Welcome to

The South Pacific WWII Museum

From the birthplace of Tales of the South Pacific and the service of three American Presidents – including a First Lady from another – and the heroic actions of young aviators, soldiers, and sailors that became legendary, emerges a forgotten wartime history that many have overlooked and others are unaware of.

Base Button, located on the peaceful island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu, transformed tranquil coconut plantations into the largest military base in the South Pacific during World War II. This base hosted over 500,000 service men and women throughout the war.

Now, we are sharing this history with the descendants of those who supported the Allied war effort in the Pacific. Our plan is to expand into a new world-class museum building, preserving and passing on the remarkable history of the region formerly known as New Hebrides to future generations of Ni-Vanuatu and visitors from around the world.

Honouring the many

Latest news from the Museum project.

Museum secures expansion grant

The South Pacific World War II Museum is thrilled to announce the generous grant of 800,000 Vanuatu Vatu (VT) from the New Zealand High Commission in Port Vila. Read all about our plans here.

News in brief

December 5 – Lots of news and some big announcements this month! The New Zealand High Commission has granted the Museum 800,000 Vatu to support our renovations taking place this month. That’s the story kicking off or newsletter this month. And while we’re on the subject of donations, Swire Shipping has donated a shipping container to the museum for storage of artefacts. We’re also looking into the little known ‘crash boats’ that rescued many flight crews from the water. Plus, the airfield that came close to being built and more in this month’s newsletter. Read or download the complete issue here.

November 6 – A quieter month at the museum in October. That said, Miranda has been very busy with Lyn cataloguing items into our new databases – one for our library and another for the rest of the collection. A huge job transferring from the old database, but a necessary one. This month’s newsletter features stories from Santo and the wider Pacific including those concerning the USS O’Brien and Santo’s ‘other’ shipwreck, the Tucker. Plus the amazing story of a Seabee bulldozer being used to destroy an enemy pillbox. Read or download the complete issue here.

September 30 – Another big issue of the newsletter this month, with lots of news from Luganville. We lead with our latest donation to the museum, a pair of rear seat Browning machine guns from a Dauntless aircraft – a fabulous piece to have on show. The structural plans for the Stage 1 of the new museum are complete, which is fabulous news for all of us. We’re also following up on our story regarding Japanese ‘holdouts’ from someone who was there during a search. We have a story on the Coconut War, chemical weapons dumped in Ironbottom Sound and much more. Read or download the complete issue here.

September 8 – The latest edition of our museum newsletter is out now and your editor has been ‘in country’ as they say, working at the Museum for the last few weeks. The biggest news story this month is the identification of our bulldozer at South Santo. Thanks to museum member Mike Lechwar and some employees of Caterpillar in the USA, we finally have an answer. That and some great stories from museum visitors, the discovery of the provenance on a chair in our collection and much more. Read or download the complete issue here or follow the story links.

August 5 — What an extraordinary month it’s been on Santo! Not only have we had a grant awarded to us by the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu, but we’ve secured the second half of our min-museum building. That means we’ll be doubling the size of the Museum. Our VSA volunteer Miranda has been very busy securing some fabulous books for local schools, while PhD student Pierre Noel has been researching the New Hebrides in WWII. We’ve also got a fascinating new piece for the museum’s collection involving Japanese ‘holdouts’ who refused to surrender at the end of the war. All that and so much more in another bumper museum newsletter. Read or download the complete issue here or follow the story links.

July 6 — A lot has been happening on Santo since our last newsletter. The biggest news is that we now have the tail section and engine from a SBD Dauntless aircraft at the Museum. Arriving only three days ago from Port Vila they are significant pieces to have in our collection. Direct flights have also resumed between Australia and Santo, a VIP visited us from the United States and lots more. It’s another interesting newsletter with a decidedly Santo flavour this month. All in our June newsletter you’ll find here.

June 3 — This month’s newsletter is full of stories with links to Santo. From the earthquake that caused the Coolidge’s swimming pool to drop out of the ship, to the compass rose on Turtle Bay Airfield and the amazing photographic collection of Camp Elrod, there’s plenty of great reading — and photos. We’re also very excited to have had Andy Werback’s scratch-built model of one of the floating dry dock pontoons finally delivered — you’ll get what we’re talking about after reading the story. All in our May newsletter you’ll find here.

May 3 – We begin this month with our traditional Anzac Day dawn service on Espiritu Santo. This has become quite an event, particularly for Australians and New Zealanders living on Santo. It’s always a very moving ceremony. We also have a great story on the SBD Dauntless aircraft, the battle for Rabaul and an in-depth story on the logistics of war and Santo’s role in keeping the fleet afloat. A great April newsletter you’ll find here.

April 5 – A great mix of stories this month, kicking off with a minor but important change to our logo. We’ve also received the last part of an important collection donated to us in October of last year from the nephew of an Army aviator. Plus Charles Lindbergh, watermelon farming in the Pacific and a very interesting article about Santo from a guest author of some note. You’ll find it all in the newsletter here.

March 3 – Another month and lots to report in this month’s newsletter. Our special bottle from the Coolidge Foundation finally turned up – only 4 months late! We’re welcoming a new volunteer from New Zealand through Volunteers Abroad. We also feature the remarkable story of the discovery of sections of the dry dock ABSD-1, that was based in Santo during WWII. As far we knew, the dock had been scrapped. Time to rewrite the history books. You’ll find it all in the newsletter here.

February 4 – We’re kicking 2023 off with some very interesting photos that we discovered in two books in a San Francisco museum. One shows the facilities of Base Hospital No. 3. The other from 1942/43, is a photographic record of the construction of the Sarakata River bridge by Navy Seabees. Plus we finalise the donation from the Santo Game Fishing Club and Kevin McCarthy has written another fascinating story on the month in military history. You’ll find it all in the newsletter here.

We’ve created a new Million Dollar Point gallery, featuring the work of award winning underwater photographer Chris Hamilton. You’ll find the gallery here.

Jan 11 2023
Great news today. Moreno Aguiari from VintageAviationNews.com has done a fantastic piece on the Museum in their Aviation Museum News section.

Moreno has done an amazing job detailing the history of the Museum, what we’ve been up to and where we’re heading. We can’t thank him enough for his support and we’d be grateful if you’d take a look at the story for yourselves – it’s the least we could do for Moreno.

You’ll find the story at:

Swire Shipping donates shipping container

The generous support of a global shipping giant will assist in our expansion plans. (story)


Museum receives Reserve Bank funding

Reserve Bank of Vanuatu Governor meets with museum Chairman in Luganville. (story)

Coolidge now a permanent exhibition

The world’s largest exhibition of items from the famous liner is now on show. (story)

The South Pacific WWII Museum and Project Office is now open.
Visit us Monday – Friday from 8.00am – 5.00pm.

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