ISOLATION OF RABAUL

History of U.S. Marine Corps
Operations in World War II
VOLUME II
HISTORICAL BRANCH, G-3 DIVISION, HEADQUARTERS, U.S. MARINE CORPS
PCN 19000262500
I sol ati on of
Rabaul
HI STORY OF U.S. MARI NE CORPS
OPERATI ONS I N WORLI ) WAR 11
VOLUME I I
by
() s ?8\i\ c..
HENRY I . SHAW, JR.
MAJOR DOUGLAS T. KANE, USMC
Historical Branch, G–3 Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps
1963
Other Vol umes i n thi s Seri es
I
LtCol Frank O. Hough, Maj Ver l e E. Ludwi g, and Henr y I . Shaw, Jr.
Pearl Harbor to Guadal canal
Li brary of Congress Catal og Card No. 58-60002
Forsal eby theSuperi ntendent ofDocuments, L-.5. Government Pri nti ng Offi ce
Washi ngton, D.C.,w02- Pri ce$5.50
Foreword
Thi s book, the second i n a projected fi ve-vol ume seri es, conti nues the com-
prehensi ve hi story of Mari ne Corps operati ons i n Worl d War I I . The story
of i ndi vi dual campai gns, once tol d i n separate detai l i n prel i mi nary mono-
graphs, has been l argel y rewri tten and woven together to show events i n proper
proporti on to each other and i n correct perspecti ve to the war as a whol e. New
materi al , part i cul arl y from .Japanese sources, whi ch has become avai l abl e i n
profusi on si nce the wri ti ng of the monographs, has been i ncl uded to provi de
fresh i nsi ght i nto the Mari ne Corps’ contri buti on to the fi nal vi ctory i n the
Paci fi c.
The peri od covered i n these pages was a ti me of transi ti on i n the fi ghti ng
when the Al l i ed offensi ve gradual l y shi fted i nto hi gh gear after a gri ndi ng
start at Guadal canal . As the si tuati on changed, the make-up of the Fl eet
Mari ne Force changed, too. We passed through the era of hi t and run and
through the ti me for defensi ve stratebg. Our rai der and parachute battal i ons
were absorbed i n regul ar i nfantry uni ts, the seacoast batteri es of our defense
battal i ons became fi el d arti l l ery, and our ai r squadrons were re-equi pped wi th
newer and deadl i er pl anes.
I n the convergi ng dri ves that made the ,Tapanese fortress Rabaul thei r
goal -one under Navy command and the other under Army l eadershi p—
Mari nes pl ayed a si bmi fi cant part wel l out of proporti on to thei r numbers. I n
those days, as i n these, the use of trai ned amphi bi ous troops i n a naval campai gn
overl oaded the scal e i n our favor.
As one hard-won success fol l owed another i n the Sol omons and on New
Gui nea, a progressi on of ai rfi el ds wrested from i sl and jungl es gave us the
means to emascul ate Rabaul . Mrhi l e the enemy garri son wai ted hel pl essl y for
an assaul t that never came, we sei zed enci rcl i ng bases that choked the l i fe out
of a once-potent stronghol d.
once the front l i nes passed by Rabaul , other i sl and battl es sei zed the head-
l i nes—battl es of the great two-pronged advance on Japan, whi ch was made
possi bl e i n l arge part by the vi ctori es of 1943 i n the Southwest Paci fi c. For
thousands of Ameri cans, .4ustral i ans, and New Zeal anders, however, the cam-
pai gn agai nst Rabaul never ended unti l the l ast day of the war. I n thi s
unheral ded epi l ogue of bl ockade and harassment, Mari ne ai r uni ts took the
l ead just as they had i n the al l -out aeri al battl e that preceded.
The outstandi ng aspect of al l the operati ons covered i n thi s vol ume, one
evi dent i n every secti on of the narrati ve, was the spi ri t of cooperati on between
I V FOREWORD
di tl ’erent servi ces and nati onal forces. No fi ner exampl e exi sts i n recent hi story
of the awesome combi ned power of di sti nct mi l i tary forces pursui ng a common
goal .
DAVI D M. SHOUP
GENERAL, U.S. MARI NECORPS
COMMANDANTOF THE MARI hTECORPS
Revi ewed and approved
16 ~fay 1963
Preface
The Al l i ed campai gn to reduce Rabaul was not an uni nterrupted seri es
of fl awl ess operati ons. I t had, l i ke most human enterpri ses, a share of mi stakes
to match i ts successes. Si nce we l earn by both errors and accompl i shments, the
l essons, good and bad, absorbed duri ng the fi ghti ng on New Georgi a, Bougai n-
vi l l ea, and hTew Bri tai n were pri cel ess i n val ue. They undoubtedl y saved the
l i ves of many Mari nes who went on to take part i n the Central Paci fi c dri ve
that cul mi nated i n the battl e for Oki nawa.
Our purpose i n publ i shi ng thi s operati onal hi story i n durabl e form i s to
make the Mari ne Corps record permanentl y fi vai l abl e for study by mi l i tary
personnel and the general publ i c as wel l as by seri ous schol ars of mi l i tary
hi story. We have macl e a consci ous effort to be objecti ve i n our treatment of
the acti ons of Mari nes and of the men of other servi ces who fought at thei r
si de. We have tri ed to wri te wi th understandi ng about our former enemi es and
i n thi s efl ort have recei ved i nval uabl e hel p from the Japanese themsel ves. Few
peopl es so mi l i tant and unyi el di ng i n war have been as di spassi onate and
anal yti cal about thei r acti ons i n peace.
Thi s vol ume was pl anned and outl i ned by Col onel Charl es W. Harri son,
former Head, Hi stori cal Branch, G–3 Di vi si on, Headquarters, U.S. Mari ne
Corps, worki ng i n conjuncti on wi th Mr. Henry I . Shaw, tJr., the seni or hi stori an
on the Worl d Tl rar I I hi stori cal project. Major Dougl as T. Kane wrote the
narrati ves of the New Georgi a and Bougai nvi l l ea operati ons, usi ng much of the
research materi al gathered for the monographs prepared by Major John N.
Rentz, illarine~ in the Central 8oZom.on,s and Bouqainville and the Northern
Solomon.y. The remai nder of the narrati ve was wri tten by Mr. Shaw, who i n
treati ng the story of operati ons at Cape Gl oucester and Tal asea drew upon
the research data assembl ed for the monograph, The Campaign on New Britain,
by Li eutenant Col onel Frank O. Hou@l and Major John .4. Crown. The
appendi ces concerni ng casual ti es, command and staff, and chronol ogy were
prepared by Mr. Beni s M. Frank.
Col onel Harri son, Major Geral d Fi nk,
Col onel Wi l l i am M. Mi l l er, Major Jol m H. ,Johnstone, and Col onel Thomas G.
Roe, successi ve heacl s of the Hi stori cal Branch, di d most of the fi nal edi ti ng of
the manuscri pt. The book was compl eted uncl er the di recti on of Col onel ,Joseph
F. Wagner, Jr., present head of the branch.
A number of l eadi ng parti ci pants i n the acti ons descri bed have commented
on prel i mi nary drafts of perti nent porti ons of the book. Thei r val uabl e assi st-
ance i s grateful l y acknowl edged. Several seni or offi cers, i n parti cul ar General
VI PREFACE
Al exander A. Vandegri ft., General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., and Vi ce Admi ral
Dani el E. Barbey, made val uabl e addi ti ons to thei r wri tten comments duri ng
personal i ntervi ews. General Vandegri ft, i n addi ti on, made hi s pri vate
correspondence wi th seni or commanders i n the Paci fi c avai l abl e for use and
attri buti on.
Speci al thanks are due to the hi stori cal agenci es of the other servi ces for
thei r cri ti cal readi ngs of the draft chapters of thi s book. Outstandi ng among
the many offi ci al hi stori ans who measurabl y assi sted the authors were: Dr. John
Mi l l er, Jr., Deputy Chi ef Hi stori an, Offi ce of the Chi ef of Mi l i tary Hi story,
Department of the Army; Mr. Dean C. Al l ard, Head, Operati onal Archi ves
Branch, Naval Hi story Di vi si on, Navy Department; and Dr. Robert F. Futrel l ,
Hi stori an, U.S. .4i r Force Hi stori cal Di vi si on, Research Studi es I nsti tute, Ai r
Uni versi ty, Maxwel l Ai r Force Base.
Chi ef Warrant Offi cer Patri ck R. Brewer and hi s successor as Hi stori cal
Branch Admi ni strati ve and Producti on Offi cer, Second Li eutenant D’Arty E.
Gri si er, abl y handl ed the many exacti ng duti es i nvol ved i n processi ng the
vol ume from fi rst drafts through fi nal pri nted form. The many prel i mi nary
typescri pts and the pai nstaki ng task of typi ng the fi nal manuscri pt for the
pri nter were done by Mrs. Mi ri am R. Smal l wood. Much of the meti cul ous
work demanded by the i ndex was done by Mrs. Smal l wood, Mi ss Mary E.
Wal ker, and Mi ss Kay P. Sue.
The maps were drafted by Chi ef Warrant Offi cer Brewer and Corporal
Robert F. Sti bi l . Offi ci al Defense Department photographs have been used
throughout the text.
6?. 4?
‘()’’”
J.
R. E. CUSHMAN, JR.
MAJORGENERAL, U.S. MARI NECORPS
ASSI STAh’TCHI EFOFSTAFF,G-2
PART I STRATEGI C SI TUATI ON—SPRI NG 1943
CHAPTER
l . Setti ng the Stage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2. The Openi ng Moves.... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.0rder of Battl e . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
PART I I TOENAI LS OPERATI ON
l . Objecti ve: New Georgi a.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2. ELKTON Underway . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3. Munda Vi ctory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4. The Dragons Peni nsul a Campai gn . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5. Endof the Campai gn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
PART I I I NORTHERN SOLOMONS OPERATI ONS
l . Conti nui ng the Pressure.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2. Di versi onary Assau1ts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3. Assaul t of Cape Toroki na. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4. Hol di ng the Beachhead. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5. Advance to Pi va Forks... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6. Endof a Mi ssi on . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
PART I V THE NEW BRI TAI N CAMPAI GN
l . New Bri tai n Prel ude . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2. The Enemy: Terrai n and Troops . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3. DEXTERI TY Landi ngs.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4. Capture of the Ai rfi el ds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5. The Dri ve to Bergen Bay.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6. Eastward to I boki . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7. Tal asea and Beyond . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
PAGE
3
18
32
41
59
89
119
148
167
188
207
225
247
270
297
319
334
357
374
391
411
S. Concl usi on . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
428
VI I
VI I I
CONTENTS
PART V MARI NE AI R AGAI NST RABAUL
CH.4PTER
l . Target: Rabaul , . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2. Approach March . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3. Knockout by Toroki na . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
PART VI CONCLUSI ON
I . Enci rcl ement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2. Apprai sal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
APPENDI CES
A. Bi bl i ographi cal Notes.... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
B. Gui de to Abbrevi ati ons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
C. Mi l i tary Map Symbol s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
D. Chronol ogy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
E. Fl eet Mari ne Force Status—30 Apri l 1943 . . . . . . . . , . .
F. Tabl e of Organi zati on E–100—Mari ne Di vi si on . . . . . . . .
G. Mari ne Task Organi zati on and Command Li st . . . . . . . .
H. Mari neCasual ti es . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I . LTni t Commendati ons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I ndex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I LLUSTRATI ONS
Si mpson Harbor and Rabaul . . . . . . . . .
Mari nes of the 3d Rai der Battal i on . . . . . .
Buri al Ceremony at Vi ru Harbor . . . . . .
155mm Guns of the 9th Defense Battal i on . . .
Gun Crew of the 9th Defense Battal i on . . .
Avenger Torpedo Bombers . . . . . . . . .
Mari ne Li ght Tank on New Georgi a . . .
Casual ti es Evacuated by PBY . . . . . .
Col umn of Mari ne Rai ders Near Enogai . . . .
New Zeal and Troops Land on Vel l a I .avcl l a . .
Munda Ai rfi el d . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Landi ng Craft Readi ed for Bougai nvi l l ea D-Day
Mari nes Wadi ng Ashore at, Bougai nvi l l ea . . .
Puruata I sl and and Toroki na Ai rfi el d . . .
PAGE
441
455
478
507
537
543
552
556
557
562
571
574
587
588
597
22
22
66
66
86
96
96
127
127
159
159
209
215
215
CONTENTS
.-
I LLUSTRATI ONS—Conti nued
Mud Cl i ngs to Ammuni ti on Carri ers . . . . . .
Admi ral Hal sey and General Gei ger . . . . . .
Fi el d Tel ephone Li nes Are Lai d . . . . . . . .
Numa Numa Trai l Posi ti on of 2/21 . . . . . . .
Mari ne Wounded Are Carri ed From Hi l l 1000 .
Pi va Ai rfi el ds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Fi el d Arti l l ery Fi res by Mari ne 155mm Guns .
Troopers of the 112th Caval ry Land at Arawe . .
Mari nes Move Ashore at Cape Gl oucester . . . .
Shore Party Mari nes Bui l d a Sandbag Ramp . .
105mm Howi tzers of 4/11 Support the Attack . .
Mari ne Ri fl emen Attack Toward the Ai rfi el d . .
Medi um Tank Crosses Sui ci de Creek . . . . .
75mm Hal f Track and 37mm Gun at Hi l l 66o . .
Japanese Fl ags Captured by Mari nes . . . . . .
Patrol of Mari nes Near Borgen Bay . . . . . .
Army Amphi bi an Engi neers and Mari nes at I boki
Captured Japanese Zero . . . . . . . . . . . .
Japanese Val Di ve Bombers . . . . . . . . . .
Japanese Anti ai rcraft Crews Duri ng a B-25 .kttack
Parafrag Bombs Drop on Vunakanau Ai rfi el d . .
Mechani cs of VMF-21 I Repai r a Corsai r . . . .
Mari ne TBFs Loaded for a Rabaul Stri ke . . . .
Mari ne SBDS Headed for Vunakanau . . . . . .
Seabee Equi pment Unl oaded on Green I sl and . .
Fi rst Wave Ashore on Los Ncgros . . . . . . .
Town of Rabaul on 22 March ] 944 . . . . . . .
Corsai rs at Emi rau Ai rfi el d . . . . . . . . . .
Leyte I nvasi on Fl eet i n Seeadl er Harbor . . . .
Mari ne Mi tchel l s Fl y Over Crater Peni nsul a . . .
MAPS
1. Sei zure of the Russel l I sl ands, 21 February 1943 . . . . . . . .
2. Ki ri wi na and Woodl ark I sl ands, Showi ng CHRONI CLE Landi ngs
3. Sei zure of Vi ru Harbor, 28 June–1 Jul y 1943 . . . . . . . . .
4. Sei zure of Wi ckham Anchorage, 30 June–3 Jul y 1943 . . . . . .
5. Munda Campai gn, XI V Corps, 2–15 Jul y . . . . . . . . . .
6. Munda Campai gn, XI I ’ Corps, 25–30 Jul y . . . . . . . . .
7. Munda Campai gn, XI V Corps, 24 August . . . . . . . . . .
8. Dragons Peni nsul a, Northern Landi ng Group, 4–I 9 Jul y . . . .
9. The Attack on Bai roko, Northern Landi ng Group, 20 Jul y . . .
LA
P,\GE
231
231
250
268
268
282
282
341
341
351
351
368
368
390
390
405
405
452
452
480
480
495
500
500
513
513
525
525
534
534
25
61
68
75
91
109
115
122
137
x CONTENTS
MAPS-Conti nued
10. Vel l a Lavel l a Bypass and Mop-up on Arundel . . . . . . . . .
11. Bougai nvi l l e . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
12. Treasury I sl ands Landi ng, I Mari ne Amphi bi ous Corps, 27 October
1943 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
13. Choi seul Di versi on, 2d Parachute Battal i on, 28 October–3 Novem-
ber 1943 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
14. The Landi ng at Cape Toroki na, I Mari ne Amphi bi ous Corps,
l November 1943 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
15. Expansi on of the Beachhead, I Mari ne Amphi bi ous Corps, 1 Nov-
ember–15December 1943. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
16. Japanese Counterl andi ng, Laruma Ri ver Area, 7 November 1943 .
17. Battl e for Pi va Trai l , 2d Rai der Regi ment, 8–9 November . . . .
18. Coconut Grove, 2d Battal i on, 21st Mari nes, 13–14 November . .
19. Battl e of Pi va Forks, Fi rst Phase, 19–20 N’ovember . . . . . .
20. Battl e of Pi va Forks, Fi nal Phase, 21–25 November . . . . . .
21. Hel l zapoppi n Ri dge, Neari ng the End, 6-18 December . . . . .
22. BACKHANDED Stagi ng Area, 1st Mari ne Di vi si on Di sposi ti ons,
18 December 1943 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
23. BACKHANDED Objecti ve Area, Showi ng Japanese Di sposi ti ons,
26 December 1943 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
24. Arawe Landi ng, 15 December 1943 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
25. Sketch Map of the STOhTEFACE Trai l Bl ock, 30 December 1943 .
26. Advance to Sui ci de Creek. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
27. Capture of Aogi ri Ri dge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
28. Capture of Hi 11660 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
29. Japanese Wi thdrawal Routes, January-March 1944 . . . . . . .
30. Vol upai -Tal asea Operati ons, 6-11 March 1944, 5th Mari nes Route
of Advance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
31. Rabaul and Kavi eng . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
32. Sei zure of the Green I sl ands, Showi ng Landi ng Pl an at Ni ssan,
15 February 1944 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
33. Pri nci pal Landi ngs i n the Admi ral ti es, 24 February-15 March
1944 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
34. Kavi eng and Emi rau . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
PAGE
151
169
190
196
212
227
233
238
242
258
260
274
302
320
337
347
378
383
387
396
415
443
509
517
520
I . Rabaul Strategi c Area . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Map Secti on
I I . The New Georgi a Group . . . . . . . . . . . . , . . Map Secti on
I I I . Western New Bri tai n, Showi ng Major Ri vers and Mountai n
Ranges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Map Secti on
I V. Sei zure and Defense of the Ai rdrome . . . . . . . . . . Map Secti on
V. Rabaul and I ts Ai rfi el ds, November 1943 . . . . . . . . Map Secti on
VI . Pi l ots’ Stri p Map, New Georgi a to New I rel and . . . . . Map Secti on
PART I
Strategic Situation—Spring 1943
CHAPTER1
Setting the Stage
Worl d l l rar I I had the dubi ous di sti nc-
ti on of bei ng the fi rst trul y gl obal confl i ct.
The Al l i ed and the Axi s Powers cl ashed
on a dozen wi del y separated fronts and a
thousand di fferent battl efi el ds. Si x years,
l acki ng onl y 26 days, passed between the
fateful dawn when Nazi tanks rumbl ed
across the pol i sh border and the sol emn
nmment when the Enoza Gay rel eased i ts
bomb l oad over ground zero at Hi ro-
shi ma. Tl ]e Uni ted States was i n thi s war
from ti l e begi nni ng, perhaps not as an
acti ve bel l i gerent, but certai nl y as an open
and materi al supporter of i ts fri ends and
al l i es.1
(l errnany was tagged “the predomi nant
member of the Axi s Powers” and the At-
l anti c and European area “the deci si ve
theatre” ei ght months before the Japanese
struck at, Pearl Harbor. z The stark fact
of that surpri se attack and i ts resul ti ng
havoc di d not al ter the basi c deci si on made
by the responsi bl e Ameri can mi l i tary and
naval chi efs to gi ve pri ori ty of men, equi p-
ment, and suppl i es to the campai gn
‘ See Parts I and 11 of Vol ume I of thi s seri es
for an exami nati on of the extent to whi r h the
U.S. was pr eI mr ed for and parti ci pati ng i n Worl d
~var I I pri or to 7 December 19+1.
‘ I ’ar:I 1,3, A13GI . dt{l 23 M:l r41, ql l oted i n A-:try
Basi c War Pl an—Rai nbow No. 5, dtd 26May41.
The “R:i i nl mw” pl ans {~l l tl i ne[l possi bl e coorsc’s
of acti on i n the event of a n]nl ti -ml ti on war, the
term der i vi ng fr om the custom of xi vi n~ (wl or
nanl es (.J:I I JmLI Y:I S or an~e ) to ~rar l )l :~ns i nvol r -
i ng one major enen]y, Rai nb(ji v-.l ~v>~sthe bnsi c
Al neri van ~v:i r I )l an :I t the ti me of Pearl H:l rbor.
agai nst Germany. Thei r anal ysi s of the
si tuati on boi l ed down to the si mpl e con-
cl usi on that C~ermany was more dangerous
to the Uni ted States than Japan.
The “Germany-fi rst” deci si on was made
i n terms of overal l war potenti al , not
sol el y i n terms of fi ghti ng men. I ndeed,
the soberi ng successi on of Al l i ed reverses
i n the Paci fi c duri ng the earl y days of 1942
gave ampl e evi dence of the formi dabl e
fi ghti ng qual i ti es of Japanese sol di ers and
seamen. Japan was no pushover; her de-
feat woul d requi re years of al l -out effort.
However sl i m the al l otment of resources
to the Al l i ed troops that faced the Jap-
anese, constant mi l i tary pressure had to be
mai ntai ned. Casual ti es and costs woul d
soar i f ever the enemy was al l owed ti me to
consol i date hi s hol d on the strategi c i s-
l ands, to di g i n and construct defenses i n
depth.
The Uni ted States had the pri mary re-
sponsi bi l i ty for hal ti ng the Japanese ad-
vance south and east through the Paci fi c.
The fact that the battl eground i ncl uded
thousands of open mi l es of the worl d’s
l argest ocean added i mmeasurabl y to the
l ogi sti c probl em i nvol ved and made man-
datory the assi gnment of amphi bi ous-
trai ned troops to the fi ghti ng. I n such a
si tuati on, the Mari ne Corps, whi ch had
arguecl and coaxed, sweated and struggl ed,
to devel op workabl e amphi bi ous tech-
ni ques i n the 20>sand 30’s, soon proved the
worth of i ts fi ndi ngs and trai ni ng.
3
4
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
A Mari ne occupi ed a uni que posi ti on
among Ameri can servi cemen duri ng
Worl d War I I . Wrhi l e hi s country battl ed
a coal i ti on of enemi es, and most of hi s
countrymen i n arms were fi ghti ng hal fway
across the gl obe from hi m, the Mari ne
trai ned to meet onl y one enemy—Japan.
As the war moved i nexorabl y onward, the
men who fl ocked to joi n the Corps i n un-
precedented numbers were l i teral l y and
consci ousl y si gni ng up to fi ght the Jap-
anese. Thi s ori entati on toward a si ngl e
enemy and towards one theater, the Paci fi c,
col ored every Mari ne’s l i fe i n and out of
battl e and had an i ncal cul abl e but unde-
ni abl y benefi ci al effect on the combat effi -
ci ency of the Fl eet Mari ne Force (FMF ).
A gl ance back over the fi rst year hi gh-
l i ghts of the Paci fi c war wi l l set the stage
for the sti rri ng events to fol l ow—for the
story of the Mari ne Corps’ vi tal part i n
the al l -out Al l i ed shi ft to the offensi ve.
THE FI RST YEAR OF THE
PACI FI C WAE 8
The homespun phi l osophy of Ameri ca
furni shes an apt sayi ng that descri bed
tJapan’s pl i ght i n Worl d War I I : %he bi t
off more than she coul d chew.” Not onl y
di d the Japanese mi l i tari sts grossl y under-
esti mate the stayi ng power and counter-
punchi ng abi l i ty of the Uni ted States and
i ts al l i es; they al so fai l ed to make a rea-
~Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om : USSBS (Pat), Nav-
Anal ysi sDi v, The Ca?npai gns of thePacific War
(Washi ngton: GPO, 1946), her eafter USSBS
Campai gns; USSBS (Pat), JapI ntel Sec, G–2,
Japanese Military and Naval Intelligence Divi-
.SiOtb (Washi ngton: GPO, Apr46) ; The Way Re-
port8 of General of the .4rmy George C. Marshal l
—General of the Army H. H. Arno16Fleet Ad-
m.ira t Ernest J. Ki ng (Phi l adel phi a and New
York : J. B. Li ppi ncott Company, 1947).
l i sti c apprai sal of thei r own nati on’s capa-
bi l i ti es. Compoundi ng thei r ori gi nal error
of starti ng the war, the enemy l eaders i n-
i nvi nci bi l i ty of thei r fl eets and armi es.
dul ged i n some wi shful thi nki ng about the
Certai nl y the Japanese had cause to
vi ew thei r parade of earl y vi ctori es wi th
chauvi ni sti c pri de. There were onl y a few
moments duri ng the fi rst hal f year of
fi ghti ng when the Al l i es were not faced
wi th the al ternati ves of retreat or defeat.
But even then, for every outpost l i ke Guam
or Hong Kong where token garri sons had
no choi ce but to l ay down thei r arms, there
was a Wake or Bataan where a desperate
l ast-di tch defense was fought. True, the
Japanese prevai l ed on al l fronts, but the
bi tter nature of the fi ghti ng shoul d have
furni shed a cl ue to the spi ri t of the de-
fenders and the certai nty of retal i ati on.
I n Tokyo, the staff members of I mperial
General Headquarters i gnored or mi sread
the warni ng si gns. Japan had caught the
Al l i es off bal ance and i l l -prepared; she
had taken al l of her ori gi nal objecti ves
and hel d the “Southern Resources Area,”
the Netherl ands I ndi es and Mal aya, i n a
ti ght gri p. Ostensi bl y, she now had the
means to make hersel f sel f-suffi ci ent, and
she needed every bi t of ti me and every
man she coul d muster to consol i date her
hol d on her pri ze. Her next l ogi cal move,
and the one cal l ed for i n ori gi nal war
pl ans, was to strengthen defenses. A l i ne
al ong whi ch she woul d make her stand had
been pi cked out: a l ong, l oopi ng arc that
ran south from the Kuri l es through Wake
to the Marshal l s and Gi l berts and then
west to i ncl ude the Bi smarck Archi pel ago,
Ti mor, Java, Sumatra, Mal aya, and
Burma. The defense of thi s peri meter
was probabl y a task beyond Japan’s re-
sources, even wi th the hel p of the newl y
sei zed terri tori es. At the war’s end, one
SETTI NG THE STAGE 5
seni or Japanese offi cer descri bed thi s pe-
ri meter as “just about the l i mi t, the maxi -
mum l i mi t of our capabi l i ty.>’ 4
The natural cl ai rvoyance of hi ndsi ght
si mi l arl y ai ded a number of enemy offi cers
to recogni ze the fact that Japan had over-
extended hersel f by earl y spri ng of 1942.
At that ti me, however, the headquarters
facti on that had authored the ori gi nal am-
bi ti ous war pl an was sti l l i n the saddl e
and thei r aggressi ve phi l osophy prevai l ed.
Orders vvent out from Tokyo to conti nue
the advance, to sei ze further posi ti ons that
woul d shi el d the i ni ti al peri meter. I t was
thi s deci si on more than any other taken by
Zrnpwia2 I Zeadqua.rters duri ng the course
of the war that hastened the downfal l of
the Japanese Empi re. I n l ess than a year’s
ti me, enemy forces were reel i ng back al l
across the Paci fi c, and the reserves that
woul d have bol stered the ori gi nal peri me-
ter were di ssi pated i n a frui tl ess effort to
conti nue the offensi ve.
The new expansi oni st pl ans cal l ed for
the occupati on of strategi c i sl ands, sui t-
abl e for ai r and naval base devel opment,
i n the North, Central , and South Paci fi c.
The grand pri ze sought was Mi dway; i t
was hoped that a thrust there woul d bri ng
out the Ameri can fl eet for a deci si ve en-
gagement. Cl osel y l i nked to thi s projected
attack was the movement of an occupati on
force i nto the Al euti ans to sei ze Ki ska,
Attu, and Adak I sl ands. The two opera-
ti ons woul d be conducted si mul taneousl y,
and both enemy supporti ng fl eets woul d
be avai l abl e to combi ne agai nst, the Ameri -
can shi ps. I n the south, the objecti ve was
‘ USSBS (Pat), i XavAnal ysi sDi v, Zntem-oga-
ti ons of Japanese Ojiclals, 2 VOI S (Washi ngton :
GPO, 1946 ), I nterrogati on A-o. 393, FAdm Osami
Nagano, LJN, I I , p, 3~53,her eafter CSSBS, Inter-
ro~ation wi th rel evant number and name.
to strengthen the Japanese posi ti on i n the
Bi smarcks and on New Gui nea. Pl ans
were l ai d to take Port Moresby i n south-
eastern New Gui nea and to move outpost
garri sons i nto the Sol omons. After the
successful concl usi on of the Mi dway oper-
ati on, the Japanese pl anned to move
agai nst New Cal edoni a, Fi ji , and Samoa,
and sever Austral i a’s l i fel i ne to the States.
The enemy ti metabl e for expansi on
l i sted the sei zure of Port l Moresby for earl y
May, fol l owed i n a month’s ti me by the at-
tack on Mi dway. I n both cases the care-
ful l y sel ected occupati on troops never got
a chance to set foot on thei r objecti ves.
Seen i n retrospect, the i ssue was deci ded
at sea, and the deci si on was fi nal .
On 7–8 May i n the Coral Sea, an Ameri -
can carri er task force i ntercepted the i n-
vasi on fl eet bound for Port Moresby and
was successful i n turni ng i t back. I n “the
fi rst major engagement i n naval hi story i n
whi ch surface shi ps di d not excha~ge a
si ngl e shot,” 5 carri er ai rcraft i nfl i ckd al l
the damage. Each si de l ost a carri er, each
had one severel y damaged, but the honors
of the fi el d fel l justl y to the Ameri can pi -
l ots who forced the Japanese to wi thdraw.
The Port Moresby operati on was put off
unti l Jul y, but the outcome of the Battl e
of Mi dway ensured a permanent postpone-
ment. (See Map I , Map Secti on.)
Mi dway coul d hardl y have been cal l ed
a surpri se ti n-get. The i ntel l i gence avai l -
abl e to Admi ral Chester W. Ni mi tz, Com-
mander i n Chi ef, Paci fi c Fl eet (Ci nCPac),
r egar di ng ~Tr her e and when the enemy
woul d stri ke next was concl usi ve. When
the ,Japanese carri er attack force ap-
proached wi thi n l aunchi ng di stance of the
atol l on 4 June, i t ran i nto a whi rl wi nd of
‘ Ki ng, M’ar Iteports, op. ci t., p. 523.
6
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
Ameri can pl anes. Ni mi tz had brought up
al l hi s avai l abl e carri ers, had added l ong-
range bombers stagi ng from Hawai i an
fi el ds, and had gi ven the Mi dway &%rri -
son’s Mari ne Ai rcraft Group !22 (MAG-
22) new pl anes to meet the enemy threat.
The resul t of these preparati ons was el ec-
tri fyi ng; al l four of the ?Japanese carri ers
were sent to the bottom and the i nvmi on
force streaked back for the rel ati ve safety
of home waters. The Battl e of Mi cl way
was a di saster from whi ch the ,Japanese
naval ai r arm never recovered. The battl e
has frequentl y been termed the deci si ve en-
gagement. of the war i n the Paci fi c and its
resul ts were certai nl y far rezchi ng. The
severe and sudden cut i n enemy carri er
strenagth put a cri mp i n al l pl ans for fur-
ther offensi ve acti on.’
The i mmedi ate reacti on of Admi ral I so-
roku Yamamoto, Commander i n Chi ef of
the (70mbi neo? Fleet, to the news of hi s
Mi dway l osses was to recal l the Al euti an
occupati on forces. Then, al most i mn~edi -
atel y, he reversed hi msel f and ordered the
operati on to conti nue but wi th the modi fi -
cati on that onl y the two westernmost tar-
gets, Ki ska and Attu, woul d be sei zed.
I ’erhaps Adak I sl and was too cl ose to the
1?.S. bzse at Dutch Harbor for comfort.
Al though Yamamoto’s exact reasoni ng i n
orderi ng the operati on to conti nue i s not
known, i t i s probabl e that, he gave a great
deal of wei ght to the. fact that more Ameri -
can terri tory woul d be occupi ed, a defi ni te
boost to ,Japanese moral e that woul d be
needed i f the truth of the Mi dway battl e
l eaked out. On 7 June, occupati on troops
I ancl ed on tl ~e two bl eak i sl ands, there to
6 See l ’art J- of Vol ume I of thi s seri es ftm
detai l s of the Mari ne I mrti ci pati nn i n the Mi d-
way I l l ttl e.
stay unti l the Al l i es coul d spare the men,
suppl i es, and equi pment whi ch were
needed to dri ve them out. Al though there
was consi derabl e publ i c al arm i n the
States, especi al l y the Paci fi c Northwest.,
over the presence of Japanese i n the Al eu-
ti ans, actual l y the new enemy bases were
not much of a threat. Tl m rugged i sl and
chai n, cursed wi th more than a fai r share
of the worl d>s mi serabl e weather, was no
avenue for conquest.
Mi dway’s resul ts went far to redress the
bal ance of naval strength i n the Paci fi c
and to gi ve the Al l i ed l eaders a chance to
l aunch a l i mi ted offensi ve. The l ogi cal
target area was the South Paci fi c, where
the Japanese, despi te thei r Coral Sea mi s-
adventure, were sti l l pl anni ng to take Port
Moresby and were conti nui ng thei r en-
croachment i nto the Sol omons. The en-
emy fi el d headquarters for thi s two-
pronged approach to the Austral i a-Uni ted
States suppl y route was Rabaul on New
Bri tai n, a pri ze whose capture domi nated
Al l i ed pl anni ng. But Rabaul was far too
ambi ti ous an objecti ve for the summer of
1942, when al most any offensi ve effort
severel y strai ned ~vai l a.bl e resources.
The cal cul ated ri sk of the fi rst offen-
si ve—a “shoe-stri ng” operati on—was
made at Guadal cana], a hi therto obscure
jungl e-cl ad i sl and i n the l ower Sol omons.
The Japanese fi rst moved i nto the area i n
Apri l , when they occupi ed ti ny Tul agi
and set, up a seapl ane base and anchorage
i n the fi ne natural harbor between that
i sl and and nei ghbori ng Fl ori da. A stretch
of some 20 mi l es of open water, whi ch was
soon to earn the gri m name of “I ron Bot-
tom Sound,” separated Tul agi from
Guadal canal . The l arger i sl and was one
of the few pl aces i n the Sol omons where
SETTI NG THE STAGE
terrai n favored rapi d ai rfi el d devel op-
ment, and the ,Japanese, soon after Mi d-
waY, began to cl ear ground and construct
a fi ghter stri p al ong i ts northern coastal
pl ai n.
Guadal canal ’s ai rfi el d and Tul agi ’s har-
bor became pri me objecti ves once Wash-
i ngton okayed the openi ng offensi ve i n l ate
June. I n contrast to the months of meti c-
ul ous pl anni ng that characteri zed l ater
amphi bi ous operati ons, thi s fi rst effort,
code-named W+kTCHTOW13R, was sur-
rounded by an aura of haste. The uni t
pi cked to do the job was the one most l i ke-
l y to be successful , one whi ch had more of
the requi si te amphi bi ous trai ni ng and i n-
doctri nati on than any other at thi s stage
of the war—the 1st Mari ne Di vi si on (Re-
i nforced). The di vi si on was i n the proc-
ess of compl eti ng a move to New Zeal and,
i ts rear echel on sti l l at sea, when warni ng
orders were recei ved desi gnati ng i t the
WATCHTOWER asszul t force. I n l ess
than a month, the di vi si on had changed i ts
ori entati on from routi ne trai ni ng to prep-
arati on for jungl e fi ghti ng, had prepared
i ts tacti cal pl ans i n l i ght of the scanty i n-
formati on avai l abl e on enemy and terrai n,
and had unl oaded i ts shi ps and then re-
l oaded them for combat. A rendezvous
was made at sea i n the Fi ji rehearsal area
wi th the convoy of the 2d Mari nes, whi ch
had been sent out from San Di ego to take
the pl ace of the 7th Mari nes, one of the
di vi si on’s regul ar regi ments detai l ed to
Samoa’s garri son.
On 7 August, assaul t el ements of the l st,
Di vi si on l anded on Guadal canal and
moved i nl and accordi ng to pl an wi thout
meeti ng any opposi ti on. Si mul taneousl y,
Mari nes stormed ashore on Tul agi and i ts
nei ghbori ng i sl ets, where the l andi ngs were
7
opposed vi ol entl y. Several days of hard
fi ghti ng were needed to secure Tul agi ’s
harbor, but when thi s fi rst battl e was over
the scene of ground acti on shi fted to
Guadal canal . There, engi neers worked
feveri shl y to put the parti al l y compl eted
ai rstri p i n shape to recei ve fri endl y fi ght-
ers. And the Mari ne defenders desper-
atel y needed aeri al rei nforcement, i n fact
any ki nd of rei nforcement that they coul d
get, for the Japanese reacti on to the
Guadal canal l andi ng was swi ft and sav-
age.
For si x hecti c months, duri ng whi ch i t
often seemed that WATCHTOWER
woul d prove a fi asco, the 1st Di vi si on and
an al l -too-sl owl y swel l i ng number of Army
and Mari ne rei nforcements stood off a
seri es of sharp enemy counterattacks. The
Japanese poured thousands of crack troops
i nto the jungl es that cl osed on the Mari ne
peri meter, but never were abl e to put
ashore enough men and equi pment at one
ti me to overcome the garri son. From the
captured ai rfi el d (Henderson Fi el d), a
wei rd and wonderful composi te force of
Navy, Army, Mari ne, and New Zeal and
pl anes fought the Japanese to a standsti l l
i n the ai r and i mmeasurabl y strengthened
the Al l i ed hand at sea by attacki ng enemy
transport and surface bombardment
groups as they steamed from bases i n the
upper Sol omons to Guadal canal .
Al though Al l i ed naval forces l ost heav-
i l y i n the seri es of sea battl es that were
fought for control of Sol omons’ waters,
the Ameri can and Austral i an shi ps kept
comi ng back on stati on. The Japanese
admi ral s strove mi ghti l y to sei ze the ad-
vantage when i t was thei rs, but the op-
portuni ty faded. By the end of Novem-
ber, enemy l osses had i ncreased so sharpl y
691–360 O—63—2
8
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
that capi tal shi ps were no l onger ri sked i n
I ron Bottom Sound.’
When the anni versary of Pearl Harbor
rol l ed around, thd Japanese si tuati on on
Guadal canal was desperate. A steady pa-
rade of men, shi ps, and pl anes had been
commi tted to dri ve out the Ameri cans and
every effort had fai l ed. Even the fi re-
brands i n I mperial General I ?eadquartem
were now convi nced that, Japan had over-
reached hersel f. By the year’s end, the
deci si on had been made to evacuate Gua-
dal canal and orders were sent out to
consol i date posi ti ons on the ori gi nal pe-
ri meters
GUADALCANAL AND PAPUA ‘
By the ti me of ti he Guadal canal l andi ng
the Japanese hel d effecti ve control of al l
the Paci fi c i sl ands they had i nvaded but
one-New Gui nea. I n March of 1942, the
enemy had occupi ed posi ti ons al ong the
northeast coast of the enormous i sl and at
‘ The story of the Navy’s bi tter struggl e for
control of the Guadal canal waters i s wel l tol d i n
Samuel E. Mori son, Tl !v Struggl e for Guadal-
can.al, Augu8t 19&-F ebnLary 19~3—History of
United States Yaoal Operations in Warld War
11, v. V (Boston : Li ttl e, Br own and Company,
1949) .
s Mi l Hi st See, G–2, FEC, Japanese Monogr aph
No. 45, I GHQ Ar my Hi gh Command Recor d,
Mi d-1941-Aug45, 2d r ev. 1952 (OCMH), p. 67,
her eafter IGHQ .4rm.~/ Record.
‘ Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
seeti on i s der i ved fr om: IGHQ Army Record;
Part VI of Vol ume I of thi s seri es; John Mi l l er,
Jr., C3uadal canal : The Firs, Offewsiwe-The T7ar
in the Pacifi+United States Army in World
War 11 (Washington : Hi stDi v, DA, 1949) ;
Samuel Mi l ner, Vi ctorg i n Papwa—The War in
the Paoiffc-L7nited States Army in World War
IZ (Washington: OC.MH, DA, 1957) ; Mori son,
Struggle for Guadalcanal, op. cit.; USSBS,
Campaign8.
Lae and Sal amaua, and thei r l ocal naval
superi ori ty gave them the means of mov-
i ng i n wherever el se they wi shed al ong
thi s vi rtual l y undefended coast. Al l i ed
ai r, operati ng from carri ers or stagi ng
from Austral i a ti hrough Port Moresby,
was the pri nci pal deterrent to further
Japanese encroachment. When, duri ng
the Battl e of the Coral Sea, the Port
Moresby I nwxion Force was forced to turn
back to Rabaul , the obvi ous capabi l i ty of
the enemy to attack agai n prompted the
Al l i es to make a countermove to ward off
thi s threat. I n June and Jul y, Austral i an
ground uni ts and fi ghter squadrons sup-
ported by Ameri can engi neers and anti -
ai rcraft arti l l ery moved to Mi l ne Bay on
the eastern ti p of New Gui nea to bui l d and
hol d an ai r base that woul d cover Port
Moresby’s exposed fl ank.
The Japanese thwarted a further Al l i ed
advance pl anned for earl y August when
they l anded thei r own troops near Buna
Mi ssi on on 22 Jul y. Buna was the north-
ern termi nus of the Kokoda Trai l , a di ffi -
cul t 150-mi l e route over the Owen Stan-
l ey Mountai ns to Port Mcwesby. The su-
peri or enemy l andi ng force soon fought
i ts way through the l i ght Austral i an de-
fenses and reached Kokoda vi l l age, about
30 mi l es i nl and, where i t hel d up. Thi s
fi rst move by the Japanese i nto Papua, the
Austral i an terri tory whi ch compri sed
most of the eastern part of New Gui ne~
was essenti al l y a reconnai ssance i n force to
teet the feasi bi l i ty of an overl and dri ve on
Port Moresby. Thousands of enemy re-
i nforcements arri ved from Rabaul i n Au-
gust to strengthen the Buna posi ti on and
add wei ght to the proposed attack. 13y $26
.4ugust the Japanese were ready, and they
jumped off from Kokoda i n a determi ned
assaul t that qui ckl y overpowered the few
SETTI NG ‘THE STAGE
9
Austral i ans who tri ed to bl ock thei r ad-
vance. The probl em of supporti ng these
defendi ng troops was a l ogi sti ci an’s ni ~ht.-
mare, but i t was a ni ghtmare that the
,Japanese i nheri ted as the di stance from the
front l i ne to thei r base at Buns i ncreased.
The enemy troops attacki ng al ong the
Kokoda Trai l were operati ng wi th mi ni -
nl al ai r cover, i n fact the Al l i ed ai r forces
were doi ng thei r best to cut them off com-
pl etel y from Buns and to sever Buna’s
suppl y 1i nes from Rabaul . These Japa-
nese were now maki ng an i sol ated effort
si nce the secon(l ary operati on pl anned to
compl ement the overl and dri ve had mi s-
carri ed.
Ori gi nal l y, the enemy operati on pl an
had cal l ed for the sei zure of Samarai I s-
l and, off the eastern ti p of New Gui nea,
as a seapl ane base and stagi ng area for an
amphi bi ous assaul t on Port Moresby,
ti med to coi nci de wi th the Kokoda Trai l
approach. N’hen reconnai ssance pl anes
di scovered the Al l i ed acti vi ty at Mi l ne
Bay, the target was shi fted to thi s new
base. The Japanese, i n a move character-
i sti c of thei r acti ons i n thi s peri od, under-
esti mated thei r opposi ti on and assi gned a
grossl y i nadequate l andi ng force for the
operati on. On 25 August, about a thou-
sand enemy troops from Kavi eng began
l andi ng i n the bay and i mmedi atel y made
contact wi th the Austral i ans. A rei nforce-
ment of 500 men came i n on the 29th, but
by that ti me they were onl y enough to fi l l
the gaps i n the ranks of the fi rst uni t. The
Mi l ne defense force, a rei nforced bri gade
al most 10,000 strong, fi rst bl unted, then
smashed the Japanese attack. The dazed
survi vors were evacuated on the ni ghts of
4-5 September, vi cti ms of an Austral i an
vi ctory that di d much to hearten Al l i ed
moral e.
The fai l ure at Mi l ne Bay, coupl ed wi th
si mi l ar di sasters on Guadal canal , prompt-
ed I mperial General Headquarters to
check the overl and advance on Port Mores-
by and concentrate i ts efforts on achi ev-
i ng success i n the l ower Sol omons. The
,Tapanese troops on the Kokoda Trai l had
reached a poi nt so cl ose to Port Moresby
that “they coul d see the l i ghts of the
ci ty,” 10 but i t i s doubtful i f they coul d
have ever reached thei r objecti ve. An out-
pouri ng of Al l i ed troops from Austral i a
i nto Port Moresby had strengthened the
posi ti on to the poi nt that preparati ons
were underway to mount an offensi ve when
the enemy fel l back wi th the Austral i ans
hot on thei r heel s. Throughout October
the pressure was i ncreased unti l the Japa-
nese posi ti on had contracted to a peri m-
eter defense of I l una and Gona (a nati ve
vi l l age about seven mi l es north of Buna
Mi ssi on).
The Austral i an 7th Di vi si on and the
Ameri can 32d I nfantry Di vi si on cl osed on
the peri meter. The Austral i ans came
overl and for the most part, the majori ty
of the Ameri cans by ai r and sea. The
fi ghti ng was bi tter and protracted i n
jungl e terrai n even worse than that en-
countered by the Mari nes on Guadal canal
and agai nst, a deepl y dug-i n enemy who
had to be gouged out of hi s bunkers. Gona
fel l to the Austral i ans on 9 December and
Buna Mi si on to the Ameri cans on 2 Janu-
ary; the l ast organi zed resi stance was over-
come on the 22d, si x months to the day
after the Japanese had l anded i n Papua.
On the same day that the Austral i ans
drove the Japanese out of Gona, the 1st
‘“ I nterrogati on of Gen Hi toshi I marnura and
I ,tGen l l i mpei Kate, I JA, i n USSBS (pat),
NavAnal ysi sDi v, !Z’he Allied Campaign .4gain8t
Rabau L (Washington: GPO, 1946), P. 89.
10
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
Mari ne Di vi si on was offi ci al l y rel i eved on
Guadal canal , i tsmi ssi on compl eted. The
ti de of battl e had swept ful l course to the
Al l i ed fi l yor, and strong Army and Mari ne
forces of the XI V Corps were now capabl e
of anni hi l ati ng the remai ni ng ,Japanese.
When evacuati on orders were recei ved
from Tokyo, however, the Japanese hTavy
i n a seri es of hi gh-speed ni ght, runs man-
aged to bri ng off about 13,000 men from
the i sl and. On 9 Februm-y, Guadal canal
was cl eared of enemy uni ts and the cam-
pai gn was ended. i ~meri can l osses i n dead
and wounded by ground acti on were cl ose
to 6,500, but more than 2.3,000 enemy l ay
dead i n the jungl es around Henderson
Fi el d, vi cti ms of combat and di sease. The
l oss of addi ti onal thousands of enemy sai l -
ors and pi l ots, hundreds of pl anes, and
more than a score of warshi ps and trans-
ports i ncreased the wastage of Japanese
strength that marked the frui tl ess effort
to retake Guadal canal .
Wi th the vi ctori es i n Papua and on
Guadal canal , the Al l i es had fl ung down the
gauntl et. The Japanese had to accept the
chal l enge.; they had l ost the i ni ti ati ve.
,7.4PANE&Y 8TRA TEGY ‘1
The ori gi nal i mpetus for the ,Japanese
move i nto the Sol omons and Eastern New
Gui nea came from enemy naval offi cers
who fel t “that a broad area. woul d have to
“ Unl ess otherwi se noted, the mat,eri al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ~-ed fr om : Mi l I I i st See, CT–2, FEC,
<Japanese Mml ograI Jh h“o. 35, SE AreaOpsRec,
Seventeenth Ar my Ops-I ’art I I (OCMH ), her e-
after 6“ccf,J/tcr~{th Ar mv OpS—II; Mi l Hi stSec,
G–2, FEC, Japanese Monogr aph No. 9!3, SE .krea
ATavOps-–I ’art I I (OCMH), her eafter SE .4rca
.NaoOps-ll,- IGHQ Army Record,- I JSSBS, Cur)-
paigns.
be occupi ed i n order to secure Rabaul .” l Z
Al though the Navy promoted the advance,
the Army accepted the concept readi l y
enough, and both servi ces began to devel op
outl yi ng bases whi ch woul d cover the ap-
proaches to X’ew Bri tai n. When the Al l i es
struck at, Guadal canal , the Japanese Navy
“was wi l l i ng to stake everythi ng on a de-
ci si ve fi ght;’ l S to regai n the i sl and and
turn back the offensi ve thrust. Army
l eaders, i nterested mai nl y i n the war on the
Asi an mtai nl and and i n the spoi l s of the
Netherl ands I ndi es, woke up too l ate to
the real i ti es of the Guadal canal campai gn.
Two months passed before real i sti c esti -
mates of the strength of Henderson Fi el d’s
defenders began to fi gure i n enemy rei n-
forcement pl ans. By the ti me the Japa-
nese were ready to commi t enough men to
retake Guadal canal , the chance for them
to reach the i sl and i n deci si ve numbers had
passed. The Al l i es were abl e to choke off
most attempts, and the shattered uni ts that
di d reach shore were sel dom i n shape to
mount a sustai ned attack. The si tuati on
cal l ed for a reeval uati on of Japanese stra-
tegi c objecti ves i n the l i ght of Al l i ed capa-
bi l i ti es.
At the year’s end, mi l i tary pl anners i n
Tokyo, acti ng on the di scouragi ng reports
from the fi el d, projected accuratel y the
course of Al l i ed acti on for the next
months, poi nti ng out that:
. . . the enemy pl ans to attack Rabaul
si nce i t i s the operati onal base for Army,
A“avy,and Ai r Forces. The enemy wi l l try
to accompl i sh thi s task i n the Sol omon I s.
Area by dri vi mg our uni ts off Guadal canal
I s. and advanci ngnorthward on the Sol omon
I s. I n the Eastern New Gui nea Area, the
enemy wi l l secur e the Buns Vi ci ni ty and
attack the Lae and Sal amaua Areas fr om
“ USSBS, I ntwr oguti on No. 503, VAdm ‘shkeru
I !l di udome, I JA-, I I , pp. 524-525.
“ Ibid., p. 526.
SETTI NG ‘THE STAGE
11
the sea. After penetrati ng Dampi er [Vi ti az]
Strai t, they wi l l attack Rabaul i n joi nt op-
erati ons wi th for ces on the Sol omon I s.
After thi s, pl anni ng to attael i the Phi l i ppi ne
I s., they wi l l conti nue operati ons al ong the
nor ther n coast of New Gui nea.14
On 3 January, the text of the “Army-
Navy Central Agreement on South Paci fi c
Area Operati ons” was radi oed to Rabaul ;
i t l ai d down Tokyo>s newl y approved
strategy. .41though expressed i n the bom-
basti c l anguage characteri sti c of the spi ri t
of the offensi ve permeati ng .Japanese mi l i -
tary documents, the “Agreement” was i n
fact the outl i ne of a defensi ve pattern.
Key poi nts, mai nl y ai rfi el ds and anchor-
ages, were to be occupi ed or strengthened
i n the North and Central Sol omons and
i n Eastern New Gui nea after the fi rst
order of busi ness, the evacuati on of the
troops on Guadal canal , had been com-
pl eted. Some of the names that were to
fi gure promi nentl y i n the war ne\vs-Lae,
Sal amaua, Wewak on New Gui nea; New
Georgi a, Bougai nvi l l ea, and Ruka i n the
Sol omons—were emphasi zed i n the al l ot-
ment of defensi ve sectors. The ,Japanese
Army and Navy had di vi ded the responsi -
bi l i ty for base defense al ong servi ce m
wel l as geographi c l i nes, a, factor that was
to have consi derabl e i nfl uence on the con-
duct of the fi ghti ng.
The enemy naval pl anners, runni ng true
to form, wanted to g-etthe mai n defenses i n
the Sol omons as far away from thei r ma-
jor base at Rabaul as possi bl e. The Army
authori ti es, made cauti ous by the outcome
of the attempt to rei nforce C~uadal canal
over a l ong, exposed suppl y route, were
‘4IGHQ ArmV Record, p. 71. Al though thi s
r ecor d was assembl ed after the war, Japanese
defensi ve acti ons agr eed wi th the quoted esti -
mate and i t ver y probabl y represents contempo-
rary thought.
wi l l i ng to move onl y major forces i nto the
Northern Sol omons. As the Army al ready
had pri mary responsi bi l i ty for ground
defense of the Bi smarcks and New Gui nea,
the addi ti onal task of conducti ng the de-
fense of Bougai nvi l l ea, Buka, Choi seul , and
the Shortl and-Treasury I sl ands was con-
si derabl e. Si nce the Navy wanted the New
Georgi a Group ancl Santa I sabel i ncl uded
i n the defended area, i t recei ved opera-
ti onal responsi bi l i ty for these i sl ands and
thei r garri sons. Laud-based naval ai r
squadrons were to operate pri mari l y i n the
Sol omons and Bi smarcks, whi l e most
Army ai r uni ts were assi gned to the de-
fense of the New Gui nea area. The Com-
bined FZeet. i ts mai n strength concentrated
at Truk, stood ready to engage any Al l i ed
stri ki ng force movi ng north through the
Sol ornons or west from Hawai i .
One of the fundamental di fferences be-
tween the Japanese and the Al l i ed conduct
of the war i n the Paci fi c was poi nted up
by the hi gh command setup esti .bl i shed i n
the “Agreenl ent .“ There was no area com-
mander appoi nted wi th authori ty to exer-
ci se fi nal control of al l defensi ve measures;
consequentl y, there was no joi nt staff wi th
the functi on of prepari ng and executi ng
an overal l defense pl an. I nstead, the
seni or Army and Navy commanders i n the
fi el d were responsi bl e di rectl y to thei r re-
specti ve headquarters i n Tokyo.” Thi s
dual i ty of command was a feature of the
,Japanese mi l i tary system, and to a great
extent i t al so exi sted i n Tokyo at the heart
of the enemy war effort. I mperial General
Headquarters was onl y the term used to
connote the co-equal exi stence of the gen-
erl l staffs of the two servi ces. Any order
tabbed as comi ng from the Heudqwwtws
“ I mamura-Kato I nterrogati on, op. ci t., p, 88.
12
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
was si mpl y an Army -Nwvy agreement. I n
operati on, thi s system coul d mean, as one
Japanese admi ral expressed i t, that:
. . . as far as questi ons of Ar my oper a-
ti ons are concer ned, i f the Chi ef of the Ar my
Gener al Staff says we wi l l do thi s, that i s
the end of i t; and so far as the Navy oper a-
ti ons are concer ned, i f the Chi ef of the Naval
Gener al Staff says we wi l l do thi s, that fi xes
i t. . . .’6
Obvi ousl y, deci si ons i nvol vi ng i nter-
servi ce operati ons had to be made; stal e-
mate was unacceptabl e, but the opportu-
ni ty for unnecessary del ay and uncoordi -
nated uni l ateral acti on was i nherent i n the
system.
Fortunatel y for the ,Japanese, the two
commanders at Rabaul got al ong wel l tog-
ether and were determi ned to cooperate.
The si ngl e ai m of both General Hi toshi
I mamura and Vi ce Admi ral Ji ni chi Ku-
saka was to hol d thei r porti on of Japan’s
defenses wi th al l the men and materi al at
thei r di sposal . I mamura’s command, the
Eighth A~ea Amy, compri sed the Seven-
teenth Amny i n the 13i smarcks and Sol o-
mons and the Eighteenth Amy defendi ng
Eastern New Gui nea. Both were sup-
ported by the 6th A:ir Diwkwn. Kusaka,
as Commander of the Sowthea.st Area
Fleet, control l ed the l and-based pl anes of
the Eleventh Air Fleet and the shi ps and
ground uni ts of the Ei gLt.h Fleet whi ch
were strung out from New Gui nea to New
Georgi a. Both men expected that the next
Al l i ed targets woul d be found i n the area
under thei r control . The choi ce of the
ti me, pl ace, and strength of those attacks
was made, however! by pl anners i n Bri s-
bane, Noumea, Pearl Harbor, and
Washi ngton.
1’ USSBS, fnterro~ation No. 379, Adm Mi tsu-
masa Yonai , I JN, I I , p. 328.
ALLI ED STRATEGY “
I n Worl d War I I the mi l i tary fortunes
of Great Bri tai n and the Uni ted States
were so cl osel y enmeshed that i t was i m-
perati ve that a workabl e i nter-Al l i ed com-
mand system be devel oped both i n the fi el d
and at the nati onal l evel . Meeti ng i n
Washi ngton fi ve days after the attack on
Pearl Harbor, the pol i ti cal and mi l i tary
l eaders of the two major Western powers
agreed to adhere to the pri nci pl e of uni ty
of command i n the vari ous theatres of op-
erati ons. The same basi c deci si on was
reached i n regard to the hi gher di recti on
of the mi l i tary effort of the two nati ons
znd of the numerous other Al l i ed powers
that they perforce represented. Whi l e the
concept of a si ngl e commander who woul d
control al l nati onal forces commi tted was
accepted for l i mi ted areas and speci fi c op-
erati ons, there was no i ncl i nati on to trust
overal l command to one man, i f i ndeed
such a superman exi sted. The chosen i n-
strument for the di recti on of what mi ght
“ Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om : Cor n SoPac WarDs, Jan–
Mar43 (CO.*, NHD ), her eafter 6’omSOPaC
WarD.s wi th appropri ate months; Ci nCSWPA
Pl an for the Sei zure of the New Bri tai n-New
I rel and-New Gui nea Areas—ELKTON, dtd
28Feb43(COA,NHD) ; FAdm ErnestJ. Ki ng and
Cdr Wal ter M. Whi tehi l l , F.teet Admiral King—
A Naval Record (New York: W. W. Nor ton &
Company, 1952 ), her eafter Ki ng and Whi tehi l l ,
Kinq’s Naaal Record; Ri chard M. Lei ghton and
Robert W. Coakl ey, Global tigistim and tYtrat-
egv 19.10-19&—The War Department-United
S’tates Amy i n Worht War II (Washington:
OCMH, DA, 1955) ; Samuel E. Mori son, Break-
i ng the Bi wnarchx Barrier, 22 July 19~2–1 May
194&H i8tory of United States Naval 0peration8
in World War II, v. VI (Boston: Li ttl e, Br own
and Company, 1950), her eafter Mori son, Break-
ing tk e Bismarck.s Barrier, 2.2 July 1942–1 Mav
Roo.wveU and Hopkirw-.4n Intimate History
( New York: Harper and Brothers, 1948).
,-
SETTI NG THE STAGE 13
best be cal l ed the Western war effort was
the Combi ned Chi efs of Staff (CCS) ; i ts
membershi p, the chi efs of the l and, sea, and
ai r servi ces of Great Bri tai n and the
Uni ted States.
Washi ngton was sel ected as the si te of
the new headquarters and Fi el d Marshal
Si r John Di l l , as the seni or on-the-spot
representati ve of the Bri ti sh chi efs, was
permanentl y stati oned i n the Ameri can
capi tal wi th an executi ve staff. I n order to
represent adequatel y the mi l i tary vi ews of
the Uni ted States i n CCS di scussi ons, i t
was necesswy that the Ameri can chi efs
meet regul arl y and ai r the probl ems of
thei r respecti ve servi ces. I n short order, a
seri es of i nter-servi ce staff agenci es came
i nto bei ng to support. the del i berati ons of
the Ameri can chi efs, and a fl exi bl e work-
i ng organi zati on, the Joi nt Chi efs of Staff
(,JCS), became the ri ght hand of the
Presi dent, acti ng as Commander i n
Chi ef.’*
Admi ral Ernest ,J. Ki ng, Chi ef of Na,val
Operati ons and Commander i n Chi ef of
the Uni ted States Fl eet, was the naval rep-
resentati ve i n the JCS. The Army was
represented by two offi cers, i ts Chi ef of
Staff, General George C. Marshal l , and i ts
seni or ai rman, General Henry H. Arnol d,
whose opposi te numbers on the Bri ti sh
Chi efs were the heads of the I mperi al Gen-
eral Staff and the Royal Ai r Force.
Through most of the war there was a
fourth member of the JCS, Admi ral Wi l -
l i am D. Leahy, ti ho acted as Chi ef of Staff
to the Presi dent.
The Combi ned Chi efs, worki ng di rectl y
wi th Churchi l l and Roosevel t, establ i shed
“As a resul t of a Bri ti sh suggesti on at the
.\RCADI .\ Confer ence (23Dec41–14,Jan42 ), the
term “conl bi ne{l ” was appl i ed thereafter to col -
l i l borati on between two or mor e nati ons, whi l e
“joi nt” !vas r eser ved for col l aborati on between
t~vo or mor e servi ces of the same nati on.
spheres of strategi c responsi bi l i ty best
sui ted to nati onal i nterests and capabi l i -
ti es. I n mi d-Apri l , the Uni ted States was
gi ven responsi bi l i ty for di recti ng opera-
ti ons i n the Paci fi c from the mai nl and of
Asi a to the shores of the Western Hemi -
sphere. Thi s deci si on had the effect of
pl aci ng al l Al l i ed troops and materi el al -
l oted to the Paci fi c under control of the
Joi nt Chi efs and of the two men they se-
l ected for command.
The JCS di vi ded the Paci fi c i nto two
areas of command responsi bi l i ty, one i n-
cl udi ng Austral i a, the Netherl ands I ndi es,
and the Phi l i ppi nes and the other the rest
of the ocean and i ts wi del y scattered i s-
l ands. To head the rel ati vel y compact
Southwest Paci fi c Area, where most opera-
ti ons coul d be conducted under cover of
l and-based ai r, the JCS chose the col orful
commander of the defense of the Phi l i p-
pi nes—General Dougl as MacArthur. The
appoi ntment of MacArthur, made wi th the
assent of the Austral i an government, was
announced on 18 Apri l 1942 after the gen-
eral was spi ri ted out of bel eaguered Cor-
regi dor; hi s new ti tl e was Supreme
Commander, Southwest Paci fi c Area
(Ci nCSWPA). For Commander i n Chi ef,
Paci fi c Ocean Areas (Ci nCPOA) the l ogi -
cal choi ce was Admi ral hTi mi tz; hi s con-
current command of the Paci fi c Fl eet as
Ci nCPac recogni zed that the war i n hi s
area woul d be essenti al l y a naval one.
The i ni ti al boundary l i ne between the
SWPA and POA. i ncl uded al l of the Sol o-
mon I sl ands i n MacArthur7s command;
however, the fact that Ni mi tz’ forces were
goi ng to mount the fi rst offensi ve at Gua-
dal canal made a shi ft of the l i ne westward
a matter of practi cal i ty. The new bound-
ar y just mi ssed the Russel l I sl ands, ran
north to the Equator, turned west to 130°
north l ongi tude, then north and west
14
agai n to i ncl ude the Phi l i ppi nes i n the
SWPA. The l i ne hugged the tortuous
I ndochi nese, Thai , and Mal ayun coast-
l i nes to Si ngapore and then cut south be-
tween Sumatra and Java to di vi de the
Ameri can area of responsi bi l i ty from the
I ndi a-Burma sphere of operati ons, whi ch
came under the Bri ti sh Chi efs of Staff.
