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Chris Cowx - Guadalcanal
Click For EnlargementVilu 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 general.

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.

Also a 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 etc.

Betikama School
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 everything anyway.

Bonegi
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.

Poha
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.

Honiara
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!

Point Cruz
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 like.

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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