaul. There was also consequences in places which found themselves in the way of the battlefront as it moved northward and westward from East Cape to Aitape from 1942 to 1945.

The War’s impact extended further than the battlefront. Its reach encompassed most of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Food grown in gardens was commandeered to feed soldiers, boys and young men were taken away to carry supplies for the armies, warplanes crisscrossed the skies and dropped bombs seemingly at random, and whole populations were made to move away from their villages to places of relative safety.

Beginning in 2013, teams of Papua New Guineans, joined by researchers from Deakin University and RMIT University in Australia, have spread across PNG to record interviews with men and women in villages about their own, or their relatives’, experiences during the War.

In 2014, the project began with a pilot study that concentrated on the region traversed by the Kokoda Track, from Buna on the coast of Northern Province to Port Moresby on the south coast. This project was funded by the Australian Government under the Kokoda Initiative, and it encompassed recording interviews in nine locations in Central and Northern Provinces as well as the National Capital District. The research team comprised leading Papua New Guinean historians, journalists, and university students, as well as an Australian researcher and historian, Dr Jonathan Ritchie from Deakin University.

Following this initial project, and building on the experience gained from it, four more projects to record interviews with men and women about the War commenced in 2016, and continued into 2017.

Interviews were recorded in many different locations in the following Provinces:

  • Central Province
  • Milne Bay Province
  • Morobe Province
  • National Capital District
  • New Ireland Province
  • Northern Province.

To access the Voices from the War Website simply click here.

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