The JCS i ssued a di recti ve on 2 Jul y
1942?to govern offensi ve operati ons i n the
Southwest Paci fi c, setti ng forth a concept
that i ncl uded three tasks: 1) the sei zure
and occupati on of the Santa Cruz I sl ands,
Tul agi , and adj scent areas; 2) the sei zure
and occupati on of the rest of the Sol omons
and the northeast coast of NeT~~Gui nea;
and 3) the sei zure and occupati on of
Rabaul and surroundi ng posi ti ons. A
subordi nate command, the South Paci fi c
.krea, was establ i shed under Admi ral
Ni mi tz and charged wi th responsi bi l i ty
for executi ng Task One—the Guadal canal
operati on. The post of Commander,
South Paci fi c (ComSoPac) was hel d fi rst
by Vi ce Admi ral Robert L. Ghorml ey and
then by Vi ce Admi ral Wi l l i am F. Hal sey.
Task One was compl eted under Hal sey
wi th the evacuati on of Guadal canal by the
Japanese, but nei ther Ni mi tz nor Mac-
Arthur consi dered that he had avai l abl e
the forces or suppl i es necessary to i ni ti ate
Task Two i mmedi atel y. The rel ati vel y
few Austral i an and Ameri can i nfantry di -
vi si ons assi gned to the Southwest Paci fi c
were ei ther commi tted to forward gar-
ri sons, sti l l formi ng and trai ni ng, or badl y
i n need of rest and rehabi l i tati on as a re-
sul t of hard campai gni ng.l s
‘“ Ci nCE’ac msg to Comi nCh, dtd 8Dec42, Subj :
Future OI M i n the Sol omons Sea .4rea (COA,
XHD ) ; Ci nC’SWPA msg C–251 to Cof SA, dtd
~~Jan43 (WJV I I RecsDi v, FRC Al ex).
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
Equal l y as i mportant, though hardl y as
wel l publ i ci zed as the feats of the fi ght-
i ng troops and shi ps, were the accompl i sh-
ments of the servi ce and suppl y agenci es
furni shi ng l ogi sti c support to the combat
operati ons. The South and Southwest
Paci fi c are certai nl y not areas that woul d
be vol untari l y chosen for amphi bi ous cam-
pai gns. When the fi ghti ng started, there
was al most. a total l ack of ports and bases
sui tabl e for support of l arge scal e opera-
ti ons. I n a surpri si ngl y short ti me, how-
ever, i sl ands l i ke 13spi ri tu Santo and
Efate i n the New Hebri des and New
Cal edoni a sprouted vast compounds of
suppl i es, tank farms for fuel storage, and
a host of vi tal mai ntenance, repai r, and
servi ce faci l i ti es. Hardl y had the smoke
and dust of battl e settl ed before Tul agi
was turned over to the engi neers, base per-
sonnel , and defense troops who qui ckl y
converted i t i nto an essenti al advance
naval base. C~uadal canal i n i ts turn under-
went extensi ve devel opment as the Japa-
nese were dri ven off. A ful l stri de for-
ward i n terms of the 2 ,Jul y JCS di recti ve
coul d be taken onl y after an adequate
stockpi l e of mi l i tary materi el had accumu-
l ated i n the forward dumps and depots
of an expansi bl e l ogi sti c network.
A good part of the suppl y and man-
power di ffi cul ti es of the Paci fi c command-
ers were traceabl e di rectl y to the favored
apporti onment gi ven to the European and
North Afri can theaters of operati ons. The
basi c war pol i cy of the West,ern Al l i es
was affi rmed by the Combi ned Chi efs i n
,January at the Casabl anca Conference
where thei r outl i ne of acti on for 1943 em-
phasi zed agai n the pri macy of the defeat
of Germany. Fi rst pri ori ty of resources
was al l otted to the campai gn to wi pe out
the U-Boat, threat i n the Atl anti c; the
occupati on of Si ci l y, a stepped-up bomber
SETTI NG THE STAGE
15
offensi ve agai nst Germany, and “the send-
i ng of the greatest vol ume of suppl i es
possi bl e” to Russi a were among ti l e other
pri ori ty programs. Offensi ve operati ons
i n the Paci fi c were to be kept wi thi n l i mi ts
that woul d not jeopardi ze the chance for
a deci si ve bl ow agai nst C~ermany.20 I n
thei r report to the Presi dent and Pri me
Mi ni ster, the CCS i ndi cated n number of
prospecti ve l i nes of acti on i n the Paci fi c,
i ncl udi ng an advance west from Mi dway
toward the Mari anas and Carol i nes ancl a
dri ve north from Samoa i nto the Mar-
shal l s. I mpl i ci t i n these projecti ons of
possi bl e offensi ve act i on was the success-
ful compl eti on of a campai gn to capture
or neutral i ze Rabaul .21
I n earl y February, Admi ral Hal sey v-as
queri ed by Ki ng on hi s reacti on to an op-
erati on to sei ze the Gi l bert and El l i ce I s-
l ands usi ng South Paci fi c forces. Hal sey
strongl y recommended agai nst i t, prefer-
ri ng i nstead to conti nue pressure i n the
Sol omons. Admi ral Ni mi tz supported
Hal sey’s opi ni on, but asked i f ‘South Pa-
ci fi c operati ons cotdd be depencl ed upon to
pi n down the ,Japanese Fl eet. On 17 Feb-
ruary, ComSoPac repl i ed that he bel i eved
‘%hat the best way to pi n down the Japa-
nese Fl eet i s to threaten Rabaul ,” and
went, on to i ndi cate that he i ntended to
occupy the Russel l I sl ands i nsi de of a week
and move i nto the New Georgi a Group “as
soon as possi bl e.” “ He soon set earl y
Apri l as hi s target date for the New
Georgi a operati on, but a re-eval ua,ti on of
Paci fi c strategy forced a revi si on of hi s
pl ans.
‘0 CCS 155/1, dtd 19Jmw13, Subj : Conduct of
the \Var i n 19-13 (C().\, X-HI })
= CCS 170/2, dtd 23 Jan43, SYMBOL-Fi nal
Rept to the Presi dent and Pri me Mi ni ster (COA,
NHD ) .
“ CowSoPac Fc1143 WarD, p. 33.
Under terms of the JCS di recti ve of 2
,JLdy 19+!2, General MacArthur had been
gi kren respo]l si bi l i ty for strategi c di recti on
of al l operati ons agai nst Rabaul , i ncl udi ng
thoso undertaken by South Paci fi c forces
after compl eti on of Task One. On 28 Feb-
ruary 1943, hi s stnfl compl eted a pl an
(code-named EI JI TON) that refl ected
MacArthur’s convi cti on that, the Japamese
were now much stronger i n the Southwest
Paci fi c, than they had been the previ ous
sl l mmer. The si tuati on prompted hi m to
submi t, a new concept of operati ons cal l i ng
for a more cl el i berate advance than had
once been contempl ated and a substanti al
i ncrease i n 111categori es of forces.
Under ELKTON, the command posi ti on
of .!(l mi ral Hal sey as ComSoPac was an
LUI I I SI I :I 1one. The operati ons contempl ated
i n the Sol omons woul d of necessi ty get
thei r l ogi sti c support from SoPac bases
and be executed i n the mai n by SoPac
forces. Naval offi cers were strongl y of the
opi ni on that these forces shoul d remai n
under command of Hal sey, but di d not
questi on the need for MacArthur to con-
ti nl ~e to gi ve strategi c di recti on to the over-
al l rampai gn agai nst Rabaul . Hal sey’s
pl an to attack New Georgi a i n Apri l , ten-
tati vel y approved by Ni mi tz, cl ashed wi th
the seql l ence of operati ons thought neces-
sxry by SWPA pl anners. The upshot of
the submi ssi on of ELKTON to the ,JCS
was that a Paci fi c Mi l i tary Conference of
representati ves of SWPA and POA was
cal l ed together i n Washi ngton to resol ve
di fferences and to try to fi nd the addi ti onal
troops ancl equi pment that Mac.4rthur
thought necessary.
En route to Washi ngton, MacArthur’s
represcl ~t at i ves, headed by hi s chi ef of
stati , I fajor Genera] Ri chard K. Suthel .-
l an(l , stopped at Noumea to tal k wi th
Hal sey ancl hear hi s pl an for New Georgi a.
16
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
They then fl ewont oP earl H arbor where
i n a round of conferences wi th Ni mi tz’
staff they l earned the vi ews of that com-
mander on ELKTON. On 10 March, the
conferees arri ved i n Washi ngton to begi n
two weeks of di scussi on i n an atmosphere
where the requests from the Paci fi c coul d
be best assessed agai nst the worl d-wi de
commi tments of the Uni ted Statw.
The sequence of operati ons cal l ed for i n
the ELKTON Pl an l i sted the capture of
ni rdromes on the Huon Peni nsul a of East-
ern l i TewGui nea as a necessary prel i mi nary
move to cl osi ng i n cm Rabaul . Bomber
squadrons operati ng from fi el ds i n the
Lae-Sal an~aua-Fi nschhafen area woul d
then control the I ’i ti az (Dampi er) Strai t
and coul d neutral i ze the ,Japanese strong-
poi nts at Kavi en g, New I rel and, and on
New Bri tai n, Buka, ancl I I ougai nvi l l e.
Wi th thi s assi stance from SWPA ai r,
SoPac forces woul d sei ze and occupy posi -
ti ons i n the hTew Georgi a Group. Next
woul d come a si mul taneous dri ve on w-est-
ern hTewBri tai n from New Cxui nea and on
Boug-ai nvi l l e from the l ower Sol omons.
The two-pronged attack woul d then con-
verge i n the capture of Kavi eng, cm i f the
si tuati on seemed favorabl e, the l ast step,
the capture of Rabaul , woul d be attempted
di rectl y.
General Sutherl and and Major (I eneral
Mi l l ard F. Harmon, commander of Army
forces i n Hal sey’s area, agreed that i n or-
der to accompl i sh ELKTON as outl i ned,
al l the men, shi ps, and pl anes asked for
woul d have to be made avai l abl e.23 There
was no chance that thi s woul d be cl one,
si nce the JCS was al ready engaged i n a re-
exami nati on of the resources avai l abl e for
al l the strategi c undertaki ngs deci ded on
‘“ 4th PMC meeti ng, dtd 15 Mar43, Anx A
(Co-k, NHD) .
at Casabl anca. I t was now apparent that
there just. was not enough to go around to
gi ve ful l coverage to every scheme; forces
requested for ELKI ’ON woul d have to be
cut drasti cal l y .24
The requi rements of the heavy bomber
offensi ve agai nst, Germany changed one
aspect of ELKTohT i mmedi atel y. The
pl anned aeri al i nterdi cti on of Japanese
rearward bases from the Huon Peni nsul a
depended on more l ong range pl anes reach-
i ng the Southwest Paci fi c.
Si nce these
pl anes coul d not be made avai l abl e; ai r-
bases cl oser to Sol omons’ objecti ves wi thi n
range of medi um bombers woul d have to
be taken. Woodl ark and Ki ri wi na I sl ands
i n the Sol omon Sea east of Papua were
ak~reecl upon as sui tabl e objecti ves. De-
spi te thi s modi fi cati on of the ELKTON
concept, General Sutherl and sti l l consi d-
ered that the Huon Peni nsul a operati ons
woul d have to precede al l others; on the
other hand, Hal sey’s Chi ef of Staff, Cap-
tai n Mi l es R. Browni ng, USN, mai ntai ned
that the sei zure of Woodl ark and Ki ri wi na
woul d al l ow Hal sey to make hi s move i nto
11’ewGeorgi a wi thout wai ti ng for the cap-
ture of Huon ai rfi el ds. The varyi ng
poi nts of vi ew were presented to the JCS
for deci si on.25
The sol uti on arri ved at by the JCS was
workabl e and retai ned el ements of both the
uni ty of command concept and that of co-
operati ve acti on. Subject to the check-
rei n authori ty of the JCS, General Mac-
hthur was gi ven overal l control of the
campai gn. Admi ral Hal sey woul d have
di rect command of operati ons i n the Sol o-
‘4JCS 238, Memo by the JSP, dtd 16Mar43
(COA, NHD ) ; JSSC 11, Surv of the Present
StratSi t, dtd 22Mar43 (COA, NHD).
“ Mi nutes of the JCS 6Sth meeti ng. dtd 21 Mar-
43 (COA, NHD) .
SETTI NG THE STAGE
17
mons wi thi n the scope of MacArthur’s
general di rect i ves. Any Paci fi c Ocean
Area. forces not speci fi cal l y approved by
the ,JCS for i ncl usi on i n task forces en-
gt~ged i n ELKTON operati ons \voul d re-
mai n under Admi ral Ni mi tz.
On 28 March 1943, the ,Joi nt Chi efs i s-
sued a new di recti ve that caneel l ed that of
2 Jul y 1942 and outl i ned the new scheme
of operati ons for the campai gn agai nst
Rabaul . The schedul e of tasks now cal l ed
for establ i shment of ai rfi el ds on Wood-
l ark and Ki ri wi na I sl ands, to be fol l owed
by sei zure of bases on Huon Peni nsul a
col l cl ~rreutl y wi th Hal sey’s move i nto hTew
Georgi a. Western New Bri t~i n and south-
ern Bougai uvi l l e were the next steps to-
ward the goal of Rabaul . The purpose
of these oper~ti ous was set down as “the
ul ti mate sei zure of ti l e B i smarck Archi -
pel ago.” 2’
‘“ JCS 238/5/D, dtd 23Mar43, Di recti v+Pl an
for the Sei zure of the Sol wncms I sl ands-New
Gui nea-New Bri tai n-New I rel and Area (COA,
NHD).
CHAPTER2
The Opening Moves
AREA OF QOAI FLI CT’
Pri or tot heoutbreak of war, the stra-
tegi c area centered On Rab:l ul was a SI OW-
packd fronti er of Western ci vi l i zati on.
Economi c devel opment of the Bi smarck
Archi pel ago, the Sol omon I sl ands, and
Eastern New Gui nea was pretty wel l l i m-
i ted to the cul ti vati on of coconut pal ms for
copra. The coconut, pl antati ons, together
wi th a scatteri ng- of tradi ng posts, mi s-
si ons, and government stat i ons, housed the
rel ati ve handful of non-nati ve i nhabi tants.
The i sl ands had l i ttl e i n the way of cl i mate
or terrai n to attract touri sts or anyone el se
wi thout a surpassi ng good reason for vi si t-
i ng them. For the most part the area re-
mai ned as i t had been when the fi rst Euro-
pean expl orers vi si ted i t i n the mi ddl e of
the si xteenth century.
More than 300 years passed b~fore a
Western nati on thought i t worthwhi l e to
l ay cl ai m to any of the i sl ands. Then Gw--
many, as part of her bel ated attempt to
bui l d a col oni al empi re, fol l owed her
traders and mi ssi onari es i nto Northeast
New Gui nea, the Bi smarcks, and the
Northern Sol omons, procl ai mi ng them the
protectorate of Kai ser-Wi l hel msl and i n
‘ [-nl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om: MI D, WD, Surv of
the Sol omons I sl ands ( S3(P677), 2 vol s, dtd
15Mar43, her eafter S’ol omons &’ur vew; MI S, WD,
Surv of A-E New Gui nea and Papua ( S3@678),
dtd 15Ju143; MI D, WD, Surv of Bi smarck Archi -
pel ago ( S30--673 ), 2 vol s, dtd 50ct43, her eafter
Tliwnarcl;s Swmey.
1884. Bri tai n countered by establ i shi ng
her own protectorate over the Southern ~
Sol omons and by annexi ng the rest of
Eastern New Gui nea. As the Terri tory of
Papua, wi th a capi tal at Port Moresby,
thi s l atter area was turned over to Aus-
tml i a i n 1905. At the outbreak of Worl d
War I , the Austral i ans occupi ed Kai ser-
Wi l hel msl and and kept i t, under a League
of Nati ons mandate f ol l ovvi ng the peace,
as the Terri tory of hTewGui nea. The man-
date capi tal was establ i shed at Rabaul ;
and the terri tory di vi ded i nto government
di stri cts of Northeast New Gui nea, Nevv
Bri tai n, New I rel and, Manus (the Admi r-
al ty and Northwest I sl ands), and Ki eta
(Buka and Bougai nvi l l ea). South of Bou-
gai nvi l l ea, the Sol omons, i ncl udi ng the
Santa Cruz I sl ands, formed the Bri ti sh
Sol omon I sl ands Protectorate, admi n-
i stered by a resi dent commi ssi oner at
Tul agi .
Each i sl and i n the Rabaul strategi c
sphere, wi th the excepti on of a few outl y-
i ng atol l s, has a basi c si mi l ari ty of ap-
pearance whi ch hol ds true regardl ess of
si ze. Hi gh hi l l s and mountai ns crowd the
i nteri or, sendi ng out preci pi tous spurs and
ri dges to the coasts. A matted jungl e can-
opy of gi ant trees covers al l but the hi ghest
peaks, and the sun touches the ground onl y
al ong the banks of the numerous streams
‘ The capi tal of the New Gui nea Terri tory was
transferred to I ,ae i n Northeast New Gui nea on
1 I kwember 1941 because of the danger of vol -
cani c acti vi ty i n the Rabaul area.
18
THE OPEA’I NG MOVES
19
that sl i ce the sl opes. Where fi re or water
forces a temporary cl eari ng, the vi ne ancl
bush bnrri er of second growth spri ngs up
to add to the di fl i cul ti e.s of trnnsi t. Al ong
the shores most of the l ow-l yi ng ground
i s choked wi th rank second growth, and
vast stretches of feti d mangrove swamp
mark the months of streams and ri vers.
Easi l y accessi bl e and wel l -drai ned l and i s
at a premi um and on most such si tes coco-
nut pl antati ons had been establ i shed.
Years are requi red to grow the trees md
constant attenti on i s needed to prevent the
encroachmefl t of jungl e. These pl anta-
ti ons, together wi th the few si gni fi cant,
reaches of grassl and scattered throughout,
the l arger i sl ands, were the potenti al ai r-
fi el ds that fi gured so promi nentl y i n
Southwest Paci fi c pl anni ng.
Al ong wi th tropi cal forest and rugged
hi l l s, the area shares a common cl i mate—
hot, hl ~rni d, and unheal thy. There i s a
rai ny season around December w-hen the
northwest monsoon bl ows, but the “dry
months)’ of the southeast trade wi nds,
Apri l throngh October, are wri ngi ng wet
by temperate zone standards. Al though
the amount of preci pi tati on vari es consi d-
erabl y accordi ng to l ocal e, an average
rai nfal l of more than 200 i nches i n the up-
l ands and 100-150 i nches al ong the coasts
i s not unusual . The i sl ands l i e i n the onl y
l ati tudes i n the worl d where evaporati on
i s greater over l and than waters The
temperature of the moi sture-saturated ai r
stays i n a steady range of 75–90 degrees
the -year around. Constant hi gh heat and
humi di ty sap a man’s strength and make
hi m prey to a wi de vari ety of tropi cal
di seases.
‘G. T. Trewartha, An Introduction to Climate
( New York: McGrawHi l l Book Company, 1954),
p. 112.
Strange though i t may seem, thi s uni n-
vi ti ng area has wel l over a mi l l i on i nhab-
i tants. The majori ty are Mel anesi ans, the
domi nant race i n the i sl ands northeast of
Austral i a. Pri mi ti ve i n habi t and appear-
ance, these peopl e have dark brown, al -
most ‘bl ack, ski ns, smal l but sol i dl y-bui l t
bodi es, and fri zzl ed, upstandi ng mops of
hai r. The nati ves of Papua bel ong to a
rel ated but separate race, shorter, darker,
and more Negroi d i n aspect. I n the atol l s
around the peri phery of the area there are
a few thousand Pol ynesi ans, tal l , fai r, and
fi ne-featured members of the race that
occupi es the Central Paci fi c i sl ands.
Mi xed marri ages among these peopl es are
not uncommon; the Mel anesi ans them-
sel ves are thought to be the product of a
mergi ng of Papuan and Pol ynesi an
strai ns.
Tri bal i sm i s the way of l i fe i n the i s-
l ands; there i s no nati ve nati onal spi ri t
or tracl i t i on. The frankl y paternal i sti c
I h-i ti sh and Austral i an admi ni strati ons re-
spect the tri bal organi zati on and govern
through the l ocal chi efs. Al most al l the
nati ves l i ve i n smal l vi l l ages, thei r outl ook
l i mi ted to what they can see, feel , or hear.
Vi l l age garden pl ots, temporari l y wrested
from the jungl e, grow onl y enough tare,
yams, and sweet potatoes for l ocal needs;
frui t and fi sh suppl ement an otherwi se
monotonous and starchy di et. Al though
Chri sti an mi ssi onari es have been moder-
atel y successful i n gai ni ng converts, the
basi c rel i gi on of these si mpl e peopl e i s
a natural ani mi sm. The di versi ty of di a-
l ects i s so great that the traders’ jargon of
pi dgi n Engl i sh i s the onl y uni versal l y un-
derstood l anguage. By Weskrn stand-
ards, the nati ves l i ve a severel y l i mi ted l i fe,
but thi s si mpl e exi stence has the sancti on
of centuri es.
20 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
I n general , a vi ew of l i fe outsi de the
vi l l age i s sought and seen onl y by the
l aborers who work the coconut pl antati ons
and the rel ati vel y few nati ves who serve
i n the government or pol i ce. These men,
especi al l y the “pol i ce boys,” are capabl e
of great personal l oyal ty to those l Tho
can understand and l ead them. The evi -
dence for thi s statement i s easi l y found i n
the exi stence of the spy system that oper-
ated behi nd Japanese l i nes i n the South-
west Paci fi c.
Years before the enemy i nvaded the
New Gui nea Terri tory and drove south
toward Port Moresby and Tul agi , the
probabi l i ty of hosti l e approach through
the i sl and screen had been foreseen by the
Austral i ans. I n 1919, thei r Navy began
to set up a network of observers al ong the
sparsel y settl ed northeastern shores of the
conti nent. As compact and rel i abl e radi os
were devel oped, the observer system spread
northward i nto the i sl ands where strate-
gi cal l y l ocated ofl ci al s and pl anters were
recrui ted and trai ned to send coded reports
of enemy movements. Many of these vet-
eran i sl anders, famed as the coastwatehers,
remai ned behi nd when the Japanese ad-
vanced, and from vantage poi nts deep i n
the mi dst of enemy-control l ed waters,
someti mes even from enemy-hel d i sl ands,
fed a steady stream of val uabl e i ntel l i -
gence i nto Al l i ed hancl s. The nati ves who
stayed wi th the coastwatchers were i n
nM12y cases thei r eyes and ears i n the
enemy camp. Though the opportuni ty for
betrayal was great, i t, was sel dom sei zed.’
‘ Cdr l ~l ri c A. Fel dt, RAN, !f’hc Coast zootch frs
(Xe\v I -t)rk & Mel bour ne : Oxfor d Uni versi ty
Press, 1946 ), p. 4ff, her eafter Fel dt, !Z’}l C f_’oast-
lrrltd( c)’.?.
Whi l e the success of the coastwatchi ng
system was a tri bute to human courage and
resourceful ness, i t was equal l y an acknowl -
edgment of the compl ex geographi c fac-
tors maki ng i t possi bl e. Each i sl and and
i sl and group that fi gured i n the Al l i ed
dri ve on Rabaul has i ts own pecul i ar
character, and i ts detai l ed descri pti on i s
part of the narrati ve of the operati ons that
concern i t. A general sketch of the whol e
strategi c area i s needed, however, to set i n
mi nd the rel ati onshi p of these i sl ands to
each other.
On the map, New Gui nea, the worl d’s
second l argest i sl and, domi nates the sea
north of .i ustral i a. More than 900,000
nati ves l i ve i n the scattered vi l l ages of
Papua and Northeast New Gui nea, an area
roughl y the si ze of Cal i forni a. Lofty
mountai ns, some rangi ng wel l above 13,000
feet, form n spi ne for the Papuan Peni n-
sul a whi ch juts out i nto the Coral Sea. I n
the bul gi ng mi dsecti on of the i sl and near
the borcl er of Dutch New Gui nea, thou-
sands of square mi l es of soggy ground and
tangl ecl swampl and spread out al ong the
wanderi ng courses of torpi d ri vers comi ng
down out of the hi ghl ands. The Huon
Peni nsul a, whi ch harbors near i ts base and
southern fl ank the ai rfi el d si tes so promi -
nent i n the ELKTON pl anni ng, thrusts
east toward New Bri tai n, l ess than 50
mi l es away across Vi ti az (Dampi er)
Strai t. (See Map I , Map Secti on.)
The ti p of western New Bri tai n, Cape
Gl oucesterj has enough l ow grassl and near
the coast to al l ow ai rfi el d devel opment.
Thus, from the Cape and from the Huon
Peni n sL~l a, di rectl y opposi te on New
Gui nea, control coul d be easi l y mai ntai ned
over T)ampi er Strai tj the onl y entry i nto
the Sol omon Sea from the northwest.. New
THE OPENI NG MOVES
Bri tai n,an el ongated and crescent-shaped
i sl and, 370 mi l es l ong and 40–50 mi l es
wi de, i s he~vi l y forested znd has the usual
promi nent jumbl e of mountai ns and hi l l s
ri dgi ng i ts i nteri or. Mi dway al ong the
coasts,Tal aseai n thenorthandGasmata
i n thesouthofferway-poi ntai rdromesi tes
for a dri veon Rabaul ,whi ch“hasby al l
oddsthebestnaturalharborandbasefor
mi l i tary operati onsi n the enti re New
Gui nea-New’Bri tai n-Sol omon I sl ands
area.”5
Curvi ngto the northwestfrom the
watersoffRabaul ’sBl ancheBay,sci mi tar-
l i ke NewI rel andparal l el sNewGui nea’s
coastl i ne300 mi l esaway and cl osesone
si deof the Bi smarckSea. The ai rfi el ds
andharboratKavi engonthesl i mi sl and’s
northernpoi nt madethe smal l col oni al
town a pri me strategi cobjecti ve. The
Bi smarckSeai s outl i nedby a staggered
arc of i sl andswhi chswi ngsnorth from
New Hanoveroff Kavi engto the Sai nt
Matthi as group,thenwesttotheAdmi ral -
ti es and on to the atol l sknown as the
NorthwestI sl ands,whi ch di p south to-
wardNewGui nea.Thenati vepopul ati on
of thewhol eareaof theBi smarckArchi -
pel agoi s approxi matel y 150,000, thel arg-
estnumberby far l i vi ngon NewBri tai n
andNewI rel and.
Pl anesbasedat Rabaulandat ai rfi el ds
on Buka or Bougai nvi l l ea can effecti vel y
cl oseoff thepassagebetweenNewI rel and
and Buka,the secondmajor gatewayto
the Sol omonSea. Pol i ti cal l yspeaki ng,
thesetwonortherni sl andsarepartof the
New Gui neaTerri tory; geographi cal l y,
they are one wi th the rest of the Sol o-
mons. Thepri nci pali sl andsof theSol o-
5Bismarci-s A’urtxg,p. 1.
21
monsconsti tutea doubl emountai nchai n
runni ngnorthwest andsoutheast for about
’700mi l esbetweentheBi smarcksandthe
NewHebri des;thewi dthof thi s central
groupi ngi s 100mi l es. Severaloffshoot
i sl andswel l awayfromthemai nchai n—
OntongJavaatol l to thenortheast, Ren-
nel l due southof Guadal canal , and the
SantaCruzgroup to the southeast—are
al soconsi deredpartof theSol omons.
I n al l thei sl andstherearesome165,000
nati vesl i vi ngi n a total l andareaequi va-
l enttothatof WestVi rgi ni a. Theterrai n
fi tsthegeneralpatternof thewhol estra-
tegi carea—jungl e andhi l l sextremel ydi f-
fi cul tto traversewhi chtend to l ocal i ze
l andcombatandputapremi umonai rand
sea power. The major i sl ands of the
northeastchai n,Choi seul ,SantaI sabel ,
and Mal ai ta,have few naturalmi l i tary
objecti ves, andthesamel ackcharacteri zes
San Cri stobal ,the southernmost of the
southwest chai n. Theotherl argei sl ands
of theSol omons, Guadal canal , NewGeor-
gi a,andBougai nvi l l e, havesi zabl eharbors
and ai rfi el dsi tessuffi ci ent to makethem
l ogi calstoppi ngpoi ntsi n a del i berate ad-
vanceon Rabaul . Each of thesemajor
i sl andobjecti veshas severalsmal l eri s-
l andsnearbywhi chal socl assaspotenti al
targets:Tul agi andFl ori daare coupl ed
wi th Guadal canal ;Vel l a Lavel l a and
Kol ombangarawi th New Georgi a; and
BukaandtheShortl and-Treasury I sl ands
wi thBougai nvi l l ea.
Typi calof thesmal l eri sl andgroupsi n
the Sol omonsi s the Russel l s,whi ch l i e
30–35mi l esnorthwest of CapeEsperance
on Guadal canal . Theacci dentof l ocati on
ratherthananyconsi derabl e strategi cad-
vantagemadethemAdmi ralHal sey’sfi rst
objecti veafter Guadal canal was secured.
THE OPENI NG MOVES
23
OCCUPATI ONOF THE Z?UAYSELLS ‘
TheRussel lgroupconsi stsof twomai n
i sl andsfri ngedby a scatteri ngof l esser
i sl ets. Pa.vuvu, thel argeri sl and,i s very
i rregul ari n shapeandno morethanten
mi l esacrossat i ts wi destpoi nt. Thel ow
l and al ongthe shorel i neof manyof i ts
coves and bays i s cl ear of undergrowth
and l i ned wi th coconuttrees,but tl hese
pl anti ngsonl y edgethejungl eandmark
thesteepri setowardsthehi l l s of thei n-
teri or. On the northcoast,severaldeep
waterbaysprovi deshel teredanchorages
whi chwi l l accommodate l argeocean-goi ng
vessel s.Onl ya narrowchannelseparates
Pavuvufrom i ts smal l ernei ghborto the
east,Bani ka,whi chhas unusualterrai n
for the Sol omons. Excepti n i ts south-
westernporti on, wherehi l l sri seto400feet,
thei sl andi s l ow androl l i ngandsui tabl e
for mi l i tarydevel opment. Bani ka’snorth
coasti s cl eftby RenardSound,a deepi n-
l et that provi des access to the l ow
ground. (SeeMap1.)
I n January1943,wheni t was evi dent
thattheJapanesewerel osi ngthei r fi ght
toregai ncontrolof Guadal canal , thepos-
si bi l i tyof movi ngforwardtotheRussel l s
was gi ven seri ousconsi derati onat Com-
SoPac headquarters. ToHal sey’s staff,
eUnl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ved from : ComSoPacJ an-Apr@
~VarDN; ComPhi bSoPac Rept of Occupati on of
ti heRussel l I sl ands (CI .EANS1,ATEOP) 21Feb–
17Apr43, dtd 21.4pr43; 43d I nfDi v FO N’o.2, dtd
15Feb43; 3d Rdr13nRept of the Russel l I sl ands
(CI .EANSL.4TEOP), dtd 9Apr43; Russel l I s-
l ands Det. I l th DefBn Jnl ; LtCol E. S. Watson,
G–3, 43d I nfDi v, “Movement of a Task Force by
Smal l Landi ng Craft,” dtd 17Apr43; LS’ol ornons
Surwy; I Jl orri son,llrcakin.ytfieBismarcks Bar-
rier. ~oeurnentsnot otherwi se i denti fi edare l o-
cated i n the Russel l I sl ands Area Operati onsFi l e
of the Archi ves, Hi stori cal Branch, G–3Di vi si on,
HeadquartersMari ne Corps.
the i sl andgroup seemeda desi rabl eob-
jecti veand one that coul dbe takenand
hel d wi th the l i mi tedresourcesavai l abl e
i n the SouthPaci fi c. A presentati onof
thi sconceptwasmadetoAdmi ralNi mi tz
whenhe vi si tedNoumeafor conferences
wi th Hal seyon 23January. ThePaci fi c
Fl eet commander gave oral approvalto
thei deaandbeforethemonthwasouthe
gavespeci fi cauthori zati on for theopera-
ti on.
The Japanesehad not occupi edthe
Russel l swhentheymovedi ntoti hel ower
Sol omons, butoncethedeci si onwasmade
to pul l out of Guadal canalabout 300
troopsweresentto ti ny Bai senI sl andoff
Pavuvu’snorthwestti p, Pepwda Poi nh
to set up a barge-stagi ngbase.’ The
enemyuni t l eft wheni ts job was done;
thewi thdrawal wasreportedon 11Febru-
aryby a coastwatcher whohadbeenl and-
ed i n the i sl andsearl i erto keeptab on
Japanese acti vi ty. Theprospectof anun-
opposedl andi ngwas cheeri ngto Al l i ed
pl anners, but i t resul tedi n no reducti on
i n assaul t troopstrengthfor theproposed
operati on. A heal thyrespectfor Japa-
neseoffensi vecapabi l i ti es keptthefi gure
hi gh.
SouthPaci fi cAreapl annersfel t thata
further“attemptonthepartof theenemy
toreestabl i sh hi msel fon Guadal canal was
a di sti nctpossi bi l i ty,”and that i f thi s
happenedthe reacti onto Al l i ed occupa-
ti on of the Russel l swoul d be vi ol ent.8
The l andi ngforce al l ottedunder these
ci rcumstances hadto be strongenoughto
‘ Hi stSec, G–2, FEC Japanese Monograph No.
48, SE Area NavOps—Part I , n.d. (OCMH), P.
61, hereafter SE AreaNavOps—I .
8CGUSAFI SPA 1st I nd, dtd l May43, to 43d
I nfDi v Summary of the Occupati on of the
Russel l I sl ands, dtd 17Apr43, i n Watson Rept,
op. cit.
691–360O—63—3
24
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
sustai na majorcounterattack. A further
consi derati oni n determi ni ngthe si ze of
the force was the bel i ef thatthe assaul t
troops woul d be favorabl ydi sposedto
takeparti n futureoperati ons agai nsth’ew
Georgi a.
On 7 February,Hal sey’sdi recti vefor
CL13ANSLATE, tl ~eRussel l soperati on,
was i ssued. h~amedto overal lcommand
wasRear Admi ralRi chmondK. Turner,
who headedSouth Paci fi c Amphi bi ous
Forcesa
The43dI nfantryDi vi si on,l ess
i ts 172d Regi mental Combat Team
(RCT), wasdesi gnated thepri nci pal com-
ponentof theCLEANSLATEoccupati on
force. Major rei nforci nguni tswerethe
Mari ne3cl Rai cl erBattal i on, anti ai rcraft
el ements of theMari ne1l th DefenseBat-
tal i on,hal fof the35thNavalConstructi on
Battal i on, andAcorn3.9 Oncetheacorn
uni t had an ai rfi el d i n operati on on
Bani ka, MAG-21, then en route to the
SouthPaci fi c,woul dmovei n i ts fi ghter
squadronsfor i nterceptand escortmi s-
si ons..
The assembl yof the CLEANSLATE
task force was hard to detect. No shi p
l arger than a destroyerwas assi gnedto
transport, troopsor suppl i es;mostof the
workl oadfel l to newl y arri vedl andi ng
shi psandcraftgetti ngthei rfi rstoffensi ve
test i n the Soutl ~Paci fi c. Whi l e l arger
vessel sbroughtthe43dDi vi si onfromNew
Cal edoni ato Guadal canal , themovement
wasmacl ei n normal -si zed convoys. Japa-
nesepl anesl ocatedandunsuccessful l y at-
tackedone of theseconvoys near San
Cri stobal on the11’th, buttheenemypi l ots
sawnothi ngaboutthetransports to i ndi -
o.+n acorn was a naval uni t desi gned to con-
struct, operate, and mai ntai n an advanced l and-
pl ane and seal )l ane base and to provi cl e faci l i -
ti es for operati ons.
catethatthey wereanythi ngmorethan
anotherrei nforcement-repl acement group
headed for the Guadal canalgarri son.
Shi psarri vi ngoffKol i Poi nt,stagi ngarea
for the operati on,unl oadedi mmedi atel y
andcl earedthe vi ci ni ty. Onl y a cl uster
of i nnocuoussmal lvessel s, mai nl yLCTS
(l andi ngcraft,tank)andLCMS(l andi ng
craft,medi um), anda screenof destroyers
stooclby for therun to theRussel l s.
TheprojectedD-Dayfor pl anni ngpur-
poseswas21February;four daysbefore,
wheni t wasevi dentthattheoperati onwas
proceedi ngon schedul e, Admi ral Hal sey
confi rmedthi s date. Late on the 19th
l oadi ngout began,LCTSfi rst,fol l owed
by thesmal l ercraft,andtoppedoff by the
destroyertypes. Onl y the APDs (hi gh
speedtransports)wereequi ppedto hoi st
on boardl andi ngcraft,andthedestroyers
ancl destroyermi ne-sweepers assi gnedas
transportseach took a quartetof smal l
boats undertow. Near mi dni ghton 20
February,the strangefl oti l l agot under-
way. Destroyers werei n thevan,throttl ed
downtothespeedof a dozensquatLCTS
that fol l owed i n trace, wi th the rear
broughtup by a tug-drawnbargel oaded
wi thammuni ti on andbarbedwi re.
Thesupportgi venCLEANSLATEwas
i mpressi ve. Bombersfrom SWPA hi t
~Tapanese rearwardbasesi n theNorthern
Sol omonsand Bi smarcks.Aeri al cover
over thetargetandi nterdi cti onmi ssi ons
agai nstenemyi nstal l ati ons i n theCentral
Sol omonswerefl ownby squadronsfrom
HendersonFi el d, temporari l yrei nforced
by theSmwtoga’s ai r group. Nearl yevery
combatshi pi n Hal sey’scommandput to
sea,readyto meeta Japanesesurfaceat-
tack; four crui sersand four destroyers
steamedup New Georgi aSound (aptl y
ni cknamed“The Sl ot”) as a coveri ng
THE OPENI NG MOVES 25
26
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
force. Theprecauti ons pai doff; noenemy
scoutpl aneor vesselspottedthetaskforce
andthel andi ngwasmadewi thoutopposi -
ti on.
Reconnai ss:~nce parti essenttotheRus-
sel l sseveraldaysbeforethel andi nghad
sel ectedsui tabl ebeach exi ts, gun si tes,
andcampancldumpareas. Onthemorn-
i ngof the21st,ti l eArmybattal i ons l and-
i ngon thetwobeachesof 13ani ka andthe
Mari nerai cl ersgoi ngashoreon Pavuvu’s
“Pepesal aPoi nt weremetby gui deswho
l ed themto pre-sel ectecl posi ti ons. One
hour after the wavesof assaul ttJroops
l andecl fromthei rdestroyer transports, the
LCTSnoseclashoreanclbeganunl oadi ng.
Thefi rstechel onof al ~ti ai rcraft gl l nsand
crewsof thel l th DefenseBattal i onwere
i n posi ti onon Bani l mby noon. Therai d-
ers andi nfantrymenweredugi n to meet
a counterl ancl i ng attemptbefore ni ght-
fal l .
Mari neanti ai rcraftgun crewsandthe
Army fi el darti l l erymenwl ~omthey had
retrai nedfor the ai r defensejob 1°were
the onl y ones to see acti on duri ngthe
ensui ngweeks.On6March,thefi rstJap-
aneseattackoccurredwhena dozenfi ght-
ers and bombersmadea l ow-l evelstri ke
onthemai ni sl ands.Earl ywarni ngradar
was not,yet i n operati onancl the fi rst
enemybombi ngand strafi ngrun caused
somecasual ti es beforetheanti ai reraftde-
fenseswerernannecl ; at l easttwoenemy
rai dersweresl ~otdown. Sporacl i cai r at-
tacksfol l oweclthi s fi rsteffort,but none
wereof seri ousi mport.
The Mari neel ementsof the ori gi nal
CLEANSLATEl andi ngforcewereonl y
temporari l yassi gnedto the operati on.
‘“ Maj Joseph L. Wi necoff l tr to CO, l l th
DefBn, dtd 22Feb43.
The l l th Defensedetachment was used
onl y unti l the l oth Defense13attal i on
arri vedi n theRussel l s;on 15March,the
newuni t begantaki ngoverthel l th’s bat-
teryposi ti ons.Thechangeover wascom-
pl etedby 17March,andthedetachment’s
~Y1l l l crel l ~sretl l rl l edto Port pur~~i son
Fl ori daI sl andthefol l owi ngni ght. The
3d Ra,i cl erBattal i onpul l ecl out on 20
l March:~ndreturnedto Espi ri tuSanto;
43d Di vi si onuni tsoccupi edthe rai ders’
defensi veposi ti ons.
The wi thdrawalof the Mari neswas
about the onl y rear~~ardmovementof
troops from the Russel l sduri ng thi s
peri od. Each cl ay after D-Day, LCTS
l oadedat,Guadal canal and under cover
of darknessmadetherunto thenewfor-
wardbase;succeedi ngechel onsof Turn-
er’staskforcearri vedatthei sl andsfor 50
ni ghtsrunni ng. By theendof February
over 9,000men were ashoreand by 18
Apri l , when responsi bi l i tyfor l ogi sti c
supportanddefenseof theRussel l spassed
to the commandi nggeneral at Guadal -
canal ,16,066menand48,51’7 tonsof sup-
pl i eshadbeenbroughti nbytheLCTshut-
tl e. I l ani kanowboastedanoperati ngai r-
fi el d for MAG-21’sthreefi ghtersquad-
rons,a motortorpedoboatbase,extensi ve
basedefensei nstal l ati ons, andthestartof
a consi derabl e suppl yhandl i ngcapaci ty.
Admi ralKi ngi nWashi ngtonwassome-
whatdubi ousof the val ueof putti ngso
much i nto the Russel l s,but Hal seyde-
fendedhi spol i cyasnecessary for thepro-
tecti onof thenewai rbase. AsfarasCom-
SoPac was concerned,CLEANSLATE
was merel ythe compl eti onof the fi rst
stageof hi smovetowardNewGeorgi a, and
the troops and suppl i esstati onedthere
wereearmarked for theconti nuedadvance
uptheSol omonschai n.
THE OPENI NG MOVES 27
BATTLE OF THEBI SMARCKSEA‘1
Whi l eComSoPacwasconsol i dati ng hi s
hol d on the new Russel l sai rdrome,an
eventoccurredi n the SouthwestPaci fi c
Area that emphasi zeddramati cal l ythe
i mportanceof l and-basedai r i n thecam-
pai gnagai nstRabaul . On 2-3 March,a
Japanesetroopconvoyheadedfor Laeat
the baseof the Huon Peni nsul awas en-
gagedi n arunni ngfi ghtbyAustral i anand
Ameri cansquadrons basedonNewGui nea.
Theresul tsof thi sBattl eof theBi smarck
Seaweresosi gni fi cant thatGeneralMac-
Arthurstated:
l ~e have achi evecl a vi ctory of such com-
pl eteness as to assume the proporti ons of a
majordi saster totheenemy.Ourdeci si ve
success cannotfai l tohavemosti mportant
resul ts ontheenemy’s strategi c andtacti cal
Dl ans.Hi swmpai gn, for theti mebei ngat
l east, i scompl etel y di srupted.12
Theconvoywasan attempt i ni ti atedby
Eighth A~~ea Amy to strengtheni ts de-
fensesi n theLae-Sal amaua areaandtoi n-
sureconti nuedcontrol of both shoresof
Dampi erStrai t. Ei ghttransports, vary-
i ngi nsi zefrom500to6,800tons,andei ght
escortdestroyers madetherun. Onboard
11Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ~redfrom : Hi stSec, G–2, ~EC,
.JapaneseMonograph No. 32, SE Area Ai rOps
~ov42-Apr44, n.d. (l ocated at OCMH), hereafter
S’l ??Area AirOps; SE Area NacOps—I I ; Wesl ey
F.Craven and James L. Cate (eds), ThePacific:
Gufldalcanal to Haipan, August l~@ to J uly
l!)~&T/ ~eArw]j Air Forces in World War I I , v.
I V (Chi cago:Uni versi ty of Chi cago, 1950),
hereafter Cravenand Cate,GuadakanaZ to
fJaipan; l l ori son, Brea7cingthe Bisrnarcks L3ar-
rier.
mQuoted i n MajGen Charl es A. l Vi l l oughby
and John Chamberl ai n,Mac.4rthur 1941–1951
(New York:McGraw-Hi l l BookCo.,1954 ), p.
112.
wereapproxi matel y 6,000sol di ersof the
61stDivisionand 400 repl acements for
Speci alNavalLandi ngForceuni ts.” A
canopyof fi ghterpl anes,bothArmy and
Navy,wasprovi dedfor overheadprotec-
ti on.
Theenemyconvoycl earedRabaulon 1
March,steami ngat sl owspeedal ongthe
northerncoastof NewBri tai n,parti al l y
hi ddenby l oweri ngski eswhi chmadeob-
servati on di ffi cul t. A reconnai ssance
bomberof MacArthur’sFi fth Ai r Force
si ghtedthe shi ps and escorti ng” fi ghters,
however,andradi oedi n i ts fi nd; a fl i ght
of B–17’swasunabl eto l ocatethe target
whentheweathercl osed. The fol l owi ng
morni ngtheconvoywasspottedagai nand
thi sti metheFl yi ngFortresses foundthei r
quarry, brokethroughthescreenof pl anes
andanti ai rcraft fi re,andsankonetrans-
port, the 51st Dtkhioncommandshi p.
Survi vorsweretransferred totwodestroy-
ers,whi chseparated fromthemai nconvoy
and steamedaheadto Lae. Austral i an
and Ameri canpl anesconti nuedto seek
outtheshi psthroughout theday,butthe
conti nuedbadweatherhel pedtofoi l these
attacksandfurtherdamagewasmi nor.
Despi tetheaeri alharassment, theJap-
aneseadheredto thei r ori gi nal sai l i ng
schedul e, whi chwastobri ngthemoff Lae
about1’700 on3March. By earl ymorni ng
of the 3d, the convoy was wel l wi thi n
HuonGul f andal sowel l wi thi nrangeof
Al l i ed ai rbaseson New Gui nea;for al l
practi calpurposesthe enemyhad sai l ed
i nto a trap. MacArthur’s ai r commander,
Major General GeorgeC. Kenney, sprang
i t wi th a coordi natedattackl ed by l ow-
l evelfi ghter-bombers speci al l ypracti cedi n
19USSBS, Carnpaign8, p.174.
28
I SOLATI ON OFRABAUL
anti -shi ppi ngstri kes, backed Up by
medi um-andhi gh-l evelbombersand an
escortof fi ghters.Theresul ti ngmel eewas
di sastrous for theJapanese.Everytrans-
port wasburni ngancli n a si nki ngcondi-
ti on i n l ess than hal f an hour; two de-
stroyersweresunk and a thi rd heavi l y
damaged.The attacksconti nuedunti l a
fourtl ~destroyer, engagedi n rescl l eoper:~-
ti ons,wasl ~i tthatafternoon.Motortor-
pedoboatsreachecl tl ~esceneduri ngthe
ni ghtandfi ni shedoff oneof thecri ppl es,
and the nextmorni ngtl ~ebomberscom-
pl eted the score. .kfter rescui ng3,800
men,four destroyers, al l thatwasl eft of
theori gi nalconvoy,madei t backto Ra-
baul ; fewerthan900mengot throl l ghto
Lae.
The overwhel mi ng Al l i ed successhad,
as Genera]MacArthurobserved,i mpor-
tantresul ts. Not onl y di d the Japanese
fai l to get a substanti al rei nforcement
throughto theHuonPeni nsul aarea,but
thetransportl ossesforcedthemto aban-
don l arge-scal erei nforcementattempts
al together.Dampi erStrai tdi d not be-
l ongto theAl l i esyet,butKenney’sfl i ers
madei t cl ear that the Japanesehad no
cl ear ti tl e ei ther. Suppl i es and men
sl atedfor enemy garri sonsi n Eastern
NewGui neaor theSol omons—for anybase
wi thi neffecti verangeof Al l i edpl anes—
werenow movedforwardby destroyers,
whosehi gh speed,excel ~entmaneuver-
abi l i ty,and anti ai rcraftgunsgavethem
a measureof protecti on, or by smal lcraft
huggi ngthei sl andcoasts. TheJapanese
hadbeendeci si vel ydefeated, buta battl e
i s not the war, and the sorry recordof
thei rdefendi ngai rcraftpromptedan al l -
out effortto restoreat l easta pari ty of
ai rpoweri n theRabaulstrategi carea.
J APANESE “I ” OPERATI ON‘4
Fol l owi ngthe Bi smarckSea debacl e,
Japanesescoutpl anesreportedi ncreased
acti vi tyi n Papuaandthel owerSol omons.
Al l i ed troop and materi alstrengthwas
cl earl y i ncreasi ng,and al l i ntel l i gence
poi ntedtothei mmi nence of offensi veoper-
ati ons. Al l i edai r rai dsandanti shi ppi ng
stri kesseri ousl ydi sruptedenemydefen-
si vepreparati ons andcurtai l edthemove-
mentof rei nforcements to forwardbases.
TheJapanesedeci dedthata strongcoun-
ter-strokewasneededto bl unttheAl l i ed
ai r spearheadand to gai n a respi tefor
thei r own defensebui l d-up. Tokyo as-
si gnedthe task, desi gnatedZ Go (“I ”
operati on), to Admi ral Yamamotoand
hi sG’ornbi ned Fl eet.
I n order to bol ster the strengthof
Rabaul ’sEleventhAh Fleet, Yamamoto
orderedforwmdfromTrukthepl anesand
pi l ots from four of the carri ersof hi s
ThirdFleet. On 3 Apri l , the admi ral
hi msel ffl ewto Rabaulto takepersonal
command.Thecombi nedforceavai l abl e
for ZGowasatl east182fi ghters, 81di ve
bombers, and72medi um-range l andbomb-
ers,pl us a few torpedopl anes. The 15-
day operati onwas pl annedto proceedi n
twophases, thefi rsti ncorporati ng a stri ke
agai nstthe Sol omonsandthesecond,at-
tackson Al l i edposi ti onsi n Papua.
The busy cl usterof shi ps,l arge and
smal l , i n the vi ci ni ty of Tul agi and
Guadal canal wasthe i ni ti al Z Go target.
Nearnoonof 7 Apri l , 67enemyVal di ve
bomberswi thanescortof 110Zekefi ghters
14Unl ess otherwi se noted, materi al i nthi ssec-
ti oni s deri ved from:Hi stSec, G–2, FEC, Jap-
anese Monograph No.122, SEAreahTavAi rOps—
PartI I I ,Nov42-Jun43, n.d.(OCMH ), hereafter
HEAreaNuvAirOps—III; i3E Area NavOp8—
II; Mori son, Breaking theBismarcks Barr&r.
THEOPENI NG MOVES 29
took off from stagi ngai rfi el dson Buka
and Bougai nvi l l ea to make the attack.
Thei r departurewas dul y notedand re-
portedtoHendersonFi el dby coastwatch-
erson Bou~~i nvi l l e; at 1400, radari n the
Russel l spi ckedup the oncomi ngfl i ghts
and’76i nterceptors, Guadal canal ’s typi cal
joi nt-servi cemi xture, scrambl edandtan-
gl ed wi th theZekeescortover The Stot.
The Japanesebombers,hi di ngbehi nda
bl anketof heavybl ackcl oudsthatcovered
I ndi spensabl e Strai tbetweenMal ai taand
Fl ori da,headedfor Tul agi . Al mostal l
theshi pswereoutof Tul agiharborwhen
therai dersstruck;onl y a fl eetoi l er anda
NewZeal andcorvettew~recaughti n the
confi nedwaters. Both weresunk. The
attackconti nuedagai nsttherapi dl yma-
neuveri ngvessel si n I ron BottomSound,
but shi pand shoreanti ai rcraftfi rekept
theVal shi ghandthebombi ngi naccurate.
Thedestroyer AaronWard,attempti ng to
protectanLSTthathadbecomethefocus
of enemyattenti on,was seri ousl ydam-
aged; she l ater sank under tow. The
bomberscausedno othersi gni fi cant dam-
age and drewoff soon after they l oosed
thei rl oads. TheZekesscoredjustasl i ght-
l y as theVal s,accounti ngfor onl y seven
pl anes,al l of themMari ne. The wel ter
of confl i cti ngcl ai msfor enemyai rcraft
shotdown was wi nnowedto an esti mate
thatl essthan25 Japanesewerel ost,15a
fi gurethatarguedwel l wi th thehi ghest
offi ci al enemyreportof 24pl anesdowned.l G
Asi defromtherel ati vel yl i ghtdamage
to Al l i ed shi psandai rcraft,thei ’ Apri l
attackhad one other tangi bl eresul tfor
1’Ci nCPac, Opsi n thePOAfor Apr43(COA,
XHD), p.14.
1“Mori son, Breaking tile BiwnarcksBarrier, p,
124, i ndi cates thatJapanese postwar records con-
fi rmthel ossof onl y12Val sand9 Zekes.
theJapanese.I t enabl edthemtosl i pre-
i nforcementsi nto Kol ombangaraby de-
stroyertransport whi l eComSoPacconcen-
tratedhi s ai r strengthat Guadal canal to
meetfurtherattacks. Si mi l arrei nforce-
menteffortswereexecutedfor Western
NewBri tai nandtheHuonPeni nsul aun-
der cover of the tri o of attackson New
Gui neatargetsthat madeup the second
phaseof ZGo.
On 11 Apri l , 94 ThirdFket carri er
pl anesattackedshi ppi ngi n Oro Bay,20
mi l es southeastof Buna. Fi fty Al l i ed
fi ghtersfought themoff but not before
JapaneseVal pi l ots had sunk one mer-
chantman, beachedanother, anddamaged
an Austral i anmi nesweeper. On thefol -
l owi ngday, 1’74Japanesenaval pl anes,
i ncl udi ng43 medi umbombers,madea
massattackon the ai rfi el dssurroundi ng
Port Moresby. Whi l edefendi ngfi ghters
took on the Zeke escort, the bombers
pl owedup theai rstri ps, butotherwi sedi d
l i ttl edamage. The thi rdZ Go rai d was
madeon shi psandai rfi el dsat Mi l neBay
on 14Apri l . TheJapanese agai nattacked
i n overwhel mi ng force,188pl anes;onl y24
Austral i anfi ghterswereavai l abl etomeet
them,but al l shi pswereforewarnedand
underway, fi ri ngthei ranti ai rcraft gunsto
makethe enemypi l ots shear off. The
majorresul tof theattackwasthesi nki ng
of a merchantman andsomemi nordam-
age to other shi ppi ng. I n al l threeat-
tacks,5 Al l i ed pl aneswerel ost,andthe
Japaneseadmi ttedthel ossof 21ai rcraft.
On 16Apri l ,Admi ralYamamoto cal l ed
offthe“I ” Operati on, orderi ngtheremai n-
i ngThi rdFzeetpl anesbacktoTruk. He
hadbeencompl etel ymi sl edby thegl ow-
i ngreportsof hi spi l otsi ntobel i evi ngthat
I Gohadbeena tremendous success.The
totaldamagecl ai mfor th’efour rai dswas
30
I SOLATI ON OFRABAUL
staggeri ng: 1 crui ser, 2 destroyers, and25
assortedtransports andcargovessel ssunk,
wi th heavydamageto 2 moretransports
andseveral smal l ervessel s; 134pl anesshot
out of the ai r (i ncl udi ng39 probabl es).
LMatched agai nstthesetotal swas theac-
tual l ossof 1 destroyer, 1 corvette, 2 mer-
chantmen, and l ess than20 ai rcraft. I t
woul dseemthattheThirdR?eetpi l otshad
adoptedthepenchant for reporti ng“gross
exaggerati on of damagei nfl i cted” thatwas
rampant i n theranksof theEleventhAiY
Fleet.” Whateverthe expl anati onfor
pi l ot error,be i t wi l l ful exaggerati onor
wi shful thi nki ng,the prematureendi ng
of I Gowi thoutanysi gni fi cant resul tswas
chi l l i ngto Japanesehopes of del ayi ng
Al l i edoffensi vepreparati ons.
ALLI ED RAI DS‘8
Thepri metargetsof Hal sey’spressure
tacti csi ntheearl ymonthsof 1943werethe
enemyai rfi el dsatMundaon NewGeorgi a
andVi l a on Kol ombangma.The tempo
of ai r rai dsagai nstthesebasesi ncreased
steadi l yasAl l i edstrenagth mounted.Cou-
pl ed wi th theseai r stri keswas a l i mi ted
programof navalbombardment madepos-
si bl eby the fact that SoPacpl anesand
shi ps had wrestedcontrol of the waters
i mmedi atel ynorth of Guadal canal from
theJapanese.TheJapanese coul danddi d
ri skthei rwarshi pswi thi nrangeof Hen-
dersonFi el d’sbombers, but theneedhad
tobegreatasi n theevacuati on of Guadal -
canal . The chancefor a showdownsea
battl esti l l bri ghtenedthehopesof enemy
naval offi cers, but therewas l i ttl e desi re
‘7 TJSSDS, I Htcrro~at ion A’o. 601, Cdr Ryoske
~Nomura, I JLN, I I , p. 532.
‘“ Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ved from : SE Area NaaOp8—11;
Mori son, Breaking the BismarckxBarrier.
anyl ongertoseekthi scri ti calfi ghti n the
confi nedwatersof the l ower Sol omons.
Hal sey’scrui sersanddestroyers hadti me
to getsomeexperi enceat shorebombard-
ment,thus exposi ngenemygarri sonsto
a bi t of thebi ttermedi ci nedi shedoutby
Japanesenaval gunnersi n the darkest
daysof thestruggl efor Guadal canal .
Rear Admi ral Wal den L. Ai nsworth
took a crui ser-destroyer force agai nst
Mundaon5Januaryandagai nonthe24th
broughthi s bombardment group up to
NewGeorgi a,thi s ti meto shel lthe fi el d
at Vi l a. On both occasi ons, fi resstarted
by navalgunfi rel i t up theni ghtandthe
resul tsof thebombardment wereat l east
spectacul ar.Fol l ow-upattacksby Al l i ed
ai r causedmoredamage, accordi ngtothe
Japanese, butnei therbombi ngnor shel l -
i nghadanyl asti ngeffecton theprogress
of the enemyai rbaseconstructi on.Ad-
mi ral Ai nsworthnotedthat,whi l ethese
ai r-seaattacksmi ghtrenderthefi el dsun-
usabl efor cri ti cal peri odsof ti me,“the
onl y real answeri s to takethefi el daway
fromthem.”‘g
Admi ralHal seywasi n compl eteagree-
mentwi ththi ssenti ment; heexpectedl i t-
tl e morefrom hi s attackpatterni n the
Central Sol omons thantheharassment and
del ayheachi eved. TheJapanesebecame
expertat fi l l i ngi n thecratersi n therun-
ways and dug-i n thei r scattereddumps
andshel tersto mi ni mi zetheeffectof the
Al l i edrai ds. Li fewasmi ghtyunpl easant
undertheconstant roundof attacks, how-
ever,andtheportentswerehardl yencour-
agi ngfor the successof Japanesearms.
Anotherof Ai nsworth’sshorebombard-
mentgroupswasunderwayfor NewGeor-
gi aafterdarkon5Marchwhenherecei ved
“ CTF67Rept ofVi l a-Stanmore Bombardment
22-24 .Jan43, dtd28Jan43(COA, NHD).
THEOPENI NG MOVES
31
word from Guadal canal thattwo enemy
shi pshad l eft Bol l gai nvi l l eheadedsouth
earl i er i n the day. Guadal canal ’ssea-
pl anescoutsspottedtheshi ps, twodestroy-
ersthathadjustdel i veredsuppl i esto the
Vi l a base steami ngnorth on a return
course. Fi re control radar screenspi n-
poi ntedthe l ocati onof the targetsfor
shi ps’batteri es, andtheenemyvessel swere
buri edi n a del ugeof shel l s. Bothqui ckl y
sank; onl y 49 crewmensurvi vedto tel l
thei r harrowi ngtal e to tl ~egarri sonon
Kol ombangara.20
Thecrui ser-destroyer forcewassl atedto
hi t Mundaand Vi l a aga,i non the ni ght
of 7–8Apri l andwasal readyoutof port
when Admi ral Yamamotol aunchedhi s
“I ” Operati onwi ththeassaul t on Tul agi .
The Japanesepl anesfai l ed to si ght the
bombardment shi ps,but the prospectof
furtherenemyattackspromptedHal sey
tocal l off themi ssi onandconcentrate hi s
forces. The temporarysl ackeni ng-off of
‘0USSBS, I nterroflationNo. 138, LCdrHori shi
Tokuno, I JN,1,p. 142;Mori son, Breaking the
Bismarck,sBarrier, ~).110, i ndi cates that other
sources show there were 174 survi vors.
surfaceand ai r rai dsmadenecessaryby
thi s assembl age of powermayhavebeen
i nstrumental i n convi nci ngYamamoto
thatI (2owasa success.The enemyad-
mi ralhadnoti metodi scoverhi smi stake.
On 18Apri l ,twodaysafterYamamoto
endedI Go,he l eft Rabaulwi thhi s staff
on ani nspecti ontri pto130ugai nvi l l e. As
a resul tof a messagei ntercept, Al l i edi n-
tel l i gence knewthei ti neraryof thei nspec-
ti on party and a ki l l er group of Army
l ong-rangefi ghtersfromHendersonFi el d
mettheJapanesepl anesover thei r desti -
nati on,Bui nai rfi el d. Theexecuti onwas
swi ft andsure;a few momentsafter the
i ntercept ors attacked, thestafftransports
crashedi n fl amesand the enemy’smost
famous naval commanderwas dead.
Yamamotodi ed pri mari l ybecauseNi m-
i tz)staff eval uatedhi m as the best man
theJapanesehadtocommandthei rCorn-
bhed Fleet; hadhe beenl esscompetent,
l essof an i nspi rati ontoenemymoral e, he
mi ghtwel l havel i ved. Hi s deathdeal ta
tel l i ngbl owtothespi ri tof thedefenders
i n the Sol omons,and furni shedgri m
warni ngof thedownwardcourseof Jap-
anesefortunes.
CHAPTER 3
Orderof Battle
FLEET MARI NE FORCE1
By 30 Apri l 1943,the Fl eet Mari ne
Forcei n thePaci fi chad reachedformi d-
abl e strengthi n compari sonto the few
battal i onsand squadronsthat had been
i ts aggregateat the outbreakof war.
over 110,000Mari nesand sai l orswere
servi ngi n threedi vi si ons, threeai r wi ngs,
and a wi de vari etyof supporti nguni ts
posi ti onedat Al l i edbasesal onga broad,
sweepi ngarcfromMi dwayto ~~ustral i a.
