Commemorating WWII History in the Solomon Islands – Smithsonian

By Lisa Niver

smithsonian.com August 22, 2017 5:33PM

Seventy five years ago, the Battle of Guadalcanal changed the course of World War II in the South Pacific. According to the National World War II Museum statistics, the Solomon Islands Campaign cost the Allies approximately 7,100 men, 29 ships and 615 aircraft. The Japanese lost 31,000 men, 38 ships and 683 aircraft. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Navy wanted a buffer against attack from the United States and its Allies, and began occupying islands throughout the Pacific Ocean.

When the Japanese began construction on what would later be called Henderson Airfield in July 1942, taking control of this strategic airfield became a primary goal for the US Marine offensive. American forces landed on August 7, 1942 to remove the Japanese from the island. The six-month battle in the Solomon Islands on the most easterly advance of the Rising Sun was crucial to preventing Australia and New Zealand from being cut off from the Allies. This was the first decisive battle of the war in the Pacific in which the Japanese forceswere turned back.

The United States Marines depended upon the Australian Coastwatchers and the Solomon Island Scouts for local knowledge and assistance. Inscribed in a plaque at the Memorial Garden at Henderson Airport, the United States Marines honor them with these words: In the Solomons, a handful of men, Coastwatchers and Solomon Islanders alike, operating side by side often behind enemy lines always against staggering odds, contributed heroically to our victory at Guadalcanal. This partnership between these groups is credited with having saved John F. Kennedy while he was stationed in the area.

Kennedy was at a forward military base on Lubaria Island, where today you can still visit and see the original cement pads from the bakery and mess house, in addition to a well hole. On August 2, 1943, a moonless night, whilepatrolling between Kolombangara Island and Ghizo Island, Kennedyand his crew were on maneuvers in their patrol boat (PT 109) and in the path of the Japanese destroyer, Amagiru Maru. After being struck, their boat broke apartand began to sink. Two of the seamenAndrew Jackson Kirksey and Harold W. Marneywere killed, and the remaining eleven survivors swam through flames towards land. Coastwatcher Reg Evans saw the flames and sent two scouts to search for survivors.

There were Japanese camps on thelarger islands like Kolombangara, and Kennedy’s crewswam to the smaller and deserted Plum Pudding Island to the southwest. The men worked together to push a makeshift raft of timbers from the wreckto move the injured and non-swimmers. Kennedy, a strong swimmer and former member of the Harvard University swim team, pulled the injured Patrick McMahon by clenching his life jacket strap in his mouth. After nearly four hours and more thanthree miles, they reached their first island destination. In search of food and water, they had to swim to another small slip of landnamed Kasolo Island, where they survived on coconuts for several days.

Island scouts Biuku Gaza and Eroni Kumana searched for survivors in their dugout canoe. If spotted by Japanese ships or aircraft, they hoped to be taken fornative fisherman. When Gasa and Kumana found Kennedy, Gasa encouraged him to carve a message in a coconut shell. This message enabled them to coordinate their rescue:

NAURO ISL COMMANDER… NATIVE KNOWS POS’IT… HE CAN PILOT… 11 ALIVE NEED SMALL BOAT… KENNEDY

Years later, that carved coconut shell sat on Kennedys desk in the Oval Office and served as a reminder of his time in the dangerous waters. Kasolo Island is now called Kennedy Island. And on August 3, 2017, Kennedys100th birthday portrait and the 75th Anniversary monument was unveiled at ceremonies on both Kennedy Island and Lubaria Island.

Touring the area is an opportunity to explore what happened on the Solomon Islands three quarters of a century ago.Today, on the islands pristine beaches, the violence of the battlefield feels long agobut physical reminders remain. The area is a graveyard of dozens of World War II destroyers, military ships and aircraft in the clear waters surrounding the islands, and makes for an incredible chance toSCUBA dive through history.

PLACES YOU CAN VISIT TODAY

Diving: see the planes, boats, submarines underwater from WWII.

Dive the Toa Maru in Gizo, which is similar in size to the ship that rammed Kennedys PT boat. Explore to 90 feet underwater in Mundo and visit the Airacobra P-39 fighter from the USAF 68th Fighter Squadron and the nearby Douglas SBD-4 Dauntless dive bomber,which was hit by fire during a raid on Munda on July 23, 1943.

