Proposal Fought by WW II U. S. Marine Raiders
Japanese interests in Guadalcanal are pressuring the government of the Republic of the Solomon Islands on Guadalcanal, to rename Henderson Field, allegedly in return for funding the upgrading of this airport. Radio Australia reported this on May 19 as information released by the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Company.
The field was constructed by the Japanese in W.W. II as a means of interdicting ocean traffic to Australia and New Zealand from the eastern Pacific and as an essential unit of a base for continuing their sweeping assault to Fiji, New Hebrides and New Caledonia. It was taken by the first United States offensive ground action, the Guadalcanal Campaign. This marked the turn about of the Japanese advance. Henderson Field in American possession was an unsinkable aircraft carrier that supported the retaking of the Solomon Islands. This frustrated the Japanese plans to continue their invasive advance across the Pacific.
The 1st Marine Division captured the nearly completed airfield from the Japanese on their August 7, 1942 assault landing. They named the airstrip Henderson Field for U.S. Marine Major Lofton Henderson who was the Commanding Officer of Marine Dive Bomber Squadron 241, (VMSB-241), stationed on Midway Island at the beginning of World Was II. Major Henderson was the first Marine pilot killed in action in W.W.II when his squadron engaged the Japanese fleet that was attacking Midway Island during the battle of Midway June 4-6, 1942.
Japanese commercial interests in the Solomon Islands are involved in extensive tropical timber harvesting, fishing adjacent waters and other commercial projects. Their contact with the Solomon Island government has been supportive of many local projects which further their commercial interests. The United Stated post World War II support of Solomon Island activities have been mostly limited to tourism and the construction of a war memorial. The United States Marine Raider Association (USMRA) has supported the Vouza scholarship program for young Solomon Islanders for many years. The United States has extremely limited commercial interest in the area.
The success of the campaign on Guadalcanal owes a great deal to the native Solomon Islanders. They shielded and supported the Australian Coast Watcher, Major Martin Clemens who supplied intelligence to Allied forces during the Japanese occupation of the Island prior to the Marine landing; in addition, they acted as guides, scouts and bearers to Marine forces and were particularly involved with Marine Raider activities. Sgt. Major Jacob Vouza of the Solomon Island Colonial Constabulary despite being tortured by Japanese troops was a leader of the native supporters. He was knighted by the British crown for his supportive role. We are informed that the Prime Minister of the Solomon Island Republic does not favor the renaming of the airport.
The United States Government should be interested now in supporting non commercial activities of the Solomon Islanders in remembrance of their friendship and aid six decades ago. Mr. John Innes a Guadalcanal resident and historian and in the computer business on the Island has stated,
“—it strikes me that there is no tangible evidence of concern or aid projects that are US sponsored. I know friendship is based on more than money (as is evidenced by the Solomon Islanders friendship towards Americans). I just think that since 1945 America has helped any number of countries in the world but for whatever reason really nothing has gone the Solomons way.
There must be any number of projects that can be of a sustainable benefit to the Solomon’s. One that I am a little close to is provide solar power to rural hospitals, villages and schools. With just two solar panels power can be provided for communications, lighting, microscopes, refrigerators (for medicines) and even computers.”
The United States Marine Raider Association veterans of 21 engagements with the Japanese in WW II, all but two of which were in the Solomon Islands, have taken the initiative to verify this information and to counter the renaming of Henderson Field. It is important to identify the individuals recommending renaming and their motivation for renaming Henderson Field. They must be aware of the controversy that such action would generate. It certainly would be counter productive to their Solomon Island commercial activities. The Pacific War in the Solomon’s has been over for sixty years. There is no reason to raise pejorative issues.
Ervin Kaplan, M. D., Enlisted veteran of E&H Companies,
2nd Marine Raider Battalion,
Chairman of USMRA web site Committee,
Member Board of Directors USMRA.