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.

New Museum Gallery Opens

It was a race to the finish, but we did it. The new Museum Gallery has opened and even welcomed its first cruise ship passengers, eager to see what’s on show. And they weren’t disappointed. Read the full story here.

News in brief

Jun 4 – Luganville is very quiet since the demise of Air Vanuatu – that includes us. But we’ve kept things moving along and Marina has ensured the visitors we do get, are given the ‘Rolls Royce’ tour by herself and Lyn. Our May newsletter features a new wreck that has been reported to us in the jungle! That’s very exciting. We’re also featuring a story of Rosie the Riveter – or at least the real Rosie, not the one you probably know. There’s a great story on the Naval Air Transportation Service, plus lots more great reading. We hope you enjoy it Read or download the complete issue here.

May 3 – A very busy month for the museum. We had many VIP visitors come through the museum as the 2024 Heads of Missions meeting was taking place in Santo. We were privileged to be asked to speak at the meeting, which gave us the rare opportunity to sell the museum to many countries with diplomatic missions in Vanuatu. We also had a separate visits from the US Ambassador to Vanuatu, as well as the Lord Mayor and Town Clerk of Luganville. Those stories and lots more interesting reading in this month’s April newsletter. We hope you enjoy it Read or download the complete issue here.

April 3 – We lead off our March issue on a somewhat sad note, following the passing of Museum board member and Santo identity Mary O’Reilly. She was a wonderful woman and contributed greatly to the fabric of Luganville and will be dearly missed by many people. There’s also a great story on the restoration of a rare P-40 that was pulled out of Vanuatu some time ago, restored and continues to do the rounds of air shows and displays Australia-wide. We also deep dive into the island’s WWII history with an article about a local French landowner who gave up a large chunk of his land so that Bomber #1 could be built, and more in this month’s newsletter. Read or download the complete issue here.

March 3 – Our February newsletter has just dropped. It’s been another busy month for the museum with our new exhibition space drawing people in from all over the world – the three cruise ships that visited us, certainly contributed to that. We have some great photos featuring some of our visitors. There are also some humorous anecdotes about little known local Robie Robertson whose property on Big Bay was considered for a fighter airfield during WWII. Plus, the donation of liquid gold for the museum’s fundraising from someone close to the museum family. Read or download the complete issue here.

February 3 – Our January newsletter is out now and what a way to start the year. We opened our new extension to great excitement, effectively doubling the size of the museum. That story kicks off this month’s newsletter. We also featuring some new donations this month including some beautiful components from Corsair and SBD aircraft. And a hilarious story about Condom Airways – it was almost our national carrier! Plus, lots more great reading in this month’s Museum newsletter. Read or download the complete issue here.

January 3 – Merry Christmas from Santo and what an issue we have for you! Of course, kicking things off are the renovations at the Museum. We’re pretty close to completing everything and will open the new exhibition space in a couple of weeks. If you’re looking for a great read, we have reproduced couple of letters back home from a sailor stationed on Santo during the war. We have a fascinating story on Hedy Lamarr the Hollywood starlet who during the war invented frequency hopping for torpedos that led to today’s wifi and GPS! Plus so much more in this month’s newsletter – our biggest yet. Read or download the complete issue here.

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.

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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