An unusual discovery at Punggol
beach dug up a slice of history that many
Singaporeans are not aware of. Punggol beach used to
be one of the Japanese killing fields. So were the
beaches at Sentosa and Changi. WILEEN CHANG reports
A MAN digging for earthworms to use
as fishing bait, at the stretch of beach along
Punggol jetty, found parts of a human skeleton
There was a skull with two gold
teeth, parts of an arm and leg.
Although it hardly seems like it,
this quiet stretch of beach at the end of Punggol
Road, near Punggol jetty was a Japanese killing field
during the Second World War.
The skeletons are believed to be the
remains of about 300 to 400 Chinese civilians who
were gunned down there on Feb 28, 1942 by the bojo
kempei (Japanese auxiliary military police) firing
Mr Ang, 37, a gas supplier, was at
the scene when the human remains were discovered on
Dec 30 last year.
"It was the gold teeth which led
to this discovery because the sun was shining on them
and they sparkled.
"Curious, the man dug further
and further until a whole skull was uncovered.
"Someone let out a loud yell, so
a lot of people including children fishing at the
jetty ran down to have a look.
"When I saw the remains, I found
that it looked very peaceful as if it was sleeping
with one hand tucked under the chin.
"The man who uncovered the
remains quickly kept the gold teeth at a secure place
before the police arrived for fear that someone might
steal them," he said.
All the remains were handed over to
Regulars at the Punggol beach were
"Every once in a while, someone
will pick up some human remains from the beach,
" said Mr Lok Ah See, 64, an attendant at the
petrol kiosk near the beach.
"After the war, my father and a
lot of villagers staying around this area helped dig
up the sea bed in search of human skeletons."
During World War II, on Feb 28, 1942,
about 1,000 Chinese from the area around Upper
Serangoon Road were rounded up by the Japanese as
part of the Sook Ching or mopping-up operation.
They were detained.
Then, they were executed, presumably
because of tattoos spotted on their bodies - a sign
believed then to be linked to the triad societies.
A regular fisherman at Punggol jetty
said: "It is not unusual for us to fish up a set
of teeth belonging to those who had been
"Most people are usually quite
"So, even if they see any human
skeletons lying around, they will pretend not to see
"We too will not dig it up
PUNGGOL beach is now on the National
Heritage Board's list of historical sites.
The marking of the Punggol beach
massacre site was part of a series organised in 1995
to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the end of
World War II.
The other two sites during the Sook
Ching operation were Changi beach and Sentosa.
Changi beach is believed to be one of the first
Sixty-six Chinese men were killed by
the Japanese auxiliary military police firing squads
at the water's edge along the stretch of Changi off
Today it is a popular recreational
From Feb 20 till Feb 28, 1942, several hundred
Chinese civilians, bound hand and foot, and tied
back-to-back in groups of three or four, were
transported by the boat-loads from the docks at
Tanjong Pagar to the surrounding waters.
There, in the open sea, they were
hurled into the waters and fired upon by the Japanese
captors. Many of the dead were swept out to the sea
by strong currents.
Some 300 bodies were washed ashore by
the tide to the island of Blakang Mati (Sentosa's old
name). A memorial plaque (picture, above) site at
Sentosa's Serapong Golf Course marks the massacre at
Memorial plaques outlining the history of these three
sites have been installed in permanent memory of the
Chinese civilians who were massacred during the
Generally, a site must be linked to a
significant historical event or the life and
activities of organisations that have made important
contributions to the nation before it is listed as a
First published in The New
Paper, Feb 10, 1998
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