The Solomon Islands ...and a search goes on for relics of the Second World War?
The Solomon Islands ...and a search goes on for relics of the Second World War which ended there thirty-three years ago.
SYNOPSIS: The Solomon Islands are a chain extending nine hundred miles (1,450 kilometres) across the South-West Pacific Ocean. The islands were the scene of some of the fiercest battles in the Pacific during the Second World War. Many reminders of the fighting remain. Like this village bell -- made out of the nose-cone of a bomb.
Rusty relics of the Japanese occupation include these anti-aircraft guns -- still intact but showing the effect of thirty-five years' exposure to the elements. The emblem of the Japanese Imperial Navy is still visible above the entrance to this vast warren of underground bunkers, which were the Japanese Naval headquarters on the Solomon Islands. Tens of thousands of Japanese troops once occupied the islands.
Vegetation in the islands is dense tropical rain forest. In the Bougainville jungle, on one of the northern islands, the camera crew found the wreckage of a twin-engined Japanese bomber. It was shot down in April 1943, and one of those killed was the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Imperial Navy, Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, who led the attack on Pearl Harbour.
The search for the relics of war went underwater. The divers were looking for the wrecks of the three hundred and sixty-two ships which are known to have been sunk around the coast of the Solomons during the three years of war. Some of the ships sank to the coral reefs surrounding part of the coast. The warship Hakkai Maru went down to fifty metres (160 feet), where visibility is so poor that strong lights are needed. But the items that were found were remarkably well-preserved.
When the divers searched the wreck of the freighter Kanshin Maru, they made their most gruesome discovery -- the skull of a crew member ....just one of the three million Japanese servicemen who were killed in the Second World War. Fighting in the Solomon Islands continued to the end of the war, with a large Japanese garrison on Bougainville being by-passed and isolated as the main Allied forces pressed north and west.
The last respects to this unknown warrior were paid by the camera crew. They cremated the skull in the Buddhist fashion, offering prayers to the spirit of the dead man.