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Published: 6:34PM Sunday May 23, 2010 Source: ONE News Kabunare Koura - Source: ONE News
Two hundred men were killed by Japanese forces after being bayoneted and thrown off a cliff on Kiribati's remote Ocean Island.
But one man managed to escape the bloodbath.
The rare images buried in a time vault tell a story of horror and survival.
New Zealand army major Elliot Lloyd photographed Kabunare Koura when he was found after a terrifying ordeal. He had been part of a group of 200 men rounded up by the Japanese just days after the war ended.
Author Michael Field says that the Japanese decided Kiribati workers knew too much about the fortifications on the island, so they simply took them to the edge of the cliff.
"They tied the men's hands behind their backs with wire and thrust bayonets into them."
Kabunare survived the fall and was saved as the bodies of his friends protected him from a rain of bullets. He hid for three months in a cave, creeping out at night to catch fish and find coconuts, until the island was liberated.
Field's book, Swimming with the Sharks, is about to be released and includes Kabunare's story told to him by Kabunare himself 11-years-ago.
"These great heroic battles of Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Helilio were not fought on blank fields ... there were Islanders there. We shouldn't forget who these people were," he says.
The family want the photos archived.
Kabunare Koura,83, the sole survivor of a massacre by Japanese troops on Banaba at the end of World War II, in Tarawa, June 1999. Kabunare, who was wounded by Japanese Imperial troops and pushed off a cliff left for dead, survived to eventually identify to Allied troops the Japanese soldiers responsible.
Kabunare Koura, the sole survivor of a 1945 Japanese massacre on Banaba Island in what is now Kiribati
Map of Banaba (Ocean Island) used during Wartime
These pictures are of Kabunare taken after he was liberated:
Banaba Massacre cliffs at Tabiang. Kabunare Koura standing at base of the cliffs showing where he hid from Japanese troops after being bayoneted and thrown over the cliff to die.
Kabunare re-enacting how he survived the massacre
Kabunare sitting on top of the cliff at Tabiang show where he was thrown off the top of the cliff by Japanese troops
Kabunare showing the entrance to the cave where he hid from the Japanese after the massacre
Kabunare showing inside the cave where he hid from the Japanese for 2 months until Banaba was liberated by Australian troops.
More details on Kabunare's story and all the names of all those Banabans, I-Kiribati and Tuvaluans killed by the Japanese during the war is listed in the Banaban History book - Te Rii ni Banaba - The backbone of Banaba.
Banaban War History Under Japanese Occupation is now available at: http://www.banaban.com/contents/en-us/d266_japanese-occupation-bana...
Please let me drop some lines to give thanks to those who have been involved in recording what actually happened to Kabunare Koura. I could not hold back my tears when I read what has been taken place in Banaba.
I was born in Banaba on 21 February 1948 when my father came back to Banaba working with the British Government. I am the eldest in the family Now I have three daughters, I have 15 grandchldren. I believed that God blessed my father as my father had strong faith in Him. My father used to tell me all what actually happened to him which made my mind to hate the Japanese, but this is not right, because Japanese people are good but in war times they work with orders and if they disobey orders they will in turn be punished. Let the past be the past.
Mauri Iaareto lovely to hear from you. I'm not sure if your father is still alive. I know my Japanese friend and Banaban and human rights campaigner interviewed him back in 1996 or 97 and I also have an Australian TV documentary interview done with him by Juniper Productions around the same time. Last I heard he was living with family on the outer islands but this was just a rumour. Not sure if you were there during the filming for these interviews. Your father was /is an incredible man and I also have photos of him here in our Banaban archives taken by the old Australian BPC workers who welcomed him when he came to visit Australia many years back.
I think Manabu would have sent your father a DVD copy of their interview.
Regards and please keep in touch.
Abara Banaba Australia
Mauri taan wareware,
I wish to thank the contributor of this segment. Indeed, the past could not be comprehended well without an eye witness. I thought without Kabunare's heroism act would cover the most gruesome death history of innocent people.
To the descendants of our great hero, God bless your father.
I think there are great stories from Banaba during WW II to cherish for the remaining days of our lives. The other that I know of is Nabetari's story of survival as well, when he fled the Japs from Banaba with friends in canoes.
Such true and emotional stories should all go down Banaba memory lane.
This is the last email address I had for Michael Field in NZ with Fairfax Press:
I'm sure he would love to hear from you as well. Make sure you let him know that Kabunare was your father.
That was the only email I had for him. What about email Fairfax Press in NZ and tell them you are trying to contact him. They might have a forwarding address for him.
I will see if I can find anything else on the internet and let you know.
Just made contact with Michael Field in NZ and he asked for you to contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org
He's looking forward to hear from you.
Stacey, Thank you very much indeed. I will contact him as soon as possible.