While working on Biak Island, in the eastern end of the Indonesian Archipelago, I was able to make several friends who after some time showed me several WWII artifacts they said no other white man had ever been invited to see. There was a big battle on the island, when MacArthur was making his big push, to secure the islands that the Japanese had held during WWII.
All over the island was evidence of a battle that was fought there. There were hundreds of 55 gallon drums, airplane parts, propellers, rifles, bayonets, helmets, a jeep, jerry cans, shovels and more. In the front yard of a small grass house I saw a couple of M-2, 50 caliber machine guns as ornaments. There is an old air raid siren at the airport, that would give a blast every time an airplane was on final approach, to warn people and animals to get off the runway.
I meet a very old man who, as a young man, was enslaved by the Japanese to help build an airport, which is currently used by various Indonesian airlines. Through an interpreter, he told me he was hauling coral from the nearby beach when he and a friend decided to try to escape. A guard saw them running away. He fired two shots, one hit his friend in the leg, the other hit this fellow in the right ear, taking his earlobe off. He showed me his missing earlobe and scar. I was able to meet his friend, the one he escaped with. He was a village elder…still limping.
The old man who was limping told me of a story of two airplanes chasing each other, shooting at each other in a dog fight, they shot each other down! “One this way and one that way”, he pointed. I asked permission to go to the crash site, 500 rupiah later we were on our way. I found out later the airplanes involved, just as the old man said, were a P-47 “Thunderbolt” and a Japanese Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Oscar).
With the help of the locals I was able to locate the wreckage of both airplanes. The American pilot’s remains, still in the cockpit, were removed and sent home by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) from Hawaii. The Japanese fellow who crashed was still in the airplane. His bones were encased in mud and were preserved from the elements. When he crashed, he went straight in. His femurs were crumpled into a small pile of bones; just the way there were the day he crashed. His dog tag, a Bic pen and sunglasses were there too. I believe arrangements were made to contact his family in Japan.
The Indonesian fellow I was working with, to remove the Japanese pilot, told me he had several items he had found at one of the battle sites; American dog tags and a Delta Force ring. Another 500 rupiah each and I was able to purchase these items… I wanted to bring them back home and try to find the families of the men who fought there. If anyone has any idea of who these men are please, let us know.