Written by Norman Cramp, Director Darwin Military Museum
The Darwin Military Museum is pleased and proud to announce that it is working in association with the Ellwood E Euart Team Management to provide assistance in establishing and developing a World War Two (WW2) museum in Vanuatu. The museum will be established in original WW2 buildings and structures that remain in Espiritu Santo.
The Management Team’s Project Office Manager, Mr. Alma Wensi, made contact with the Director DMM in late March 2018 seeking curatorial support to establish the museum and DMM were only too pleased to say ‘YES’.
One of DMM’s great friends, Dr. Peter Williams, Australian National University, has been working with the Museum Management Team and suggested DMM staff may be able to provide advice and direction with regard to various matters including;
Vanuatu's WW2 history
Vanuatu, formerly known as New Hebrides, has an amazing WW2 history that largely remains untold. During the war, the country was populated by thousands of US military personnel as a means of protecting the islands from a possible Japanese invasion and to stop the Japanese from gaining a foothold in the South Pacific region.
American troops first arrived in Vanuatu on the island of Efate in May 1942, their mission to be the coordination of defences against the Japanese advance. The US Navy’s Construction Battalions (aka: the Seabees), with the assistance of local labour, built the first road around the island and then moved to construct barracks buildings, hospitals, administration centres, airfields and telephone networks across the island. The landscape had changed forever!
Later over 1000 US soldiers set up base on the island of Espiritu Santo in the northern reaches of the archipelago. Thousands upon thousands of tons of machinery to support the building programme was shipped to the island nation, with a staggering 9 million tons arriving by war’s end.
When the war ended in 1945, the US troops withdrew almost as fast as they had arrived, leaving behind leaving stockpiles of equipment in their wake. Trucks, cars, bulldozers and aircraft were left where they stood or were dumped under a plan code-named Operation Roll-Up.
The buildings remained were they stood but much of the machinery was pushed into the ocean – with one such dumping ground becoming known as Million Dollar Point due to the amount and value of the equipment the Americans dumped there.
In 2018, visitors to this Pacific paradise can see the wartime wreckage and the remains of the equipment dumped, be it in the sea or on the ground. The wartime ‘seascape’ is a wonderland for divers and snorkellors with the array of colourful fish and coral and the wartime relics of course.
The South Pacific WW2 museum will be a fully immersive and interactive experience and will tell the story of WW2 in the South Pacific region. While the project to establish and develop the SPWW2M is in its very early stages, all at DMM are very pleased to be a part of something new and exciting that is happening in a land a long way from the Northern Territory of Australia.
Stay tuned for more details as the project really starts up!
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