Laulasi Village map

Figure 1
On the first day of the first American Offensive of WWII, a terrible tragedy occurred on Malaita. During the “softening up” air raids of the Tulagi-Guadalcanal landing operations on Friday, August 7, 1942, Grumman Avenger bombers from U.S. Navy Torpedo Squadron EIGHT (VT-8) bombed Laulasi Village on tiny Fodoru Island in the Langa Langa Lagoon on Malaita’s West Coast. There was no Japanese personnel and no Japanese installations anywhere near the area. The American action reports for the attack state “Seaplane or motorboat moorings were observed”. In reality, the nearest Japanese were at the lookout station at Afufu on Cape Astrolabe, Malaita’s Northern point, some 37 miles away (Site MALA4). As the Japanese had only set up there in the last week or so, perhaps this intelligence did not reach the USS Saratoga aviators, as the lookout post was not an assigned target on August 7, 1942, and was not touched.  Torpedo Squadron EIGHT was well known as the Squadron that never returned from the Battle of Midway, some two months previously. The unit had paid a very heavy price in that pivotal carrier battle.  On August 7, 1942, the Squadron Commander and half dozen pilots were eager to exact revenge on the Japanese. The air strike that hit Laulasi was Flight No. 205 from the USS Saratoga (CV-3) comprising seven TBF-1s loaded with 56 one hundred pound Mk. 4 high-explosive demolition bombs and 28 Army Incendiary Cluster bombs. The effect on the crowded Melanesian Village and the native leaf thatch constructed houses was devastating. The village was completely destroyed and 22 Melanesian men, women and children were killed and 11 wounded. It was the worst case of mistaken bombing by friendly forces in the Solomon Islands WWII Campaign. When the Squadron Commander, Harold H. “Swede” Larsen later compiled the Action Report, there is reference to an attack on the largest cluster of natives huts but it appears VT-8 also bombed nearby Firifau (Site MALA43) and Falabulu Islands (Site MALA44). It also appears likely VT-8 was responsible for dropping a dud bomb (hundred pounder) on the SSE mission station at Onepusu (Site MALA29) on the same day. An archaeological survey and enquiry at these later sites might reveal some hidden WWII history?. [Excerpt from 1: 50,000 Map Series X715, Sheet 0816016, 2007].

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