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    Tulagi Seaplane Base (Gavutu, Tanambogo) Central Province Solomon Islands
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USN August 7, 1942

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USN July 1943

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Justin Taylan 2003
Tulagi Seaplane Base is located in Gavutu Harbor off Guvutu Island and Tanambogo Island. Japanese referred to the base as 'Gabutsu'. Also known as "Gavutu Seaplane Base". Also, the base was sometimes called "Tanambogo Seaplane Base" for the nearby Tanambogo connected by causeway. Many references to this base call it the seaplane base at "Tulagi", but in fact it was located at Guvutu, to the east of Tulagi Island. To the north is Palm (Gaomi). A6M2-N Rufe seaplanes were also moored at Halavo Bay on Florida Island (Nggela Sule).

During 1939, the British administration and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) built a seaplane ramp and facilities on Gavutu Island for seaplane operations.

Wartime History
On November 20, 1939 the first seaplane to land at this location was S.23 Short Empire Flying Boat "Centaurus" A18-10 piloted by Captain Gurney from No. 11 Squadron. On July 10, 1940 S.23 Short Empire Flying Boat "Coogee" A18-12 piloted by Captain Purton also made a flight. On January 22, 1942 the first Japanese aircraft attacked Tulagi.

During May 1942, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) PBY Catalinas from No. 20 Squadron and No. 11 Squadron and were based at Tulagi Seaplane base to patrol the Solomon Islands. On January 13, 1942 at 5:04am PBY Catalina A24-17 took off from Tulagi Seaplane Base flight to Faisi Island in the Shortland Islands to evacuated an Australian Lt. Gordon H. C. Train who needed medical assistance and returned on January 14, 1942 at 12:49am.

Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) units based at Tulagi Seaplane Base (Gavutu)
No. 20 Squadron (PBY-4) May 1941–May 2, 1942
No. 11 Squadron (S.23 / PBY-4) 1939, 1940

Japanese missions against Gavutu
January 22, 1942–May 5, 1942

On May 5, 1942 a Japanese flying boat attack Tulagi and sink the RAAF crash boat. That same day the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) 3rd Kure Special Naval Landing Force (3rd SNLF) occupied the area. The island became a main Japanese base in the Florida Islands occupied by 536 Japanese naval personnel from the Yokohama Kokutai and 3rd Kure Special Naval Landing Force, plus Korean laborers and Japanese civilians from 14th Construction Unit. Flying boats and seaplanes of the 25th Air Flotilla: Yokusuka Kokutai and Yokohama Kokutai operated offshore Guvutu and Tanambogo, moored along two lines. Off Halavo Bay a detachment of A6M2-N Rufes were moored.

Japanese units based at Gavutu, destroyed August 7, 1942
Yokusuka Kokutai (H6K Mavis det)
Yokohama Kokutai (H6K Mavis det) Rabaul April 1942 - August 7, 1942 destroyed while moored
Yokohama Kokutai (9 x A6M2-N Rufes det) Rabaul early July 5 - August 7, 1942 Halavo Bay destroyed
3rd Kure Special Naval Landing Force (3rd SNLF) defeated August 7-8, 1942

American missions against Gavutu
May 4, 1942–August 7, 1942

Battle of Gavutu
On August 7, 1942 at dawn, U.S. Navy (USN) carrier aircraft attack the area and claim seven large flying boats (H6K Mavis) as "burned". U.S. Navy warships bombarded the island, damaging the seaplane ramp.

After the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) landings at Tulagi, at noon, 397 Marines of the 1st Parachute Battalion land on Gavutu. The bombardment damaged the seaplane ramp, forcing the naval landing craft to land the Marines in a more exposed location at a nearby small beach and dock. During the landing, the Marines came under fire from Japanese machine guns on the island and nearby Tanambogo and were attacked during the night.

On August 8, 1942 at 10:00am 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines (3/2), still aboard ships off Guadalcanal, landed on Gavutu as reinforcements. During the Battle for Gavutu and Tanambogo, 476 Japanese defenders and 70 Americans died. Of the 20 Prisoners Of War (POWs) captured, most were Korean laborers pressed into service by the Japanese. Afterwards, several wrecked seaplanes were captured off Tanambogo Island: A6M2-N Rufe 821, A6M2-N Rufe 822, A6M2-N Rufe 826, A6M2-N Rufe 913, A6M2-N Rufe 914, A6M2-N Rufe 915 and A6M2-N Rufe 916.

Allied Usage
Afterwards, repaired and expanded by the U.S. Navy (USN) for continued use a seaplane anchorage. While in American control, targeted by Japanese aircraft during August 1942 until the middle of 1943.

Japanese missions against Tulagi
August 7, 1942 - June 16, 1943

By June 1943 nearby Halavo Seaplane Base was completed and seaplane operations switched to that location. Also used by the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) PBY Catalinas. At the end of the Pacific War, the area was disused as a seaplane operating area.

Underneath the wharf, the seabed is littered with discarded war relics. Aircraft wings, engines, landing gear and sections of fuselage all stripped of usable parts.  A pontoon, what looks like a gun carriage and other larger objects can be found as well as gas masks and smaller pieces. Further away from the wharf, there is the shipwreck of LCM Barge.

To the north of Tanambogo Island are several H6K Mavis wrecks sunk August 7, 1942 near their mooring buoys: H6K Mavis (M1), H6K Mavis (M3), H6K Mavis (M5), H6K Mavis (M6), H6K Mavis (M11). Also H6K Mavis (M12) sunk off Guvutu.

Australian War Memorial (AWM) No. 11 Squadron
"[1939] The squadron's small flight of Seagull and Empire flying boats immediately began patrolling the Thursday Island, Tulagi, New Zealand, and Bougainville."
Australian War Memorial (AWM) No. 20 Squadron
"For the remainder of 1942 the unit conducted seaward reconnaissance throughout the New Guinea area, the Solomons, and New Caledonia"
The First Team And the Guadalcanal Campaign
(1994) pages 35-37

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Last Updated
July 17, 2021


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