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‘Angels’ braved enemy to help Aussies in WWII

By Bola Noho

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 4, 2009) – NINETY FOUR-year-old Nepe Kumanyal of Sinasina–Yongumugl in Papua New Guinea’s Chimbu Province yesterday surprised many people.

This old man was officially recognised as one of the "Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels" of the famous Kokoda campaign during World War II, surprising many who thought that this group of venerated men was only locals from the now iconic track area.

Kumanyal was one of the many young Papua New Guineans who braved the tough conditions of Kokoda to work among the Australian soldiers as an interpreter and at times, helped the wounded.

Yesterday, the Australian Government paid tribute to him and awarded him the commemorative medallion for his bravery and support to Australian servicemen

throughout the battle for Australia.

The granddaughter of Mr Kumanyal, Janet Bill Nape, on behalf of her grandfather, acknowledged the Australian and PNG Governments for recognising her grandfather for the service he rendered during the war.

She said yesterday’s occasion was not a celebration but to honour their countrymen who survived the ordeal of the world war.

"To some people, Mr Kumanyal’s tale of experience during the war may sound like an illusion, a myth or some kind of fiction story," she said.

She said whatever their beliefs might be, yesterday marked a turning point in the history of her family when Mr Kumanyal was accorded the dignity and admiration for his bravery and commitment to the Australian soldiers.

Ms Nape said it had been her grandfather’s dream to be recognised by the Australian Government for his efforts during World War II.

She thanked the Australian Government for recognising not only Mr Kumanyal but other locals for their efforts to help Australian soldiers during the war.

Mr Kumanyal joined Naime Raga, 95, and widowed Anna Boino, 74, who received the medal on behalf of husband, John Boino.

They were added to the list of Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

They were elated in the presence of their family members and bowed before the Australian and PNG defence force authorities to receive their award of recognition as the war heroes.

The heroes were recognised in agreement with the PNG and Australian Governments for voluntarily taking various responsibilities in helping the Australian soldiers during World War II from 1942 to 1945.

The Australian High Commissioner to PNG, Chris Moraitis, when presenting the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels the commemorative medallions yesterday at Bomana War

Cemetery outside Port Moresby, said Australia would forever be grateful for the care and assistance extended by PNG civilians to their troops serving along the Kokoda Track and elsewhere in the country during World War II.

"As the years have passed, Australians have become increasingly interested in the events of the Second World War and the ‘Battle for Australia Day’ is one example of this," Mr Moraitis said.

He said as numbers of Second World War veterans were declining, Australians were clamouring to learn more about the war and hear their stories first-hand while they still could.

Mr Moraitis said one of the enduring stories which had captured the hearts and minds of many Australians was that of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

He said these brave Papua New Guineans risked their lives and those of their families to help sick and wounded Australian soldiers negotiate a path to safety

through treacherous conditions and enemy fighting.

He said many Australians owed their life to these people, who showed great strength, ingenuity and compassion in a time of turmoil.

Mr Moraitis said in recognition of this assistance, the Australian Government with agreement from the PNG Government had issued a commemorative medallion to surviving Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and the widows and widowers of the fallen.

PNG Post-Courier

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