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    Gavutu Island (Ghavutu, Gabutsu) Central Province Solomon Islands

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USN August 7, 1942

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Justin Taylan 2003

Location
Located off Guvutu and Tanambogo. Japanese referred to the base as 'Gabutsu'. Also known as "Gavutu Seaplane Base". Many references to this base call it the seaplane base at "Tulagi", but in fact it was located on Guvutu, to the east of Tulagi. To the north is Palm (Gaomi). Also, the base was sometimes called "Tanambogo Seaplane Base" for the nearby island connected by causeway.

Wartime History
On January 22, 1942, Japanese aircraft bombed the island. The first shots of the war were fired in the Solomons when the Solomon Islands Defense force member Fala opened fire on the attacking aircraft.

Japanese Usage
On May 5, 1942 a Japanese flying boat attacked the island and sank the RAAF crash boat. Occupied on May 5, 1942 by the Japanese 3rd Kure Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF). The island became a main Japanese base in the Florida Islands.

Occupied by 536 Japanese naval personnel from the Yokohama Kokutai and 3rd Kure Special Naval Landing Force, plus Korean laborers and Japanese civilians from 14th Construction Unit. Flying boats and seaplanes of the Yokusuka Kokutai and Yokohama Kokutai operated offshore Guvutu and Tanambogo, moored on buoys in two lines.

Japanese & American missions against Gavutu
January 22 - August 7, 1942

Japanese Units Based at Gavutu
(IJN 25th Flotilla)
Yokusuka Kokutai (detachment Mavis, A6M2-N Rufes)
Yokohama Kokutai (detachment Mavis) arrived from Rabaul April 1942
3rd Kure Special Naval Landing Forces

Tulagi Seaplane Base (Gavutu, Gabutsu)
Prewar seaplane base at Gavutu and Tananbogo. Used by RAAF, occupied by the Japanese, liberated by Marines August 7, 1942.

A6M2-N Rufe Wreckage
Wreckage of at least two destroyed August 7, 1942, salvaged by US Navy and taken to USA

Marines Recapture
On August 7, 1942 attacking US Navy aircraft claimed seven large flying boats (H6K Mavis) "burned". US Navy ships bombarded the island, damaging the seaplane ramp.

The Americans Marines 1st Paratrooper Battalion, attacked the island from boats on August 7, 1942. The battle for the island was short but bloody. The next day, Marine reinforced landed. They landed in the area about a third of the way down the eastern side. The original force missed the small (about 30 yard across) "bay" or slipway area, which is adjacent to the north east slope of the hillock - and landed about 30 yards north of the "bay" in along a straight piece of the coastline 30 - 40 yards long, and the water laps a low bank, behind which the Marines were pinned for some time. The Japanese were entrenched on the island in caves and bunkers. During the battle, the Marines were accidentally shelled and bombed by friendly forces.

American "Gavutu Base"
After liberation Gavutu was developed into a base area. Steel arch-rib buildings were erected for shops and two 10,000-barrel aviation gasoline tanks were built in a hillside to concealed them. An existing concrete wharf, 125' by 150' providing 20-foot-draft berthing space, was repaired and equipped with a marine railway. These facilities were essentially complete by August 1943. During December, the US Navy Seabees 34th Battalion installed a second marine railway on Gavutu and doubled the capacity of the boat nest for small landing craft. The boat nests consisted of rows of piling driven in 50' squares with heavy steel mooring cables stretched across the top of the piles. Supporting facilities for Gavutu, including a 10,000-barrel diesel fuel tank, built on Tanombago and Palm.

Today
Remains of buildings, storage tanks and underground bomb shelters are visible on the island.

Hill 148 (Observation Post)
Around 2:00pm on August 7, 1942, Marines took this hill top position and began clearing the Japanese from positions on the hill, with explosive charges, grenades, and hand-to-hand combat, and lay down supressive fire on positions on Tanambogo.

Morris Hill reports:
"From the top of the hill, I could see very little of the island because of the height of the surrounding trees. I do remember the large water tank - which used to have roof over it to collect rainwater for Levers and what looks like a anti aircraft mounting for, probably, a heavy machine gun. There was also a very narrow Japanese made tunnel - that went from the top very steeply down about 50 feet - to come out on the side facing Savo. I have a Marine pen friend who spent quite a few weeks manning the observation post on hill 148. His accommodation was on Gavutu - close to the base of the causeway. He did tell me that for a few weeks the men thought there may have been Japanese on the island, but no live Japanese were seen 24 hours after the landing."

Gavutu Harbor
Harbor to the east of Gavutu Island, spanning eastward to Florida Island and Halavo Bay. Used by seaplanes as a take off and landing area.

LCM Barge
Sunk north of Gavutu wharf and east of Makambo

H6K Mavis (M12)
Wreckage near shore of Gavutu

Lever Brothers Wharf
Lever Brothers used Gavutu as a main base of operations prior to WWII. During the invasion on August 7, 1942 Marines used this concrete wharf for cover. After the island was secured, the US Navy repaired and used this wharf. The breakwater and the jetty are formed from concrete blocks and still remains to this day.
Today, war time detritus is to found dumped in the sea near this wharf. Further offshore in deeper water are the wrecks of several US landing barges.

References
USN Building the Navy's Bases in World War II [Chapter 25] page 254-255

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Last Updated
January 8, 2014

 

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