As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m here on Simbo, reflecting on the island life and in this post the history of a related group islands, the Solomons, as I unwind from my previous life in the US as an attorney. One of my specialities is social security disability insurance – that is I helped disabled people file claims and walk them through the system in an effort to successfully win them some compensation. That life is quite rigorous and stressful given the pain and suffering I’m exposed to, so escaping from the legal realm to a natural one is very enjoyable – don’t know if I can go back. But that’s another post. For now the focus is on what happened on and to the Solomon Islands as a result of World War II.
The Second World War came to the Solomon Islands with the Japanese occupation at the beginning of 1942, and the construction of a sizable airfield on the island of Guadalcanal.
Allied victory in the Pacific theater depended upon dependable supply and communication lines between the United States and Australia, and later upon eliminating the “Tokyo Express” that swiftly and consistently delivered overwhelming reinforcements. The US implemented Operation Watchtower with landings on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Nggela Sule on August 7, 1942.
The following August, PT-109, captained by John F. Kennedy, was rammed by a Japanese destroyer during a failed “Tokyo Express” intercept mission. The survivors managed to reach Plum Pudding Island (Kasolo) through nearly four miles of sharks and crocodiles. Kennedy went on alone to scout for food and fresh water, eventually leading his men to Olasana Island. They survived for six days until discovered by islanders Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana, who had been dispatched by coastwatcher Arthur Evans to look for survivors. Gasa and Kumana delivered Kennedy’s message (written on a coconut) through hostile waters to Rendova, the location of the closest Allied base.
The Allied success is widely considered to have turned the tide of the Pacific War in their favor. Operation Cartwheel ultimately retook the Philippines, severing a major resource area for Japan, over the course of the next two years until Allied victory was declared in 1945.
However, the war and its repercussions had significant effects on the Solomons. The ravages of war on the islands had been devastating enough, but the sudden influx of modern industrial materials and practices was practiced even less carefully than usual due to the exigency of warfare. Previously essential structures and systems had been destroyed, and no reparations were forthcoming.
It was hard on everyone then but it does seem like this peaceful little island might have gotten the worst of it all. There was little hope that the island could ever be even a shadow of it’s former self. One thing that we have learned throughout the history of mankind is that you just can’t keep some spirits down and I guess this Island’s spirit must be a shining example of one of those.
Even after being beaten half to hell and left for dead in the middle of one of the harshest wars this world had ever faced, the island just refused to give up. It was great once ad the people who held that bit of information dedicated themselves to making it great again. Even with all of their combined effort, it would take a lot of time to get the island habitable and attractive to people once again. All of their hard work paid off in the end.