The cowardly execution of Sgt.Leonard Siffleet.

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The Japanese Imperial  Armed forces did claim they were honorable and conducted themselves in the way of the Bushido. In reality there was very little honour in how they conducted themselves, especially when it came to treating prisoners of war.

The Bushido code consists of a set of 8 virtues, one of them being Benevolence or Mercy this was virtue 3. It goes on to say:3.

“A human invested with the power to command and the power to kill was expected to demonstrate equally extraordinary powers of benevolence and mercy: Love, magnanimity, affection for others, sympathy and pity, are traits of Benevolence, the highest attribute of the human soul. Both Confucius and Mencius often said the highest requirement of a ruler of men is Benevolence.”

The last virtue indicates Character and Self-Control.8

“Bushido teaches that men should behave according to an absolute moral standard, one that transcends logic. What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. The difference between good and bad and between right and wrong are givens, not arguments subject to discussion or justification, and a man should know the difference.Finally, it is a man’s obligation to teach his children moral standards through the model of his own behavior: ”

Len Siffleet, was an Australian  special operations soldier,born on 14 January 1916 in Gunnedah, New South Wales. In the late 1930’s he moved to Sydney trying to join the Police. Unfortunately due to his eyesight he didn’t qualify to become a Police officer. In 1940 however he served with a searchlight unit at Richmond Air Force Base but was released after three months and returned to civilian life. In 1941 returned to his family to help look after his young brothers following the death of his Mother.

After completing a  radio communications course at Melbourne Technical College, he volunteered for special operations in September 1942 and was posted to the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) of the Allied Intelligence Bureau in Melbourne.

He was promoted to the rank of sergeant and transferred to M Special Unit in May 1943. Siffleet joined a party led by Sergeant H. N. Staverman of the Royal Netherlands Navy, which included two Ambonese privates, in New Guinea.

The reconnaissance group commenced its mission in north-east New Guinea in July, trekking across New Guinea’s mountainous terrain.

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In mid-September the mission, along with members of another special operations team travelling with them to Aitape, were discovered by New Guinean natives. During a short scuffle Siffleet managed to shoot  and wound one of their attackers,and  he managed to get away.However he was soon  caught again  and, along with his companions, was handed over to the Japanese.

The men were confined for several weeks before they were  taken down to Aitape Beach on the afternoon of 24 October 1943. Bound and blindfolded, surrounded by Japanese and native onlookers, they were forced to the ground.

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On the orders of Vice-Admiral Michiaki Kamada of the Imperial Japanese Navy the men were beheaded. The officer who executed Siffleet, Yasuno Chikao, ordered a private to photograph him in the act.

There was absolutely no valid reason for the executions. The men were prisoners of war and should have been treated as such. Even according to their own Bushido code they should have shown compassion. But instead the executed unarmed men who were bound and blindfolded.

The photograph of Siffleet’s execution was  later discovered on the body of a dead Japanese major near Hollandia by American troops in April 1944.

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Australian War Memorial

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A flag as an apology

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The text of this ‘good luck flag’, which belonged to the Japanese General Shunkichi Ikeda, reads: ’A tiger walks 1,000 miles, but always returns again’. A group of Japanese women from his place of birth embroidered this thousand-stitch saying, meant to bring him luck and prosperity.

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Whenever the General went into battle with his troops from the Japanese Imperial Army, the flag went with him. In early 1945, General Ikeda was stationed in Sorong, a town in New Guinea in the Dutch East Indies.

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His men were attacked by the Allies. Two wounded American pilots were taken prisoner. They were beheaded two days later. Who committed this gruesome act? General Ikeda was ultimately responsible but after the war when he was interrogated in 1946, he could not remember anything about the incident.

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He realized what a hopeless position he was in and gave this flag to his interrogator A. Leijten as a gift. Little is known about what happened to General Ikeda after that; he died in 1948.

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The Fuzzy Wuzzy angels-Forgotten Heroes.

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During the war in Papua New Guinea, the local population who were sympathetic to the Australian troops would assist where they could. Notably they would help in transporting stores and equipment over the rough terrain. Teams carried seriously wounded and sick Australian soldiers all the way back to their bases. Their compassion and care of the casualties earned them admiration and respect from the Australians, who dubbed these men their fuzzy wuzzy angels. The Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels were named for both their frizzy curly hair and helpful role.

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In 1942, during the Pacific invasion, the Japanese had built up a force of 13,500 in the Gona region of Papua with the intention of invading Port Moresby. The key to the offensive was an overland trail across the Owen Stanley Ranges. The trail ranged from the small village of Buna on the north coast of Papua and went up the slopes through Gorari and Oivi to Kokoda. The trail was approximately 100 miles (160 km) long, folded into a series of ridges, rising higher and to 7,000 feet (2,100 m) and then declining again to 3,000 feet (910 m). It was covered in thick jungle, short trees and tall trees tangled with vines.

On 29 August 1942, the Japanese task force broke through the Australian line forcing the Australians to retreat further back to Templeton’s Crossing. Eventually, the Australians were forced to retreat to Myola.

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650 Australian lives were lost in the campaign. It is speculated that this number would have been much larger had it not been for the help of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. As one Australian digger has noted:

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“They carried stretchers over seemingly impassable barriers, with the patient reasonably comfortable. The care they give to the patient is magnificent. If night finds the stretcher still on the track, they will find a level spot and build a shelter over the patient. They will make him as comfortable as possible fetch him water and feed him if food is available, regardless of their own needs. They sleep four each side of the stretcher and if the patient moves or requires any attention during the night, this is given instantly. These were the deeds of the ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’ – for us!”