The majori tyof combattroopswerel o-
catedi n theSouthPaci fi cuncl erAdmi ral
I I :~l sey’scon]nmnd,where tl ]e l ]i gl ~est
Mari negroundecl ~el on wasMajorGeneral
Cl aytonB. Vogel ’sI Mari ne.I rnphi bi ous
Corps(131AC). Theseni orMari neavi a-
tor,MajorGeneral Ral ph,J.Mi tchel l , wore
twohatsas commander of a newl yestab-
‘ I ’nl essotherwi se noted, themateri al i n thi s
secti on i sderi ved from: CMCAnRept toSecNav
for thePi s{.al YearEndi ng 30, Jun43 ; “Hi stori cal
outl i neof theI )evel opn]errt of Fl eetMari ne
Force,Pa(’i ti c, 1941–19.55 (Prel i mi nary) ,“ MS
offi ci al hi storywri ttenat FMFI ’acHqabout
1991:KennethW. Condi t, Geral dDi amond,
andEdwi nT.Turnbhrdh, flfari~~cCorps Grou??d
Trai?tinfl in, WO?”7{7 War 11 (Washi ngton: Hi st-
13r, G–3, HQMC, 1956); l stI .ts Robert A.
Aurthur- and Kennei h Cohl mi a, T1/ c T?/ ird
.lfurinc I)ivision (Washi ngton : I nfantry .Journal
I ’ress, 1948), hereafter Authur and C’ohl mi a,
Sd .?[ar~i vZYi st;C. W. Proehl (cd.), 7’hc Fourth
.VarincDirisiomin W’orldWar I I (11’fi shi n:ton:
I nfantry .Journal Press, 1946); Robert Rherrod,
History of McirincCorpsA?>iatio?l in World ~~’ur
If (Washington: Combat Forces Press, 1952),
hereafter Sherrod,MarAirHist.
l i shedareaheadquarters, Mari neAi rcraft,
SouthPaci fi c(MASP), andof i ts pri nci -
pal operati ngcomponent, the I st Mari ne
Ai rcraft Wi ng (1st MAW). Nei ther
I MAC nor MASP had any substanti al
tacti calfuncti on;bothcommands wereor-
gani zedpri mari l yto serveas admi ni stra-
ti veandl ogi sti calheadquarters.
From hi s commandpost at Noumea,
GeneralVogel control l edthe 2d and 3d
Mari neDi vi si ons, theni n trai ni ngi n New
Zeal and, as wel l as a strongbodyof sup-
porti ngtroopsei therattachedtothedi vi -
si onsor encampedi n NewCal edoni a, the
l ower Sol omons,and the New Hebri des.
GeneralMi tchel l ’suni ts,al l temporari l y
assi gnedtothe1stWi ng?werestati onedat
xi rfi el dsfromNewZeti l and totheRussel l s.
Guadal cana] was the focal poi nt of ai r
acti vi tyas a steadyrotati onof squadrons
waseffectedtomai ntai nmaxi mumcombat
effi ci encyi n theforwardareas. Al sopart
of MASPwasHeadquarters Squadronof
the2d MAW, newl yarri vedi n NewZea-
l and to preparefor a commandrol e i n
future operati ons.
I n addi ti onto the troops assi gnedto
I MACandMASP,therewassti l lanother
si zeabl ebody of l ?Ml ?uni tsi n theSouth
Paci fi c—thoseuni tswhi chwerepartof
the gmri sonsof Ameri canand Bri ti sh
Samoa, Wal l i sI sl and,andFunafutii n the
El l i ce Group. Ameri canbaseson these
i sl andswereal l i ncl udedi n MajorGeneral
Charl esF. B. Pri ce’s SamoanDefense
Command.For ground defense,Pri ce
32
ORDEROFBATTLE
33
hadtwori fl eregi ments, one (3dMari nes)
underordersto joi n the3d Di vi si on,and
four defensebattal i ons.I n speci alcom-
battrai ni ngcentersweretworepl acement
battal i onsl earni ngthe fundamental s of
jungl e warfare.’ Pri ce al sohad opera-
ti onalcontrolof thesquadrons of Mari ne
Ai rcraftGroup13 (MAG–13),whi chwas
admi ni strati vel y part of the 4th Mari ne
Base Defense Ai rcraft Wi ng (4th
MBDW).
The remai ni ngsquadronsof the 4th
Wi ngwerestati onedi ntheCentral Paci fi c,
on Oahu,andattheoutposti sl ands, Mi d-
way,Johnston, andPal myra, thatguarded
theapproaches tothePaci fi cFl eet’smai n
base. Ground garri sonsfor these out-
postswerefurni shedby Mari nedefense
battal i ons admi ni stered froma headquar-
ters at Pearl Harbor. The remai ni ng
ma-joruni tof theFMF i n thePaci fi c,the
1stMari neDi vi si on,wasi n Austral i aas-
si gnedtoGeneralMacArthur’scommand?
andjustbegi nni ngto feel fi t agai nafter
i tsordealonGuadal canal .
Therewasnosi ngl eheadquarters, opera-
ti onalor admi ni strati ve, for al l FMF or-
ganizations
i n the Paci fi c, al though
Mari neai r uni tsdi d havean admi ni stra-
ti ve headquarters on Oahu—Mari ne Ai r
‘Wi ngs,Paci fi cunderMajorGeneralRoss
E. Rowel l . Seni or groundcommanders,
l i ke ~~ogel andPri ce,had b consul tthe
Commandant di rectl yon manyorgani za-
QI n the fal l of 1942, i t was deci ded to season
the Rl ari ne repl acementbattal i ons organi zed on
the east coast of the U.S. i n Samoa, where they
coul d recei ve advanced combat trai ni ng under
cl i mati c condi ti ons and over terrai n matchi ng
the battl e area. Begi nni ngwi th the 1st Repl ace-
ment Battal i on, whi ch arri ved 17 ~ecember 1942,
seven battal i ons were trai ned before the hi gh i n-
ci dence of fi l ari asi s forced a di sconti nuance of
the programi n Jul y 1943.
ti onal ,admi ni strati ve, andl ogi sti calmat-
tersthatcoul dwel l havebeenhandl edby
a typecommandatthefl eetl evel . As the
FMF grew i n si ze,and i ts components’
mi ssi ons i ncompl exi ty, thel ackof ahi gher
Mari neheadquarters to supportand co-
ordi natethe acti vi ti esof the ai r-ground
teamwastobefel tmoreacutel y.Thel es-
sonsto be l earnedi n the fi ghti ngi n the
Sol omonsandBi smarcks andon theatol l s
of the CentralPaci fi cwoul dhaveto be
absorbedbeforesucha headquarters was
establ i shed.
MostFl eetMari neForceacti vi tyi n the
Stateswas concentratedi n a compl exof
nei ghbori ngbaseson eachcoast. I n the
east,themajorgroundtrai ni ngcenterwas
CampLejeuneatNewRi ver,NorthCaro-
l i na, a si te i ncorporati ngthousandsof
acresof tangl ed, stream-cut forestbacki ng
11 mi l es of dune-toppedbeaches. The
sprawl i ngMari ne Corps Ai r Stati on
at CherryPoi nt,l essthan40mi l esnorth
of Lejeune, control l eda numberof smal l er
ai rfi el dsscatteredthroughoutthe Caro-
l i nas. On the west coast,most ground
trai ni ngwascarri edon atCampEl l i ott,a
rel ati vel ysmal l area just outsi deSan
Di ego, or at Camp Pendl eton,whi ch
stretchednorth from Oceansi defor 18
mi l esal ongthe coastalhi ghway—avast
areaof rol l i nghi l l s,steep-si dedcanyons
andarroyos, andfrequent thi cketsasdense
as tropi caljungl e. A networkof ai r st,a-
ti onsand auxi l i aryfi el ds,the l argestbe-
i ngEl ToronearLos Angel es,housedthe
squadrons trai ni ngfor Paci fi cduty.
Thesebases, l i ketheMari neCorpsi tsel f,
werefeveri shl ybui l di ngat thesameti me
theyperformedthei rfuncti onof readyi ng
menfor combat.The1stMari neDi vi si on
devel opedthe New Ri ver area for am-
phi bi oustrai ni ng, andwheni tshi ppedout
i n Apri l 1942i t l eft behi ndcadreswhi ch
34
I SOLATI ON OFRABAUL
formedthenucl eusof the3dMari nes, or-
gani zedi n June. I n l i kemanner, the2d
Mari neDi vi si on,whi chgaveCampsEl -
l i ottandPendl etonthei rbapti smas com-
bat trai ni ngareas,furni shedthe cadres
for mostof theuni tsof the3d Di vi si on,
whi chwasacti vatedat El l i otton 16Sep-
tember1942.The4thMari neDi vi si onwas
not schedul edfor formal acti vati onunti l
August1943,but i ts major components
werei n bei ngby mi dyear,agai nby the
processof bui l di ngonaskel etonof veteran
offi cersandenl i stedmen.
On the ai r si de,thepi ctureof experi -
encedcadresformi ngthecoreof newuni ts
was muchthe sameas wi th groundor-
gani zati ons.I n contrastto the di vi si on
and the regi ment,however,the Mari ne
ai rcraftwi ngandgroupwereessenti al l y
taskforcesshapedtothejob athandand
constantl ychangi ngthei rmake-up.The
1stMAW, for exampl e, joi neda number
of squadrons of the2d Wi ng duri ngthe
ai r battl esover Guadal canal , whi l ethe2d
MAWoperatedl argel yasa trai ni ngcom-
mandi n the States. Whenthe2dWi ng
l eft Cal i forni afor the South Paci fi ci n
January1943, i ts trai ni ngfuncti onswere
takenover by Mari neFl eet Ai r, West
Coast—asubordi nate commandof Mari ne
Ai r Wi ngs, Paci fi c, i n Hawai i . Addi -
ti onal squadronstentati vel yassi gnedto
thewi ngsal readyoverseas werei ntrai ni ng
at everyMari neai r basei n Cal i forni ai n
1943.
On theeastcoast,the3dMAWwasac-
ti vatedi n Novemberand i ts component
uni tsgrewup wi ththenewai rfi el dsthen
bui l di ng. Nearl ya year’s formi ngand
trai ni ngti mewasneededbeforethefi rst
of the wi ng’s squadronswas combat
ready.3
‘ SeeAppendi x Bfor a l ocati onandstrength
breakdown ontheFMFon30Apri l1943.
The overal l growth of the Mari ne
Corpsmatchedtherapi dswel l i ngof the
ranksof the FMF. Al thoughthel i on’s
shareof newoffi cersandmenendedup i n
FMF uni ts,thousandsof Mari neswere
neededfor sea duty,guardassi gnments,
and the supporti ngestabl i shment.Be-
gi nni ngi n February1943, a steadystream
of youngwomenenteredtheCorpstofree
menfor combatby taki ngover a hostof
admi ni strati ve andtechni caljobs i n non-
FMF uni ts. Thei r performanceof duty
as Mari nes“provedhi ghl y successfuli n
every way.”4 The enl i stedstrengthof
the Mari neCorps rose from 222,871at
the startof 1943’to 28’7,621wi thi nsi x
months;on 30Junethenumberof offi cers
had reached 21,384. Projected total
strengthfor theendof theyearwasmore
than355,000offi cersandmen,Ga far cry
from the 66,000-man Mari neCorpsthat
exi stedon 7 December 1941.7
The second year of fi ghti ngsaw a
cheri shedtradi ti onof theMari neCorps,
i ts al l -vol unteercomposi ti on,becomea
war casual ty. A Presi denti al executi ve
order of 5 December1942put an endto
vol untaryenl i stment of menof draftage
i n any of theservi ces.The i ntentof the
di recti vewasto gi vemanpowerpl anners
i n Washi ngtona greatermeasure of qual i -
tati vecontrolover thei nfl uxof meni nto
eachservi cei n keepi ngwi th the quanti -
tati vecontrolal readyexerci sedthrougha
quotasystem. Starti ngwi th the i ntake
of February1943,the recrui tdepotsat
4LtGen Kel l erE. Rockeyl tr to CMC, dtd
6Nov55.
5M–1 Sec OpDi ary7Dec41–31Dec44, dtd
20Mar45, p.8.
sIbid.
TFor a l ocati onandstrength breakdown of
theMari neCorpson theeveof WWI I , see
Vol ume I , PartI , Chapter 5ofthi sseri es.
ORDEROFBATTLE 35
Parri sI sl andandSan Di egosawonl ya
spri nkl i ngof men (mai nl ydraft-exempt
I f’-year-ol ds) whodi dnotcomei nthrough
theSel ecti veServi ceSystem. I t wassti l l
possi bl e, however, for manydrafteesWThO
anti ci pated thei rcal l -uptoentertheserv-
i ce of thei r choi ce. The Commandant,
Li eutenant General ThomasHol comb,as-
si gnedl i ai sonoffi cersto stategovernors
anddraftboardsto encouragethedefer-
ment of those men who wantedto be
Mari nesunti ltheycoul dfi ti ntotheCorps’
quota.gThi s program,whi chwas qui te
successful , resul tedi n the seemi ngpara-
dox thatmostof the drafteesi n Mari ne
uni formsweresti l l vol unteers, i n fact i f
noti nname.
The i ntangi bl ebut cl earl yevi dentat-
mosphere of avol unteer outfi twasretai ned
by theMari neCorpsthroughout thewar.
Thi s spi ri twas especi al l yevi denti n the
uni ts of the Corps’ stri ki ngarm—the
Fl eet Mari neForce—whereoffi cersand
men al i kewerei ntol erantof anyoneat-
tempti ngto get by wi th a margi nalper-
formance. The prevai l i ngatti tudewas
thateverymanhadaskedto be a Mari ne
andnocompl ai nts wereexpectedwhenthe
goi ng got a l i ttl e rough.
Each Mari ne
assi ~gned to a uni tearmarkedfor thei m-
pendi ng Central Sol omons operati ons
seemedqui etl ydetermi nedto equal ,even
i f he coul dnotbetter,thefi ghti ngrecord
of hi sfel l owsonGuadal canal .
THEBATTLE LI NESARE DRAWN‘
ComSoPacanchoredhi s ELKTON at-
tackagai nstenemyposi ti onsi n theSol o-
monson a tri oof i sl ands, NewCal edoni a,
sRockey l tr,op.ci t.
“ Unl ess otherwi se noted, themateri al i n thi s
secti oni s deri vedfrom: R.4dmCharl esM.
Cooke memo for Paci fi c Conferees, “Avai l abi l i ty
Espi ri tuSante,andEfate. On eachthere
grewup a compl exnetworkof porti nstal -
l ati ons,ai r bases,suppl ydepots,andsal -
vageandrepai rfaci l i ti esgearedtooperate
at a pacethatmeshedwel l wi th Hal sey’s
aggressi ve offensi vephi l osophy. Li kethe
tacti caltaskforceswhi chactual l ycl osed
combatwi ththeJapanese, thel ogi sti cor-
gani zati onsformedan i ntegratedwhol e
i n whi chthe vari ousservi cescooperated
tosol vesuppl yandsupportprobl ems. Al l
uni tswereunderordersto“consi derthem-
sel vesas part of the sameteamrather
thanNavy,Army, or Mari neservi cesi n
a separateandi ndependent sense.. . .“ 1°
Thehustl i ngbasesi n theNewHebri des
a.l d at Noumeafed a growi ngstreamof
suppl i esforwardto theGuadal canal area
to meetthei mmedi ate needsof thegarri -
son and to bui l d a stockpi l efor future
operati ons.I n combat trai ni ngcamps
scattered throughout theSouthPaci fi c,the
i nterservi ceexchange and cooperati on
characteri sti c of thel ogi sti cagenci eswas
repeated.A senseof i mpendi ngacti on
washi gh; therewasa di sti nct“getthejob
done”atmosphere.
At thi s stage of the war—spri ngof
1943—noAl l i ed posi ti on i n ei ther the
Southor SouthwestPaci fi ccoul dyet be
consi dereda “safe“ rear area. As a ccm-
sequence,l arge ground garri sons,kept
of hTaval Forces, “ i nnotesof 3dPMCMeeti ng,
dtd13Mar43 (COA, NHD): Army-Navy Central
Agreement on SE AreaOps,dtd22Mar43 i n
I GHQNavDi reeti ve No. 213,dtd 25Mar43
(OCMH ), hereafter l ~HQ Agreement Of
22.}1ar~3;Seventeenth Army OPS—11;AS’EArea
.NauOp$—11:RAdmWorral l R. Carter, Beam,
Liuttet.s omd Btac7c Oit (Washi ngton: NHD,
N), 1953 ); Mori son, Breakingthe Bismarclix
Barrier.
‘0Carter, Beans, Bullets and Black Oil, op. tit.,
p. 46.
36
I SOLATI ON OFRABAUL
strong i n tri bute to Japan’s offensi ve
capabi l i ti es,were i mmobi l i zedat key
poi ntswel lawayfromtheprospecti ve cen-
ter of confl i ct:e.g., Samoa,Fi ji , Tong~.
Addi ngtothi sdrai nof offensi vestrength
wasthesl owrecoveryof battl e-tested uni ts
from the debi l i tati ngeffectsof sustai ned
jungl ewarfare. Thetroopsavai l abl efor
an offensi ve, therefore, werequi tel i mi ted
i n vi ewof the consi derabl e job at hand.
I n al l ,MacArthurandHal seycoul dcount
on havi ngonl y 14di vi si ons, bothveteran
anduntri ed,readyfor offensi veacti onby
mi d-year.11Of thi stotaltheSoPacshare
was si x di vi si ons,four Army and two
Mari ne.
Al though the manpower squeeze
broughton by the shi ppi ngdemi mdsof
the two-frontwar set,a l ow cei l i ngon
Paci fi cgroundforces, Al l i ed pl aneand
shi p strength wero on the upswi ng.
.4meri canwarproducti onmadethedi ffer-
ence. over 2,000combatai rcraftwoul d
be avai l abl efor the campai gnagai nst
Rabaul ,’2a fai r matchfor anythi ngthe
Japanesecoul dputL~pagai nstthem. At
sea, the Paci fi c Fl eet was rapi dl y ap-
proachi nga posi ti onof absol utesuperi or-
i tyovertheJapanese asnewshi psof every
type, i ncl udi ngthe carri ersand l andi ng
craft vi tal to amphi bi ousoperati ons, re-
portedtoCi nCPacfor duty.” Thenaval
el ementsof Hal sey’s and MacArthur’s
area commands, now desi gnatedThi rd
Fl eet and SeventhFl eet respecti vel y,”
“ CCS23!3/1, dtd23May43, Subj : Opsi nthe
Paci fi c andFarEasti n194,3-44 (COA, NHD).
“ I bid.
“ Ki ng and ~hi tehi l l , Kin~’sNaval Record, pp.
491495.
1*~drni ral Ki ng establ i shed a numbered fl eet
systemon 15March1943wi thal l fl eetsi n the
Paci fi c hayi ng oddnumbers, thosei ntheAtl anti c
even.
coul dbe rei nforcedfrom Ni mi tz’mobi l e
stri ki ngforce as strategi crequi rements
di ctated.
Japanesepreparati ons to meetthe of-
fensi vethattheyknewwaspendi ngi n the
Sol omonsbegan to take shapeconcur-
rentl ywi ththeevacuati on of Guadal canal .
The SoutheastAreaFleet set naval de-
fense troops to bui l di ngbaseson New
Georgi a,Kol ombangara, and SantaI sa-
bel . I n March,thefi rstof severalrei n-
forci nguni tsfromtheEighthAreaAmy
wasaddedto thenavalforcesi n theNew
Georgi aGroup. On BukaandBougai n-
vi l l eai n the NorthernSol omons,the 6th
Divisionwasmovedi n fromTruktopro-
vi dethebul kof thegarri son.
A steadybui l d-up of defenses,wi th
troopsand suppl i esbroughti n by barge
and destroyer, took pl acedespi tethe i n-
cessant andtel l i ngattacksof Al l i edpl anes
andsubmari nes. Enemyai r stayednorth
of NewGeorgi aexceptfor occasi onal rai ds
onGuadal canal ; enemycombatshi psstuck
cl oseto TrukandRabaulwai ti ngfor the
opportunemoment tostri ke.
Defenseof the Sol omonstook second
pl acei n Japanesepl ansto measuresfor
conti nuedretenti onof theLae-Sal amaua
regionof NewGui nea. On 22March,the
ArmyandNavystaffsi n Tokyoagreedon
a newdi recti vefor operati onsi n theRa-
baulstrategi carea,repl aci ngtheonethat
had governedduri ng the Gu&dal canal
wi thdrawal .The new order spel l edout
the pri macyof defensi veeffortsi n New
Gui nea, buti tsgeneraltenorwasthesame
as that of i ts predecessor.I n emphati c
l anguage, the seni orcommanders i n the
fi el d, General I mamura and Admi ral
Kusaka, wereenjoi nedtohol dal l the posi -
ti onsthatthei rtroopsthenoccupi ed.
.41thoughtheJapaneseretai neda dual
commandstructurei n Rabaulunderthe
ORDEROFBATTLE 37
22Marchdi recti ve, I mamuraandKusaka
weretol dtocooperatecl osel yandel ements
of bothservi ceswereorderedto’’l i teral l y
operateas oneuni t.”15 I n thefi el d,the
seni orArmy or Navygroundcommander
i n an areawoul dtakechargeof theop-
erati onsof troopsof bothservi ces.Unti l
the fi rst Al l i ed assaul tforce attacked,
thoseoperati ons consi sted, i n themai n,of
constructi ng defensi veposi ti onsski l l ful l y
16IGHQ Agreement of 22M0r.4/l.
weddedto the terrai n. Al thoughJapa-
nesesol di ersandsai l orsweredeepl yi m-
buedwi thanoffensi vespi ri t,theyseemed
to have a speci al affi ni tyfor defensi ve
fi ghti ngwherethe pi ck andshoveloften
ratedequalwi ththeri fl e. On NewGeor-
gi a, SouthPaci fi cforcesweredueto get
thei r fi rst real taste of the burrowi ng,
grudgi ng,step-by-step advancethatchar-
acteri zedthe l ater stagesof the Paci fi c
War.
PARTI I
TOENAILSOperation
691–3600--—63-4
CHAPTER 1
Objective: NewGeorgia
BACKGROUNDOF MUNDA‘
Occupati onof the Russel l s,fol l owi ng
cl osel yon the heel sof the Guadal canal
vi ctory,seemedto whet,the appeti teof
Al l i edforcesi n theSouthPaci fi cfor more
acti on,moreshow-downswi th the Jap-
anese. I n Admi ral Hal sey’sNew Cal e-
doni aheadquarters, opti mi smandenthu-
si asmran hi gh. Si ngl enessof purpose
anda spi ri tof camaraderi e uni tedal l rep-
resentati ves on ComSoPac’sstaff; and,
chargedby Hal sey’si mpati ence to get on
wi ththewar,hi s staffbusi edi tsel fpl an-
ni ng for thenextmajor offensi vei n the
Sol omons. The objecti ve:sei zureof the
NewGeorgi aGroup.’ (SeeMapI I , Map
Secti on.)
1Unl ess otherwi se noted, themateri al i nthi s
secti oni sderi ved from:Al l i edGeographi cal Sec,
GHQ, SWPA, Studyof NewGeorgi a Group-
Terrai nStudyNo.54,dtd26Mar43; I ntel See,
SoPaeFor, Objecti veRept 25-13,NewGeorgi a
Group, dtd15Feb43 ; SoPaeFor PhotoI nterpre-
tati onURepts Nos. 37–39, 42,43,and47,24Nov–
17Dec43 ; Mori son, Breaki ngthe Bi smarcks
Barrier; Maj JohnX. Rentz, Marines in the
Central i3010mons(Washi ngton : Hi stBr, G–3,
HQMC, 1952), hereafter Rentz, Marines in the
Central L9010mons.Documents not otherwi se
i denti fi ed i nthi spartarel ocated i n thefol l ow-
i ngfi l esof the.4rchi ves, Hi stori cal Branch,
G–3Di vi si on, Headquarters Mari ne Corps: Avi a-
ti on; Monograph andComment; NewGeorgi a
AreaOperati ons; Publ i cati ons ; Uni tHi stori cal
Reports.
2I n thesucceedi ng chapters, theterm“NW
Georgi a Group” wi l lrefertotheenti rei sl and
group.Theterm“ATew Georgi a” wi l l refer onl y
to the i sl and of that name.
A compactmazeof i sl andsseparated by
shal l ow,coral -foul edl agoonsor narrow
reachesof open water,the NewGeorgi a
Groupl i es on a northwest-southeast axi s
betweenBougai nvi l l ea, 110 mi l es to the
northwest, andGuadal canal , 180mi l esto
thesoutheast.Nearl y150mi l esl ongand
40 mi l eswi de,i t compri ses12 major i s-
l ands outl i nedby many smal l eri sl ands
andformi dabl ereefs. A dense, forbi ddi ng
jungl egrowthcoversthe ruggedterrai n
and accentsthe abruptl yri si ng,coni cal
mountai ns whi chmarkthevol cani cori gi n
of thegroup.
Largesti sl andi n thegroupi s i tsname-
sake,NewGeorgi a. I t i s huggedcl osel y
onthenorthbythei sl andsof WanaWana,
Arundel ,andBaangaandguardedtothe
southeastby Vangunu and Gatukai .
Standi ngoff tothesouthareRendovaand
Teti pari ,wi thtwoi sl ands—Vel l a Lavel l a
andGanongga-i na l i netothenorthwest.
Gi zoI sl andchai nsVel l aLavel l atoWana
Wanaandbl ocksthesouthernendof Vel l a
Gul f. Compl eti ngthe New Georgi a
Groupi s theci rcul ar,5,450-foot mountai n
peak,Kol ombangara, whi chjutsoutof the
sea betweenVel l a Gul f and Kul a Gul f,
onl y a fewmi l esnorthwest of Arundel .
Thegroupcenterson NewGeorgi a. A
tortuous,mi sshapenmass wi th a spi ny
ri dgeof peaks,i t l i espoi nti ngnorthi n a
bi g i nvertedV, 45mi l esi n l engthand20
mi l es wi de. I ts southern coastl i ne i s
borderedfor nearl y20mi l esby Rovi ana
41
42
I SOLATI ON OFRABAUL
Lagoon,
a coral -l acedand treacherous
stretchof watervaryi ngfromonetothree
mi l es i n wi dth. Onl y smal l boats can
safel ytracea channel betweenthenarrow
openi ngsi n thereefandarol u]cl theshal -
l ow bars of the l agoon. Vi m Harbor,
southeast of Rovi ana,i s one of the few
easy-access poi ntson the southeast coast.
A l and-l ockedanchorage, i t has an unob-
structedbutzi gzagchannel .
Theenti reeastandnortheast si deof the
i sl and i s reef-l i ned,wi th Marova and
GrassiLagoonsborderi ngthat coastal -
mostas Rovi anadoeson the south. As
the coastl i neturns south at Vi suvi su
Poi nt—apexof the V—Kul aGul f swel l s
di rectl yi ntothreedeep-water anchorages
formed by jungl e ri vers ri si ng i n the
mountai nson thenorthcoast. Ri ceAn-
chorageand Enogai I nl et are shortand
mangrove-l i ned wi thdeepforestcrowdi ng
the shores;Bai rokoHarbor,deeperand
l onger,i s parti al l ybl ockedby reefsbuti s
thebestanchorageal ongthe gul f. Past
I l ai roko, Hathorn Sound connectsthe
gul f wi th the passagethrough to the
south,Di amondNarrows. Onl y224feet
wi deat i ts narrowestpoi nt and432feet
acrossati ts wi dest, theNarrowsseparates
New Georgi afrom Arundel and i s the
northernentranceto Rovi ana Lagoon.
I ts twi sti ngchannel i snavi gabl e, however,
onl yby smal lboats.
The dank,oppressi venatureof the i s-
l andcharacteri zed eventhel i feof theNew
Georgi anati ves. Thei rs was a scrubby
exi stencefrom smal l gardens, nati ve
frui ts,somefi shi ng,and occasi onal trad-
i ng. One-ti meheadhunters, theybecame
aggressi vesai l orswhomovedfrom poi nt
to poi nt throughthe l agoonsby canoe,
avoi di ngtheruggedi nl andtravel .
As a
resul t,theywere,i n 1943, excel l ent gui des
to thecoastl i nes of thei sl andsbutal most
compl etel yi gnorantof thei nteri ors.
I n November 1942, whi l esti l lcontesti ng
possessi onof HendersonFi el don Guadal -
canal ,the Japanesesoughtanotherai r-
fi el d whi ch woul d bri ng thei r fi ghter
pl aneswi thi nshorterstri ki ngdi stanceof
thesouthernSol omons. Theyfoundi t at
MundaPoi nton NewGeorgi a,abouttwo-
thi rdsof thewayfromRabaultoGuadal -
canal .I t wasa naturalsel ecti on.Munda
Poi nt was rel ati vel yfl at and coul d be
reachedfrom the sea onl y throughone
narrowbreak i n i ts barri erreef, whi ch
wasri skyevenfor shal l ow-draft shi psat
hi gh ti de,or throughseveralopeni ngsi n
the stri ngof i sl etsl ocki ngRovi anaLa-
goontotheisland. Anoverl andapproach
requi redan arduousjungl e trek ei ther
fromri ver i nl ets10mi l esto thenorthor
from poi ntsto theeasti n Rovi ana. ‘The
posi ti onof theproposedai rfi el dmadean
al l y of theenti rei sl and,uti l i zi ngi n pro-
tecti onal l thereefsandi sl etswhi chri nged
New Georgi aand the mattedcanopyof
jungl egrowthwhi chcoveredi t.
The Japanesecameto Mundai n force
on 13 November1942. Thei r transports
stoppedoff Mundareefl atethatdayand,
by earl ymorni ngof the14th,troopscom-
pl eteddebarki ngby smal lboats. The oc-
cupati onuni ti mmedi ate y sentoutarmed
patrol sto “subjugate” thenati vesandi n-
form them of the Japanesei ntenti ons.
Kol ombangara, Rendova,Vangunu,and
surroundi ngsmal l eri sl andswerevi si ted
andqui ckl yput undercontrol . The con-
structi onof anai rfi el dbeganwi ththear-
ri val of addi ti onaltroopsand engi neers
on 21November.
Coastwatcher Donal d G. Kennedyat
Segi Pl antati onon theextremesoutheast-
ernti pof NewGeorgi awasoneof thefi rst
OBJECTI VE: NEWGEORGI A 43
to hearof theoccupati on.I n October,a
monthprevi ous,whenthe Japanesefi rst
reconnoi tered NewGeorgi a,Kennedyor-
gani zeda bandof nati vestohel phi mde-
fendhi s post. Whentheyi nformedhi m
of the Mundal andi ng,he sent Harry
Wi ckham, a hal f-nati ve co-worker, toRen-
dovato watchMundaandreporton the
progressof theai rfi el d.
Wi ckham’sreportof Japaneseacti vi ty
atMundawasi nvesti gated i mmedi atel y by
Al l i edai rreconnai ssance. Thefi rstreport,
on 24 November, was negati ve. Photo-
graphscl earl y, showeda pl antati onarea,
a smal lcl usterof bui l di ngsatMunda, and
a si mi l arcl usterof bui l di ngsatKokengol a
Mi ssi onnorthof Munda. Therewasno
acti vi tywhi chcoul dbe cl assedas enemy,
no evi denceof ai rfi el dconstructi on.Al -
l i ed pl anesbombedtheareaanyway. I t
was a gestureof confi dencei n Kennedy
andWi ckham.
Then photoi nterpreters pi ckedup i n-
terest. Newbui l di ngsbeganto showup
i n l aterphotostri ps,anda strangewhi te
l i neappearedbeneaththepl antati ontrees.
On 3 December, SoPac i nterpretersan-
nouncedthei rdi scovery: a possi bl e]and-
i ngstri punderconstructi on. Twodi sti nct
stri ps,125feetwi deandabout1,000feet
aparti n a di rectl i newi theachother,were
vi si bl ei n thepri nts. Onestri pwasabout
175feet l ong, the other about200feet.
Naturalcamoufl age, i t was deci ded,par-
ti al l yshi el dedtheconstructi on. Twodays
l aterthefi el dwas2,000feetl ong. Notrees
hadbeencutdown,butpi l esof ei therl oose
earthor coral appearedbeneatheachtree.
Newbui l di ngs,obvi ousl ycontroltowers,
hadbeenbui l tadjacent tothefi el d. On 9
December, photosshowedthefi el dnearl y
cl ear,thetreesapparentl ypul l edup and
takenaway,and the hol esfi l l edi n wi th
coral . The Japanese, al ertedby thecon-
ti nuedi nterest of Al l i edpl anesoverMun-
da, had abandonedfurther camoufl age
attempts.3
By 1’7December, after onl y a monthat
Munda and despi temul ti pl e bombi ng
rai ds,theenemyhad an operati onal ai r-
stri p4,’i oofeet l ong. A seri esof revet-
mentsanda turn-aroundl oop eventual l y
fi ni shedthefi el d. An advanceechel onof
24ai rcraftwasmovedtoMundauponi ts
compl eti on,but al l were destroyedor
badl ydamagedby bombi ngrai dswi thi na
weekafterarri val . Thereafter, theJapa-
neseusedthe fi el d mai nl yfor servi ci ng
pl anesafterrai dson Guadal canal andthe
Russel l s,and few pi l ots dared Al l i ed
bombi ngsto tarry at Mundavery l ong.
Repai rof thestri p waseasy; bul l dozers
qui ckl yfi l l edi nthehol es.Despi tetherai n
of bombs and occasi onalshel l i ngs,the
fi el d was never out of operati onl onger
than48hours.4
New Georgi a,the Al l i es had deci ded,
woul dbe t,hetargetof thenextoffensi ve
i n theSouthPaci fi c. Mundaai rfi el dwas
thebul l ’s-eye.As a mi l i tarypri ze,i t hel d
theenemy’shopesfor a re-entryi ntothe
l ower Sol omonsandtheAl l i edhopesfor
anothersteptowardsRabaul ,
3Oneofthepopul ar butunveri fi ed stori es about
thecamoufl age of Munda fi el di s: “TheJapa-
nesehadspuna webof wi recabl es between the
tol )sof thepal mtrees.Thetrunks werethen
cutoutfromunder thebranches whi chremai ned
suspended exactl yi npl ace, hel dbythecabl es. ”
Cal )t l ~al ter Kari g, [JSh”R, andCdrEri cPurdon,
USXR, Battle lik’port,PacificWar: MiddlePkaw
(Xew York:Ri nehart andCompany, I nc., 1947),
p.201.
4USSBS, InterrogationsNo. 195, LCdrS.
l ’unoki , I JNT, I , p.192.
44
I SOLATI ON OFRABAUL
NEWGEORGI A
RECONNAI SSANCE5
Hal seyhadi ntendedtobei n NewGeor-
gi a by mi d-Apri l , Hi s pl anni ngdate
scrappedby theJCSandhi soffensi veti ed
to constructi onof ai rfi el dsat Ki ri wi na
andWoodl a.rk, theadmi ral wai tedfor the
go-aheadsi gnal . Whi l ewai ti ng,he sent
reconnai ssance patrol sprobi ngtheCentral
Sol omons.
Guadal canal l andoperati onshad been
pl aguedby a dearthof i nformati onon
terrai nand topography. New Georgi a
wasl i kewi seunmapped anclhydrographi c
charts were badl y out of date. Si nce
aeri al photographyreveal edonl y thi ck
jungl egrowth,actual physi cal scouti ng
by trai nedmenwastheonl y answer. A
combatreconnai ssance school wi th ex-
peri encedMari neandArmypersonnel and
sel ectedcoastwatchers as i nstructorswas
organi zedat Guadal canal , andabout100
menweretrai nedandformedi ntoscout-
i ng teams. Hal sey found thei r reports
i nval uabl e, andbegi nni ngwi thELKTON
pl anni ng,“never madea forwardmove
wi thoutthei rhel p.”~
Fi rstterrai ni nformati onon NewGeor-
gi a had beenrecei vedfrom a patrol of
si x Mari nesanda ComSoPacstaffoffi cer
thathadprowl edRovi anaLagoon~ndthe
5Unl ess otherwi se noted, themateri al i n thi s
secti oni s deri ved from:PomSoPacApr–May.@
WarL)s; CtJnl I ’hi bFor, SoPacFor Warl J, 17–
30Jun43; (3o1\Vi l l i anlF. Col eman, “Amphi bi ous
Reeon Patrol s,” Marine Corps Gazette, v. 27,
no. 12(I )ec43 ); SgtFrank.X.!I ’ol bert, “Advance
Man, ” Leatherneck, v. 28, no. 3 (Mm45) ; Fel dt,
The Coastwatchers; Rentz, Marines in, the Cen-
tral Solornons.
GFAdmWi l l i aml ?.Hal seyandLCdrJul i an
Bryan, I I I ,.4dmiral Halsey’s Story (New York:
Whi ttl esey House, 1947), p.158, hereafter Hal sey
andBryan, Halsey’s Story.
Mundaareai n l ateFebruary, contacti ng
coastwatchers, scouti ng and mappi ng
trai l s, and sel ecti ngpossi bl e l andi ng
beaches.Thei rreporthel pedtheadmi ral
reach a deci si onon hi tti ngthe Central
Sol omonsand gave SoPacpl annersthe
i nformati onfor tentati ve strakgy.’
on 21March,a groupof Mari nescouts
drawn from the rai der battal i onsand
graduatesof the combatreconnai ssance
school l andedby PBY (Catal i nafl yi ng
boat) at Segi Pl antati on.’ Wi th Ken-
nedy>snati vesas gui des,the groupspl i t
i ntopatrol sandsetout to scoutpossi bl e
l andi ngbeaches,l andmarks, and motor
torpedoboat(MTB) anchorages. Travel -
i ngby canoeat ni ghtandobservi ngdur-
i ng dayl i ghthours,the patrol schecked
travelti mefrompoi nttopoi nt,tookbear-
i ngs on channel s, scoutedenemydi sposi -
ti onsandi nstal l ati ons, andsketchedcrude
mapstohel pfi l l i n thescantyi nformati on
al readyavai l abl e. Onegrouphadthemi s-
si onof “col l ecti ngi nformati onaboutthe
Vi rugarri son, armament andaccessi bi l i ty
to the area,both by way of di rectattack
up theharborcl i ffs andby i nl andnati ve
trai l sthroughthejungl e,”9whi chmarked
TAmember of that fi rst patrol sai d that Hal -
sey, after heari ng the reports on New Georgi a,
decl ared, “JT’el l , gentl emen, we’re goi ng to hi t
that pl ace. I don’t know when or how, but
we’re goi ng to hi t i t.” Maj Cl ay A. Boyd i nter-
vi ew by Maj John N. Rentz, dtd 16Feb51.
‘ 17heseni or member of thi s patrol group l ater
(wmxnented: “1 never heard of the ‘combat re-
connai ssance school ’ and know that I and the
other two members of the patrol from the 3d
Rai der Bn. di dn’t graduate from i t.” Col Mi chael
S. Cumi n l tr to Head, Hi stBr, G-3, HQMC, dtd
l 10c”t60,hereafter Gwrri nZtr.
“ Maj Roy 1). Batterton, “You Fi ght by the
Book,’” l[arine Corps Gazette, v. 33, no. 7
(Ju14!) ), hereafter Batterton, “You Fi ght by the
Book.”
OBJECTI VE: NEWGEORGI A 45
i t asapossi bl etargeti ntheassaul t.Other
patrol srangedfrom Rovi anaLagoonto
Arundel and Kol ombangara, al ong the
northern shore of New Georgi a.from
Enogai I nl et to Marova Lagoon, and
aroundt,hecoastof Vangunu.Anotherpa-
trol contactedtheRendovacoast watcher,
Harry Wi ckham.’OThe mi ssi onswere
vi rtual l ythesame:to bri ngbackal l pos-
si bl edataon theenemyandterrai n.
At thi searl ydatei n thespri ngof 1943,
tentati vei nvasi onpl ansenvi si oneda di -
vi si onall andi ngat Segi Pl antati onfol -
l owed by a sweepoverl andto capture
Munda fi el d. The patrol reports con-
fi rmed the growi ng suspi ci onsof the
ComSoPacwarpl ansstaff: Segi ’sbeaches
woul dnot accommodate a l argel andi ng
force,anda si zabl ebody of troopscoul d
not move through untrackedjungl e to
Mundawi thanyhopeof success.Another
methodof attackwoul dhaveto be de-
vel oped.
The patrol sconti nuedto shuttl eback
to New Georgi a for more i nformati on.
Coastwatchers A. R. Evans on Kol om-
bangara, Di ck Hortonand Harry Wi ck-
hamat Rendova,and Kennedyat Segi
pl ayedhoststofurti veguestswhosl i pped
i n by nati vecanoesfromsubmari nes, fast
destroyers, or PBYs. Thepatrol ssearched
openi ngsi n the barri erreef of Rovi ana,
checkedoverl andtrai l sfromRi ceAnchor-
ageon thenorthcoasttoZananaBeachon
thesouthi n Rovi ana,andl ookedfor easy
accesstoMundafi el d., I n thi sconnecti on,
Wi ckham-whohadl i vedonNewGeorgi a
mostof hi s l i fe—’’wasparti cul arl yval u-
abl e.”11
Thereportson Mundaweredi scourag-
i ng. HathornSoundhadno beachesand
‘0Currinltr.
“ Fel dt, The (70astwatcher.s, p.149.
shal l owl andi ngcraft coul d pass safel y
onl y hal fway through Di amond Nar-
rows.l z LSTS mi ght possi bl yski rt the
west shore of BaangaI sl and to get to
Munda,but i t woul dbe a hazardous, ob-
stacl e-l i nedtri p. Crossi ngthe reef at
Mundabar wasanotherri sk. Soundi ngs
i ndi catedthattheopeni ng,throughcon-
ti nuedcoral deposi ts,had becomemore
shal l owand restri ctedthan admi ttedl y
outdatedreportsi ndi cated.A di rectas-
saul toverMundabar,thecl osestentrance
to Munda,waspatentl ythemostdanger-
ous courseand hel d the l eastchanceof
success.
Fi nal assaul t pl answerea concessi onto
theterrai n. They provi dedfor l andi ngs
off-shorefromMunda, fol l owedby a troop
bui l duponhTewGeorgi aandthenastrong
attackon theai rfi el dfromal l si des. The
l ast reconnai ssance patrol swenti ntothe
NewGeorgi aGroupon 13June. Landi ng
at Segi they took off i n l og canoesfor
the four l andi ngspots fi nal l y sel ected:
Rendova,Ri ce Anchorage,Vi ru Harbor,
and Wi ckham Anchorage. Teams of
Mari neCorps,Army, and Navy offi cers
studi edthedesi gnated beachesandsought
arti l l ery posi ti ons, observati on posts,
waterpoi nts,bi vouacareas,andi nteri or
trai l s. Someof thepatrol sski rtedJap-
anesedefenses,noti ngthe strengthand
habi tsof the enemy,beforestri ki ngi n-
l andfor terrai ni nformati on.Whenthe
teamspaddl edback to Segi ,someof the
membersstayedbehi ndwi th nati vesto
‘zI n thel aterstagesof thecampai gn, some
LSTSmadei t through theNarrows wi thZ5th
I nfantryDi vi si ontroopsand equi pment on
board, butthedi vi si on’s chi efofstaff remembers
thetri pas “a ti ghtsqueeze w/fastti dalfl ow—
nopi cni c.”MajGen Wi l l i amW.Di ck, Jr.USA,
1tr toACof S,G–3, HQMC, dtd310ct60, i ncl udi ng
comments byMajGen Davi dH.Buchanan, USA.
46 I SOLATI ON OFRABAUL
gui dethe l andi ngparti esto the beaches
wi thl i ghtsfl ashedfromtheshore.
AWAI TI NG ASSAULT13
Mundaassumeda new rol e i n enemy
strategyduri ngthespri ngof 1943. I n-
steadof theproposedspri ngboardfor re-
captureof Guadal canal , i t becamea key-
stonei n Japan’sdeci si onto bui l dup the
Lae-Sal amaua defensel i ne whi l emai n-
tai ni ngthe Sol omonsas del ayi ngposi -
ti ons.
Japanese engi neers, afterrushi ngMun-
da i ntocompl eti on, hurri edtoKol omban-
gara to constructanotherfi el d at Vi l a
Pl antati onon thesoutheast shore. Here
they di d not attemptconceal ment.The
task went ahead despi te al most dai l y
bombi ngsandoccasi onal navalbombard-
ments. The enemynow had two stri ps
from whi ch they coul d stage attacks
agai nstAl l i ed posi ti onson Guadal canal
and the Russel l s;but the ai r over The
Sl otwasa two-waystreet, andmostof the
traffi cwasfromHendersonFi el d.
13Unl ess otherwi se noted, themateri al i nthi s
secti oni s deri ved from: Mi l Hi stSec, G–2, FEC,
Japanese Monograph No.34,Seventeenth Army
Ops—Part I (OC.MH ), hereafter Seventeenth
Army Ops—I; SE Area NavOps—11; CI C,
SoPacFor I temNo. 635,NewGeorgi aArea
I )efButai SecretONo.16,dtd23Mar43, I temNo.
647,Kol ombangara I sl andDefOA No.5, dtd
2Ju143, I temNo.672, Outl i ne of Di sposi ti on of
SE Det,dtd20Jun43, I temNo.690,Kol om-
bangara I sl andDefTai O, dtdl Mar43, I temNo.
702,NewGeorgi aDefOpO“A” No.8, 0. l ate
Jun43, I temNo.711,Seventeenth ArmyONo.
244, dtd27Apr43, I temNo.753, SEDetHq I ntel -
RecNo.2 (Mi ddl e JuneRept ), dtd24Jun43 ;
SoPacFor POWI nterrogati on Repts105and
106, dtd90ct43, and138and140, dtd24ATOV43;
USAFI SPA OBG-2ReptNo.27,17-24Ju143;
ReD@, Marinesin the Central i30tomons.
Bui l dupof troopstrengthi n theVi l a-
Mundaareawassteadybutsl ow. Ai r su-
premacywassti l l contested, but the i ni -
ti ati ve was wi th the Al l i es. Japanese
pl ans for rei nforci ngthe CentralSol o-
monsweresl owedby theconti nual harass-
mentfrom pl anesof Commander, Ai r-
craft Sol omons(ComAi rSol s),and the
enemywaseventual l yreducedtoschedul -
i ng trooptransfers“from theendof the
monthto thebegi nni ngof the fol l owi ng
month to take advantageof the new
moon.”14 Then,too,thetransportl osses
i n the Battl eof the Bi smarckSea on 3
Marchandthesteadi l ymounti ngattri ti on
of navalcraftfromai r attackswassl owl y
sappi ngJapanese seapower.
By theend of Apri l , l and defensesi n
the CentralSol omonshadbeenstrength-
ened wi th Army and Navy troops,and
addi ti onalrei nforcements werestandi ng
by i n theBui n-Shortl and areafor further
transportati on. The8thCombinedSpecial
ZVavalLanding Force (CSZVLF), whi ch
i ncl udedtheKure 6th Special iVavaZLarui-
ing Force and the Yokosuka7thSN.LP
wastheNavy’scontri buti ontothedefense
of Vi l a-Munda.15After Japanl ost the
i ni ti ati vei n thePaci fi c,theseamphi bi ous
assaul ttroops were changedto defense
forces. Namedfor thenavalbaseatwhi ch
theuni twasformed,an SNLFgeneral l y
“ S’ezxmteenthArmy OPS—1, p.6.
IsThetotalordnance of the8th CSNLF i n-
cl uded : 8 140mm coast guns; 8 I zomm coast
guns; 16 8@nmcoast guns; 4120nl m AAguns; 8
75nl mAAguns;1240mmAAguns;2 75mm
mountai n (arti l l ery) guns ; 2 70mmhowi tzers ;
4013mmAAmachi ne guns; 38heavymachi ne
guns;102l i ghtmachi ne guns. Mi l I ntel Di v,
WarDept, Handbook onJapanese Mi l i tary Forces
(TM-E30480),dtd15Sep44, pp.76,78;GHQ,
SWPA, Mi l I ntel Sec, Organi zati on of theJapa-
neseGround Forces, dtd22Dec44, p. 299.
OBJECTI VE : NEWGEORGI A 47
i ncl uded:a headquarters uni t; two ri fl e
compani es;a heavy weaponscompany
wi thhowi tzer, anti tank, andmachi negLm
uni ts; an anti ai rcraftcompany;a heavy
gunor seacoast defenseuni t;andmedi cal ,
si gnal ,suppl y,andengi neertroops.
The Yo7cosukaTthl andedat Kol om-
bangaraon 23 Februarywi th 1,807men,
andwasfol l owedon 9Marchby theKure
6thwi th2,038men. Thi s uni twenti nto
posi ti onsbetweenBai rokoandEnogaiand
aroundtheai rfi el dat Munda. Rear Ad-
mi ral Mi noruOta, commandi ngthe 8th
~sA7~~, assumedresponsi bi l i tyfor the
defenseof theNewGeorgi asector.
By pri or agreement betweenthe/!l even-
i penthArmyandtl ~eEighth~leet, .Yrmy
ancl A“avystrengthi n the CentralSol o-
l ~~c)nswas to be about even. After send-
i ng the 8thCSNLFto theXewCTeorg,ia
areajtheX-:l vywasdeterl ni l l ed tohol e]the
.\rnl yto i ts endof thebargai n. Fol l ow-
i l ]g a l ]umberof co]~ferences, the Army
rei nforcementsbegan arri vi ng i n l ate
March. Theori gi l ~al forceatMundacon-
si stedof twocompani es fromthe2d Bat-
ta7/on. M?,9thRegimentof tl ~e,38thDi vi -
.Yi onwi th two anti ai rcraft battal i ons for
I )l ”otecti on for tl ~e naval base constructi on
t1’00]1S. Kol ombal ]~ar:t was garri soned
earl y i n 1943 wi th troOpS from the 51,sj
~i ~’jsi on i nducti ng an i nfantry battal i on,
nn arti l l ery (I etachrnent, nncl engi neer and
:l i r cl efel l se uni ts.
Tl i e ~emai ~~cl erof the $i?2,9th Regimentat
Bl l i n,wi th sl l ~)porti ng troops,“be%i nto
fi l teri ntoATew~eor~i al atei n ~~pri l and
the57stDivisiontroopson Kol ombangara
werereli evecl . The l?l?,9th movedto the
Mul ~daai rfi el darea,anda battal i onfrom
theI,?thI nfuniiyZ7eginzentJ 6thDivision,
tookoveractualcl efel ~se of Kol ombangara.
As opportuni ti esarose, the Japanese
Guadal canal hadbeena wel l -l earned—
al bei t, painful —l esson. Therei nforcement
of theVi l a-Mundaarearefl ectedJapan’s
I ]ewstrategy:
Our fundamental pol i cy was to bri ng the
desi red number of troops i nto strategi c key
l }[)i ntsbefore the enemy offensi ve, i n spi te of
nl :l ni fol (l di ffi (wl ti es; and i n erent of an
enemy offensi ve,to prevent our suppl y trans-
I )ort;i ti on from bei ng hampered; to throw
i n our enti re sea, ki nd, and ai r strength at
the fi rst si gn of an enemy l andi ng to engage
i t i n {l e[ji si ve combat; and to secure com-
I )l ett’l ythe strategi c key posi ti ons l i nki ng the
Central Sol omons,I .ae, and Sal amaua,whi ch
formed our nati onal defenseboundary on the
southeasternfront.1’
OnNewGeorgi a, theJapanese prepared
defenses for al l eventual i ti es.Munda
Poi nt and the ai rfi el dvi ci ni ty bri stl ed
wi th anti ai rcraftand arti l l eryweapons.
Theenemydi d notdi scountthethreatof
a di rectassaul toverMundabar andsi ted
someof thei rarmament to coverthatap-
proach; but the bul k of the weapons
poi nted north toward Bai roko—from
whi ch an overl andattackmi ghtcome-
and toward Lai ana Beach on Rovi ana
Li l goon—where an attackseemedl ogi cal .
The Japanesebel i eved, however, thatthe
next Al l i ed objecti vewas to be Kol om-
bang-a.ra i n an attemptto attackMunda
from the rear; so Vi l a l i kewi sewaspre-
paredto repl ~l seany assaul t. I ncreased
.Al l i edai r acti vi ty, thepresenceof a great
numberof trooptransports i n theGuadal -
canal area,and i ncreasedreconnai ssance
convi ncedthe enemythat an attackwas
i mmi nent.Thei r i ntel l i gencereportsof
about50cargo-typeai rpl anesat Hender-
sonFi el dal sopromptedspecul ati on onthe
possi bi l i tyof ai rborneoperati onsagai nst
Vi l a-Munda.
movedi n moretroops.
‘6SE .~7”CUNaI )Ops-11, p. 4.
48
I SOLATI ON OFRABAUL
Wi th both Army andNavytroopsoc-
cupyi ngi denti calCentralSol omonsposi -
ti ons,a moreuni fi edcommandarrange-
mentwassought.Admi ralOta,theseni or
commander i n thearea,hadbeenresponsi -
bl efor bothArmyandNavyl anddefenses
i n theVi l a-Mundaarea. On2 May,how-
ever,Imperi al Headquar+xw di rectedthat
a commandpost be establ i shedi n New
Georgi a,andon 31 May,Major General
NoboruSasakiof the 38thDivisionar-
ri ved at Kol ombangara to headthe new
Southeast Detuchrnent,a joi nt Army-
Navydefenseforce. Admi ni strati vel y at-
tachedtotheSeventeenthAmnybutunder
the operati onal commandof the Eighth
FZeet,General Sasaki was assi gnedre-
sponsi bi l i tyfor al l l and defensesi n the
NewGeorgi asectorandcommandof al l
Army troopsi n the area. Admi ralOta.,
sti l l i n commandof Navytroops,wasdi -
rectedtogi vehi mful l estcooperati on.I t
was a commandstructurewhi ch cri ss-
crossedArmyandNavychannel s, butwi th
Sasaki ’sassi gnment spel l edout,andwi th
Ota’scooperati onassured, a uni fi edforce
wasestabl i shed.
By l ate ,]une,as ?Japanwai tedfor an
Al l i edthrustshebel i evedwascomi ng,the
defensi veposi ti onsi n the New Georgi a
Groupwereset. Toobtai ngreatercoordi -
nati on, General Sasakidi vi cl edhi sdefense
area i nto threezones of responsi bi l i ty:
the Central (Munda); the western
(Kol omban~ara) ; andtheEastern(Vi ru-
l ~i ckham).Thetaskof defendi ngMunda
Poi nt he gaveto col onel Genji roHi rata
and the W9thRegiment,augmentedby
two batteri esof the 10th I ndependent
MountainArtilleryRegiment. Ai r de-
fensewoul dbe provi dedby the15thAzW
DefenseUnit whi ch combi nedthe ijlst
Field Antiaircraft t Battalion(less one
battery), the 3’lstI ndependentField
Antiaircraftoonzpany, the.ZVth FieldMa-
chine LyannonCompany, andthe3dField
SearchlightBattalion(lessonebattery).
Onecompanyof the2Z9thRegimentwas
di spatchedto Rendova.
To ai dSasakii n thedefenseof theai r-
fi el d,Admi ral Ota establ i shedthreesea-
coast arti l l erybatteri esat Mundawi th
140mm, 120mm, and 80mmguns. Al so
basedtherewas an anti ai rcraftmachi ne
guncompanyof theKzwe6thSiVLF,the
.4?Ist An,tiaircraf t Componyandthe17th
and 131stPioneers(labortroops). Ota
al sosenta ri fl ecompanyfrom theKure
titli to Rendova. The remai nderof the
Kuretlth,underCommander SaburoOkl ~-
muralwasto defendthel ;ai rokoHarbor
area. ~ol ombangara>s defensewas en-
trustedto a battal i onof the I t?thRegi-
ment,rei nforcedby a batteryof the10th
I ndependentMountainArtillery. Ai r
defenseof Vi l a ai rstri prestedwi th the
58thFiei?dAntiaircraft t Battalion(less
one battery), the%V?d andthe %’3dFieZd
MachineCannonG’ornpanies, andasearch-
l i ght battery. The mai ndetachments of
the Yokow&aYthSNLF and the 19th
Pionee~swereal sobasedon Kol omban-
gara.
Vi ruHarborwasgarri sonedby thelth
(70mpanyof the %Wth,l ess one pl atoon
whi chwenton toWi ckhamAnchorageto
augmenta seacoast defensebatteryfrom
theKurerlth. To compl etethedefensi ve
pi cture,l ookoutpl atoonswerescattered
aboutthecoastl i neof NewGeorgi aandon
someof the smal l adjacenti sl etsto act
assecuri tydetachments.
I n al l ,asSasaki ’srei nforcement andde-
fensepl ansracedri ghtdownto thewi re
wi th Al l i ed offensi vepreparati ons, the
Japanesehadabout5,000Navyand5,500
OBJECTI VE: NEWGEORGI A 49
Armytroopsi n theNTewGeorgi a-Kol onl -
bangaraarea. Al thoughthe8th ~ASNLF
was not combattested,the .Z$7,9th Regi-
ment and the f3th li’eg~naentwere an-
othermatter.The22,9thhadparti ci pated
i n thecaptureof HongKongbeforetak-
i ngparti n theoccupati onof ,Java.Com-
mi ttedto combatagai n,theregi ment had
one battal i onnearl yanni hi l atedon New
Gui nea and another battal i onsuffered
heavycasl ml ti esat Guacl al canal . Rei n-
forced by fresh troops at I i abaul and
Bougai nvi l l ea, the survi vors had been
formedi ntonewbattal i ons to joi n theZd
BattaZion at NewGeorgi a. Theel ements
of thel$th Reghen t, beforebei ngsent, to
Kol ombangara, werepartof theGthDz’-
?’i r$i on, whi cl ~g:~rri sonedthe ~Torthern
Sol omons. One of Jap:ul ’sol destdi vi -
si ons,the 6th was l i kewi sehardenedby
combati n Chi nabeforebei ngsentto the
Sol omonI sl ands.
Expandi ngseaandai r offensi ves by the
Al l i es i n the l ate spri ngof 1943hat{a
defi ni tebeari ngon ,Japan’soutl ook to-
wardher defensesi n the SouthPaci fi c.
Wi deni ngthe scopeof thewar,a l arge-
scal ebombi ngattacki n n~i d-Maypl as-
teredthe,Japanese-hel cl atol l of Wakei n
theCentralPaci fi c. Thi s stri kefol l owed
a l andi ngi n theAl euti anson 11May by
1’LTnl ess otherwi se noted, themateri al i nthi s
secti oni s deri ved from:Ci nCPae Opsi n POA,
~l ay43, dtd15Aug43; Ci nCPac Opsi n POA,
.Jnn43, dtd6Sep43 : OATI , C’omfi atNarratives,
Nolomon, Islands Campaign: IX—Bombardments
of Mundu and Vila-i3fanmore, Januarg–illay
19J3 (Washi ngton, 1944), herei nafter ci ted as
ONI , Corn7)at Narratives I X; SE Area NauOps—
II; h!l ori son,Breaking t]!e Bi~marcksBarrier;
.Mi l l er,Reduction of Rabaul; Sherrod, MarAir-
HitW.
I J.S.Armytroopscoveredby navalforces.
The enemy bel i evedthat the counter-
l andi ngsi n theNorthPaci fi cwereadi rect
threattotheHomeI sl ands,andpkuMfor
thesoutheast areawerei mmedi atel y cur-
tai l ed. .!l bout~o per cent of the troops
earmarkeclfor the Sol omonsand New
Gui neawereshi ftedtothenortheast area;
and~i dmi ral Mi nei chiKoga,successor to
Admi ralYamamoto, pul l edhi s Combined
F7eetl ~eacl quarters outof Trukandmoved
to Tokyoso thathe coul dbettercontrol
operati onsthroughoutthe Paci fi c. Hi s
mai n fl eet,uni ts,however,remai nedat
Truk.
Trueto hi s promi seto theJCS at the
ti meof the 28 Marchdi recti ve,Admi ral
Hal seykept. thepressureon theJapanese
i n the Central Sol ornons. Under the
poundi ngof bombs and sea bombard-
ments, i heVi l a-Mundaareaneverhadthe
opportuni tyto devel oppasti ts useas a
refuel i ngpoi nt for enemypl anes. The
Al l i edstri kesscoredfewcasual ti es among
theMundadefenders, rel ati vel ysecurei n
underground defenses neartheai rfi el d, but
kept enemyengi neersbusyrepai ri ngthe
crateredrunways. The attacksl owered
moral e, however, by keepi ngtheJapanese
“sl eepl essandfati gued,”18andoccasi onal
hi tswerescoredonfuel andsuppl ydumps.
Pri or to May,MundaandVi l a hadtaken
nearl y120bombi ngrai ds,andfour major
navalbombardments hadrai nedshel l son
thetwoai rfi el ds.
The Tokyo Express—fastdestroyers
carryi ngtroopsandsuppl i esto the New
Georgi a Group—sti l lsteamedon. The
Al l i esfoundtheycoul dnotpossi bl ycover
al l avenuesof suppl y,andthattohal tthe
traffi centi rel ywoul drequi remorepl anes
“ I -SSBS, 1)/terrogation ATO. 224, CdrYasumi
I Mi , I JX,I ,p.210.
50
I SOLATI ON OFRABAUL
andshi psthanSouthPaci fi cforcescoul d
musterat thi s stageof the war. On 6
May, however,the express runs were
abruptl y,i f onl y temporari l y, di srupted.
Rear Admi ral Wal den L. Ai nsworth,
headi nga Thi rdFl eettaskforceof three
crui sers,fi ve destroyers, and threecon-
verteddestroyer-mi ne l ayers,steamedup
the gap betweenGi zo and Wana Wana
I sl ands i nto the Vel l a Gul f. As Ai ns-
worth’s crui sers and four destroyers
bl ockedthe northernentranceto Vel l a
Gul f, thethreemi nel ayersescortedby a
radar-equi pped destroyerl ai d threerows
of mi nesacrossthestrai tsbetweenKol om-
bangaraandGi zo. Thentheenti reforce
turnedfor homebasesat Guadal canal .
(SeeMapI I , MapSecti on.)
Di vi dendswereal mosti mmedi ate.The
next ni ght, four Japanesedestroyers
sl i ppedi ntoBl ackettStrai tswi thVi l a as
thei r desti nati on.They neverreachedi t.
The trap was sprung. Bl underi ngi nto
themi nefi el d,oneshi pwentdownal most
i n~medi atel y; twootherswerebadl ydam-
aged. The fourth shi p stoodby to pi ck
up survi vors.And that’stheway Al l i ed
pl anes, somewhat del ayedby adversewea-
ther,foundthemthenextday. The two
damagedshi psweresunkby bombs,but
the fourth shi p, heavi l y bombed and
strafed,managedto l i mp back toward
Bougai nvi l l ea. Gl eeful coastwatchers
radi oedthebox scoreto (l uadal canal .