In Honiara: I-1 submarine, B1 and B2.

In Munda:wreck diving.

Museums:

Vilu War Museum

Explore the open-air museum at Vilu and walkamong planes from the World War II dogfights.

Skull Island:

The ancestors of the Roviana people were warriors, and their skills as trackers enabled them to assist the United States in the battles fought on land and over water.

Peter Joseph WWII Museum in Munda.

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Commemorating WWII History in the Solomon Islands – Smithsonian

Mapping Progress in 55 Philadelphia Neighborhoods – Next City

How an Average Philadelphia Neighborhood Is Growing

When it comes to Oxford Circle, state Rep. Jared Solomon is something of an expert witness. He moved there as a toddler, and lived above his grandparents butcher shop off Castor Avenue. He played Little League there. He was bar mitzvahed there. Today, he lives on Large Street with his fiancee, in a 50s-era rowhouse with a greystone facade and a small patch of lawn. His mother still lives a few blocks away.

After Swarthmore College, after Villanova Law, after a stint in the Army, Solomon returned home infused with ambition and a zeal that led him to become a community activist. That, in turn, led him into politics. Last year, he made his second run for the State House and defeated Rep. Mark Cohen, who had represented the 202nd District for 42 years. The ossified Cohen was no match for the energetic 38-year-old.

Solomons street-level knowledge of his district is deep. He can rattle off its ethnic and racial composition (29 percent black, 27 percent white, 23 percent Latino, 18 percent Asian); the condition of its playgrounds and recreation centers (generally poor); the decline in both family income (down 14 percent) and home prices (down 11 percent).

Solomon frets about the perception that all is well in the Northeast: Whats very frustrating is that whenever I bring up the Northeast, people say Oh, youre fine. No! They are thinking of the Northeast of 20 years ago.

In his youth, Oxford Circle was mostly white and very Jewish. It had a religious, cultural and ethnic cohesiveness. In short, it was an enclave. Six out of every 10 houses were built in the 1940s and 1950s.

It is a classic post-World War II housing development.

In the generations since the neighborhood was built up it has changed in ways that are both immediately obvious and more subtle. The synagogue where Solomon was bar mitzvahed is now a Buddhist temple. The Jewish butchers, bakers and grocers are long gone, replaced by nail salons, day cares and a panoply of ethnic restaurants Caf Albania, Montana Grill, Tio Pepe, Azaad, to name a few.

Riding along Castor Avenue with Solomon is like traveling with two people: One is the cheerleader, raving about the strengths of the neighborhood and its great potential. The other is the critic.

Because the business corridor is not thriving, no one really is taking pride here, he says. So, the lightings bad. The storefronts are shabby and rundown. Its dark. Its dank. There is no real momentum forward. So, when you have that, you see graffiti and you get trash. And trash begets trash.

Solomon is working to build a network of engaged community members called Jareds super volunteers. He is seeking to rebuild civic cohesiveness, getting people on each block really engaged not just complaining about issues, but being active in trying to solve them.

Solomon the optimist sees these goals as attainable with lots of hard work. Solomon the critic realizes the obstacles: the disengaged newcomers, the unhappy old-timers who kvetch about how things arent like they used to be.

Solomon the critic: You cant romanticize the past to such an extent that it makes you unable to do anything. To say: Oh well, the past was so good, lets just talk about it. We have these exciting changes and we have to figure out as a community a way to embrace them and use them to move the neighborhood forward.

Solomon is convinced that the areas diversity, as evidenced in its cuisine, is the key. If it seems implausible to rebuild commercial corridors by emphasizing the experience of exotic cuisines and build from there to a general revival Solomon the optimist insists it can happen.

Driving through the neighborhood that he has built a life around, Solomon was talkative, candid and knowledgeable, but he stumbled over one question: What does your neighborhood need the most?

Finally, that all-encompassing phrase that had been rattling around in Solomons mind finally came to his lips. We have to change the narrative, he says, referring to his vision of a new, revived Oxford Circle. If this becomes the narrative and vision and if that is how we are selling this neighborhood, I think that will be a good thing.

State Rep. Jared Solomon stands on the stoop of his childhood home in Oxford Circle.

