July 24, 2019

Air Vanuatu supports Museum filming

Earlier in July, the Museum team embarked on an ambitious filming project to assist with not only our fundraising plans, but to create fascinating filmed content that will appear on the Museum’s website and in social media.

Australian cinematographer and director Karl von Moller travelled from Australia with Museum Project Manager James Carter to film the 18 short films and 1 longer content film. With a great deal of fragile gear to ship, the Museum turned to Navara sponsor Air Vanuatu to ensure everything arrived safely.

Breakas Night.

With some of the filming occurring on Efate and the majority on Santo, it meant a number of international and domestic flights to ensure the filming schedule remained on track. “Air Vanuatu were marvellous”, said James. “We were met at the airport to ensure there were no issues with our luggage and the whole shoot couldn’t have gone smoother.”

The Museum would like to thank Jeff Murdoch, General Manager Commercial and Paul Pio, Manager Marketing & Communications from Air Vanuatu for all their assistance in making everything go so smoothly for the film crew.

The videos that were created in Vanuatu will be released one by one over the coming weeks and months on the Museum’s social media pages and website.

July 24, 2019

Breakas Beach Resort assists Museum with filming

The Museum’s recent filming of the Vanuatu Prime Minister Hon. Charlot Salwai and Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trades took them to Breakas Beach Resort in Port Vila.

Breakas Night.

The resort was chosen for its idyllic South Pacific atmosphere and tropical island ambience. Film makers Karl von Moller and James Carter from Australia, were seeking the quintessential resort-like backdrop particularly for the Prime Minister’s portion of the short film being shot on behalf of the Museum. “Breakas was just stunning and the perfect place to shoot”, said Karl. “It offered us so many possibilities and what we chose as a location was absolutely perfect.”

The Museum is very grateful to Breakas Resort for all their assistance to ensure the filming went so smoothly. We would particularly like to thank Breakas General Manager Isaac Boyle and Food and Beverage Manager Roy Ernst who went out of their way to accommodate us during our visit.

If you’d like to find out more about Breakas Beach Resort at Port Vila, visit their website at breakas.com

April 19, 2019

TVL signs on as our latest Navara Sponsor.

Vanuatu telecommunications company TVL is the latest company to become a member of the South Pacific World War II Museum’s Navara Fund. TVL has signed a three-year contract with the Museum to provide high-speed communications services to the Museum project office in Luganville, Espiritu Santo.The Museum's Interactive map on show

Seven companies or individuals have now joined the Navara Fund, which has been created to support the running costs of the project office and its fundraising efforts. Project manager Alma Wensi says TVL is a great partner for the Museum. “Our vision is for a Museum that has modern information technology and is interactive for our young generation. The Museum's Interactive map on showWe look forward to working with TVL as a telecommunications leader in Vanuatu.” Mr Wensi says the Navara package provided to the Museum office is a great help. Fast broadband makes it easier for us to talk to the world and showcase our progress and vision. So TVL is very much making a difference for us.”

Mr Barlen Lutchmoodoo Chief Execuitve of TVL says it’s great to be associating with the Museum project.

“We are a company that deals every day with the changes in technology and the differences we can make to people’s lives. This is a project that is ambitious to do the same, and we are proud to be associating with it. TVL is committed to connecting the people of Vanautu with each other and the outside world, and there is exciting work underway to keep on improving our service.”

Alma Wensi says the TVL agreement comes very soon after the national carrier Air Vanuatu signed up for a second year of Navara Fund membership, and Henry Cumines Ltd became the sixth new member.

The Museum's Interactive map on show“We’re delighted that the Fund is growing as more companies want to be associated with the excitement of our project. The Navara Fund is a way they can be in on the ground floor and look to partner further with us when the Museum is built.”

If you’d like to become a Navara Fund member, contact Alma Wensi at info@southpacificworldwariimuseum.com

June 3, 2019

The sad passing of a special friend to us all.

It was with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of South Pacific World War II Museum Manager Alma Wensi on Saturday May 25.

Alma came to the Museum project quite early in its development and very soon was running it with the drive and passion we all came to know so well. But Alma was more than just the Museum Manager. On many levels he was the guiding light behind the project, with a generosity and kindness that will be greatly missed by everyone he came in contact with.

Alma’s keen business acumen was spotted very early on by Museum President Bradley Wood, who employed Alma to run the Museum following his time in the tourism and telecommunication sectors. It didn’t take Alma long to grasp the enormity of the challenge that lay ahead – a challenge he relished every day. The sponsors we’ve attracted to the project, the donations and support we’ve garnered from the Vanuatu Government, were all thanks to the extraordinary hard work of Alma.

