Nauru’s War History: Uncovering WWII Wrecks and Relics


Though Nauru is only 21 square kilometres, the island is scattered with plenty of war history dotted around the island. During WWII, Nauru was occupied by the Japanese for approx three years. The Japanese used the island as a stronghold and increased warfare infrastructure by building tunnels, a war prison and placing powerful guns at the top points of Nauru.

Three of these guns are still in place and can be found with your guide in the wilderness at Topside, the area known for its heavy phosphate mining and recognisable rock pinnacles caused by it.

Japanese Prison

On the road towards Buada Lagoon, remnants of train tracks can be found hidden underneath a well-groomed, sandy path. The train tracks were originally used for carrying phosphate down to the shore to be transferred onto ships, but are now almost hidden. You will need the assistance of your expert guide to find the prison as you walk down a jungle like path. The hike in is beautiful but rife with mosquitos. Trees and vines choke rocks and boulders before you reach the entrance of the prison. The remains of a Japanese prison from the war are still there holding their place in history. Three isolated prison cells used to house enemies of the Japanese in WWII.

Inside japanese bunker Nauru - credit crooked compass
Inside a Japanese prison cell, Nauru – Photo Credit: Crooked Compass

Command Ridge Gun

Seeing one of these guns left over from WWII is pretty impressive. The gun has dents in the barrels near the top, meaning it can no longer be used effectively. You will also see a tunnel here which was originally used to climb inside the gun. If you continue past the gun and clamber down amongst the pinnacles, you may find the remains of an aircraft which was shot down during the war. These are harder to find and really do require the far limits of your imagination as they are almost unidentifiable as aircraft now.

Nauru topside wwii artillery
Nauru Topside – Command Ridge Gun

Twin Guns

These guns are surrounded by greenery and are still in incredible condition. Up here, you will also see the remnants of tunnels which are said to have once crossed from one side of the island to the other.

Twin guns - TopSide - Photo Credit: Crooked Compass
Twin guns – TopSide – Photo Credit: Crooked Compass

If you would like to explore more of Nauru’s WWII history, check our small group tour!