Gavutu Island is surrounded by Gavutu Harbor near Tanambogo Island. Japanese referred to
the base as 'Gabutsu'. Also known as "Gavutu Seaplane Base". Many references to this base call it the seaplane
base at "Tulagi", but in fact it was located on Guvutu,
to the east of Tulagi. To the north is Palm (Gaomi). Also, the base
was sometimes called "Tanambogo Seaplane Base" for
the nearby island connected by causeway.
On January 22, 1942, Japanese aircraft bombed the island. The
first shots of the war were fired in the Solomons when the Solomon Islands
Defense force member Fala opened fire on the attacking aircraft.
On May 5, 1942 a Japanese flying boat attacked the island and sank the RAAF crash boat. Occupied on May 5, 1942 by the Japanese 3rd
Kure Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF).
The island became a main Japanese base in the Florida Islands.
Occupied by 536 Japanese naval personnel from the Yokohama Kokutai and 3rd Kure Special Naval Landing Force, plus Korean laborers and Japanese civilians from 14th Construction Unit. Flying boats and seaplanes of the Yokusuka Kokutai and Yokohama Kokutai operated offshore Guvutu and Tanambogo, moored on buoys in two lines.
Japanese and American missions against Gavutu
January 22 - August 7, 1942
based at Gavutu
(IJN 25th Flotilla)
(detachment Mavis, A6M2-N Rufes)
(detachment Mavis) arrived from Rabaul April 1942
3rd Kure Special Naval Landing Forces
Seaplane Base (Gavutu, Gabutsu)
Prewar seaplane base at Gavutu and Tananbogo. Used by RAAF, occupied by the Japanese, liberated by Marines August 7, 1942.
A6M2-N Rufe Wreckage
Wreckage of at least two destroyed August 7, 1942, salvaged by US Navy and taken to USA
On August 7, 1942 attacking US Navy aircraft claimed seven large flying boats (H6K Mavis) "burned". US Navy ships bombarded the island, damaging the seaplane ramp.
The Americans Marines 1st Paratrooper
Battalion, attacked the island from boats on August 7, 1942. The battle
for the island was short but bloody. The next day, Marine
reinforced landed. They landed in the area about a third of the way
down the eastern side. The original force missed the small (about 30
yard across) "bay"
or slipway area, which is adjacent to the north east slope of the hillock
- and landed about 30 yards north of the "bay" in along
a straight piece of the coastline 30
yards long, and the water laps a low bank, behind which the Marines
were pinned for some time. The Japanese were entrenched on the island
in caves and bunkers. During the battle, the Marines were accidentally shelled and
bombed by friendly forces.
American "Gavutu Base"
After liberation Gavutu was developed into a base area. Steel arch-rib buildings were erected for shops and two 10,000-barrel aviation gasoline tanks were built in a hillside to concealed them. An existing concrete wharf, 125' by 150' providing 20-foot-draft berthing space, was repaired and equipped with a marine railway. These facilities were essentially complete by August 1943. During December, the US Navy Seabees 34th Battalion installed a second marine railway on Gavutu and doubled the capacity of the boat nest for small landing craft. The boat nests consisted of rows of piling driven in 50' squares with heavy steel mooring cables stretched across the top of the piles. Supporting facilities for Gavutu, including a 10,000-barrel diesel fuel tank, built on Tanombago and Palm.
Remains of buildings, storage tanks and underground
bomb shelters are visible on the island.
Hill 148 (Observation Post)
Around 2:00pm on August 7, 1942, Marines took this hill top position and began clearing the Japanese from positions on the hill, with explosive charges, grenades, and hand-to-hand combat, and lay down supressive fire on positions on Tanambogo.
Morris Hill reports:
"From the top of the hill, I could see very little of the island because
of the height of the surrounding trees. I do remember the large water tank -
which used to have roof over it to collect rainwater for Levers and what looks
like a anti aircraft mounting for, probably, a heavy machine gun. There was also
a very narrow Japanese made tunnel - that went from the top very steeply down
about 50 feet - to come out on the side facing Savo.
I have a Marine pen friend who spent quite a few weeks manning the observation
post on hill 148. His accommodation was on Gavutu - close to the base of the
causeway. He did tell me that for a few weeks the men thought there may have
been Japanese on the island, but no live Japanese were seen 24 hours after the
Lever Brothers Wharf
Lever Brothers used Gavutu as a main base of operations
prior to WWII. During the invasion on August 7, 1942 Marines used this concrete
wharf for cover. After the island was secured, the US Navy repaired and used this wharf. The breakwater and the jetty are formed
from concrete blocks and still remains to this day. Today, war time detritus is to found dumped in the sea near this wharf. Further offshore in deeper water are the wrecks of several US landing barges.
USN Building the Navy's Bases in World War II [Chapter 25] page 254-255
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
August 5, 2017