Covering the 75th Anniversary of Guadalcanal

Photo: William Collins/US Army

By Moana Tregaskis

OPC member Moana Tregaskis is an author, photographer and anthropologist specializing in Asia and the Pacific. She is the widow of Richard Tregaskis, a journalist who served as war correspondent during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, and is best known for his book, Guadalcanal Diary.

The 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands was an emotional and fast-paced journey of a lifetime. Over several days there were memorials held at the U.S. Monument, Skyline Ridge, a Japanese memorial site and Solomon Scouts and Coastwatchers. A memorial was held for Coast Guardsman Munro, who was awarded the only Coast Guard Medal of Honor bestowed in WWII.

The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, declared Bloody Ridge, the site of a fierce battle in September 1942 when U.S. Marines repelled a two-day attack from Japanese soldiers, as the nation’s first National Park.

A riveting speech by Annie Kwai, a Solomon Islander, spoke of younger generations and their desire to unite a proud people, respecting traditions while moving forward in a young developing country (Solomon Islands became an independent nation in 1978).

A ceremony to commemorate the loss of HMAS Canberra, a cruiser that sunk in the Battle of Savo Island in 1942, was held aboard HMAS Success. Crosses with messages from Australian school children were left at the site.

Receptions and dinners were held, one aboard the USS Barry attended by generals and ambassadors, including Gen. Robert Neller, Commandant, USMC, from Washington D.C. He mentioned to Hon. Keithie Saunders, US Consul, that if he knew I was attending he would have brought his copy of Richard Tregaskis’ Guadalcanal Diary, which he has kept since age seven. I dedicated a new copy to him.

At the National Museum future construction of a Coastwatchers’ Museum was announced. It will be an interactive project to provide younger generations knowledge the region’s crucial role in history.

Visiting military and Solomon Islands teams played sporting events at the Town Ground Rugby Stadium. Military personnel also performed community service. In the evening, the Solomon Islands Police Brass Band and a US Military band performed.

I participated in a panel discussion with people who had family members present in the Battle of Guadalcanal, discussing details of the Battle of Bloody Ridge and its far-reaching implications. It was an opportunity to hear Australian, U.S. and Solomon Islanders discuss family members experiences during the hardships of war.

It was an experience never forgotten. I made new friends, strengthened old friendships and experienced heart-wrenching moments.

It is fitting to recall U.S. Commander of the Pacific Admiral William “Bull” Halsey’s words:

“The Coastwatchers saved Guadalcanal and Guadalcanal saved the South Pacific.”