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.