Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Smith honours war dead in PNG

By Eoin Blackwell, AAP Papua New Guinea Correspondent

Defence Minister Stephen Smith has paid tribute to the 32 Australians killed in Afghanistan as the Anzac Day dawn service in Papua New Guinea remembered the many who died in the region during World War II.
Mr Smith, along with more than 1000 people, gathered at Port Moresby's Bomona cemetery on this morning to remember armed service men and women who have died in service to their country.
"We remember today that 32 young Australians have fallen in Afghanistan," he said.
"We honour their memory and share a tragic sense of loss.
"Like the Anzacs and the men who served in Papua and New Guinea during World War Two, these 32 took on tough, dangerous and vital work, away from home."
Captain Bryce Duffy, Corporal Ashley Birt and Lance Corporal Luke Gavin were shot and killed in October last year in southern Afghanistan, becoming the latest Australian soldiers to die in that country following a decade of war.
Mr Smith was joined by PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, who said those who had died in World War II died for freedom, for Australia and for Papua New Guinea.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign, as well as the battle of Milne Bay, considered the first Pacific battle where the allies decisively defeated the Japanese.
"Many things bond our two countries together, but none more so than what was strengthened during 1942, the darkest year of the war for the allies in the Pacific region," Mr O'Neill said.
The Japanese had tried to cut supply lines to Australia, and made it to within 48km of the PNG capital Port Moresby; so close, they could see the searchlights from the city.
Following a minute's silence and a solemn wreath-laying ceremony as the sun came up, musician John Williamson sang a slow, mournful version of his song, True Blue.
As darkness lifted, the soft morning light highlighted Bomana and its staggering amount of graves.
Among the 3,280 burials, 700 are unidentified servicemen

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