And yet Alma was more than just the Museum Manager. He was the joyous smiling face that greeted visitors from around the world when they arrived at the mini-museum and Project Office. His knowledge of local history fascinated visitors from all around the world, with tales of the famous and not so famous who came through Espiritu Santo, particularly throughout the war years.

Alma was a devoted family man. His love for his wife Edwige and daughter Amirah was only matched by his faith and devotion to the Centenary Presbyterian Church in Luganville. There Alma was a leader, especially involved with a flourishing youth group.

Alma was one of those people you meet once in a lifetime. His generosity and love for those around him was undeniable and unforgettable. His passing will leave a huge hole in our lives and those beyond Vanuatu’s beautiful tropical shores. His kind heart and gentle soul, will never be forgotten and likewise all he did for the South Pacific World War II Museum project.

Goodbye dear friend and god be with you.

Alma Wensi & Bob Hill

January 24, 2019

Chief of Australian Defence Force presents flag to Museum

The South Pacific World War II Museum has been greatly honoured with the presentation of a flag by Australia’s Chief of Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, AO, DSC.

General Campbell made the presentation to Elwood J Euart Association chairman Bradley Wood and Museum Project Manager Alma Wensi during a function hosted by the Australian High Commission in Port Vila on Monday night.

The Chief of Defence Force (CDF) is the senior ranked officer in Australia’s armed forces, representing the navy, army and air force. The role is shared between the three services and a senior officer from one of the other two services assumes the role when a new CDF is appointed.

General Campbell’s visit to Vanuatu was to mark Australia’s commitment to the security of the nation and the fostering of stronger relationships in the future.

Australia’s High Commissioner, H.E. Jenny Da Rin, kindly invited the Museum to attend the function, which also included the Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trades Hon Ralph Regenvanu, and the Internal Affairs Minister Hon Andrew Napuat.

General Campbell spoke positively of the Museum.  He had been surprised to learn from Bradley Wood about the string of famous people who had been linked by wartime to the island of Espiritu Santo – names such as John F Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, and Gene Roddenberry.

Besides presenting an Australian flag that will fly outside the Museum project office in Luganville, General Campbell also gifted the museum several commemorative coins symbolizing the three armed services that he oversees.

The Museum had its own special gift for General Campbell – a reproduction of a sketch by famous US wartime artist Howard Brodie. It shows an Australian sergeant major during training of members of the New Hebrides Defence Force in 1943. The print, the original of which is held by the US Library of Congress, was handsomely mounted in a rosewood frame hand-made by Bradley Wood.

The museum team was able to chat with General Campbell and members of his staff, and tell them more about our project.

The South Pacific World War II Museum would like very much to thank General Campbell and his team, the High Commissioner Jenny Da Rin, and her staff for making us part of a memorable night.

April 7, 2019

Henry Cumines is our new Navara supporter.

The South Pacific World War II Museum is excited to announce its latest Navara Fund member – Australian company, Henry Cumines Ltd. The Sydney based company started in 1966 as an export merchant specialising mainly with the Asia Pacific region.

The company has strong links to Vanuatu and has been an early supporter of the Museum project. The Museum Manager Alma Wensi says Henry Cumines is now building on that by becoming a full Navara Fund member. “We’d like to thank them for this show of confidence in our work. The Navara Fund lets local and international businesses and individuals show their commitment to our vision.”

David Lum and Alma Wensi

Helder Rodrigues of Henry Cumines Ltd says that the company founder, Mr Henry Cumines originally began traveling to the South Pacific region in 1946 before opening his own company in 1966. “During this time, he provided assistance and pioneered many trade missions to Vanuatu and many other South Pacific Nations by exporting high quality goods such as  foodstuffs, medical supplies, general supplies and equipment from Australia and New Zealand. This helped these nations grow and rebuild after such an epic world event as World War II. We believe it is our turn to give something back to our South Pacific neighbors especially Vanuatu which has shown tremendous support to our company over the many years and to secure the history that brought us all together in the way of a museum for the next generations to appreciate.”

The Navara Fund supports the museum project office and mini-museum in Luganville, and its wider fundraising work. The present Navara Fund members are Air Vanuatu, BSP Bank, Tropex Exports, the Thiele Boys and Bob Hill.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Navara Fund and becoming a member, please contact Alma Wensi at info@southpacificworldwariimuseum.com

April 10, 2019

It’s takeoff for year two of Museum sponsorship.

Air Vanuatu is pursuing its support towards the South Pacific World War II Museum in Luganville, Espiritu Santo. As the first local private business to partner up with the Museum’s Navara Fund in 2018, the national carrier has shown interest and recommitted for another consecutive year.

