The excitement is building

The South Pacific World War II Museum will be unlike any museum in the world today. Not only will it be a fully immersive, interactive experience about the Pacific Theatre during World War II, it will stand in the middle of where everything took place – on the site of a former World War II US Navy base in Luganville, on the island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu. Not only will the museum be an exciting tourist destination, but it will create jobs and provide unique training opportunities for the local Santo people and bring a welcome source of income for the local economy.


Announcing the ‘Thiele Boys’ as a Navara Sponsor

Our Navara funding program continues to go from strength to strength and it’s not just companies and commercial enterprises showing their support for the museum project. We’re pleased to announce the ‘Thiele Boys’ have become our latest Navara sponsor and their kind donation will assist in the day-to-day operation of our Project Office and Mini Museum.

So just who are the Thiele Boys?

Lt (jg) Ray F. Thiele was a command pilot assigned to Navy Patrol Bombing Squadron 128 (VPB-128). Since October 1944 VPB-128 had been stationed at Kaneohe Naval Air Station (NAS) on the island of Oahu in Hawaii where crews maintained their proficiency in their twin engine, Lockheed built, PV1 Ventura aircraft. On December 23rd, the crews departed Kaneohe NAS and made stops at Palmyra, Canton and Funafuti before arriving on Espiritu Santo. The crews then flew to Guadalcanal, Bougainville and Los Negros before arriving on Owi, just south of the much larger island of Biak in New Guinea. The squadron arrived on Owi on January 2, 1945.

Fast forward 26 years later, Ray, long since having retired from the United States Navy as a Commander, returned to Espiritu Santo again in December of 1970. On this trip, Ray and his mother Marie Thiele, were visiting three of Ray’s sons and their son’s mother, Barbara. She had sold her property in Hawaii and moved to Hog Harbour and began construction of a home on the road that leads to Lonnoc and Champagne beach. She brought her three children with her – John (14), Mark (8) and Chris (6).

Barbara and her sons, Mark and Chris, lived on Santo until May of 1976. During the nearly six years that she spent on the island she made the best of island living while overseeing her home being built, operating a small store – which sold ice cream – from within the home, providing a local area taxi service using a pick-up truck and providing rooms for rent for longer term visitors to Hog Harbour.

Ray passed away in November 2000. He had been there once during a war and another time during relative peace.

It’s the wonderful memories of life on Santo that the brothers John, Mark and Chris want to commemorate, through a donation to our Navara program. As John says, “During the years of our absence from the island our thoughts and interest in that which is going on has never waned. Our experiences as kids growing up there and then living in Hog Harbour and being associated with so many of the villagers, or being part of Luganville then, remembering the Hotel Corsica, the fishery at Palikulo where we would sell

squash grown in Hog Harbour and buy Swordfish for 55 cents a kilo, paddling the canoes that we bought from villagers in Port Olry, fishing, catching coconut crabs, hunting for pigs and pigeons in the jungle and surviving earthquakes and hurricanes are all etched into our memory. We have an attachment to Espiritu Santo. Add to that that our father passed through Luganville in 1944 only adds to the attachment.”

Barbara never returned to Vanuatu. She passed away in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, USA in May 2013. John was the first of the boys to visit the island again. He was there with his wife in December of 2017. Chris and his wife plan to visit in 2019. Mark and his wife have yet to schedule a visit. “Traveling to Espiritu Santo after having been away for such a long time was a wonderful refreshment of my own memories of Santo. Add to that the South Pacific World War II museum being organized and developed honouring the effort that won the war in the Pacific for the allies. It just seemed such a natural thing for us to do to support the museum in its endeavours, as a way of commemorating all of our fond memories of a place and a time we will never forget”, John added.

If you’d like to know more about our Navara program, you’ll find it here. Alternatively, if you’d like to talk to our Museum Manager Alma Wensi about a charitable donation to the South Pacific World War II Museum, you can email him at info@southpacificwwiimuseum.com

New Friends In Darwin

The South Pacific World War II Museum is excited to announce that we have now entered into a partnership with the Darwin Military Museum (DMM) and the Royal Australian Artillery Association-NT (RAAA-NT), who own and operate the DMM in Darwin, Australia.

The Northern Territory city was attacked in February 1942 by aircraft from four Japanese carriers which had been a part of the attack on Pearl Harbour. The DMM features some impressive displays and presentations surrounding the attack on Darwin, as well as other aspects of military history in Australia’s ‘Top End’. It’s a very popular tourist destination for many thousands of visitors to Australia’s most northern city.

Both the DMM and RAAA-NT are proud to be associated with the South Pacific WWII Museum to assist with its development. We look forward to learning as much as we can from the DMM team about how they operate and then potentially applying some of their thinking to our project as the Museum grows.

Thanks again to the DMM for agreeing to provide us with assistance and to Australian war historian Dr Peter Williams who has helped facilitate the partnership.

The Darwin Military Museum is set amongst concrete gun emplacements and other fortifications in an area that was one of the most heavily fortified areas of Australia during the war. The museum features and impressive display of anti aircraft guns, vehicles, and items such as weapons and uniforms from World War II. It’s located at East Point, a short drive north of the centre of Darwin and is open 7 days a week. Gun emplacement photo courtesy of http://rogerandnolasholidayblog.blogspot.com/

You can find out more from the Darwin Military Museum website at http://www.darwinmilitarymuseum.com.au/

“You could effectively say we will be the biggest museum in the world because it covers all of the south corner of Santo. You can go out, see it, feel it, and get that warm fuzzy feeling if you like for where it actually took place.”

Bradley Wood - Museum Founding Chairman

Where will the Museum be located?

The South Pacific World War II Museum will be built on the island of Espiritu Santo, one of the islands that make up the Pacific Islands nation of Vanuatu. You can zoom in to see just where that is on the map below.

Dreams and aspirations

Bradley Wood, Founding Chairman of the South Pacific World War II Museum, has been a passionate supporter and driver behind the establishment of a museum on Santo. In this interview Bradley describes the plans for the construction of the museum in Luganville, the major city on Santo in Vanuatu and the role he sees the museum playing in educating visitors.

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Come And Experience Espiritu Santo

Not only will the museum serve as a reminder of those who paid the
ultimate sacrifice, it will bring into focus the legacy they left behind.