There are calls for the contribution of the legendary Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, Papua New Guineans who came to the aid of Australians in the Kokoda campaign, to be properly recognised.
It was believed 91-year-old Havala Laula, who carried supplies and wounded men during World War Two and died a week ago, was the last surviving Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel.
But local chief Benjamin Ijumi, the son of a World War II carrier and who coordinates the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels program in PNG, said there are still some left alive.
“The [reporting of the death] of the last Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels is incorrect,” Mr Ijumi told NBC News.
“There are living Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.”
Mr Ijumi said the PNG Government needed to properly recognise the remaining carriers, perhaps by setting up a veterans’ office to look after their welfare.
Charlie Lynn, an Australian Army veteran who now operates tours on the Kokoda track, agreed that proper recognition is long overdue.
“There has never been an national honour roll that recorded the names of all the wartime carriers, and this has been an act of gross neglect,” Mr Lynn said.
“We know that there are hundreds, maybe thousands lying across the Owen Stanley Ranges in unmarked graves.
“Nobody knows who they are, where they are. But they died for us.”
‘They were marvellous to us’
At the time of the Kokoda campaign in 1942, the help of local Papua New Guineans in carrying supplies and getting wounded men back to base was invaluable.
Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel Mr Laula earlier this year made his last visit to Australia, where he met fellow Kokoda veteran Alan “Kanga” Moore, who praised what they did 75 years ago.
“These boys all understood how to move in the jungle and we didn’t know, they had to teach us,” Mr Moore said.
“We also supplied food for the diggers during that time, carrying food up and down,” Mr Laula replied through a translator.
“I don’t think the carriers were treated very well. They were marvellous to us, but I don’t think much was done for them,” Mr Moore added.
Australian veteran Mr Lynn said a cenotaph similar to the one in Sydney’s Martin Place would be a fitting memorial.
“Papua New Guinea should build [a cenotaph] designed by the Papua New Guineans, to provide them with a spiritual resting place,” he said.
“That should be at the Manor War Cemetery [in London] so that they rest in perpetuity with those they tried to save.”