This airfield was originally constructed by the Japanese in 1942. After the Marines landed on Guadalcanal, on August 7, 1942, their immediate objective was the capture of a Japanese landing strip, just inland from Lunga Point.
The next day, C Company, 1st Marines, commanded by Captain Nikolai Stevenson, took the airstrip, which was renamed Henderson Field, in honor of Lofton Henderson killed in the Battle of Midway. The Japanese launched assault after assault to capture the airfield, but failed to seize it. Henderson Field was abandoned by the U.S. Army after the war.
The airfield today:
Henderson Field became, after the war, Henderson International Airport, which is now Honiara International Airport, which in 2005 was renovated by a grant from Japan. The control tower was constructed during the Second World War. Travelers arriving in Honiara generally walk from their plane to the terminal, which affords a good view of the battle site, even though itís now largely a tarmac. To the south, the contours of Edsonís Ridge, aka Bloody Ridge, can be seen. Around the airport are various memorial markers. In front of the airport is a Memorial Garden, where there are plaques with the names of servicemen, from many nations, in the shade of newly-planted trees (although it is difficult to figure out how to donate money and add a plaque/name/tree to the garden).
From the airport it is possible to walk in about twenty minutes to Lunga Point, around which the Marines established their first perimeter in the campaign.
To get there, turn right out of the airport, and then, after about 100 meters or so, take the first road running north toward the beaches. Walking there you will pass through the old front lines of the battlefield, but itís a suburban neighborhood of Honiara now, not a battlefield park. So use your imagination.
Then to get into Honiara wave at a passing bus or get a lift in someoneís car on the main road; either way, you will get there. Itís about twenty minutes from the airport.
Excellent accounts of the landing and the capture of the airfield can be found in:
óHerbert Merillatís The Island.
óNikolai Stevensonís Four Months on the Front Lines (American Heritage)
óRichard B. Frankís Guadalcanal
óCraig M. Cameronís American Samurai: Myth and Imagination in the Conduct of Battle in the First Marine Division 1941-1951
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- Text: Kaj Metz + Matthew Stevenson
- Photos: Matthew Stevenson