After visiting the impressive Mataniko Falls, I still had sufficient time for something else, and opted to cross the Mataniko river by floater, and hike up to the war memorial I had seen earlier on my way to the falls. Located high above a hill, the US War Memorial is there so as to commemorate those who fought in the Pacific stage of the Second World War. Having just walked through the countryside in which some of the battles were fought, I once again realized how little I knew about the history of World War II in this part of the world. Also, how global that war had been: the Japanese and Americans have fought bitter battles in this remote corner of the world which had nothing to do with the war, other than being in a strategic location which both enemies wanted to dominate.
The gate of the memorial was locked, and a smiling guy in uniform opened the lock for me. Inside, I saw two Japanese visitors, and wondered how it must feel for them to be here. The US Memorial is set up around a big star in the middle, around which you find slabs of marble, recounting the battles in the region in chronological order. I started reading, thus finally giving me some more insight into the heavy fighting that had been going on during the Guadalcanal campaign, that lasted from 7 August 1942 to 9 February 1943. Actually, it had brought so much destruction, that the stretch of sea I could see below, is now called Iron Bottom Sound: it is littered with wrecks of military ships, planes, and submarines.
Reading about the battles on the slabs of marble, I realized it was, probably inevitably, written in a very patriotic way; on some slabs, there were even simple factual statistics about the number of ships and planes lost and destroyed. I could not help but wonder about the human factor behind it: all those ships and planes had been manned - what had happened to those poor guys? Also, what had those battles meant for the locals living on this beautiful island, who had nothing to do with the war, yet found it right on their doorstep? Right in the middle of the big star, the centre of the US Memorial, is a plaque for the unknown soldier; the remains of an anonymous US soldier had been found right under that spot. Close to the edge, is a pillar, dedicated to those Americans and their allies who lost their lives during the campaign, flanked by the Stars and Stripes, and the blue, green, and white flag of the Solomon Islands. It was with mixed emotions that I returned to the gate - the message I left in the guestbook was a wish that the Solomon Islanders would never have to endure being a stage in a much bigger war anymore.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from US War Memorial (Solomon Islands). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to US War Memorial. Read more about this site.