Australia-Japan Research Project

AustraliaJapan Research Project at the Australian War Memorial
Australian and Japanese attitudes to the war
Diary of TAMURA Yoshikazu: Airfield construction work

The main task for the 239th Regiment in the Wewak area was to upgrade existing airfields and construct new ones. Two new airstrips were built at Boram, and the facility is used as the Wewak Airport today. At Dauga, some distance along the coast to the west of Wewak, another two new airstrips were constructed. The existing airstrip at Wiru, which had been built in 1938 by the Australian Colonial Administration, was upgraded. Similarly, the airstrip at But Mission near Dagua was also upgraded.

TAMURA wrote a lot about his work in the Wewak area. His unit was engaged in airfield construction – work that was hard and monotonous. The following poems describe the work and his feelings about it. The only break the troops could enjoy from their labour was during the air raids.

Under the blazing sun,
soldiers construct airfields
with sweat and without words.

The construction work progresses day by day.
The adjutant officer comes for inspection today as well.

We sit down by the shore, wiping sweat from our face
And look across the sea, waiting for letters from home.

On branches of coconut trees,
Birds of paradise sing.
Gradually the day is getting light.

Air raids become so frequent that
We look forward to them on a quiet day
In order to have some rest from our work.

Cicadas are singing and leaves are falling.
It feels like autumn.
But when we see fresh green leaves,
We think of spring. (p.23a)

In the following prose section, TAMURA vividly describes an air raid on the airfield construction site. As the raids became part of their daily routine, the soldiers became accustomed to the arrival of the Allied bombers. In spite of consistent bombing, he felt rewarded when Japanese airplanes started to land on the airfield, upon its completion.

Airfield Construction Work.

The Earth's axis rumbles whenever red dragonflies drop their droppings.

We can see the heat haze, and the sandy ground is baked like a hot plate. The sky is clear again today and from morning the heat is intense. The size of the airfield is huge, with a perimeter of about 8 km. The work continues day after day.

Suddenly, the siren sounds loudly. Everybody stops working and jumps into bomb shelters. Yet, people are relaxed. Some bring along magazines that they have not finished reading. Others carve wood pieces with small knives. Everybody acts as if expected guests have arrived, and evacuates to the shelter half-jokingly.

The sound of engines is getting close. The watch shouts, "Here they come!" We enter the shelters. The bombs fall and it sounds as if sand is falling above us. The noise is shattering. The ground shakes several times. My ears hurt even though I put my fingers in them. The walls of the shelter become loose.

When the engine sound becomes distant, everybody comes out of the shelter and looks around to see if any damage is done. We did not suffer any damage. Feeling relieved, we resume our work on the bugle signal. We complete every day in a similar pattern, but finally the wings that symbolise courage and strength start to descend on the airfield. Finally, our mission is accomplished. Furthermore, we will carry on to complete new missions. I do not fear the heat or enemy planes. I will carry on without complaining. (p.71b)

Printed on 05/20/2022 09:33:51 PM