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Nivani Island has an area of roughly 10-15 acres with the highest elevation 300' / 94.5m and is partly forested. To the north a half mile away is Panapompom Island bordering Deboyne Lagoon in the Deboyne Island Group.
Nivani Island was leased to Mr. G. Munt who cleared the island and planted coconut palm trees harvesting copra. Munt operated a trade store on the island and evacuated before the Pacific War. Another resident was Chinese Mr. Ah Gow who was a fisherman and harvested and traded Bêche-de-mer in the region.
The Japanese occupied the area with ten ships, including the Kamikawa Maru, a destroyer, cruiser and transports. They captured 8 Prisoners Of War (POWs) in the area including: three Australian Army Signalers and five natives. They established a forward operating seaplane base on Nivani Island with seaplanes operating in Deboyne Lagoon.
On May 7, 1942 at the start of the Battle of the Coral Sea a seaplane operating from this location managed to located the US Navy support Group (one battleship, two cruisers three destroyers) at 12:40pm roughly 78 miles south of the Deboyne Islands.
On May 7, 1942 A6M2 Zeros and one A5M4 Claude from Shoho ditched near each other in this vicinity. On May 8, 1942 one A6M2 Zero piloted by PO2c Okura Shigeru from the 14th Shotai from Zuikaku ditched at Deboyne.
On May 10, the Japanese withdrew from Deboyne Lagoon, but Americans continued to bomb the area for nearly a week after the withdrawal.
An Allied patrols visited this area in late May-early June aboard the MV Laurabada including Lt Mac Rich and Ivan Chapman. During July 1942, an Australian Technical Rece Party investigated the Deboyne area, including: Lindsay Smooker, and photographed the wreckage.
Allied missions against Deboyne
April 10, 1942–May 16, 1942
Deboyne Seaplane Base
Used by the Japanese during the Battle of the Coral Sea
F1M2 Pete Tail Number R-16
Abandoned on Nivani after Battle of Coral Sea
A6M2 Model 21 Zero
Ditched May 7 or 8, 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea off the northern tip of Nivani.
The First Team, pages 205, 207, 257, 268, 341
The number of aircraft the possibly ditched in the lagoon varies in several sources. The First Team page 262 states that four were lost (+ one ditched at Deboyne?)]. "The Campaigns of the Pacific War" (p. 53) says 10 of the torpedo aircraft were shot down, and quotes the war diary of 25th Air Flotilla as one of its sources.
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