American Military Cannon at Ha'amaire in Bora BoraAmerican Military Cannon at Ha'amaire in Bora Bora
©American Military Cannon at Ha'amaire in Bora Bora|Association Mémoire Polynésienne

A strategic base for the US Army


Operation Bobcat

Bora Bora is famous for its white sandy beaches and magnificent lagoon, but the island had a very different role to play in 1942. It was an important refueling base for American Navy convoys on their way to the South Pacific.

Codename: Operation Bobcat.

Jean-Christophe Shigetomi

In February 1942 about 3,500 troops disembarked on the island of Bora bora, which had a population of just 1,200 islanders.

3,500 troops posted on the Pearl of the Pacifique

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese air force attacked Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into the Second World War. As part of their counter- attack, the American military needed a refueling depot somewhere between the Panama Canal and Australia, the only remaining resistance to the Japanese offensive. Due to its strategic position, the deep harbor at Fa’anui and the advantage of having just a single pass for controlling incoming vessels, Bora Bora was the ideal candidate. In 1942, the American Armed Forces launched Operation Bobcat, and about 3,500 servicemen arrived on the Pearl of the Pacific.

Cannons, which can still be seen today, were positioned to counter any eventual Japanese attack on the island. The logistics of Operation Bobcat were impressive,to say the least. Roads had to be built, quays constructed and a complete fuel depot had to be installed. An airfield with two airstrips was also built, and it remained the only international airport in Polynesia until 1963.

The Americans finally left the base in 1946. Over 1,000 vessels refueled or unloaded at the base on the Pearl of the Pacific.