Heartenedby the success,the Thi rd
Fl eet pl anned another surpri se. Thi s
ti me,Vi l awoul dbeshel l edasthenorthern
entrancetoKul aGul fwasmi ned. Onthe
ni ghtof 13May,Admi ralAi nsworthl ed
a forceof threecrui sersandfi vedestroy-
ers i n fi ri ngrunspastVi l a, steami ngi n
from the north, whi l e a destroyerand
threefast mi nel ayerspl antedmi nesoff
theeastcoast. of Kol ombangara. As each
of Ai nsworth’sshi pscompl etedher run
pastVi l a, sheturnedandpumpedheavy
fi rei ntotheBai rokoandEnogai -Ri ceAn-
chorageareas.
At thesameti me,a forceof onecrui ser
andthreedestroyerspl asteredMundaon
the opposi tesi deof New Georgi a. The
ai rfi el dhadnot beeni ncl udedi n theori -
gi nal bombardment pl ans,buta l ast-hour
swi tch i n order.~accompl i shedby di s-
patchanda messagedropfrompl anesto
the shi ps desi gnated—hadadded that
stronghol d. Vi l a was hi t by a to~alof
2,895si x-i nchand 4,340fi ve-i nchshel l s,
Mundaby 9’70si x-i nchand1,648fi ve-i nch.
Theoperati onwascoveredby anai r stri ke
i n theNorthernSol omonsandaddi ti onal
fi ghter pl anes fl ew cover and reported
bombardment resul ts.
The mi ne-l ayi ngdi d not producethe
earl i er resul ts. I t sl owedthe Japanese
suppl y chai n by forci ng i t to be more
cauti ous,but i t di d not hal t i t. The
bombardment was a bi gger di sappoi nt-
ment. Lessthan 12 hoursafter the l ast
shel l hadbeenfi red,a fl i ghtof 26Japa-
nesefi ghtersstagedfromMunda-Vi l awas
chasi ngthe attackforceback to Guadal -
canal . Coastwatchers radi oedthe warn-
i ng; 102Al l i edai rcraftformeda wel com-
i ng commi ttee.
Seventeenenemypl anes
werereportedl yshot down; 16 of them
werecl ai medbyMari nefi ghters.Fi veAl -
l i edpl anesandthreepi l otswerel osti nthe
acti on. The bombardment was the l ast
schedul edbeforethe actuali nvasi on;the
resul ts,i t was apparent, werenot worth
the pri ce. .4 harassi ngbombardment,
Ci nCPacl ater advi sed,was not justi fi ed
when“al l shi psweresubjectedtothehaz-
ard of enemyMTB and SS [submari ne]
OBJECTI VE : NEWGEORGI A 51
attackswi th no prospectof equaloppor-
tuni tytodamagetheenemy.”19
Ai r acti vi tyi ncreased duri ngJune.Ai r-
fi el dsi n the Russel l sgave the Al l i es a
shorterrangeto targetsi n the Northern
andCentralSol omons, as wel l as provi d-
i ng anotherl aunchi ngarea for getti ng
pl anesi ntothe ai r to repel attacks. At-
tractedby the concentrati onof shi ppi ng
i ntheGuadal canal area, theJapanese tri ed
a newone-twopunchof heavyfl i ghtsof
fi ghtersfol l owed by l arge numbersof
bombers, butthreemajorstri keson 7, 12,
and16Juneresul tedi n staggeri ngl osses.
The enemyhad hopedto breakeven i n
fi ghtertol l s,whi chwoul dthengi vethei r
bombers opportuni tytoattackunmol ested.
Themaneuver boomeranged.Eachti me,
ComAi rSol swas abl eto meetthe threat
wi th from105to 118ai rcraftand i n the
threestri kes, atotalof 152enemyai rpl anes
wascl ai med. TheAl l i esl ost21.
PREPARI NGTO STRI KE20
Theassaul tof NewGeorgi a,vi ewedi n
opti mi smcontagi ousat the ti me,seemed
an easyassi gnment despi tethe i naccess-
i bi l i ty of Munda. Reconnai ssance had
vi rtual l y pi npoi nted Japanese strong
poi nts,andthecombateffecti veness of the
Vi l a-Mundaai rfi el dshad been reduced
consi derabl y by theAl l i edpoundi ng.I n-
tel l i gencesources, whi chl aterprovedre-
markabl yaccurate,esti matedthat there
wereonl yabout3,000Japanese atMunda,
wi th another500troopsat Bai rokoand
‘6ONI , Combat Narratives IX, p.74.
‘0Unl ess otherwi se noted, themateri al i nthi s
secti on i sderi ved from: ComSoPac OPl an14-43,
dtd 3Jun43; ComThi rdFl t OPl an12–43, dtd
5i Jun43; CTF31OpOAS–43, dtd4Jun43; NTGOF
FOXo,1,dtd16Jun43 andNo,2,dtd24Jun43;
Rentz, Marines inthe Central Sotomons.
a detachment of 300menatWi ckhamAn-
chorageandabout100moreat Vi ru Har-
bor. Thebul kof theforces,esti matedat
5,000to 7,000troops,was on Kol omban-
gara, togetherwi th an addi ti onal3,000
l aborers.
Japan’s rei nforcementabi l i ty from
poi nts i n the NorthernSol omonswas
noted,buttherewasnoreadyesti mateof
the numbersavai l abl efor qui ck assi gn-
mentto combat. Her seastrengthi n the
Sol omonswasbel i evedtobe6destroyers, 5
submari nes, and 12 transports,wi th a
crui ser,5 destroyers, 7 submari nes, and25
attacktransports atRabaul .Japanese ai r
strengthwasputat 89l and-basedai rcraft
i n the Sol omonswi th another262at Ra-
haul . Whi l etroopesti mates werenearthe
actualenemytotal s,ComSoPacguesseson
ai r andseanumbers of theenemywerel ow.
Theenti reEighthFleetwasi n theShort-
handsarea,whi l ea partof theCombined
Fleet at Truk wascommi ttedto l endas-
si stancei n SoutheastArea operati ons.
The JapaneseNavy had 169l and-based
pl anesavai l abl efor combatfrom a total
of nearl y300depl oyedi n the Bi smarck
Archi pel agoandtheNorthernSol omons.
TheEighthAreaAmy hadabout180ai r-
craftattacheddi rectl ytoi t; however, most
of these were supporti ng operati ons
agai nsttheAl l i esi n NewGui nea.
Thetargethadbeenmarked. Earl yi n
June, Admi ral Hal sey publ i shedhi s
ordersfor the sei zureand occupati onof
NewGeorgi a. Thei mprobabl e codename
TOENAI LSmaskedHal sey’sparti n the
C.4RTWHEELoffensi ve. Themi ssi ons:
captureWi ckhamAnchorageand Vi ru
Harborassmal l -craft stagi ngareas;sei ze
Segi Pl antati onasa possi bl eai rfi el dsi te;
sei zeRendovaasa basefor theneutral i za-
ti on of Mundaby arti l l eryfi re. Orders
for the actualassaul tof Mundaai rfi el d
52
I SOLATI ON Ol i ’RABAUL
woul dbe i ssuedby ComSoPacafter the
successful compl eti onof thefi rstphaseof
TOENAI LS.
Task uni tsof theThi rdFl eetwereas-
si gnedcoveri ngmi ssi onswhi chwoul di n-
suresuccessof theoperati onby bl ocki ng
anyenemyforceattempti ng todi sruptthe
l andi ngswi th a counteroffensi ve. Whi l e
oneforceof destroyers andcrui sersmoved
i n to mi nethe mai nseachannel saround
the Shortl and1s1ands, anotherheavi er
forceof battl eshi ps anddestroyers wasto
stagea bombardment of Japanesestrong
poi nts i n the NorthernSol omonsand
Shorthands. Ai r uni tsof the SouthPa-
ci fi cAi r Command, underVi ce Admi ral
AubreyW. l ?i tch,were assi gnedstri kes
~gai nst, shi ppi ngi l l the Shorthands area
andbombi ngmi ssi ons cmai rfi el dscm Bou-
gai nvi l l ea. Carri erai r groupswereto i n-
terceptanyenemyshi pscmai rcrafthead-
i ng for the NewGeorgi aGroup. SoPac
submari nes wereto rangei ntotheNorth-
ern Sol omonsfor i ntercepti onand earl y
warni ng of any Japaneseforce, and
destroyeruni ts woul d provi de cl ose-i n
supportfor thetransportgroupsengaged
i n the actuall andi ngoperati ons.Thus,
wi th .4dmi ralHal sey’sforces guardi ng
the northernand easternapproachesto
New Georgi a,and GeneralMacArthur’s
operati onsi n New Gui neashi el di ngthe
westernfl ank, the assaul tforces coul d
proceedwi th the sei zureof TOENAI LS
objecti ves.
TheArmy’s43dI nfantryDi vi si on, part
of Major GeneralOscar W. Gri swol d’s
XI V Corps,wasnamedastheassaul t and
occupati ontroops. The 2d Mari neAi r-
craftWi ngheadquarters underBri gadi er
GeneralFranci sP. Mul cahywasassi gned
to di recttacti calai r supportover thetar-
get duri ngtheoperati on.Rear Admi ral
Turner,commander of amphi bi ous forces
i n theSouthPaci fi c,wasgi venoveral lre-
sponsi bi l i tyfor NewGeorgi aoperati ons.
Detai l edpl anni ngfor the actualsei zure
andoccupati onof theobjecti vesoutl i ned
i n Hal sey’sbroadpl answoul dbeTurner’s
job.
To accompl i shthe TOENAI LS mi s-
si ons,Turner di vi dedhi s commandi nto
two uni ts. He woul d personal l ydi rect
thel argerwesternForcei nthemai nl and-
i ng at Rendovaandwoul dbe responsi bl e
for movement of troops and suppl i esto
theobjecti veandfor thei rprotecti on. The
EasternForce,underthedi recti onof Rear
Admi ral George H. Fort, woul d sei ze
Vi ru,Segi Pl antati on, andWi ckhamAn-
chorage. Admi ralFort woul dbe respon-
si bl efor movement tothesetargetsandfor
embarki ngtroopsand suppl i esfrom the
Russel l sfor subsequent operati ons.
Admi ral Turner’sgroundcommander,
MajorGeneral JohnH.Hester, headedthe
NewGeorgi aOccupati onForce(NGOF).
I ts combatuni tsconsi stedof Hester’sown
43dI nfantryDi vi si on,i ncl udi ngthe172d
and169thRegi ments andonebattal i onof
the 103dRegi ment;the Mari ne9th De-
fenseBattal i on;the136thFi el dArti l l ery
13at,tal i on from the 37thI nfantry Di vi -
si on; the 24th Naval Constructi onBat-
tal i on(NCB) ; CompanyOof theMari ne
4thRai derBattal i on:the1stCommando,
Fi ji Guerri l l as; 2’ and assi gnedservi ce
troops.
Fort’sEasternForcewoul di ncl udethe
103dRCT (l essthe battal i onwi th Hes-
ter); Compani es N,P, andQfromthe4th
Rai der Battal i on;el ementsof the 70th
CoastArti l l ery(Anti ai rcraft t) Battal i on;
partsof the20thNCB; andservi ceuni ts.
nCentral Offi ce of I nformati on, Amonu Those
Present (London, 1946), pp.*56.
OBJECTI VE: NEWGEORGI A
The l andi ngforce woul dbe headedby
Col onelDani elH. Hundl ey, commandi ng
the103dRCT. Sel ectedas readyreserve
for theoperati onwastheI stMari neRai d-
er Regi ment(l essthe2d,3d,and4thBat-
tal i ons),commanded by Col onelHarryB.
Li versed~e.The Army’s 37th I nfantry
I )i vi si on(l essthe12$)Lh RCTandmostof
the148thRCT’)woul dbe i n generalre-
serveat Guadal canal , readyto moveon
fi ve-days’ noti ce.
Executi onof theassi gnedtasksl ooked
easy. Turner’sori gi nal conceptwas to
sei zethe southernend of New Georgi a
si mul taneousl y wi th Rendova. Arti l l ery
basedon Rendovaand offshoresmal l er
i sl andswoul dsoftenMundafi el dwhi l ethe
bui l dupof assaul tforces began. Four
daysl ater,i t waspl anned, Mundawoul d
beattackedthroughRovi anaLagoonand
overMundaBar,whi l eBai rokowoul dbe
struckei therfrom the Russel l sor by a
force hi tti ngoverl andfromRovi anaLa-
goon. Thi s maneuverwoul dbl ock rei n-
forcementsfor the ai rfi el d. capture of
Mundawoul dthentri ~~erthenextshore-
to-shorejumpto Kol ombangara, thel ast
phaseof Operati onTOE~AI LS.
Thesewerethefi rstpl ans. ComSoPac
orders stressedthei r successfulcompl e-
ti on wi tha mi ni mumof forces. I t coul d
notbeforeseenatthei ni ti alpl anni ngcon-
ferencesthat,beforeMundacoul dbecap-
turedandtheNewGeorgi aGroupoccu-
pi ed,el ementsof four i nfantrydi vi si ons
woul dbecommi tted andextensi ve changes
i n pl answoul dberequi red.Theprobl ems
mountedearl y. Lai anaBeachonRovi ana
Lagoon eastof Mundawas heavi l yde-
fended,al thoughthe best l andi ngarea.
The channel throu@ Rovi ana,scouted
from canoes,wastoo shal l owfor LCMS.
53
Thei sl andsnearRendovaori gi nal l ycon-
si deredfor arti l l eryposi ti onswerenot
wi thi neffecti ve105mmhowi tzerrangeof
Mundaai rfi el d.Andcoastwatcher reports
i ndi catedthattheenemy—despi teAl l i ed
efforts-was sl i ppi ngrei nforcements i nto
the ~i l a-Mundaarea. Further,a recon-
nai ssanceteamreportedthata stri keat
Bai roko from Rovi ana was i mpossi bl e
wi thi ntheti mel i mi tspl anned.
The sol uti onspl aguedTurner’sstaff.
ZananaBeach, about 5,500yards east
of Lai ana,wassmal l erbut vi rtual l yun-
defended,the scoutsreported. Whi l e i t
woul dhol donl y a few l andi ngcraft,the
Pi rakaRi ver mouth1,000yardsfarther
eastcoul dpermi tbeachi ngof addi ti onal
boats. Hesterdeci dedon Zananaas hi s
l andi ngbeach,and Turnergave hi s ap-
proval . Reachi ngZananawoul d be a
probl em, however. Landi ngboatswoul d
havetosl i pthroughnarrow,coral -choked
Onai avi si Entrancethatthreadedbetween
thesmal loffshorei sl andsandthenfol l ow
a twi sti ngchannelto the beaches. The
sel ecti onof ZananawTas basedasmuchon
i ts undefendednatureas on i ts capabi l i ty
of bei ngreachedby LCMS. I t had,how-
ever,oneapparent drawback.Theattack-
i ng troopswoul dbe unl oadedat a con-
si derabl edi stancefrom thei r objecti ve.
(SeeMap5.)
The pl anni ngprobl emswereunexpect-
edl y ma@fi ed by an emergency. An
urgentcal l for assi stance by Coastwatcher
KennedyatSe~iresul tedi nthepremature
commi tment of two Mari nerai der com-
pani esandtwocompani esfromtheI osd
RcT on 21June. Admi ralTurnermade
thedeci si on.Thespeedupi n schedul eup-
setprevi ouspl anni n~l buti t wasdeemed
necessary.I t requi reda changei n basi c
54 I SOLATI ON OFRABAUL
strategy, a shufl l i ngof troops,a changei n
thetransport pl ans-andsomearound-the-
cl ocksuppl ydutyby theMari ne4thBase
Depot, i nthe Russel l s—but thedeci si onre-
tai nedpossessi onof Segi for the Al l i es
unti l the actualNewGeorgi ai nvasi on.22
GeneralHester,who woul ddi rectthe
operati ons ashore, conti nual l y faced
thornyprobl ems.Todealwi ththemount-
i ng compl exi ti es, he del egatedthe pl an-
ni ng for the Rendoval andi ngsto a 43d
Di vi si onstaffheadedby hi sassi stant di vi -
si oncommander, Bri gadi erGeneral Leon-
ard F. Wi ng. A secondstaff,theNGOF
staff,compl etedthe NewGeorgi aattack
pl anni ng. Hesterretai nedcommandof
bothstaffs.Thefi nalassaul t pl ansevol ved
fromthebestsol uti onstoa mul ti pl i ci tyof
probl ems. l n the schemeof maneuver,
part of the western Force woul dhi t at
MundathroughOnai avi siEntrancewi th
two regi mentsl andi ngat Zananaand
pi voti ngtothewesti n anoverl andattack
wi thonefl ankresti ngonthel agoon. Thi s
force, desi gnatedthe SouthernLandi ng
Force,woul dbe commandedi ni ti al l yby
GeneralWi ng.
Li versedge’srai ders—nowti tl ed the
NorthernLandi ngGroup—woul dstri ke
di rectl yatBai rokofromKul aGul f. Thi s
woul dbe coordi natedwi th the l andi ngs
at,Zananaandwoul dbl ockrei nforcements
to Munda. I t wasnot expectedthatthe
Mundaforceswoul dattemptto rei nforce
the Bai rokodefenders. Thi s hal f of a
pi ncermovement facedonehandi cap;the
areawas not as wel l scoutedas that of
Rovi anaLagoon. TheHesterpl anof at-
tack envi si oneda shortcampai gnduri ng
whi chthe Japanesewoul dbe caughtbe-
‘2Thecapture ofSe~i i srel ateci i nthefol l owi ng
chapter.
tweena hammeri ngforcefromthesouth
anda hol di ngforce i n thenorth. Thus,
theenemywoul dbe pushedbacktowards
an areawhere>ri ngedby Al l i ed troops,
theycoul dbe poundedi ntosubmi ssi on by
ai rcraftandRendova-based arti l l ery.TO
i nsuresuccess,addi ti onal43d Di vi si on
arti l l ery (the 192dand the 103dFi el d
Arti l l ery Battal i ons)was addedto the
NGOF.
D-Dayassi gnments wereset. Troopsof
the l ’72dI nfantrywoul dsei zetwosmal l
i sl andsguardi l ~gthe approaches to Ren-
dova and then establ i sha beachheadon
Rendova i tsel f. Through the secured
passage, HesterandWi ng woul dfunnel
therestof thel andi ngforce,wi ththe103d
I nfantrygi venthetaskof expandi ngthe
beachhead andmoppi ngup thei sl and,re-
ported to be l i ghtl y defended. Si rnul -
t,aneousl y, two compani esof the l @th
I nfantry woul d l and on i sl ets fl anki ng
Onai avi siEntranceanda detachment of
Fi ji guerri l l asandMari nerai derswoul d
markthe channelwi th buoysto Zanana
BeachandthenearbyPi rakaRi ver. Four
daysl ater,the172dI nfantrywoul dmake
the Rendova-Zanana moveand establ i sh
a beachheadfor thel andi ng, thefol l owi ng
day of the169thI nfantryfromtheRus-
sel l s. The 169thwas to movei nl andto
the north of the l ’72d,then face to the
west. Thi s woul d put two regi ments
abreast, readyto l aunchan attackfrom
a l i neof departure al ongtheBari keRi ver>
some2,000yardscl oser to Munda. Ar-
ti l l eryontheoffshorei sl andsandRendova
woul dsupporttheattack.Fi vedaysl ater,
i t was pl anned,the 3d Battal i onof the
103dI nfantryandtheei ghttanksof the
Mari ne9thDefenseBattal i onwoul dcross
Mundabar for thefi nal ,di rectassaul t on
Mundaai rfi el d.
OBJECTI VE: NEWGEORGI A 55
MARI NECORPSSUPPORT2’
Mari neuni tswhi chwereto parti ci pate
i n thesei zureof Mundawereful fi l l i nga
numberof tasks and trai ni ngmi ssi ons
pri or totheoperati on. Theactualjob of
pushi ngtheenemyfromNewGeorgi abe-
l onged mai nl y to GeneralHester’s43d
Di vi si on; contri buti ons to the campai gn
by theMari neCorpswoul dbe i n support
of themai neffort. The9thDefenseBat-
tal i onwasgi vena dualmi ssi onof maki ng
enemyposi ti onson Mundauntenabl eby
arti l l eryfi reandof provi di nganti ai rcraft
protecti onfor thel andi ngforces. The1st
Mari neRai derRegi ment, atfi rsti ntended
as a reserveel ement, was thrusti nto an
acti verol e wi th i ts mi ssi onof wedgi nga
bl ock on DragonsPeni nsul abetweenthe
Mundadefendersand rei nforcements at
13ai roko Harbor.
Col onel Li versedge’srai ders were a
cocky,confi dent groupwhi chpri dedi tsel f
on bei nga vol unteeruni twi thi na vol un-
teercorps. Carryi ngonl y60mmmortars
andl i ghtmachi negunsassupporti ngwea-
‘3Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ved from : 1st MarRdrRegt WarD
15Mar-30Sep43,dtd 60ct43; 9th DefBn RecofOps
l –28Jun43, dtd 30ct43 ; 9th DefBn Rept on AA
Ops 18Jun–18Sep43,hereafter .Yth DefBn AA
Of).!; $}thDefBn Narrati veHi st l Feb42-14Apr44,
dtd 2May44; 4th Basel l ep OrgHi st l Apr–31Ju14&
dtd 24~ug43; I +i stSecG–2, SoPacBaseComd,MS
Hi st of the New Georgi a Campai gn, 2 vol s,, c.
1947 (OCMH), hereafter l ?ew Georgia Cam-
flaign; I ,tCol Wi l bur J. ‘Mc~enney, Observers
Rept New Georgi a OpS to (3G, I MAC, dtd
17Ju143; LtCol Wri ght C. Tayl or l tr to CMC,
dtd 4Mar52; Col Archi e E. O’Nei l I tr to CMC, c.
l Mar51 ; LtCol Robert C. Hi att l tr to CMC, c.
26Feb52; Maj Cyri l E. Emri ch l tr to CO, 10th
DefBn, dtd 1Ju143; Maj John L. Zi mmerman,
TheGuadalca$?al Campaign (Washi ngton: Hi st-
I )i v, HQ7MC, 1949) ; Rentz, Marines in the Cen-
tral flolornons’;Sherrod, MarAirHi8t.
691–360 O—63—— 5
pens,eachbattal i onwasgeneral l yorgan-
i zed wi th four ri fl e compani es, an engi -
neeranddemol i ti onpl atoon,anda head-
quarterscompany.Smal l eri n authori zed
strengththantheregul arMari nei nfantry
battal i on, theactualstrengthof therai der
battal i onsvari edbetween7’00and 950.
Speci al ] y trai nedfor jungl efi ghti ng,am-
phi bi ousrai ds,andbehi nd-the-l i nes guer-
ri l l a acti on,the rai dershad parti ci pated
i n the Tul a@-assaul t, a hi t-and-runrai d
at Maki nI sl andi n the Gi l berts5the de-
fenseof Mi dway,andjungl ewarfareon
Guadal canal . TheseMari nesthusbrought
totheNewGeorgi acampai gnconsi derabl e
combatexperi ence pl ustheconvi cti onthat
thefi ghti ngaheadwoul dfol l ownoorderl y
l i nesof battl e. Thevexi ngprobl emspre-
sentedby thejungl ei n mai ntai ni ng com-
muni cati onsand suppl y woul d demand
the utmosti n courage,i ngenui ty,and
stami na; buttherai dersfel tuptothetask.
They werefi rmi n the bel i ef that these
di ffi cul ti es, i nextri cabl ycompl i catedby
theterrai nandenervati ngcl i mate,coul d
beovercomeby thei rtoughphysi caltrai n-
i ng, combatexperi ence, andhi gh moral e.
At theti meof consol i dati on of thefour
battal i onsunder one commandon 15
March 1943,the rai derswere scattered
throughoutthe SouthPaci fi cwi th regi -
mentalheadquarters andthe2d and4th
Battal i onsat Espi ri tuSante,the 1st at
~oumea, andthe3di ntheRussel l s.Upon
assi gnment totheTOENAI LSoperati on,
the regi ment(l ess the 2d and 3d Bat-
tal i ons)movedto Guadal canal , arri vi ng
therethe fi rst weeki n June. Herethe
rai dershad onl y a few days to go over
thei rorders, i ronoutorgani zati onal ki nks7
and practi ceas a si ngl euni t beforethe
4th Battal i onwas abruptl yassi gnedto
Kennedy’sassi stance.
56 I SOLATI ON OFRABAUL
The9th DefenseBattal i oncommanded
byLi eutenant Col onelWi l l i amJ. Scheyer,
had parti cul arreasontobe proudof i ts
assi gnment i n theTOENAI LSoperati on.
Wi th a qui ck conversi onof i ts seacoast
batteri esto fi el d arti l l eryuni ts,the 9th
woul dbe i n an offensi verol eagai nstthe
Japaneseat Munda and the prospect
pl easedthe enti rebattal i on. One of 14
suchhi ghl yspeci al i zed defenseforcesscat-
teredfromCubato NewZeal and, the9th
wasprovi di nganti ai rcraft protecti onfor
Guadal canal forces whenpi ckedfor the
NewGeorgi aoffensi ve. Acti vatedearl y
i n 1942,the 9th trai nedextensi vel yi n
Cubabeforearri vi ngat Guadal canal on
30November1942. Thebattal i onWLSi n
defensi veacti onal mosti mmedi atel y, and
i ts 90mmbatteri esbaggeda total of 12
enemyai rcrafti n the fol l owi ngmonths.
Organi zati onal changeshadtobemade,
however, togettheuni treadyfor i tspart
i n thecaptureof Munda. l n 21days,the
seacoast batteri es, augmented by 145new
men,weretrai nedi n fi el darti l l eryfi redi -
recti onmethodsandhadtest-fi rednewl y
arri ved155mmpi eces. Thechangefrom
seacoast si ghtstofi el darti l l erysi ghtsand
cl i fferent fi recomm:~nds wasonl y partof
the probl em,though. AS one battal i on
offi cerreported:
Ourprobl emwasnotoneof trai ni ng but
oneof obtai ni ng thenecessary equi pment
andammuni ti on sothata rel ati ve cal i bra-
ti oncoul dbefi redtoobtai nsomei deaas
totherel ati ve vel oci ty errorsof thenew
weapons i n ordertomassthei rfi res.We
werepl agued throughout theoperati on wi th
thi sequi pment andammuni ti on probl em.
Whenthe ammuni ti on di d arri vefrom
Noumea, therewere19di fferent powder l ots
i na shi pment of 25rounds. Obvi ousl y, cal i -
brati ons coul dnotbeconducted wi thpro-
pel l ants of di fferent powder l otsandabout
al lthatwasaccompl i shed wastestfi ri ngof
theweapons sothatthemencoul dbefami l -
i arwi ththem.24
The battal i on, wi th an assi stfrom i ts
rel i evi ngArmy uni t,the‘70thCoastAr-
ti l l ery (Anti ai rcraft)Battal i on,pi cked
up new90mmanti ai rcraft gunsequi pped
wi th power rammersandremotecontrol
equi pment i n exchangefor the ol d guns
whi chwerel eft i n posi ti on. I n addi ti on,
power-operatedmountswere pl acedon
spare20mmguns,i ncreasi ngspeedand
effi ci encyoverthestandardmountswhi ch
werepedal -operated.The 9th al sobor-
rowed12amphi bi antractorsfromthe3d
Mari neDi vi si on, and Gri swol d’sXI V
Corpsexchangednewtrucksandjeepsfor
ol d. As the9threadi edi tsel ffor i ts mi s-
si on,i ts armament i ncl udeda pl atoonof
8 l i ght tanks,8 155mmguns,12 90mm
guns,1640mmguns,2820mmguns,and
35 .50cal i beranti ai rcraftmachi neguns.
Rel i evedof i tsdefensi verol eonGuadal -
canalon 17June,thebattal i onspentthe
remai ni ng ti mei nfami l i ari zati on fi ri ngof
weapons,gun dri l l s whi ch i ncl udedre-
connai ssance, sel ecti on, andoccupati onof
posi ti ons, andpracti cel andi ngs.Gunners
andl oadersfromtheanti ai rcraft batteri es
turnedri fl ementogi vethetankmenprac-
ti ce i n tank-i nfantrytacti cs. The am-
phi bi antractorsweretest-l oadedunti l a
l oadi ngarrangement wasobtai nedwhi ch
woul dprovi deenough40m7 20mm1and
.50cal i berammuni ti on for al l threetypes
of anti ai rcraft gunsto g,oi ntoacti oni m-
medi atel y uponl andi ng.The9thal sotook
advantage of a l i berali nterpretati on of i ts
ordersto get moreammuni ti onfor the
90mn~batteri es.Loadi ngordersspeci fi ed
three uni ts of fi re were to be carri ed.
Si ncean Army uni tof fi refor the90mm
gunswas125roundsanda Mari neuni tof
24Hiattltr, Op.Ci $.
OBJECTI VE: NEWGEORGI A 57
fi re 300rounds,the 9th i nterpretedthe
orderstomeanMari neCorpsuni tsof fi re
and carri edthe extraammuni ti on.De-
spi te somemi sdi rectedtrucksand some
confusi onas to unmarkeddock areas, the
eager 9th was aboardshi p and wai ti ng
hoursbeforetheschedul eddeparture.25
I n ti me,el ementsof the 10thandthe
l l th DefenseBattal i onswoul dbe cal l ed
uponto augment the9thi n i ts mi ssi onat
RendovaandMunda,butunti l pl acedon
al ert,they conti nuedto assi sti n the de-
fenseof Guadal canal andtheRussel l s.A
fourth uni t, the 4th DefenseBattal i on,
whi chhadbeeni n theNewHebri desbe-
fore goi ngto NewZeal and,w-assoon to
be recal l edto Guadal canal for parti ci -
pati oni n thefi nalphaseof thecampai gn
i n the central Sol omons. The empl oy-
mentof thesebattal i onsas offensi veel e-
mentsi nsteadof defenseforcesi l l ustrated
thechangei n thecharacterof thewar.
Al thoughnot carri edon the ordersas
part of the New Georgi a Occupati on
Force,anotherMari necorps el ement was
to provi dei nval uabl esupportto the op-
erati on. Thi s wasthe4th BaseDepot,a
suppl yorgal ]i zati onwhi chhadbeenacti -
vatedat Noumeaon 1 Apri l 1943as the
di rectresul tof a l ogi sti csl ogjami n the
~South Paci fi c. Pri or tothehTewGeorgi a
operati ol ~, thel wmyhadresponsi bi l i ty for
l ~nl oadi ng al l suppl i es, but as thesi zeof
forces i n the areagrew, the i nadequate
andl i mi tedfaci l i ti esandtheunderstaffed
corps of l aborersi n the Paci fi c were
strai nedto mai ntai na smoothanduni n-
terruptedfl owof ]l ecessary suppl i es.De-
spi tethe~rmy)sbestefforts, tl ~eresul twas
‘5~mri ch l tr, op. ci t. I n order to avoi (l si mi l ar
mi sunderstandi ngs and to faci l i tate l ogi sti cal
l )l anni ng, ~i n]i tz’ hea(l ql l arters subsequentl y
l mbl i shed a Ci nCI ’ac order l i sti ng uni ts of fi re
for al l types of weapons.
a confusedbackl ogof equi pment andsup-
pl i es at NewCal edoni aandGuadal canal
whi chal mostsi del i nedthe NewGeorgi a
operati on.
Shi ppi ngtothel owerSol omons, except
for vi tal ai rcraftengi nesandspareparts,
motortransportspareparts,rati ons>and
medi cal suppl i es, wascurtai l edfor a ti me,
andal l othergoods wereroutedto Nou-
mea for transshi ppi ngto Guadal canal
on cal l . suppl i esnecessaryfor the New
Georgi aoperati onwerethenpl uckedfrom
thestockpi l es atNoumeaandassembl ed at
Guadal canal .Other war materi al swere
di rectedto the southwestPaci fi cforces,
addedto thegrowi ngdumpsi n theNew
Hebri des, or storedi n NewZeal and.
The4thBaseDepot,underthecommand
of Col onelGeorgeF. Stockes,and wi th
personnel gl eanedfromthel st, gd,andad
BaseDepotsandtheMari ne12thRepl ace-
mentBattal i on, movedwi th61offi cersand
1,367mento Guadal canal to hel prel i eve
the congesti on. Pl aced under the com-
mandof the XI V Corps,i t was ordered
by Gri swol dtorel i evetheservi ceel ements
of the43dI nfantryDi vi si oni n theRus-
sel l s,andtobri ngorderoutof thegeneral
confusi on. The4thBaseDepotwasthen
to recei veand storeal l suppl i esfor the
NewGeorgi aoperati onandthe Russel l s
garri son;mai ntai na 60-dayl evel of sup-
pl i esfor TOENAI LSforces; andhandl e
andl oadaboardshi psal l suppl i esascal l ed
for by the 43d Di vi si onand supporti ng
troopson NewGeorgi a.
The assi gnment was i nsurancethatl o-
gi sti calprobl emswoul dnot sl owthe at-
tack. l t was a ti mel y move. Shortl y
after the4th BaseDepotbeganworki ng
on thejumbl edstockpi l esof materi al , the
i ni ti al phaseof TOE~AI LS beganwi th
the Segi Pl antati onoccupati on? and the
Mari neswerecal l edupon for suppl yas-
58 I SOLATI ON OFRABAUL
si stance.By theti methemai noperati ons
startedatRendova, thedepothadthenec-
essarymateri alreadyfor forwardmove-
ment,andi n thefol l owi ngmonthsi t fun-
nel eda steadystreamof l umber,cement,
ammuni ti on,rati ons (i ncl udi ng fresh
frui t and meats),cl othi ng,ti res, spare
parts, gasol i ne,l ubri cants,sand bags,
tents,engi neerequi pment, post exchange
i tems,and manyother typesof suppl i es
i ntoNewGeorgi a.
170rMari neCorpsavi ati onuni ts,estab-
l i shmentof an exactdatefor thestartof
the New Georgi acampai gni s di ffi cul t.
The confl i ctfor ai r superi ori tywas con-
stantandconti nui ng, not boundari esby
beachheads or D-Days. Thestruggl efor
undi sputedpossessi onof the l ower Sol o-
monsphaseddi rectl yi ntotheNewGeor-
gi a campai gn, andi t i s hardtodi fferenti -
ate betweenthe squadronswhi ch sup-
portedthe consol i dati onof theSol omons
andthosewhi chdi rectl ytook parti n the
captureof Mundaai rfi el d. I n anYevent,
most Mari ne squadronsthen based at
Guadal canal or i n the Russel l sparti ci -
patedi n bothcampai gns, ei theri n partor
i n whol e.
Rear Admi ral Marc A. Mi tscher,as
ComAi rSol s, had an Al l i ed force of 62’7
pl aneswi th whi chto supportoperati ons
i n the CentralSol omons. I t was a com-
posi teof Mari ne,Army,Navy,and New
Zeal andai rcraft,andi ncl uded290fi ght-
ers,94scoutbombers, ’75torpedobombers,
48heavybombers, 26medi umbombers, 30
fl yi ngboats,24 seapl anes, and a mi scel -
l any of 40 search,rescue,and transport
pl anes.2’
“ ComAi rPac to ComSoPac l tr ser 00517 of
4Jun43,quoted i n New Georgi a Campaign,p.60.
Al though pl ans for garri soni ngNew
Georgi aweresti l l i n thetentati vestage,a
numberof Mari nesquadronswereto be
basedatMundaai rfi el dfol l owi ngi ts cap-
tureandwoul dbecomean i ntegral partof
theNewGeorgi aAi r Force. Pri or tothe
campai gn, however, thi stermwasa paper
desi gnati onfor a forwardechel onof the
2dMari neAi rcraftWi ng,attachedtothe
NGOF; i ts commandi ngoffi cer, Gen-
eralMul cahy, woul d“exerci seoperati onal
controlof ai rcrafti n fl i ghtassi gnedtoai r
cover and supportmi ssi onsi n the New
Georgi aarea.”’7 Requestsfor ai r sup-
portstri keswoul dbemadetol i ai sonpar-
ti eswi theachl andi ngforce,andGeneral
Mul cahyas CornAi rNewGeorgi awoul d
approve,di sapprove, or modi fy. I t was,
i n effect,a fi ghter-bomber di recti oncenter
for both ai r defenseand di rectsupport
mi ssi ons.Controlof theassi gnedai rcraft
woul dpasstoCornAi rNewGeorgi awhen
thepl anestookoff fromthei rhomefi el ds.
Avai l abl e, for suchtacti calai r support
mi ssi onsaswoul dbeassi gnedthemi n the
monthsaheadweresevenMari nefi ghter
andfour scoutbombersquadrons, backed
up by threeuti l i tysquadrons anda photo
reconnai ssance detachment. For themost
part,though, therol eof theMari nesquad-
ronsi n thesei zureof Mundai s partof the
bi ggerstoryof howAl l i edai r strengthre-
ducedtheJapanesestronghol dat Rabaul
toi mpotency.Thi swi l lberel atedi n Part
V of thi svol ume.’s
27NGOF I’O No. 1,Op.cit.
=Stati oned i ntheSol omons i nJune1943were
~TM~_llz, _lzl, _lzz, _lz3, _124, _2@and_221,
wi th several more squadrons due to arri ve as
repl acements l ater; VMSB–132,–143, –144, and
–234; ~MJ–152, -153, and –253; and a photo-
graphi c detachmentfrom VMD-154.
CHAPTER2
ELKTONUnderway
WOODLARK-KI RIWI NAI
Thepl annedmovesof theAl l i edforces
i n theCentralSol omons—Papuan areai n
thesummerof 1943resembl ed pi ecesof a
ji gsawpuzzl e. Each operati oni n i tsel f
di d not representa seri ousthreatto the
enemy’sdefensel i ne,but,aspartof a bi g-
ger pi cture,eachwasi mportant andcon-
tri butedto thesuccessof al l . Thepi eces
fi tti ngtogetherformeda patternof co-
ordi nated, steadyadvance.
D-Day (30 June) for ELKTON was
practi cal l ya pl anni ngdateonl y. ComSo-
Pacoperati ons beganat Segi on 21June;
andWoodl ark-Ki ri wi na l andi ngstwodays
l ateropenedtheacti onby Southwest Pa-
ci fi c forces,wel l i n advanceof the date
1Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ved from: VI I Phi bF’or, SWPA,
ComdHi st 10Jan43–23Dec45,n.d.; MI S, WD,
Survey of North I l ast h“ew Gui nea and Papua
(S30-678), dtd 15Ju143; 12th 13efBn WarD,
30Jun–31Ju143,dtd 2Aug43; OCE, USAFPac,
.lirfield a?ldBase Development—Engine~r8 inthe
South West Pacific. 19J1–1.9&,v. VI (Washi ng-
ton, 1951), Engineer &ipply—Engineers in the
South West Pacific, 1241–1945,v. VI I (Washi ng-
ton, 1950), and Critiqt[e—h’)lgi)zecrsin the L30uth
West Pacific, 1941–1945,v. VI I I (Washi ngton,
1950); Jeter A. I sel y and Phi l i p A. Crow], The
77.S.Marines and Amphibioas War (Princeton:
I ’ri neeton Uni versi ty Press, l !l .jl ), hereafter
Xsel yand Crowl , bl c[ri ncs and .lmp?liljiousWar;
George C. ~ermey, (i cncrat I fenMeyReports (New
York : Duel l , Sl oan and Pearce, 1949), hereafter
~enney, Reports ; Mori son, 13rcaj2in~ the ~~.v-
marcks I;arrict”; Hal sey and Bryan, HalseV’s
Story.
set. The near-concurrent startwasa co-
i nci dence;a two-prongedattackby Hal -
sey and MacArthurhad beenpostponed
threeti mesbefore30Juneas a mutualD-
Day wasaccepted.A numberof factors
forcedthe del ay,chi ef amongwhi chwas
the scarci ty of amphi bi oustroops re-
qui redby themi ssi onsof ELKTON. The
43dDi vi si onwas the‘earl ychoi ceas the
NewGeorgi aassaul tforce,andthatuni t
wasschedul edfor extensi veshi p-to-shore
trai ni ngpri or to the operati on. I n the
Southwest Paci fi c,anenti renewcommand
—theVI I Amphi bi ousForce (VI I Phi b-
For)—wasacti vatedtoassembl e andtrai n
theneededtroops.
Mari neCorpsdi vi si ons, whosespeci al ty
wassuchamphi bi ous movements, werenot
avai l abl e for assi gnmentto CART-
WHEEL operati ons.Twodi vi si onswere
undergoi ngrehabi l i tati onand trai ni ng;
a thi rdwasnot yet combat-ready; anda
fourth was sti l l formi ngi n the States.
Theresul twasthatMari nerai derandde-
fensebattal i ons wereata hi ghpremi umto
augment avai l abl e Armyuni tsfor thetwi n
operati ons of TOENAI LSi nNewGeorgi a
and CHRO~I CLE at Woodl ark-Ki ri -
wi ns.
A tentati vel i neup of forces for the
pl annedattackswasmadei n Apri l . Ad-

mi ralHal seymadeaqui cktri ptoBri sbane
onthel ~thtomeetthegeneral underwhom
he woul dbe operati ng, andhe andMac-
Arthur qui ckl y came to an agreement
basedupon mutualrespect. MacArthur
59
60
I SOLATI ON OFRABAUL
neededsomehel pi n hi s amphi bi ous ven-
ture; Hal seyotferedi t. He orderedhi s
h’oumeaheadquarters to assi gnthe 20th
~C13(Acorn 5) to13ri sbane andto sel ect
one combat-ready RCT pl us one Mari ne
defensebattal i onfor furthertransferto
SWPA. i l ssi gnment of theMari neuni t
\vaseasy;thel ~th DefenseEattal i onhad
arri vedi n PearlHarbori n earl yJanuary
and wm awai ti ngfurthertra]l sfer. But
the n]any]~eedsof the expandi ngSouth
Paci fi c cl efense mea hd l eft few Army
regi ments wi thontacti ~-e assi gnments. I t
w:~sfi nal l ydeci ded,after a l nusi cal -chai r
shuffl eof troops,thatthe 112thcaval ry
(di smounted)on New (_’al edoni a woul d
joi n the12thDefense~att:~l i o~~, Acorn5,
andothernavalbaseandsel >vi ce uni tsi n a
transfer to SWPA. Here they woul d
serveastheWoodl arkdefenseforce. I ~i eu-
tenantGeneralWal ter Krl ~eger’sSi xth
Arm-ytroopswoul d~arri sonKi ri wi na.
MacArthur’stargets, Woodl ark and
Ki ri wi naI sl ands,l ay i n theCoralSeaoff
the southeasternshore of New Gui neal
about 60 mi l es north and east of the
D’13ntrecasteaux Mands.Ki ri wi na,i nthe
Trobri andGroup,i s about125mi l esdi -
rectl ysouthof NewBri tai n;Woodl arki s
about200mi l essouthwest of Bougai nvi l l ea.
Thei r desi gnati onas futureai rfi el dsi tes
tosupportoperati ons i n bothNewGui nea
and the Sol omonssent Army engi neers
scrambl i ngoverthemtoobtai nbeachand
terrai ni nformati onto suppl ement nati ve
reportsandaeri alphotography.The re-
connai ssance teamswerewary,but pri or
i nformati onwas correct—theJapanese
had not occupi ed the i sl ands. (Ek
Map 2.)
Ki ri wi na,shapedl i ke a benttoadstool ,
was ri nged by an extensi vecoral reef
brokenby onl ya fewnarrowopeni ngsfor
shal l ow-draft boats. Twenty-fi ve mi l esi n
l ength,andfromtwoto ei ghtmi l eswi de,
the i sl andhel d about7,500 nati ves,had
a sub-surface coral basewhi chwoul dsup-
portanai rstri p, andhadmanygoodtrai l s
for jeep roads. But therewereno good
beaches. Woodl ark, about 100 mi l es
southeast of Ki ri wi na,wasnearl y44mi l es
l ong and from 10 to 20 mi l esi n wi dth.
Curvedi n shape, i t hel da numberof good
anchoragestuckedwi thi n the protected
shorterarc. The beaches,however,ran
i nl andonl y a few hundredyardsbefore
bumpi ngi ntoa coral cl i ff. Sparsel yset-
tl ed,Woodl arkwascoveredwi th a thi ck”
jungl egrowthanddottedwi thl argeout-
croppi ng of coral .
Together,thesei sl andscoul d provi de
bases for fi ghter escortsof Li eutenant
GeneralGeorgeC. Kermey’sAl l i ed Ai r
Forceshi tti ngat NewGui nea,NewBri t-
ai n, and New I rel and, and for SoPac
stri kesagai nsttheNorthernSol omonsi n
subsequent operati ons.Thei rcapture, the
JCS had deci dedearl i er,woul dprovi de
thefi rsttestof thenewl yformedVI I Am-
phi bi ousForce.
Thi s force had comei ntobei ngunder
the di recti onof Rear Admi ralDani elE.
Barbey,whoopenedhi s headquarters at
Bri sbanei n mi d-January 1943. By Apri l ,
i t wasapparentthatthetaskof formi ng
andtrai ni ngan amphi bi ous forcewasfar
moredi ff~cul t thanhadbeensupposedat
fi rst. An assortment of Uni tedStatesand
Austral i anshi psformedthetransportdi -
vi si on,and Si xth Army troops,recuper-
ati ng from the hard fi ghti ng i n the
13una-Gona campai gn, weretrai nedi n am-
phi bi ousoperati ons. Practi ce l andi ngs
whi ch were sandwi chedbetweentroop
l i fts to NewGui neawereneverreal i sti c.
Few troops, shi ps, or pi eces of heavy
ELKTONUNDERWAY
61
62
I SOLATI ON OFRABAUL
equi pment coul dbe sparedfromthatop-
erati onfor practi cepurposes. Wi th an
operati onaldeadl i nepressi ng,Admi ral
BarbeyscouredtheSouthwest Paci fi cfor
more shi ps. Somenew LSTS were as-
si gned hi m; others he borrowedfrom
CornSoPac.TheUSSRi gel ,arepai rshi p
wi th noneof thedesi redcommandfaci l -
i ti es,waspressedi ntoservi ceasafl agshi p.
MacArthur, i n hi s fi rstconferencewi th
Hal sey,had tentati vel yset 15 May as
D-Day for thecombi nedoperati on.Late
i n Apri l , MacArthurannouncedthathe
coul dnot meetthi s dateanddi rectedi ts
postponement to 1 June. I t was l ater
changedto 15Juneas l ogi sti calandshi p-
pi ngprobl emspi l edupi n thePaci fi c. On
26May,thegeneralproposedthe30thof
tJuneas D-Day andrequestedComSoPac
concurrence. Thi s d at e, MacArthur
poi ntedout,woul dal socoi nci dewi thl and-
i ngs by other SWPA forces at Nassau
Bay on NewGui nea, about10mi l essouth
of Sal amaua.Hal seyaagreed.
The CHRONI CLE forces assembl ed,
Ki ri wi na’s garri son (code-namedBY-
PRODUCT) at Mi l ne Bay on New
Gui neaand Woodl ark’sgarri son (code-
named LEATHERBACK) at Towns-
vi l l e,Austral i a. On 21 June,ni nedays
aheadof schedul e, theadvanceechel onof
the~12thCaval ry,wi thheavybul l dozers
andoperatorsfromthe20thNCB,setoff
for Woodl ark.Thenextni ght,troopsand
equi pment werel anded. Thespeedupre-
sul tedbecausethetroopswereready,there
woul dbenoenemytoopposethel andi ng,
and Barbey’stransportswoul dneedthe
extrati meto carrytwol andi ngforcesto
thei r desti nati ons.Ki ri wi na’s advance
echel onwas l andedon the ni ghtsof the
23dandthe25th,the l astgroupl andi ng
acrossthereef over a coral causeway300
yardsl ongand7 feethi ghwhi chhadbeen
bui l tby combatengi neersandnati ves.
Themai nl andi ngof theKi ri wi naforce,
whi chi ncl udedthe 158thRCT, the 46th
Engi neerCombatCompany, andanti ai r-
craftarti l l eryandservi cetroops,wasmade
on theni ghtof the29thaccordi ngto the
ELKTON schedul e. Addi ti onalWood-
l arkadvanceechel onshadbeenl andedon
theni ghtsof the25thand26th,wi ththe
mai nl andi ngof supportel ements comi ng
ontl i e30th, al soasschedul ed.Woodl ark’s
garri son,i n addi ti onto thetroopstrans-
ferredfromComSoPac, i ncl udedthe404th
Engi neerCombatCompanyas wel l as
otherservi ceandordnancetroops.
Enemyopposi ti onwasnei therexpected
nor recei ved,al thougha fi ghtercover of
GeneralKenney’sforces provi dedassur-
anceof success.Thel andi ngsatWoodl ark
proceededsmoothl ythroughout.Wi th a
betterareai n whi chto l andandwi thex-
peri encegai nedi n a l ast-mi nute rehearsal ,
theLEATHERBACKforcewentashore
wi tha mi ni mumof effort. TheKi ri wi na
operati on,however,l eft muchto be de-
si red. Lack of pri or trai ni ngandi nsuf-
fi ci ent equi pment, compl i catedby poor
l andi ngareas,contri butedto theconfus-
i on. I n addi ti on, thei sl and’scoral ci rcl et
maderesuppl yof thei sl anddi ffi cul t.Re-
gardl essof thesehandi caps, VI I Phi bFor
carri ed 12,100troopsto Woodl ark and
4,700toKi ri wi nawi thoutacasual ty, whi l e
atotalof 42,900tonsof suppl i esandequi p-
mentwereunl oadedwi thoutl ossof a shi p
or l andi ngboat.
For theMari ne12thDefenseBattal i on,
the Woodl arkl andi ngwas anti cl i macti c.
organi zedi n San Di egoi n August1942
underthecommandof Col onelWi l l i amH.
Harri son, thebattal i ontrai nedextensi vel y
andtest-fi redal l i tsarmament beforemov-
i ng to Pearl Harborandfurthercombat
ELI {TONUNDERWAY
trai ni ng. Thebattal i onj oi nedtheLEA-
THER13ACKforcei n Austral i apri or to
the operati on. Two 90mmanti ai rcraft
batteri eswentashorefrom LcI s on 30
June and the remai ni ngbatteri esand
groupsfol l owedthemashoreduri ngthe
next12days. Thefi rsttwo90mmbatteri es
werereadyto fi reby 1300on 1 Jul y,and
theotheruni tswerei n fi ri ngposi ti onsi n
equal l yshortorderonceashore. Butthe
opportuni tyfor combat fi ri ng sel dom
came. I t wasnotunti l27Jul ythata sol i -
taryJapanese pl ane,aftermaki ngseveral
fal seattempts, hurri edover Woodl arkto
dropfi vesmal lbombs.Therewasnodam-
age,and the pl aneescaped. After that,
onl y occasi onalal ertswerenotedi n the
12thDefenseBattal i on’sl og. Ki ri wi na,
however> wasbombedseveral ti mesduri ng
constructi onwi thsomedamageto equi p-
mentandi nstal l ati ons andsomecasual ti es
totheBY-PRODUCTtroops.
Constructi onof the ai rstri pon Wood-
l ark progressedspeedi l y; the Ki ri wi na
fi el dwas sl owedby heavyrai nsandthe
factthatmuchof theheavyequi pment had
seentoomuchpri or servi ceandwasdead-
l i nedfor repai rwi thi na fewdays. C)n14
Jul y,Woodl arkwasdecl aredoperati onal
wi th a stri p 150feet wi deand3)000feet
l ongavai l abl e.Thefi rstfi ghtersquadron
from south l ?aci fi cforces arri vedon 23
,Jul y. The runwayat Ki ri wi nawasop-
erati onal i n l ateJul y,andon 18August,a
Fi fth Ai r Forcefi ghtersquadronarri ved
onstati on.Ki ri wi nastagedi tsfi rststri ke
agai nstenemyforces on New Gui neai n
l ate August,and l ater was a basefor a
Fi fth Ai r l ?orcefi ghtergroup.
No Al l i ed stri kewasever stagedfrom
Woodl ark’sstri p,and SouthPaci fi cai r-
craft commanders l ost i nterestal mostas
soonas i t wascompl eted.I n fact, after
the captureof Munda,woodl ark was
63
turnedovertotheFi fth Ai r Force. Ki ri -
wi naremai nedfor ati measa fi ghterpl ane
base,but l aterthewar movednorthward
towardtheBi smarckArchi pel agoandthe
Admi ral ti esand l eft both fi el dsfar be-
hi nd. However,the Woodl ark-Ki ri wi na
operati ongaveneecl edexperi ence toa new
amphi bi ous force andprovi deda protec-
ti vebufferto theNewGeorgi aoperati on
whi chwasconcurrentl y underway.
OCCUPATI ONOF SEG2
,~E~zJ J REOF V~&J J2
The manwhowas to cal l
thecl efense of Mundaai rfi el d
AND
the shotsi n
unknowi ng-
l y tri ppedtheal armwhi chsettheELK-
TON pl ansi nto acti on. Major General
Sasaki , i nhi sareaheadquarters atKol om-
bangara, wasi rkedat Coastwatcher Ken-
nedyatSegiPl antati onnearVi ruHarbor,
and—aftermonths of tol erati ngKen-
nedy’spresence-determi ned to getri d of
hi m. Sasakihadgoodreasons: Kennedy’s
stati onwas the center of resi stanceon
NewGeorgi a, andhi sai r rai dwarni ngac-
ti vi ti eshadcontri buted greatl ytothel ack
of successof Japanesestri kes agai nst
Guadal canal . on 17June,Sasakisentre-
‘ Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ved from: i Vew Gem@a Cam-
paion; TF 31 l tr to hol dersof EasternFor
Loadi ngO 143,dtcl22Jun43; TG31–3OpOAL
10-43, dti d21Jun43; TG31.3Loadi ngOs 14, dtd
16Jun–7Ju143; 4thRdrBnSAR10Jun–10Ju143,
dtd14Sep43; 4thRdrBnWarD, 26Fe&WAu@3,
hereafter ~th RdrBn Warn; HEArea iVauOps–
II; Seuerdeenth Army Ops–I; CO1Mi chael S.
Curri n l tr to CMC, dtd 8Feb51; LtCol Anthony
Wal ker l tr to CMC, dtd 23Feb51; Batterton,
“You Fi ght by the Book ;“ Fel dt, !7’heCoastwatch-
ers; ONI , Combat Narratives, Solomon 181arLd8
Campaign: X-Operations in the New Geor@u,
21Jun-5Auo43 (Washington, 1944),hereafter
ONI ,Combat Narratives X; Rentz, Mari nes i n
thcCentrul lilolomow.
64
I SOLATI ON OFRABAUL
enforcements totheVi ru Harborgarri son
wi thorders“ topaci fythatarea.”3 (See
Map3.)
Pri or to Sasaki ’sdeci si onto rei nforce
Vi ru, Segi Pl antati onon the southeast
coastof NewGeorgi nhadbeeni mportant
onl ytotheAl l i es. Segiwasani dealentry-
wayi ntothei sl and. Amphi bi ouspatrol s
had l andedhere,andthe pl antati onhad
beena havenfor manydownedavi ators.
For thenewadvance, theAl l i espl anned
tobui l dan ai rstri phere,butKennedyre-
portedon 18Junethathe woul dnot be
abl etohol dthi sposi ti oni f hedi dnotget
hel pi n a hurry. TheJapanesewerecl os-
i ngi nonhi m.
Admi ralTurnerorderedan i mmedi ate
occupati onof Segi . I f Kennedysai dhe
neededhel p, he was to be takenat hi s
word. Thi s determi nedNewZeal ander,
theformerDi stri ctOffi cerfor SantaI sa-
bel I sl and across The Sl ot from New
Georgi a,wasnoal armi st.Hehadmoved
to Segi Poi ntafterthe,Japanese occupi ed
theSol omonsandtherehehadbeencom-
pl etel ysurroundedby enemygarri sons.
Buthe hadhel don, andhi s posi ti on160
mi l esnorthwest of LungaPoi nthadfi tted
i n admi rabl ywi th thesystemof ai r rai d
warni ngs.Hi sreportsonJapanese fl i ghts
meantthatthei rarri valoverGuadal canal
coul dbe forecastwi thi na mi nuteor two.
Kennedyhad tol d the nati vesof New
Georgi athatBri tai nwasnotgoi ngtogi ve
up thesei sl ands,and the successof the
Al l i es at Guadal canal and‘Tul agi gave
convi nci ngevi denceof thi s. Heconti nued
to l i ve al mostopenl y i n the pl antati on
houseat Segi . Therewerenotrai l sl ead-
i ngtohi sstati on, andtheapproachal ong
thebeachcoul dbewatched.ButKennedy
3CI CSoPacI temNo.786, 8th CSNLFOpera-
ti onal RadandTgOs, transl ated 17Dec43.
andhi snati veshadbeenforcedtoambush
~Japanese parti esto keepthetheposi ti on
secret. Some enemyhad escapedKen-
nedy’sattacks, however,and Sasakihad
i ssuedtheorderwhi chmadeKennedythe
mostwantedmanon NewGeorgi a.
Al readyat Vi ru Harbor was the &h
Companyof tJ leI stBattalion, 2i29th Regi-
ment,pl usa fewassorbdnavalpersonnel
from the Kure 6th and Yokos@a 7th
SNLF, a 3-i nchcoastalgun,four 80mm
guns,ei ghtdual -purpose guns,andavary-
i ngnumberof l andi ngcraft. Toaugment
theVi rugarri son, MajorMasaoHarawas
to takeanotheri nfantrycompanyanda
machi negun pl atoonfromhi sI st Battal-
ionandcombsoutheastern NewGeorgi a
for the coastwatcher’s hi deout.’ When
thi sforcecamecl ose,Kennedyfadedi nto
thehi l l sandradi oed:
Strong enemy patrol has approached very
cl ose, and by thei r numbers and movement,
i t i s bel i eved they wi l l attack. Urgentl y sug-
gest force be sent to defend Segi .G
The messagereachedTurner at Kol i
Poi nt,Guadal canal , duri ngthe ni ghtof
18–19June,and the admi raldeci dedto
senda force to Segi at onceratherthan
wai tunti l30June,theD-Dayestabl i shed
by ELKTONpl ans. Fortunatel y, thead-
mi ral had combatuni tsready. The de-
stroyer-transports Dent, Waters,Schky,
andCrosby werestandi ngby i n Guadal -
canal watersfor the operati onsagai nst
NewGeorgi a,andLi eutenant Col onelMi -
4Ibid.
‘4th RdrBn SAR, op. ci t., p. 9. Kennedy had
good reason for hi s suspi ci ons. A di ary l ater
taken from the body of Second Li eutenant Har-
umasa Adachi at Vi ru Harbor i ndi cated that the
Japanesehad di scovered Kennedy’s hi deout and
that an attack was bei ng pl anned. I CX?OAI tem
No. 598,Transl ati on of CapturedJapaneseDocu-
ment, dtd 6.Ju143.
ELKTONUNDERWAY
65
chaelS. Curri n’s4thMari neRai derBat-
tal i on,whi chi ncl udedpersonnel whohad
beentoNewGeorgi aonprel andi ngrecon-
nai ssancemi ssi ons,was al so compl etel y
combat-ready. Wi ththeseshi psandmen,
Turnercoul dmountouta forcetoprotect
Kennedyandal sothrusta toei n theCen-
tral Sol omonsdoorthattheJapanese were
tryi ngtosl amshut.
Curri n’sbattal i on(l ess Compani esN
andQ, schedul edto attackVangunuI s-
l andon 30June)wenton boardtheDent
andWaterson 20Junefor a ni ghtrunto
Kennedy’sai d. Thi s force wasfol l owed
thenextni ghtby Compani es A andD of
theArmy’s103dI nfantryRegi ment.I ni -
ti al l y,theseuni tswoul ddefendSegi ,and
thencarryoutthepl annedattackon Vi ru
Harboron30Juneasschedul ed.Wi ththe
excepti onof rai der CompanyO, previ -
ousl y detachedto duty wi th Turner’s
WesternForcebut,nowreturnedto Cur-
ri n, theseuni ts were part of Admi ral
Fort’sEasternForceandwereschedul ed
for usei nthi sareaof NewGeorgi a.Thus
thel andi ngat Segi on 21June,whi chset
off the CARTWHEEL operati ons,
amountedonl y to steppi ngup the ti me-
tabl e.
Al l wasnotsmoothsai l i ngfor theDent
andWaters. Thenaturalobstacl es whi ch
hadcontri butedto Kennedy’ssecuri tyat
Segi Poi nt werehazardsfor theseshi ps.
Therei s deep,shel teredwateroff Segi ,but
the channel sto thi s anchoragewereun-
charted,di smi ssedon the chartsas “foul
ground.”
Thereare so manyreefs and
coral outcroppi ng i n thesewatersthat
Vangunuappearsto be al mosta partof
thel argeri sl andof NewGeorgi a. There
i s nosui tabl eroutetoSegi fromthenorth,
andonl y thenati vesanda few l ocal pi -
l otswereacquai ntedwi ththepassages to
thesouth. Evenwi tha l ocal pi l otsi ght-
i ng on Kennedy’sbonfi resi gnal on the
beach,thetransports scrapedbottomand
rodeover reefs. At 0530on 21June,the
Mari neswentoverthesi deandi ntoshi ps’
boatsfor the l andi ng,and by 1030,al l
suppl i eshadbeenbroughtashoreandthe
transports werepi cki ngthei rwaythrough
the coral heads and reefs for a speedy
returnto Guadal canal .Curri ni mmedi -
atel yestabl i sheddefensi veposi ti onsand
sentoutpatrol s,buttherewasnocontact
wi ththeenemy. At 0600on thefol l ow-
i ngday,thetwoArmycompani es pl usan
ai rfi el dsurveypartyfromAcorn 7 came
ashorefromthefl chl eyandCrosby.
Kennedywasgratefulthatthesetroops
hadcometo hi s rescue,butbothhi s pi o-
neerspi ri tandhi s scouti ngrouti newere
pi nchedby thi s popul ati oni nfl ux. For
peace and qui et, and to re-establ i sha
schedul eof unrestri ctedmovementsfor
hi snati vescouts, hemovedacrossthenar-
rowchannelto Vanagunu I sl and. Curri n
keptcontactwi th thecoastwatcher, and,
wi th nati vesprovi dedby Kennedy,sent
outpatrol stodetermi ne themostsui tabl e
meansof approachto Vi ru Harbor. At
the sameti me,Seabeesbegi n converti ng
Segi ’sunevenandmuddyterrai ni ntoan
ai rstri p. Wi th bul l dozersand power
shovel s,worki ngat ni ght under fl ood-
l i ghts,themenhadan ai rstri preadyfor
l i mi tedoperati onsas a fi ghterbaseby 10
Jul y. I t wasthei ntenti ons of ComSoPac
to havethe fi el dcapabl eof servi ci ng20
pl anes an hour at fi rst, and then—by
25 September—of basi ngabout60 l i ght
bombers.’
6ComSoPac l tr ser 00534,dtd 10Jun43, Subj :
“Proposed Master Pl an for Constructi on of Ai r-
fi el ds and Seapl ane Bases i n the South Paci fi c
Area, Guadal canal I sl and, Kol i Poi nt Secti on,”
quoted i n New GeorgiaCampaign.
