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