It’s hard for me to believe that Bora Bora, which could be used as the ad ideal for “tropical paradise”, played an important role in World War II. But it did. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Operation Bobcat (some write it as Bob Cat) formed, and the USA chose Bora Bora’s boot-shaped Faanui Bay for its main Pacific military supply base. Roads were built as was a major airstrip. Military ships, including 2 destroyers, arrived. Although 7,000 soldiers came here, no combat occurred on the island. Lonely Planet says there were 6,000 and recommends seeing the old runway on Motu Mute to bring this era alive. The army base lasted from 1942 until 1946, and some of the military personnel remained and married Polynesians.
When the USA left this island, it left a lot of the military equipment behind. Much of it remains. If you’re interested in World War II and come here to see it, it’s best to take a tour to view what’s left. Jungle has covered military bunkers. Many of the WWII sites are inaccessible. Eight abandoned military cannons are rusting away at some of the best viewpoints on Bora Bora. Our guide said there were 7 and took us to see one. Behind a private fence, it could not be seen from the road and may have been the only one that Lonely Planet says is not in its original place.
Small boats were used to offload 20,000 tons of materiel. The fact that Bora Bora now desalinates all of its potable water comes from this era. Barrels of heavy oil were placed under coconut trees. New roads led to freshwater supplies. Seaplanes were used for air cover. An entire air base was operational here by 1943, and it’s amazing that the environmental impact of all of that military activity did not leave more evidence. Most of what was brought in was left on the island. It surely helped that the battlefront shifted to The Philippines.