Posted by: Kath Usitalo | August 2, 2011

Remembering Guadalcanal In Kalamazoo

A model of an aircraft carrier at the National Guadalcanal Memorial Museum

Guadalcanal, the largest of the Solomon Islands near Australia, is a long way from Kalamazoo.

Someone a long way from home saw Michigan in the coral at Guadalcanal

But the Air Zoo in the West Michigan city is home to the National Guadalcanal Memorial Museum, which tells the story of the first major offensive by Allied Forces against the Japanese in the Pacific theater during World War II.

The Battle of Guadalcanal began on August 7, 1942 when the American-led Allies seized the strategic location from the occupying Japanese.

Difficult and bloody battles continued on the challenging jungle terrain, in the air and at sea until February 9, 1943 when the Japanese evacuated the area.

In 1982 the Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans Association selected the Air Zoo to house its collection, which includes a tribute to 20 Guadalcanal Medal of Honor recipients. In addition to the Wall of honor there are articles, photos, artifacts, model ships and dioramas describing the six-month campaign.

A tropical scene and "Sunny South Seas-'42" etched on the bottom of a mess kit

The events of 69 years ago didn’t seem so distant when I saw items that had been carried by the young American military: one Marine’s knife, and another soldier’s mess kit, etched with a tropical scene.

There’s a hand grenade, and a naval pilots survival gear including a signaling device and fishing kit.

A jar holds a sampling of sand that someone collected and carried home from Red Beach on Guadalcanal.

A Japanese bayonet and a piece of one of their bombs are under glass, as are flying goggles that had been worn by an enemy, and a Japanese soldier’s diary, filled with his tidy writing.

It’s a sobering exhibit a long way from the Solomon Islands.

Admission to the Air Zoo,which features a collection of restored vintage aircraft, indoor amusement and flight simulator rides and other exhibits, is $8 and includes the National Guadalcanal Memorial Museum.

What sailor thought to save this sign---and why?

A model of the Imperial Japanese Navy ship Kongo and (behind, left) the Medal of Honor recipients' Wall of Honor

Visitor Info Clicks:

Air Zoo


Pure Michigan

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  1. My Grandfather served in the “Color Corps” at that time in the war in the islands of the South Pacific. Not a pleasant time in his life to say the least. Thanks for posting this one.

  2. Watching movies about WWII (or any war) is one thing. It always hits me hard when I see reminders and actual pieces of the lives that were spent defending our nation. Many thanks to your grandfather and all who serve in our military.

  3. My father, the late and former Cpl Ray C. Teuscher was a Forward Observer with E Battery 2nd Bn 11th Regiment and landed on Tulagi 7 Aug 1942. Howitzers from E Battery supported the landing firing from the deck of the USS Neville. The 1st time Field artillery was engaged in this manner. On 12 Aug. guns from E Battery fired on a Jap Submarine that had surfaced off Tulagi and began shelling 2 Higgins boats and a Tank Lighter approaching Tulagi from Guadalcanal. My dad and others ran 400 yds. to the beach carrying Cloverleafs of ammunition for the guns which were still in thre travel position. This was the 1st time that Field artillery had fired on a surface vessel. The latter incident is recorded in the book Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis. I am proud of my dad’s service in the Marine Corps and that he was present when history was made. Semper Fi. Thomas C. Teuscher, GySgt USMC retired.

    • Hi Thomas: Fascinating! I can’t even imagine what those young men went through. You have every right to be proud.
      We are grateful for his service and that of all of our military.
      Thanks for following Great Lakes Gazette.

      • I Just found your reply by accident. It is sad that most of these Marines have passed on. There is a fellow in Australia who I correspond with and he has made several trips back to Guadalcanal and has written a couple of books about the trips. His name is Peter Flahavin. I have met many of the individuals who were present at the Museums Grand Opening. Gene Keller, Ted Blanik, Father Frederic P. Gehring and a couple of other and have some photos of that day. should you wish to contact me my e-mail is: I have and have read many books about Guadalcanal. I have a 1st Edition of Guadalcanal Diary and The Old Breed which were my dad’s.

      • Thank you for sharing. I was very moved by that display and will be updating the story for my new website, an expanded version of the blog, at

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