The South Pacific WWII Museum recently announced a partnership with the B-24 Liberator Memorial Australia to begin the formation of a sister-museum alliance. The South Pacific WWII Museum is located in the township of Luganville on Espiritu Santo, the largest island in the archipelago-nation of Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides). The organization is working hard to raise the capital necessary to establish a world class museum displaying the island’s WWII history. Given that Espiritu Santo served a pivotal role in the Pacific Theatre of Operations, providing a vital toehold for Allied forces to prosecute the war during those bleak early days, it seems only right that the island should have a formal museum space dedicated to that legacy. At its peak, more than 400,000 Allied service personnel, mostly Americans, were located on the island. In addition to a substantial naval base, there were several airfields which saw heavy use. Perhaps the most famous flyers in residence, at least for those of us here, were the Blacksheep of VMF-214 and their F4U Corsairs, which flew for a period from the fighter strip at Turtle Bay. Numerous other aviation units called the island home during the war, including a number of Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) squadrons. Furthermore, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft, especially flying boats, often flew to and from bases at Espiritu Santo and the nearby island of Efate.
The South Pacific WWII Museum has gathered a significant collection of fascinating local artifacts dating from the Second World War, including large sections of a Lockheed P-38 Lightning. In addition to other kinds of military relics, there are numerous aircraft wrecks in the jungles around the island, and these might provide useful items for future display. This fact also presents useful possibilities to the B-24 Liberator Memorial, which has been slowly rebuilding the last surviving ex-RAAF Liberator within a hangar at what was once an RAAF airfield in Werribee, near Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. We have covered this project HERE for a number of years. From humble beginnings, the museum has made remarkable progress on this project, which is based around the fuselage of RAAF B-24M A72-176 (with wings recovered from USAAF B-24D Liberator 42-41091 in Papua New Guinea) but there are always items they are looking for to add to the aircraft’s authenticity. The two organizations can also help each other in telling the story of the B-24 in the Pacific Theatre of Operations, where the type served in large numbers – these deeds are largely overshadowed in the public’s consciousness by the B-24’s more well-known exploits in Europe.
As the B-24 Liberator Memorial’s President, Lyn Gorman, recently said, “Given our shared interests it makes a lot of sense to establish a link between the museums.“
James Carter, the South Pacific WWII Museum’s Project Manager agrees; he believes that the sharing of history between the two museums will expand public knowledge regarding the vital role which the Liberator played in the Pacific during WWII. “B-24s served throughout the Pacific Theatre, and could be found at all three bomber airfields on Espiritu Santo,” Carter said. “This cooperation between our two museums could open up all sorts of new opportunities for us in Vanuatu and the guys in Melbourne.“
Adding to this, Gorman noted: “If, over time, there are other specific ways in which our two museums might collaborate, then by all means let’s consider them.”
The South Pacific World War II Museum brings together a diverse group of people with an incredible drive and passion to see one community’s dream turn into reality: to build a world-class museum in Luganville, Espiritu Santo. The Elwood J. Euart Association, which the group formed to get the project off the ground, is managing the fundraising and project management of the Museum during these key establishment phases of the project. However, as the Museum becomes a physical reality, management will come from its own, independent committee pooled from the local community which calls Santo home.