Alma Wensi at the sponsorship signingMuseum project manager Alma Wensi says it’s wonderful to have a leading Vanuatu company showing its backing. “We’ve been able to support our fundraising efforts thanks to Air Vanuatu, including helping build understanding about our project with local people. It is also a vote of confidence from a tourism leader in our goal of becoming a significant tourism attraction for Vanuatu and Espiritu Santo.”

Jeffrey Murdoch, Air Vanuatu’s General Manager Commercial, says the airline is focused on growing and bringing additional visitors into Vanuatu. “This Museum project is ambitious for the future of our tourism, and our national prosperity, and as such we are proud to help
its progress.”

A six-minute informational video was produced in 2018 and is currently available on Air Vanuatu’s Boeing 737-800 inflight entertainment. Alma Wensi says many visitors who came to the Museum reported having seen the video onboard. More than 2000 international and 3000 local people have visited the project’s mini museum in Luganville in its first full year. Jeffrey Murdoch and Alma Wensi at the sponsorship signing“As the first carrier of choice for entry into Vanuatu, we are very grateful to Air Vanuatu for showcasing and spreading the message. The Museum gives the travelers another reason to keep coming back and to visit our islands.”

The Navara Fund is a seed fund set up to allow local and overseas businesses to support the project office and the costs of fundraising for the Museum. There are five Navara Fund members and a sixth is due to be announced very soon.

If you are interested in becoming a Navara Fund member, please contact The South Pacific World War II Museum’s General Manager Alma Wensi at info@southpacificwwiimuseum.com

The South Pacific World War II Museum project office and mini-museum is open weekdays 8am to 5pm in Unity Park, Luganville. Phone 37000.

April 1, 2019

How do you hide a battleship from the enemy?

One of the wonderful things about the people of Espiritu Santo, is their generosity. Particularly when it comes to donations to the Museum project. Our Museum Chairman Bradley Wood has done it again and secured a pair of US Navy Smoke tanks for the Museum. The tanks were found near an old gate leading to what would have been Bomber Airfield No. 1 over at Palikulo Bay. The owner was only too happy to donate them to us.

Unloading the Smoke Tank.

Of course, one must ask what was a US Navy Mark V Smoke Tank used for? According to a document entitled ‘Navy Department Bureau of Ordnance Aircraft Chemical Smoke and Vesicant, July 1943,’ it was used to create massive smoke screens to hide US Naval activity from the Japanese. These particular tanks were filled with a chemical simply called ‘FS’. Further reading of the document tells us that, ‘FS is a sulphur trioxide-chloroaulfonic acid mixture which weighs approximately 15.8 pounds per gallon. FM smoke mixture (titanium tetrachloride) may also be used; its weight is approximately 14.5 pounds per gallon.’

Our two 50-gallon tanks are 67 inches long, 19 inches in diameter and the complete tank weighs 947 lbs. when filled with 727 lbs. of FS. It ejects smoke for a period of about 25 to 80 seconds. The US Navy also fitted huge smoke screen tanks to their patrol boats and given their great speed, could put up a huge smoke screen in a matter of minutes, depending upon weather conditions and the number of boats laying down the screen.

The museum would like to sincerely thank all those that have provided items for the museum so far. Your generosity is most appreciated, and we look forward to finding the perfect home for your pieces, when the museum opens its doors.

The ID plate on the smoke tank.

If you have something you’d like to donate, we’d love to hear from you. Museum Manager Alma Wensi can be contacted at info@southpacificwwiimuseum.com

November 20, 2018

Museum Meets With Australian & New Zealand
High Commissioners

South Pacific World War II Museum Founding Chairman Bradley Wood and Museum Manager Alma Wensi recently travelled to Port Vila to meet with the High Commissioners of Australia and New Zealand. The purpose of the meetings was to bring the High Commissioners up to date on recent progress with the Museum project.

Australian High Commissioner

Australian High Commissioner Jenny Da Rin meeting with Vanuatu Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trades Ralph Regenvanu.

The Australian High Commissioner Ms Jenny Da Rin, was accompanied by Lieutenant Commander, Kylie Turnbull from the Royal Australian Navy. Kylie is an Adviser to Maritime Surveillance based in Port Vila, under the Defence Cooperation Program. Being a member of the Australian Defence Force, she had a keen interest in the museum project.

The High Commissioner is fully supportive of the South Pacific World War II Museum project and was most impressed by the Business and Strategic Plan that we have developed as a roadmap for the museum project, moving forward. She was also impressed by the progress we’ve made particularly with achieving Vanuatu Government endorsement. Ms Da Rin recognises the benefits the Museum will bring to tourism on Santo and its role in preserving the nation’s history.

The High Commissioner has also offered the Museum her assistance in making contact with relevant government departments and organisations in Australia who may be of benefit to us.

