By: Tom Gersbeck, CWO (Ret) USMC, EOD. Written on the efforts of Mark Lasley, MGySgt (Ret) USMC, EOD.
The Battle for the Solomon Islands began on 7 August, 1942 when allied forces, predominantly U.S. Marines, landed on the Japanese held islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida. The fighting officially ended on 9 February 1943 after three (3) major land battles, seven (7) major Naval battles; as well as thousands of day and night raids, ship-to-shore bombardments, aerial engagements and other combat actions. The results of a very successful 3-year training effort on the Guadalcanal is the focus of this article. Specifically the efforts of 13 members of the Royal Solomon Island Police Force (RSIPF) from May 2011 through April 2014.
The Island of Guadalcanal is located in the Solomon Island chain, northeast of Australia (Figure 1). During the battle for this island; which raged for 6 months, over 30,000 men were killed. When the fighting ended, Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) that was not in the way was simply left in place; while anything obstructing construction was buried, moved out of the way or dumped in the ocean. Over the next 9 months, an area in the north central part of the island, designated "Hell's Point" was converted into a massive ammunition storage area capable of supplying Allied Forces throughout the South Pacific (Figure 2).
In November 1943 a grass fire burned into the Hell's Point Storage Area with catastrophic results. Three days of massive explosions resulted in Hell's Point being so badly contaminated with damaged ordnance that everyone living or working on Guadalcanal was restricted from entering this section of the island; these restrictions are still in place.