Pacific Wrecks Pacific Wrecks - preserving the legacy of World War II and Korean War Non-profit 501c3 charity devoted to sharing Pacific history and news

501c3 non-profit charity
All donations are
100% tax deductible
  Search Forum Areas Aircraft Ships MIAs People Reviews Help  
    Vella Lavella Island Western Province Solomon Islands

Location
Lat 7° 45' 0S Long 156° 40' 0E  Island to the west of Kolombangara bordering Vella Gulf to the east, and Wilson Strait to the south. To the west is Mbava Island (Baga Island).

Wartime History
During October 1942, USS Grampus (SS-207) landed several coastwatchers on Vella Lavella to survey the Barakoma area as a potential site for a suitable airfield, to to bypass Kolombangara.

On August 15, 1944 troops from the 25th Infantry Division, 35th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) along with four Marine Defense Battalion, and later one battalion of the 145 Infantry Regiment landed on Vella Lavella.  Following the landing, the Japanese were driven to the northern end of the island, between Praso Bay and Mundi Mundi awaiting reinforcements. On

On September 18, 1944 the Americans were relieved by the New Zealand Army's 3rd New Division, 37 Battalion and 35th Battalion that established thier headquarters at Gill's Plantation. The two Battalions made an amphibious flanking movement around the island, the 37th Battalion traveled around the southern tip of the island and between Baga Island before landing at Mundi Mundi and Pakoi Bay. The 35th Battalion traveled to the north landing at several points including Paraso Bay, Doveli Cove, Varuasi and Warambari Bay.

American & Japanese missions against Vella Lavella
February 27 - October 2, 1943

Japanese Stragglers
The handful of Japanese there were quickly mopped up, but about 300 were abandoned and fled into the interior of the island. At least one Japanese holdout surrendered 1965. Due to its rapid captured, the island was spared excessive damage to its jungles and palm groves.

David Cram adds:
"I have a surrender notice leaflet that I found in the bush in Vella la Vella in 1995 that was dropped by the Japanese Embassy when they were looking for Japanese stragglers in the 1960s. I'll get a scan of that for you if you like. It was printed on water proof paper and as such was able to survive relatively intact."

Barakoma
Site of the American landing, and adjacent beach to and American built airfield.

Geva Airfield
Postwar built airfield

Biloa
Located on the southern tip of the island. Prewar mission station.

Liapari Island
Located opposite Biloa on Vella Lavella. Remains of a US built road connect Liapari to Ruruvai. PT Boat base was initially built at this location

Niarovai
Located on the eastern coast between Ruravai to the north and Gill's Plantation to the south. War Memorial to NZ forces who landed in September 1943 located at this location.

Gill's Plantation
Americans established division HQ, and field hospital. The only European building on the island was located here, it was used as a rest house for soldiers.

Lambu Lambu Cove (Lambulambu)
Located on the north-eastern coast of the island, Kimbolia is located further to the north. PT Boat base was relocated here from Laipari which proved to be unsuitable. Japanese freighter sunk here in 12m, reportedly visibility is poor.

Kimbolia
American radar station built at this location.

Vorambare Bay
Location of the last battles between the Japanese and American forces during the recapture of the island. Japanese holdout sighting in 1989.

P-40F Warhawk
Piloted by Lewis MIA February 27, 1943

References
Pacific Kiwis: Being The Story of the Service in the Pacific of the 30th Battalion, Third Division, Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force pages 71-98

Contribute Information
Do you have photos or additional information to add?

Last Updated
August 27, 2014

 

Map
Map

Link
Link

Pacific Wreck Database
Pacific Wrecks Incorporated is a non-profit charity 501(c)(3)  Donate Now

All rights reserved