Rekata Bay Seaplane Base was located in Rekata Bay bordering Suavanao Point on the eastern
coast of Santa Isabel Island. To the north is Papatura Island (Patatura Fa).
On May 2, 1942 the Rekata Bay area was occupied by the Japanese and used
for seaplane operations. Also, Rekata Bay was used as an emergency landing
and ditching area for Japanese aircraft returning from missions over Guadalcanal. Afterwards, Japanese pilots would flown back to their bases on Rabaul and Bougainville. Many night patrol missions over Guadalcanal were initiated from Rekata Bay. On Guadalcanal, flights were dubbed "washing machine charlie" for the sound of their unsynchronized engines.
Japanese units based at Rekata
Kamikawa Maru air group (F1M2 Pete) May 3, 1943
Kiyokawa Maru air group (F1M2 Pete) May 3, 1942
R Area Air Force (seaplanes) September
- November 1942
Walter Lord writes in Lonely Vigil:
"Japanese anti-aircraft gunners at Rekata Bay, who seemed to be the best in the business."
Although it was pounded
from the air by Allied forces, it was never attacked directly,
and its garrison was withdrawn in early September 1943 by coastal barges.
Allied missions against Rekata Bay
August 7, 1942 - August 16, 1943
Following the the Japanese defeat on New Georgia, the remaining Japanese forces at Rekata Bay were evacuated by barge during late August 1943.
Japanese aircraft wrecks at Rekata Bay
During September 1943, an American team from TAIU visited Rekata Bay to investigate the aircraft wrecks. Crashed Enemy Aircraft Report (CEAR) No. 17 dated February 15, 1944, from the Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Intelligence, Washington D.C., states the aircraft found at Rekata Bay area were 7 x F1M2 Pete, 2 x Zeros, 3 x G4M1 Betty, 2 x E7K Alf and a single E13 Jake all in wrecked condition or crash sites. It is unclear if any of the wrecks were removed, most likely they were only studied.
During March 1944 a RNZAF Catalina with Lt. F. W. McConaghy, RANVR a member of the the staff of the Deputy Supervising Intelligence Officer (DSIO), Naval Intelligence, Royal Australian Navy supporting Lt. F. A. "Snowy" Rhoades, RANVR a coastwatcher based at the northern end of Santa Isabel Island. During this visit, personnel including Flight Lieutenant J. Beattie the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) inspected the wreckage of F1M2 Pete 1190 Tail YII-2.
On August 5, 1945, RNZAF Catalina from 6 Squadron landed at Rekata Bay and investigated the crash of Hudson NZ2054 that was presumed to have crashed in the area.
On August 28, 1945, a RNZAF Catalina from 6 Squadron again landed at Rekata Bay for a picnic and to inspect the former Rekata Bay Seaplane Base. On this visit, one member of the group LAC Leslie Angus Ellen, NZ441559 went missing. It was believed he drown or was taken by a saltwater crocodile. He is memorialized on the tablet of the missing, panel 7 at Borail Memorial.
Jenny Anthea adds:
"My father was on that trip and I have confirmed from several sources including my father that LAC Leslie Angus Ellen, NZ441559 age 21 was taken by a croc on the return swim to the PBY. He was reported missing at 15:00. According to my father’s account aircraft returned to Rekata Bay for several days afterwards and dropped depth charges in the belief a croc would have stored his body under a log or ledge they dropped depth charges but Ellen’s body was never recovered."
Abandoned since the war. In the early 1990s, when Suavanao Airport was built or expanded on Suavanao Point.
Geoffrey White reports:
"I visited Suavanao in 1987 and 2002. Not much, and a lot less today."
Then, logging began in the area, establishing its its base camp at Suavanao.In the early 1990s they developed the point area, built the airfield, logging camp and dock area for timber.
After a brief period of inactivity in the late 1990s to 2003 during the 'tensions', the logging has resumed. Although the logging company, Earthmovers, claims it never interfered with any war relics, none remain on the point area the developed. Japanese guns at Suavanao Point were either bulldozed and buried or otherwise disappeared.
Justin Taylan visited the site in February 2006:
"I was disappointed there was so little in the area. I searched and found no traces of the Japanese base there, aside from the empty mount of a twin anti-aircraft gun. No bottles, or other small relics of Japanese occupation remained. The water quality in the whole area was poor due to the logging."
Crashed Enemy Aircraft Report (CEAR) No. 17 dated February 15, 1944
Thanks to Geoffrey White, Ewan Stevenson, Richard Dunn and Jim Long for additional information
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November 16, 2018