New Zealand High Commissioner, Jonathan Schwass and Ricky Lee, Tourism Programme Manager at the New Zealand High Commissioner’s office also met with Bradley and Alma in Port Vila. Mr Schwass has a personal interest in the museum project and has recently purchased a Willy’s Jeep in Port Vila. His office is supportive of the ongoing volunteer support through Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) New Zealand, to help with the museum’s development, fundraising and the museum’s future.

The High Commissioner was also interested in discussing the specific makeup of the Museum and the displays we had planned. Bradley and Alma outlined their vision for the cultural aspects the museum might contain along with their broader vision of encompassing not just Santo’s role in the Pacific Theatre but other Pacific island regions such as the Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal.

Following the discussions, the High Commissioner reinforced his support for the project and also agreed to facilitate contacts in New Zealand who may be of assistance to the Museum project. He concluded with an offer to provide him with any specific proposals we may have and he will investigate how the New Zealand High Commission can assist.

The trip to Port Vila also included meetings with significant business identities, companies and government departments, including  the Vanuatu Department of Strategic Policy Planning and Aid Coordination (DSSPAC).

New Zealand High Commissioner

New Zealand High Commissioner Jonathan Schwass.

The museum would like to thank most sincerely the High Commissioner for Australia, Ms Jenny Da Rin, the High Commissioner for New Zealand, Mr Jonathan Schwass and those who gave up their time to meet with Bradley and Alma to discuss the museum project with them.

February 28, 2019

The passing of a ‘Living Legend’

James Gwero, who did an enormous amount of work to preserve the Ni Vanuatu memories of World War II, passed away in February 2019.

His legacy is the famous Bislama oral history, Big Wok, published in 1998. James, who was born in 1929, joined with United States anthropology professor Lamont Lindstrom and others to gather stories for the book.

Professor Lindstrom, who is also a member of the South Pacific WWII Museum, says he is deeply saddened by James Gwero’s passing.

“We worked hard to talk with more than 120 men and women in 1988 and 1989, to record their stories of World War II. James took me to Nabangahake village in Ambae, his home village, and in 1990 he came to be with me in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“When we were in Hawaii, he worked to transcribe these stories and sort out the relevant parts to insert in Big Wok.

“I think James enjoyed the opportunity to travel to Hawaii. We visited the Arizona Memorial, where the Japanese planes bombed USA warships. We had beach picnics a lot of times when we were there, as tourists, visiting places.

“In 2006, we both spoke to all field workers in a VKS (Vanuatu Cultural Center) workshop in Vila. We both talked about our work, and James talked about World War II history.”

James Gwero with his book 'Big Wok'

James Gwero with a copy of Big Wok.

Big Wok included examples of local songs about the wartime experience. This excerpt is from a song about Shepherd Islands and North Efate men recruited to do the initial clearing of what today is Bauerfield airfield.

Tai manga tu do dongo

Vakalo Endo paitalevanimaramana

Ma tedoumaipakikuengida

 E awi re tetungavaeesava

Brothers we used to hear about the war

On the other side of the world.

But it is coming to our country

Where are we going to go?

James Gwero at the opening of the Museum Project Office

James Gwero as guest of honour in October 2017 at the opening of the South Pacific World War II project office.

In October 2017, James was a guest of honour at the opening of our Museum project office in Luganville, joining US embassy deputy chief of mission Mary Drake and then Minister of Lands Ralph Regenvanu to cut the ribbon.  It was fitting that he be part of our mission to further bring to life the history he has done such much to preserve.

James Gwero’s work leaves the history of Vanuatu immensely richer, and will be invaluable to the South Pacific World War II museum in telling our Ni Vanuatu stories. We thank him for his work and his legacy.

March 28, 2019

Santo from a fresh perspective.

The South Pacific World War II Museum are proud to announce that Australian company Mapdiva have come on board to provide us with their award winning mapping/cartography software, Ortelius. This amazing Mac based program will give us the ability to create fantastic maps of Santo to help visitors navigate the historical points of interest around the island.

Ortelius is a unique professional creativity app that’s a hybrid between a vector drawing program and a geographic information system, though Ortelius is nothing like a complex GIS application.

It adds tailored functionality for map design, with connectable track tools, a powerful style engine, a huge library of styles & map symbols, as well as a range of templates if you just want to jump straight in. If you’ve ever tried making a map in a standard drawing program, it can be hit or miss and incredibly tedious. But this is so easy to use. We completed a base map of south east Santo in a couple of hours and it looks like a professional map or something from a GPS. It means you can push all that complex GIS mapping to one side and concentrate on creating a great looking map.

