75 years ago, a legendary battle raged on the shores of Solomon Island. This area played a crucial role for the allied offensive against Japan during World War II. Guadalcanal, in particular, became an epic battleground that triggered one of the most important turning points in WWII history. The tides turned for Japan at Solomon Islands when it lost its first territory to the US.
The crux of the Allied victory happened on the Florida Island at Tulagi and Red Beach on Guadalcanal on 07 Aug 1942 where -- with simultaneous naval bombardments and amphibious landing – the expansion of the Japanese forces was put to a halt. The vicious conflict ran for six months across the archipelago. Guadalcanal was the stage for one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific. Thousands of lives were lost before the American forces prevailed in February 1943.
Today, the capital of Honiara stands on this battlefield. Solomon Islands is now a bustling tourist destination that seems like a picture-perfect paradise. Yet, underneath the white sand beaches and the azure waters lies a rich history of destruction. The wreckage from the war is still littered across Solomon Islands.
Dive operators and local war history tours have been educating people about the islands’ role in World War II. However, the islands are not yet well-known among war enthusiasts. Solomon Islands’ 6 major islands and over 900 smaller ones are home to fascinating relics – warships, planes and tanks from both Americans and Japanese forces still lie in waiting at the ocean’s depths and in Solomon’s deep jungles. Among them are the remains of the former Japanese Imperial Navy transport vessel – the Kinugawa Maru – submerged several hundred metres off Tassafaronga beach and the sunken debris of the Japanese destroyer Kikuzuki at Tokyo Bay in Nggela Islands.
Some local historians have made great efforts to scour the jungles to collect the memorabilia. Today, history buffs can get a glimpse of the past with American Stuart tanks, Japanese cannons, US fighter planes in different war memorials and local museums across the islands.
Preparations for the 75th anniversary of the landings are now in full swing. A new National Park will be established on Bloody Ridge – which will have a war museum and an information centre.
“We are currently negotiating a private/public partnership to purchase this land and create a national park, with a memorial to be erected to honour all Japanese, American, allies and Solomon Islanders involved,” said Sir Bruce Saunders, chairman of the Solomon Scouts and Coastwatchers Trust Board in an earlier statement.
Other plans for the anniversary include a dedication service at 4pm on 07 Aug – the time battle began in 1942. Wreath-laying ceremonies over the wreaks lying off the Guadalcanal shore has also been planned for the event.
The Solomon Islands government is expecting an influx of tourists from the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan as it commemorates the 75th anniversary of WWII.