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Published: October 16th 2014
Wreck of the Toshi Maru in Kao Bay
August 23 2014
Another early rise, 6am, and we're off to Ternate harbour. Hah, I had no idea what I was in for, having to climb over each boat tied up to get to ours. Luckily Alex is a gentleman and relieved me of my baggage, but still I think my unladylike scramble was a source of amusement to many. Just as well I managed to pack in Karen's teeny suitcase. Rob was spun out at the boat's petrol tanks, lol, large plastic containers; I tried to block the fiery images from my mind when the guys were changing "tanks" with cigarettes in their mouths. As we neared Sofifi Rob started laughing; I soon saw the reason why. We had to climb a ladder from the boat up to the wharf. I'm pretty sure the two young guys who helped to haul me up were surprised to see me emerge. At Sofifi we transferred to our car for the 4 hour trip to Tobelo. On the way we passed the Newcrest Gold mine which made me heartily ashamed to be Australian. The place is surrounded with razor wire. Alex Djangu is very knowledgeable about the
Kao Airport Japanese bunker
Our guide Alex Djangu and I at Japanese bunker. The occpuants being birds and bats!
environmental effects of this mine, particularly water degradation due to arsenic . This has had an horrendous impact on the environment and also on the local population who rely on these waterways for their needs. Our next stop was Kao Airport. Kao Bay area and it's airport was a major stronghold of the Japanese during WW2 .
Between 1942-1945, the Kao region was a base for thousands of Japanese soldiers. Even after the Japanese had lost ground in New Guinea, many of their battalions were moved here. Eventually, the Japanese forces numbered 42.000 in Kao itself, with an additional 20,000 spread around the bay. With bitter irony, Kao was referred to at that time as "Little Tokyo" or "The Second Tokyo".
About 300 Japanese aircraft were stationed at the airport located outside Kao town, protected by more than heavy 60 anti-aircraft cannons, numerous floodlights and vehicles. Elderly residents of the area, who can still remember the era well, say that there were too many ships anchored in the sea off Kao to count.
The Japanese enjoyed a comfortable life in Kao right until the end of the war. More than 100 female sex
This bunker is in the backyard of a house in small village near Kao Airport. It is still in near perfect condition although the jungle is slowly growing over it.
slaves from Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Java and Manado were brought here to service them in special "entertainment barracks". But eventually, General Mac Arthur who chose nearby Morotai as the base for his island hopping campaign against them succeeded in beating the Japanese air forces stationed in Kao that posed a great threat to the Allied Forces.
Even though most war relics have been lost by now, four heavy anti-aircraft cannons can still be seen pointing to the sky, positioned to protect the western side of the area where the Japanese airport was built. In 1986, a small part of the multi-airstrip area was repaired and renamed Kuabang Kao after a local hero who had fought against the Dutch colonization. (source: Maluku, Indonesian Spice Islands, Periplus 1997)
- See more at: http://www.halmaherautara.com/en/kaom/travelling-guide-in-kao-region#.
Kao Airport is still in use and the cannon and bunkers accessible. We were able to walk through the bunker which is now inhabited by birds and bats. The wreck of the Toshi Maru is still visible in Kao Bay, as well as another 2 wrecks further north. We also visited a small fishing village where there is a bunker in a villagers backyard
Also in the small village near Kao Airport and also in near perfect condition. It was easy to imagine the Japanes soldiers sitting smoking inside.
and also a machine-gun pillbox still in relatively good condition. These were stationed all along the coast here but most have now been reclaimed by the ocean and jungle. Our destination reached, Tobelo, we settled into the Moroday Hotel. A late lunch at a very nice cafe of fried fish -(with eyes Karen!) then saw me resting in the hotel watching the kiddie channel, eating Indonesian M&M's from the local supermarket. Rob was very satisfied with the price of his cigarettes ! Alex took us to meet two of his students, William and Chris, really cute little boys. We had a session of Karioke singing "Green Green Grass of Home" and felt very welcomed by the family.
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