.,,
ELKTON UNDERWAY
TheAl l i eshadpl ansfor Vi ru Harbor,
too. Thi ssmal l ,l andl ockedcove35mi l es
from Mundawas to be devel opedi ntoa
mi nornavalbasefor smal lcraft. Thebest
anchorageon the NewGeorgi acoast,i t
had an entrance300yardswi deand800
yardsl ong,outl i nedon bothsi desby coral
cl i ffs. Thei nnerharborwi dened, andwas
fedby threesmal lri vers, theMango,Ti ts,
and Vi ru. Previ ousamphi bi ouspatrol s
hadreportedthebul kof theVi rudefend-
erstobel ocatedon thehi ghheadl ands on
thewestsi deof theharborat thevi l l age
Tetemara,wi th anotherdetachmentat
Tombe,a vi l l agefaci ngTetema,ra across
thechannel . But i ntel l i gencereportson
the si zeof the Vi ru garri sonconfl i cted.
Earl y esti mateshad rangedfrom 20 to
100men;anearl y-Junereconnai ssance pa-
trol revi sedthesefi guresto 200 enemy
troops. (SeeMap3.)
As Compani es A andD of the103dset
upa defenseagai nstanyfurtherattempts
by the Japaneseto wi pe out Kennedy’s
stati on, rai deramphi bi ous reconnai ssance
teamsconcentrated thei rattenti ononfi nd-
i ngthemostsui tabl eroutetoVi ru. Sev-
eral ti mestheynarrowl ymi ssedbumpi ng
i nto Japanesepatrol sor sentri esas the
Mari nesexami neda numberof smal lri ver
i nl etssearchi ngfor a beachwhi chwoul d
exi t to an overl androuteto the rear of
Vi ru Harbor. Whi l e Curri n’s rai ders
scouted-the areabetweenSegi andthepro-
posedl andi ngsi te,a memberof thestaff,
Captai nFosterC. LaHue,sl i ppedby na-
ti vecanoethroughthebaytoHel eI sl ands
i nBl ancheChannel tomeettheSychtey and
recei veAdmi ralFort’sordersfor theMa-
ri nes’attackon Vi ru.
Curri nhad hopedto l and duri ngthe
ni ghtof 27 Juneat Regi , a vi l l agejust
sevenmi l esfromVi ruHarborandconsi d-
erabl y west of Segi Pl antati on. From
herehi s force coul dmoveoverl andto a
poi nt eastof the Vi ru Ri ver, and there
spl i t for attacksdownboth si desof the
i nl etto sei zethevi l l ageof Tombeon the
east bank and Tetemaraon the west.
Fort’sorders, however, di rectedonl yCom-
panyPtol andonthe28thatNonovi l l age,
just a few mi l eswestof Kennedy’ssta-
ti on. Curri nwasthento stri kethrough
thejungl eto attackTetemaraat 0700on
30June,and capturethe seacoastguns
reportedto be i n Tetemara.The APDs
Ki ttyandC~osbywoul dthensai l i ntothe
harborandputashorea 355-manoccupa-
ti onforceconsi sti ngof CompanyB of the
103d;one-hal fof CompanyD, 20thNCB;
BatteryE (l essonepl atoon)of the‘70th
CoastArti l l ery(Anti ai rcraft)Battal i on;
anda navalbaseuni t.
Addi ti onal paragraphs of theordergave
detai l sconcerni ngtheproposedsei zureof
Wi ckhamAnchorageandthedevel opment
of Segi Poi nt, but contai nedno i nstruc-
ti onsfor CompanyO of theRai dersand
thatporti onof the4th Rai derBattal i on
headquarters al readyat Segi .7 At 1600
that afternoon,Col onel Curri n radi oed
Admi ralFort for permi ssi onto l and at
Regi ,to useCompanyO as wel l as Com-
panyP, andto begi ntheoperati onon 27
June rather than 28June. The rai der
commander hadspent20daysi n thi sarea
wi th amphi bi ouspatrol s duri ng March
andApri l , andhe esti matedthateveni f
hestarteda dayearl i erhewoul dbehard-
pressedto maketheD-Day of 30Juneat
TombeandTetemara.An overl andtrek
woul d meantortuoustrai l s over ri dges,
ri vers,and swamps, and the hi ki ngdi s-
tancewas consi derabl ymore than map
7TG 31.3 OPOAL-10, dtd 21Jun43; TF 31 l tr
FE25/LI over 0013b, dtd 22Jun43; TG 31.3
Loadi ngO 143, dtd 16JuK143.
ELKTON UNDERWAY
69
mi l es. Besi des, thedi stancei n mi l eswas
not a real i sti ci ndi cati onof theprobl ems
the Mari nesfaced i n the thi ck jungl e.
Curri nknewthe job woul dbe muchtoo
toughfor a si ngl ecompany. Theenemy
si tuati onhadchangedsi nceAdmi ralFort’s
pl ans weremade,and therewas now a
l arger Japaneseforce i n the Vi ru area
wi th patrol sacti veat Nono. Curri nfel t
that i f hi s men l andedi n thei r rubber
boats at Nono they woul d be “si tti ng
ducks” for the ,Japanese.sWi thi n an
hourandahal f,Admi ralForthadradi oed
hi s approvalof themodi fi edpl an.
At 2000on2’7June,theMari nesboarded
thei r rubberboatsand startedpaddl i ng
the ei ght mi l esto Regi , Curri nand hi s
staffl eadi ngthewayi n twol argeMel ane-
si anwarcanoes.As oneMari nedescri bed
the tri p:
I t was a wei rd moonl ess ni ght wi th bl ack
rubber boats on bl ack water sl i ppi ng si l entl y
through the many i sl ands of Panga Bay.
The tri p was uneventful except for one scare.
I t came just before reachi ng Regi , whi l e
l yi ng offshore wai ti ng for word from nati ve
scouts who had gone ahead to make certai n
no Japanesewere i n the vi l l age. Due to the
sudden appearance of a hal f moon whi ch
began to cast a si ckl y refl ecti on, a smal l i s-
l and appeared to be an enemy destroyer.g
Thescoutscamebackwi than“al l cl ear,”
and,by0100, al l handswereashore, andthe
rubberboats werebei ngtowedback to
Segi by nati vesi n the war canoes. At
dawn,the battal i onfol l owedthe scouts
i ntothe jungl ewi th CompanyO i n the
advanceguardfol l owedby theheadquar-
tersgroup!andwi thCompanyP furni sh-
i ngtherearguard.
Thereweremanysi gnsof ,Japanese pa-
trol s, but they i ndi catedsmal l scouti ng
s Curri n ltr.
“Batterton, “You Fi ght by the Book,” p. 16.
parti esratherthan forces l arge enough
toofferdetermi ned opposi ti on.Cumi ni n-
structedhi s Mari nesto meet Japanese
harassment wi thforcesnol argerthanab-
sol utel ynecessary sothatthemai ncol umn
coul dconti nueto advance.The Mari nes
woul dhaveto fi ghtagai nstti mei f they
wereto reachVi ru Harbor on schedul e
andsi l encethe,Japanese coastalgunsbe-
foreAdmi ralFort’sl andi ngforcesentered
the harbor.
The Mari nes’battl eagai nstthe New
Georgi ajungl ebeganjust outsi deRegi
wherethe force encountereda mangrove
swamptwomi l eswi de. Therewasnosui t-
abl ewayto ski rtthi sobstacl e, sothecol -
umn struck out through i t. The fi rst
enemycontactwasa fi ve-manpatrolthat
camei n off a si detrai landapparentl y sur-
pri sed i tsel f as wel l as the Mari nesby
stumbl i ngi ntotherearpartyof therai der
battal i on.The3dPl atoonof CompanyP
ki l l edfour of thesemeni na bri efski rmi sh
beforeresumi ngthe marchwi th therest
of the col umn. At 1115anotherenemy
grouphi ttherearguard,andfi veMari nes
attheendof thecol umnwerecutoff from
themai nbody as CompanyP drovethese
~Japanese off wi th ri fl eandmachi negun
fi re. Thefi vemen,evadi ngtheJapanese
butunabl etocatchupwi ththecol umn, re-
turnedto the l andi ngsi te and paddl ed
backto Segi i n a nati vecanoetheyfound
on thebeach.
I n al l ,theforcemadeaboutsi xmi l esthe
fi rstday. Theterrai ngrewmoredi ffi cul t
as theMari nesmoveddeeperi nl and,and
the advancebecamemoreof an up-and-
down cl i mbthan a march. ‘Therai ders
bi vouackedi n a ti ghtperi meter, atethei r
K rati ons, and huddl ed under thei r
ponchosthroughout therai nyni ght. Re-
al i zi ngthat the sl ow goi ng woul d keep
hi mfrommaki nghi s assaul ton schedul e,
70
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
Curri nsenttwo nati verunnersback to
Segiwi thamessage for Admi ralFortthat
therai derswoul dbe a day l atei n reach-
i ng Vi ru. Kennedyhadtroubl econtact-
i ng the Russel l I sl ands,and when thi s
messagegot through,the l andi ngforce
was al ready underway toward Vi ru
Harbor.
On thesecondday,Curri n’sforce cov-
ered sevenmi l esof the di ffi cul tterrai n,
andwasforcedtomakethreecrossi ngsof
themeanderi ngChoi Ri ver,now swol l en
andswi ft from the heavytropi calrai ns.
At about1400, justasti herearguardcom-
pl etedi tsfi rstcrossi ngof theChoi ,i t drew
fi re from 30 to 40 Japanesei n posi ti ons
on theri ght fl ankof the advance. Cap-
tai nAnthonyWal ker,commandi ng Com-
panyP, sentFi rstLi eutenant Devi l l oW.
Brown wi th a rei nforcedpl atoonof 60
mento deal wi th thi s enemyforce. The
Mari nesl ocatedtheenemydugi n on the
crestof a hi l l some300yards from the
trai l . Therai derswastednoti me. Wi th
one squadi n posi ti onfor coveri ngfi re,
the other two squadswentup the ri dge
by i nfi l trati on,fi ri ng as they cl i mbed.
Ei ghteenenemydeadwerefound,butfi ve
rai ders had been ki l l ed and another
woundedi n theattack.
Buryi ngthei r dead and carryi ngthe
woundedman,Brown%menpushedon to
catch Curri n>scol umn. The battal i on
crossedthe Choi Ri ver agai n,ski rteda
l argeswamp, andthenhal tedfor theni ght
just after crossi ngtheChoi for thethi rd
ti me. ThereLi eutenantBrown and hi s
pl atoonrejoi nedthe battal i on. Col onel
Curri n tri ed to report.hi s posi ti on to
Guadal canal , but hi s radi o fai l ed hi m.
Thebattal i oncommander coul donl yhope
thatthe messagehe had sentvi a runner
and Kennedyduri ngthe previ ousni ght
woul d keep the transportsfrom sai l i ng
i ntorangeof the enemy’s3-i nchcoastal
gun beforethe rai derscoul dget to Vi ru
andsi l encethatweapon.
As Curri n’s force movedout on the
morni ngof 30 June wi th a ful l day’s
marchremai ni ngbetweeni t and i ts ob-
jecti ve,Commander Stanl eyLei th’sVi ru
Occupati onUni t i n the 170p?cins, KiJty,
and CrosbyedgedtowardVi ru Harbor
and the Japanesegun whi ch Curri n’s
force was to havesi l enced. Lei th,how-
ever,had recei vedroundabout wordthat
Curri nwasgoi ngto be a day l atei n hi s
attackat Vi ru. Remai ni ngcl oseby i n
casetheMari nes werei ntroubl e, theAPDs
at 0730camewi thi nrangeof theenemy’s
3-i nchgun,andtheshel l sbeganspl ashi ng
al l aroundtheshi ps.
Lei th wi thdrewto the harbor mouth,
wherehe steamedback and forth unti l
1000. Then, wi th Admi ral Fort’s ap-
proval ,he wi thdrewfromVi ru areaand
thenextdayputthel andi ngforceashore
at Nono. Thesetroops,underthe com-
mandof Captai nRaymondE. Ki nchof
CompanyB, 103d I nfantry, woul d go
overl andto Vi ru, as Curri nwas doi ng.
FromVi ru,Maj or Hara report ed t O @n-
eral Sasakiat MundaPoi ntthathe had
repul sedan attemptedAmeri canl and-
i ng.10
Earl y on 30June,therai derbattal i on
reachedthe trai l fork from whi ch one
routeextendedsouthtowardTombe. Cur-
ri n had pl annedto send one pl atoon
agai nstTombe. Theenemyopposi ti onof
theprevi ousdays,however,andthefact
‘0Hara was, i t seems, vague as to hi s orders.
Sasaki , wi th Ameri can troops l andi ng at Ren-
dova, had previ ousl y ordered Hara to return to
Munda. CI C SoPacFor I tem No. 702,New Geor-
gi a DefOpO “A” No. 11, dtd 30Jun43.
ELKTON UNDERWAY
thatenemypatrol sworki ngthejungl ebe-
tweenVi ruandSegiPoi ntcoul drei nforce
thi svi l l agemorequi ckl ythantheycoul d
Tetemara,promptedCurri n to i ncrease
thesi zeof theforeeattacki ngt heeast si de
of theharbor. Twopl atoonsfrom Com-
pany P (Li eutenants BrownandRobert
J. Popel ka)wi thCaptai nWal keri ncom-
mandwereassi gnedthi smi ssi on.Theat-
tack at,Tombewoul dbe madei ndepend-
entl yof theassaul t atTetemara.
Curri nmovedontowardTetemara wi th
a smal l erforcethanhehadori gi nal l yi n-
tended. For the men wi th Curri n,thi s
day’smarchwastheworstyet. Theymet
noenemy, but, by mi d-morni ng hadtoford
theVi ru Ri verandthenstruggl ethrough
mountai nousterrai n—ruggedj u n g 1e
ri dgesal ongthecourseof theTi ts Ri ver
whi ch they crossedl ater i n the day.
Goi ng was sl ow for the men wei ghted
down wi th arms,equi pment, andammu-
ni ti on,andtherewasbutan hourof day-
l i ghtremai ni ngwhentheycameoutof the
bush on the bank of the MangoRi ver.
Fi fty yards wi de, deep and swi ft, the
Mangowas a formi dabl eobstacl e. But
theMari nescl aspedhandsandmovedout,
thehumanchai nsnaki ngtheforceacross
theri ver.
Beyondthe Mango,the Mari neswere
caught by darknessand a mangrove
swamp. Water,knee-to-wai st-deep, hi d-
i ngtwi sted, snakel i ke rootsunderthesur-
face,trappedtherai ders. I n a matterof
mi nutes, the col umnwas stal l edas men
foughtto keepcontactwi th each other.
However,“tree-l i ght”— phosphorescent
woodfromdeadl ogs andtrees—was pro-
vi dedby the nati vegui desandre-estab-
l i shedcontact. Wi th eachmancarryi ng
a pi eceof thi s di ml ygl owi ngwood,and
gui di ngon the pi ececarri edby theman
ahead,the col umncl osedup and moved
out. Four hoursl ater,theMari neswere
outof theswampandfaci ngthel asthal f-
mi l eof steepsl opetotherearof Tetemara
Vi l l age. Wearyrai dersstruggl edup the
sl i ckandmuddytrai l ,fal l i ngexhausted at
thetopof theri dgeaftercrawl i ngonthei r
handsand kneesthe l ast 100yards of
nearl yverti calsl ope.
Ontheeastsi deof Vi ru,Wal ker’sforce
bi vouackeda shortdi stancefromTombe,
and at 0900on the morni ngof 1 Jul y
l aunchedi ts attack. Thesurpri seassaul t
ki l l ed13Japanese, scatteredtheremai n-
der of thesmal lgarri son, andcarri edthe
posi ti onatnol osstotherai ders.Thefi r-
i ng arousedtheenemyacrossthe harbor
at Tetemara.Whenthey rushedout i n
theopen,theywerebombedandstrafedby
si x pl anesfrom VMSB–132and VB–11.
The stri kehadbeenrequestedby theai r
l i ai sonpartyatSegiandapprovedby Gen-
eral Mul cahy i n hi s headquartersat
Rendova.I t wasthefi rststri kel oggedi n
the new records of CornAi r New
Georgi a.”
Curri n’sforce, movi ngal ongthe hi gh
groundoverl ooki ngTetemara, heardthe
expl osi ons andfi ri ngduri ngtheai r stri ke,
but the jungl escreenedthe pl anesfrom
vi ew.12Fi fteenmi nutesl ater,Curri nat-
tackedthevi l l age. Wi thFi rstLi eutenant
RaymondL. Luckel ’sCompanyO i n the
l ead,the rai dersmoveddownthe sl ope,
thenfannedout i n an attemptto confi ne
theJapaneseto an areaborderedby the
harborandthesea. Luckel ’smachi negpns
wereattachedtohi s assaul t pl atoons, and
wi ththehel pof thi saddi ti onal fi repower
theadvanceconti nuedsl owl y. A fewout-
11ComAi rSol s Stri keComd WarD, 2Apr-
25Ju143 ; CornAi r NewGeorgi aSAR,29Jun–
13Aug43.
“ Currinltr.
691–360O—63—6
’ 72
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
guardposi ti onswereoverrunbeforethe
Mari neswereforcedto hal tundersteady
fi refromtheenemy’smai nl i neof defense.
Advancewas sl ow and sporadi c,wi th
l ong peri odsof si l encebrokenabruptl y
by a seri esof short,sharpfi refi ghtsl ast-
i ngonl ya fewmi nuteseach. I n anhour,
theMari neshadgai nedabout100yards.
Deci di ngthata bui l dupfor an envel op-
mentaroundhi s l eft fl ankwas devel op-
i ng, Luckelcommi ttedhi s 3d Pl atoonto
thatfl ank, andtheadvanceconti nued.By
1305, theMari neshadreacheda l owcrest
of groundfromwhi chtheterrai nsl oped
awaytowardTetemara.
The bottl ed-upenemy,real i zi ngthei r
predi cament, beganwi thdrawi ngtoward
the northeastwi th muchfranti cyel l i ng.
.~nti ei pati nga banzaichargei n an at-
temptto breakthroughtheMari ne’sl el c
fl ank,Curri ndi spatched hi ssl i mbattal i on
reserveof the3dPl atoonandtwosecti ons
of machi negunsfromCompanyP to the
ai d of CompanyO. The rei nforcements
arri vedjusti n ti me. I n a matterof mi n-
utes,the hopel essrushof theenemywas
broken,and the Mari nesbeganto move
forwardagai nstspottyresi stance.The3-
i nchgunwascaptured, Tetemara occupi ed,
and the few remai ni ngJapanesefl ushed
out of caves and jungl e hi di ng pl aces.
Curri n’sforcecounted48enemydead,and
captured,i n addi ti onto the 3-i nchgun,
the four 80m ~guns andei ghtdual -pur-
posegunsof theVi ru garri son, aswel l as
16machi neguns,food,cl othi ng,ammuni -
ti on,andsmal l -boat suppl i es.Ei ghtMa-
ri neswereki l l edi n theattack.
Evenwhi l ethefi ghti ngwasi nprogress,
threeLCTSsai l edi nto the harborwi th
gasol i ne, oi l , andammuni ti on for thepro-
posednavalbase. They remai nedsafel y
offshoreunti l Tetemarawassecured, and
thencamei n tocl ropthei rrampsandun-
l oad. Threedaysl ater,on 4 Jul y, Com-
pany B of the 103dI nfantry struggl ed
i nto Tombe after an enervati ngmarch
overl andfromNono. On 10Jul y,aftera
newgarri sonforcecamei n tohol dandde-
vel optheVi ru area,therai dersreturned
tothei rol d campat Guadal canal .13 Sei z-
ureof Vi ruhadcostthebattal i on13ki l l ed
and 15woundedout of an ori gi nalforce
of 375offi cersandmen.
Major Hara’sVi ru garri sonforce l ost
a total of 61ki l l edandan esti mated100
woundedi n thedefenseof TombeandT~t-
emara. Another esti mated170 escaped
i ntothejungl e. Hara’sforce,underorders
fromtheSouthemt Detachmentto return
to Munda,marchedover theruggedjun-
gl etrai l sandreachedtheai rfi el dabout19
Jul y,justi n ti metotakeparti n thefi nal
defenseof thatarea.14
SECURI iVGVANGUNU‘5
Another si de show to the mai n New
Georgi al andi ngi n the Mundaareawas
‘3Because of the l ength of the Vi ru Harbor
operati on, the 4th Rai der Battal i on mi ssed be-
i ng avai l abl e for the Ri ce Anchorage l andi ng of
Li versedge’s 1st Mari ne Rai der Regi ment. The
4th Rai ders’ pl ace at Ri ce Anchorage was taken
by the 3d Battal i on of the 145th I nfantry. Cur-
ri n’s battal i on, after a short rest at Guadal canal ,
joi ned the Li versedge force on 18 Jul y.
14SE Area NavOps—11,p. 34; CI C SoPacFor
I tem No. 702,New Georgi a Defense OpOA No. 44,
dtd 19Ju143.
15Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ved from : New Georgi a Campai gn;
TF 31 l tr, dtd 22Jun43,op. cit.; TG 31.3OpOAL
10--43,op. cit. ;TG 31.3 Loadi ngOs 14, op. cit.;
4th RdrBn SAR, op. cit.; Capt James E. Brown
l tr to CMC, dtd 6Mar51; Col Lester E. Brown,
USA, l tr to Maj John N. Rentz, dtd 19Mar52;
RAdm George H. Fort l tr to Maj John N. Rentz,
dtd 30Jan52; Maj Earl e O. Snel l , Jr., l tr to CMC,
dtd 16Feb51; OhTI ,CombatNarrutioes X; Rentz,
Marinesin the Central f$olomons.
ELKTON UNDERWAY
73
thetaki ngof VangunuI sl andfor thepur-
poseof establ i shi ng a baseal ongthesup-
pl y routebetweenthel owerSol omonsand
themai ntargetarea. Pre-l andi ngrecon-
nai ssancereveal edIhat,the i sl andwoul d
notbe sui tabl efor ai rfi el dconstructi onas
pl annedearl i er. I t coul dbe takenwi tha
rel ati vel ysmal l force, however,because
i t was not heavi l y defended. Thus, i t
woul dbeaneconomi cal pri zefor theAl l i es
wi ththepromi seof a usefulwaystati onat
Wi ckharnAnchorage, a shel teredharbor
tuckedbehi ndcoral reefs betweenVan-
gunuandnei ghbori ngGatukaiI sl andto
theeast. (SeeMap4.)
An amphi bi ousscouti ngparty sentto
Vangunui n mi d-,Juneradi oed.4i l mi ral
Turner’sheadquarters on the 20th,con-
fi rmi ngreportsthatthe,Japanese hadnot
rei nforcedthei sl andandthatbeachesat
Ol oanaBayonthesouthsi deof thei sl and
coul daccommodate thel andi ngof a rei n-
forcedbattal i on.Admi ralFort wasthen
di rectedtooccL~py thei sl andwi tha smal l
force on 30 ,June. Hi s D-Day l andi ng
woul dnot be a compl etesurpri se.Japa-
nesesentri esspottedthe amphi bi ous pa-
trol andreported“enemysurfaceforces”
i n theWi c.khamarea;al l uni tswerecau-
ti onedtobeontheal ert.l ~
As hi sl andi ngforce,Fortsel ectedLi eu-
tenantCol onelI .esterE. Brown’s2d Bat-
tal i on,103dI nfantryRegi ment;Battery
B (90mm), 70thCoastArti l l ery(Anti ai r-
craft) Battal i on;and hal f of the 20th
NCB. To augment Brown’ssol di ers, Ad-
mi ral Fort al soassi gnedthatporti onof
the +tthMari neRai der Battal i onwhi ch
hadnotgonetoSegi Poi ntandVi ruHar-
borunderLi eutenant Col onelCurri n.The
rai derbattal i on’sexecuti veoffi cer,Major
‘e CI C SoPacFor I tem No. 641, 8th CSNLF
RadLog, 4-22June43.
,JamesR. Cl ark,commandedtheseuni ts
whi ch i ncl udedCompanyN (Captai n
Earl eO.Snel l ,,Jr. ), CompanyQ (Captai n
Wi l l i amL. Fl ake),a demol i ti ons pl atoon,
anda headquarters cl etachment. For add-
ed fi repower, BatteryB (105mmhowi t-
zers)of the 152dFi el dArti l l eryBattal -
i on, and a speci alweaponsgroup from
BatteryE (40mmand.50cal i beranti ai r-
craft ~mns)of the 70th CoastArti l l ery
Battal i onwereaddedtotheWi ckharnAn-
chorageforce.
Thepl ancal l edfor theMari nestol and
beforedawnat Ol oanaRay fromAPDs
SchleyandMcKean,contactthescouti ng
party sti l l on Vangunu,anclestabl i sha
beachhead. A fi rstecl ~el on of Armytroops
woul d l and over thi s beach30 mi nutes
l aterfromsevenLCI S,fol l owedby a sec-
ondandfi nalechel onof Armytroopsl and-
i ngfrol l l sel ~el l LS’I’S at. 1000. From010-
ana I kLy,Brol vn’sforce woul dmovei n-
l and to wi denthe beachheadl i ne whi l e
CompanyE, 103dI nfantry,rei nforced
wi ththebattal i on’s 81n~mmortars, ski rted
al ong the beacheast ward towardVura
Bay, reportedas the mai n enemybase.
Nati vescoutsoperati ngfromthebaseof
coastwatcher Kennedynear Sergi Poi nt
had reportedthat there were approxi -
matel y100Japaneseat thi s poi nt.
After a rendezvousat Purvi s Bay off
Fl ori da I sl and,Fort’s transportssai l ed
north beyond the Russel l I sl ands and
reachedthe debarkati onareaoff Ol oana
Bay at 0230on 30June. The scoutshad
pl acedmarkerson the beach and were
showi nga si gnal l i ght,butthe shi psar-
ri vedi n themi dstof sucha heavydown-
pour thattheseai dscoul dnotbe spotted.
Ki ~h ~vi n& puta bothersome chop on the
sea, and the APDs and l andi ngcraft
pi tchedandtossedastheMari nesgroped
74
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
thei rwayoverthesi detopreparefor the
“bl i nd” l andi ng. The bestradar i n the
task force was an ol d modeli n Admi ral
Foti ’s fl agshi p, the destroyer-mi ne
sweeperT~eve~, buti t wasnotabl eto fi x
theposi ti onof theforceaccuratel y i nrel a-
ti ontothebeach.
Admi ralFortcal l edoff thel andi ngun-
ti l theweather cl eared, or unti ldawnwhen
the beachcoul d be seen,but the APDs
ei ther di d not recei veor mi sunderstood
theseordersandwentaheadwi ththel and-
i ng. Thewhol eoperati onbecameacl assi c
exampl eof how not to l andtroopson a
hosti l ebench. At 0345, whi l ei nthemi dst
of debarkati on, theAPD commanders de-
ci dedthatthei r shi psl ~adnot beencor-
rectl y posi ti oned,so they moved 1,000
yardsto the eastand centi nuedthe op-
erati on. The moveaddedto the confu-
si on,si ncei t forcedthe l andi ngcraft to
crosspathswi ththesevenLCI S,resul ti ng
i n thoroughdi spersi onof the l andi ng’
craft just as they wereheadi ngtoward
thebeach. Regai ni ngcontactprovedi m-
possi bl eandthecoxswai nshadto dothe
besttheycoul don thei rown. Nothavi ng
beengi venanythi ngbuta generalcourse
to thebeach,theyl andedi n wi del ysepa-
ratedspotsal ongsevenmi l esof theVan-
gunucoast. Si x boats,butnomen,were
l osti n thepoundi ngsurf.”
“ Admi ral Fort commented on thi s passage;
“The chi ef l esson here i s to obey orders! The
APDs acknowl edged for thi s order, and I was
amazed to l earn l ater that they had l anded the
Mari nes or that the Mari nes had agreed to l and
under ci rcumstancesthat woul d i nsure . . . fai l -
ure. The Army troops i n the LCI S obeyed the
order—l anded i n perfect order as pl anned wi th-
out any di ffi cul ty whatever. The Mari nes strag-
gl i ng ashore hours l ater woul d not have been of
much hel p had there been much resi stance.”
VAdm George H. Fort comments on draft MS,
dtd 30ct60.
Twoboatscarryi ngthe1stand2dPl a-
toonsof CompanyQ managedto stayto-
gether,but theyheadedi n thewrongdi -
recti onandfi nal l ygroundedon a reefap-
proxi matel ysevenmi l eswestof Ol oana
Bay. The craft whi chcontai nedSecond
Li eutenant JamesE. Brown)s1stPl atoon
managedtocl earthereef,buti n doi ngso
l osti tsrudder.Mari nesti edbucketstothe
endsof l i nesandthengui dedtheboatby
trai l i ngthesebucketsasternandpul l i ng
on thel i nesl i kerei ns. Theboatcarryi ng
SecondLi eutenant Eri cS.Hol mgrai n’s 2d
Pl atoonbroachedto i n the surf on the
reef. Hol mgrai nandhi smenwadedand
swamnearl ytwomi l estoshoreandsetup
a l ocal defenseunti l dawn. Brown re-
mai nedjust off shorewi th hi s pl atoon
boated. The next morni ng,Hol mgrai n
hi kedhi spl atoonal ongthebeachtoward
Ol oanaBay whi l eBrown steeredal ong
thecoastwi thhi sbuckets. TheMcKean
spottedthi s craft and sentout a sound
boati n whi chBrownfi ni shedhi stri p.
TheotherscatteredMari nesmetnoop-
posi ti on and were abl e to regroup at
Ol oanaBay. There the fi rst wavesof
sol di ersl andedi n cal merseasat0’i ’005 fol -
l owedbytheremai nder of theforcewi thi n
anhour. Theamphi bi ous scoutsreported
to Col onelBrownthattheJapanesegar-
ri sonwasnotatVuraasexpected, butwas
i nsteadoccupyi ngKaeruka,a smal l vi l -
l ageabout1,000yardsnortheast of Vura
Bayonanothercoastal i ndentati on.Col o-
nelBrowni mmedi atel y i ssuedneworders,
desi gnati ngthe mouthof the Kaeruka
Ri ver as the objecti ve,and just before
08007 thedrenchedforcemovedout. Com-
pany ~ retai nedi ts ori gi nal mi ssi onof
capturi ngVuravi l l age. Therethi sforce
woul dhol dup andpreparetogi vemortar
support to the other uni ts attacki ng
ELKTON UNDERWAY
75
76
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
Kaeruka.Compani es F andGof the103d,
al ongwi thMari neuni tsandei ghtnati ve
gui des,woul dswi ngi nl andal onga coast-
watchertrai l ,whi chi t was bel i evedhad
not beendi scoveredby theJapanese, and
assembl e onhi ghgroundsomesevenmi l es
from the beachhead.Thi s hi l l y terrai n
woul dgi vetheattackers an attackl i neof
departurejusteastof theKaerukaRi ver
and700yardsfromthevi l l agewherethe
~Japanese werecamped.Arti l l erymenand
Seabeeswoul d hol d the beachheadat
Ol oana.
At Vura vi l l age,CompanyE met 16
enemyarmedwi thtwol i ghtmachi neguns,
but themortarsqui ckl yknockedoutthi s
opposi ti on.The companythenprepared
tosupporttheotherattacki ngforcewhi ch
hadtodealwi tha moredi ffi cul t marchand
strongerenemydefenses.
Thedri vi ngrai nhadturnedthecoast-
watchertrai l to sl i ckmudandthe Vura
and KaerukaRi vers i nto shoul der-deep
torrents. Swi mmersstrungropesacross
thesestreams andtheMari nesandsol di ers
thenmanagedto cross,eachmanpul l i ng
hi msel fal ongtheropes. Brown’sforcefi -
nal l yreachedi tsl i neof departureat1320.
By thi sti meal l scatteredMari neuni ts,i n-
cl udi ngthetwopl atoonswhi chgrounded
on the reef sevenmi l esfrom thel andi ng
beach,had rejoi nedthei r parentcompa-
ni es,muchto thegrati fi cati onof Col onel
Brown:
Thi s i n i tsel f was a consi derabl e feat be-
cause some of the l andi ng boats had gone
ashore far down the coast . . . and the Ma-
ri nes were al l heavi l y l aden wi th weapons
and amrnuni ti on.l s
Theattackjumpedoff wi thoutprepara-
toryfi res. Therai nhadputal l radi osout
of commi ssi on, andCol onelBrowncoul d
‘8L. E. Brown l tr, op. ci t.
not contactei therVurafor mortarfi reor
Ol oanaBay for arti l l erysupport. The
Mari nes, commanded by MajorCl ark,and
the sol di ersmovedsouthfrom thei r l i ne
of departureat1405. (l n theri ght,Com-
panyQ (rai ders)gui dedon themeander-
i ngKaerukaRi verwi thorderstocrossthe
ri ver farthersouthto turnthel eft fl ank
of the enemy. CompanyN (rai ders)i n
thecenterdrovestrai ghttowardstheJap-
anese;andon thel eft,CompanyF of the
103d I nfantrymovedtoposi ti onfor apar-
ti al envel opment of the Japaneseri ght.
The 103d’sCompanyG, i n reserve, stood
readytoexpl oi tanyweakness i n theJap-
anesedefenses andtoprotecttheAmeri can
fl anks.
Off CompanyQ’s ri ght, the Kaeruka
Ri vermadea 300-yardl ooptotheeastbe-
fore turni ngsouthagai nto fl ow 300or
400yarcl si ntothesea. Thi sl ongbendi n
the ri ver parti al l yencl osedtheJapanese
campon thecoastandmadethestream, i n
effect,a majorobstacl efaci ngtheMari ne
compani es.Fi fteenmi nutes aftertheMa-
ri nesmovedfromthei rl i neof departure,
CompanyQbegi ntodrawfi refromenemy
ri fl emenhi ddeni n treesandcamoufl aged
spi dertraps.l s As theMari nesdepl oyed,
theymetheavi erfi refromJapaneseposi -
ti ons acrossthe ri ver. At 1445,Major
Cl arktol d hi s rai dercompani esto cross
theri ver,reducetheopposi ti on, andthen
attackthemai nenemyposi ti ons.
Mari nesof CompanyQstruggl eddown
thesl i pperybankof theri ver,crossedover
andcl i mbedtheothersi de. ButtheJapa-
neseconcentrated somuchri fl e andma-
chi negunfi reonthecrossi ngsi tethatonl y
‘gI ndi vi dual foxhol es of kneel i ng or standi ng
depth covered by “l i ds” camoufl aged to conceal
the posi ti on from observati on even at short
range.
ELKTON UNDERWAY 77
onesquadof CompanyNmanagedtocross
beforetheattackwascal l edoff. Contact
betweenthesol di ersandMari neswasnow
broken,and whi l ethe two Mari necom-
pani esattemptedto ti e together,patrol s
weresentout to re-establ i sh contactwi th
theArmycompani es.
Onthel eft,sol di ersof CompanyF tri ed
to envel opthe ri ght of severalJapanese
machi neguns whi ch they encountered
shortl y after starti ngthe attack. Thi s
maneuverfurtherbrokecontactbetween
the sol di ersand CompanyN. Col onel
Brown then sentCompanyG to fi l l the
gap. Thereservecompanymovedal most
di rectl ysouthtowardthe beachmeeti ng
onl yscatteredopposi ti on.Al thoughboth
fl anksof the Ameri canadvancehad l ost
contact, wi ththecenteruni t,thi sunhandy
tacti calmaneuver spl i ttheJapanese force.
As CompanyG movedthroughthe gap
betweenCompani es N andF andreached
thebeach,i t pl acedi tsel fsquarel yi n the
enemyrear, and the ,Japanese opposi ng
theMari nesandCompanyF gavewayi n
di sorder.
Resi stance i nfrontof CompanyQfaded,
andCompanyNmovedupqui ckl ythrough
thejungl eto expl oi ttheconfusi onof the
enemyand dri vethemto the southwest.
The Mari necompani es, one on eachsi de
of theri ver,thenpressedon to thebeach
bel owthevi l l ageof Kaeruka.Thesol di ers
of CompanyF al soreducedtheopposi ti on
faci ngthem,reachi ngthe beachshortl y
thereafter. Twel veMari neswereki l l ed
i n theacti onand21wounded;Army cas-
ual ti esnumbered10ki l l edand22wound-
ed. One hundredxnd twenty,Japanese
deadwerecounted.
As Col onelBrown di spl acedhi s con~-
mandpost forwardfrom the l i ne of de-
parture, MajorCl arkestabl i shed a peri m-
eter defenseal o]]gthe beacheastof the
ri ver. CompanyG, therai derdemol i ti on
pl atoon,and CompanyQ dug i n faci ng
seaward.CompanyN ti edi nonCompany
Q’s ri ghtfl ankextendi ngi nl andal ongthe
eastbankof theKaerukaRi ver. Sol di ers
of CompanyF cl osedtheperi meterwi th
a l i newhi chfacedi nl and. Patrol swere
setouttomopupanybypassedenemy, but
darknessforcedthesemenbacktothepe-
ri meterbeforeanycontactcoul dbe made.
I ntermi ttent enemymortarfi reexpl oded
i nsi detheperi meterandal ongthebeach
duri ngthe earl y part of the ni ght,and
Japanese machi negunsharassed thenorth-
ern porti onsof theperi meter, but no at-
temptatpenetrati onwasmade.
At about0200,the Ameri canforce hi t
a jackpot. Defendersreportedthreeen-
emybargesapproachi ngthebeach. Thi s
wasevi dentl ya suppl yrun,bri ngi ngfood
andrei nforcements toa Japanese garri son
whi chno l onger exi sted. As the barges
movedout of the darknesstowardthe
beachareanearthejuncti onof thedemo-
l i ti onspl atoonandCompanyG, theymet
an overwhel mi ng recepti on.A concerted
burstof ri fl eandmachi ne~gmfi resetthe
threebargesfounderi nganddri fti ngout
of control . TheJapanesecal l edout,evi -
dentl y bel i evi ngthey were bei ng fi red
upon by fri ends,and for a ti medi d not
returnthefi re. The bargesconti nuedto
dri ft towardthebeach,andCompanyQ
addedri fl egrenadestothesmal l -arms fi re
thatthe other uni tsal ongthe beachdi -
rectedi ntothel andi ngcraft. TheJapa-
nesefi nal l yreturnedthe fi re,and a few
enemy sol di ers jumped overboardand
spl ashedashore.Thedemol i ti ons pl atoon
ki l l ed thesewi th hand grenades. One
barge sank offshore and the others
broachedto i n the surf. The fi ght was
over i n hal f an hour,and109of an esti -
’ 78
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
mated120 Japanesewere dead.20Two
Mari nesandonesol di erwereki l l ed.
The choi ceof beachdefense,madei n
hal f darkness, wi thoutthe ai d of maps,
wasparti cul arl yfortunate.Unknownto
Major Cl ark,thebeachwastheonl y pos-
si bl el andi ngpoi nti n theenti rearea;and
an unsuspecti ng enemyhad pi ckedthat
ni ght to resuppl yand rei nforcehi s gar-
ri son. TheJapanese “hadwal kedbl i ndl y
i ntoa hornet’snest. For theMari nes, i t
wasl i kefi l l i ngan i nsi destrai ght. ” ‘1
The next morni ng (1 Jul y) patrol s
searchedfor theremnants of theJapanese
garri sonandl earnedthatthemai ngroup
of Japanesesurvi vorswas di ggi ngi n at
ChekePoi nt, a bul geof shorel i neabout
500yardseastof theKaerukaRi ver. De-
spi tethesuccessof thedefensetheni ght
before,Col onelBrownmarchedhi s force
backtowardVuruvi l l agesi nceheconsi d-
eredi t a moresui tabl edefensi veareaand
hi s troopscoul dbe moreeasi l ysuppl i ed.
Moreover, ChekePoi ntwasreadi l yi denti -
fi abl efromtheai r,andarti l l eryfi refrom
(l l oanaBaycoupl edwi thai r stri kescoul d
neutral i zethe posi ti onwi th consi derabl e
WFi ve of 11 Japanese who survi ved thi s en-
counter were l ater ki l l ed i n the Kaeruka area.
Si x others who escaped made thei r way al ong
the coasts of Vangunu and New Georgi a to Ri ce
Anchorage on northern New Georgi a.
There
they l ater met the same demol i ti ons pl atoon i n
another acti on, i n whi ch fi ve were ki l l ed and
one captured. .jth RdrBn WarD.
21Rentz, Marines in the Central Solomons, p.
50. Another possi bl e expl anati on i s that the
Japanese w7ere col l ecti ng scattered outposts.
CI C SoPacFor I tem 702, New Georgi a DefOpO
A No. 11, dtd 30 June states: “The Wi ekham
Butai i n l arge l andi ng barges wi l l col l ect the
l ookouts from the West Harbor and North Har-
bor and the Bari ke Butai and return to Munda
around the north coast of Vangunu and New
Georgi a I sl ands.”
savi ngof l i ves. A fewJapaneseharassed
thecol umnwi thl ong-rangefi refromma-
chi ne guns and a 37mmgun, i nfl i cti ng
somecasual ti es, but the enemymadeno
organi zedcounterattack.
Froma newperi meterat Vura,Brown
sentout patrol sandorgani zeda coordi -
nated attackon ChekePoi nt. By thi s
ti me,wi ththehel pof Seabees, the105mm
howi tzersof the152dFi el dArti l l eryBat-
tal i onwerei n posi ti on, andafterregi ster-
i ng on ChekePoi nt,fi redal l day 2 Jul y.
I n theafternoon, Admi ralFort’sfl agshi p
addednavalgunfi retothepoundi ng.On
the morni ngof the 3d, 18 SBDSfrom
Com.4i rNewGeorgi astageda stri keon
ChekePoi nt whi l eBrown’sforce moved
forward. Kaerukawas reoccupi edwi th-
outa shotandevenChekePoi ntwastaken
wi th l i ttl eopposi ti onsi ncethebombard-
mentshadforcedtheJapanese toevacuate
thearea. Brown’sattackki l l edsevenJap-
aneseand destroyedsuppl y and ammu-
ni ti ondumpswhi chhadbeenoverl ooked
earl i er.
on 4 Jul y,theMari nes, detachedfrom
Col onelBrown’sforce,wentbackto O1o-
anaBayon LCI S. Theretheyrestedunti l
8 Jul y whentheyweresentacrossto Ga-
tukaiI sl andeastof Vangunuto l ook for
some50to100enemytroopswhi chnati ves
reportedwerehol di ngthatsmal li sl and.
The Mari nespatrol l edGatukaifor two
daysbutdi d not l ocateanyJapanese, al -
thoughbi vouacareasattestedtorecentoc-
cupati on.After oneni ghtbackatOl oana
Bay,theMari nesreturnedtoGuadal canal
on 12Jul y to rejoi ntheremai nder of the
battal i onwhi chCol onelCurri nhad just
broughtback fromthe operati onat Segi
Poi ntandVi ru Harbor. Casual ti es wi th-
i n Major Cl ark’sori gi nalforceof 18offi -
cersand 350mentotal ed14deadand26
wounded.
ELKTON UNDERWAY ’ 79
BEACHHEADAT RENDOVA22
Al l i ed occupati onof Segi on 21 June
provi dedthecl i ncherto a Japaneseerror
i n judgment:TheNewGeorgi adefenders
weresetto repel an i nvasi on;ni ghtand
day Al l i ed radi otraffi cand reportsof a
troopandtransport bui l dupi ntheGuadal -
canalareahadconvi ncedthemthatanat-
tackwas i mmi nent.To i nterceptsucha
move,the Japaneseassembl edthei r ai r
attackforcesatBui nanddepl oyedtode-
fend theCentralSol omons.Then,when
the occupati onof Segi occurredwi thout
furtheri mmedi ate bui l dup, theenemywas
posi ti vethattheoperati onwasonl ya l i m-
i ted i nfi l trati on, andthatthe abruptde-
cl i neof radi otraffi cmeanta curtai l ment
of furtherpl ans. On26Junetheai r fl eet
wasorderedtoreturntoRabaul .
22Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ved from: Ci nCPac Ops i n the
P(I A, Jun43, dtd 6Sep43; I ntel Sec, SoPacFor
Objecti ve Rept 25–13, New Georgi a Gru, dtd
15Feb43; SoPacFor PhotoI nterpretati onU Rept
No. 41, dtd l Dec42, and Rept No. 67, dtd 26Dec42;
New Gewgi a Campaign; 3d MarDi v Observers
Rept Rendova and Munda (Col George W. Mc-
Henry, LtCol John T. L. D. Gabbert,LtCol J. M.
Smi th, Jr. ), dtd 9Sep43; 9th DefBn Rept to
ComMarDefGruSol s, dtd 24Jun43; 9th DefBn
Rept of Ops, dtd 2May44, hereafter 9th DefBn
Op.sRept; 9th DefBn I nformal CbtRept New
Georgi a Campai gn,dtd 9Sep43; oth DefBn Nar-
rati ve Hi st l l ?eb42-14Apr44, dtd 2May44; 9th
Defl?n AA Ops; 9th DefBn OPO 543, dtd
24Jun43; SEAreaiVavOps-I; 15’E AreaNavOps—
11; Maj Wi l son F. Humphreys I tr to CO, 14th
DefBn, dtd 25Ju143;LtCol Franci s M. McAl i ster
l tr to CG, I LI AC, dtd 7Aug43; LtCol Wi l bur J.
McNenney Rept on New Georgi a Ops to CG,
I i MAC,dtd 17Ju143; LtCol Henry H. Rei cl hnerJr.,
l tr to CMC, dtd 27Feb51; Capt Mi chael Tayl or
l tr to CMC,dtd 9Feb51; LtCol Wri ght C. Tayl or
l tr to CMC,dtd 4Mar52; ONI , CombatNarratives
X; Rentz, Marines in the Central flolomon.s;
Sherrod, MarAir.Hi&.
Thi s strategybackfi red. A Japanese
submari ne spottedTurner’staskforcenear
Gatukaion theni ghtof the29th,but,be-
foretheJapanese coul ddetermi ne thesi g-
ni fi canceof the submari ne’s report,Vi l a
andBui nwererockedby navalbombard-
mentsand Turner~sforce was droppi ng
anchori n RendovaBay. The attacksat
Vi l a and Bui n were a di versi ononl y,
pl annedtopl acestri ki nguni tsi n posi ti on
toprotecttheRendoval andi ng.Thebom-
bardmentswereconductedi n a dri vi ng
rai n whi chshi el dedthereti rement of the
crui sersand destroyers.Unfortunatel y,
the poor weatheral socancel l eda Fi fth
Ai r Forcestri keatRabaulwhi chwassup-
posedto cri ppl efurthertheJapanesepo-
tenti alto l ashback at the NewGeorgi a
l andi ngs.
The Rendovaoperati oncastthe Japa-
nesecommandi n therol eof apoor second-
guesser:
The next enemy counter-offensi vewas es-
ti mated i n vari ous ways and a seri es of
measures was taken to meet the si tuati on.
However, we hardl y anti ci pated that the
enemy woul d fi rst occupy the smal l i sl ands
across from Munda at the ti me of the i nva-
si on of Munda and that they woul d proceed
wi th thei r operati ons under the cover of
heavy guns on these i sl ands. Therefore, the
l andi ng on Rendova I sl and compl etel y baf-
fl ed our forces.23
For the Rendova-bound attackers, the
movement fromGuadal canal wasunevent-
ful . Thetaskforcestreamednorthfrom
Kol i Poi ntat 1545on the29th. Screened
by destroyers, thesi x transportsandtwo
APDs sai l edi n a doubl ecol umnnorthof
theRussel l sbeforeturni ngwestandthen
northwest agai ntoheadupBl ancheChan-
nel . Shortl ybeforedawn,thesamewea-
ther front whi ch shi el dedthe bumbard-
23SE Area iVavOps-11, p. 26.
80
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
mentforcescoveredthei nvasi onfl eet,and
troopsaboardthetransports hadonl yhazy
gl i mpsesof the rai n-drenchedvol cani c
peakv-l ~i cl ~ i denti fi edRel ~do~a.(SeeMap
I I , MapSecti on.)
The i nvasi onsi tewason tl ~enorthend
of Rendova, a haunch-shaped i sl andnear-
l y 20mi l esl ongand8 mi l eswi de. Moun-
tai nousanddensel ywooded, Rendovawas
a fi tti ngcounterpart to theotheri sl ands
i n thegroup. Fewof themarshybeaches
al ongi ts otherwi sei rregul ar, steepcoast-
l i ne coul d be usedas l andi ngsi tes,and
mostof theshorel i newasfoul edby coral
patches.Thei sl and’sbestanchoragewas
RendovaHarbor,acovethree-fourths of a
mi l ewi deancloneandone-hal fmi l esl ong,
protectedby a.barri erof threesmal li s-
l ands. The covehadtwodeep-water en-
trancesand pre-l andi ngreconnai ssance
teamshad desi gnatedthe easternof the
two as the funnel for the shi p-to-shore
l andi ngmovement.
Whi l etheescorti ngdestroyerstook up
thei r screeni ngposi ti ons—theJenklm,
(bin. Radford. Buchanan, andFarenholt
echel onedat 1,000yard i nterval sto the
northwest andthei l lcCal l a, l?alpl~Talbot~
and Woodworthbl ocki ngBl ancheChan-
nel to theeast—thetransportsbeganun-
l oadi ng. TroopsfromtheMcCaw7ey, A.l -
gorab, Lib~ayandPresidentAdamswere
tol andon theeastbeachof thecove; the
troopsfromthePresident HayesandPres-
identJ aelsonwoul dgoashoreonthewest
beach.
At 0640,onl y mi nutesafter arri vi ngat
debarki ngstati ons,the transportshad
l andi ngcraftl oweredandheadedtoward
thebeach3,000yardsaway. Throughthe
sl otbetweentheoffshorei sl ets,theboated
troopscoul dseeRendovaLMountai n and
therel ati vel yfl atareaof theLeverBroth-
ers pl antati onat i ts foot whi chwas the
l andi ngarea. Therewassomemomentary
confusi onas thefl oodof boatshi ttheen-
(rance;butqui ckl yformi ngi ntocol umns,
thel andi ngcraftpl owedontowardshore.
As theboatsscrapedto a hal t,di sorgan-
i zedenemymachi negunandri fl efi refrom
thepl antati onareagreetedthedi sembark-
i ngtroops.
Thi s wasthefi rsti ndi cati onthatpl ans
hadbeenfoul ecl -up.Compani es C andG
of the l ’i ’2dI nfantry,scouttroopscal l ed
“Barracudas,”were supposedto have
l andedfromtheAPDs DentandWaters
anhourearl i er, securedthebeachhead, and
thenprovi deda coveri ngforcefor thefi rst
wave of troops. The enemyresi stance,
obvi ousl y, wasevi dence thatthebeachhead
hadnotbeentaken. TheBarracudas, n~i s-
si ng the rai n-obscuredbeaconfi res,hacl
cl ri fteclsome10mi l esdowntheRendova
coastbeforel andi ng. Then,rml i zi ngthat
theyhadmi ssedthedesi gnated beach, they
reembarkedand headedl l pshoretoward
thecove. Theyarri vedi nti metol andun-
c)pposecl over a beachsecuredby sol di ers
of the103d, Seabees of the24thNCB,and
Mari nesof the 9th DefenseBattal i on.
The amphi bi ousmaneuverwas not a
cl assi c. Thebeachheadhadnot beenex-
pandedbeyond15yardsor so,andi n thi s
confi nedspace,sol di ers, Seabees, andMa-
ri nesmi l l edabouti n themi dstof a grow-
i ng mountai nof suppl i es. Onl y thefi rst
wavehad beencoordi natecl .After that,
eagercoxswai nsrushedbacktothetrans-
portsfor addi ti onal l oads,andtheshi p-to-
shoremovement becamean uncontrol l ed
race. To addto the confusi on,an occa-
si onalenemymachi negunnerwoul dspray
thel andi ngareafromthei nteri orof the
pl antati on, drawi ngi l l returna fl urryof
uncontrol l edshotsfromri fl emenon shore
ELKTON UNDERWAY 81
andautomati cweaponsfromthel andi ng
craft. Eventual l y, combatpatrol swere
organi zed,and sol di ersof the 103dancl
l ’72dbeganto push i nl andi n ski rmi sh
l i nes,fl ushi ngsni persandhi ddenmachi ne
gun nests.
Thel andi ngareahadnotbeendefende{l
i n anygreat, force.z4Sporadi canddesul -
toryfi rehadbeentheenemy’sonl y resi st-
anceto the i nvasi ol ~.Al thoughwnrned
earl i erof thepossi bi l i tyof a l andi ng,the
Rendovagarri sol ~hadgonebackto sl eep
andawoketo fi ndan i nvasi onfl eeti n i ts
frontyard. Tool atetodefendtheharbor
i n force,mostof thegarri sonfl edto the
hi l l s to escapel aterto Mundaby canoe.
Wet batteri essi l encedthe enemyradi os,
and contactwi th Mundacotdcl not be
made. The fi rstwarni ngtheai rfi el dde-
fendershadof thei nvasi onacrossthechan-
nel was a messagefl ashedby l i ghts and
fl aresfroma l ookoutstati onon a,promon-
tory southof theharbor, After i nfl i cti ng
ni necasual ti es, i ncl udi nga facewoundto
thecommander of the172dI nfantry, Col o-
nel Davi d NT. M. Ross,the ,Japanese de-
fendersfi nal l yfl ed the pl antati onarea,
l eavi ng65deadbehi nd.
Theendof groundresi stance markedthe
end of enemyeffortsto di sl odgethe i n-
24The ori gi nal Rendova garri son consi sted of
150 members of the ‘7thCon?patiV, 22WhReYi-
mejlt augmented by 76 men from a Kure 6th
iYNLFsi gnal detachment, I n mi d-June, 18 un-
armed engi neers moved to Rendova under orders
to compl ete a torpedo boat base before the end
of the month. Total defenders : 224. CI C
SoPacFor I tem ATO. 702, New Georgi a DefOpO
“A” No. 8, l ate Jun43; USAFI SPA G-2 POW
I nterrogati on Rept No. 105, dtd 4Aug43; CI C
SoPacFor I tem N’o. 632, 1st New Georgi a Area
13utai 0 No. 3, dtd 5Aug43. The garri son had
been weakened by mal ari a and other si cknesses,
however,and probabl y numberedabout 140.
vasi onforceunti l theai r fl eetsat Rabaul
coul dget i ntoacti on. GeneralSasakiat
Mundacoul dofferonl y sl i ghtopposi ti on.
I ntermi ttent shel l fi rebeganto regi steri n
the transportarea and aroundthe de-
stroyersshortl y after the i nvasi onwas
l aunched, butonl ytheG?oim, washi t. Two
veteransof Gl mdal canal sea acti on,the
Buch((nan andtheFmenho(t, took l ~pthe
chal l el ~ge andfi redshel l sbackatsuspected
poi nts,meanwhi l e changi ngdi recti onand
speedsothattheJapanese batteri escoul d
not regi steron them. I t was esti mated
thatsevengunsweresi l enced, butthede-
stroyerscreenandtheJapanese conti nued
thesporadi cexchangethroughout theun-
l oadi ngacti vi ti es.
I t wasa frustrati ngexperi ence for the
Mundadefenders:
Because of i nsuffi ci entprel mrati ons and i n-
stal l ati ons,our naval guns coul d not engagethe
enemy. Because of the range, the mountai n
gUUSwere not abl e to fi re agai nst the enemy.
Therefore, our uni t was i n the predi cament
that the enemy l anded i n broad dayl i ght whi l e
our uni t watched hel pl essl y.zs
Whi l e sol di ers of the 103d ancl l T2d
pressed i nl and agai nst spotty resi stance,
the establ i shment of a base of operati ons
began i n the conti nual downpour of rai n.
Unenthusi asti c i nfantrymen were o~ga-
ni zed as worki ng parti es to sort and di s-
perse the jumbl ed pi l es of ammuni ti on,
rati ons, l ubri cants, and other materi al s.
The mushroomi ng dumps of suppl i es ac-
centuated the fact that an i nsuffi ci ent
beach control party and worki ng party
had been provi cl ed, and that too hi gh a
pri ori ty had been @ven to barracks bags,
‘s SmxNteenth Armv Ops—1,p. 1,5.Evi dentl y
Sasaki ’s naval guns and arti l l ery, nl though un-
:l bl e to regi ster :i c(wratel y on the i nvasi on fl eet,
fi red at random hopi ng for a l ucky hi t.
82
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
offi cers’l ocker boxes,tents,chai rs, and
otherpersonalcomforti tems.2a
As the unl oadi ngconti nued,cargo-
stagi ngareasturnedi nto seas of mud
throughwhi chtruckschurnedandski d-
ded. The road throughthe pl antati on
areasoonbecameaquagmi re whi chcaught
and hel d al l wheel edvehi cl es. Tractors
wererequi redtoextri catethem. Cul verts,
whi chhadbeenjudgedstrongenoughto
supportheavytraffi c, crumbl edunderthe
wei ghtof l oadedtrucksandi ncreasedthe
di ffi cul tyof movement.Fi nal l y,onl ythe
wi de-treadpri memovers,the amphi bi an
tractorsof the9thDefenseBattal i on, and
thebi gger tractorsof the Seabeescoul d
pl owthroughtheml ~d.Al l othervehi cl es
stal l ed,and i nfantrymenhad to hand-
carrymostsuppl i esto desi gnateddumps,
bi vouacareas,andgunposi ti ons.
Tankl i ghterswereunl oadedby sol di ers
wadi ng through 50 feet of knee-deep
water. Laterunl oadi ngproceededfaster
afterbul l dozers pushedrampsof coralout
tothel i ghters. Cargowasfi nal l yshunted
to offshorei sl andsi n an effortto rel i eve
the congesti on, and,wi th vi rtual l yevery
truckmi reddown,a messagewassentto
the shi psto del aysendi ngi n morevehi -
cl es. The mud,however,had convi nced
observersthatfuturescouti ngof l andi ng
beacheswoul di ncl udeengi neeras wel l as
tacti calreconnai ssance.
Wi th the l andi ngwel l underway,32
fi ghterpl anesfromComAi rSol sappeared
overhead,and troops on the beach and
28Mari ne obser~-ers,i n reports on the Rendova
operati on, were unani mous i n rel )t)rti ngthat too
much personal gear was unl oaded the fi rst day,
that i t eontri l )utedto the confusi on on the beach,
and that i nfantrymen were fati gued sorti ng and
cnrryi ng i t through the mud.
sai l orsontheshi psbreathedeasi er.Thei r
concernwaswel l -founded.Becauseof the
poor weather, General Kenney’sFi fth Ai r
Force had beenabl eto hi t Rabaulwi th
onl y25bombersi n the5 dayspri or tothe
l andi ng,andthetTapanese weresti l l abl e
to l aunch m powerful counterpunch
throughtheai r fromRabaul ,Bui n,Bal -
l al e,andKahi l i ai rfi el ds.I t wasnotl ong
i n comi ng. The .E7eventhAir Fleet at
Rabauldi spatcheda stri keof 26medi um
bombersand 8 carri er bombersshortl y
after dawn. Pi cki ngup a fi ghterescort
of 72 pl anesat 130ugai nvi l l e, the fl i ghts
sweptdownon Rendova. I nterceptedby
the~l l l i edfi ghtercover,theenemyforma-
ti onswereforcedawayfromthel andi ng
area, but i n thei r reckl essattemptsto
stri kea cri ppl i ngbl owtothei nvasi on, the
,Tapanese l ost18bombersand31fi ghters.
Two hours of val uabl eunl oadi ngti me,
however,had beenl ost by theshi psma-
neuveri ngto escapethe enemybombi ng
runs.
At 1505, wi th al l the troopsunl oaded
andmostof thesuppl i esonthebeach, Ad-
mi ralTurnerdeci dedthattheattackforce
had stretchedi ts l uck l ong enoughand
orderedthereturntoGuadal canal . As the
shi ps headeddown Bl ancheChannel ,a
fl i ghtof about50 Japanesefi ghtersand
torpedobombersswungi n over Munda
Poi nt and startedbombi ngand strafi ng
runs. The Fa~’enho7t dodgedtwotorpe-
dos beforebei ngbumpedby a thi rd—a
dud;theMcL’aZla wasbracketedfrontand
rearwhi l ea thi rdtorpedopl ungedunder
the shi p. The McCatoZey was not as
l ucky. A sol i d hi t ami dshi psopeneda
gapi nghol e, and Turner’sfl agshi pcame
to a deadhal t. The admi raltransferred
hi s fl agto the Farenholt,andthe Libra
tooktheMcG’awl ey undertow. After sur-
ELKTONUNDERWAY 83
vi vi nganotherattackby 15di vebombers,
theMcCawJeyconti nuedtosettl eandwas
abandoned.Thatni ght,threemoretor-
pedossl ammedi ntothe transportand i t
sank. Bel i evedthe vi cti mof an enemy
submari ne, the McCawZey actual l ywas
sunk by an Ameri canMTB whi ch had
mi stakenher for anenemyshi p.
The day’sai r acti oncosttheJapanese
heavi l y. Determi ned tostopthei nvasi on,
the EleventhAiTFZee~fl oodedthe ski es
wi th everytype of pl aneavai l abl e.De-
spi tethewai ti ngi nterceptors of ComAi r-
Sol s,theJapanesepl ungedreckl essl yto-
wardRendova.Fi ghterprotecti onfor the
bomberswas i nsuffi ci ent, however,and
eachattackresul tedi n scoresof fl ami ng
crashes.Cl ai medki l l si n theonemorni ng
and two afternoonrai dstotal ed101en-
emy pl anes; Mari nesquadrons(VMF-
121,–122, –213,and–221) reporteddown-
i ng58of them. TheAl l i esl ost17pl anes,
but 8 pi l otswerefi shedout of thewater
by PBYs andtorpedoboats. I n addi ti on,
ComAi rSol shi t Vi l a wi th 16 torpedo
bombersand12scoutbombersi n a morn-
i ng stri ke,andthenbombedMundawi th
anafternoonstri keby25medi umbombers,
18scoutbombers, and18torpedobombers.
Theseattacksfurthercri ppl edVi l a and
Munda, andforcedtheJapanese tocontest
theRendoval andi ngwi thoutanycl ose-i n
poi ntsfor rearmi ngandrefuel i ng.
The samefal se opti mi smwhi ch had
gi venAdmi ralYamamotoa di stortedpi c-
tureof thesuccessof theApri l ZGoopera-
ti on prevai l ed, though,andsurvi vi ngen-
emypi l otsreportedthattheyhadsunk2
destroyers and1crui ser, damaged8trans-
ports,set2 destroyers afi re,anddowned50
pl anes. Thei r own l ossesthey set at 17
attackbombersand 13fi ghters. Despi te
the seemi ngtop-heavyscorereportedby
theJapanese, theyrueful l yadmi ttedthat
i i
. . . due to tenaci ousi nterferenceby
enemypl anes,a deci si vebl ow coul dnot.
be struckagai nsttheenemyl andi ngcon-
\Toy.Y3 27
Thatni ght,theJapanese hasti l ytri edto
assembl ea strongrai di ngforce i n the
Shortl andsareafor a countermandi ng on
Rendova,but onl y fi veof the destroyers
madecontactattherendezvous area.Mov-
i ngsoutharoundVel l aLavel l a,theforce
arri vedoff Rendovaat about0130on 1
Jul y. I roni cal l y,the samerai n squal l s
whi chresul tedi nmoremudashorereduced
vi si bi l i tytosuchanextentthattheJapan-
eseshi pscoul dnotdetermi ne thedebarka-
ti onpoi ntandwereforcedtowi thdraw.
