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).
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
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
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."
Site of the American landing,
and adjacent beach to and American built airfield.
Postwar built airfield
Located on the southern tip of the island.
Prewar mission station.
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
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.
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 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.
American radar station built at this
Location of the last battles between the Japanese
and American forces during the recapture of the island. Japanese
holdout sighting in 1989.
Piloted by Lewis MIA February 27, 1943
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
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
August 5, 2015