Second World War

There are over 2000 Australian servicemen who remain unaccounted for from World War Two. Army works tirelessly to locate these soldiers and commemorate them appropriately.

Papua New Guinea

In July 2008, Army travelled to Papua New Guinea to investigate cases of several sets of unidentified human remains believed to be Australian soldiers.

A total of 8 cases were investigated, 4 were identified as Australians, 2 by name, and the remainder were identified by DNA as members of the Imperial Japanese Army.

The 2 Australians identified were Lieutenant Talbot Tim Logan and Lance Sergeant James Garrard Wheeler. The 2 sets of unidentified remains were buried "Known only to God" alongside Lieutenant Logan and Lance Sergeant Wheeler on 1 December 2009.

Army also investigated remains discovered in East New Britain (2009) and Eora Creek (2011) as they were believed to belong to Australian servicemen. It was found that the remains at East New Britain belonged to Indian soldiers and Eora Creek remains were of Japanese soldiers.

Pacific Region

Search for remains at Parit Sulong, Malaysia

In December 2005, Professor Richard Wright and historian Ms Lynette Silver made a submission to Army suggesting that the Japanese did not cremate remains at Parit Sulong as previously thought. It was reasonable to assume that remains may have been buried at the killing field.

After searching through tonnes of soil, no sign of a mass grave was discovered. The artefacts gave no indication that the area had been involved in a violent battle or that the 144 Allied troops, and an unknown number of civilians, had been killed in that location. Although the possibility of a mass grave being located at the site was eliminated, the question of what happened to the wounded allied soldiers' remains.

Army has determined the following information throughout their investigation.

  • None of the soldiers left in the convoy survived the war with the exception of Lieutenant Hackney and Private Wharton. 
  • No remains located post-war were attributed to any of the soldiers left in the convoy. 
  • The Japanese attempted to cremate the remains in the location where they were killed. 
  • During the battle, the Japanese disposed of bodies by throwing them into the river, and cremation. 
  • There are eyewitness accounts of remains from both sides being left in the open for up to 2 months. 
  • There was no sign of a grave, bodies or equipment when Lieutenant Hackney was lead back through the area after his recapture 5 weeks later. 
  • Locals confirmed that the area of Parit Sulong floods on a regular basis and the floods extend past the building which Lieutenant Hackney described in his statements. 
  • No mass grave exists in the vicinity of buildings where the soldiers were killed.

Search for the missing men of Operation Raven

Operation Raven was a search and recovery patrol tasked to find and rescue the crew of a United States plane shot down over the Celebes in the Dutch East Indies (now Sulawesi, Indonesia). In 2011 Army commenced an investigation to determine what had happened to 2 Australians and one local interpreter who were members of the patrol.

After the war the remains of the 3 men were located but as the operation had been secret they were not identified as the men from Operation Raven. They were buried in the Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery as unidentified Australian soldiers and an unidentified Papuan soldier (Roestan).

After exhaustive work by Army, the 3 men were identified, and new headstones bearing their names were installed and rededicated during a moving service on Tuesday 6 November 2012.

Montevideo Maru

On 1 July 1942 the Montevideo Maru merchant ship, carrying approximately 1060 prisoners of war, most of them Australian, was sunk. The Montevideo Maru was torpedoed off Luzon by the USS Sturgeon, unaware that it was carrying allied prisoners. Only a few of the Japanese crew were rescued and all the prisoners on board died, as they were locked below deck. The loss of life on the Montevideo Maru is described as the worst maritime disaster, in peace or war, in Australian history.

On board were approximately 850 Australian servicemen, mostly members of the Australian Army, 2 members of the Royal Australian Navy, and one member of the Royal Australian Air Force. There were also approximately 210 civilians from Denmark, England, Fiji, Germany, Holland, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United States of America.

Relatives of the victims of the Montevideo Maru sinking can register their details. More information about the Montevideo Maru can be found at the National Archives of Australia.

Defence was pleased to work with Silentworld Foundation in the discovery of the Montevideo Maru, which occurred in April 2023.