Goa Jepang (Japanese Cave), Paray Beach, Biak City, Biak

When Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941 to eliminate the US Pacific Fleet, they launched simultaneous offensives against European colonies in Southeast Asia, among them Indonesia (then known as the Dutch East Indies), which was targeted because of its rich oil reserves, vital for the Japanese war machine. The Dutch East Indies fell in March 1942 and remained under Japanese occupation until the end of the war. While during these years, the Japanese regime dismantled the Dutch colonial state and promoted Indonesian nationalism, it also forcibly recruited tens of thousands of Javanese labourers to support its war effort and caused severe famine which killed over two million people.

In 1943, Japanese soldiers landed on Paray Beach, Biak and immediately began fortifying the island in preparation against the advancing US Army. The island's natural limestone caves provided the perfect defense fortress for the Japanese soldiers, including one large cave since named Goa Jepang (Japanese Cave). At three kilometres long, the soldiers were able to build three large rooms within the cave, using it as a living space and military defense point. From within this entrenched position, the Japanese were even able to shoot down a passing US plane and not reveal their location.

In May 1944, the US Army landed on Biak and commenced fierce fighting against the Japanese. In July of the same year, the US learnt of the soldiers hiding place within Goa Jepang, and in turn dropped drums of gasoline into the cave and blasted them from the air, causing the cave to explode and burn for several months after that. Overall, 3,000 Japanese soldiers were killed in the attack (and a further 3,000 on the island of Biak). Succeeding in securing the island, the US Army turned the southern part of Biak into an airbase and staging area for the remainder of the war.

Today, Goa Jepang is a memorial and tourist site. In 1956 a monument was erected outside the cave, dedicated to those Japanese soldiers killed in the war. Later in 1992 the Japanese Government built another memorial close by on Paray Beach. The local caretaker of the cave has, over the years, collected various remnants from the war, including bottles of medicine, drink bottles, shrapnel, guns, military hats, swords and perfume and now showcases them in a small museum, in conjunction with a written interpretation of events. Initially the human remains of those killed in the cave were also present and visible, however in 1999 representatives from the Japanese Embassy in Jakarta collected the skeletal remains of the Japanese soldiers, cremated them and returned the ashes to Japan. Noted by local authorities as an important tourist site, the cave often receives groups of tourists eager to pay their respects and learn more about island warfare of the Second World War.

Related Web-links

  1. http://www.adventureindonesia.com/biak-memorial-jp.htm