"I was only a child when World War II came to the Solomon Islands. At that time, nobody knew there was a war going on until we started hearing gunshots from neighboring coastlines," recalls Merlyn Gentalea of Malaita Province.Mr. Gentalea is one of the many surviving old people who were around when World War II entered the Solomon Islands. He hails from Sinasu Village in Malaita and although he is now in his mid 90s he remembers perfectly well the fear him and his family felt during the war.
"First came the explosions and the rumors of war. The the rumors of strange people on the Island. We started seeing Japanese soldiers walking along the village and although they were armed, they never intended to hurt us," he recalls.
Merlyn went on to say that gunshots were exchanged by the Japanese and the Americans; however, no one from the village was hurt.
According to Merlyn, people in his village fled in panic when they heard explosions and gunshots, something they had never heard of. Many fled to the high mountains and others to the sea, "not because the soldiers were causing us harm but because we were all fearful."
"I could remember children crying and people in panic and it was quite difficult for some to comfort their children because they have many of them. I only had four other brothers, so it was okay for my parents," describes Merlyn.
He went on to state that it was not long before all the soldiers left Malaita for the other Province.
"My family was taking refuge by the coast and we often sight the war ships. One day we saw the ships sailing away and we knew that they had left the island," continues Merlyn.
According to Merlyn, the war never caused much damage to Malaita as that in the other Provinces however; the war did leave memories that were the centre of discussions for their village for many more years.