Michael Ben is arguably one of the few Solomon Islanders who knows the history of the Second World War on Guadalcanal equal to what is scribed in the historic books. And whilst many historians studied the six months bloody war in the country, Ben as he’s known to many of his friends earns his knowledge by reading historic books and speaking to key local WWII veterans during his time as a tour guide.
The Ulawa man who now resides on Guadalcanal is one of the most articulated Solomon Islanders who knows every detail about the war here especially on Guadalcanal and all the twists and turns between the Japanese and the Americans.
“I never studied history of the war but I read a lot of books and actually visit the sites mentioned in the book so I know exactly what they are talking about.
“Besides that I also interviewed many of the local war veterans whose stories I also recorded,” he said.
He said the local veterans were key players in the war as Scouts, Carriers and Labour Corps.
The Scouts helped Americans to identify where the Japanese were, the Carriers helped to carry ammunitions for the Allied Forces whilst the Labour Corp assisted in the cleaning up including digging up of the dead Americans after the war.
It was these groups of people that Ben was very interested in and their stories.
He said often the historians only write about the war and the battling sides but not the engagement of Solomon Islanders in the conflict. That led to him and other leaders to establish the Guadalcanal WWII Veterans Association.
And through his participation in that association, Ben deepens and broadens his knowledge about Solomon Islanders role in the war.
When Prince Charles visited Honiara in November last year he took very interest in Ben’s story on the war and he was amazed with his wealth of knowledge about the history of the war here.
Ben’s expertise has not gone unnoticed. This month the Solomon Scout and Coastwatchers Trust Board has engaged him to help them put together the history of WWII from a local view point with the intention to package it to become part of the Solomon Islands education curriculum.
“Yes I am so proud to be engaged to do this job,” Ben told SBM in an interview.
Ben’s knowledge is incredible. He knows all the battles on Guadalcanal. Asked which battle was the biggest, he replied with a smile, Bloody Ridge.
He said when the Americans landed on Guadalcanal, they didn’t meet much resistance but they faced the toughest opposition during the Bloody Ridge battle.
Meanwhile Ben said he’s happy to assist in putting together the history of the war especially the significant contributions of Solomon Islanders.
He stressed that it is important that such history is put together so that Solomon Islanders can learn and understand the account of the war and pass on to future generations.
Ben said as a Solomon Islander he has a heart for his people and when he was asked to undertake the task he accepted it with humility.
“I know a lot but this exercise will also help me to record part of the knowledge I know into the books that our children will study about in the future,” he said.
Ben is a proud Solomon Islander that has taken special interest to learn about the war on Guadalcanal.
Having married to a Guadalcanal woman and based just around Tuvaruhu area Ben is a familiar face in amongst WWII veterans.
“I have been doing this work for many years now and I have learnt a lot as part of the process,” he told SBM.
He recalled having met both American and Japanese war veterans who fought on Guadalcanal and some of them took him right to where they once fought in the bloody sites on Guadalcanal.
“I can recall taking a war veteran to a spot and he showed me exactly the place where his comrade was killed and we dug his bones,” he said.
Ben said this is just an example of some of the people he met during his many years as a tour guide on Guadalcanal.