Debunking the Theories
All the men were killed in Rabaul.
The theory that all the men were killed in Rabaul was thoroughly
investigated by the Australian
army and Imperial War Graves Commission post war. Executions were carried out by the Japanese
in Rabaul between May and September 1942. Remains were found about one mile south of Matupi Volcano in an area that the Japanese had used as an execution ground. Of the bodies exhumed
fourteen RAAF were identified, twelve United States Air Force airmen, two possibly three, civilians,
and twelve Indians.
Civilian Gordon Thomas and the Catholic missionaries remained with the Japanese after the departure of the men on the Montevideo Maru but none of them ever heard anything from the local natives about a massacre of over 1000, men which would have been impossible to hide. With over a 1000 pairs of boots, haversacks, belts and other equipment with brass fittings it is logical that even if burnt some trace of these items would have been found but extensive investigations found nothing.
The ship sailed and returned empty a couple of days later.
The local natives told of this post war. With the high number of ships arriving and leaving Rabaul
at that time it would have been extremely difficult to tell one ship from another. How the natives
would know that the ship they saw returning was the Montevideo Maru is not known. Another major problem with this theory is the fact that the Montevideo Maru left Rabaul on the 22nd of June 1942
and was sunk about 20 miles west of Luzon on the 1st of July. If the ship had sailed out then returned
to Rabaul it couldn't possibly have been off Luzon in the Philippines where it was sunk by the 1st of July.
Bodies were washed up along the coast.
It is difficult to know where this theory originated. Sister Berenice Twohill one of the Australians
nuns that spent the duration of the war with the Catholic missionaries says that the natives told
Bishop Scharmach of bodies washed up on the beach, but she never saw or heard of them personally.
In his book Every Man for Himself  John Dawes examines the various reports of the
execution of Father Edward Harris of Mal Mal mission. Most agree that he was taken aboard a boat
that was heading for Rabaul and was executed. He compares Father Harris's death with that of Dr Hennessey a Boston priest working in the Solomon Islands:
His body was washed ashore but - to impress on them the enormity of helping the white man and
the futility of loyalty to their priest the natives were forbidden to touch or bury it. The corpse was caught in the ebb-tide, washed out beyond the reef - to the secret of the seas and the silence of the death.
There was never any reports of a large number of bodies having been washed a shore.
The Montevideo Maru never existed.
This story originated with the publishing of Bishop Scharmachs book This Crowd Beats Us All in
1960. Scharmach incorrectly states that no American submarine torpedoed a ship off the
Philippines and that wrist watches and other things belonging to people who were supposedly on
the Montevideo Maru were found in a grave in Rabaul. He states:
Piecing this together it is highly probable that a Montevideo Maru never existed.
This theory has been completely discredited as the Montevideo Maru did exist and did sail from
Rabaul with prisoners aboard.
Bishop Scharamch was a very intelligent man. I suggest he had a reason for making this statement.
Two ships sailed with the prisoners.
This theory emanates from the war crimes interrogation report of Masao Kanazawa former
Vice Admiral and Commander 8 Base force Rabaul. In his post war interegation report he stated that:
There were practically no prisoners left in Rabaul after their evacuation aboard the Buenos Aires
Maru and the Naruto Maru.
There is one problem with this theory. The Admiral doesn't mention the Montevideo Maru which suggests he got his South American cities confused. Research shows that the Buenos Aires Maru was nowhere near Rabaul when the Montevideo Maru sailed. Other prisoners such as American pilot
Robert R Martindale did leave Rabaul in small numbers on other ships but this wasn't until 1943.
Harold Page and 20 other Europeans were taken to Buna.
This story first appeared in the PNG Post Courier January 29, 1971, in a resume of the police
service of Inspector Nelson Tokiel on his retirement.
In Rabaul in 1942 he was forced to work for the Japanese. He says "they were put to work as labourers digging tunnels. They heard that Harold Page, the secretary to the Administrator and about 20 other Europeans were imprisoned in a tunnel under heavy guard, and occasionally allowed out to wash themselves. They heard that one night the European group was loaded on a Japanese vessel and the laborers were hustled on to others in a convoy of 14 - seven war ships and seven cargo boats. The convoy sailed for Salamaua and at Gona the leading vessel carrying Page and the other Europeans was bombed".
This is at best hearsay evidence. Would it be
logical for a Japanese invading force to take this large number of prisoners
to Gona? Although it has been theorized that these men were buried in a
cemetery at Gona there is evidence of this being incorrect.