Halavo Seaplane Base was located in Halavo Bay, with facilities on Florida Island (Nggela Sule, Big Gela). Also known as a "Halavo" or "Balava". Seaplane takeoff and landings would take place in Gavutu Harbor, off Tananbogo Isand and Gavutu Island, east of Tulagi and Tulagi Harbor. Also known as "Tulagi Seaplane Base" for nearby Tulagi, but not to be confused with the Japanese Tulagi Seaplane Base at Gavutu.
During the Japanese occupation of the area, a detachment of nine A6M2-N Rufe floatplanes arrived from Rabaul on July 5, 1942, led by Lt. Sato Riichiro. During July 1942 to August 1942, three Rufes were lost. On August 7, 1942, the six remaining Rufes were moored roughly 30' from shore at Halavo Bay. Two were under repair ashore at Tananbogo. Strafed and destroyed by US Navy F4F Wildcats from VF-71's 1st Division including Lt. Commander Courtney Shands (claimed 1 VP, 4 float VF) and Ensign Samuel W. Forrer (claimed 1 VP, 3 float VF).
The First Team And the Guadalcanal Campaign page 37
"At about 0620 Shands and Forrer flew east over Florida past the fires of Tanambogo towards Port Purvis harbor beyond Halavo. In the growing light, Shands spotted the line of six sea fighters (he thought seven) moored close together about 30 feet off the Halavo shore. Several of their pilots were running across the beach or swimming through the surf to man planes. Shands and Forrer took great care in firing quick bursts to preserve their ammunition and get all the targets. In succession they pressed their runs low over the water, roared above the float planes, then nosed up sharply to clear palm trees on the hills overlooking the beach. One after another the Type 2s exploded in flames. With his final burst Shands torched the last, while Forrer silenced a 13mm machine gun nest. Soon, other VF-71 pilots flamed a truck hauling gasoline drums down to the beach."
During January 1943, U.S. Navy (USN) Seabees, 6th Battalion (detachment) began improvements to the area that were continued by the 34th Battalion that arrived on February 12, 1943. The base included a tent camp for 1,500 men and 300 officers. Construction and improvement continued at the base during the remainder of 1943.
Due to shortages of cement, marston matting (Pierced Steel Planking, PSP) was used for the ramp and apron instead. A temporary ramp, 25' wide made of marston matting was completed by May 1943. Another temporary ramp of steel mat was built for use by late June 1943. The marston-mat ramps were considered wholly satisfactory in service, and it was estimated that their substitution for concrete saved roughly two months construction time.
Construction of the 12,000 -barrel tank farm was completed, including a filling line to the beach and a delivery line to the ramp. Thirty wooden buildings for administration and shops were constructed as fast as the output of the local sawmill permitted.
By late 1943, the scope of the Halavo base was revised upward, with plans for an increase in apron area, structures more permanent than the original canvas-covered ones, and the reconstruction of housing facilities. In addition, two ramps made of marston mat, 50' wide with a coral apron measuring 150' by 850' were installed. Dock facilities were built including a small-boat wharf, 16' by 72' and a boat refueling wharf, 6' by 50'. Twelve screened frame wards with canvas roofing were provided for a 200 bed bas hospital.
By September 1943, ten quonset huts, 20 feet by 48 feet, were erected for quarters. The aviation-gasoline tank farm was filled to capacity through the newly completed sea-loading line.
When built, a scouting squadron began operating from Halavo Seaplane Base. Also known as "D Base". By June 1943, a squadron of 15 PBY Catalinas began operating from this base and rescued six aviators that moth. By December 1943, three PBY squadrons occupied the base, and the scouting squadron had been moved forward.
Later, Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) PBY Catalinas operated from Halavo Seaplane Base. On June 12, 1945 New Zealand Governor General, Sir Cyril Newell visited Halavo and inspected 6 Squadron. On September 8, 1945 the last mission flown by RNZAF Catalinas was when Wing Commander Smith and Flying Officer Regan dropped surrender leaflets over Nauru Island and Ocean Island both still occupied by the Japanese.
Allied units based at Halavo Bay (Tulagi Seaplane Base)
United States Navy (USN)
VP-23 (PBY Catalina)
VP-24 (PBY Catalina)
VP-91 (PBY Catalina) Espiritu Santo October 29, 1943 - January 1, 1944 Espiritu Santo returns March 26, 1944 detachment Treasury, Green (Nissan) and Emirau July 21, 1944 returns to USA
Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF)
RNZAF 6 Squadron (PBY Catalina) December 25, 1943 - September 1945
Since the end of the Pacific War, abandoned as a seaplane base.
Building the Navy's Bases in World War II [ Chapter 25 ] - Tulagi
Flickr - Adelaide Archivist RNZAF 6 Squadron 1943-45
The First Team And the Guadalcanal Campaign page 35-37
Thanks to Jenny Anthea "Adelaide Archivist" for additional information
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April 7, 2020