Story of Papuans dismantling World War II bombs with only hacksaws

World War II
Remnants of a WWII bomb in the Solomon Islands. - Jubi/RNZ

Jayapura, Jubi – Armed only with martelu (hammers), betel (stone pries), and hacksaws, old time Papuans in the 1980s and 1990s dismantled bombs from World War II. The risk if you are late in dousing the water when sawing the bomb, is an explosion. Lives were lost, some were injured or had their legs blown off.

It is not surprising that the former Manokwari Police Chief in the 1990s, the late Amandus Mansnembra, jokingly mocked Americans who defuse bombs wearing complete personal protective equipment such as masks, jackets, and hats.

“Unlike those old time Papuans. Even though it is dangerous, they desperately sawed those bombs,” Mansnembra said at that time as told by Karel Septinus, a Manokwari resident, to Jubi on Sunday, December 25, 2022.

World War II
Remnants of a WWII bomb in the Solomon Islands. – Jubi/RNZ

The Japanese troops entered Hollandia (present-day Jayapura) on April 19, 1942 and occupied Papua until 1944, when allied forces led by General Douglas Mac Arthur invaded Papua and the Japanese troops surrendered.

Two countries were at war in Papua, so the remaining bombs clearly belonged to Japan and the United States. Because they often know how to dismantle bombs, Papuans can distinguish between Japanese and US bomb models. They say that Japanese bombs clearly have Japanese writing or Kanji letters.

“If you want to set off a Japanese bomb, you have to start from the left, while US bombs have clear English instructions and if you want to set it off from the right,” Karel Septinus retold the story.

World War II
A Solomon Islands child who was hit by a fragment of a WWII bomb. – Jubi/IST

The tragic story of a bomb exploding also happened in front of the Papua Governor’s Office in the 1970s in Jayapura City. At that time, there was a shipwreck from World War II in front of the Governor’s Office. Some residents sawed bombs at the location when at the same time, children from the Bhayangkara complex were having a picnic on the shipwreck.

Suddenly, the bomb exploded and fell on the Bhayangkara children. Some were killed and maimed. The late Elly Tiba, a former Persipura goalkeeper, was hit by a splinter from the bomb explosion, leaving his left leg limping. Luckily, Elly Tiba survived and became Persipura’s goalkeeper.

Such is the story of the Second World War bomb relics that were dismantled manually and without protection by Papuan civilians who were clearly not experts. (*)

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