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No known injured soldier that was still alive was ever abandoned by the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, even during heavy combat.

An Australian soldier, George “Dick” Whittington, is aided by Papuan orderly Raphael Oimbari, at the Battle of Buna-Gona. Whittington died in February 1943 from the effects of bush typhus, this little-known killer of many Allied and Japanese soldiers in the Pacific.

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In July 2007, grandsons of Australian World War II soldiers and grandsons of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels took part in the “Kokoda Challenge”

The last known Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel, Havala Laula, 91.

In June 2008, Australian senator Guy Barnett called for his country’s Parliament to give official recognition to Papua New Guineans’ courage and contributions to the war effort: “I was stunned to learn that Australia has not officially recognized these wonderful PNG nationals who saved the lives of Australian servicemen. They carried stretchers, stores and sometimes wounded diggers directly on their shoulders over some of the toughest terrain in the world. Without them I think the Kokoda campaign would have been far more difficult than it was”. The government agreed to consider the motion. Recognition may entail a medal, a small ex gratia payment, and additional Australian aid to improve people’s education and health in villages near the Kokoda trail.

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The unfortunate and yet fortunate adventure of Oskar Speck

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Oskar Speck (1907–1995) was a German canoeist who paddled by folding kayak from Germany to Australia over the period 1932-1939. A Hamburg electrical contractor made unemployed during the Weimar-period Depression, he left Germany to seek work in the Cypriot copper mines, departing from Ulm and travelling south via the Danube. En route, he changed plan and decided to “see the world”, continuing to Australia via the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia. On his arrival in Australia, shortly after the start of World War II, Speck was interned as an enemy foreigner. He remained in prisoner-of-war camps for the duration of the war. On release, Speck worked as an opal cutter at Lightning Ridge, before moving to Sydney and establishing a successful career as an opal merchant. In later life he lived with his partner, Nancy Steel, in Killcare, New South Wales.

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Oskar Speck, an amateur canoeist and unemployed electrician from Ulm, set out to paddle from Germany to Cyprus in May 1932, hoping to find work at a copper mine. Seven years and four months later, on September 20, 1939, he landed on a remote island in the Torres Strait, just off the coast of northern Queensland.

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Using two canoes, the first of which was adorned with a swastika, he had travelled more than 30,000 miles.

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During his epic voyage Mr Speck was robbed, shot at, hailed as a god and accused of being a Nazi spy, although the extent of his Nazi sympathies is unclear. Belatedly, Sydney’s National Maritime Museum is devoting an exhibition to his strange and dangerous job search.

Mr Speck lost his job as an electrical contractor in Hamburg in 1931. He was desperate to leave Germany, then in the grip of economic depression. “The times in Germany were catastrophic,” he later recalled. “All I wanted was to get out for a while.”

Travelling on a tight budget, with limited supplies of tinned meat, chocolate, cheese and condensed milk, Mr Speck paddled down the Danube and Varda rivers to Bulgaria and Yugoslavia.

After reaching the Mediterranean at Thessalonika in Greece, he hoisted a small sail and island-hopped through the Aegean. The kayak then hugged the coast of Turkey all the way to Cyprus.

By this time, according to the exhibition organisers, the prospect of life in a copper mine was less attractive to the former electrician than a journey into the unknown.

Postponing his job hunt, Mr Speck paddled on to Syria and made his way to the Euphrates river, where he was shot at after refusing hospitality from local tribesmen. Undaunted, he continued to the Persian Gulf, where he had to order a replacement kayak.

In his white pith helmet and khaki shorts, Mr Speck then skirted the west coast of India, around Ceylon, and up the east coast to reach Burma in 1936. He financed his trip by giving lectures along the way, including one to a troop of Boy Scouts in Madras.

Pursued by curious journalists from local newspapers, he proceeded down the west coast of Siam toward Malaya and through the Dutch East Indies. On arriving in Timor, he was beaten up by suspicious locals and suffered a perforated eardrum. Yet such mishaps failed to dampen his enthusiasm for further discovery.

 

Black and white cine film, taken by Mr Speck during this phase of the journey, shows that he had become a passionate anthropologist.

Timorese villagers are filmed performing a dance with swords; Balinese children use a bow and arrow to spear fish in shallows and New Guinean tribesman are shown killing and eating a large turtle.

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In 1939, as Hitler prepared to invade Poland, Mr Speck, who was suffering from bouts of malaria, arrived in Dutch New Guinea. On New Britain, off the east coast of New Guinea, the exhausted German became the subject of cult worship, hailed and feted by locals as a god.

This was to be Mr Speck’s last adventure. Three weeks after war was declared in Europe, he landed on Australian territory. After so much trauma and excitement, Mr Speck’s final destination turned out to be an internment camp for enemy aliens in Victoria.

Although at one point Mr Speck demanded to be placed alongside “fellow National Socialists”, the Speck exhibition curator, Penny Cuthbert, said there was no other evidence that he was a committed Nazi.

“It’s debatable,” said Ms Cuthbert. “His friends have always said he had no sympathy for them.”

On his release, Mr Speck set up a successful opal-dealing business in Sydney. He died in 1995, aged 88, apparently with no regrets.

“Everywhere I went I was surrounded by crowds of people,” he said in a rare interview. “No one had ever seen this type of boat before. But I had no idea in 1932 that I would end up in Australia.”

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