March 14, 2017 – Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Port Moresby is referred to as the Pom City or just Moresby. It is the capital and largest city in Papua New Guinea. It emerged as a trade center during the 2d half of the 19th century. It was a prime objective of the Japanese Army in 1942-1943. If it could be captured, it would serve as a staging point and air base to cut off Australia from Southeast Asia and the Americas.
Here’s the information about it from Wikipedia:
The Mountain people of the area now known as Port Moresby traded their pottery for sago, other food and canoe logs, sailing from Hanuabada and other villages built on stilts above the waters of the bay. Their language, Motu, was the basis of Hiri Motu, an official language of Papua New Guinea. It has been steadily in decline since the 1960s when Tok Pisin (till then confined to the northern side of the former border between Papua, British New Guinea until 1905, and New Guinea, that was German New Guinea until 1914) began to grow in popularity.
The Hiri expeditions were large scale. As many as 20 multi-hulled canoes or lakatoi, crewed by some 600 men, carried about 20,000 clay pots on each journey. To the Motuans, the Hiri was an economic enterprise and it confirmed their tribal identity through its long and dangerous voyages.
There was already an important trade centre on the site of Port Moresby when the English Captain John Moresby of HMS Basilisk first visited it. He sailed through the Coral Sea at the eastern end of New Guinea, saw three previously unknown islands, and landed there. At 10 a.m. on 20 February 1873, he claimed the land for Britain and named it after his father, Admiral Sir Fairfax Moresby. He called the inner reach "Fairfax Harbour" and the other Port Moresby.
In 1883 Queensland attempted to annex the south-eastern corner of the New Guinea Island (subsequently known as Papua), fearing that Germany would take control of the entire eastern half of the island. British authorities refused to approve the annexation following the German annexation of New Guinea in 1884, but four years later it established a protectorate over Papua as British New Guinea.
In 1905 the recently federated Australian government passed the Papua Act which came into effect in 1906. The act transferred Papua, with Port Moresby as its capital, to direct Australian rule. From then until 1941 Port Moresby grew slowly. The main growth was on the peninsula, where port facilities and other services were gradually improved. The first butcher's shop and grocery opened in 1909, electricity was introduced in 1925, and piped water supply provided in 1941.
During World War II, some Papuan men enlisted in the Papua Infantry Battalion and others as carriers over trails and rough terrains as supply support to Allied and Japanese armies during long jungle marches. Historian William Manchester makes it plain in his biography of General Douglas MacArthur, American Caesar, that acting as porters was well down the natives' list of acceptable voluntary activities and that they would fade away without great inducements. Many Papuan residents of Port Moresby either returned to their family villages or were evacuated to camps when the threat of Japanese invasion loomed. The city became, by September 1942, home to an important Allied complex of bases and thousands of troops were eventually stationed in the area or more often, staged through it, as it was the last Allied bastion on the island, and, conversely, a key staging and jumping off point as the Allies began conducting offensive warfare themselves, pushing back the Japanese advances.
In 1945, the Territory of Papua and New Guinea was formed when Papua and the former German New Guinea, which had been administered by Australia since 1918, were amalgamated under a single Australian administration though several laws remained in two territories and remain so, which can be complicating with provinces sitting on two sides of the otherwise extinct boundary. Port Moresby became the capital of the new combined territory and a focal point for the expansion of public services.
In September 1975, Papua New Guinea became an independent country with Port Moresby as its capital city. Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, represented the Queen of Papua New Guinea at the celebrations. New government, intellectual and cultural buildings were constructed in the suburb of Waigani to supplement and replace those of downtown Port Moresby. They included those for government departments, including a National Parliament Building, which was opened in 1984 by Prince Charles and blends traditional design with modern building technology.
The Papua New Guinea National Museum and National Library are in Waigani. A mansion was built in Port Moresby just west of the old legislative building but the last pre-independence chief minister and first prime minister of the sovereign state declared it not nearly grand enough; it was made the residence of Australian high commissioners and a mansion suitable to Somare's demands was built in Waigani.
Several of the government buildings have been abandoned due to long-term neglect. Chief amongst these are Marea Haus (known to most locals as the "Pineapple Building") and the Central Government Offices. Nearby buildings, such as Morauta Haus and Vulupindi Haus, are starting to show significant signs of decay due to a lack of maintenance. However, widespread restoration rather than demolition of long-disused office buildings has been highly active since the first decade of the 21st century. The legislative building before independence and the first parliament building is long-gone but the old court house in town Port Moresby remains, bearing its pre-independence label with its previous title.
The population of the Port Moresby area expanded rapidly after independence. In 1980 the census registered 120,000; by 1990, this had increased to 195,000.
