Saturday, December 15, 2007

Japanese Underground Hospital I

Not far from Kokopo, on what is now Coconut Product's Plantation land, is the Underground Japanese Hospital. This engineering feat, built by the Japanese during World War II to protect their injured soldiers from the Allied bombing raids, has become a memorial to those who designed it, who labored building it and who died within it.

The entrance to the hospital gives no outward sign of the structure that lies below and the thousands of men who were hidden within.

The main tunnel runs steeply down into the hillside to where the main operating theatre, kitchen etc were located (at a depth of 5 storeys we have been told).

The tunnel is pitch black with the floor slippery and uneven, with deep cracks and some rock falls.

The door from the operating theater to the ledge on the side of the hillside has a massive steel frame filled with concrete that was closed when bombing raids took place. Behind the door was a small Shinto shrine through which the bodies passed before their removal into the jungle for cremation.

We only had a small camera with us as we didn't want the good one damaged (there is water dripping from the ceiling and the chance of slipping is high), so these photos are fairly poor quality. More next post


Donna said...

Geez, the structure of that thing is amazing! Hope all is well with you!!!

Jules said...

Hi Donna - all is well except phone lines are terrible today so may not be able to visit many. So will say hi from here!

Marcel said...

Wow. Most interesting; I will look forward to more photos.

Barbara said...

What an incredible journey...thanks for the interesting narrative.

Squirrel said...

What an interesting place and you managed good shots throughout. It is sad to think about, but at least they must have felt safe inside while getting patched up.

dive said...

Nice torch, Jules.
This is amazing! I do love your historical posts. I'd heard of places like this but to see them still intact is something special.

quintarantino said...

That´s amasing. Seen some military constructions already, but nothing like this. Must have been quite an adventure.

Chuckeroon said...

In Europe we are still, even today demolishing stuff left over from 1940-45, and in Flanders we are still accientally while ploughing digging up relics of men and weapons that fell in the corn fields.

It's a lesson to be learned about not starting things that you cannot stop. But we still have not learned it.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Hi Jules.

This is a fabulous story with words and pictures. As I told you I knew one Japanese soldier who was stationed there during the war. I also know several others who I will send a link to your blog to them.

Do you know if the Japanese people or government representatives ever visit this place or other installations there? I know they are always on Iwo Jima and took the island back. I was just curious about this place.

Steve Buser said...

Amazing. Thanks for the tour.

lv2scpbk said...

Thanks for showing us these photos. I liked reading about what they are.

Annie said...

What a remarkable structure, Jules. Imagine the feeling of safety the injured must have felt once there underground.

NorthBayPhoto said...

Great photos and information.

Tom said...

It must have been a very scarry place to be during the war.. enclosed underground and feel ill... the wall must have many story's to tell .

Who's the chap with Blue Shirt and Khaki Shorts? is it that fine man HWDB?

Pat said...

What an interesting blog post! Thank so much. I found it really great to read.


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Anonymous said...

Very,very interesting indeed...
Planet Earth Daily Photo

Jules said...

Thank you all for your comments

Hi Tom - hope all is well and you are feeling fit. No HWDB was behind the camera. That is a friend who was acting as guide.

Abraham - we get lots of Japanese tourists coming here and retracing their relatives War steps. The new airport was built by Japanese aid money.

Marie said...

That's amazing. People can do so much when they really want to survive!

Lizzy said...

How interesting, but I don't know if I could venture down there, tooooo scary :)

Anonymous said...

There was another tunnel in the area around 1948. A friend of mine told me how he went into it to get some radio gear for the Catholic Priest for communications back home. They had plans to go back and get it out but about 10 minutes after emerging from the dark, there was a huge explosion.
It had been booby trapped.
Around 1966 I found Aluminium Japanese coins and look-alike hexagonal aluminium coins in the tunnels that overlook the Tavui submarine base. The tunnels just stopped short of breaking out into the clif face, they were about 5 metres from the top of the cliff, and only had a small observation hole for a telescope or binoculars. There were big guns above and concrete bunkers. This vantage point overlooked the straights between New Britain and New Ireland. At the water line many metres below, there were tunnels for barges and then the water was very very deep, very suddenly and an excellent place to load the Submarines. There was a rusty old loading crane where Bul Tutana or Baramana (young lads) use to fish from. It fell in, about 1969.
Good fishing.

Jules said...

Frank E - wow - thanks for all the interesting info - you were obviously based here for a period of time!!!

Isadora said...

Simply amazing! Thanks for bringing it to us. Countries that had lived through war(s) will have remnants of what it took to survive it. Budapest also has an underground hospital very similar to what you've shown in the Buda hill under the castle district. Since the presidential palace is up there now I would not be surprised if the old facility were not updated in some fashion. It would not be for soldiers thought, but for dignitaries.

imac said...

Top job Jules - well done, photos and story great and very interesting.

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