Theaborti venavalrai dcl i maxeda con-
fusi ngday of acti onthatsawmanyel e-
mentsof thel andi ngforcefi l l rol esnever
l ai d out for them i n operati onpl ans.
Typi cal l y, Mari nesof the!l thDefenseBat-
tal i enwhowentashoreearl yon 30 June
to provi deanti ai rcraft protecti onfor the
beachheadfounclthemsel ves i nsteadtak-
i ng part i n i ts sei zure. The unexpected
rol easi nfantrywashandl edcompetentl y,
andofteneagerl y, by theMari negunners.
Pri or totheoperati on, Col onelScheyer
had di vi dedhi s battal i oni nto four task
groups. The speci al weapons group
(Li eutenant Col onelWri ght C. Tayl or)
wastol andon 30Juneandposi ti onei ght
40mmweaponson oneof theoffshorei s-
l ands,Kokorana.The20mmgunsand.50
cal i bermachi negunswereto be usedon
Kokoranaand Rendovafor beach de-
fenseanclprotecti onfor the anti ai rcraft
weapons.The90mmgroup,underthedi -
recti onof Major MarkS. Adams,wasto
l andonebatteryon 30Juneon Kokorana
2’J!!IE Area NavOps—11,p. 29.
84
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
for i mmedi ateanti ai rcraftprotecti on,
wi th anothertwo batteri esto be l anded
and empl acedon Rencl ovaon 1 Jul y.
Li eutenant Col onelArchi eE. O’Nei l ,i n
commandof the 155n~marti l l erygroup,
wastol andhi sbi ggunson theI stand2d
of Jul y to del i verneutral i zati on fi re on
Mundaai rfi el dposi ti onsand to support
theeventual assaul ton theai rfi el d. The
tank pl atoon, under Fi rst Li eutenant
RobertW. Bl ake,wastol andi nl aterech-
el onsand wai t on Rendovafor commi t-
menti n thefi nalpl l shon Munda.
I ni ti al resi stanceby the tJapanese di d
not del avexecuti onof the9th’smi ssi ons.
Ql l i ckl y’organi zi ngthe advanceparti es
i ntocombatpatrol s,theMari nessecured
Kokorannbeforestarti ngthejob of cl ear-
i ng fi ri ng areasfor the 90mmbattery.
Someassi stancei n unl oadi ngwas gi ven
by Seabeesandl ate-arri vi ngBarracudas.
On the eastbeachof Rendova,Mari nes
seeki ngpossi bl egun posi ti onsfrequentl y
foundthemsel ves aheadof thefrontl i nes
engagedi n fl ushi ngsni pers. Onepatrol
of the9th wi pedout a machi negun nest
duri ngsucha reconnai ssance. For the9th
DefenseBattal i on, thi swasthefi rstcl ose
contactwi ththeenemy, andman-y Mari nes
tooktheopportuni tytoturni nfantrymen
andhel psecurethei sl and.
Whi l e the beachperi meterwas bei ng
expanded, Mari nessel ectedspotsfor fu-
turebatteryposi ti ons, commandposts,fi re
di recti oncenters,and observati onposts.
Tel ephonel i neswerestrung,andfi el dsof
fi re for the bi g gunscl earedby bl asti ng
downpal mtrees. By theendof thefi rst
day ashore,the advanceel ementsof the
9thDefenseBattal i onwerebi vouacked on
Rendova’sbeachandal ongthepl antati on
road. BatteryE of the.9th (90mmguns)
was i n posi ti onon Kokorana,and had
fi redi ts fi rstshotsagai nsta l ow-fl yi ngen-
emyfi ghter at 1645. Twel ve40mm~guns,
ei ght20mmguns,andei ghteen.50cal i ber
machi neguns were set up al ong the
beacheson bothi sl ands, bol steri ngthede-
fenseposi ti ons.Onl yonesmal lhi tchhad
del ayedthequi cki nstml l nti on of the90mm
batteryon Kokorana. The gun di rector
wasmi ssi ng, nndmembers of thebattal i on
had to rummagethroughscatteredpi l es
of materi al on Rencl ova’s shoreunti lthey
foundi t.
The nextday, 1 ,Jul y,troopsand sup-
pl i esi n thesecondechel onof theWestern
I .andi n,gForce beganto arri ve,and the
four I .STS and fi ve LCI S encountered
the sameunl oadi ngprobl emsthat had
pl:l gl l edtheassaul t troops. Theshi pshad
toapproachthei sl andatsl owspeed, i nch-
i ~l ,~al ongthroughtheshal l owwaterun-
1i l grol ~ndecl by mud at consi derabl e
di stante from shore. Vehi cl eswhi chat-
temptedtochurnthronghtothebeachbe-
tamebogged and had to be rescuedby
tractors. The wei ghtof heavyarti l l ery
pi eces, towedashm-e by tractorsi n tandem,
fl l rtherrui nedthe road al ongthebeach,
and,afterthegri nsweremanhandl ed i nto
posi ti on,traffi cof anyki ndover theroad
wasi mpossi bl e.
Whi l etherai npouredon,al mostwi th-
outcessati on, mostof thepersonnel ashore
werepressedi ntoservi ceagai nas beac(h
~,orki ngparti estoc~rryrati ons, ftl el ,am-
muni ti on, communi cati on gear,andother
suppl i esfrom the jumbl edpi l es cmthe
beachto dumpsi nl and. Attemptstogai n
somemeasureof tracti onfor vehi cl esi n
the soft underfooti ngmet wi th fai l ure.
~Seabees tri edtocorduroytheformerroad
wi th12-footcoconutl ogs,butthel ogsand
steel n~atti ngthey Llsed soon sankunder
themucl . I n addi ti on, areasbel i evedsui t-
ELKTON UNDERWAY
85
abl efor gunposi ti onsor bi vouacareasbe-
cameswamps,and di spersi onof troops
wasal mosti mpossi bl e.Sol di ersandMa-
ri neswhoattemptedto di g foxhol esmo-
rosel ywatchedthei reffortsbecomesunken
baths.
Despi tethe di ffi cul ti escausedby the
rai n,by theendof tl ~eseconddayashore,
two guns of BatteryA of the Mari nes’
155mnl gungroupwerei npermanent posi -
ti onson Rendovaandhadtest-fi redsev-
eral roundsat Munda. BatteryB of the
samegroupwasashorei n a temporarypo-
si ti onbuthadnotfi red. I n addi ti on, two
90mmbatteri eswerei n pl aceandal l spe-
ci al weaponsdug-i nnearbyfor protecti on.
TheMari nes, unabl etodi ghabi tabl e posi -
ti onsi n themud,bui l tabove-ground shel -
terswi thcoconutl ogs andsandbags.
Armyarti l l erymen, taki ngposi ti onson
Kokorana,found the i sl andhad a sol i d
coralsubsurface that, hel dthe155mmhow-
i tzerswi thoutdi ffi cul ty.Moreover, si nce
thei sl andwasopenon thenorthsi de,no
fi el dsof fi rehad to be cl eared. Sol di ers
of the 192d Fi el d Arti l l ery Battal i on
pushedthei rgunsi ntoposi ti on, took gen-
eral ai mat Mundasome13)000yardsdi s-
tant,and beganfi ri ngregi strati onshots
l atethesecondday. Whi l etheArmyar-
ti l l erymenand Mari nesstruggl edwi th
“thei rheavygLms, ammuni ti on, generators,
andradaruni ts,combatpatrol sof the43d
Di vi si onsecuredover hal f of Rendova.
The stagewasbei ngset for the moveto
NewGeorgi a.
Ai r acti vi tyduri ngthesecondday was
l i mi ted. The ComAi rSol sfi ghtercover
over Rendovai nterceptedandfoughtoff
onl y one attemptedenemyattack. The
coveri ngfi ghtersal somountedgl ~ardover
a stri keby 28torpedoandscoutbombers
at Vi l a, whi chfurtherreducedthatfi el d
to a nonoperati onal status. Before re-
turni ngtoGuadal canal , eachfi ghterpl ane
workedoverMundadefenses, strafi ngpos-
si bl ebi vouacareas. General Mul cahy, as-
s[l mi ngan acti verol e i n the operati on,
schedul edand di rectedthe stri kewhi ch
hel ped~meri canforcesrouttheenemyat
Vi ru Harbor.
Thethi rdday ashore, 2 Jul y,promi sed
tobe justaswetas theprevi oustwodays.
Jvhi l ethe 103dand 172dI nfantrypre-
paredfor themoveto NewGeorgi a,the
Mari ne155nmn g-LuMandtheArmy155mnl
howi tzersconti nuedfi ri ng regi strati on
mi ssi onson Mundaai rfi el d. Di rect ob-
servati onwasused,wi thspotterscl i ngi ng
precari ousl yto perchesatop pal mtrees.
AS yet,noarti l l eryfi recontrolmapswere
avai l abl e,so onl y area targetswerese-
l ected. The 192d Fi el d Arti l l ery and
the Mari negroup fi red wi th i mpuni ty;
fears that the Japanesecoul d retal i ate
wi thcounterbattery fi reprovedunfounded.
I t wasatthi s poi nt,shortl yafter 1330,
that the ,Tapaneseai r commwnderat
Rabaul ,Achni ralKusaka,fi nal l yhadhi s
i nni ng. Hi s ti mi ng was perfect. The
Con~Ai rSol s fi ghtercoverhadrel uctantl y
been wi thdrawnunder threat of bad
weather,and the Japanesebombersar-
ri vedonl y a fewmi nutesaftertheAl l i ed
fi ghtersdepartecl ..l n earl y-warni ng ra-
daruni twastemporari l y outof operati on,
whi l ei ts generatorwas drai nedof di esel
oi l mi stakenl yused i n pl ace of whi te
gasol i ne.
TheJapanese fl i ght,vari ousl yesti mated
at from18to25 medi umbombers, swung
i n over the eastsi deof RendovaMoun-
tai n,catchi ngthetroopsi ntheopenon the
beach. A bombi ngpatternthatsti tched
thebeachheadfromoneendto the other
qui ckl ydi spel l edany i l l usi onthat these
mi ghtbefri endl ypl anes.Therewasti me
ol ]l y for a shouted, “Condi ti onRed,” be-
foretroopsfranti cal l ysoughtcover. But
ELKTON UNDERWAY 87
manywerecaughti n theopen,an extra
di vi dendto theattracti vetargetof shi ps,
equi pment, ancl suppl i esjammedi nto a
restri ctedarea. Manyof thebombsal vos
hi trati onanclfuel dumps;othersexpl oded
ammuni ti ondumps. Hi ghestcasual ti es
occurredamongtheSeabeesconcentrated
on a promontoryoff thebeach. A dyna-
mi tedumptherewashi t,i ts bl astaddi ng
tothecasual ti es of thebombi ng.Thepe-
ni nsul awas promptl y dubbed“Sui ci de
Poi nt.” Further,the cl eari ngstati onof
the43dDi vi si onwas hi t, whi chreduced
the amountof assi stance whi chcoul dbe
gi ven. Mostof the vi cti mswererushed
to shi ps i n the bay for treatmentof
wounds.
Becauseof theconfusi on, earl yesti mates
of thenumberof deadandwoundedtTari ed
wi del y. Somemenwerereportedmi ssi ng,
ei therki l l edby expl odi ngamml mi ti on or
di recthi ts,or, moreprobabl y, removedto
shi ps and hurri ed to Guadal canalfor
treatment.I n al l ,64menwereki l l edand
another89wounded.Seabeesi n theboat
pool andsol di ersi n the43dDi vi si onbi v-
ouacareassustai nedthe henvi estcasual -
ti es. I n spi teof the congesti on, cl amage
to materi elon the beach was rel ati vel y
l i ght. Besi desthe ammuni ti onand fuel
dumpshi t, twoof the 155mmgunswere
scarredby bomb fragments,two 40mnl
gunsweredamaged, andthreeamphi bi an
tractorswerehol ed. Al l wererepai rabl e,
though,wi th the excepti onof oneof the
tractors.
The attack’ssuccesswas the resul tof
manyfactors. For onethi ng,Armyradar
uni tshadgoneoutof commi ssi onshortl y
after l andi ng,andal thougha Mari nera-
daruni thadbeenl andedon 1Jul y,i t was
thi s onethatwasbei ngdrai nedof di esel
fuel . Al so,onthedayprevi ous, thetroops
691–360 O—63—T
hadbel i eveda fl i ghtof Ameri canmedi um
bombersto be enemy pl anes and had
scrambl edfor cover. Thi s day they be-
l i evedthe enemypl anesto be the same
medi ums backon stati on. A thi rdfactor
wasl ackof di spersi on.Shel tershadbeen
dl ~gal ongthe beach,but thetroopswere
nowbusyhandl i ngothermateri el , andhad
not provi dedotherprotecti on.But as a
resl ~l t of therai d,theareabecamedotted
wi thfoxho]es-cl eepfoxhol es.
By 3 ,Jul y,the routi neof operati ons
ashorewasestabl i shed. Troopsof the43d
Di vi si on began the shuttl eto Zanana
Beachon NewGeorgi a,andthebi g guns
of the9thDefenseRattal i on and the I ggd
Fi el d .$rti l l er~ pi cked at Munda’s de-
f enses, seeki ng for a hi dden strong poi nt,
a bi vouacarea,or a suppl yor ammuni ti on
dump. .i 130-footcoastarti l l eryobserva-
ti on tower of 1%-i nchangl ei ron made
spotti ngeasi erthanvi ewi ngfroma sway-
i ng pal mtree. Erectedon hi gh ground
aboutzooyardsbackof (l eneralHester%
commandpost at the foot of Rendova
Mountai n,the tower provi deda central
poi ntfromwhi chMari neandArmyspot-
terscoul dradi ocorrecti ons tothearti l l ery
fi redi recti on centerandthenobservethe
stri keof theshel l son Mundaai rfi el dand
i ts borderi nghi l l sacrossthechannel , and
on the nearbyi sl andsoff NewGeorgi a’s
shore. I n ti me,a systemwas devel oped
wherebyfi l msdroppednearthetowerby
photographi cpl anes were i mmedi atel y
pi ckedup,devel oped, andthenstudi edfor
assessment of damageto Mundadefenses.
On theni ghtof 3 Jul y, theenemyat-
temptedto fol l ow up i ts devasti ngstri ke
of the 2d wi th an attackfrom the sea.
A Japanesenaval force suddenl yap-
pearedoffshoreandspattered theRendova
beachheadarea wi th a bombardment
88
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
whi chdi dl i ttl eor nodamage..411i ed de-
stroyersandtorpedoboatsforcedtheen-
emy shi ps to wi thdrawhasti l ywi thout
accompl i shi ngthe hoped-for cri ppl i ng
bl owtothei nvasi ontroops,
As fol l owi ngechel onsof the l Vestern
Landi ngForceunl oadedon 4 ,Jul y,a des-
perateJap~l ]ese comnmndatl l abaultri ed
oncemoreto knockthei nvasi onforceoff
Rendova. Si ncetheai r attackon 2 Jul y
represented theonl yrneasl we of successi n
thei reffortssofar?theJapaneserepeated
theact. Thecastandthescri ptremai ned
the same,except for the fi nai curtai n.
Thi s ti metheJapanesefoundthemsel ves
hol di ngthewrongendof a Fourthof JI dy
Romancandl e. Froma forceof morethan
100pl anestryi ngto presshomeon attack
throughthe ri ng of .411i edi nterceptor
pl anes, onl y16bombers wereabl etoswi ng
overRendovaMountai ni n therepeatper-
formance.Butthi sti me,al ertedby sound
l ocatorsandradar,the9th DefenseBat-
tal i en anti ai rcraft t batteri eswere ready,
and12of the16bombersandanescorti ng
fi ghterwereknockeddowni nfl ames.The
90nmlguns expendeda total of onl y 88
rounds,a feat whi ch the Mari nesjubi -
l antl yprocl ai meda recordfor roundsper
pl ane,
Thi s attackon Rendovawas the l ast
dayl i ghtassaul ton thei sl andof any si ze
madeby theJapaneseai r fl eet. Fromthi s
poi nton, theattacksweremadeat ni ght.
Al thoughthe ConAi rSol s fi ghtercover
sti l l mai ntai ned a vi gi l overRendova, the
focusof theai rwarshi ftedtoNewGeorgi a
asthetroopsshuttl edfromthebeachhead
at Rendovato the beachheadat Zanana.
Therethesecondphaseof Operati onTOE-
NAI LSwastobegi n.
CHAPTER$
MundaVictory
.4SHORE AT ZAiVANABEACH1
Tl ~eAl l i ed l andi ngs i n the Central
Sol ornons :mdtheSewG~~i nea areacaused
Japanesepl annerssomeanxi ousmoments.
Pl ai nl y,the si tu:~ti oncal l edfor prompt
acti onto rel i evethepressl ~re on thefi rst
defensi vel i nesof ,Japzn’swar-fl l l ngem-
pi re,butthequesti onwas: ~l ~here shoul d
themi l joreffortbedi rected?To chte,al l
atten~l )ts to repul se the l andi ngs l MC1
provedfuti l e,andprospects for futuresuc-
cess di dn’t l ook too promi si l ~g, ei ther.
Mi ndfl l ]of earl i erbasi cpl anstoretai nthe
CentralSol omonswhi l e hol di ngout i n
NewGui nea, the,Japanese commanders at
Rabaulschedul eda conferencefor 4 ,Jul y
toreacha deci si on.
To GeneralSasakiand Admi ral Ota,
rueful l ywatchi ngtheRendovaoperati ons
froma wel l -protected headql mrters onKo-
kengol aHi l l atMundaai rfi el d, thesi tua-
ti onwasabi tmorepressi ngandal otmore
personal . Fronl observati oni t was ap-
p:~~’entthattl ~etroopsacl ossthechannel
had col l l eto st:~yal ~d~verebl l i l di ngLI p
for :~noffensi ve i n strel ]gt h. ~l ~hen 155mm
~l l l l s :111{~ howi tzers be::l ]l to rexi ster on the
ai rfi el (l , the patterl ~of the campai gnbe-
cxmeal l too cl ear. Mundawas goi ngto
l ~ee(l rei nforcements, andqui ckl y,i f i t was
tobehel d.
Thetwocommanders reportedthei rap-
prai sal of the si tl mti on,and then took
stepstostrengthentheai rfi el ddefensesas
best, theycoul clwi ththetroopsavai l abl e.
I n a seri esof orders si gnedjoi ntl y by
Sasakiml dOta,al l easternhTewGeorgi a
l ookoutdetachments wererecal l edon 30
~Junel ancl two recentl tyarri ved140nl m
gl l l l sandtl vosl l l al l erl l l oul l tai l l gul l swere
‘ Vnl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s (l eri veclfrom : t70mt30Poc Jt[l~r3WarI);
ComTl ]i rdFl t Narrati ve Rept, SoI ’ac Campai gn,
dtcl 3Sel A4, hereafter ci ted as TltirdFZt Rept;
XGO1’ (XIV Corl B) X“arrati ve .~ccount of the
Campai gns i n the Sew Georgi a Groul l , B.S.I .,
n.d., herenfter XG’03’ .tlccount; Hi story of 43d
I nfantry Di vi si on, Worl d War I I , 24Feb41-
.Jun44, n.d., hereafter &?d I nfDicHist; 43d
I nfDi v FONos. 1-17, 16Jun–25Aug43; 9th DefBn
Oflsltcpt; Combat I nfantry, Part Ei ght: New
Georgi a, dt(l 31Aug44, hereafter New Georgia
Comfiat; NewGeorgia Campaion; ONI , Combat
A’a}ratife X; Rentz, Marines in the Central
Solomo?l<v; .Joseph A. Zi mmer, Tl te History of
the ~~d I tlfa)ltr~ Dirisiojl, 1941–1,945(Baton
Rouge. 1,:[.: .I rmy and A-avy Publ i shi ng Co.,
1947), hereafter Zi mmer, 4.jd’s Historti.
orderedrushedoverl andfrom Bai roko.
I n addi ti on, a reserveforce,the14?thConL-
pany, i ?29ti i Regi mmt.wasal ertedtomove
fromKol ombangara toNTewGeorgi a.
As theAl l i edbui l dupon Rendovacon-
ti nued,however, thesedefensi vemeasures
beganto l ook woeful l yweak,so the re-
mai nderof theW l?attal~on,829tthRegi-
ment,was orderedto Munda’sai d. By
Sasaki ’sown esti mate, al l defensesmust
be readyby duskon 3 Jul y. Meanwhi l e,
thecombi necl ArmyandS&TLFuni tswere
exhortedto “mai ntai nal ertedcondi ti ons
throughoutthe ni ght and guardagai nst
enemyl andi ngs;i f theenemycommences
89
90
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
tol and,destroythematthewater’sedge.”
On 2 Jul y,thecommandrel ati onshi pwas
changed.Sasaki ,as theseni oroffi cer, “i n
responseto the condi ti onsi n thi s area,”
assumed sol ecommandof al l NewGeorgi a
garri sons. Admi ral Ota, rel i evedof hi s
l andi ngforces, was assi gnedcontrol of
ArmyandNavybargeandshi ppi nguni ts
i n thearea.2
The actual i nvasi onof westernNew
Georgi a was not the di rect assaul ton
Mundaai rfi el dwhi chSasakiandOtabe-
l i evedwascomi ng. I nstead, i n a l andi ng
on 30 Junewhi chactual l yprecededthe
Rendovaassaul t by several hours,sol di ers
of Compani esA and B, 169thI nfantry
scrambl edashore on the “i sl andsthat
guardedtheOnai avi si Entranceto Rovi-
anaLagoon. Lashedbyheavyrai nsqual l s
andhampered bythedarkness, ti l esol di ers
neverthel ess managedtomakecontact, wi th
a wai ti ngpre-D-Dayamphi bi ol ~s patrol
and nati vescouts. The l andi ngwast~n-
opposed,but not uneventful .The mi ne
sweeperZ(/ ne, wl~ichhad beenusec]as a
transport, wentagrol mcl on a smal li sl and
justi nsi detheel ~trance, andl ay exposed
as a tel l tal emarker. Her hel pl essstate
andthel andi ngareawere i ~norecl , l ~ow-
ever,by Japanesepl anesstri ki ngat the
Rendoval andi ng. The oceantug Rai 7,
summonedfrom Guadal canal , pul l edthe
Zaneoff thereef l atethat,afternoon.
After securi ngtheentrancei sl ands, the
sol di ersbeganthemoveto ZananaBeach
.
ontheshorel i neof N“ewGeorgi a. Earl i er
pl anshadcal l edfor CompanyOof the4th
Mari neRai derBattal i onto act as scol ~ts
for thi sphaseof theoperati on, but wi th
2CI C SoPacFor I tem No. 702, dtd 13Sep43,
New Georgi a DefOpO A Nos. 11–15, 30Jun–
1Ju143.
therai derssti l l at Segi andVi ru,recon-
nai ssance teamsfromtheRendovaforces
wereorgani zed. Thesewerel ater aug-
mel ~ted by a companyof Fi ji anandTon-
ganesescouts,who wereaggressi veand
ski l l edjungl efi ghters.3(SeeMap5.)
Thepatrol smovedi ntotheareabetween
Zananaand the Bari keRi ver, marki ng
waterpoi nts,trai l s,coastalroads,possi bl e
arti l l eryposi ti ons, andal l avenuesof ap-
proachtoMunda.Theywereal soordered
to probeJapanesedefensesbetweenthe
ai rfi el dand13ai roko Harbor,andtoreport
al l bargeacti vi tyobservecl .One of the
fi rstradi oedmessages fronlthepatrol sre-
porteda successful ambushof a Japanese
group and that uni formmarki ngson a
deadenemyri fl emani ndi catedthathehad
been a memberof the $%9thRegiment.
Theambushed,Japanese hadbeenpartof
the5t7~Co~npCmy, 2dBattalion, whi chhad
beenorcl eredto i nvesti gate theOnai avi si
Entrance l andi ngs and “dri ve out the en-
emy whohas l andedthereandmakethe
areasecure. ” 4 Later the 5th Compafiy
wastol d to resi ststubbornl yagai nstthi s
newphaseof l andi ngsandfi ghttothel ast
at thei rpresentposi ti ons.Thesei nstruc-
ti onssetthepatternfor Japaneseresi st-
ancei n New~~eorgi a.
GeneralHesterrecei vedAdmi ralHal -
sey’s approvalto proceedwi th the New
Georgi aphaseof TOENAI LSon 2 Jul y.
Thatni ght,el ements of thel ’72d’sI stBat-
tal i onbeganthe movefrom Rendovato
ZananaBeach. The troop transferwas
9R. A. Hewl ett, The History of the Fiji Mili-
targ Forces, 1.93.9-1945(Chri stchurch, N.Z. :
Whi tecornbe and Tcmmbs,Ltd., 1948), p. 5.
‘ CI C SoPacFor I tem No. 705,dtd 9Sep43,New
Georgi a Defense Butai , Xl Bn Order A No. 141,
dtd 30Jun43.
92
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
madei n l andi ngcraft,whi chtowedaddi -
ti onalrubberboatscarryi l ~g sol cl i ers. Tor-
pedo boats furl ~i she(l an escort across
Bl ancheChannel ,ancl ,at Onai avi siEn-
trance,nati vegui desi n canoestook o~-er
andcl i rectecl thel andi ngr craftthrol l ,ghthe
]agool lto ti l ebe:l cl l l l eacl . Ti l e fol l ol l i l l g
cl ay,3 Jul yl l ~ri ~~acl i er (l enerall vi ng es-
tabl i shedtheA8CI Di vi si on’sfom-arcl con~-
mandpost (CI )) on hTew~~eorgi a.A 52-
man cl ef ai l from tl ~e9th Defense13at -
tal i on’sspeci al~veapm~s grouparri vedon
4Jul y andi mmedi atel y empl acedfour 40-
mmgunsfor anti ai rcraft protecti on. Four
.50cal i bermacl ~i ne gl msweresi tedtopro-
tecttheanti ai mraft posi ti ol ~s andto add
depthtothefi repowerof thesol cl i ers.
The Japaneseai r attack of 4 Jul y at
Rendova mana~ecl to make targets out of
most of the troops that were to parti ci -
pate i n the push on l l unda ai rfi el d. The
l ’72cl was sti l l i n the process of shuttl i ng
troops to Zanana 13each; and the fi fth
echel on of the NTGO1’) the remai nder of
the 169th I nfantry and the 136th Fi el d
.krti l l ery 13attal i on carri ed i n 14 LCI S ancl
4 LSTS, had just arri ved at Rendova
Harbor. Tl ~e169thhad remai nedi n the
Russel l sas di vi si on reserveduri ng the
earl ypartof theoperati on? andthe136th
was detachedfrom the 3’i thDi vi si onon
Guadal (’anal .The ai r attackhi t as the
169thand1Mthweredebarki ng.Unl oad-
i ng acti vi ti eswere abruptl yabandoned.
Lucki l y,no shi pswerehi t. But for the
newarri val s,thebombi ngattackfol l ow-
i nga sea-tossed tri pfromtheRussel l swas
arol ~ghwel cometoNewGeorgi a.
Transferri ngthei requi pment andsup-
pl i estosmal lcraftfromthel +endo~a boat
pool , thesol di ersbeganthemovement to
Zananaal mosti mmedi atel y.The 155mm
howi tzersof the 136thwereunl oadedon
oneof thei sl andsguardi ngOnai avi si En-
tranceantiposi ti onedto provi dearti l l ery
supportto the troops attacki ngMunda.
Otherheavyweapons, the105mmhowi tz-
ers of the 169thand103dFi el dArti l l ery
Battal i onswereal soempl acedon theoff-
l yi ng i sl andsfor adcl i ti cmal fi resupport.
By cl uskof 5Jul y,thel ’i 2dandthe169th
I nfantry were ashoreon New Georgi a,
readyto begi nthemarchtowardthel i ne
of departureal ongtheI hwi keRi ver. A
secondaryl andi ng,earl yon themorni ng
of 5Jul yby theNorthernLandi ngGroup
(NLG), commandedby Mari neCol onel
Li versedge,establ i sheda beachheadat
Ri ceAnchorageon thenorthcoastof New
Georgi ato threatenSasaki ’sforcesfrom
thatdi recti on.5
Onthe6th,thel ’72dmovedwesttoward
the 13ari ke. Li ttl e opposi ti onwas en-
countered.Thenextday,however, asthe
169thI nfantrybegani tsmovetoposi ti ons
northof the 172d,determi nedenemyop-
posi ti ondeci si vel ystal l edtheenti reregi -
ment. Stoppedshortof the Bari ke,the
169thwenti ntobi vouac.
Accountsof theacti onduri ngtheni ght
of 6 Jul y combi nefact and fancy. Re-
ports that Japaneseri fl emenhad i nfi l -
tratedthe l ooseperi meterset up by the
169th’sl eadi ngbattal i oncauseda pani c
amongthe sol cl i ers.Al thoughthe regi -
menthad beenon Guadal canal and the
Russel l spri or toN’ewGeorgi a,thetroops
evi dentl ywere not preparedfor jungl e
combatat ni ght. Sol di ersreportedthe
nextmorni ngthatenemyi nfi l trators threw
grenades, screamed, Wl l i st,l ed, shoutedi n.
vecti ve, andjumpedi ntofoxhol estobayo-
5The account of the Ri ce Anchorage l andi ng i s
rel ated i n the fol l owi ng chapter.
MUATDAVI CTORY
93
netti l eoccup:~l ]ts. ~\fl er:~wi l (l l l i gl ]tof
~rl ’pl l :l ({e l)III>StS, sl](x)t i l l <g, :tl ~tl st’reanl i l l ~~,
l ~ol vevel ’, I 1o el ]el )l y tl t’:~(1\\-ei oetol l l ]~l i l l
the peri meterwhendawncameand the
sol di erswereabl e to l ook around. But
NGOFcasl l :l l ti es werenumerous.
Theacti onol ~theni ghtof 6Jul y,whi ch
starteda w:~veof nearhysteri aamongthe
troops,seri ol l sl yi l l ~pai recl tl ~ecombatef-
fi ci encyof the 169thI nfantry. Despi te
manyl ateraggressi veanddetermi ned at-
tacks,the169th’si ni ti alfai l uresal ongthe
Bari keRi ver were attri butedto an ap-
parentl ack of con~bat condi ti oni ngand
trai ni ng.”
Regardl ess of specul ati onastowhether
suchni ghtattackswerewhol l yreal or i l l
parti magi ned, therewasno denyi ngthe
end resul ts-the l oss of manyfront-l i ne
troops throughactual wol ~ndsand war
neurosi s. Later al l regi mentsi n the at-
tackweresubjectedto tl ~i stypeof el ~emy
tacti ts. I n defel ~se agai nstsucl ~rai ds,43d
I )i vi si onsol di ersadopteda pol i cyof joi nt
foxhol esfor two or moremenprotecte~l
by tri p wi reswi thnoi senmkersattached.
I n acl di ti on, a ri gi dfi repl al ~Tvas adopted
~vhi cl ~prohi bi tedpronl i scl l ol l ssl ~ooti l ~g
aml movement at ni ghtanclal l owedonl y
the outsi deperi meterto fi reor usegre-
nades. Thesedefensi vemeasures restore(l
di sci pl i ne:1]1(1 sti l bi l i ty.
.I fter del a}i l ]gl nostof then~or]]i l l g of
7 ,Jul yi n reorg:~l ]i z:~ti on, tl ]e 169thre-
‘ ~ommenti ng on thi s phnse of the campai gn,
A(l mi r:l l Hi i l sey s:l i (l : “Tl ~e [169th] regi ment
sel )t;1(;0nl en b:ttfkto ~zl l :l (l al cal l ;l l as ‘I var nerves’
easl ~:~l ti es after 011P(l i l y’s ti ghti ng. (%neral Har-
mon met then~tl ~ere,proml )tl y rc’tl l r~l etl:1(Nof
thel l l to ti l e (’ol l l i )at Zone. . . .“ IIillS~y and
Bryan, I I alsrU’s,~ior~l,1).161. See al so Mi l l er,
l ?ed?(cti o~rof Ral)uu1,pp. 10S109, for a descri p-
ti on of thi s :l cti on.
s[unedi tspusl ~towardtheBari ke. Agai n
tl ~eregi l ~~el ~t N-:wstopi )e(l al mosti nl medi -
:~tel yby :~g~~ressi ~-e el ]emyresi stance.Al -
tl l ol l gl lthe l (;9tl l mm]agedto overcome
tl ~i sfi l ’stene~~]y opposi ti on,tl ~esol di ers
h:ul to fi gl ~t:[l ~other l e]~gthyacti onbe-
fol e reachi ]~g the1owhi l l seastof theri ver.
Tl ml T2d,i ]~i tszoneof acti on,hadpushed
to the Bari kewi thouttoo muchtroubl e.
l ~l ~el ~i t becameapparentthatthe 169th
coul dnot reachtheBari keRi ver i n ti me
to begi l ~theattack01]8 Jul y as pl anned,
General Hester-wi th Hal sey’s ap-
proval -orcl eredtheoperati ondel ayedone
day. The ~GOF commanderal socan-
cel l edthat part of hi s pl an that cal l ed
for a cl i rect:~ssaul t on the ai rfi el dover
1[1~]~(1:~ l mr by a b:~tt:~l i ol ~of the 103d
I nfantry wi thNl ari ne9thI )efenseBattal -
i ontanksi n support. Mounti ngevi dence
thntthe ,Tal l :l l l ese hel dthe areai n great
strengthdi mn]eclthe prospectsfor the
successof SLI Ch a thl ”ust.
.I fter anotherni ghtof i nfi l trators’ at-
tacks, duri ng whi ch sol di ers crouched
sl eepl essi l l foxhol es,theadvancewasre-
surnecl tl ~enextmorni ng.The172dmoved
fai rl yeasi l yal onga coastaltrai l i n a col -
l l nmof battal i ons.The169th, struggl i ng
fl moughthe jungl e wi th an open fl ank
screenedonl y by theFi ji scoutcompany?
w-asecl ~el oned totheri ghtrear. A heavy
col i cel ~trati ol l of mortarandarti l l eryfi re
~)1~ tl ~e,Japanese posi ti ontothei mmedi ate
frentof the169thbrokeresi stance there;
and,ai ded‘bya fl anki ngattackby the172d
l ~i t ti ngfrom tl ~el eft, the 169thwasabl e
to pushaheacl .L:~tei n the afternoonof
the8tl ~, thefati gued169tl ~struggl edi nto
l msi ti ol lon l i ne wi th tl w 172(1to start
tl l e (I ri veto~v:l r(l 311111(1:1 tl l e fol l owi ng
l ~~orl l i l l g.
94 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
NGOF I N ATTACK: ZAiVAI VA
TO .LAI AiVA7
Boomi ngsal vosfrom four destroyers
at 0512on the 9th of Jl l l y si gnal ]edthe
startof the~GOF attack. Theone-hour
navalbombardment, whi chdumped2)344
fi ve-i nchshel l son posi ti onsi n therearof
the enemyl i nes,was fol l owedby a can-
nonadeby al l arti l l erybattal i onsof the
NGOF. The shel l i ngcombi nedthefi res
of two 155mmhowi tzerbattal i ons, one
155mmgun battal i on,and two 105nl m
howi tzerbattal i ons.I n al l , the Munda-
Bari keareawasbatteredby 5,800rounds
of hi ghexpl osi ves.Enemycl efensi re posi -
ti ons, l i nes of communi cati on, bi vouac
areas, andcommandpostswerebl astedfor
onehour beforethefi reswereshi ftedto
the area to be assaul tedby the ground
troops. As arti l l eryl i fted,52 Navyand
Mari netorpedobombersand 36 scout
bombersstruck,droppi nghi gh expl osi ve
andfragmentati on bombsonthearea. At
0900, heartened by thi sextremeconcentra-
ti onof fi repower, the43dDi vi si onstarted
i ts attacktowardtheNCXOFobjecti ve––
Mundaai rfi el d,
After cl eari ngthe i ni ti al Japanesere-
si stance,the advanci ngsol cl i ersencoun-
tered onl y sni persand smal l outposts.
Progress,however,wassl ow. Each new
enemyopposi ti onforceddepl oyment and
attack.Hi ddensni pers, pi nni ngdownthe
7Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ved from : T1/i)dl’lt Rcpt; CTF 31
SAR, Rept of Bombardmentof Muncl aPoi ntqdt(l
9.4ug43; ComAir Xew Georgi a SAR, 2!l ,Jun-13
Aug43, dt(l c. l ,Jan44; Xcjc Gcor@a Combat;
yew Georgia Ca?)lpaign;NGOF Account; ~3d
I?tfI)ivHist; 9th I )efBn Rept of TkOps i n the
New Georgi a Area, dtd 24Aug43, hereafter 9th
DejB~~TliOps; 0S1, C’omi5at NarrativesX;
Rentz, Marines i)l t?leCentral Solornons; Zi m-
mer, 43d’s Histo)’jj.
advanceuni ts,hel dup theregi mentsfor
hours. Every stepforwardwasa strug-
gl e agai nsta cl etermi ned enemyandmul -
ti pl ejungl eobstacl es-dense, vi ne-choked
underbrush, steep ri dges, numerous
swamps, constant andenervati ng heat,and
al mosti ncessant torrentsof rai n.
The onl y mapsprovi dedthe attacki ng
forceweresketches basedon aeri alphotos.
The drawi ngsoutl i nedjungl eareaswi th
conventi onal symbol swhi chdi dnotreveal
thei ntri cate, abruptmassof hi l l s,ri dges,
andswamps—jumbl ed wi thoutpattern—
that l ay underthe thi ck jungl ecanopy.
Contourl i neson themapswerebasedon
scouti ngreports,and,as43dDi vi si onsol -
di ers di scovered, were usual l yi n error.
Theri dgesandhi l l s,bendi ngandtwi sti ng
i n al l di recti ons, forcedtheattacki nguni ts
tomovei nonedi recti on, thenanother.As
a resul t,by theendof thesecondday of
theattack, bothregi ments hadbecomei n-
termi ngl edand wereattacki ngi n vi rtu-
al l ya si ngl ecol umn. Thei ni ti alfrontage
of 1,300yardshadcol l apsedtoal mostone-
hal f that, di stance. I n addi ti on, the
l i nesof communi cati on andsuppl ywere
nowstretchedovertwomi l esthroughthe
jungl efromZananaBeach,an extensi on
exceedi ngl yvul nerabl eto counterattack
fromtl ~enorth,or ri ght,fl ank.
For the 169th,the advancehad been
parti cul arl yharrowi ng.Gi vena zoneof
acti on that forced them to cross the
meanderi ngBari keRi ver a numberof
ti mes,thesol di erssl owl ypressedforward
overthesteepri dgesandthroughthedeep
swampsi n the upper ri ver regi on. Fa-
ti guedfrom the i ni ti al struggl ethrough
thejungl efrom Zanana7 andconti nual l y
harassedatni ghtby enemysol di ersprob-
i ng at the exposedri ghtfl ank,the 169th
was a di spi ri tedoutfi t. After such a
MUNDA VI CTORY
95
di sappoi nti ngstart, the regi mentmus-
teredonl yl ethargi cattacksa~l i nstenemy
opposi ti on. Woundedsol di ersandcom-
batfati guecaseswanderedback~l ongthe
trai l toZanana, drai ni ngthefrontl i nesof
neededstrengthand creati nga seri ous
evacuati onprobl em. .l ddi ti on~l l y,wi th
the regi mentso strungout, troops were
neededtocarryfood,water,andammuni -
ti ontotheattackers aswel lashel pevacu-
ate the wounded,tasks whi ch further
sappedthefi ghti ngstrengthof theoutfi t.
The patternof enemyresi stance devel -
opedby theendof thesecondday of at-
tack,10Jul y, pl ai nl yi ndi catedthatthe
Japanesewerehol di nga barri erposi ti on
i n thehi ghgroundeastof Mundaai rfi el d
whi ch they woul d defend i n strength.
The NGOF offensi ve-gri ndi ngagai nst
thi sl i neof mutual l ysupporti ngforti fi ca-
ti onsof l ogsandcoral ,strongl ydefended
by automati c weapons, mortars, andarti l -
l ery-f al tered.
As the NGOF struggl edagai nstthe
jungl eand a tenaci ousenemy,engi neers
attempted toestabl i shed a suppl yrouteto
thefrentl i nesby hewi nga jeeproadout
of themattedunderbrush.Nati vegui des
poi ntedout a trai l whi chtook advantage
of as muchhi gh groundas possi bl e, but
mostof theroutehadtofol l owthemarshy
banksof theBari keRi verandi n somei n-
stancesran paral l el to the front l i nes.
Bri dgi ngof theBari kewasaccompl i shed
i n severalspotsby trestl esmadeof fel l ed
ti mber. Evenwhi l econstructi ng theroad
i n therearof thefrontl i nes,however, the
engi neerswereunderal mostconstantat-
tackfrombypassedsni persandwanderi ng
squadsof enemy. Bul l dozeroperators
werea pri metarget,andengi neercasual -
ti es mountedas the road cl eari ngpro-
ceeded. Metal shi el ds were eventual l y
wel dedtothetractorstoprotectthe‘dozer
operators. Si nceno heavygraderswere
avai l abl e,the jeep road coul d not be
di tchedor crowned,and any traffi cover
theroadafter a rai nstormusual l ymeant
extensi veroadrepai rs.8
Wi th the needfor a cl oserrei nforci ng
andresuppl ypoi ntmadeobvi ousby con-
di ti onsto the rear of the NGOF front,
Hester’s staff focused attenti on on
Lai anaBeach. Rejectedearl i eras a l and-
i ngsi tebecausei t wasdeemedtooheavi l y
defendedand too i naccessi bl efor qui ck
resuppl y, Lai ananowappearedto be the
answerto NGOFl ogi sti cprobl ems.The
beach was some 5,000yards cl oser to
Munda,andi ts possessi onwoul dshorten
suppl y, evacuati on,and rei nforcement
l i nesaswel l asput freshattacki ngtroops
consi derabl y cl oserto themai nobjecti ve.
On 11Jul y, GeneralHesterorderedthe
l ’72dto di sengage fromthefrontalassaul t
andpi vot southwest i n an attacktoward
thecoastl i netosecureLai anaBeach. At
the sameti me, the NGOF commander
al ertedthe 3d Battal i on,103dI nfantry
andthe tank pl atoonof the%h Defense
Battal i ontobe readytol eaveRendovafor
Lai anaas soon as the 172dreachedthe
coast.
Thoughthe172dwasonl y a shortdi s-
tance northeast of thebeachwhendi rected
to attack,theareawas not securedunti l
13 Jul y. Despi tenear-constant arti l l ery
assi st antewhi chshreddedandbl astedthe
jungl ecoveri ngfromdefenses onthesharp
hi l l sbetweenthe172dandLai ana, theen-
emy cl ung stubbornl yto hi s posi ti ons.
Repeatedai r stri kesfai l edto dentthede-
fenses, and the Japanese,apparentl y
awareof NGOFi ntenti ons, rai nedmortar
andarti l l eryfi rebetweenthe172dandi ts
qMc.4Ui8terZtr.
MU!N~A VIU’1’UJSX
objecti ve. Mari netanksandthe103dI n-
fantryBattal i on, schedul edtol andol ~the
12th,werehel dback. The l ’i ’2dreached
I .ai anaon tl ~e13th,and,on thofol l ow-
i ng day, l ancl i ngcraft and tank l i gl ~ters
cmrri edtherei nforcements ashore. Arti l -
l ery smokeshel l scoveredt-hel andi ngac-
ti vi ti es. Al thoughthe i nfantryhi t the
shorel i ne wi thouti nci dentlenemy‘75mm
gl l ns hi dfi eni n the jungl e fi redrandom
shotsattl ~el i ghters. hTohi tswerescored,
andti l ltankswereputashorewi thoutdam-
age. l ?romhi s headquarters at Muncl a,
General Snsaki observecl thesmokescreen-
i ng thi s newdevel opment; but i n hi s or-
dersfor the 14thof ,Jul y,he erroneousl y
reporte{l that ’70 l arge barges had at-
temptedto l and but l ~adbeen repul sed
wi thtl ~el ossof 15of thebarges.g
Whi l etl ~el ’72dhel dthenewbeachhead
arman(lwai tedfor the169thfo cl osethe
wp betweenthetworegi mentsandcome
*
abreast,the Mari ne tanks and 3/103
nl ovecli nto tl i vi si onreserve. A speci al
weaponsdetai lfromthe9thDefenseBat-
tal i onaccompani ed tl ~ei nfantrytoLai ana
and set up 40mm,20mm,ai l d .50 cal i -
ber anti ai rcraftweaponsfor protecti on
agai nstJapanesestrafi ngand bombi ng
attacks.
I n tl ~e169th’szone,strongmortarand
arti l l eryfi reswerepl acedon Japanesede-
fensi veposi ti onsi n anefforttoreestabl i sh
forward movement,but the enemy re-
si stap.ce conti nued.At thi sti me,the re@-
ment—ti redand understrength—was op-
posedby a determi necl , dug-i nenemyto
the front and conti nual l yl ~al ti ssedby
sni persandi nfi l tratorsi n therear areas.
On the l l th, the169th’sconml andi ng of-
fi cerandhi sstaffwererel i evedby Col onel
9CI C SoPaeFor I tem h-o, 7022,dtd 13Sep43,
New Georgi a 13efOp0.4 A-o.36, dtd 14Ju143.
97
Tenl pl eHol l andandastafffromthe145th
I nfantry,37thDi vi si on. The new regi -
mentalcommander postponedfurtherat-
tacksby the 169thunti l the next day so
thatl l emi ghthaveti meto reorgani zehi s
command.
.i ne~vl )ushby tl ~e169tl ~oI ~the 12th.
fol l owi l }g a rol l i l ]g arti l l ery barrage,
fai l wl to gai nground)however, anda re-
turn was ma(l eto tbe l i ne of departure.
The fol l owi ~~gn~orni n:, 1,000-pound
I )ombs(l ro~)]~e(l by 19 scoutbombersof
Conl .~i rNTew(;eorgi afurtherhammered
tl wdefel ~ses hol di ngl l p tl ~e169th)s prog-
re~s.
Pi l ots returni ngfrom the stri ke
noted tl ~atthe target area markedby
smokesl ]el l swas600” ya]’c{seastof thegri d
cool tdi nates gi ven i l l the ai r mi ssi onre-
ql l est,al l i l l di c:l ti ol l of tl ~edi ffi cul ti es the
169tl lw:l sexperi enci ngi l l l ocati ngi tspo-
si ti ono]~tl ~eground. Thew]l ol eregi nl ent
wascon~mi tted to theattackafter theai r
stri ke,but ol ]l .ytl w ~klBattal i onon the
l eft mana:e(ltogai l ~ground. Successful
i l l sei zi ngthecrestof a sl l l :l l lknol l abol l t
6tK) yardstothefrent,thebatta]i onl ~ung
gri ml ytoi tsposi ti onandrepel l edseveral
strongcol mterattacks. Duri ngthe next
twodays,theM 13attnl i on took 101casu-
al ti es, deadandwounded.Despi testrong
el l enl y pressl we,tl ~ei nfantrymenhel d
thei rposi ti on. Barragesfi redby support-
i ng arti l l eryuni ts boxedthe front and
fl :~l ~ks of thesal i ent,anddi scouragedthe
devel opmentof a l arge-scal e,Tapanese
counteract ack.
I n an effortto ai d thebel eaguered 3d
Battal i on, the1stBattal i onattackedonthe
15thtowarda domi nati ngri seof ground
about400yardsto i tsri ghtfrent. ~l ~en
opposi ti onfai l edtodevel opl theattackers
cl amberedto thetop of theri dge,onl yto
fi nd desertedpi l l boxes,abandonedfox-
98
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
hol es,andemptytrenches.TheJapanese
defenders hadfi nal l ywi thdrawn.
Thevi ctoryl i ftedthespi ri tsof theen-
ti reregi ment, butmorehearteni ngwas a
gl i mpseof the NGOF’s ul ti mateobjec-
ti ve—Munda ai rfi el d. On i ts coral whi te
runwaysand taxi wayssomethreemi l es
awaycoul dbe seenwreckedandburned
enemypl anes. Wi thnewvi gor,the169th
took over the enemyposi ti onsand pre-
paredto defendthenewl ywonri cl gel i ne.
COUNTERATTACK
PREPARATI ONS‘0
Whi l eGeneralHester’sNGOF fought
i ts way fromtheBari ketoLai ana,~Ten-
eral Sasaki ’sdefenderswereoperati ngon
the si mpl estrategyof tracl i ngspacefor
ti me. Consi derabl youtnumbered, the
.U?9thRegiment and 8th CSNLF had
neverthel ess forced the i nvadi ngAmeri -
can di vi si on to move sl owl y and cau-
ti ousl y. Sasaki ’sdefensi vel i neshad re-
ducedthe NGOF i nvasi onto a gropi ng,
stumbl i ngacl vance-muchi n contrastto
the swi ft, hard-hi tti ngoperati ol ~en-
vi sagedearl i erby the Ameri cans. The
Japanesepl ayedfor ti meduri ngwhi ch
rei nforcements coul darri ve.
Thepl i ghtof theMundadefendershad
recei vedi mmedi ateattenti on. General
l mamura,commandi ngthe EightLArea
Army at Rabaul ,on 3 Jul y orderedthe
NewGeorgi adefenseaugmented by there-
mai nderof the13thReg~me,nt as wel l as
by addi ti onal anti tank, mountai narti l l ery,
engi neer, andmedi caluni ts. I n addi ti on,
‘0Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ved from : .NewGeorgiaCampaiun;
CI C SoPacFor I tem No. 702, dtd 13Sep43, New
Georgi a DefOpO A Nos. 11–50, 30Jun–23Ju143;
Sfl Area iVavOps-I; SE Area NavOps—II;
Rentz,Marinesin the CentralSolonlons.
the rear echel onsof the229thRegiment,
whi ch weresti l l i n the Shortl andsarea,
wereorderedtojoi n thei rparentuni t. A
numberof l argel andi ngbargeswereal so
di spatchedto NewGeorgi a. Mostof the
freshtroopswereto stopat Kol ombang-
ara,buttheel ements of the$?~%h, theanti -
tankuni ts,andmostof theengi neers were
to go di rectl yto Munda.11I n al l , I ma-
muraorderedabout3,000troopsfromthe
Sl ~(Jrtl :~l ~cl s-F:~i si areatotl ~eNewGeorgi a
Group. Morerei nforcements weretofol -
l ow. ‘l ?l l ejoi nt Army -hTavy conference
atRal xtul , on 4 ?Jul y, cementedtheunder-
standi ngbetweentheEighthA~eaA~my
and the SoutheastArea Fleet that the
mai nseaandai r effortwoul dbe di rected
agai nstthe CentralSol omonswhi l ethe
troopsal readyon NewGui neawoul dhol d
out wi thoutaddi ti onal hel p for theti me
bei ng.
I mamura’s promi secl rei nforcements
startedto NewGeorgi aon schedul e, but
thetransports bumpedi ntoan Al l i edde-
stroyerforce l urki ngi n Kul a ~hl l f and
turnedbackto theShorthands to awai ta
betterti me. The next ni ght, 5–6 Jul y,
thetransportssai l edagai n,and,al though
partof theforcewasambushed by Al l i ed
shi ps,theJapanese managedtol andabout
850troopson Kol ombangara.’2On New
Georgi a,GeneralSasakishovedal l avai l -
abl e 2%9thRegiment,8th CSiVLF,and
38thD;v&~onsupporttroopsi ntothede-
fenseof theai rfi el di n an attempttohol d
outas l ongaspossi bl e.Hi s l i neof forti -
‘*CI C SoPacFor I tem No. 740, dtd 23SeP43,
Go Area (Ei ghth Area .4rmy) OpO No. 35, dtd
3Ju143,and I tem No. 838, dtd 11Nov43,Oki (Sev-
enteenth .krmy) Group OPONo. 270, dtd 4Ju143.
u Thi s sea encounter, known as the Battl e of
Kul a Gul f, wi l l be rel ated i n connecti on wi th the
Ri ce Anchorage l andi ng i n the fol l owi ng chapter.
MUNDA VI CTORY
99
fi cati ons, spi kedwi th seacoastand dual -
purposeguns, ri ngecl tl ]e coastl i neof
Ml mdaPoi nt for some6,500yards and
thenswungi nl al ]{lfromRovi anaLagoon
for al most3,000yar(l s, As ~(l Ol ? troops
weretofi nd6ut1i t wasa formi dabl earea
tocrack.
Sasaki ’stacti csi n thedefenseof theter-
rai n betweenthe Bari keRi ver and hi s
mai nposi ti onsa].ou]l (l theai rfi el dwereto
counterattack conti nual l yi n thehopesof
offsett i l l g a]~ygai n whi ch the NGOl ?
nl i ght make. Ski l l ful l y depl oyi l ~gthe
forcesavai l abl e, hi s fi el dcol ~~n~a~~ders or-
deredonecol ]]pal ]yto hol d anclthreaten
a fl ankof tl ~eAl l i edl i l ~ewl ~i l eotheruni ts
sl i ppedtotherearof ti l eattackers torai d
andcutcol l l l l l l l ni ctl ti ons. Thi si nfi l trati on
hadthecal cul atedtwo-fol (leffectof cl ’eat-
i ngcasum]ti es andden~oral i zi ~l g theattack-
i ng force. I n i l rstal l ces wherei t becanl e
necessary tohol daparti cul ar strongpoi l ~t,
an an]bl w]l squaclwi th ordersto fi ghtto
ti l edeathwasl eft i n posi ti on.
Whi l epartof theMul ~d:~ cl efel ~se fol ’ce
wrestl edwi ththeadvanci ngAl l i ed(I ni ts,
other engi neersand sol di ersfeveri sl ~l y
bui l tpi l l boxes,dugtrel l cl ~es, al ]dcl eared
l anesof fi rei n defensi vel i nesto therear.
Eachti metheJapanese gavegrouncl , they
fel l backtoanotherstrongposi ti on.Wel l -
cmnoufl aged andprotected, thebarri erof
mutual l y-sl ~pport i ng
posi ti ons al l owed
Sasaki ’stroops to contestany ad~ance
stubbornl y.Theterrai nwasanal l y,si nce
i t hi d the Jnpanesedefensesancl forced
theAl l i edattackersto battl eagai nstthe
jungl eand enemytroopssi mul taneousl y.
Sasakihacl an~theradvantnge, too. He
was cl ose to Bougai nvi l l ea andtheShort-
hands, al ~d al though rei nforcements-
mai nl ymachi negun,anti tank, al ~darti l -
l ery I l ni ts-dri bbl edi ntoNewGeorgi ai n
anunsteady stream, hi sstrengthremai ned
nearl yconstant.TroopsfromKol omban-
gara, tra~~sported to Muncl aby barges
duri ngtheni ght,wereat thefront l i nes
thenextday.
Wi th the Al l i ed l i nes i nchi ngsl owl y
towarc]Munda,theJapanesewereaware
tl ~at theonl ymeansof re-establ i shi ng any
type of order i n NewGeorgi adepencl ed
upon a strongcounterattack.Wei ghi ng
the ti meel ementagai nstthe danger-, the
~Jal )anese deci dedon a del ayi ngacti oni n
theMl ~ndaareawhi l ea col mterattacki ng
force struck throughthe upper Bari ke
Ri ver regi on. As rei nforcements arri ved
at Kol ol ~~bangara, thi s counteroffensi ve
was kept i l l mi nd.
The grol md attack
woul clbesta,gecl si mul taneousl y wi tha sea
campai gn, whi chwoul dcutA]l i edsuppl y
l i neswhi l etl ~eai r fl eetspouncl edtheAl -
1i edl i l ~es andrearareasonhTew’ Georgi a.”
The l .?t,hRegi went, whi chhad moved
i n parcel sfrom the Shortl al l ds, was se-
l ecte{l to strai ghtenthe l i nes i n New
Georgi a. 01~8 Jul y, Col onelTol nonari
~v:l sal ertedto sendthe I ?dBattalionto
Bai l ’okoHarborto hel p Commander Sa-
buroOk~{mura’s Kure 6th Agi ~~~ defend
thatareafromal ~other butsmal l erAl l i ed
l al ~{l i ngforce. At tl ~esameti me,Ton~o-
nariwastorel i nqui shcommandof Kol onl -
bangara’sdefensesto the commander of
thel’o~~o,swka 7th 8iVLF andwi ththere-
mai ni ngtwobattal i onsof the18thRegi-
n?entadvanceto Mundafor thenewat-
~ack.1’ Okumura,at Bai roko, was to
coverthe73th’sadvancefromKol omban-
gara and then defendthe Bai rokoarea
wi thoutfurtherassi stance. Sasaki ’sorders
13GI C SoI ’:l cFor I tem X(). 730,dt(l 23SeP43,SE
Area ForOpONo. 10, dtd 18Ju143.
“ CI C SoPacFor I tem No. 676, dtd 30Aug43,
Kol ombangara DefOpONo. 6, dtd 8Ju143.
100 I SOI JATI ON OF RABAUL
to Tomonariwerefor ti l ecol l nterati :l ck-
i ng force to move to a bi vol l ac :I re:~on a
])l a]~tati on about fi ve mi l es l ]orth of MI I I ~-
da. The l -?thw:~sto renl ai nfl ]ereunti l
~asakideemedthatthe ti l ]]eW:I Soppor-
tunefor theattack.
To ensurethattheoperati ml wwl l dgo
smoothl y, Sasakiestabl i shed a l i ai sonpost
at the pl antati onarea and then sent a
gl l i detol l l eetTol I 1onari atBai roko. Pl ans
proceededwi thouta hi tchasthefi rsteche-
l on of about, 1,300menmovedby bargeto
Bai rokoon 9 ,JLI l y. On the l l th, another
l ,VOOtroops movecl across ~ul a Gul f and a
further 1,200 men made the cross-channel
-journey by barge on the ni ~ht of the 12th.
The movementswere postponedseveral
daysbynavalacti oni nthegul f,butjustas
soo~~ astheywereabl etonl akethecrossi ng,
al l uni tsof Col onelTomonari ’sattacki ng
force,mai nl ythe7sf ancl g~~afta7ions, as-
sembl edatBai roko.
I n movi ngi ntothebi vouacarea,Tom-
onari ’sforceabruptl yrani ntoatrai lbl ock
set up by part of Col onel I ~i versedge’s
NorthernLandi ngGroup. I n a bri efbut
sharpencol ~nter, theAmeri canforcescat-
tered the 13YhRegiment’s l eadi ngel e-
ments,andreportedto Li versedgethata
l arge movementof Japaneserei nforce-
mentshadbeenpreventedfrom reachi ng
Ml mda, Actual l y,Tomonarihadbroken
off the engagement so as not to di scl ose
thei mpendi ngcounterattack. I nsteadof
stayi ngtosl ugi t outwi ththeNLG,Tom-
onari wi thdrewhi s two battal i ons,and
Sasaki ’sgui desthenl edthe,Japanese sol -
di ers towardMundaover anothertrai l .
By the morni ngof the 13th, Tomonari ’s
mai nel ementswereat thepl antati onas-
sembl yarea.
Wi th tworegi mentsnowi n posi ti onto
opposethe l andi ngforce hi tti ngtoward
Mundaon thesol l th,Sasakiwasconfi dent
of hi s abi l i ty to recl ai mthe i ni ti ati ve.
Someof hi sopti mi smcoul dhavebeenused
by l ~i ssuperi ors, however, becauseArmy-
Navy cl i sagreernents were stal l i ng the
progressof furtherhel p i n the ai rfi el d’s
defense. The Navy,seeki ngthecommi t-
mentof an addi ti onalArmy di vi si oni n
hTewGeorgi a,wanted reassurancethat
hTavyi nstal l ati onsi n Bougai nvi l l ea, the
Shortl ands,and Rabaul woul d be pro-
tected. The Navy suggesteda possi bl e
2,000troopsfor theRi ceAnchoragearea,
3,000 more for Mundaai rfi el d,another
2,000to take over the Rovi anaLagoon
i sl ands, andanaddi ti onal 4,000tobeused
asanattacki ngforce.
The Army turnedthumbsdown. The
Eighth AreaArmy had no i ntenti onof
furtherrei nforci ngtheNewGeorgi aarea.
To Army pl anners, therewasno way i n
whi chthewar si tuati oncoul dbe al tered,
:111(1, :1sa nl :i tterof fact, a reapprai sal of
the si tuati onhad convi ncedthem that
Bougai nvi l l ea coul dnotbe]l e]dl o]l gi f the
Al l i es attackedthere. Whi l ethi s di ffer-
ence of opi ni onexi sted,GeneralSasaki
woul dhavetomakedowi ththeSoutheast
DetachmentForcesal readyat handand
thosefew scatteredrearechel onandsup-
port troops whi ch destroyer-transports
coul d rush to Kol ombangarafor barge
transferto NewGeorgi a.
The occupati onforce’sstruggl eto ad-
vance on New Georgi a was anxi ousl y
“ I ’nl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ved from : COW80PC[CJu143
WurI ); TltirdFlt I {cpt; 43d I rLfI livHist; NGOF
Account; ~th DcfBn TkOps; XQI CGeorgia Cflm-
pai{j)~: I I al sey :l l l d Bryan, Holsc.v’sStor?/: Rentz,
Marinesin theCentral Llotomons;Zi mmer, -$,3r?’s
ffisior!l.
MUNDA VI CTORY
watched by the remai nder of the NGOF
on Rendova and the barri er i sl ands. .&r-
ti l l erymen, executi ng fi re mi ssi ons, noted
that front l i nes di d not move forward.
Landi ng craft, coxswai ns, returni ng from
suppl y runs to Zanana and Lai m-m
beaches, brought back reports of the fi ght-
i ng and di storted stori es of the Japanese
i nfi l trati on rai ds. .411 NGOF uni ts knew
that the 172d was stal l ed i n the hi l l s west
of I ~ai ana and that the 169th was under-
strength and fati gued by the struggl e
throngh the jungl e. Despi te the conti nual
and i ntense poundi ng by three 155mm and
three 105mn~gun and howi tzer battal i ons,
whi ch seemed to have l evel ed al l ~bove-
ground i nstal l ati ons, the enemy sti l l
seemed as strong as ever and apparentl y
as di sposed to conti nue the fi ght. Ai r
stri kes, whi ch i ncl uded as many as 70
pl anes, bombed the enemy defenses wi th-
out apparent resul ts except to stri p fol i age
from the jungl e.
Real i zati on that more. Al l i ed troops
woul d be requi red had come earl y i n the
campai gn. On 6 Jul y, General Hester had
requested, and had been granted, the use
of the 148th I nfantry (l ess one battal i on
wi th the NLG) as di vi si on reserve. The
145th I nfantry (al so l ess one battal i on
wi th the NLG) was addi ti onal l y attached
to Hester’s NGOF. Both regi ments were
al erted for possi bl e commi tment to com-
b~t and, pri or to 14 ,Jul y, were moved to
Rendova where they woul d be readi l y
avai l abl e.
