Russell Islands

Relief map of Russel Islands and surroundings

The Russell Islands (159.2E 9.1S) are a small group located about 30 miles (40 km) west of Cape Esperance on Guadalcanal. There are two main islands, Pavuvu to the west and Banika to the east, and a number of islets. The two main islands are separated by Sunlight Channel, which forms an excellent protected deep anchorage.  The northeast coast of Banika has sufficient flat ground for airfields. The islands had a number of copra plantations but no other significant facilities prior to war. Oddly, the islands were largely free of malaria.

The islands were used by the Japanese during the Guadalcanal campaign as a staging area for barge traffic, but they had abandoned the islands by the time 43 Division (Hester) landed on 21 February 1943. The Allies promptly constructed an airfield to support further advances up the Solomons, with a 3100' (950 meter) runway ready in May. A 4500' (1370 meter) runway was later added and the first runway extended to 6000 ' (1800 meters).  Pavuvu became a staging area for 43 Division for the New Georgia campaign and for 1 Marine Division for the Palau and Okinawa campaigns. The base began to be dismantled even before 1 Marine Division shipped out for Okinawa, and it was officially closed on 12 June 1946.


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