WWII bunker, tunnel found in heart of KK city

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The passage through the bunker with some corners manually cut out of rock in an arch-like formation to withstand cave-ins. Soil erosion seems to have blocked the tunnel further. (Photo courtesy of Heritage Sabah NGO)

Heritage Sabah War Research committee Azlan Mohd Jaafar and NGO president Richard Nelson Sokial exploring inside the rediscovered WWII bunker. -(Photo courtesy of Heritage Sabah NGO)

Entrance to the WWII bunker littered with earth and man-made debris by passing vagrants. A bunker is a defensive military fortification designed to protect people or valuable materials from falling bombs or attacks. Jesselton township was heavily bombed by the Allied Forces during WWII which later led to the surrender of the Japanese troops occupying the township. (Photo courtesy of Heritage Sabah NGO)

Sokial standing above the opening of the rediscovered WWII bunker located in the middle of KK city.-(Photo courtesy of Heritage Sabah NGO).

KOTA KINABALU: Heritage Sabah, a local-based non-governmental organisation, recently rediscovered the remnants of a World War Two (WWII) bunker and tunnel that lay hidden in the heart of Kota Kinabalu city for more than two decades.

The bunker – believed to be part of an extensive network of secret tunnels used by the Japanese military forces in Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) during WWII, was uncovered the NGO’s volunteers following information given by members of the public.

According to sources, the Japanese troops occupying North Borneo deployed tactical measures such as bunkers and tunnels in the hillsides of Jesselton as part of their strategic defenses.

The rediscovery of this wartime military shelter could shed further light on WWII history in Jesselton as well as be a potential tourist attraction for Kota Kinabalu, just like the Chu Chi tunnels, the world famous war tunnels of Vietnam, built during the Vietnam War by the Viet Cong resistance against the US soldiers.

Heritage Sabah president Richard Nelson Sokial explained that the bunker’s passageway into the hill where it is located is currently blocked by soil erosion due to last year’s torrential rains.

“What we plan to do for now is to clear the site of unwanted man-made debris and invite war historians and experts who can work with us to see how far this bunker’s tunnel goes and how it was used. We hope in time that we may be able to share more of our discoveries with the general public,” he said.

Heritage Sabah aims to create more public awareness and appreciation among Sabahans for local historical sites and buildings and has been actively retracing old trails and marking paths used by early Jesselton town folks from the pre-war and post-WWII era in an attempt to shed more light on the study of Kota Kinabalu’s city history.

According to the NGO, back in the 1980s, the rediscovered bunker was known as a refuge for vagrants and drug addicts, leading it to be sealed off and its location forgotten for almost 26 years.

The NGO refutes any speculative rumors that the tunnels may yield some hidden WWII treasure.

“It is highly unlikely that there is any hidden treasure here. The most valuable aspect of this WWII bunker rediscovery is that it exists as proof of past historical accounts of wartime events that occurred in Jesselton during WWII. Through the efforts of Heritage Sabah’s volunteers, we are slowly but surely putting together more pieces of Sabah’s untold war history,” said Sokial.

“With government support, we may be able to excavate and investigate how far this tunnel goes. This is without a doubt, an exciting discovery for local Sabahans, as we now have an opportunity to uncover and validate more information about Sabah’s true history that is not mentioned in our nation’s history books”, he said stating that this discovery confirmed narratives told by several of KK city’s elder folks that the network of war tunnels built during WWII ran all the way through the city.