Wi th the addi ti on of two regi ments as
NGOF reserve, a needed change i n the
command structure became more apparent.
For some ti me, observers had bel i eved that
General Hester’s 43d Di vi si on staff, spl i t
between the two tasks of di recti ng a. di -
vi si on i n combat and a l arger occupati on
101
force i n a campai gn, had been unequal to
the job. Moreover, on the 13th, General
Gri swol d of the XI V Corps l mcl some di s-
qui eti ng reports for Admi ral Hal sey and
General Harmon:
~rom an obser ver vi ewpoi nt, thi ngs are go-
i ng badl y. For ty-thr ee di vi si on about to
fol d up. 31Y opi ni on i s that they wi l l never
take Munda. Enemy resi stance to date not
great. My advi ce i s to set up twenty-fi fth
di vi si on to act wi th what i s l eft of thi rty-
seventh di vi si on i f thi s oper ati on i s to be
successful .l b
Hal sey, on 9 Jul y, had di rected Harmon
to name a corps commander to take com-
mand of al l ground troops on New Geor-
gi a. Now, after Gri swol d’s fi rst-hand re-
port from the front l i nes, Hal sey tol d
Harmon to take whatever steps he thought
necessary to strai ghten out the si tuati on.
Gri swol d and hi s XI V Corps staff was
ordered to assume command of the NGOF
and Hester was returned to the command
sol el y of the 43d Di vi si on.17 Al l ground
forces, i ncl udi ng those of the 37th Di -
vi si on, now i n the hTGOF, as wel l as the
161st Regi ment from the 25th Di vi si on,
were ~ssi gned to Gri swol d’s command.
The new hTGOF l eader, requesti ng a few
days for reorgani zati on, promi sed a
prompt, coordi nated attack. The com-
mand change was efl ecti ve at mi dni ght,
14 Jul y, a date whi ch happened to coi nci de
wi th the l ong-pl anned rel i ef of Rear Ad-
‘“ Gri swol d di sp to Harmon, dtd l &J11113,
quoted i n ~“(’toGeor@a (7ampaign, p. I I I –39.
i ? .4nl ong re,l so~l s he l :i tm ci ted for r ecOLUmend-
i ng the shi ft i n command, Gener al Harmon noted
that Admi ral Turner “was i ncl i ned mor e and
mor e to take acti ve control of l and operati ons.”
Turner di sagr eed strongl y \vi th Harmon’s r ecom-
mendati on on Hester’s r el i ef as ATGOF com-
mander , but Harmon convi nced Hal sey of the
necessi ty f{}r thi s change. Mi l l er, Rcdueti o71 of
Rabaul, pp. 12>124.
102
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
mi ral Turner by Rear Admi ral Theodore
S. Wi l ki nson as Commander, I I I .4mphi b-
i ous Force. Turner returned to Pearl
Harbor to take command of amphi bi ous
forces i n the Central Paci fi c.
The addi ti on of tanks and a fresh bat-
tal i on of i nfantry to the forces at Lai ana
beach buoyed the hopes of the NGOF that
the i mpetus of the attack coul d be resumed.
The tank pl atoon of the 9th Mari ne De-
fense Battal i on had l anded on Rendova
wi th i ts parent uni t, but had not been re-
qui red for sei zure of the i sl and. The tanks
l ater moved to Zanana Beach to support
an engi neer mi ssi on shortl y after the
NGOF began i ts attack. The marshy
ground i n the vi ci ni ty of the Bari ke bal ked
attempts to use armor i n support of i nfan-
try operati ons, however, so the ei ght tanks
were wi thhel d from acti on unti l Lai ana
was taken. Here, i t was reported, the
ground was more fi rm and coul d support
armored operati ons.
Forward movement of the 172d I nfan-
try i n the Lai ana area had vi rtual l y ceased
when the Mari ne armor arri ved. The en-
emy>s defensi ve l i ne, a seri es of pi l l boxes
dug i nto the hi l l mass ri si ng just forward
of the Ameri can l i nes, stubbornl y resi sted
attack. I nfantrymen attempti ng to push
ahead were dri ven back by fi erce machi ne
gun fi re from the camoufl aged posi ti ons.
I n the hopes that a coordi nated tank-
i nfantry thrust. coul d crack the defenses,
an attack was pl anned for 15 Jul y.
On the morni ng of the 15th, three tanks
reported to the 2d Battal i on, 172d on the
l eft, whi l e another tri o of tanks moved
toward the 3d Battal i on on the ri ght.
Tangl ed underbrush hi d stumps and l ogs
that hampered attempts to get i nto posi -
ti on, and the dri vers had to bzck and turn
the machi nes constantl y to move ahead.
I n the l eft zone, the fi rst opposi ti on, whi ch
came from a l og and coral empl acement,
was promptl y knocked out by 37mm hi gh
expl osi ve rounds and machi ne gun fi re.
Two grass bi vouac shel ters were peppered
wi th cani ster rounds 18 and machi ne gun
fi re, and si x to ei ght dead enemy were re-
ported i n each by the 172d’s i nfantrymen
fol l owi ng the machi nes.
Further progress was stopped, however,
by enemy machi ne gun and ri fl e fi re whi ch
began to pour from other camoufl aged po-
si ti ons. The i nfantrymen sought cover.
The Mari ne tanks, wi thout i nfantry sup-
port, were forced to resort to a deadl y
game of ‘bl i nd man’s bl uff. Hi t from one
di recti on, the tanks wheel ed—onl y to re-
cei ve fi re from another quarter. By al ter-
nati ng cani ster wi th hi gh expl osi ve
rounds, the tankers stri pped camoufl age
from empl acements and then bl asted each
bunker as i t was uncovered. Enemy sol -
di ers attempti r,g to fl ee the posi ti ons were
ki l l ed by machi ne guns. Opposi ti on grad-
ual l y ceased, and the i nfantrymen moved
forward. The advance marked the fi rst
si gni fi cant gai n i n several days.
I n the ri ght zone, the other three tanks
were al so bl ast i ng hi dden posi ti ons whi ch
supporti ng i nfantrymen marked wi th
tracer bul l ets. At one ti me the tanks were
under fi re from fi ve hi dden bunkers and
dugouts. Combat was so cl ose i n the thi ck,
hi l l y jungl e that i n several i nstances the
muzzl es of the 37mm guns coul d not be
depressed enough to engage the enemy
posi ti ons. Conti nual l y drummed upon by
smal l -arms fi re, and bl asted repeatedl y by
grenade and mortar bursts, the armor
wi thdrew after cl eari ng the enemy from
one hi l l . The 3d Battal i on i mmedi atel y
‘mShor t-r ange 37mm ammuni ti on si mi l ar to an
over -si zed shotgun shel l .
MUNDA VI CTORY
103
occupi ed the posi ti ons and set up defenses.
The onl y casual ty suffered by the Mari nes
i n the engagement WM one dri ver i njured
when a hi dden l og jammed i ts way
through a fl oor hatch.
On the fol l owi ng day, three tanks wi th
si x i nfantrymen fol l owi ng each machi ne
moved around the base of the hi l l taken
by the 3d Battal i on and pushed through
the heavy jl mgl e toward the next hi l l .
The tanks raked the underbrush wi th fi re
and then pumped expl osi ve shel l s i nto the
enemy posi ti ons. A number of pi l l boxes,
dugouts, and enemy shel ters were knocked
out. Onl y ri fl e and automati c weapons fi re
opposed the advance, and the i nfantrymen
qui ckl y moved forward. I n the 2d Bat-
tal i on zone on the l eft fl ank, defenses on
the coast were outfl anked by the tanks,
whi ch maneuvered al ong the shore l i ne
fi ri ng at the bl i nd si des ancl rear of the
bunkers. After nearl y 200 yards of prog-
ress, the tankmen di scovered they were
wi thout i nfantry support and returned to
the l i nes. A second attack was stal l ed by
heavy mortar ti re whi ch drove the sup-
porti ng i nfantrymen back to thei r fox-
hol es.
Unprotected by i nfantry, the tanks kept
fi ri ng to the front and si des to keep en-
emy sol di ers from attacki ng. Heavy
jungl e growth l i mi ted vi si bi l i ty to onl y a
few yards and rest ri cted maneuver of the
machi nes. Whi l e tryi ng to di sengage
from the battl e, the tanks were rocked by
heavy expl osi ons, apparentl y from magn-
eti c anti tank grenades tossed agai nst the
machi nes by enemy sol di ers hi dden i n the
dense thi cket al l about the armor. The
rear machi ne was bl asted twi ce, and eacl ~
of the other two tanks was damaged
sl i ghtl y by si mi l ar expl osi ons. Swi vel i ng
and turni ng, the tanks fi red at every n~ove-
691–31X30—63-—S
ment i n the brush, and, by sweepi ng the
jungl e wi th cani ster and machi ne gun
fi re, managed to break cl ear and crawl back
toward fri endl y l i nes.
That ni ght, the 3d Battal i on, 103d I n-
fantry rel i eved 2/172 i n the l eft zone and
another coordi nated tank-i nfantry attack
was schedul ed. Worki ng al l ni ght, 16–17
,Jul y, the Mari nes had fi ve tanks avai l abl e
for combat. By pri or agreement, 30 i n-
fantrymen were to accompany each nl a-
chi ne and the tanks were not to move un-
l ess sol di ers supported them. The day’s
attack had hardl y begun, however, before
sti ff enemy opposi ti on devel oped. Ma-
chi ne gun and ri fl e fi re spewed from a
number of conceal ed posi ti ons, and bul l ets
ri cocheted among the i nfantrymen fol -
l owi ng the armor. Sol di ers, returni ng the
fi re, attempted to l ocate the empl acements
so that, the tanks’ 37nnn guns coul d be di -
rected agai nst the enemy.
As the tanks maneuvered toward the en-
emy defenses, the l ead machi ne was sud-
denl y sprayed wi th fl ame thrower fuel by
a Japanese i n a camoufl aged posi ti on. The
fuel di d not i gni te, and the enemy sol di er
was qui ckl y ki l l ed. I n such cl ose combat,
however, even nearby i nfantrymen coul d
not protect the tanks from hi dden enemy
sol di ers who suddenl y appeared to toss
ma~gneti c grenades on the tanks. The thi rd
machi ne, hi t by such a mi ssi l e, took a gap-
i ng hol e near the hul l . Two crewmen
mere wounded. A hasty l ook behi nd them
convi nced the Mari nes that the i nfantry-
men had fal l en behi nd, and that protec-
ti on was gone. Coveri ng each other by
fi re, the tanks moved back wi th one of the
undamaged vehi cl es towi ng the di sabl ed
machi ne.
Al though no l ong gai ns had been made
i n the three-day attack, the commi tment
104
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
of armor on the extreme l eft fl ank of the
NGOF front had hel ped wedge an openi ng
i nto Sasaki >s defenses. A l i ne of pi l l boxes
stretchi ng from Lai ana beach northwest
for more than 400 yards had been
breached. Typi cal of the defenses was a
cl uster of seven pi l l boxes whi ch covered a
frontage of onl y 150 yards, each posi ti on
defendi ng and supporti ng the next. Over -
head and frontal protecti on consi sted of
two thi cknesses of coconut l ogs ancl thr ee
feet of coral . Ski l l ful l y camoufl aged, wi th
narrow fi ri ng sl i ts, the bunkers wer e vi rtu-
al l y a part of the terrai n and sur r oundi ng
jungl e.
TOil!ONARl REP.UL,YED “
The Japanese counterattack hi t just as
the NGOF paused to consol i date i ts gai ns,
restore contact and communi cati on, and ef-
fect a reorgani zati on and rei nforcement.
Through coi nci dence or superi or combat
i ntel l i gence, General Sasaki commi tted the
13th Regiment at a ti me when i ts appear-
ance woul d provi de the greatest shk-k ef-
fect. (See Map 6.)
Fol l owi ng i ts zrri val at Bai roko and the
move to the pl antati on area, the Tomo7wm”
Force scattered i n smal l groups to reas-
sembl e north of the Bari ke Ri ver area.
Sasaki ’s orders to Tomonari wer e:
The L3th Regi ment wi l l i mmedi atel y ma-
neuver i n the area of the upper reaches of
the Bari ke Ri ver; seek out the fl ank and
rear of the mai n body of the enemy who
“ Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om : New, Geor .yi a Campaign.;
NGOF Account; .ji?d In fDivHist; 9th DefBn
WarD, Ju143; SE Area iiTc?wOps-I; SE Area
NacOps-II; ONI , Combat .Narratiffe8 X; Rentz,
Mari nes i n the Central S’olomons; Zi mmer, &ld’s
History.
l anded on the beach east of the Bari ke Ri ver
and attark, anni hi l ati ng them on the coast.m
To accompl i sh thi s task, Col onel Tomo-
nari was to take over the defensi ve posi -
ti ons k the desi gnated area and establ i sh
a base from whi ch attacks coul d be staged.
Col onel Hi rata’s %Wth, wi th as mudh
strength as possi bl e, was to coordi nate
wi th the 13th and attack the Ameri can
l eft fl ank.
Despi te Sasaki ’s precauti ons, however,
the Tomonari Force was observed movi ng
toward the Bari ke. On 1? Jul y, the 43d
Di vi si on Reconnai ssance Troop, screeni ng
the open ri ght fl ank of the NGOF, re-
ported that a l arge body of enemy, num-
beri ng from 200 to 300 men, had been
observed movi ng toward the rear of the
NGOF. One pl atoon of the troop at-
tempted to ambush thi s force but was over-
run. Sasaki ’s admoni ti ons to keep contact
notwi thstandi ng, communi cati on between
the Tornonari Force and the fR9th was
broken, and the two counterattacks were
never synchroni zed. On the ri ght fl ank
of Sasaki ’s uni ts, the ,?d Bctt~7fon, LWth
was kept off bal ance by the tank-i nfantry
attacks of the 172d. Farther nortkq th8
169th was i n a commandi ng posi ti on and
was abl e to cal l down arti l l ery fi re on any
observed group of enemy i nfantry, and
thus effecti vel y forestal l ed any threat of a
push through the center of the l i ne. Onl y
the attack from the upper Bari ke
materi al i zed.
Shortl y after dark on the 17th, enemy
troops hi t al most si mul taneousl y at the
rear- area and beach i nstal l ati ons of the
43d Di vi si on. Sol di ers hel pi ng to evacu-
ah wounded were themsel ves cut down.
n CI C SoPacFor I tem No. 702, dtd 13 Se@3,
New Geor gi a DefOpO No. 35, dtd 13 Ju143.
MUNDA VI CTORY 105
I n a seri es of sharp ski rmi shes, Japanese
i nfi l trators struck at the. medi cal col l ect-
i ng stati on, the engi neer bi vol l ac area, the
43d T)i vi si on CP, and the beach defenses.
For a short ti me, the fate of the command
post was hel d i n one thi n tel ephone l i ne.
Al tl l ongh most l i nes were cut, contact wi th
the arti l l ery uni ts on the adjacent i sl ands
was sti l l open over one l i ne, and support
was urgentl y requested. Accurate and de-
structi ve arti l l ery fi re that vi rtual l y ri nged
the command post was the qui ck repl y. I n
several i nstances, concentrati ons wi thi n
150 yards of the CP were requested and
recei ved. I n a matter of moments, the
Tomonari Force was scattered, and al -
though the CP area was under attack al l
cl uri ng the ni ght, repeated concentrati ons
fal l i ng al most wi thi n Al l i ed posi ti ons kept
any l arge-scal e assaul t, from devel opi ng.
I n the beachhead area, Army servi ce
nni ts, the 172d’s anti t~nk company, and
the 9th Defense Battal i on’s anti ai rcraft
detachment were al so hi t. A Mari ne pa-
trol , i nvesti gati ng the (7P si tuati on, re-
turned to report that a body of enemy
i nfantry of near battal i on strength was
movi ng between the CP and the beach.
Recl ai mi ng two .30 cal i ber machi ne guns
from an Army suppl y dump by pi eci ng to-
gether parts from a number of gi ns, hal f
of the 52-man Mari ne detachment went
forward to set up an ambush ahead of the
advanci ng Japanese, whi l e the other hal f
remai ned behi nd to man the anti ai rcraft
defenses. The ambush stopped the fi rst
enemy attack, and, after the Mari nes fel l
back to the beach defenses, ti l e attack was
]~ot renewed. The reason was apparent
tI l e next morni ng. T~~o Mal i nes W11Ovol -
unteered to remai n bel l i l ~[l at the ambush
had effect i vel y stopped t1l e counterattack
by repul si ng four attempts. Onl y one of
the two Mari nes survi ved the attack, whi ch
l eft 18 enemy defi d l i ttered about the guns.
The ni ght of 17 Jul y vi rtual l y ended al l
,Japanese attempts to regai n the i ni ti ati ve.
Tl m Tomonmi Force, i n smal l groups, ap-
peared from ti me to ti me i n vari ous areas,
rai di ng and i nfi l trati ng, but was not an ef-
fecti ve threat. Up to the ti me of the re-
sumpti on of the NGOF attack, Sasaki sti l l
harbored hopes that he coul d col l ect hi s
scattered forces for another attempt, but
the rapi dl y-accel erati ng Al l i ed bui l dup
nul l i fi ed al l hi s efforts.
{’ORP,~ REORGANI ZATI ON
AND ATTACK 2’
.4 number of Army uni ts were cl ose at
hand for ready rei nforcement of the
NGOF l i nes. These were promptl y or-
dered to New Georgi a when the Japanese
“ l ’nl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s (l er i ved fr om : NmI >Gcorgiu Campaign;
3-VW Cwrgio (’mabat; NGOF Account; ComAi r-
SOI S Stri kWomd WarD, 2Apr-25Ju143 ; CornAi r
Xew Geor gi a S.kR, 29 Jun–13Aug43 ; 37th I nfDi v
Rept of Ops i n the Munda Campai gn, dtd
Z5A+l l g43; 3~th I nfI )i v AR 22 Jul –5Aug43, n.d. ;
37th I nfDi v .Jnl 22.Jul –5Aug43 ; -j:;d l nfD ivHLst;
(’01 Stuart A. Baxter Rc?pt of Ops of the 148th
I uf (–3d Bn ) i n New Geor gi a 18Jul –5Aug43, n.d. ;
Narrati veRept CbtActi vi ti es of 1/148, dtd
13 Sep43 ; 9t/~ DrffJn !J’7i O~($; 10th DefBn AR of
TkI ’l at i n New Geor gi a Campai gn, dtd 3Sep43:
11 tb DefBn WarI ), Aug–Sep43, her eafter Ilth
T)cflltl T1’arI); SE .4 rea XavOp8—I; ISA’ Area
XUK)W-II; Maj Gen Oscar W. Gri swol d Rept to
LtGen I .esl i e ,J. McXai r, dtd 21 Sep43; Robert F.
K:(rt,l eri tz, cd., The 25tl~ lliri~ion and World
Il”ar II (Baton Rouge, La. : Ar my and A’avy
l ’ubl i fi hi ng Co., 1947), her eafter Karol evi tz, 25th
I~tfI)irHist; Stanl ey A. Frankel , The .97th In-
fatt tr~j ~i~’isic)n in World Wnr II (Washington;
I nfantry .Tonrnal Press, 1!M7 ), her eafter Frankel ,
,~;fh 17?fIlir}Iist; Rentz, Mal .i ncs i )l thrC’cntrut
S’olf~H/uHx; Zi mmer, &’d’s Hi stor~.
106
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
counterattacked. The 148th I nfantry was
on Kokorana when the emergency al erted
that uni t at 0100 on the l ~th: the 1st Bat-
tal i on, di spatched i ml l }edi atel y, came
ashore xt Zanana ful l y expecti ng to fi ncl
the beach area i n enemy hands and the
43d Di vi si on CP wi ped out. By thi s ti me,
however, the seri ous threat had passed and
when the regi ment was assembl ed> i t began
movi ng to the front l i nes. Al though an
advance party was hi t by remnants of the
I.?thInfantry,ti l e 148th pushed forward
aggressi vel y, cl eared the opposi ti on, and
moved i nto the rear area of the 169th by
ni ghtfal l of the 18th.
The 145th Regi ment, whi ch al ready had
one battal i on i n pl ace as reserve for the
43d Di vi si on, reached the rear of the 169th
l i nes on the 20th. Upon the arri val the
same day of Major General Robert S.
Bei .ghtl er, the 37th I nfantry Di vi si on as-
sumed responsi bi l i ty for the sector and the
169th I nfantry was rel i eved. Col onel Hol -
l and, who had di rected the 169th i n i ts
capture of the hi l l s overl ooki ng Munda,
returned to command of the 145th. The
169th’s 1st and 2d Battal i ons, ti red and
badl y depl eted, departed for Rendova for
a needed rest. The 3d Battal i on remai ned
on New Georgi a as 43d Di vi si on reserve.
The arri val of other uni ts al so strength-
ened the NGOF l i nes. The 161st I nfantry,
detached from the 2“5th Di vi si on on Gua-
dal canal , debarked on the 21st. Attached
to the 37th Di vi si on, the regi ment moved
i nto bi vouac on the di vi si on’s ri ght fl ank.
The remai nder of the 103d Regi ment
joi ned the 3d Battal i on on New Georgi a,
on the 21st and 22d of Jul y, and, from that
poi nt on, the 103d (l ess the 1st Battal i on
sti l l at Segi ) fought as a regi ment. Addi -
ti onal anti ai rcraft protecti on agai nst the
peri odi c Japanese ai r rai ds on New Geor-
gi a and Rendova was provi ded by a de-
tachment of 4 offi cers and 140 men from
the Mari ne l l th Defense Battal i on. Al ert-
ed earl y i n the campai gn for possi bl e com-
mi tment, a 90mm battery, augmented by
four 40mm guns and four .50 cal i ber ma-
chi ne guns, was sent to Kokorana I sl and
from Guadal canal on 18 Jul y.
Duri ng the peri od 18-24 Jul y, whi l e the
NGOF swel l ed i n si ze as fresh regi ments
poured i n, the front l i nes of ti l e New Geor-
gi a Force remai ned stati c. At thi s ti me,
the mai n posi ti ons of the NGOF traced an
i rregul ar pa.ttern through the hi l l y jnn-
gl e i n a northwest di recti on from Lai ana
Beach to the steep hi l l s guardi ng the
northern approach to Munda.. I nto thi s
4,000-yard front, sti l l about three mi l es
from Munda, General Gri swol d moved the
two di vi si ons wi th orders to conti nue the
attack on the 25th. I n the southern sec-
tor, General Hester’s 43d Di vi si on had the
103d I nfantry (Li eutenant Col onel Les-
ter E. Brown) anchored to the coast wi th
the 172d I nfantry (Col onel Ross) on the
ri ght. I n the 37th Di vi si on’s zone of at-
tack on the north, General Bei ghtl er had
pl aced the 145th I nfantry (Col onel Hol -
l and) on the l eft fl ank and the 148th I n-
fantry (Col onel Stuart A. Baxter) on the
extreme ri ght fl ank wi th the added mi ssi on
of protecti ng the ri ght fl ank and rear of
the NGOF. The 161st I nfantry (Col onel
James M. Dal ton) was assi gned as the i n-
teri or uni t between the 145th and the
148th. To i nsure a rapi d advance, the
frontl i ne uni ts were di rected by General
Gri swol d to bypass al l strong poi nts, l eav-
i ng these for the reserve uni ts to el i mi nate.
Combat acti on duri ng the peri od i n
whi ch the NGOF reorgani zed and rested
was l i mi ted. As each front-l i ne uni t
moved i nto pl ace, patrol s sought to deter-
MUNDA VI CTORY 107
mi ne the di sposi ti on and strength of the
tJapanese uni ts to the front. Occasi onal l y,
scattered bands of 13th Regi ment’s sol -
di ers were encountered, and a number of
confused, short ski rmi shes resul ted. Cas-
ual ti es to both si des were l i ght.
The hTGOF had one advantage. The
ground fi ghti ng had been rel ati vel y free
of ai r i nterference, and most of the bomb-
i ng attacks were by fri endl y pl anes on
rear area enemy defenses. The Japanese
had attempted but fai l ed i n several at-
t,empts to l ocate the NGOF front l i nes for
a bombi ng and strafi ng attack. Segi ,
Wi ckham, and Vi ru, however, were vi si ted
regul arl y by nocturnal ai rcraft whi ch the
troops-conformi ng to South Paci fi c cus-
tom—tagged wi th the euphemi sms of
“One-Bomb Bi l l ” or “Washi ng-machi ne
Charl i e.” Most of the Japanese ai r at-
tempts, though, appeared to be ai med at
Rendova where the bul k of suppl i es was
stockpi l ed. An al ert ai r cover, hel ped by
anti ai rcraft batteri es, kept enemy pl anes
at a wary di stance.
Ai r support mi ssi ons requested by Gen-
eral Mul cahy a.s CornAi r New Georgi a
were general l y di rected at, the easi l y
i denti fi abl e targets around Munda fi el d.
Cl ose ai r support for troops fi ghti ng i n
dense jungl e had proven i mpracti cal wi th
target desi gnati on so di ffi cul t. Ai r-
ground coordi nati on, struggl i ng agai nst
the handi caps of vi si bi l i ty and communi -
cati ons, was not hel ped by the i naccurate
operati on maps. Even though gri dded,
the photo-mosai ~ were not preci se enough
for such cl ose work, where a sl i ght error
mi ght resul t i n heavy hTGOF l oses.
Then, too, i n the fi ghti ng where dai l y
progress was measured i n 200- or 300-yard
gai ns, the troops were rel uctant to wi th-
draw for an ai r stri ke. Sol di ers reported
that when they had pul l ed back to provi de
a zone of safety for ai r stri kes or arti l l ery
and mortar preparati ons, the enemy si m-
pl y moved forward i nto the abandoned
area and wai ted for the bombi ng or arti l -
l ery to l i ft before movi ng back i nto thei r
ori gi nal posi ti ons i n ti me to defend agai nst
the expected ground attack.
Requested support mi ssi ons were fl own
by Stri ke Command, Com.4i rSol s. The
New Georgi a support was i n addi ti on to
the repeated bombi ng and strafi ng stri kes
at enemy shi ppi ng and ai rfi el ds at Kahi l i ,
Bal l al e., Vi l a, Enogai -Bai roko, and Bou-
gai nvi l l ea. The pl anes fl ew cover for task
groups and fri endl y shi ppi ng as wel l .
Duri ng the peri od 30 June to 25 ,Jul y, the
start of the corps offensi ve i n New
Georgi a, the Stri ke Command squadrons
fl ew 156 mi ssi ons i nvol vi ng 3,119 sorti es.
I n addi ti on to more than four mi l l i on
pounds of expl osi ves dropped on enemy
i nstal l ati ons, the ComAi rSol s pl anes
counted 24 enemy shi ps sunk and another
28 damaged. A total of 428 fi ghter pl anes
and 136 bombers were reported as de-
stroyed by ConAi rSol s pi l ots. Stri ke
Command l osses i n the Central Sol omons
duri ng the peri od were 80 pl anes.
The fi nal push on Munda, promi sed the
hardest fi ghti ng of the campai gn. Be-
tween the NGOF and i ts objecti ve were
more than 4,500 yards of l ow but steep
hi l l s, i rregul ar and broken, densel y cov-
ered wi th tropi cal rai n forest, and l aced
wi th enemy defenses. Reports of the pa-
trol s and observati on of bunkers al ready
taken i ndi cated that the enemy sol di ers
were dug i n and covered by l ow, two-l evel
camoufl aged coral and l og empl acements
wi th deadl y i nterl ocki ng fi el ds of fi re.
Trenches bul warked by coconut l ogs com
netted the bunkers. NGOF sol di ers were
108 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
wel l aware that the enemy woul d have
to be routed from these posi ti ons and that
resi stance unti l death was standard prac-
ti ce. Further, the sol di ers knew that the
enemy often abandoned one bunker to man
another, and then, after the fi rst bunker
had been overrun, returned to defend i t
agai n. .4n area gai ned i n attack duri ng
one day had to be cl eared of i nfi l trators
the fol l owi ng day.
Pri or to the 25 Jul y attack by the NGOF,
an attempt was made by Mari ne tanks to
crack the hi l l compl ex south of Lai ana
Beach and bri ng the 43d Di vi si on uni ts on
a l i ne wi th the 37th Di vi si on. Wi thdrawn
from further engagements i n that sector
after the 17 Jul y attack, the 9th Defense
Battal i on tanks were sent i nto acti on agai n
on the 24th. An arti l l ery preparati on
pri or to 0700 pounded a 100-yard” zone i n
front of the l i nes before the armor moved
out from the l i nes of the l eft battal i on of
the 172d I nfantry. Repul sed by a strong-
l y defended posi ti on i n that sector, the
Mari ne tanks tri ed agai n from the adjoi ni -
ng battal i on of the 103d I nfantry on the
l eft. Al though several pi l l boxes were
knocked out, the tanks were forced to wi th-
draw after one machi ne was bl i nded by
hi ts on the peri scope. Two other ma-
chi nes sputtered wi th engi ne troubl e
caused by l ow-octane fuel and overheat-
i ng. The wi thdrawal was made under fi re,
the di sabl ed machi ne under tow by an-
other.
Another poi nt of tenaci ous defense was
met by the 161st I nfantry. Dal ton’s reg-
i ment, attempti ng to move up to the l i ne
of departure, was tol d that onl y two pi l l -
boxes were to hi s i mmedi ate front. A re-
i nforced pl atoon, maki ng the i ni ti al at-
tack, knocked out the two pi l l boxes but
then uncovered another network of forti -
fi cati ons. A strong company was sent i n-
to the area. Two more pi l l boxes were
knocked out, but 12 more were uncovered.
At thi s poi nt, the regi ment moved i n and
knocked out these strong poi nts before
di scoveri ng more pi l l boxes. At l ast, wi th
the 25 Jul y attack i mpendi ng, the regi -
ment bypassed the forti fi cati ons and
moved up to the l i ne of departure. But
before the pocketed strong poi nt was re-
duced, “i t took the combi ned efforts of
two battal i ons, 3,000 rounds of 81mm mor-
tar fi re, the use of tanks, and the passage
of seven day’s ti me.” 22
As General Gri swol d’s NGOF poi sed
for the fi nal make-or-break assaul t on
Munda, hi s adversary was forced to face
the contest wi th a dwi ndl i ng stack of
chi ps. XI V Corps i ntel l i gence offi cers es-
ti mated that General Sasaki had l ost about
2,000 troops, i ncl udi ng 1,318 counted dead,
of the more than 4,500 whi ch he had avai l -
abl e earl i er.23 Hi s bi ggest gambl e had
fai l ed—matched and beaten by a l arger
reserve. The 13th Regimzmt had now fi l -
tered back toward Munda to take up de-
fensi ve posi ti ons to the northeast. The
mai n uni ts of the .%?9th Regiment, whi ch
had so bi tterl y contested the advanm of
the NGOF from the Bari ke, had taken
steadi l y mounti ng casual ti es. Nearl y cut
off from the rest of the command by the
pressure of the NGOF attack, the 229th
took up fi nal posi ti ons i n the Munda hi l l s,
the battal i ons and compani es consi derabl y
i ntermi ngl ed. General Sasaki , hopi ng to
avoi d some of the poundi ng ai med at ‘Ko-
kengol a Hi l l , moved hi s headquarters from
the ai rfi el d to the pl antati on north of i t.
2’37th I nfDi v Ops, op. cit., p. 4.
= USAFI SPA I ntel Rept No. 27, dtd 24 Ju143.
MUNDA VI CTORY 109
-\
w
a
a
=
110 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
Wi th the worseni ng si tuati on i n New
Georgi a came new real i zati on and uneasi -
ness that Japanese posi ti ons i n Bougai n-
vi l l ea woul d be as qui ckl y overrun. A sea-
pl ane carri er protected by fi ve destroyers,
tryi ng to reach that i sl and on 22 Jul y, was
attacked by a force of 16 di ve bombers, 18
torpedo bombem (al l from VMTB-143),
and 16 heavy bombers whi ch stopped the
rei nforcement effort col d. Onl y 189 men
out of 618 Army personnel aboard the car-
ri er survi ved. .41s0 l ost were 22 tanks,
heavy equi pment, ~qms, fuel , and anl muni -
ti on desti ned for the Central Sol omons de-
fenders. The destroyers, however, man-
aged to l and some troops.
Sasaki conti nued to hope for rei nforce-
ments, but the Al l i ed cl amp on Kul a Gul f
was too ti ght. The onl y major uni t to
reach New Georgi a was the understrength
230th Regiment, a remnant from the Gua-
dal canal wi thdrawal . Onl y about 400 men
reached Munda, and these were put i nto
the fi nal defense around Kokengol a Hi l l .
The pi ncers movement of the NGOF and
the concentrated shel l i ng and bombi ng
counted toward maki ng the Central Sol o-
mons si tuati on doubtful , but the bl ockade
of Kul a Gul f by Al l i ed destroyer forces,
torpedo boats, and ni ght and day ai r pa-
trol s was perhaps the tel l i ng factor. “Con-
sequentl y,” the enemy was forced to admi t,
“the fate of the Munda sector became a
matter of ti me. ” 24
General Sasaki , a real i st, confessed that
the Al l i es had compl ete materi al superi or-
i ty and that a sustai ned push by the
NGOF woul d col l apse hi s command. Al -
though he was envi ous of hi s opponents’
arti l l ery, communi cati on, and l arge l and-
i ng boats, he was cri ti cal of the NGOF
sol di er—who, he sai d, advanced sl owl y,
%NE Area A’a@ps-11, p. 32.
fai l i ng to take advantage of hi s strength
and equi pment:
They awai ted the resul ts of several days’
bombardments befor e a squad advanced.
Posi ti ons wer e constructed and then strength
i ncreased. When we counterattacked at
cl ose quarters, they i mmedi atel y retreated
and wi th thei r mai n strength i n the rear
engaged our pursui ng troops wi th rapi d fi re.
The i nfantry di d not attack i n strength, but
gradual l y for ced a gap and then i nfi l trated.
Despi te the cover pr ovi ded by tank fi r epower ,
the i nfantry woul d not come to gri ps wi th
us and char ge. The tanks wer e sl ow but
wer e movabl e pi l l boxes whi ch coul d stop and
neutral i ze our fi r e.=
The defense of the ai rfi el d had al so de-
pl eted Sasaki ’s forces. The Japanese SOl -
di er, fati gued and muddy, was for ced to
fi ght i n some i nstances on onl y one ri ce
bal l a day. Kept i rri tated and sl eepl ess
by the constant bombardment, the Munda
defender was gaunt, wear y, and hungr y—
but sti l l determi ned. Despi te the hard-
shi ps, moral e was hi gh and the Japanese
sol di er was “prepared to di e i n honor, i f
necessary.” ‘G
The hTGOF attack, now corps-si ze,
opened on 25 Jul y when fi ve-i nch shel l s
rai ned upon the Munda area from seven
destroyers. At 0630, heavy bombers be-
gan droppi ng 500-pound bombs and fol -
l owed up wi th a rai n of 120- and
300-pounders. Next came fl i ghts of tor-
pedo bombers and scout bombers whi ch
dropped 2,000-pound and 1,000-pound
bombs. I n al l , 171 pl anes took part i n the
saturati on bombi ng of the area paral l el i ng
the enti re front l i nes. Speci al attenti on
was gi ven to defensi ve posi ti ons i n the
= CI C SoPacFor I tem No. 877, dtd 2Dec43, SE
DetComdRept to Seventeenth Ar my CofS, l ate
JU143.
~ CI C SoPacFor I tem No. 1026, dtd 8Feb44,
Transl ated Enemy Di ary.
MUNDA VI OTORY 111
hi l l s near the l agoon and the heavi l y de-
fended strong poi nt i n the centxm of the
,Japznese defensi ve 1i ne, whi ch the NCI OF
troops cal l ed Horseshoe Mountai n because
of i ts U-shaped appearance. Bi bol o Hi l l ,
guardi ng Munda, was al so worked over.
(See Map 6.)
As the attack began, Japanese ai r uni ts
attempted to retal i ate. At 0930, a fl i ght
of from 60 to ’70 enemy fi ghtere bore down
on h’ew Georgi a, but the ai r cover provi ded
by ComAi rSol s hel d off the attack. Ad-
di ti onal Al l i ed fi ghter pl anes, hasti l y
scrambl ed from Segi ’s newl y compl eted
ai rstri p, arri ved i n ti me to di scourage a
second attempt by the enemy pl anes.
NGOF arti l l ery, fi ri ng paral l el to ti he
front l i nes, l ashed the area to be attacked;
and, wi th thi s awesome di spl ay of fi re-
power to pave the way, the NGOF regi -
ments began to move forward. One Jap-
anese sol di er, astounded by the vol ume of
shel l i ngj wondered, “Are they i ntendi ng to
smash Munda wi th naval and heavy ar~i l -
~ery ~~~27
I n the 43d Di vi si on sector, the
9th Defense Battal i on tanks were cal l ed to
rescue troops of 3/103 hel d up by a strong
poi nt. Ai ded by a fl anki ng movement of
the 172d’s 2d Battal i on, the tanks sl ashed
through the rear of the enemy posi ti ons
faci ng the 103d, and the Japanese hasti l y
abandoned thei r posi ti ons to fl ee toward
the next l i ne of hi l l s. El ements of the
103d then pushed toward the rel ati vel y
cl ear pl antati on area between La.i ana and
Munci a. The advance was about 500
yards. The 3d Battal i on of the 169th then
moved out of reserve posi ti ons to fi l l the
gap between the 103d and the 172d.
The mai n effort of the fi rst day’s attack
was made i n the 37th Di vi si on zone. The
145th I nfantry, the l eft fl ank uni t, hel d
“ USAFI PS.4 I ntel Rept No. 40, dtd 260ct43.
i ts posi ti ons i n order to strai ghten the
NGOF l i nes, whi l e the 161st and 148th
pressed the attack. Sti ff resi stance from
the defenders of Horseshoe Mountai n hel d
the 161st to a sl i ght gpi n, but the 148th
easi l y advanced about 600 yards agai nst
occasi onal fi re from smal l outposts. By
ni ghtfal l , the NGOF had pressed i tsel f
agai nst the Japanese front l i nes.
Mari ne tanks were i n support of both
di vi si ons the fol l owi ng day. A newl y ar-
ri ved weapon maki ng a fi rst appearance i n
the fi ghti ng, the fl ame thrower, was com-
bi ned wi th tanks from the 9th Defense
Battal i on to crack a bel t of 74 pi l l boxes
on a 600-yard front whi t’h faced the 103d
and 172d regi ments. The day’s attack put
the 43d Di vi si on wel l i nto the rear of the
Lai ana defenses. Farther north, the 145th
conti nued to hol d fast whi l e the 161st at-
tempted to crack the resi stance to the
front. A fresh Mari ne tank pl atoon, si x
of the machi nes from the l oth Defense
Battal i on, was commi tted to acti on i n an
attempt to cl ear the Horeeshoe Mountai n
defenses.
After a fi ve-hour struggl e agai nst the
thi ck jungl e and steep terrai n, a total of
14 pi l l boxes had been demol i shed. The
tanks, crashi ng through a thi ck under-
brush tangl ed by fal l en l ogs and stumps,
fi nal l y l ocated the enemy forti fi cati ons
near a l arge cl eari ng. I nfantry support,
however, was often pi nned down by mur-
derous enemy fi re, and the tanks were
forced to twi st and turn, pi vot and back-
track, to keep enemy ri fl emen from assauR-
i ng the machi nes wi th magneti c grenades.
Three tanks were knocked out and aban-
doned before the Mari ne tankers coul d
di sengage from the furi ous fighting. l’he
strong poi nt remai ned, however, onl y par-
ti al l y si l enced. That ni ght, cl ose-i n arti l -
l ery fi re ri nged the abandoned tanks so
112
tl mt enenl y sol di ers coul d not, use them as
pi l l l mxcs.
On the far ri ~ht, Col onel Baxter’s 148th
I nfantry conti nued to dri ve ahead agai nst
onl y sl i ~l l t resi stance, adwmci ng another
800 yards tl ~esecond d’ay. The move, hoN--
ever, put, the 37th Di l ”i si on far abed of
ti l e 43(I Di ~i si ol ~. To S(rai ghten the l i nes,
the next attack effort woul d be di rected
ag~i nst ti l e enemy i n the South. I f the
103d and 172d col l l d press past tl ~e open
south si de of the Horseshoe Nfouutai n de-
fenses, the penetrati on nl i ght rel i eve the.
pressure on the central porti on of the
NGOF l i ne.
Mari ne tanks were to spearl ~ead the 43d
Di vi si on attack i n the south on the 27tl ~,
but the advance bad hardl y started be-
fore the l ead tank was bl asted by an anti -
tank gun. Confusi on resul ted. The fi rst.
tank, wi th casual ti es among the crew?
stal l ed. As i t.started agai n and attempted
to back up, i t rammed the second tank. A
thi rd tank was hi t i mmedi atel y by ant.i -
t~nk fi re. As a fourth md fi fth machi ne
moved Li p, one was bl asted by mna~eti c
mi nes and the other , after raki ng the
~l l n~l e wi th machi ne gun fi re, m-as al so di s-
abl ed by a gr enade. Al l machi nes, how-
ever , by mutual fi r e assi stance, managed
to l i mp back to fr i endl y l i nes. But the
day’s attack vi rtual l y ended the combat
effi ci ency of the 9th Defense Battal i on tank
pl atoon. Of the ei @t machi nes br ought
ashore, fi ve had been di sabl ed that day, a
si xd~ had been di sabl ed previ ousl y, and
tv-o others ~~ereunder repai r. Four tanks
were reported deadl i ned permanentl y. I n
addi ti on, the pl atoon had a l l unl ber of
dri vers and crewmen l i i l l ed or Tvounded.
Progress al ong the l i ne on the 97th ha(l
been sl i ght, for (l ~o l ocal i zed strong poi nts
ronti nue(l to hol d I I D tl l e advance.
Ti l e
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
-13d Di vi si on sti l l faced a rugged defen-
si ve area i n the south whi ch repeated tank-
i nfantry assaul ts had fai l ed to dent, and
the 37th Di vi si on was hung up agai nst
the Horseshoe Mountai n l i ne, ki ngpi n of
‘3 ~asaki ’s resi stance. To XI V Corps ob-
servers, i t was pl ai n that the capture of
ei ther strong poi nt woul d resul t i n the
downfal l of the other.
On 28 Jul y, 3/103 fol l owed four Mari ne
tanks i nto attack on the coast area after a
30-mi nute mortar md arti l l ery prepara-
ti on. ‘1’he attack proved to be ti l e fi nest
exampl e of tank-i nfantry tacti cs of the
campai ~g. l TTi th the machi nes guarded
and supported by the i nfantry, the bat-
tal i on advanced i n a seri es of spurts. For
tl l e fi rst. ti me, the tanks were operati ng
over rel ati vel y fl at and open terrai n wi th
dry footi ng. Enemy opposi ti on began to
fal ter, then dwi ndl ed rapi dl y, as the at-
tackers rushed ahead. Even three di rect
hi ts by anti tank ~mns on the l ead tank
fai l ed to stop the attack. The enemy gun
empl acement was overrun a few moments
l ater. Compl etel y routi ng the enemy i n a
500-yard advance, the i nfantrymen took
up defensi ve posi ti ons ~~hi l e the tanks con-
ti nued to range ahead. One tank was hi t,,
but managed to l i mp back to the l i nes.
The day’s advance had compl etel y broken
the Japanese defenses i n the south.
I n the north, the 161st jumped off i n
an attack wi thout pri or arti l l ery prepara-
ti on and caught the enemy unawares, I n
a bri ef ski rmi sh, the 161st occupi ed a ri dge
whi ch had hel d up the advance for two
days. At thi s ti me, the attenti on of the
3TGt3F \Yas suddenl y drawn to the ri ght
fl ank \vhel e the 148th had abruptjl y found
i tsel f i ]) troul )l e. .\s Col onel I I axter rl l e-
fl l l l v a(l l l .l i ttd l ater: ‘&Don”t foruet. bei wz
,
MUNDA VI CTORY
too aggressi ~e can often get you i nto as
much hot water as doi ng nothi ng.”’s
Baster’s
regi ment,
pushi ng ahead
:I g(l i l l st, ~ve:]k :l l l d sc:l ttered opposi ti on, had
reached the Mul ~d:~-Bai roko trai l , but i n
so doi ng ha(l opened a hol e between the
I %tl l n~~d161st. Wi th two battal i ons i l l
the attack, the 148th hacl been unabl e to
1)111.g ti l e gap, illl(l, as at ti l e I Jari l ce Ri ver
earl i er, al ert ,Japanese sol di ers qui ckl y i n-
fi l trated. That ni ght, the rear suppl y
dml l p of the l +8th was under determi ned
attack by an enemy force of consi derabl e
si ze. Support troops managed to beat off
n three-si decl enemy assaul t by usi ng rati on
boxes and suppl y cartons as barri cades,
much i n the manner of fronti er wagon
trai ns under atf ack by I ndi ans. El ements
of the 148th, whi ch had reached as far as
13i bol o Hi l l west of the ai rfi el d to confi rm
i ndi cati ons thzt the enemy was abandoni ng
that front, now rushed back to the defense
of the suppl y dump. I n thi s i nstance, the
148th vi rtual l y had to fi ght i ts way to the
rear as about 250 Japanese i n smal l bands
wi th machi ne guns and mortars, probabl y
remnants of the Yomonari Force. harassed
the uni t for three ni ghts. The 148th
reached the suppl y dump and establ i shed
contact wi th the 161st before turni ng about
to resume the attack toward the northern
part of Bi bol o Hi l l .
Al though the 43d Di vi si on, now under
the command of Major General John R.
Hedge who had rel i eved General Hester,
conti nued to push forward al ong the coast
i n rapi dl y i ncreasi ng g~i ns~ the center of
the NTGOF conti nued to be snagged on the
enemy defenses on Horseshoe Mountai n.
Fi rst. break i n the barri er came on 30 Jul y
when the l ’72d attacked and occupi ed w
smal l ri dge compl ex southeast of the mai n
“ Baxter Rept, op. cit., p. 16.
113
defenses. The fol l owi ng day, 31 Jul y, the
169th attacked and compl eted the reduc-
ti on of the southern anchor of the Japa-
nese strong poi nt. The advance, however,
sti l l fai l ed to break the Horseshoe de-
f enses.
On 1 August, the 43d Di vi si on punched
through to the outer taxi way of Munda
ai rfi el d. The move put the Al l i ed force
al most i n the rear of Sasaki >s l ast strong
poi nt, and enemy resi stance on Horseshoe
Mountai n suddenl y di ssol ved. The ai r-
fi el d defenders had at l ast succumbed to
the steady pressure of the NGOF.
The wi thdrawal had been ordered after
the New Geo~-gi a Defense Force had be-
come steadi l y weakened by l ack of ammu-
ni ti on, food, and addi ti onal troops. Al -
though a few destroyers managed to make
Kol ombamgara, practi cal l y al l Japanese
transportati on and suppl y l i nes had been
strangl ed. On 29 Jul y, an offi cer couri er of
the .?i’ig?tth Fleet had arri ved at Munda to
rel ay to Sasaki the order to fal l back to the
l i ne of hi l l s ri ngi ng Munda for a l ast-di tch
stand. The ai rfi el d was to be defended
even at the pri ce of Kol ombangara. Rei n-
forcements woul d come. Fol l owi ng i n-
structi ons, Sasaki pul l ed what scattered
el ements he coul d fi nd back to hi s l ast de-
fense. As the campai gn drew to a cl ose,
hi s l i ne was hel d by the Z29th Regiment
on the south part of Bi bol o Hi l l wi th the
undermanned 23(M Regiment cm Koken-
gol a Hi l l . On the extreme l eft fl ank were
uni ts of Tomonari ’s 13th Regiment.zV
Remnants of the 8th CS.I VLF were com-
bi ned wi th Army l mi ts for a l ast-di tch
stand.
At, the cl ose of the fi ghti ng on 2 August,
the 43d Di vi si on was perched on the l ast
“ Sopa~For I T)W I 1]terrogati onRept No. 1~~.
(l t(l 24 Nov43.
114
l ow row of hi l l s overl ooki ng Munda ai r-
fi el d, ancl the 37th Di vi si on v-as graduwl l y
ti ghteni ng the l i nes around the northern
part of the ai rfi el d. The fol l owi ng day,
Hedge’s troops cnptured tbe southern part
of 13i bol o Hi l l whi l e the 37th Di vi si on
moved cauti ol l sl y but swi ftl y through i so-
l ated pi l l box nrezs northwest of the fi el d.
The 148th, reachi ng the Munda-Bai roko
trai l once more, ambushed a l arge force of
enemy fl eei ng the area. (See Map 7.)
As the two di vi si ons resumed the attack
on 4 .i ugust, the onl y opposi ti on faci ng
the 43d Di vi si on came from Kokengol a
Hi l l i n the mi ddl e of the ai rfi el d. Whi l e a
rzi n of arti l l ery and mortar shel l s bl asted
the hi l l , Mmri ne tanks from the 10th and
l l th Defense Battal i ons roamed about the
ai rfi el d, fl ushi ng sni pers and bl asti ng
rubbl e-hi dden forti fi cati ons. The tanks
from the 1l th Defense l %tt al i en had been
hurri edl y di spatched to take part i n the
assaul t of the ai rfi el d after the 9th Bat-
tal i on’s tanks had been deadl i ned. Al erted
on Tnl agi si nce 30 June, the Mari ne tank-
ers reached New Georgi a on 3 August, just
i n ti me to joi n the fi nal attack.
North of Munda, whi l e the 145th
mopped up the l ast shreds of opposi ti on,
the 161st and 148th Regi ments pl unged
rapi dl y through to Di amond Narrows.
I n that, fi nal dri ve, the 37th Di vi si on sol -
di ers staged a sl ashi ng, stabbi ng charge
that overwhel med al l outposts.
That
ni ght, the l ast shots fi red were those sent
after Japanese tryi ng to swi m to i sl ands
across the Narrows.
The fol l owi ng day, 5 August, tanks of
the 10th and l l th Defense Battal i ons-ac-
compani ed as a courtesy gesture by the
sol e remai ni ng operati onal tank of the
$)th Defense Battal i on-made fi ve sorti es
over the ai rfi el d. The onl y fi re recei ved
v-as from Kokengol a Hi l l , and thi s the
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
Mari ne tanks qui ckl y squel ched wi th
37mm rounds. At I 41o, the ai rfi el d was
offi ci al l y decl ared secured, and Al l i ed
troops took over the enemy fort i fi cati ons
ri ngi ng the war pri ze whi ch had taken
more than a month of bi tter combat to ob-
tai n. Al ong the bl asted and cratered run-
ways were hul ks of 30 enemy ai rpl anes,
some sti l l i n revetments. Al l were
stri pped of armament and i nstruments.
None woul d ever fl y agai n. Japanese
suppl i es, i ncl udi ng tasty ti nned foods,
beer, ,sa7re,and ri ce gave tri umphant i n-
fantrymen a change from the weary rou-
ti ne of combat rati ons.
Beach defenses were strengthened the
next day, and gri my sol di ers I mthedj
wmhed cl othes, and rested from the tough
gri nd of battl e. Patrol s, rangi ng far to
the north, reported no opposi ti on. The
patrol s’ onl y resul t was the capture of one
forl orn Japanese sol di er, whom one offi cer
descri bed as typi cal of the enemy who
were thwarted i n thei r attempts to hol d
thei r preci ous ai rfi el d: “I njured, ti red,
si ck, no food, di rty torn cl othes, l i ttl e am-
muni ti on and a battered rusty ri fl e.”’0
For both vi ctor and vanqui shed, the cam-
pai gn had been hard.
The fal l of Munda al most coi nci ded
wi th another di saster whi ch heaped addi -
ti onal mi sery upon the Japanese. I n a be-
l ated and i l l -fated attempt to hel p Sasaki
hol d the Central Sol omons, the f7eti en-
teenth Avrny at 130ugai nvi l l e organi zed
two wel l -equi pped i nfantry battal i ons, bol -
stered by the addi ti on of arti l l ery and au-
tomati c weapons. The troops were taken
from the 6th and 38th Divisions. The re-
i nforcement uni t started for New Georgi a
on the ni ght, of 6 August, i n four destroy-
ers. As the shi ps steamed through the
‘0l /1-18 Rent. O?J. c%t.
MUNDA VI CTORY 115
‘-\
/
.— ___
116
I SOLATI ON OF RABA~L
north entrance of Vel ]a Gul f tryi ng to
make Kol ornbangara, an ambush set by an
A1l i ed force of si x destroyers (Com-
mander Frederi ck Moosbrugger) struck
suddenl y, I n a matter of moments, three
of the Japanese destroyers were i n fl ames
and si nki ng. The ambush i n Vel l a Gul f
resul ted i n the l oss of 820 Army troops and
700 crew members i n a si ngl e stroke. I t
was the l ast attempt by the Japanese to
rei nforce the Centrzl Sol omons.
Muncl a’s capture was marked by the
commi tment of the 27th I nfantry from
Major General J. Lawton Col l i ns’ 25th
Di vi si on. Augmented by di vi si on support
troops, the regi ment joi ned the NGOF on
2 August and took over the mi ssi on of
guardi ng suppl y and communi cati on l i nes
al ong the 37th Di vi si on’s ri ght fl ank.
After Munda was taken, the 161st I nfan-
try reverted to 25th Di vi si on control and
joi ned the 27th I nfantry i n a new push to-
ward Kul a Gul f.
Wi th hardl y a pause at the ai rfi el d, the
two regi ments pi voted north to compl ete
the rout of al l enemy forces i n the area
between Di amond Narrows and Bai roko
Harbor. Onl y spotty resi stance was en-
countered; for i ncreased barge acti vi ty re-
veal ecl that the ,Japanese were feveri shl y
tryi ng to evacuate the scattered remnants
of the New C~eorgi a garri son. After two
weeks of l ocati ng and el i mi nati ng Jnpa-
nese posi ti ons north of Munda, the 27th
I nfantry decl ared i ts zone secured. The
161st, meanwhi l e, had advanced toword
13ai roko after knocki ng out enemy strong
poi nts on two jungl e peaks. The fi nal
ground acti on on New Georgi a came on
2?5August, when the 161st I nfantry com-
bi ned wi th Li versedge’s force to attack the
harbor area from three si des—onl y to fi nd
that the ,Japanese had just compl eted evac-
uati on of the area. Al l organi zed enemy
resi stance on the i sl md was ended.
RENZ)Q VA : FI NAL PHASE “
Dur i ng the per i od that N~O~ sol di ers
sl ogged thei r way tl mough jungl e mud on
the way to the ai rfi el d, the Rendova force
settl ed i nto a routi ne of fi ri ng arti l l ery
mi ssi ons and combatti ng enemy ai r rai ds.
After the i ni ti al uni ts of General Hester’s
force departed for New Georgi a., the har-
bor at I l endova became the focal poi nt for
al l rei nforcements, suppl i es, and equi p-
ment movi ng i nto the Centrl l Sol omons.
Duri ng Jul y, dai l y transport shuttl es
from the rear echel ons on Guadal canal
poured a total of 25,556 Army, 1,547 Navy,
:md 11645Mari ne troops i nto Rendova for
eventual commi tment i n New Georgi a.
.\ddi ti onal l y, the beaches at Rendova and
i ts offshore i sl ands became pi l ed hi gh wi th
rati ons, oi l and l ubri cants, ammuni ti on,
vehi cl es, and other frei ght, al l of whi ch
found i ts way to the NGOF.
Thi s bustl i ng poi nt of entry—wi th
troops unl oadi ng and stockpi l es of mate-
ri al l i ni ng the beaches—was a tempti ng
target to the Japanese. The Rendova ai r
patrol of 32 fi ghter pl anes constantl y fl y-
i ng an umbrel l a over the i sl and drai ned
the resources of ComAi rSol s, but, at the
same ti me, was a successful deterrent to
enemy attacks. Duri ng the New Georgi a
campai agn, onl y three enemy hi ts were
31LTnIeSS otherwise noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om : 9th DefBn Rept to
ComMarDefGruSol s, dtd 5Ju143 ; 9t71 Def13n
OpRrpt; 9th DefBn AA OPS.; 9th DefBn I nfor -
mal CbtRept New Geor gi a Campai gn, dtd
9Sep43 ; %h T)efBn Narrati ve Hi st l Feb42-
14Feb44, dtd 2May44; 155mnl Gun Gr u, 9th
DefBn Work Sheets, 18Jun–2LJu143, dtd 130ct
43; Ilth DcfBn lVarD; OXI , Combat Narra-
tives X.
MUNDA VI CTORY
regjstere(l on sni ps i n the l l trbor by hom-
bel ’s or torpe(l o bombers, and onl y one hor-
i zontal bombi ng attnck N-M abl e to cl ose
on Rencl ova dl l ri ng the. cl ayl i ght hours
~vhel i tl ~e ti gl ~ter l ml brel l a was on stati on.
Pl ayi ng a major rol e i n ti l e defense of
the l ~arborj ti l e 9(hl ]m batteri es an(l tl ~e
Sl )eci :11Weapons Group oft he 9t1{Defense
J3attnl i on snot do]ml a total of 2+ enemy
pl anes ci l ~ri ng the month of ,J[dy. For
ti l e hfari l ~e anti ai rcraft crews, the defense
of I {endova was vi rtl l al ]y an al ’ound-the-
cl ock operati on whi ch was a deadl y con-
test of ski l l between enenl y and defender.
The ,Japanese tri ed al l metl ~ods of attack,
i ncl l l di nfg l ~i tti ng ti l e target :i l ’e:l wi th
phcnm fro)l l vari ous di recti ons a~l cl al ti -
tncl es si l l l l l l t~l l l col l sl y. Si nce l arge areas
of tl m searcl i radar scree{l s Jyere bl ocked
by mol l ntai ns on New Georgi a, thi s al )-
I Jroacl l rol l te became the fa~ori tc of ti l e
Jfi panese pi l ots. Wi nni ngs for attacl m
from thi s di recti on were so short as to be
al most usel ess, so Mari nes were forced to
keep at. l east one 9t)mm battery m:~nned
conti nual l y wi th fi re control radars con-
stantl y i n operati on. The Mari nes found
that earl y i n the carnpfi i gn the enemy pi -
l ots cl roppcd thei r bomb l oads as soon as
tl ~ey were ti red upon or pi npoi nted by
searchl i ghts. Later attacks, however,
were pressed home wi th determi nati on,
an(l onl y wel l -di rected shooti ng deterred
them.
Mari nes al so had a promi nent part i n
the arti l l ery support of the N(+OF. .i fter
regi steri ng on Munda fi el d pri or to the
N’GOF overl anc{ attack, the Mari ne 155mm
gl ms began a systemati c l evel i ng of al l
known enemy i nst al l at i ons and bi vml ac
areas. Si nce ti l e exact, l ocati on of the
N[+OP front l i nes ~vas i l l -defi ned most of
the ti me, the Mari ne group l eft the cl ose-
117
sl l pport, fi ri ng mi ssi ons to Army 105mm
I l r.i ts wl l i cl l were. mnch nearer to the com-
bat. The l l ari ne guns were di rected i n-
stead a~<l i nst rear i l ~stal l at i ons, sup~)]y
al ~d rei nforcement rol ~tes, and targets of
opportuni ty.
Most, of the, ti l i ng nl i ssi ons Jvere re-
qneste(] I )y NGO F l ~eacl (l uarters wi th cor-
recti ons di rected by aeri al observers or
spotters at the 43c1 Di vi si on observati on
post. ‘1’I l e Jl al i ne group hacl notab]e suc-
cc+s i nterdi ct i l ~g SLl pplLy dumps, bi ~-mmc
arel s, and enenl y posi ti ons i n ti l e i mmedi a-
te vi ci l l i l y of Mnn(l a fi el (l . Cooperati on
l wtwt=e]l ai r spotters frol ~~the 19X1 Fi el d
.i rti l l ery 13attal i ml and ti l e 155mm Grol l p
of t.l l e 9111Defense Bat tal i en reached Sl l ch
a l l i gl ~ state of effi ci ency tl mt mi ssi ons were
fi l ’ed l ~i tl l a nl i ni mum of ti me :I n(l a(l just-
nl ent. The l fari l ~es ~~ere occasi onal l y re-
~var(l wl l by tl l e si ght of toweri l l g col l l ]nns
of Snl okc, i l l {l i (’i l t i ng that a sl l ppl y or illTl -
l nuni t i on (l l ml p had been hi t.
Ammuni ti on probl ems pl agued the 155-
mm batteri es. On tl w 13th of <Jul y, jl ~st as
ti l e N(;OI r stal l ed ~gai nst General Sasmki ”s
defenses> an ammuni ti on restri cti on was
pl aced on ti l e Mzri ne batteri es and the
nnmber of rounds expended dropped
abruptl y. After four days of 1i mi ted fi r-
i ng, al l shooti ng was stopped enti rel y
whi l e the NGOF reorgmi zed i n ATew
Georgi a. The onl y mi ssi on fi red dl l ri ng
thi s i nterval was on 20 Jul y i n answer to
an emergency request, to keep ,Japanese
troops from movi ng back i nto an area
-whi ch had been shel l ecl and neutral i zed
previ ousl y< The ammun i t i on l i mi tati on
resul ted from powder becomi ng wet and
l ~nservi ceabl e i n contai ners broken from
much handl i ng. Further compoundi ng
the di ffi cul ti es was the fact, that dnri ng the
peri od of ammun i t i on scarci ty, 11 mi scel -
118 I SOI JATI ON OF R.kBAUI J
l aneous l ots of powcl er were used l vhi ch
resul ted i n ~’ar yi n~ i ni ti :l ] vel oci ti es. l l a -
ri nes conl d ol l l -j guess fr onl one snot to
another v-l i etl l er tl m sI N,]] ~vol l l d be o)-er
the tar,@ or fal l sl ~ort. Wrhen ti l e powfl el ”
si tuati on was rel l l edi wl and the 43(I an(l
37th Di vi si ons be::l n ti l e fi nal dr i ve for
~~l l ndzj the Jl ari ne ~unner sj nom exper i -
enced fi el d arti l l erymen, retl l rnecl to fi r-
i ~~ accurate mi ssi ons.
After the fri l l of Mnnda, the 9th De-
fense Battal i on begi n the n)ove to A’ew
Georgi a to hel p defen(l the newl y won
pri ze. .I nt i :l i rcraf t bat i (~ri w were pl aced
:I ronnd the ai rfi el d and 155mn1 gun posi -
( i oms estab] i shed on offshor e i sl ands ancl
:~t Di amond AT:~rrows. The 9th N-as re-
l i eved on Rencl ova by the Mari ne l l th De-
fense 13:~ttal i on, ~vhi ch nl o~e(l to tl l l t i s-
I ;l nd from Gl l :l dal c:l n:l ] to t:l ke part i n tl ~e
fi nal stages of the Central Sol omons fi ghti -
ng.
