Up early, we headed for sunrise ridge and the US Memorial. When we arrived shortly before 0700, we were greeted at the gate by the US ambassador and given the opportunity to we sign our names in the visitors’ book. The ceremony commemorating the 72nd anniversary of the landing of US troops on Guadalcanal was both appropriate and moving. Our tour group was most impressed with the memorial structure, maintenance and the innovative way it tells the story of the conflict so many years ago.
Soon after the service ended, we headed down to Commonwealth Street where the Solomon Islands Government held its commemoration. There our tour members were afforded the opportunity to meet John Barsalone’s niece and one of the few surviving Coastwatcher veterans. At 1000 we returned to the hotel for a sumptuous brunch.
Duly refreshed, our next stop was the Japanese memorial on Hill 34. The memorial is stark, white and elegant with features that are truly Japanese. Another kilometre up the very steep road, we entered Barana Village, built on the Gifu feature where the Japanese made their last major stand before their forces were evacuated in February 1943. A few timber tables hold a real treasure trove of artefacts mostly Japanese relics extracted from the ground that was so hard fought over. The investiture, bombardment and tank attack that ultimately secured the position on 22 January were discussed in detail.
A few hundred metres further on and we were on Hill 27, an outpost where the remains of a once extensive Japanese bunker system can still be seen. The view affords a grand vista of the Sea Horse and Galloping Horse positions, sites taken by the US in mid-January, isolating the two Gifu battalions.
A short walk back and we farewelled Barana and headed for Mount Austen, the observation point used by the Japanese to direct the course of their attempts to re-take Henderson Field. A short stop at the star monument that emphasises the significance of what happened and we headed down toward Honiara.
On our way back to the hotel, we paused at the Vousa, RAMSI and HMAS Canberra Memorials. We were particularly impressed that steps are now en train to clean-up the RAMSI Memorial. The graffiti soaked paint had been removed, and a shiny new coat of white paint was ready to apply. The rubbish around the RAMSI and HMAS Canberra Memorials had also been removed.
Back at hotel, there was time for a drink shower and rest before tonight when we, with a couple of exceptions will get a taste of Japanese cuisine.
Another early night, tomorrow we need to be at the wharf at 0800 for our cruise to Tulagi.