War Relics in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea has a history of fierce fighting between the Japanese and Allied forces during World War II, and today many war relics remain scattered throughout the provinces of New Britain, Oro, East Sepik, Sandaun and Morobe. There are also sunken war ships and aircraft to explore in the waters around Madang and Rabaul.
- Bomana War Cemetery
Thousands of young Australian and Papua New Guinean soldiers are buried in this carefully tended World War II cemetery, a heart-wrenching reminder of the horrific campaigns in the region. Located on the Sogeri Road not far from the Sir Hubert Murray Highway.
- Popondetta War Memorial
The provincial capital has a war memorial with a map of key battle sites, and there is also a memorial to the victims of the Mount Lamington eruption in 1951, which killed 3000 people. Most war relics are scattered around Popondetta, and Buna and Gona on the coast, so you will need a guide.
- Lae War Cemetery
Most of the 2363 graves in this peaceful, well-kept cemetery are of young Australians. Located within the Botanic Gardens, it’s a short walk from town along Coronation Drive to Memorial Avenue. A map of the cemetery is available for those interested in locating particular headstones.
- Salamaua District
Important during the war, this pretty area has war relics, as well as fishing, swimming, snorkelling, and walking to Coastwatchers Ridge and Mount Tambu for spectacular views. Boats leave from Voco Point in Lae.
- Cape Wom Memorial
The wartime airstrip and memorial where the Japanese signed surrender documents on 13 September 1945 are located 14km west of Wewak. Many of those who were killed in action are buried in Bomana War Memorial Cemetery. There is also good swimming and snorkelling on the west side of the cape. Cape Moem/Boram: Japanese war relics can be seen at Brandi High School, east of Cape Moem Army Base. Bomb craters are still visible around Boram Airport runway and the disused airport near town. The rusting remains of Japanese landing barges lie on the beach between Kreer market and the hospital.
East New Britain
Reached by boat from Vanimo or rough road from Wewak, Aitape was once a German station and later used by the Japanese during World War II. Tadji Airstrip still has aircraft wreckage from the war. A B-24 bomber stands outside Aitape High School between the airstrip and town.
West New Britain
- Bitapaka War Cemetery
The graves of more than 1000 Allied war dead are in these well-kept grounds and gardens. Located several kilometres inland, on a turning off the coast road past Vunapope. Japanese Barge Tunnels: At Karavia Bay between Kaluana Point and Vulcan are a network of tunnels and tracks connecting barges and buildings dating back to the war. In the main tunnel are five barges lined up end to end. Take a torch for exploring.
- Tunnels/Submarine Base
Some of the 580km of tunnels built by the Japanese are still open and aircraft wreckage can be seen beyond the old airport. At Tavui Point is Submarine Base, where Japanese subs once pulled right up to the edge of the reef to set down soldiers. It’s also superb for snorkelling and diving.
Wrecks of two US bombers, one of them a B-24 Liberator, lie in the hills behind Talasea. Many rusting relics are also visible at Lombrum, which served as a huge US naval base during the war. Others can be seen from the bridge across Loniu Passage.