Friday, 9 November 2012

War heroes remembered

Australian and Papua New Guinean veterans of the Kokoda and Beachhead battles and Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels participated in a range of commemorative services in Kokoda, Northern Province, and Port Moresby over the weekend. 
Oro dancers with former Australian Diggers
The services marked the 70th anniversary of these iconic World War Two battles. The veterans came together with Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels to share their memories and honour the service and sacrifice of those who fell 70 years ago. 
From July to November 1942, Australian soldiers fought side-by-side with Papuan infantry on the treacherous terrain and jungles of the Kokoda Track.
More than 600 Australians lost their lives whilst the Japanese were eventually pushed back. Assisting the troops were civilians who became affectionately known as the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. 
After retaking Kokoda, Australian soldiers joined American forces in attacks on the Japanese positions at Buna, Gona and Sanananda in late 1942. More than 1200 Australian troops perished in these battles. 
On November 3, 1942, the Australian flag was raised at Kokoda after the Japanese had been pushed back from the village. 
There was no band, no cheers, just weary Australian soldiers standing to attention, in the soaking rain. One of those men was Len Griffiths who organised the flag raising ceremony that day.
Seventy years later, Griffiths joined 11 other Australian war weterans and three Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels at a service last Friday organised by the Kokoda Track Authority where the Australian flag was raised once again, this time along with the flag of Papua New Guinea. 
Jason Clare MP, Australian Minister for Home Affairs, Justice and Defence Materiel, during his official speech at the Kokoda service said: “You don’t need to go to the movies to see heroes. They are here in front of us.” 
Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’ Day was also celebrated on November 2. Mr Clare remarked on the care and assistance provided by the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels along the Kokoda Track.  
He said “not all heroes carried a bren gun or a 303. They carried the wounded on makeshift stretchers. Fuzzy haired heroes who forged a very special bond between our two countries. To them we owe a debt that can never be repaid.” 
The Papuan soldiers who were known as the ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’ carried the wounded and sick Australian soldiers, transported rations and equipment through thick and swampy jungles and battled malaria as they assisted the Australian soldiers. 
Following the service on Sunday, November 4 in Popondetta, Australian High Commissioner Ian Kemish presented Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels Commemorative Medallions to 12 people.
The medallions are an initiative of the Australian Government to acknowledge the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’ service to Australia during World War Two. Mr Kemish stressed the importance of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels to the Australian war effort. 
“The care that the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels gave to the Australian soldiers was tender and it played an important role in the victory that Australian and Allied forces accomplished,’’ he said.

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