30 June 1942. Coastwatcher lands in Solomons

coastwatchersOn this day RANVR Coastwatcher LEUT Frederick . A. (Snowy) Rhoades, RANVR, landed with the first echelon of assault troops at Rendova, Solomon Islands, and led the initial attack on Japanese positions. Rhoades killed seven of the 65 Japanese defenders in one sortie.

He was a WW1 ex Light Horseman and in April 1942 he was made a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RANVR). Snow with a fellow coastwatcher, Leif Schroeder, a Norwegian, would call up US air strikes on the ships and barges operating in his area.

The Japanese tracked coastwatcher broadcasts using flying boats fitted with direction finding equipment and had placed a bounty of $100 on Snowy’s head, a huge attraction for the local people.

Meanwhile, the Japanese began constructing a huge airfield on part of Lunga Plantation. The coastwatchers were in an ideal position to report on all activities and later, on aircraft movements. The memorial lighthouse to the coastwatchers in Madang PNG is pictured.

In August 1942, the Americans realised from coastwatcher reports that the enemy airfield at Lunga was ready for use and decided to capture it. In a surprise attack, which included HMAS Canberra, the area was heavily bombarded from the sea and the US 1st Marine Division landed at Tulagi and Lunga Point and captured the Henderson airfield. Snow and his helpers kept track of Japanese movements and called in air strikes which disposed of many Japanese.

After eight months dodging the Japanese, Snow spent some time at the receiving end of a bombardment by Japanese heavy bombers and then by the Japanese Navy that destroyed most of the Marine aircraft on the ground at Henderson.

Rhoades then returned to Australia where he learned he had been awarded the US Distinguished Service Cross, the highest decoration that could be conferred on a foreigner by the US Forces. He insisted on returning to Lunga in March 1943 and played an integral part in the successful capture of Rendova. His intimate knowledge of the area, where he had been a plantation manager, was invaluable in the operation. For gallantry in action during the Rendova operation, Snow was awarded the US Silver Star.
Coastwatchers memorial lighthouse at Madang PNG

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