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Pacific News Minute: Solomon Islands PM Pledges Memorial Park on Guadalcanal's Bloody Ridge

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The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands vows that a new battlefield memorial will be completed on Guadalcanal in time for ceremonies on the 75th Anniversary of the battle.  US Marines waded ashore on Red Beach on August 6th, 1942, beginning a six month struggle that marked a turning point of the Second World War in the Pacific.  We have more from Neal Conan, in the Pacific News Minute.

A memorial plaque on Red Beach was restored two years ago, when Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Solomons, and a more elaborate stone monument stands on Skyline Drive, atop the first hill occupied by the Marines.  Last week, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare told General Vincent Brooks, the Asia Pacific commander of the US Army that he will now ask the legislature to establish a memorial park on what's known as Bloody Ridge.

The night after the Marines landed, the Japanese routed US naval forces at the battle of Savo Island, which left the combatants in an unusual stand-off.  American aircraft based at Henderson Field dominated the battle zone by day, the Japanese Navy ruled the night.  They used that advantage to land troops of their own on Guadalcanal.  In mid-September, Marines under Colonel Merritt Edson made a desperate stand on Bloody Ridge against the troops of Major General Kiyotake Kawaguchi. There was another ferocious battle in the same area in late October. General Kawaguchi would later say, "Guadalcanal is not the name of an island. It is the graveyard of the Japanese army."

When I visited in 2002, bits of barbed wire and rusted ammunition clips still littered the battle field. Previous memorials had been defaced or destroyed by vandals. Henderson Field is now known as Honiara International Airport.  Visits by veterans and their families - American and Japanese - are important to the local economy and Prime Minister Sogavare said that he hopes the new memorial park will become a major tourist attraction.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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