So a big thanks again to Mapdiva for assisting us and when we have something ready to go, we’ll post it on the website and social media. If you want to know more about Ortelius (like where the unusual name came from), you can visit them at https://www.mapdiva.com/ortelius/



Dún Laoghaire 1910 and 1957 by Michael J. Walsh

January 10, 2019

Kevin hits the airwaves.

Today the Museum’s Fundraising, Marketing and Communications Advisor Kevin McCarthy, was a guest of Radio New Zealand for their ‘Summer Times’ series. In his fascinating interview, Kevin explains Vanuatu’s vital role in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. He goes on to discuss why a museum on Espiritu Santo is so important to not only commemorating those who served there, but its broader role in improving the lives of the local Ni-Vanuatu population. Kevin has been working for the Museum as part of the New Zealand Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) programme. He moved to Luganville with his wife Leesa in February 2018 and has been providing invaluable support and guidance to the Museum team since joining us almost 12 months ago. Kevin’s interview can be heard here.

Kevin McCarthy

December 10, 2018

The Ocean Agency Launches
War In The Pacific on Google

The Ocean Agency is a ground-breaking non-profit organisation based in Washington DC, that uses the latest technology in their quest for encouraging ocean sciences and above all, ocean conservation. They gained worldwide notoriety for taking Google to new depths, with a specially developed underwater 360-degree camera, capable of revealing the oceans in Google Street View. As they state on their website, more people went virtual diving in the first week of its launch than have ever been diving in person. Amazingly, their imagery is the most viewed underwater imagery in history.

Million Dollar Point Photosphere

Million Dollar Point as viewed through The Ocean Agency’s new feature on Google Earth.

So, it was with much delight that the Museum was asked to assist them with their latest project War in the Pacific. This wonderful Google Earth journey lets anyone explore some of the more significant underwater WWII sites across the Pacific including our very own President Coolidge and Million Dollar Point sites. Using the same 360-degree underwater camera that was used for the Street View Project, you can explore the sites without getting your feet wet. What’s more, clicking on the links on the two Vanuatu locations will take you through to the Museum’s website.

Congratulations to The Ocean Agency for once again bringing the oceans to life in ways we never thought possible and sincere thanks for giving us the opportunity to play a small part in this exciting project.

To view War in the Pacific on Google Earth for yourself, simply click here, or paste this link into your browser. http://earth.app.goo.gl/MNYkiE

December 22, 2018

The passing of a legend and
a true friend to many.

Earlier this week we awoke to the devastating news of the passing of one of the true legends of SCUBA diving, Allan Power. But more than just one of the world’s most respected divers, Allan was a unique and cherished identity on Espiritu Santo.

Born in Sydney, Australia in 1933, Allan began his working life as a qualified pastry chef in 1953, before working in a foam rubber factory for 15 years. Purchasing his first underwater camera in 1956, his passion with the undersea world soon blossomed spending his holidays in the early 60s on Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef. It wasn’t long before Allan’s eye for the exquisite beauty of the reef saw him win the much coveted Levanto prize for underwater photography, and the beginnings of a remarkable career photographing the world’s oceans. His treasured book The Great Barrier Reef published in 1977, opened the eyes of the world to the incredible beauty of the reef.

Allan Power

In December 1969 he travelled to Santo on board the salvage ship Pacific Seal with Barry May to photograph the salvage of the propellers from the SS President Coolidge. However, Allan soon became involved with the salvage operation itself and one could assume, this was where his passion for the great lady began.

In 1978 Allan was offered the position of diving director on Bokissa Island Resort. It wasn’t long before he returned to Santo following the Coconut Rebellion, and in 1981 he established Allan Power Dive Tours. Popularity for Allan’s tours grew quickly and between 1982 and 1985 as many as 45 groups booked dive tours with him in one year – which incidentally made Hotel Santo’s name. In fact, it is widely recognised that Allan initiated tourism on Espiritu Santo and was therefore a founding father to economic growth of the island, prompting the locals on Santo always called him “Uncle”.

Allan’s reputation for the way in which he looked after his diving guests and ran his dive operation saw the business grow in stature as the premier dive operation on Santo and one that was held in high regard worldwide. So much so that on November 8,

2011, Allan was inducted into the International SCUBA Diving Hall of Fame in the Cayman Islands. This prestigious award recognised his contribution to the diving industry in general and his incredible work and achievements on the Coolidge.

