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The Story, Photos and Video of Kabunare's Story of Survival during WWII on Banaba (Ocean Island)

Published: 6:34PM Sunday May 23, 2010 Source: ONE News  Kabunare Koura - Source: ONE News

Kiribati's tale of horror and survival (Source: ONE News)


Kabunare Koura (Source: ONE News)Watch Video Kiribati's tale of horror and survival (1:59)

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.

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Mauri ngkami ni bane,


Thanks for the true story of Kabunare. You know I was born on Banaba and raised there during the BPC in the 1960s. The cave you mentioned is true I sometimes went there to play hide and seek in that cave. Honestly speaking my father and mother worked on that island by the end of 1950s.


However, my home island is Arorae  but I was not raised there I used to regard Banaba as my own island due to the fact I was brought up there and knew every parts of it.

Ko rabwa riki but my mind used to remember Banaba as it was in the 1970s .But I really want to go back there to my father`s brother KAINO and TAWIRI and to take a look and refresh my mind again.


Thank you again.



Kabiriera, it is true you are still haunted with old memories of your being in Banaba. I also trust you that any place in the world where you brought up, you called it your home. I felt the same when I stayed in the islands after leaving Banaba when my grandfather retired from work there. I thought that I have no more chance to see the beautiful Banaba, but fortunately I went there during BPC time when there was a strike by the mine workers. I was a Police Officer sent with others to maintain peace and order. I remembered been grow up there playing with school mates, and more things I enjoyed there. Oh my beautiful Banaba I love to see you again. 
Iaareto, your father was really a blessing in many ways to your family and others that heard his emotional story. I was fortunate to have him come to our house on many occasions when he visited Rabangaki who was my work mate at the power station. Kabunare was a good friend of my father and it was through there relationship that I heard his story.

Though he was old then, he was still strong physically and very dynamic and passionate when he told his story of surviving the inhumane act of massacre. His beaming bright eyes, sharp voice blended with his home island accent and body motion to express himself, makes his audience fly back in time to the edge of the cliffs again.

Indeed, your father left behind a great legacy to be retold every time the name KABUNARE is heard.

Your father was really a blessed man in his time.

Mauri   regards from Japan

Stacey said I have VTR Tape about Mr,Kabunare

Yes I have

Mr.Kabunare is so gentle and explain about his memory during WWII.

I took VTR about 15years back on Tarawa.

He is so nice man.




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