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The rusted machine gun was discovered three metres underground.

Not many construction projects uncover a relic from the Second World War.

But that’s what happened to the Australian and Papuan New Guinean team delivering the Australian Government funded ANGAU Memorial Hospital Redevelopment in Lae, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG).

While doing excavations they discovered the rusted remains of an aircraft machine gun. The most likely explanation is that the gun came from a Japanese war plane involved in the fighting around Lae during the Second World War. The war relic is largely intact despite being buried for 75 years.

Thousands of Australians, supported by the United States army and many Papua New Guineans, retook Lae from enemy Japanese forces, ultimately prevailing on 16 September 1943, 76 years ago last month.

As part of PNG’s history, the war relic has been handed over to PNG’s National Museum and Art Gallery in Port Moresby for conservation and display.

ANGAU Hospital in Lae – PNG’s second largest city – is close to Lae Airfield, NADZAB, which was occupied by the Imperial Japanese Navy during the war. ANGAU Hospital itself was established to treat casualties during the war.

Japanese air units based at the airfield were used in a campaign against Allied forces at Port Moresby, and from 1942 until September 1943, when it fell to the Allies, Lae Airfield was bombed and attacked by Allied aircraft.

In total, hundreds of missions were flown against Lae and its airfield during the war.

Lae Airfield is also famous as the location from which American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart departed on July 2, 1937 on her doomed world flight. Earhart’s plane disappeared near Howland Island – an uninhibited island halfway between Australia and Hawaii – around 19 hours after departing Lae and she was never seen again.

The ANGAU Memorial Hospital redevelopment includes a new emergency department, operating theatres, surgical beds and intensive care; obstetrics, gynaecology (including birthing) and paediatrics; diagnostic/clinical support services (e.g. medical imaging, pharmacy, pathology); and essential non-clinical services.

Construction is on track for completion in December 2020.

The hospital redevelopment is being delivered under the Papua New Guinea – Australia Partnership and is one of the largest health infrastructure projects in the nation’s history.

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