Solomons phrase could be the unofficial motto of Philadelphia: Changing the Narrative for Over 300 Years.

Philadelphia has gone from colonial village, to rapidly growing pre-Civil War city, to Workshop of the World, to 1970s dystopian nightmare city, to a bustling post-modern center for eds and meds, with a glittering and prosperous downtown.

Neighborhoods go through cycles as well. To oversimplify, Philadelphia has two kinds of neighborhoods. Those like Oxford Circle, most of which were the product of the post-World War II housing construction boom.

The other neighborhoods were factory towns, built around the industries that located there beginning in the early decades of the 19th century and continuing into the middle of the 20th century.

For instance, Nicetown was once synonymous with Midvale Steel and, later, the Budd Company, the Brown Instrument Co. and Tastykake. They are all gone now.

For those seeking to change the narrative in these neighborhoods, its not a simple matter of rebranding or coming up with a new defining slogan. More jobs, higher income, less poverty, a growing population and a solid real estate market must be included in the mix.

Using those criteria, Nicetown has taken steps forward in the last five years. The North Philadelphia neighborhood, which straddles Germantown Avenue just west of Broad Street and Erie Avenue, has seen its population rise 4 percent (above the citys 1 percent increase), its housing prices rose 11 percent again above the citywide average. As important, while the citywide poverty rate rose 2.6 percent, in Nicetown it declined by 23 percent.

Highway planners did Nicetown no favors in the 1950s when they decided to cut the neighborhood in half to link the Roosevelt Boulevard to the Schuylkill Expressway. It was a move that added insult to injury; the post-World War II decline of manufacturing in the area had already hollowed out the neighborhood, leaving working-class families living alongside vacant factories and abandoned rowhouses. The highway added another shadow: It doesnt run through Nicetown, it runs over it perched atop concrete pillars that hold up the highway viaduct. Like many poor communities, the neighborhood never quite recovered from the trauma inflicted by urban renewals bulldozers. Even so, many residents never gave up on the idea that one day Nicetown would again live up to its name, says Majeedah Rashid, executive director of the Nicetown Community Development Corporation.

Majeedah Rashid runs theNicetownCommunity Development Corporation.

Slowly, that change is happening and she sees it every day along Germantown Avenue, where her CDC has built two handsome brick apartment complexes.

Rashid recalls that when she first arrived in 2002, not much was happening in Nicetown. The Neighborhood Advisory Council, which the CDC now runs, had shut down, she says. The Democratic political organization, which the community had relied on for its connections at City Hall, wasnt much help either.

There was a lack of cohesion, Rashid says. People were in their own little cliques. We had some elected officials who had people who were like henchmen. I have a bone to pick with certain politicians and committee people because they just hold the title. The NAC wasnt doing its job. The politicians ran it like a club. You had a void.

Today, the CDC, which has the chipper motto of working together to put the nice back in the town runs arts and culture programs for the neighborhoods children and operates a boxing clinic. It sponsors an annual Nicetown Festival and runs landscaping and land management services through subsidiaries that employ local people. Councilwoman Cindy Bass and new state Sen. Sharif Street have district offices in the CDCs buildings. It wasnt always that way.

Getting the trust of residents was what Rashid calls a slow-row process. It involved including them in every step, regardless of the project. People were skeptical and resentful and likely to be on board for a project one day and off the next.

When the CDC decided to build its first apartment complex, Nicetown Court I, which featured top-flight design and materials, residents feared it was so nice that apartments would have high rents, and be affordable only to people from out of the area. Still, on opening day there was a line of applicants that stretched down the block, she recalls.

Later, Rashid convinced Temple University Hospital to open a doctors office on the ground floor of the apartment complex, and thus was able to replace the neighborhoods doctor, who had retired. And they pay rent every month, on time, she says. The CDC gets income from its rents and its landscaping subsidiaries. It also gets $100,000 a year from Comcast Corporation, as part of a city program that lets businesses divert some local business taxes owed to qualified CDCs.

The next step for the CDC may be its biggest yet a potential game changer in one of the most desolate sections of the neighborhood, the land beneath the Roosevelt Expressway.

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Mapping Progress in 55 Philadelphia Neighborhoods – Next City