When Allan became the unofficial caretaker of the Coolidge, he also became the guardian of the remains of Captain Elwood J Euart, which were yet to be discovered on the great ship. It wasn’t until after the formation of the Elwood J Euart Association and their South Pacific World War II Museum project was launched, that by pure coincidence Allan’s team discovered the remains of Captain Euart on the Coolidge, where they had been lying for around 70 years. That find resulted in the successful recovery and repatriation of Captain Euart’s remains back to his home town in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, USA. For the past 15 years, a memorial built by Captain Euart’s men has been cleaned and repainted by the dive community, led by Kevin & Mayumi Green, to ensure his name will forever be associated with the rich history of Espiritu Santo. Allan made over 15,000 dives on the Coolidge and has taken over 20,000 divers to the Lady alone – a remarkable achievement for someone who was still diving into his 85th year.

Once in a lifetime someone comes along who can change the way we look at the world. To see it in a way we could never have imagined. For those lucky enough to have spent dive time with Allan Power will appreciate why he was indeed, one of those people.

Vale Mr President

Thanks to Dave Cross from Beachfront Resort for his assistance in preparing this tribute.

November 10, 2018

Official US Charity Status Close

The South Pacific World War II Museum is one step closer to officially achieving charitable status in the United States. Over the past 6 months, we have been working closely with a consulting firm in the US that has been assisting us in achieving our 501(c)(3) charity status.

Of greatest benefit to the museum with the granting of 501(c)(3) charity status from the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS), is that we will be able to receive grants from private US foundations and the US government. More importantly, the museum will be able to provide tax deductions to those from the US wishing to make a donation to the museum.

The process to obtain charity status has come with an extraordinary amount of paperwork and legal hurdles for Museum

IRS & Alma Wensi

Project Office Manager Alma Wensi and the Elwood J Euart Association – the charitable organisation established in Vanuatu in 2012 to oversee the fundraising, building and operation of the museum. However, Alma is also excited by the prospect of attaining tax exempt status in the United States. “501(c)(3) status opens new doors for us from a fundraising point of view”, he said. “Having the opportunity to offer tax deductions to anyone wanting to donate to the museum will make it even more desirable to those wishing to support the museum project.”

As you can imagine, the process of being granted 501(c)(3) charity status is a long, complex and drawn out process to ensure we meet all the conditions and tight regulations set down by the IRS. However, we’re finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Our application is now in the hands of the IRS and we’re now awaiting final notification that we have been successful with our application. We’ll bring you further updates the moment any news comes through.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Sue Herrick and James Boswell who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes in the US to bring this exciting milestone to fruition.

And please remember that you can already show your support for our work by becoming a Museum member. You can read more about it here.

January 21, 2019

We Remember Milton L. Staley

It was with much sadness that we learnt this morning of the passing of Milton L. Staley, aged 99. Not only was Milton the last known survivor from the sinking of the SS President Coolidge, he was just as importantly a D-Day hero, Purple Heart and Silver Star recipient, frequent Facebooker and a wonderful friend of the South Pacific World War II Museum project. But rather than have us tell you about his wonderful life, we thought we’d let his nephew Richard Staley do that, in this touching tribute he posted on our Facebook page.

Another of the Greatest Generation has joined the long green line of WWII veterans who now march slowly into the past Friday evening.

My uncle enjoyed the status of an international rock star — not the arrogant, self-indulgence of a musician, but the respect, sometimes adulation and love of scores of friends at home and in places as widely separated as the Southwest Pacific, Belgium and France. He was a hero — Silver Star and two purple hearts — but he was quiet and always unassuming. He loved his country, his beloved wife (his childhood sweetheart whose passing he mourned until his last moments on earth), his family and friends. And even younger vets he met in the coffeeshop and adopted as family.

Tough times make tough people. Milt and my father and uncle Ed lost their mother at an early age. They grew up in hardscrabble northern Minnesota during the Great Depression. Their graduation ceremony to adulthood was induction into the US military for service in the greatest war in history.

Milt was a gentle man. But he was always a warrior. The Redding Police chaplain who prayed with us for Milt’s departed soul was a Lakota Sioux. The battlecry of Sioux warriors, he said, was also an affirmation of life — live each day as if it was your last:

“Hoka Hay!” (Today is a good day to die.)

It is seldom a good day for those left behind, but for Milton Leroy Staley it was a release from pain. He wanted to celebrate his 100th birthday in May, but Friday he decided that it was time to rejoin Aunt Dorie and his mother and father and brothers and son in a better place.

Hoka hay.

November 2, 2018

Milton Staley’s Coolidge Recollections

With the passing of the 76th anniversary of the sinking of the SS President Coolidge, we thought it appropriate to release a new video that’s been cut from an interview that was conducted with Coolidge survivor Milton Staley in May of this year. The interview, recorded on behalf of the South Pacific World War II Museum by Milton’s nephew Richard Staley was done over a morning at Milton’s home in California. Richard did an incredible job capturing Milton’s life story, how he entered military service, his training and particularly his experiences as a soldier during combat.

