If ever-growing visitor numbers to war sites around the world prove one thing, it’s that travellers, including Australians, have a deep desire to commemorate and learn about the fallen on-site.

Internationally, Vietnam’s Chi Chi Tunnels and Europe’s concentration camps attract thousands of curious Australians every year, while closer to home it’s the well-known and, in turn, well-visited Kokoda Track that draws in hundreds of Aussies per year.

But as the 75th anniversary for the Battle of Guadalcanal rolls around next month, war tourists from Australia are expected to start adding a lesser visited South Pacific site to their itineraries, the Guadalcanal Battlefields.

Located in the Solomon Islands, the battlefields were used between 7 August 1942 to 9 February 1943 by the US and its allies, including Australia and New Zealand, against the Empire of Japan.

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As well as being the location for the first major offensive in the South Pacific during World War II, Guadalcanal Battlefields were also where former American President, John F. Kennedy, fought and almost died before being rescued by two Solomon islanders.

Speaking at a media lunch in Sydney, Solomon Islands Visit Bureau’s (SIVB) Chairman Wilson Ne’e said that despite the important role the battlefields played in the second World War, they’re still one of the most untouched sites in the South Pacific and “one of the best kept battlefields in the world”.

“[Solomon Islands] is the very place where freedom was born in the South Pacific.”

Wilson Ne’e, SIVB Chairman

Founder of Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours, Mat McLachlan agreed, saying Guadalcanal offers more relics and battlefield sites than almost any other island in the Pacific, including the Kokoda, the islands of New Britain, Palau, the Marianas and Kiribati.

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“Guadalcanal was the longest campaign of the Pacific War and, as such, the sheer amount of fighting here left indelible traces on the landscape,” McLachlan said.

“In addition, once the campaign was over, the island remained one of the most important bases in the Pacific, and more than two million Allied troops were stationed there between 1943 and 1945.

“When you have such a huge volume of troops occupying a small area for such an extended period of time, they left lots of things behind.

“Today there are buildings, vehicles, bunkers, aircraft, trenches, relics and more all over the island.”

Mat McLachlan, Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours Founder

McLachlan continued, saying the tour operator is seeing more Australians keen on visiting the Solomon Islands for its WW2 history and its diving scene, which is literred with shipwrecks and downed planes.

There’s also healthy demand for the operator’s special 75th anniversary Guadalcanal tour departing in August.

“The body of water off Guadalcanal is known as Iron Bottom Sound, a reference to the more than 200 ships and planes that lie on the bottom,” he explained. “Many of these wrecks can be dived.”

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Promoting Solomon Islands’ WW2 heritage is the latest move by the destination’s tourism bureau to attract more tourists and follows recently adjusted laws to meet international standards and the establishment of 2020 tourism goals.

SIVB’s Chairman said the island nation is also looking to grow its cruise sector, which is currently attracting some 19 ships a year, and hopes to entice one or two big hotel brands to open up in Honiara.

“We might even see our first branded hotel in Honiara – currently we do not have a Hilton or a Westin or a Sheraton or a Novotel – but we are confident we will see one of the big guns moving in short time,” he said.

Have you visited the Guadalcanal Battlefields?