Tuesday, May 20, 2008


The Solomon Islands were unknown to most Americans in December 1941. It is unlikely that one in 10,000 could find Tulagi or Guadalcanal on a globe. Even with its momentous history and singular significance it is still unlikely today. And what exactly is its importance that makes it momentous?

Tulagi on August 7, 1942, marks where the first ground forces saw action in World War II. We had naval and air battles aplenty but no actual boots on the ground engaging in mortal combat until that time. It was the start of a years long campaign to acquire islands in the south Pacific inching ever closer to the Japanese homeland.

Tulagi is about 2/3 mile at the widest and less than 3 in length with the highest point about 250’. The Japanese had occupied it earlier (May 3, 42) for observation and to establish a seaplane base. The struggle for Tulagi lasted two days at a cost of 35 US marines and the near entirety of the defending Japanese force: 350 dead and 3 prisoners. It was the beginning of the end of Japanese plans to interrupt the shipping lanes to Australia and to move the vital oil supplies in Indonesia.

The neighboring island, Guadalcanal was quite another matter. It had a new airfield, an established military infrastructure and by comparison, a huge number of entrenched troops. The 1st Marine Division-- with newly formed Ranger battalions—were the initial assault troops who, despite a relatively easy landing, found the going extremely difficult as they attempted to liberate the island. It was nearly six months to the day when the Imperial Army finally abandoned the defense.

The eight mile waters between the two islands with tiny Savo Island at one end became the scene of endless battles and skirmishes between the naval forces so that the strait was eventually renamed Iron Bottom Sound to acknowledge the many vessels consigned to the deep. With hostilities finished on Tulagi, it was used as a supply base, regrouping area, rest and recreation facility and finally a cemetery for our slain troops.

Among the men assigned to plying the “Sound” to transport men and supplies was a fine, gentle man, Jappie Roberson from Miami, Oklahoma. Today this lively octogenarian is an elder in the Restored Church there. We spoke and he seemed surprised to find someone who knew of Tulagi and the struggle for Guadalcanal. He revealed he had some remembrance of the fields of white crosses on Tulagi and offered to share a verse he had written:


It was on the 43rd Thanksgiving Day,
When we sailed in to that silent bay,
And as we looked out over the water so still
We saw the white crosses lined upon the hill.

Just like in Flanders they stand in rows,
While quietly through them, the south wind blows.
Many a warrior, his own life he gave,
Fought and died, our liberty to save.

They stared at death with never a flinch,
And fought for this island, inch by inch.
Creeping and preying in the jungle path,
Against the enemy’s ever savage wrath.

Now they’re calling their ranks in heaven above,
Looking down at this island that they love.
They tell us to carry on what they had in their hearts,
To pick up from here, and all do our parts.

They say to us guys, who are here today,
Don’t gripe about mail or when you don’t get pay.
Just think, and try to settle the score,
For those guys that were here long before.

Jappie “Robby” Roberson

We thank you Jappie for your service and thank you for your memories.

To know Jappie is to see God’s influence in and on the lives of men. His constant smile and gentle nature belie the horrors he has witnessed. He has salvaged the absolute best from his experiences and eagerly shares them with others to the glory of his God. I rejoice that God chose to save him from the depths of Iron Bottom Sound.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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