February 10, 2023

New World War 2 museum for Luganville, Espiritu Santo

I’ve made several visits to Luganville over the last few years but one new addition to the main street caught my attention. A tiny building in Unity Park at the western end of Main Street, almost on the banks of the Sarakata River, is where Stage 1 of the South Pacific WWII Museum will be located

On the site of what was once the home of No.2 PT Boat Squadron during the war years, Perth architect Mario Bernardi’s design will be built, incorporating contemporary design and environmental principles while maintaining a beautifully simple interpretation on the US Navy WWII Quonset (Nissen) hut – still a feature in and around Luganville. It includes two levels of exhibition space, including an upstairs meeting area and theatrette.

The concept for a WWII museum on Santo goes back several years to when long-time resident Bradley Wood was offered an extensive collection of memorabilia by an American who was moving back home. 

Following on from that windfall, Brad teamed up with Dave Cross, Bill Widup, Jim Bennie and Mayumi Green to meet with Mr Peter Sakita, of Luganville Council and floated ideas for a permanent memorial. From those meetings the idea of a World War II museum was born.

Luganville was a “city” purpose-built to serve as a forward base for the US in the war in the Pacific. At its height, some 400,000 troops and personnel were in Luganville occupying supply bases, fuel and ammo dumps, hospitals, wharves and the several airbases. Naturally, there was a lot left behind when the US personnel left after the fall of Japan in August 1945, with much of it ending up at Million Dollar Point. 

Following the passing of Allan Power in 2018, his vast collection of SS President Coolidge memorabilia was passed to the museum as per his wishes and many of these items along with renderings of the new building can be seen right now in the temporary building in Unity Park.

The museum will also feature many displays of personal memorabilia but none as poignant as the memorial to US Army Captain Elwood J Euart who was responsible for saving many of his men from the Coolidge before it rolled over and sank. Euart was trapped below and was one of only two casualties of the sinking.

Currently, a ‘mini museum’ exists in the Project Development Office and you can follow the progress at www.southpacificwwiimuseum.com

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