At the time of sailing on the SS President Coolidge, Milton was heading for Guadalcanal via Espiritu Santo when it struck the two sea mines on October 26, 1942. Dressed in nothing more than his shorts, he, along with the other 5000+ servicemen and women as well as a small number of civilians made it to shore, with the loss of only two lives. The first being Fireman Robert Reid who was working in the engine room and Captain Elwood J Euart who successfully rescued men trapped in the infirmary but was unable to escape himself, and went down with the ship. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic actions. As the captain of the Coolidge had the presence of mind to deliberately run the crippled vessel aground in the shallow waters of the Segond Channel, it enabled almost everyone to get ashore safely.

After an extended stay on Santo driving supply trucks to and from the wharf in Luganville, Milton eventually made it to Guadalcanal. After being shipped back home he was reassigned to the European Theatre and was part of the D-Day landings at Utah Beach in 1944. Which means he earned the rare distinction of having served in both the Pacific and European Theatres of war. Milton is now 99 and lives in California and was the the first WWII veteran to sign up as a member of the South Pacific World War II Museum.

November 2, 2018

Museum Granted Official Support From Vanuatu Government

Government Crest

We’re very excited to announced that The South Pacific WWII Museum Project, is now a recognized and supported project of the Vanuatu Government. We have now received a letter from DSPPAC (Department of Strategic Policy Planning & Aid Coordination) confirming the government’s support, along with a  letter of recommendation from the Ministry of Justice & Community Services (MJCS). MJCS is the ministry responsible for the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, and is in charge of national interests in preserving the historical heritage of Vanuatu, which is precisely what the museum is setting out to achieve.

Official support by the Government of Vanuatu is very important to the museum project as it will enable official promotion of the project at a government level. It also reaffirms the Vanuatu Government’s enthusiasm for the project since granting us the land to build the museum on some years ago.

We’d like to thank the Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trades for his tireless support for the project and the extraordinary behind the scenes work of Museum Manager Alma Wensi, who assisted in bringing the agreement to fruition.

November 2, 2018

We welcome Bob Hill as a Navara Supporter

The South Pacific World War II Museum’s Navara Fund is delighted to announce its latest benefactor, Australian businessman Bob Hill. The Navara Fund has been set up to encourage businesses and individuals to support the Museum’s Project Office in Luganville during our fundraising campaign.

Bob founded Adco Constructions in 1972 and it now directly employs nearly 600 people. Having worked with, universities, airports, State and Federal Government departments and a diverse range of multi-national companies, Adco is now one of the top 50 companies in Australia. Bob is a director of the company but has a home on Espiritu Santo. He has already provided invaluable support by providing us with the expertise needed to complete the cost estimates for the construction of the Museum. This type of support is invaluable to us at this early stage, and we thank Bob for now coming on board as our latest Navara Fund sponsor.
If you’d like to know more about the Navara

Bob Hill & Alma Wensi

Fund and becoming a member, please contact Alma Wensi at info@southpacificwwiimuseum.com

November 2, 2018

Museum Takes Flight With Digital Pigeon

Bob Hill & Alma Wensi

We’re always looking for more efficient ways of streamlining our workflow – particularly as the Museum has a number of contributors who are based outside of Vanuatu, principally in Australia and New Zealand. That’s why we’re very pleased to announce that Digital Pigeon

has come on board as a supporter, to assist us in the transfer of large files such as video edits and documents. With Vanuatu’s internet services being somewhat unpredictable at times, Digital Pigeon allows us to see who has accessed our files and whether they’ve been successfully downloaded, while always remaining ‘in the cloud’ should the connection fall over. Sean Gay, General Manager and Software Engineer at Digital Pigeon said, “We definitely want to support good causes when they arise. We’d love to get on board with the South Pacific World War II Museum and assist where we can.”

Digital Pigeon’s customer list includes major film production and post productions studios, recording studios, TV stations, advertising agencies and content producers. So the Museum is in good company.

November 2, 2018

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/

November 2, 2018

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

August 11, 2018

Announcing Two New Navara Sponsors

Following our announcement a couple of weeks ago that Air Vanuatu has signed on as a Navara Sponsor, we’re excited to announce that Bank of South Pacific and Tropex Exports have also become Navara sponsors of the South Pacific World War II Museum project. Both companies will be

assisting with the running costs of the project office in Luganville over the next three years. The Chairman of the Museum Association’s board, Bradley Wood, says they are very excited with the support and faith being shown in the project by both sponsors.

Bank Of South Pacific

Earlier this week, Bank of South Pacific announced it was getting behind the museum by becoming a Navara Sponsor of the South Pacific World War II Museum project. Bradley said he is delighted with BSP’s support – and how appropriate it is.

