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Tulagi - August 1942

Tulagi, an island about 2km2 with a population of 1,200, is the site of a former Japanese naval base and was the scene of fierce fighting in World War II. As a series of potential air and sea bases, the barrier of small islands which extends from the Bismarck Archipelago to New Caledonia offered the Japanese in the spring of 1942 the attractive possibility of cutting deep into the South Pacific and of severing Australiaís and New Zealandís life line to Americaís west coast. In order to safeguard their strategic operating base at Rabaul, New Britain, the Japanese captured Tulagi on 3 May 1942 and occupied nearby Guadalcanal on 8 June in order to construct a support base and airfield. These footholds in the British-administered Solomon Islands also supported Japan's southward thrust into New Guinea and toward Australia.

Following the victory at Midway, CNO and Commander-in-Chief U.S. Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King was able to assert the Navy's command primacy in the Pacific and overcame resistance by the U.S. Army to immediate offensive operations against Japan, which was still assessing the full scope of its recent defeat. The threat posed by Japanese land-based bombers based at Guadalcanal to shipping as far south as New Caledonia, and the new baseís ability to deny access into the Solomons, spurred planners to begin preparations to retake the island.

The decision to make Tulagi the principal objective in the Solomons was reached in April. Tulagi had been the seat of the resident commissioner of the British Solomon Islands. In addition to his residence, it contained several public buildings, including a hospital and prison, and was also the location of a radio station, a golf course, and several other accessories of western civilization. Tulagi was to become the Allies first major counter-offensive in the Pacific. American victory in the Coral Sea and oeven greater success off Midway during the first week of June accelerated preparations.

Initial plans called for a preparatory landing on Tulagi Island, twenty miles north of Guadalcanal , to provide a secure anchorage, followed by the main assault on Guadalcanal itself. On 07 August 1942, the same day Guadalcanal was invaded, Marines landed on Tulagi Island, a short distance across the Sealark Channel. The Marines held Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo, although several nests of enemy snipers remained on the last island. They had put about 7,500 men ashore in that area at a cost of 248 casualties. Japanese casualties, however, were virtually 100 percent, or about 1500. Of the 500 Japanese estimated to be on Tulagi only 3 surrendered.

Seabees also came ashore to construct an important torpedo patrol boat and repair base for the U.S. Fleet. The Tulagi base played a strategic role during the savage sea battles in the "slot," the narrow channel between the islands of Tulagi, Savo, and Guadalcanal. Patrol boats darted from the Seabee-built advanced base to scout Japanese offensive moves, and crippled American ships limped in to receive temporary Seabee repairs.

Located in the middle of the Solomonís, The Florida Islands offer some of the best diving to be found any where in the Pacific. The Islands are about 35 km north of Honiara across the famous Iron Bottom Sound. Tulagi was the original capital of the Solomonís but was severely damaged during WWII and was replaced by the new capital, Honiara, after the war. Several notable wrecks surround Tulaghi, as well as many interesting reefs and underwater features.

On Tulagi and the surrounding islands, the world class diving is one of the main attractions. This includes some wrecks in the Iron Bottom Sound. WWII enthusiasts can tour surrounding islands for WWII wreckage and relics, for example in Tokyo Bay. Nature also plays a big role, with hikes, turtle sightings, and other activities available on or around the Tulagi area. All of these activities and the local accommodation are constrained by operator capacity and would need to be upgraded to accept increasing numbers.

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Page last modified: 17-03-2021 18:03:23 ZULU