WWII and the Solomon Islands: Hidden History in Paradise
In the past, a legendary battle raged on the shores of Solomon Islands. This area played a crucial role in 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 the 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 wherewith 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 the 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. A new National Park has been established on Bloody Ridge – which has a war museum and an information center.
Each year for the anniversary on 7th August you will find dedication services to commemorate the time battle began in 1942. Wreath-laying ceremonies over the wrecks lying off the Guadalcanal shore usually also take place.
The Solomon Islands Campaign of World War II has been the subject of many published historical accounts. The role of the indigenous Solomon Islanders as coastwatchers, scouts, carriers and labourers, particularly in supporting the Royal Australian Navy and other Allied efforts, alongside the many relics scattered around the Solomon Islands, show the reality was much more complex.
For a more in-depth view and understanding, we recommend reading Solomon Islanders in World War II, An Indigenous Perspective authored by Anna Annie Kwai.
Tours and Activities
WWII Tours in Gizo
For those interested in history and the legacy of World War II in the heart of the Solomons, from Gizo you can visit an American tank, a Japanese Gun Fort and partially submerged shipwrecks.
Go West Tours
Based at Agnes Gateway Hotel, Go West offers fully guided half and full day tours throughout the area. Off the beaten track adventures, cultural experiences, historical site visits, fishing and charter trips. You can also design your own experience.
World War II Site Visits
For those interested in war history, the Munda area is a goldmine. See an American M5 Stuart tank, the Japanese coastal defence battery at Enoghai, the anti-aircraft battery above Munda airfield or snorkel the wreck of the Kashi Maru.
Honiara City Tour
Discover the capital of the Solomon Islands and surrounds on a tour of the city. Vist Point Cruz, the Coast Watchers Memorial, the Honiara Central Market, China Town, the US War Memorial, National Parliament, the National museum and more.
Tulagi Tours & Travel
For first time visitors to Tulagi and with so much to see and do, it is best explored with a local guide. Tulagi Tours are not only well known for their informative World War II walking tours of Tulagi, but they can also organise visits to the surrounding islands, village visits, cultural tours, cultural entertainment, fishing charters and more.
Battlefield tours in Honiara
Some of the most brutal World War II battles took place on the northern face of Guadalcanal. Visit Bloody Ridge, Red Beach, the Vilu War Museum, Betikama school relics, the American War Memorial, Tetere beach, The Thin Red Line, Honiara golf course (previously a US Airstrip), and the Japanese War Memorial (Mt Austen). Tours of both the Western Battlefield and Eastern Battlefield are also available.
National Museum and Cultural Centre
The National Museum is modest but still worth a visit, for a taste of the history of the Solomon Islands. With exhibitions that traverse history and the diverse cultures that make up its almost 1000 islands, you can view old photographs, currency, weaponry and find out more about the history of World War II and the missionaries, both of which are core to the current national identity and way of life.
Peter Joseph WWII Museum
During World War II, Munda was a vital military airfield base and remnants are scattered throughout the region. You can visit two small private museums of WWII relics. One is the Peter Joseph WWII Museum and the other is further east. Both are walkable from Agnes Gateway Hotel and accommodation in town or easily accessible by taxi.