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Meeting with Django EDWARDS, a Polynesian passionate about history

Moana Adventure Tours Team Building with Django EDWARDS

On the occasion of a team-building morning, the Moana Adventure Tours team went on a catamaran trip around Bora Bora island with Django EDWARDS, a young man passionate about the history of his ancestors and Polynesian legends.

At the age of 30, he related the story of the Second World War in Bora Bora and the American presence.

Bora Bora served as a supply base for American forces in the South Pacific during World War II. The island was chosen by the American headquarters or its strategic location in the Pacific and for its natural fortress because of its large lagoon reachable through a single pass and therefore easily controlled, especially against the submarine threat.

The Americans, fearing a Japanese attack, decided to install at strategic points in the mountains (South, East, North & West point), eight huge artillery pieces (8 cannons & 8 bunkers), able to send seven inches shells. One gun weighed 15 tons, was 7 inches in diameter, and had a range of 10 miles.

A sketch map showing the important sites on Bora Bora:

Bora Bora second world war map

[1] Motu Mute airfield

[2] Motu Mute dock

[3] Tupua seaplane base

[4] Point Tuahora battery (3 o’clock)

[5] Point Matira battery (6 o’clock)

[6] Povai Bay anchorage area

[7] Seven-inch barrel from Point Tereia and mooring anchors from Povai Bay

[8] Povai Valley ammo bunkers

[9] Vaitape town, dock, and church

[10] Teavanui Pass (entrance to lagoon)

[11] Point Pahua battery (9 o’clock)

[12] Cargo Landing No. 3

[13] Water dams and ammo bunkers at Faanui Valley

[14] Large ammo bunker

[15] Refueling dock

[16] Oil storage tank

[17] Point Tereia battery (11 o’clock)

[18] Faanui Bay anchorage area and cruiser moorings

[19] Faanui town

 

They built the Bora Bora airport in 1942 on Motu Mute at this specific location due to the prevailing wind. The runway at the time was 2 miles long (and was the first airfield in French Polynesia).

In front of the airport on the main island, on the north side, they installed a radio station in order to communicate with the naval station of Pearl Harbor located on the Hawaiian Islands, north of Bora Bora.

 

In Vairupe Bay, sheltered from the prevailing winds, was built the seaplane base of Bora Bora. At that time, there was a warehouse for seaplanes and water tanks. They built a cement slip for the seaplanes (floor covering). The base could accommodate a squadron of 15 seaplanes. The PBYs (Catalinas) were the heaviest models that could use the ground ramp. The camouflage of the ramp, intended for the seaplanes of the naval aviation base, was perfectly ensured thanks to many coconut trees.

During its activity, the BOBCAT operation supplied 181 ships with fuel. 193 ships were supplied with fresh water thanks to a recovery circuit and water pipes. 45 vessels were repaired, including ten for major works. 1200 ships were unloaded and loaded, representing 50,000 tons of cargo.

The activity of the American base in Bora Bora was maintained for five years, during which time 20,000 people passed through from the American ships.

 

At Terei’a Point (Mount Popoti), there were flak guns (small cannons anti-aircraft). In Faanui Bay, the soldiers had built their residences and lived there. There were 2 docks for the supply of ships, about 181 ships, the 2 docks were opposite each other (Farepiti dock and the 2nd one just opposite). The TP were the military offices and the power station was in the same place as now.

The American soldiers based in Bora Bora left behind cannons and bunkers, of course, but also children: about 60, most of whom grew up without knowing their father.

This is the case of Philippe Teriipaia, a resident of Bora Bora and descendant of an American GI. The photos he had of his father disappeared with the last cyclone. Now 74 years old, the man says he has no doubt about his identity:

I feel primarily Tahitian and a little half-American.

6,000 soldiers settled in Bora Bora between 1942 and 1946 during the Second World War. The objective was to serve as a rear base and preserve the island from a possible Japanese invasion after the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

A strategic choice for the Americans, which also allowed the inhabitants to have an airport, a road, drinking water, and electricity.

We just received this heritage from our ancestors and all we can do is to share this story with our children.

Says Alex Mateha, a Bora Bora resident and tour guide.

The whole team of Moana Adventure Tours thanks Django for this instructive moment. As a reminder, the purpose of these activities is to bring together the team outside of work around a different theme each week.


Bora Bora - WW2 in Paradise article

If you want more info, have a look at this article written by Raymond E. Charlton:

 

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