“Our Museum will tell the stories of how the whole South Pacific became a focus of the fight for peace here and a focus of the world,” Bradley said. “How fitting that BSP are joining us, because they are the Bank of the South Pacific, having started in Papua New Guinea, and now operating in 7 Pacific nations,” he added.

Nik Regenvanu, the country head for BSP, says they are proud to be playing a role in nourishing the Vanuatu community, such as the recent VT1 million contribution to medical emergency services. “We look forward to a long partnership with the South Pacific World War II Museum,” he said.

BSP is also demonstrating a commitment to supporting educational change in Vanuatu, with scholarship support for educating young women. Bradley Wood says education is a big part of the Museum. The Project Office mini museum opened around sic months ago, is already drawing a lot of young Ni-Van visitors, including school visits. “They’re very excited to see wartime items and hear the history. It’s a real eye opener for them,” he said. One of the goals of the Museum is to provide an opportunity for education, working with local schools, and developing opportunities for training in tourism and other related fields.

Bradley says such support is a huge help in sustaining the project as it develops its fundraising over the next two years. “BSP have shown their community involvement with a number of other sponsorships. Their motto is Our Culture is Our Strength, and that really chimes with the Museum’s brand theme of Inspiring Everyday Heroes. That theme is about how the stories of yesteryear and our project can inspire today’s new generation.”

Tropex Exports

The South Pacific World War II Museum is also delighted to announce Tropex Exports as a Navara Fund supporter of the project.

Tropex Exports is a New Zealand company that has been a wonderful supporter of the Museum project for two years, and has recently committed to a further three years of support. Museum Chairman Bradley Wood said, “Tropex were one of our first supporters when we were getting the project off the ground. Their faith in our vision for the project as demonstrated by their support is something we cannot express our gratitude more highly for.”

Tropex was established in 1968 to provide representation for manufacturers exporting to the Pacific region. With over 50 years experience, it now represents many highly-respected manufacturers from a wide range of industries including construction, agriculture, steel & wire through to air conditioning and refrigeration.

Steve Hirst, the financial director of Tropex, says they are delighted to be a Navara Fund member. “We have built strong relationships with the families, businesses and industries of the Pacific, and are very keen to seen the Museum project succeed.”

Bradley went on to say, “Our Navara Fund is a chance in particular for local businesses and those companies with ties to Espiritu Santo to show their commitment to this exciting project. We’re most grateful for their assistance and look forward to further expanding our links with the Vanuatu business community “

If you wish to know more about becoming a Navara Fund member, you can see more here.

April 10, 2018

Museum Sponsorship Deal Takes Wings

The South Pacific World War II Museum is delighted to announce that Air Vanuatu has joined as a sponsor of the Museum’s new Navara Fund.

The Navara Fund has been created to allow Vanuatu businesses and other commercial sponsors to directly assist the Museum Project Office as it works to fundraise for this exciting project on Espiritu Santo.

The Project Office manager Alma Wensi said Air Vanuatu is a key link for growing tourism into Espiritu Santo.

“We believe this museum will be a significant drawcard and yet another reason for people to visit this wonderful island. We see Air Vanuatu’s support as a vote of confidence in us, and we look forward to a partnership that benefits both organisations.”

Paul Pio, Public Relations and Marketing Officer for Air Vanuatu said, “Air Vanuatu is delighted to support the South Pacific World War II Museum. Given the significant role played by Vanuatu in supporting the allied war effort, the museum will be a fitting tribute to the tireless efforts and sacrifices made by Ni-Vanuatu people throughout the archipelago”.

Alma Wensi says many Ni Vanuatu people are visiting the museum project office and learning about a history that many of them, until now, were unaware of.

“The Navara Fund is a way that local businesses, in particular, can demonstrate their commitment to a museum that will also serve as an economic and educational boost to our people.”

May 3, 2018

Bringing The Museum To Life in 3D

“What will the South Pacific World War II Museum look like?” It’s a question we get asked often, particularly by visitors to our Project Office in Luganville. Well we thought it was time we brought it to life – in a virtual sense anyway.

We got in touch with Marcel Marais from 3D Spaces Media in Brisbane, Australia. His company specialises in taking flat 2-dimensional plans of proposed structures and turning them into fully interactive 3D media. We asked him whether he could take the initial plans John Pearce from Arkitektika had drawn up and create something spectacular that could be viewed from any angle? Having worked extensively with some of Australia’s largest developers and construction companies creating immersive 3D media for a wide range of projects, Marcel said his team could bring our project to life like nothing we’d ever seen before. And we think what 3D Spaces Media have created for the Museum is nothing short of spectacular and a lot of fun to explore.