In recent years Port Moresby has been economically booming. There has been substantial building of housing, office towers, shopping malls and commercial establishments over much of it. The waterfront area has been completely redeveloped with apartments, restaurants and shopping centers. Sporting facilities were upgraded significantly for the 2015 South Pacific Games and further development is taking place in preparation for the 2016 FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup.
Our tour today was WWII Memorials. We drove about an hour and a half into the mountains to see the site of the Komodo Track Campaign. The drive to the memorial through the mountains on narrow winding roads was spectacular. It is hard to believe that 75 years ago this was a war theater. This is where the “fuzzy wuzzy angels” which I wrote about earlier performed their heroic duties of carrying wounded Allied soldiers down out of the mountains on the single track path to Port Moresby and its medical facilities. Here’s the information from Wikipedia about this campaign:
The Kokoda Track campaign or Kokoda Trail campaign was part of the Pacific War of WWII. The campaign consisted of a series of battles fought between July and November 1942 between Japanese and Allied—primarily Australian—forces in what was then the Australian territory of Papua. Following a landing near Gona, on the north coast of New Guinea, on the night of 21/22 July, Japanese forces attempted to advance south overland through the mountains of the Owen Stanley Range to seize Port Moresby as part of a strategy of isolating Australia from the United States. Initially only limited Australian forces were available to oppose them; and, after making rapid progress, the Japanese South Seas Detachment under Major General Tomitaro Horii clashed with under-strength Australian forces from the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the Australian 39th Battalion on 23 July at Awala, forcing them back to Kokoda. Following a confused night battle on 28/29 July, the Australians were again forced to withdraw. The Australians attempted to recapture Kokoda on 8 August without success, which resulted in heavy casualties on both sides; and the 39th Battalion was forced back to Deniki. A number of Japanese attacks were fought off by the Australian Militia over the following week; yet, by 14 August, they began to withdraw over the Owen Stanley Range, down the Kokoda Track towards Isurava.
The Japanese failed to press their assault, and the next 10 days proved to be a respite for the Australians. Reinforcements arrived to bolster the Australian forces. The Australians faced significant supply problems despite the modest size of their forces, and the 39th Battalion was withdrawn to ease the logistic burden. The Japanese advance resumed on 26 August, forcing Potts to mount a series of delaying actions as the 21st Brigade successively fell back, first to Eora Creek on 30 August, Templeton's Crossing on 2 September, and next to Efogi three days later, on 5 September. The Japanese were now increasingly hampered by supply problems of their own as they became overextended, while the Australian defence also became better organized. Regardless, the effectiveness of the Australian units was increasingly reduced through exhaustion and sickness from operating in the harsh terrain.
On 10 September, Potts handed over command to Porter, who was forced to withdraw to Ioribaiwa. The Japanese unsuccessfully mounted a further attack the following day, as they began to run out of momentum against the Australians who began to receive further reinforcements. The 25th Brigade under Brigadier Kenneth Eather took over the forward area on 14 September. Heavy fighting continued around Ioribaiwa for the next week, and the Australians were again forced to withdraw on 17 September, this time to Imita Ridge, in sight of Port Moresby itself. Having outrun his supply lines and following the reverses suffered by the Japanese at Guadalcanal, Horii was now ordered on to the defensive, marking the limit of the Japanese advance southwards. The Japanese began to withdraw on 24 September to establish a defensive position on the north coast; but they were followed by the Australians under Eather, who recaptured Kokoda on 2 November. Further fighting continued into November and December as the Australian and US forces assaulted the Japanese beachheads, in what later became known as the Battle of Buna-Gona.
After visiting this memorial, which we did in a rainstorm, we returned down the mountains where we stopped for a scenic vista which included a water fall. We next visited the cemetery for the Allied Forces. It is a beautiful and well-maintained site which is very peaceful. The people of Papua New Guinea keep the cemetery maintained as an expression of their appreciation for the Allied forces giving them their land back.
The last stop of the day was at the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel Memorial. It is set at the base of a hill and overlooks the ocean.
The day started out very hot and humid, and the mini-buses we traveled in had no AC. Fortunately, the rain came along and cooled everything off nicely.
This is definitely a Third World country. While the roads in the Port Moresby area are well maintained, the same could not be said about the roads in Alotau. While Port Moresby has many new high rise apartments, most of the people live in poorly maintained shacks. Most of the stores we saw were ones that I would go into. There were many, many market stalls along the side of the road where farmers sold their produce directly to the people. We did see one IGA supermarket, but it looked like most grocery shopping was done at the food stands. Also, clothing and other household goods seemed to be sold primarily at the roadside stands. Crime is rampant in both cities, and we were advised not to wander about on our own. Several of the apartment complexes which we passed were gated and had warning signs that guard dogs were on duty after dark.