Vilu Village / Fred Kona's War Museum
This place has been either enjoyed or maligned depending on
who one listens to. I found that it was a pleasant place that
had a fair bit to offer though it is small enough that it can
offer only an hour or so of entertainment. It is located about
20 minutes west of Honiara on the main road.
We arrived there at the same time as a group
of JOCV (Japanese Peace Corps equivalent) volunteers on their
orientation and had fun startling them with friendly greetings
in Japanese. My wife and I were on our way from living for two
years in Japan. It was interesting to view the site with some
young people from the other side of the conflict though true
to the norm they were very unknowledgeable as to the war in
There are several
memorial plaques there from veteran's organizations of
both sides, side by side. Nice to see. The "museum" consists
of a mowed field with a wide variety of things that have
been pulled from the jungle and propped up. Many things
seem to be larger items that were abandoned by the Japanese
as too heavy to carry in their retreat, and air wrecks.
Several artillery pieces in good shape are here.
large selection of aircraft parts make up the collection.
Some are the result of high speed crashes and their condition
reflects this. Others are in decent or even very good shape.
Highlights are the wing panels from F4F's that are in near
perfect shape, the completely intact (though gutted of
small items) F4F, the "Betty" tail
turret, a nearly intact SBD Dauntless,and a Zero drop tank.
There has been an attempt at propping these items on drums
This is in many ways very similar to Fred Kona's.
I would have to say that it is better organized though the items on
display are not as good. There is an SBD "Dauntless" on
oil drums that is in mediocre condition. However it is rendered more
interesting by having the history available for it. Also of note is
the fact that it was found on top of a live 1000lb bomb! Always a
danger in old battle sites. There is a P-400 that is very rough as
well as a bren gun carrier and various artillery pieces. Unusually
there are also some items of personal equipment there such as helmets
and infantry weapons. They have a collection of machineguns though
there has been problems with theft lately from the Bouganvilleans
and very probably their own countrymen in the recent tensions. Overall
worth a few minutes time but not the day.
Underground Radio Station and Command Post
These are located just off the main road from
town to the airport. Inside they appear to be fairly solid though
signs say that they are dangerous. Since I am not a geological engineer
I would go with the signs! However I did go inside and found that
there was virtually nothing in them, which is not surprising given
their proximity to town. They are fairly large and have about 8' ceilings.
I would say worth a drop in simply because they are on the way to
This is the location of the November 14th 1942
sinking of the desparate reinforcement attempt. Several vessels were
beached and then destroyed by airpower and artillery. One of the wrecks
is partly out of the water and one is completely submerged. They can
be reached from shore and are possible to snorkel. Comparison photos
from the war years show that there has been massive deterioration
of the wrecks. What was virtually a complete vessel in the 40's has
been partially scrapped and the rest has collapsed. It used to stick
up at a 45 degree angle and now is level. I attempted to snorkel the
above water wreck. The most striking thing was that it appeared to
be both small and close to shore. It was neither. I began to swim
to it and quickly realized that it was a fair swim out and was about
30' high which definitely looms when you are in the water!! I am told
that they are excellent for diving though they are dangerous to enter.
Worth only a brief mention. There is a floating
crane here that was abandoned here in the later days of the war. Interesting
to see though not really worth the walk along the beach. It is quite
rusty though it still has the look of a crane. It motheaten and probably
not really safe to walk on. There is a gentleman named Gerry that
we met here who owns the property that is fronting the beach. Very
nice to talk to if you happen to see him.
There is actually a surprising amount of stuff
here. You see a fair number of old quonset huts in use around town.
There is a row of them near the Matanikou river and one large one
in the center of town. The howitzer near the police station is believed
to be one that shelled the field during the battle. It is complete
other than it is missing it's wheels. It also has been repainted an
odd turquoise which is not likely correct!
Now a city container dock and has the city's Yacht
Club at the base of it. It is a very pleasant place to have a drink
and see most of the ex-pats and also some locals. There is nice pub-style
food available. A far cry from the machinegun fire of times past.
There is no monument of any type.
The sandbar with it's funny bend is very identifyable
at the mouth of the Matanikou. You can still see the old japanese
tank in the water. Others have had trouble with the locals here as
it is apparently the women's bathing and/or toilet area. No one said
much to me so I must look trustworthy! The river itself is much more
built up along it's banks as it is part of the local Chinatown. It
is not too difficult to imagine what it was like especially if you
have a look at some other spots to get an idea of what the bush looks
The town itself has a good number of burned out buildings
now from the troubles. It has a bit of a brooding air but I did not
have any trouble personally. I think as long as you don't wander around
in back streets by yourself you will be fine. Still a nice place and
gives a very good taste of the third world.It can be amusing to walk
around with a good map of the battle because every hill and valley
that is now a residential street or housing development used to be
a site of a fierce battle!
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