The World War II crash site of a military plane carrying Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who masterminded the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour, has been opened to visitors in Bougainville for the first time in more than five years.
Yamamoto’s plane was gunned down by allied forces in 1943, sending the Mitsubishi G4M ‘Betty’ crashing down into the thick jungle of Papua New Guinea’s autonomous Bougainville region.
Access to the site at Kokopo village, in the region’s Buin district, had been closed due to a land dispute between rival clans.
But the area recently reopened, with local tourism operators hoping this year — the 70th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War — would result an increase in the number of international visitors.
Historic WWII crash site opened to tourists in Bougainville for first time in more than five years
“The plane is still sitting there in the jungle. But at the moment, the people there have made gardens close to the site,” Zhon Bosco, owner of Bougainville Experience Tours, told Pacific Beat, adding the area was being cleared.
“We’re having a lot of inquiries, people are already booking with us to see the site. But most of them haven’t confirmed the dates to come in.”
Interest in the war strategist and Japanese navy commander is as strong as ever, particularly among the growing number of Japanese tourist travelling to the Pacific to learn more about their military past.
“For Japanese people, it’s one of the most significant World War II history sites around,” Mr Bosco said.
He said visitors would not be deterred by the long travel time or land disputes surrounding the crash site.
“We have a network with the locals. For Yamamoto crash site, we have connection with them so every time when people want to go there, we tell them there are people coming in, so they prepare themselves,” Mr Bosco said.
“I think people coming here, they will not have any problems with security.”
Yamamoto’s legacy remains
Yamamoto is remembered for his role in the attack on Peal Harbour in the US, which left more 2,400 Americans dead and another 1,000 people injured.
“Yamamoto is the most exalted hero in the imperial Japanese navy’s history. And he’s been untainted by Japan’s defeat, and he’s been untainted and any hint of war crimes,” US naval historian Mark Stille said.
“He remains a hero in Japan today.”
Yamamoto was instrumental in planning the attack on Pearl Harbour, which was not a strategic priority of the Japanese navy until he agitated for it.
“Here’s a man who thought he knew the American psyche. He thought that by — putting it simply — sinking a few battleships that he would shock the Americans into a negotiated peace,” Mr Stille said.
“Of course the exact opposite thing happened. Had the Japanese stuck to their strategy, perhaps occupying the Philippines on their way to Malaysia and Singapore, and the areas down south, that they had to have for the oil they needed to break the US embargo.
“Had they done that there would have been a different US reaction.”
Yamamoto was shot down after American code-breakers found out he was planning to visit troops stationed off Bougainville.
For Tour bookings contact Zhon Bosco Miriona
www.bougtours.com Tel International : +675 736 56050 Local PNG 73656050