World War II Museum & General Douglas MacArthur Statue, Morotai Island

During World War II Morotai Island played a crucial and strategic role in General MacArthur’s military victory in the South Pacific. Landing in 1944, the Allied forces, largely outnumbering the Japanese, quickly succeeded in claiming the island for their own defense objectives and in turn, used the island to carry on MacArthur’s ‘frog leap strategy’. Building two airfields, a command centre and many other base facilities, Morotai Island was used as a primary position by the Allies to attack the Philippines by air and sea, ultimately securing defeat against Japan during 1944 and 1945. Following on from the end of the war, the Australian Defence Force continued to use Morotai as a military administration point to oversee the re-establishment of the Dutch Colonial Government in the North East Indies, as well as stage war crimes trials of Japanese military servicemen.

MacArthur’s prominent status on Morotai, and his use of the nearby island of Zum Zum as his military base was commemorated in the form of a large 20-metre statue of the General in 2012 (there had been many other smaller statues built before this date). Following on from the erection of the statue, a World War II museum, jointly developed by the Indonesian Government and the MacArthur Memorial (Virginia, USA), was constructed and opened. A number of artifacts and larger remnants of the war, such as tanks and battleships (mainly replicas), can be viewed on site alongside a detailed explanation of the role of General MacArthur on Morotai during World War II.

Other reminders of the war on Morotai Island include another small museum (known as the Morotai Museum) that showcases war memorabilia collected by a local, a number of World War II shipwrecks viewed only whilst diving, the original airstrips built and used by both the Allies and Japan, and the remnants of an amphibious tank in the village of Gotalamo. Possibly the most interesting reminder of the war on Morotai is the statue of a Japanese soldier named Tauro Nakamura – a lone soldier who was captured in the jungle in 1974, almost 30 years after the end of the war. Believing the war was still underway, Nakamura hid in the jungle until a local villager reported his whereabouts to the local police. Over time the locals erected a statue in his memory, remembering Nakamura as “the good Japanese”. A growing economy and tourism trade has allowed increasing numbers of visitors to learn more about MacArthur’s leadership in the South Pacific, and the role of Morotai in the Allied victory.

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