Don Cleveland submitted this item about a new medal awarded to certain Australian WWII veterans.
Attached are pictures and quoted material from a ceremony I attended as a representative of the United States at the presentation of the first Commemorative Medallion to be given by the Government of Australia to a surviving member of WW II’s Papua New Guinian Fuzzy-Wuzzy Angels on 23 July 2009.
The fellow pictured, Nepe Kumanyal, and those who served with him were true heroes.
The medal given has, as far as I can tell, has received virtually no publicity outside of Papua New Guinea. After the ceremonies, I asked a representative from the Australian Department of Veteran Affairs if the medal would be made available for purchase by collectors. The answer was “No”. She did tell me 1500 medals (officially ‘medallions’) had been minted by the Royal Australian Mint. The medals would be distributed to surviving Fuzzy-Wuzzy Angels, or if deceased, to surviving widows. No one else can or will get them.
A small blurb about the medal is available on the Australian Department of Veteran Affairs website, but it does not provide a picture, nor was it publicized in Australia.
From the 23 July 2009 presentation ceremony:
“Australians have long revered the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels for their role in carrying supplies to troops fighting in nearly inaccessible terrain and for their care in evacuating the wounded,” Mr Griffin said. “Many Australians who became sick or wounded during the New Guinea campaign owe their lives to these civilians, who are affectionately known as Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. They earned great respect for their strength, ingenuity and compassion. Their contribution is the basis of much of goodwill and warm relations between the two countries.”
The medallion was announced by (Australian) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and (PNG) Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare on April 28. The medallion features the image of a blinded and barefoot Private George Whittington being helped along by Raphael Oimbari, which came from a photograph taken on Christmas Day 1942 near Buna on the PNG north coast. An estimated 50,000 Papuan and New Guinean citizens assisted during the Second World War by carrying supplies, building bases, airfields and other wartime infrastructure.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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