Al though the capture of Mnnd:l was es-
senti al l y fi n .frmy operati ml and the num-
ber of Jl ari nes p:l rti ci pa(i ng was propor-
ti onatel y smal l , the contri buti ons of the
Mari ne Corps tanksj arti l l ery, and :l l l ti :l i l ”-
craft nni ts were essenti al to ti l e sl l ccess of
the operzti on. Thei r expl oi ts are :tn i n-
tegral part of the story of the carnpai =fp
A handful of M:~ri ne tanks spearheaded
most of ti l e successful attacks; and even
tl l ol l gh I mndi cnpped by ti l e rl l ggecl ter-
rai n, tl w arnl orecl vehi cl es were usual l y
the factor wl l i eh ti pped the bal ance to the
An]eri cans’ favor. Vi ctory at Ml mda was
won by i ntel ’-servi ce teamwork — one of
the freql ~ent exampl es of coordi nated
Army+ I i aYy. and I fari ne Corps effort i n
Worl (l War I I .
CHAPTER b
The Dragons Peninsula Campaign
RI CE ANCHORAGE 1
Munda’s eventual capture was a tri umph
over i ni ti al frustrati on and fai l ure. Ad-
mi ttedl y, the campai gn to take the ai rfi el d
had been costl y and ti me-consumi ng. But
whi l e the spotl i ght was focused on the
‘ Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om : Comi nCh Rept of SoPac
Acti on, 21)ee42-31Jan44, her eafter Comi nC1/
Iixpt of SoPac Action; WesternForO No. Al l -43,
cl td 28 Jun43; TG 3(;.1 OpO No. 1043, dtd 1Ju143;
Ncw Geor gi u Campai gn; 2JGOF Account; 1st
Rdr Regt SAR 4Jul -29Aug43, dtd 60et43, her e-
after I st RdrIi!c~t NAR; I st Rdr Regt R-2 Est of
Si tuati on, c. 23 Jun4J ; 1st Rdr Regt R-2 Jnl
2J~n–31Aug43, her eafter IstRdrRcflt .Jnl; 1st
Rdr Regt MsgFi l e 5Jul -28Aug43, her eafter 1st
RdrRegt NsgFile ; 1st Rdr Regt Ptl Repts
23Jul –14Aug43 ; 1st Rdr Bn WarD, 20Jun-29Aug
43, dtd 14 Sept43, her eafter I.st Rdrl;ti WcwD;
3/148 URepts, 7Jul –3Ang43, her eafter 3/1.j8
Rcpt; SW .-trra NavOp8-I; SE Area NavOpts-
11; Maj Cl ay A. Boyd i nter vi ew by Hi stI Ji v,
HQMG, dtd 16 Feb51 ; Col Si ~muel B. Gri ffi th, I I ,
i tr to Di rPubI nfo, HQMC, dtd 121’eb51 ; CO1
Samuel B. Gri ffi th, H, l tr to Maj John N. Rcntz,
dtd 12Feb51, her eafter (7ri~tfi 2tr;Col Samuel
B. Gri ffi th, I I , l tr to Col Enstace R. Snmak, dtd
3MnrY2 ; Lt Robert I l . Pape l tr to CMC, dtd
2M?eb51 ; LtCol Wi l l i am D. Stevenson l tr to CMC,
dtd 22 Feb51, her eafter 6Vwrnson ltr; Adm Ri ch-
mond K. Turner l tr to CMC, dtd 22Feb51 ; Col
Samuel B. Gri ffi th, I I , “Corry’s Boys,” Mari ne
f’orps Gazette, v. 36, no. 3 ( Mar52) and “.4cti on
at Enogai , ” Marine Corp8 Ga.zettc, v. 38, no. 3
(Mar54 ) ; TSgts Frank J. McDevi tt and Mnr r ey
J[ill”(lf2r, ‘“Capture of Enogai ,” Mari ne t70rp.s
{; fixtte, v. 27, no. 9 ( Sep43 ) ; Mori son, Iircakin(l
the Bii+m(frclis 17arricr; ONI , Com bat Narrativc8
.Y; Rentz, Mari nes i n tl!e Central Solomon8,
691–360 0—63—9
New Georgi a Occupati on Force as i t
fought i ts way from Zamma Beach to the
ai rstri p, mot her tense struggl e was waged
si mul taneousl y i n the northern part of the
i sl and i n whi ch the jungl e combat was as
bi tter and as deadl y. The resul ts were
much l ess concl usi ve. From the i ni ti al
shi p-to-shore movement of the Northern
Landi ng Group through the fol l owi ng si x
weeks of fi ghti ng, thi s phase of the New
Georgi a campai gn contri buted as much to
the feel i ng of di s:l ppoi ntment and futi l i ty
as the fi rst Munda attacks.
Earl y pl ans of the NGOF cal l ed for
Col onel Harry B. Li versedge’s 1st Mari ne
Rai der Regi ment (l ess two battal i ons) to
be a ready reserve. When i ntel l i gence re-
ported a garri son of some 500 enemy
troops wi th coast defense guns at Bai roko
Harbor, the Kul a Gul f l andi ng was wri tten
i nto the att~ack order. Of pri me concern
to the Al l i ed pl anners was the road con-
necti ng Bai roko wi th Munda ai rfi el d.
Scarcel y more than an i mproved jungl e
trai l , the road was neverthel ess a vi tal l i nk
between Munda and Vi l a, the mai n source
of Japanese rei nforcements and suppl i es.
Bai roko Harbor was the knot whi ch ti ed
the overl and route to the Kul a Gul f barge
system. An Al l i ed ground force between
Munda and Bai roko Harbor woul d have
the doubl e-barrel ed effect of cutti ng ORthe
fl ow of memy suppl i es and rei nforcements
to Munda as wel l as keepi ng the ai rfi el d
forces and the Bai roko garri son from rei n-
forci ng one another.
119
1!20 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
Factors i nvol ved i n ri ski ng a secondary
attl rk north of the ai rfi el d had been care-
ful l y consi dered before a deci si on to l and
at Ri ce Anchorage at tl ~e mouth of the
P(l ntl akona (Wharton) Ri ver i n Kul a
Gl df l md been reacl l wl . Two area-the
I hl ndakona and the Pi raka Ri vrr i n Rovi -
ana Ln~ool l —were scout cd before the for-
mer was sel ected. Admi ral Tl u-ner’s staff
reasoned tl ~at a 1andi ng from Rovi ana La-
goon woul d be unopposed but that the re-
sul tant, over]al ]d trek woul d be excessi vel y
sl ow, fati gui ng, and di ffi cl l l t to resuppl y.
Further, thi s l andi ng wol ~l d not bri ng the
enemy under i mmedi nte attack. Despi te
the nati ve trai l s crossi ng the i sl and, ~l arge
force coul d not travel fast enough through
the jungl e to gi ve assi stance to the ex-
pectecl rnpi d sei zure of Munda.
On the other hand, a l andi ng at Ri ce
Anchorage woul d 1i kewi se be unopposed,
and the enemy coul d be taken under ak-
tack al most i mmedi atel y. Thi s woul d
force the Japanese i nto one of three
courses of acti on: wi thdrawal to ei ther
Munrl a or Vi ]a, a counterattack i n
stren@, or an attempt at defendi ng the
I l ai roko Harbor area. The l atter course,
i t was bel i eved, woul cl be the l ogi cal enemy
reacti on to such a threat to the Munda-
~Ti l a l i nk. Defense by the enen~y at
Bxi roko wol l l d keep that garri son f rom re-
i nforci ng Mundn. Though the di sadvan-
ta~es of maki ng a l andi ng on a narrow,
.—
confi ned beach on the Puudakona Ri ver
l ~earl y outwei ghed the advantages, the
Ri ce Anchorage nttack hel d the most, hope
for success i n di vi di ng the Muncl a-13ai roko
forces. (See Map 8.)
Li versedge’s gro[~p, nugmented by the
3d Battal i on, l -18tl ~ I nfantry, was gi ven
a mul ti pl e mi ssi on i n ~~T(_)F orders.
After l mdi ng at Ri ce, the Nor ther n Land-
i ng CI roup was to move overl and to the
southwest ~capturi ng or ki l l i ng any enemy
forces encountered i n the Rai roko and
Enogai I nl et a~ea. After establ i shi ng
road bl ocks across al l road.< l eadi ng from
I l a i roko to M{l nda, the NLG was to ad-
van(w al ong the Mund:~-T3ai roko trai l as
far as possi bl e to prevent any enemy sup-
pl i es or rei nforcements reachi ng Muncl a,
and al so to bl ock ~ny wi thdrawal from
that area. Contact wi th the ri ght (north)
fl ank of tl ~e l G9th I nfantry was to be n~ai n-
tai ned by Li versed~e7s command.
The Mari ne-Army force had onl y a l i m-
i ted knowl edge of the terrai n between Ri ce
and Enogai I nl et and practi cal l y no i n-
formati on on Dragons Peni nsul a, the area
between I l ai roko and Enogai . For one
thi ng. no obl i que angl e aeri al photographs
of the area were avai l abl e. Thi s type of
aeri al i ntel l i gence was parti cul arl y desi r-
abl e, si nce jungl e terrai n photographed
from hi gh al ti tudes di rectl y overhead
rarel y reveal ed anythi ng of tacti cal val ue.
I n addi ti on, tl ~e peni nsul a had not been
scoutecl . The New Georgi a gui des had
been rel nctant to enter thi s area, feari ng
treachery because of v:qg~e. rumors that
ti l e n~ti ves of thi s area were hosti l e to men
fronl Rovi ana Lagoon.
Most of the SoPac reconnai ssance pa-
trol s bad been more concerned wi th Munda
where the mai n effort of the NGOF was
to be made. Those few patrol s whi ch ven-
turecl i nto the vi ci ni ty of Enogai I nl et
were forced to turn back by cl ose brushes
wi th ,Japmnese patrol s. Onl y the l ong,
narrow I ,el and Lagoon whi ch borders the
north shore of Dragons Peni nsul a had
been pxtrol l ed, ancl thi s had been done i n
canoes. As a resul t, the dark stretches of
jungl e between 13ai roko and Enogai were
sti l l an unknown area.
THE DRAGONS PEAUNSULA CAi l I PAI GN
121
Wi th the chte of the l mrdi ng set for 4
.JI I l y, a one-day postponement was granted
to al l ow anot]l er 37th Di vi si on uni t, the
3d Battl l i ol l of the 145th I nfantry, to joi n
Li verserl ge’s force. I Tnexpectedl y, the 4th
Rai (l er Battal i on was sti l l el l ga:ed i n the
TTi ru Harbor attack ancl coul d not be wi tl ~-
(l rawJl i n ti me to joi n the NLG.
I t was a l i ~l ~tl y armed force. The onl y
weapons c:nrri ed, other tl ~an i ])d i vi dI I al
arms and l i ght machi ne. guns, were the
60n~m mm-tars of the rai ders and the
81mnl mortars and heavy machi ne guns of
the Army battal i ons. Soti ce:Lbl y l acki ng
i n arti l l ery support, the. NLG expected to
nave ai r power avai l abl e upon request.
Sl ~ortl y mfter mi dni ght, 5 Jul y, a cover-
i ng bomb:l l c{l nel l t of I i (Jl ~>rrl l ):l I I X:l raand
13ai roko by a crui sel -cl estroyer force l }egal ~
on schedul e. Pron]pt, retal i atory ti re from
enemy shore bat tcri es at Enoga i surpri sed
the task force, however, because the pres-
ence of l arge g(ms at F.nogai as wel l as
Ba i roko hacl not been reported. I n a mat-
ter of moments, part of the coveri ng ti res
was shi fted to these. new targets and the
bombardment cent i nuecl . The destroyer
t$’trong was the onl y task force casual ty;
i t was hi t at 0046, not by she]l fi re but by
a torl )edo I i red by a ,Japznese destroyer
runl ~i rtg al ong Kol ombang:l ra’s northeast
Shore.z The shi p sank fast, but n~ost of
the crew was sa\7ed.
The actual l andi rrg of the Li ve.rsecl ge
f~r{)ul )st:l rted about 0130 i n the mi dst of n
m
torrenti al downpouv and spora(l i c shel l -
fi re. For a snort ti me the success of the
amphi bi ous vent ure seemed i n seri ous
‘ 310st s{)urres credi t thi s sl l ccessful tor pe(l oi n~
t{) enemy destroyers }vhi ch wer e fl eei ng tl )e task
for ce : however , one offi ci al po~t~~i l r sour ce as-
si ~ns credi t to a submari ne. S:l vI 1i stDi J-, Off of
the CXO, NI ), Ulliicll ~tat~.s A’f17,f17C1/lYMt01001/
i)l. lrorkl li’frr II ( l vti shi ngtou, 1955) , p. 53.
doubt. Ri ce Anchorage coul d not be
I ocat ecl i u tl ~e darkness and rai n. The
tral l sl mrt group sl owed and wai ted-un-
comfortabl y rememberi ng warni ngs of a
l l l rki ng enemy submnri ne force—whi l e one
destroyer wi th a s}~eep radar probed ahead,
seeki ng tl l c al l cl l orti ge. After a short de-
1i~~, the l ’l m(l akona Ri ver mouth WaS 10-
catwl ancl the transport group moved i nto
debarkat i oI ~. posi ti ons. i l s Mari nes and
sol di ers cl ambered i nt,o l andi ng craft
al on~si de the APDs, enemy star shel l s
gl i mmerecl t l l rol [gl ~ the rai ny darkness and
sl l el I S spl nshed among the transports.
Thi s fi re the, rai ders shrugged off wi th the
comnl ent, “errati c and i naccurate,)’ 3 but
i t was di sconcerti ng, too.
A sh:l l l ow bar bl ocki ng the entrance to
Ri ce JI nchorage further del ayed the l and-
i ng operati on. The l andi ng craft, each
towi ng 10 men on a rubber raft, were
forced to return to the transports to
l i ghte,rl l oads before crossi ng the reef.
Some of the rati ons were unl oaded before
tl ~eboxts returned for a second try. Scout-
i ng reports had termed the beach as
“smal l .” The rai ders found thi s al most an
understatement to descri be the narrow
stretch of l andi ng area hacked out of the
j(l ngl e on the south si de of the ri ver, about
300 yards I l pstream from the anchorage.
Whi l e four boats at a. ti me beached to un-
l oad troops and suppl i es, the other boats
jammed the ri ver mouth or i dl ed i n Ri ce
.fuchorage wai ti ng for a turn to unl oad.
The bl ack ni ght obl i gi ngl y curtai ned the
nl i l l i ng confusi on.
.i shore, drenched Mari nes and sol di ers
stumbl ed about the confi ned beach, sl i p-
pi ng i n the mud and tri ppi ng over hi dden
banyan roots. Si nce enemy shel l fi re
ral )ged overhead to hi t about 2,000 yards
“ 1st12dv13n W7arD, P. 1.
122
I SOLATI ON OF RABAI TL
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THE DRAGONS PEA’I NSLT..L CA31P-LI GN 123
farther up the coast, Li versedge’s offi cers
deci ded that the Japanese at, Enog,ai were
not aware of the exact l ocati on of the l and-
i ng ancl ~.i sked the I l se of ]I ooded fl :l sh-
I i ghts. Thereafter, the unl oadi ng and re.-
organi zzt i on l ~roceeded more smooth] y.
Near dawn, wi th al most al l suppl i es
ashore, Col onel Li versedge broke. radi o si -
l ence wi th one uncodecl word, “Scranl .”
The anxi ous .I PI )s and destroyers, unhap-
pi l y expecti ng enemy retal i ati on at any
moment, qui ckl y turl ~ed and headed back
for the southern Sol omons. The I I ndi ng,
al though del ayed, hai l been accompl i shed
wi thout, seri ous mi shap. One uni t, an Ar-
my company, w-m taken to the wrong kmd-
i ng area ;
i t went, ashore farther l l ort]l
al ong the coast. The company rejoi ned
the mai n body l ater i n the day.
The NLG had been wel comed ashore by
a ]ni xecl greeti ng commi ttee. Headi ng a
l arge group of nati ve gui des and carri ers-
who were obvi ousl y fri ghtened and be-
wi l dered by the sudden i ni l ux of so many
whi te men to thei r i sl and-were an i kLl s-
tral i an coastwatcher, Fl i ght Li eutenant J.
.4. Corri gan, and a Mari ne rai der patrol
l eader, Captai n Cl ay A. Boyd of Li \--
ersedge’s regi ment. Corri gan had been on
the i sl and for some ti me, radi oi ng reports
of enemy acti vi ty i n Kul a Gul f and re-
crui t i ng a l abor force of nearl y 200 nati ves.
Smal l , wi ry l l ~en wi th powerful arm, back,
and l eg muscl es, the nati ve carri ers were
to recei ve one Austral i an shi l l i ng, a sti ck
of trade tobacco, and two bowl s of ri ce
and tea each day for carryi ng ammuni ti on
and rati ons for the &-LG. A few spoke
pi dgi n Engl i sh, a jargon of si mpl e words
whi ch bri dged the l anguage barri er.
Col orful i n cotton “l ap l aps” wrapped
around thei r wai sts, they were i ntensel y
l oyal to the coastwatchers.
Boyd had made several scouti ng tri ps to
New Georgi a. The l ast ti me, i n mi d-June,
he ancl hi s men had remai ned wi th coast-
watcher Hnrry l ~~i ckham to di rect the
1audi ngs at Onai avi si Entrance and Za-
nana Beach before cutti ng across the i sl and
to 1i nk up wi th Li versecl ge. After the ar-
ri val of the hTLG at Ri ce. Anchorage; he re-
sumecl commanc{ of hi s company i n the 1st
Rai der Battal i on.
On one of hi s earl i er tri ps, Boyd had
scouted a trai l l eadi ng from Ri ce to Eno-
gi a, and Corri gan’s nati ves had then
chopped a paral l el trai l on each si de of
thi s track. Afi er the N’LCTstacked al l ex-
cess ammuni ti on, equi pment, rati ons, and
bl anket rol l s i n assembl y areas prepared
by the nmti ves, the march to Enogai
started over these three trai l s. Compani es
A ancl B of the 1st Rai der Battal i on (Li eu-
tenant Col onel Samuel B. Gri ffi th, I I )
were assi gned to move al ong the l eft trai l
(southern ) wi th the demol i ti ons pl wtoon
of the rai ders hemdi ng al ong the ri ght
(northern) path. Thus protected on each
fl ank, the mai n el ements of the NLG
started al ong the center trai l wi th the re-
mai ni ng Mari ne compani es l eadi ng and
the two Army battal i ons fol l owi ng. Two
compani es, M and 1, of Li eutenant Col onel
George G. Freer’s 3/145 wi th a medi cal
detachment, communi cati ons uni t, and the
anti tank pl atoon remai ned behi nd to guard
the suppl y dump.
Scouti ng reports had termed the Ri ce-
Enog~i area an open jungl e wi th smal l ,
broken hi l l s and few swamps. Rai n-
soaked Mari nes and sol di ers, struggl i ng
over the sharp, i rregul ar sl opes made
treacherous by the mud and hi dden roots,
coul d not agree. The meager trai l s, hard-
l y more than narrow defi l es gashed through
the thi ck, socl den jungl e, were trapped
wi th sprzwl i ng banyan roots sl i ck wi th
124
I SOLATI ON OF RABALTI J
green moss, coral outcroppi ng, vi nes, and
underbrush. The rai n col ~ti nned unabti ted.
The Army battal i ons, carryi ng heavi er
weapons and n)ore amnl uni t i on and gear
than the l i ghtl y equi pped rwi ders, were
forced ei ther to tr:~ve] :~t :1sl ower pace or
to stop to estzbl i sh anot]l er sl l pp]y dtunp.
Ti l e sol di ers, choosi ng to keep goi ng,
pushecl on but dropped steadi l y behi nd.
Tl ~e l eadi ng NTLG ~l l ~i ts. heatl i ng deeper
i nto the hTew Georgi a jungl e on a course
rong-h]y south from Ri ce, reached the Gi za
Gi za Ri ver l ate i n the :~ftcrl ~oon nnd set
up a peri l l l eter (l efense. Sl l ort]y :tfter
dark, al l uni ts were i n bi vol vw on both
si des of the Gi z~ Gi za. The SI G esti -
mated thxt i t had trave]e(l ei ght l )~i l es
duri ng the fi rst (l ay. Actl l al l y, progress
hmd been onl y about fi ve mi l es, bul um
doubtedl y the hardshi p of j I l ngl e travel
had hel ped gi ve every i ndi cati on of greater
di stl nce. (See Map 8.)
That ni ~ht, men of the h“orthern kl d-
i ng Gr oup l i stened to the di stant sounds
of a naval battl e i n Kul a Gul f. A U.S.
crui ser-destroyer force I l l d i ntercepted a
group of 10 ,Tapmnesedestroyers, 7 of them
trmrsport i ng rei nforcements. I n a short
but, vi ol ent acti on, the 1;.S. force l ost the
l i ght crui ser He?ena. The ,Japar,ese l ost
two destroyers but managed to ]ancl 850
troops at Vi l a.
.~t daybreak on 6 Jul y, the NLG sti rred
from i ts wet bi vouac znd resl l med wi ndi ng
i ts way through the dri ppi ng jungl e. to-
warcl Enoxai . The trai l s chopped by Cor-
ri gan>s n:l ti l ~es ended abruptl y :1(ti l e ri ver,
:~nd the Mtri nes were forced to sl ash thei r
way thml l gh the mxngrow swamp l yi ng
betweel ~ the Gi za Gi za and the Tan~akan
Ri vers. Rai n cent i nue(l to dri zzl e through
ti l e jl l ngl e canopy. The battal i ons became
one thi n, stra~~l i n,g l i ne sn:l ki ng i ts way
tl l rou~h tl }e swal ]l p on an i ndi sti nd trai l .
The rai ns drowned the radi o equi pment,
:~rl cl communi cati on wi re l ai d al ong the
trai l was grounded as the protecti ve cox--
eri n~ peel ed off i n the hands of the i n-
fantrymen who used the wi res as gui de-
l i l ~es. Runners (’arrj-i l ~g fi e]d messages
kept Li verse(l ge i n contact, wi th hi s base
:~t Ri ce.
Ti l e N’LG l md di vi ded i nto two segnl el l ts
earl y that morni ng. Li eutenant Col onel
D[~l bert E. Scl ~l l l tz l md been di rected to
t:dm l ~i s M I ;attal i on, l Mtl l I nfantry,
al ong al l otl l er trai l to ti l e southwest to cl l tj
tl ~e l fl l l l cl :l -l ~:l i rol <o road and establ i sl ~ a
bl ock there. Tl l c remai l ~der of tl ~e NI J3
cent i nnwl towar(l t l ~e Tama kau Ri ver.
Captai n l hyd, l eadi ng Mari ne (’ompi l l l ~
1), re}tcl l e(l ti l e ri ver shortl y before noon.
JI ucI 1 i o hi s di sm:ay, the smzl l stream he
had scol ~te(l earl y i n June n-as now a rag-
i l ~g, fl oo(l ed tor-rent. The rai cl e.rs and
sol d i ers paused whi l e equi pment was cal --
ri ed across or ferri ed on rafts made from
branches and poncl ~m. Then the i nfantry-
men be~an crossi ng the ri ~er, si ngl e-fi l e,
orer z fal l en tree whi ch bri dged the
swol l en stream. :~ rope stretched from
b:mk to bank provi ded an l l rrsteady gy~i de-
l i ne, and stron~ swi mmers fi shed from the
ri ver those i ndi vi dual s who were unfor-
tunate enough to sl i p and pl unge i nto the
water.
The crossi ng del ayed the l TL(+ unti l l ate
i n the afternoon. Whi l e i ntermi ttent, rai ns
conti nued, the Li verSedge force bi v-
ouacked for the ni ght of 6–7 Jul y i n the
mi dst of a sw:unp. Mudcl y and ti red, the
rai ders and sol di ers swal l owed canned ra-
ti ons and hndcl l ed i l l wet ponchos under
banyan roots, wai t i ng for dawn.
Late tl ~at ni gl ~t, i n znsw-er to a pl ea from
ATGOF headquarters, Li ~e.rsedge broke
r:ul i o si l ence to gi ve a progress report. A
THE DRAGONS PENI NSULA CAMP.41GN 125
l i steni ng watch had been set l ~p at i~ll l ~al ts,
but the NLG commander l l wl not nswl the
radi o i n the l i ope that hi s cross-col l ntry
]narch was sti l l a secret. .-l l thol l gl ~ Li ver-
scdge carri ed mwl i mmpowered radi os
(T13X), contact wi th Hester sonl e 20 mi l es
away was nmde wi th di ffkul ty. Such conl -
muni cl ti on probl ems were to seri ousl y
handi cap NLG operati ons. A l l i gl l -pow-
ered r~cl i o, (l eek-l oaded ml one of the
i i PDs, had not been unl oaded dl l ri ng ti l e
anxi ous l andi ng operati ons and was no]v
back at GI l adal cnnal — a l ogi sti cs over-
si ght, whi ch was to be regret te(l n)any
ti mes.
Fi rst contact wi th the enemy came
shortl y before noon on the 7th of ,Jul y.
Li verse.dge’s wet and hungry men strug-
~yl ed o~l t of t]l c swamp earl ~~i n the l nort-
i ng nnd moved al ong x tortl l ol l s ri dge par-
al l el i ng the west bank of l ?nogai I nl et.
The del ay cal wed by the Tmnal mu and the
swamps was emphasi zed when tl ]e sounds
of an ai r stri ke at Enogai were heard. Thi s
hacl been the desi gnated day for Li ver-
secl ge:s assaul t of that stjrongpoi nt. .1 fter
movi ng through the nati ve vi l l age of 3fa -
ranusa I wi thout i nci dent, the poi nt pl a-
toon of the NLG suddenl y encountered
seren ,Japanese ri fl emen. Surpri se to
both forces was zpparent, b[l t the Mari nes
recovered fi rst. I n a bri ef ti ght, two of
the enemy were ki l l ed before the rest fl ed.
Uni forms i denti fi ed the dead as members
of the SNLF, probabl y from the Kure fit}l
at l?nogai.
Real i zi ng that the fi ght hzd warned the
Enogmi gwri son of an attack through the
back door, Li versedge i ncreased the speed
of the adv:l nce. Gri ffi th was di rected to
take hi s rai der battal i on forward as
qui ckl y as possi bl e to take advantage of
an-y remai ni ng el ement of surpri se and to
screen the advance of the rest of the force.
The next brush wi th the enemy came as
suddenl y m the fi rst. The demol i ti ons
pl atoon, meeti ng a strong enemy patrol ,
wi thdrew sl i ghtl y to hi gh ground and en-
g:aged the Japanese i n a hot fi re fi ght.
Boyd’s Company D then fl anked the en-
emy and ki l l ed 10 before the Japanese fl ed.
Tbo bri ef fi ght cost the rai ders three ki l l ed
and fOLl r wounded. By ni ghtfal l , Gri f-
fi th’s I l fxri nes hxd occupi ed the nati ve vi l -
l age of Tri ri on Enogai I nl et. Li ver-
sedge’s (31>w7as set up at Maranusa I wi th
the hTLG reserve uni ts, Compani es K and
L of the 145th I nfantry. Hasty peri me-
ters were pl aced around each vi l l age.
The absence of defensi ve works at Tri ri
further convi nced the Mari nes that the
,Japanese at Enogai had not been expect-
i ng nn zttack from the di recti on of the
i nl et. The onl y i tem of val ue found at
Tri ri was a detai l ed enemy map whi ch
pi npoi nted the l ocati on of four 140mm
guns at Enogai . As Gri ffi th’s battal i on
prepared hasty defensi ve posi ti ons, the
document, was rushed to Li versedge at
Maranusa 1. The NLG commander i m-
medi atel y radi oed for an ai r stri ke to
knock out tl ~ese weapons, but hi s message
fai l ed to rai se a response from ei ther
h“GOF headquarters or the 43d Di vi si on.
An Army radi o stati on at Vi ru, heari ng
the request for a rel ay, accepted the mes-
sage for transmi ssi on to CornAi r New
Georgi a.
Earl y on the morni ng of 8 Jul y, Gri ffi th
hurri ed two pl atoons down di vergent
pat,hs north and west from Tri ri to am-
bush any enemy probi ng attacks. The
Mari nes on the west trai l scored fi rst. A
Japanese p a t r 01 of near-company
stren$th, bl underi ng al ong the trai l wi th-
out advance securi ty, wal ked i nto the trap.
126 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
Premature fi ri ng, however, spoi l ed any
surpri se effect and the enemy wi thdrew
wi thout di ffi cul ty. Wi thi n a few mi nutes,
a ful l -scal e counterattack had been di -
rected at the Mari ne ambl whi ng party, and
Gri ffi th rushed Boyd’s Company D for-
ward to hel p hol d the trai l . I n the mewn-
ti me, Col onel I ,i versedge pi cked up hi s
command post and the two Army compa-
ni es and rushed to Tri ri to be cl oser to the
confl i ct.
The fi ght conti nued for three hours, the
cl ose jungl e terrai n handi cappi ng the ob-
servati on and maneuveri ng of both forces.
Company C (Captai n John P. Sal mon),
movi ng forward to rel i eve Company T)
under fi re, broke the deadl ock wi th a
60mm mortar barrage and conti nuous ma-
chi ne gun fi re. As the rai ders moved for-
ward, the enemy di sengaged and fl ed down
the trai l . Fi fty dead Japanese were l eft
l i ttered about the scene of the fi ght.
The Mari nes di d not pursue. Enogai
was the fi rst objecti ve. Whi l e the Army
compani es took over the defense of Tri ri ,
the rai der batt al i en hasti l y reorgani zed
and resumed the march toward Enogai

nl ong the north trai l where the second am-
bush force had set up. The trai l , how-
ever, ended abruptl y i n an i mpassabl e
swamp. Rel uctantl y, after consi derabl e
ti me had been spent i n tryi ng to fi nd an
acceptabl e trai l to Enogai , the battal i on
commander ordered the return to Tri ri for
another start the fol l owi ng day.
Meanwhi l e, the Japanese force had rei n-
forced and reorgani zed for another attack
on Tri ri . Late on the afternoon of the !%h,
an esti mated 400 Japanese struck qui ckl y
at the l eft fl ank of the thi n peri meter es-
tabl i shed by the two Army compani es.
The l i nes of Company K of the 145th sl ow-
l y began to gi ve way under the conti nui ng
pressure of the enemy assaul ts. Company
L, on the ri ght, recei ved onl y scattered
sni per fi re. The demol i ti ons pl atoon of
the rai der battal i on, whi ch had remai ned
behi nd wi th Li versedge’s CP, rushed to
assi st Company K i n i ts defense just as
Gri ffi th’s battal i on returned. On orders
from Li versedge for a qui ck counterat-
tack, Gri ffi th di rected Fi rst Li eutenant
Robert Kennedy’s pl atoon from Company
B to ci rcl e back and hi t the l eft fl ank and
rear of the Japanese. Kennedy’s counter-
move compl etel y surpri sed and crushed
the enemy’s l eft fl ank. The Japanese fl ed
once more. Another 20 enemy dead were
l eft behi nd. CompanY K, whi ch had three
sol di ers wounded, esti mated that 75 addi -
ti onal Japanese had been ki l l ed i n the at-
tempted breakthrough. Kennedy’s pl a-
toon suffered no casual ti es.
CAPTURE OF EiVOGAI 4
After a qui et ni ght at Tri ri , the Mari nes
agai n started toward Enogai the fol l ow-
i ng morni ng. A radi o team wi th a TBX
and headquarters personnel of the rai der
regi ment rema.i ned behi nd wi th the Army
compani es, but Li versedge moved out wi th
Gri ffi th’s battal i on. The rai ders had more
l uck thi s day. A good trai l , apparentl y
unknown to the Enogai garri son, was di s-
covered and rapi d progress was made by
the Mari nes. Sounds of an ai r stri ke at
Enogai i ndi cated that the request for the
destructi on of the enemy guns there was
4Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om: i?GOF .Accomzt; New
Geor gi a Campai gn; I.st RdrRe@ MsgFiJe;
1st RdrRcgt SAR; Ist RdrRegt Jnl; Ist
Rdrlln WarD; Griflth ltr; Steuenson ltr;
Pape l tr, OP. cit.; Boyd i ntervi ew, OP. tit.;
Rentz, Marines in tltc Central Solomon*;
Griffith, “Acti on at Enogai ,” op. ci t. ; McDevi tt
and Marder, “Capture of Enogai ,” op. a’t.
128
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
bei ng executed. Shortl y before noon, Le-
1and Lagoon was si ghted and the Mari ne
battzl i on turned east toward the enemy
defenses at Enogai Poi nt. After several
hours of cauti ons approach, the rai ders
were hal ted by the stutter of two l i ght ma-
chi ne, guns. The Mari nes pal l sed for bat-
tl e orders. As they wai ted, the, vol ume of
enemy fi re pi cked up, The Enogai de-
fense l i ne was bei ng rei nforced.
The attack WNS made wi thout mortar
preps.rati ol l —Conl pany A (Captai n
Thomas .i . Mul l ahey) wi th i ts l eft fl ank
rest i ng on thq 1agoon, Sal mon’s Company
C i n the, center, and Company B (Captai n
Edwi n B. Wheel er) on the ri ght fl ank.
Boyd’s Compl ny D was hel d i n reserve.
The frontal assaul t, made wi th grenades
an(l machi ne g{l ns, was beaten back. Wi th
the jungl e dayl i ght fast cl osi ng i nto deep
twi l i ght, I .i verwdge cal l ed off the, assaul t.
Gri ffi th was tol d to hol cl i n pl ace and re-
sume the xttack the fol l on’i ng morni ng.
Tl ~e Mari nes’ defensi ve posi ti ons, faci ng
commandi ng grOL~nd)were not to Li ver-
sedge’s l i ki ng, but the NLG commander
wanted to keep the pressure on the enemy
duri ng the ni ght and deci ded to ri sk a
.Japanese connterattmk. The gambl e pai d
off. The ni ght passed wi thout i nci dent ex-
cept for the s:l dden crash of a huge, bomb-
weakeneci banyan tree i n the command
post area whi ch crushed one rai der, i n-
jured three others, and compl etel y
srnashecl the command’s TBX.
Breakfast on the morni ng of the 10th
was not a probl em for the rai ders who had
not, eaten si nce the morni ng of the 9th.
There was no food. After a few qui et or-
ders from Gri ffi th, the 1st Rai der Batt-
al i on renewed the attack. Wheel er’s
Company B on ti l e ri ght front reported
11oopposi ti on and movecl forward rapi dl y.
Compani es .i and C, as expected, however,
were hi t by i ntense fi re from ri fl es and
automati c weapons. The two compani es
paused for a 60mm mortar barrage to soft-
en the enemy l i ne before pl ungi ng on.
Company B, ilt l ast meeti ng strong defens-
i ve fi re, raced through a smal l nati ve vi l -
l age on the i nl et’s shore south of 13nogpi .
Dead enemy were sprawl ed throughout the
vi l l age. A number of machi ne guns were
taken and turned about to put more fi re
on the fl eei ng Japanese. The break-
through put rai ders al most i n the rear of
the enemy l i nes. Opposi ti on faci ng Com-
pany C i n the center abruptl y fal tered,
then scattered.
As enemy resi stance began to crumbl e,
the rai der zttack gai ned momentum. Be-
I l i nd a wi theri ng fi re of automati c weap-
ons ancl machi ne guns, the rai ders moved
through Enogai . Mortarmen, i n posi ti ons
on the hi gh ground overl ooki ng the vi l l age,
dropped 60mm mortar shel l s al ong the
shorel i ne of ~~Lda Gul f, trappi ng the vi l -
]:~ge defenders be,tween t,w~ofi res. Strag-
gl ers, attempti ng to swi m across Lel and
Lngoon, were machi ne gunned by the rai d-
ers. By earl -y afternoon, the coast defense
posi ti ons were i n rai der hands, and onl y
two smal l pockets of enemy resi stance re-
mai ned. These the Mari nes contai ned,
postponi ng moppi ng-up operati ons unti l
the next dny. Late that afternoon, Com-
pmny L of the 145th strl ~ggl ed i nto Enogai .
each sol di er carryi ng rati ons, ‘bandol eers of
ammuni ti on, and three extra canteens of
water. Wi thout food for more than 30
hours, the rni ders had been reduced to
cat ch i ng dri nki ng water i n ponchos duri ng
tl ~e i ntermi ttent rai ns.
The food was part of an ai r drop whi ch
the rear headql l zrters at Tri ri had recei ved
earl y on the morni ng of the 10th. Li ver-
s~dge had requested the drop the previ ous
day. The ori gi nal three-day sLl ppl y of ra-
THE I ) RAGOX’S PEA’I NSTTLA CA?tfPAI Gh”
ti ons carri ed ashore at Ri ce Anchorage
had been stretched over fi ve cl nys, and
fresh water w:(S n] so scarce. W’ol mdecl
wer e fed wor l ny ri ce wl l i c]~ ]I l d ken
fol l ncl xt Tri ri . The si tunti on l ~ad become
tense-so seri ons, i n fact, that ti l e Mari nes
were fzr more concerned wi th ti l e prosl wct
of cent i nl l ec[ di nl i ni shec{ rati ons than they
were wi th the threat of havi ng anot]l er
enenl y garri son i n thei r rezr at 13ai roko.
Anxi ety i ncreased when tl ~c pl anes ap-
peared over ‘rri ri on schedul r but coul d
not l ocate the purpl e smoke grenades
marki nx ti l e NLG posi ti ons. An ai r
l i ai son offi cer fi nal l y macl e contact, wi th the
pl al ~es ancl (I i rected the ai r drop. Par~-
chutes dri fted down, and sol di ers al ~d Ma-
ri nes dodgecl tl ]e wel come ‘~bonl bi ng” to
co] l ect the bl l l ky packages. The, fi rst con-
tai ners opened hel d onl y mort m shel l s,
and the troops howl ed thei r di sappoi nt-
ment. K-rati ons and chocol ate bzrs soon
fol l owed, however. An i mmedi ate rel i ef
party wzs organi zed to cmry suppl i es and
water to (l ri t%th’s battal i on, then hotl y
engaged at Enogai .
That, ni ght the Mari nes cl i ned on K-
rati ons ant{tJapnnese canned fi sh? ri ce, znd
sake. ‘1’he capture(l enemy r:~ti ons l ~ere
1i heral l y seasoned wi th soy sa~~ce found
i n several l arge b:~rrel s. Art i ~’l es of Japan-
ese uni fornl s were usrcl to rep] nce the
muddy and tattered Mari ne uni forms.
The even i ng passed wi thout, further acti v-
i ty, the Mari nes resti ng easi l y behi nd z
peri meter defense an~’horecl on Lel and La-
goon on the ri ght fl ank and Eno~~i I nl et
on the l eft. The tl efeuses faced to~vard
I l ai roko. Duri ng the l l i gl l t, .Japanese
barges were hearcl i n I {ul :l Gul f and t,he
rai ders scrambl ed for posi ti ons from
whi ch to repel an enemy counterl andi n.g.
The <Japanese barges, however, were onl y
seck~ng to evacuate straggl ers from the
~andspi t bet~yeen Lel and Lagoon and Kul a
Gl l l f.
Ti l e f 01l owi ng nl orni ng, mop-up oper-
:~ti ons begxl } wi th rompani es A and D
movi ng ~l l i ~l i l ~ tl l rol l gh the two remai m
i l ~y poi nts of ol )l msi ti on, :~l thol l :l l com-
pal ]y I ) was l mr{l -hi t i ni ti al l y. Onl y x
few ,I a]mnese wer e fl l l sl l ed by the other
patrol s, and these the Mari nes ki l l ed qui ck-
l y. Tl ~e 1st R:\i ders now owned al l of
E]]og:l i Poi nt between Lel nnci I .agoon nnd
the i nl et. ,JapaJI (vw c:wl l ct]ti es wer e est,-
nl nted at 350. Ti l e rzi ders, i n movi ng
from ‘I ki ri , h:~d l ost 47 ki l l ed i n acti on and
74 wounded.
I ?ol l r ~t]~ers were n~i s~i ng
i~nd presl l med dead. The wol mded were
pl ace(l i n :ti (l stati ons housed i n the
tl l atcl l ecl l l l l ts at F.nowai .
The fol ~r 140mm naval guns, three .50
cal i ber ant i ai rcraf t guns, and numerous
)n:~cl ~i ~~egl l ns. ri fl es, and smal l mortars
were raptured, i n addi ti on to l arge stocks
of ammnni t i on, food, cl othi ng, two trac-
tors, and a smrcl l l i gl l t. Al l i ecl bonl bnrd -
l nents and bombi ngs l )ad not materi al l y
dxmnged an v of the F.nogai i nst :l l l xt i ons.
Ti l e ,T:I pa~~eseretal i ated qui ckl y on the
nl orni ug of tl ~e l l th wi th a bombi ng at-
t:wk wl l i cl l l asted for l l l ore tl ~:m an hour
:11](I l eft the Mari nes wi th 3 more men
ki l l ed a]l d 15 wounded. Three Ameri can
PBYs }~ere cal l ed i n tl ~at afternoon to
evammte tl ~e more seri ml sl y i njurd, andt
after l andi ng at, Ri ce .fncl l orage, the bi g
fl yi ng boats taxi ed al ong the shorel i ne to
Enog:l i where (he woundecl were l oaded
aboard from rl l bber rafts. Shortl y before
takeoff, the 1’11Ys were bombed nnd
strafed by t~~o etl enl y fl oatp] znes. The
l ~ari l l es on snore i i red everythi ng they
l ul d at i he att:~ckers, i n(l udi ng smnl l arms
and c:~ptmwl weapons, but the .Japanese
130
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
went unscathed and the P13Ys hasti l y cl e-
parted for Guadal canal . On the same af -
ternocm, headquart e.rs personnel of I .i ver-
sedge’s CT arri ved at F,nogai and, at 2100,
seven kmcl i ng craft from Ri ce made the
i ni ti al sLl ppl y run i nto the i nl et.
TRAI L L’LQPI { A (’TZON 5
After spl i t t i ng wi th Li versedge’s mai n
force ear]y on the morni ng of 6 ,J~Ll y, I ,i eLL-
tenaut Col onel Scl l l ~l tz st:arted hi s 3d 13at-
tal i on, l -18tl I I nfantry cl owl ~ i i trai l whi ch
hi s sketch mzl ) snowed wol ~l d put, hi m i n
posi ti on to i ntercept .Japanese traffi c. over
the Mun&-Bai roko trai l and establ i sk the
road bl ock whi ch Li vers@-e had di rected.
The .I rmy battal i on was harcl l y on i ts way
down the new trai l when one of Corri gzm>s
nati ve gui des-l ooki n y at Schul tz’ map—
i nsi sted tl mt the map was wrong. The
Army commander, rel ayi ng thi s i nformm
ti on to Li versecl ge by fi el d message, re-
ported tl mt he was goi ng to press on i n
the hope that the trai l woul d cross the
Munda-13ai roko trai l at some. poi nt.
The sol di ers moved down the i nl and
trai l wi thout undue di ffi cul ty; the ground
was more rol l i ng and l ess swampy than i n
the coastzl area. Crossi ng the Tamakau
provecl no probl em farther upstream, ancl ,
l ate on the afternoon of 7 Jul y, Schul tz i m
formed I ,i versedge that he hacl reached a
trai l jl mcti on whi ch he bel i eved to be the
mai n Muncl a-Bai roko t.rfi i l and that, a
bl ock wOL1l C] be establ i dl ed the fol l owi ng
morni ng. Footpri nts on the trai l . evi -
dence of recent use, convi nced Schul tz
that he had i ncl eecl reached hi s objecti ve.
‘ Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr mm : NGOF Account: New
G’covqia C’(rmpuiq?! ; Isi Rdrli’cf]t S.IR ; 18t
RdrR@ Jnl: Ist Rdrl?rvt Ms.qFilr; 3/148 Rrpt;
Rentz, lfarinc.~ in the Cvt?trol Solomms.
He ~l so requested that rati ons be carri ed
to hi m, and reported that the nati ve car-
ri ers had become apprehensi ve and had
returned to Ri ce.
The. next morni ng, 8 ,Jul y, Schul tz set
I Lp hi s r oad bl ock. Company I defended
the appr oach fr om the north and Com-
pany K the approach from the south.
Company L fi l l ed i n a thi n peri meter be-
tween I and K.
The fi rst enemy contact was made short-
l y after 1300 when a squad of Japanese,
si ghted comi ng down the. trai l from the
north, was taken under fi re. The fi ght
was bri ef, the enemy qui ckl y fl eei ng back
toward Bai roko. Two hours l ater a ful l -
scal e attack by 40 to 50 Japanese hi t Com-
pany I ’s outposts, dri vi ng them back i nto
the peri meter, but the enemy di d not pene-
trate the battal i on’s defenses. The after-
noon’s engagement cost the Japanese about
7 ki l l ed and 15 to 20 wounded. One Amer-
i can was ki l l ed and three others woundecl .
After a qui et ni ght, Schul tz sent patrol s
forward on each trai l i n an attempt to l o-
cate the enemy. No contact was made i n
ei ther di rect i on, al though an abandoned
enemy bi vouac area was di scovered about
two mi l es down the. Munda fork of the
trai l . Schul tz al so tri ed to contact the
169th Regi ment, by thi s ti me supposed to
be wel l on i ts way to Munda fi el d. LTn-
known to Schul tz, nei ther force was i n
posi ti on to make contact. That ni ght,
after l i steni ng to reports from hi s patrol s,
Schul tz reported to Li versedge that he
bel i eved hi msel f to be about si x mi l es
north of Munda.
Earl y on the morni ng of 10 Jul y, the
battal i on was hi t on the ri ght fl ank by
about 50 Japanese and then on the l eft
fl ank by a l arger force of about 80 men.
Both probi ng attacks were repul sed, the
THE DRAGONS PENI NSULA CAMPAI GN
131
Japanese l osi ng 14 ki l l ed i n the two ski r-
mi shes. After a number of si mi l ar semch-
i ng attacks, the Japanese suddenl y un-
l eashed a strong attack on the ri ght fl ank
at the juncti on of Compani es I and L.
The Army posi ti ons were qui ckl y overrun,
but an orderl y wi thdrawal was made.
The Japznese force, esti mated at more
than two compani es, qui ckl y occupi ed a
smal l ri dge and set up a number of auto-
mati c weapons and heavy machi ne guns.
Company K hurri edl y orgmi zed a
strong counterattack wi th the battal i on’s
reserves, but the enemy’s hol d on tbe ri se
remai ned i ntact. An 81mm mortar bal ’-
rage, whi ch Scbul t z di rected to be 1>1 aced
al ong the ri dge. kept the enemy from con-
ti nui ng the attack further. The fol l owi ng
day, 11 Jul y, Company K attacked agai n
toward the ri dge, but was dri ven back. A
l ater attempt by the same company was
al so repul sed. Casual ti es, however, i n
both attacks were few. That ni ght, Com-
pany K was hi t i n return by a bayonet
charge. The banzai attack was beaten
back wi th onl y three sol di ers bei ng
wounded.
Schwl tz’ force, by now just as i l l -fed and
unkempt as Gri ffi th’s battal i on, was on
1A rati ons. The food probl em had become
more acute on the afternoon of the l l th
when Company I of the 145th I nfantry
arri ved from Tri ri to rei nforce Schul tz’
battal i on. A food drop that same after-
noon had been greatl y di sappoi nti ng. As
Schul tz had predi cted i n an earl y report
to Li versedge, the jungl e prevented ai r-
craft, from spotti ng ei ther fl ares or col ored
panel s. Consequentl y, the ai r drop was
wi de of the mark. Schul tz’ men, engnged
cl osel y wi th the enemy, coul d recover onl y
a few of the packages, and these contwi ned
mostl y mortar shel l s. Most of the ammu-
ni ti on was found to be outdated and of the
wrong cal i ber, and nearl y al l the rati ons
were spoi l ed. Li ttl e of ei ther coul d be
used.
The next morni ng, Company I of the
145th moved up to the rear of the 148th’s
posi ti ons and then l ungecl forward toward
the ri dgel i ne, fol l owi ng a heavy machi ne
gun and mortar preparati on. The posi ti on
had been abandoned. The absence of any
dead or wounded enemy i ndi cated that, the
wi thdrawal had been effected duri ng the
ni gl ~t.
The posi ti ons around the trai l
bl ock were restored, and, wi th the arri val
of some nati ves wi th rati ons from Tri ri ,
the si tuati on began to l ook bri ghter. De-
fense of thi s area had cost Schul tz 11 ki l l ed
zud 31 wouncl ed. ,Japznese casl ml ti es
were esti mated at 150.6
I !?NOGAl : 1%19 J ULY 7
Another attempt by the Japanese to re-
i nforce Vi l a and Munda through Kul a
Gul f was parti al l y bl ocked shortl y after
mi dni ght on 12–13 Jul y. An Al l i ed force
of 3 crui sers and 10 destroyers ambushed
4 enemy transports escorted by several de-
stroyers and a l i ght crui ser. Enemy tor-
pedos damaged two LT.S. crui sers, the
Honol ul u and iSt.Lou~g, and the New Zea-
0Trai l bl ock casual ti es r epor ted by Schnl tz i n
148th I nfantry’s .kfter Acti on Report, quoted i n
New Georgia Campai gn p. }’–21, total ed 11
ki l l ed and 29 wounded wi th 250 esti mated Japa-
nese casual ti es. The fi gures gi ven her e are fr om
the ori gi nal day-to-day reports fr om the trai l
bl ock.
‘ l :nl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ~ed fr om : NGOF Account; .New
Georgia Campaign; Ist RdrRegt f3AR; Ist Rdr-
Rrgt ,Jnl; 1st RdrRc@ Ms.qFite; Ist RdrBn
[V([rI); ~th l?drl~n Jul&5 Tf’arl); SE Area Nav-
() /).s—1 ; SE .lrca XavOp-II; ONI , C’ombaf
Narra t iws X; M{jri son, Brcalcing tlrc Bismarchx
Barrier; Rentz, ,! fari//cs in the Central S’070mo??s.
132
l and crui ser .knder. The U.S. destroyer
Gwi n was sunk, and two others were &un-
aged sl i ghtl y i n a col l i si on. Tho Japanese
l ost onl y one crui ser i n the engagement,
and managed to l and 1,200 troops on Ko-
l ornbangara. The battl e, ho]vever, per-
suaded the Japanese to abandon further
attempts to run the gantl et of Kul a Gul f.
Thereafter, the enemy resorted to attempts
to sneak barges through the waters west
of Kol ombangara. The battl e al so l ess-
ened the threat of a counte.rl andi rrg
agai nst Li versedge:s force.
At Enogni , the possi bi l i ty of such an
enemy attempt had been consi dered and
the defenses of the captured vi l l age.
strengthened and extended. Mari nes
strung capturecl barbed wi re from Enogai
I nl et across tl ~e poi nt to I ,el and l Agobn
aud constrl l cted <l efensi ve posi ti ons behi nd
thi s l i ne: b~l t.the ,Japanese (l i (l l ]ot attempt
to re~ai n ti l e area. l?nemy bonl l )i ng at-
tacks, too, becanl e l ess frequent.
13nogni bec:l l l l e tI I e new NT14(icoml nan(l
post. Li versedge cl i rected that suppl i es
at Ri ce Anchorage be moved to the nev-
C’P, and, w-i th the excepti on of a smal l de-
tai l , 3/145 moved to Tri ri . Ri ce then be-
came a rel :l y poi nt wl mre .fPDs anchored
to unl oad suppl i es i nto l andi ng craf t. The
busy smal l boats then ski rted the shorel i ne.
to Enogai , carryi ng suppl i es to the NLG
and evacuati ng wounded on the return
tri p.
For some t i l ~l e,Li versedge had been con-
cerned al mut hi s tacti cal si tuati on. Hi s
ori gi nml orders l l acl gi ven hi m ti l e dual
mi ssi on of capt ~l ri l ~g or (Destroyi ng Jap-
anese i n the Bai l . oko-I ?nog:l i area whi l e
bl oc.ki l )~ the Mnl ~tl :t-13ai roko trai l , but the
cl i stance between hi s comrnancl post at En-
o~l i an(l Schul tz’ trai l bl ock was too great
for ei l ecti ve cent rol . A new l andi ng area
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
on the upper reacl ms of Errogai I nl et made
resuppl y and evacuati on of the trai l bl ock
easi er by el i mi nati ng much of the overl and
hi ke, but the combi ned boat tri p and march
sti l l took consi derabl e ti nl e. Moreover,
General Hester on 9 JLI 1~ had i nsi sted that
Li versecl ~e keep hi s battal i ons wi thi n sup-
porti ng di stance of each other. So, as soon
as Enogai had been captured and a defen-
si ve peri n~eter establ i shed at Tri ri , the
i l f~ri ne col onel tl l rned hi s attenti on to the
trai l bl ock where Schl l l tz’ battal i on had
suddenl y found i tsel f faci ng fi rst a deter-
mi ned enel ny of consi derabl e strength and
then no enenl y at al l .
Fol l owi ng the wi thdrawal of enemy
forces f l om the tr w i l bl ock area on 12 JLLI Y,
no fl l rtl l er Japanese troops had been en-
countered. Combat patrol s, hi tti ng al ol ~g
the 111~1~(1:~-I l :~i rol i o trai l i n both di rec-
ti ons, fai l ed to make contact. Wi th Munda
un(l er heavy attack, thi s seemed surpri s-
i ng si nce i t appeared l ogi cnl that the Jap-
anese WOUI C1 make some attempt to rei n-
force the ai rfi el d. Di sturbed by the re-
ports from the trai l bl ock, Li versedge sent
hi s operati ons otl i ccr Li el l tel ~al l t Col onel
Joseph J. McCaff cry, to check Schul tz’
posi ti on. Mc(’affery l eft Tri ri on the
morni ng of the 13th accompani ed by part
of the regi nl el }ta] statf :11)(I the 145t11’s
Company K.
I I c l ater radi oed I .i versedge that the si t-
uati on at, the trai l bl ock was “okay,” and
thnt the cl efense of the trai l m-asti ght and
not spl i t M had been reported. Rati ons
were neec{ed bacl l y, si nce nati ves co~~l dnot
carry enol qgh suppl i es to support the aug-
mented trai l bl ock force and the front
l i nes coul d not be ~veakcned to suppl y cal --
ri ers. An ai r drop was requested.
By thi s ti me, however, Li versedge was
al ready en route to the trai l bl ock for a
THE DRAGONS PENI NSLI LA CAMPAI GN 133
perso])al reconnai ssance. The NLG com-
mander l eft, Enogai wi th a smal l patrol on
the, 15tl ~of .Jul y and, after bi vouac on the
Tri ri t rai l , joi ne(l McCaffery and Schul tz
earl y cm tl ~en]orni ng of the l [; th. (hl e day
at tl us defensi vo posi ti on \vas enough to
convi l me Li vcrsedge that, the trai l bl ock
Sl l Ol l l d be abandol l eci . ~cl l l l l t z’ biLt t:l l i Oi l ,
I l nal )l e to contact the 169th and at a con-
si (l erabl e di stance by boat an(l foot frol n
ti l e Sl l ppl y })ase at E])o~ai , was (l eti ni te]y
ol l t 011a sl l ak-y tacti cal l i mb. Jfomover,
3/148 W:W i ]] a we:dwnd ml )di ti on, an(l
many sol (l i ers were i l l from eat i l l ~r con-
tami nated food. Thei r :l hi l i ty to ward off
i l sustai ned :l tt~~l i \T:LSql l t?Sti Ol l i l bl e. P\e-
sl l ppl y was z probl em, too : very l i ttl e of
the rat i ons droppe(l ~vere recovered. Tl w
i nten(l ed purpose of the, trai l bl ock seemed
to hnve been served:
The pr esence of our for ce at the r oad bl ock
si nce 8 .J(l l y 1]:](] materi :~l l y :l ssi s ted i n tl )e
capture of Fl uogai I )y hol di ng enemy forms
at 13ai roko i n posi ti on and pr ewuti ng them
fr om r ei nfor (>i ng thei r Enogai gnrri son. I t
fur ther establ i shed the fact that the enemy
was not usi ng the Bai roko-Munda trai l as
:L suppl y route.’
on the morni ng of the 17th, executi ng
Col onel Li versedge’s orders, Schul tz di -
rected hi s battal i on to abandon the trai l
bl ock, ancl the two compani es of the 145th
Regi ment and 3/148 ,retraccd ti l e I mth to
Tri ri . There the sol di ers changed cl othes,
bathed, and ate a good meal after nearl y
two weeks i n the jungl e. Thei r rest was
to be short-l i ved, though.
.~t Enogai , the Mari nes, nom rested and
wel l -suppl i ed, had been acti vel y patrol l i ng
‘ Ist RdrR@ S’AR, p, 4. The Army’s offi ci al
hi story of thi s campai gn notes i n r exar d to thi s
contempor ar y ju(l gment that “kn(J\vl edge ~ai ned
after the event i ndi cates that none of these be-
l i efs was warranted.” Mi l l erj Reduction of Ra-
haul, p. 104.
the trai l s toward Bai roko. Enemy con-
tacts after the capture of Enogzi had been
1i mi ted to an occasi onal brush between op-
posi ng patrol s, whi ch resul ted i n bri ef
ti re ti ghts wi th few casual ti es to ei ther
si de. The rai (l ers l ost one ki l l ed fi nd one
wounded cl uri ng the peri od 13–17 Jul y.
tJapznese pl anes, l ~owever, conti nued to
make Ri ce i knchorage and Enogai a fa-
vored target. Each ni ght enemy fl oat-
pl anes droned over the NLG posi ti ons to
drop bombs from al ti tudes of about 500
feet. No damage was i nfl i cted, and no cas-
ual ti es resul ted.
Patrol reports defi ni tel y establ i shed the
fact that the Japanese i ntended to defend
13ai roko Harbor. Several patrol s re-
l )orted gl i mpses of ,Japanese worki ng par-
ti es construct i ng empl acements and di g-
gi ng trenches east of the harbor. Two-
man scouti ng teams, attempti ng, to get as
cl ose to Bai roko as possi bl e, returned wi th
the i l ] formati on thxt the hi gh ground east
of the ,Japanese posi ti ons had not been oc-
cl l pi ed by the enemy and that two good
tr~i l s l eadi ng to thi s area had been found.
The scouts reported that a battal i on cou]d
reach thi s posi ti on i n two and one-hal f
l ~o(l rs. There was sti l l no rel i abl e esti mate
of the si ze of the defendi ng force at Bai ro-
ko, however.
Upon hi s return from the trai l bl ock on
the 17th, Li versedge was greeted wi th the
news that Li eutenant, Col onel Curri n’s 4th
Rai der Battal i on woul d arri ve the next
{l ay to augment, the NLG. The NLG com-
mander had requested thi s rei nforcement
shortl y after the capture of Enogai . Ma-
jor Wi l l i am I ). Stevenson, the regi ment’s
communi cati on offi cer, had hi tchhi ked a
ri de OI Lone of the PBYs carryi ng casual -
ti es out of Enogai on 11 Jul y and had gone
to Guacl al canal to rel ay Li versedge’s re-
quest personal l y to Admi ral Turner. Ten-
134
I SOLATI ON OF RABALU,
tati ve approval for the rei nforcement was
gi ven. After conferri ng wi th Curri n,
Stevenson returned to Enogai wi th sup-
pl i es and mai l ?
Earl y on the morni nx of the 18tb, four
APDs anchored off Euogai Poi nt and the
4th Mari ne Rni ders debarked, bri ngi ng ad-
di ti onal suppl i es and ammuni ti on wi th
them. I .i versedge, who had expected a
ful l bnttxl i on, was taken aback when C!ur-
ri n reportecl hi s bmttal i ou nearl y 200 men
unde.rstrength. The captures of Vi ru
Harbor and l rangunu, as wel l as recurri ng
mal ari a, had taken thei r tol l . Li versedge
put the NI .G si ck and wounded aboard the
APDs to return to Guadal canal and
turned hi s attenti on toward the sei zure of
Bai roko Harbor. The orders were i ssued
l ate that afternoon, after a conference
wi th hi s battal i on commanders at the
Enogai CP.
Approach to Bai roko was to be made
by two col umns. Two ful l -strength com-
pani es (B fi nd D) of the 1st Rai der Bat-
tal i on and the four compani es of the 4th
Rai der Battal i on were to make the mai n
effort, advanci ng al ong the south shore of
I ,el and Lagoon strai ght toward Bai roko
and the north fl ank of the ,Japanese posi -
ti ons. Schul tz> bzttal i on was to move
from Tri ri toward Fl ai roko to hi t the south
fl ank of the Japanese posi ti ons. Freer’s
3/145 was to remai n i n ;eserve at Tri ri and
Enogai . The departure ti me was set for
0730, wi th an ai r stri ke schedul ed for 0900
to precede the actual attack on the harbor
defenses.
As soon as Li verSedge’s orders had been
gi ven, Schul tz and Freer returned to Tri ri ,
and Curri n and Gri ffi th began a l ast re-
connai ssance. A rei nforced ‘pl atoon from
Wheel er’s Company B under the com-
‘ Stevenson ltr.
mand of Second Li eutenant Wi l l i am J.
Chri sti e moved down the sandspi t between
Lel and Lagoon and Kul a Gul f to get i nto
posi ti on for the morni ng’s attack and to
protect the seaward fl nnk. At 1600, an ai r
stri ke by 18 scout bombers and 19 torpedo
bmmbers pounded the east si de of Bai roko
Harbor whi l e 8 medi ums strafed Japa-
nese suppl y dumps and bi vouac area. The
stri ke marked the fourth ti me si nce 15
,Jl l l y tl mt 13ai roko had been worked over
l ~y ComAi rSol s pl anes.
That ni ght 13nogai was rocked i n re-
turn by enemy bombi ng and strafi ng at-
tarks that l asted nearl y seven hours. Ten
Mari nes were wounded. The NLG won-
dered: Had the enemy accuratel y guessed
tl ~e date. for the NLG attack or were the
,Japanese just gi vi ng as good as they had
recei ved i n the ai r attacks of the previ ous
days ? I f the former, enemy i ntel l i gence
work had been much better than the
NLG’s.
Al t bough the Li versedge force knew the
general l ocati on and nature of the Japa-
nese defenses at Bai roko, there was a di s-
turbi ng l ack of i ntel l i gence about the si ze
of the ,Japanese garri son. The pre-l and-
i ng esti mate had been about 500 enemy
at the harbor. The 350 Japanese en-
countered and ki l l ed at Tri ri and Enogai
were i denti fi ed as members of the Kure
6th 17ATLF. Schul tz’ attackers at the road
bl ock had not been i denti fi ed, but were
bel i eved to have been from the Bai -
roko garri son. The NLG concl uded—

wrongl y—that onl y about two rei nforced
compani es hel d Bai roko.
At the ti me of the Ri ce Anchorage l and-
i ng, Enogai was l i ghtl y defended by a
detachment from Commander Okumura’s
K~~re 6th SNLF. When Li versedge’s
force spl i t on the second day, the Japa-
THE DRAGONS PENI NSULA CAMPAI GN
nese bel i eved that two regi ments wer e at-
tacki ng Dr agons Peni nsul a and or der ed
hal f of the %2 E/ntfa?;on. I,?t]t I?pg;menf
from Vi ]a to Okumura’s assi stance. The
rei nforcements i ncl uded a machi ne gun
company. The new troops were to have
been rushed to Enogai to defend the coast
defense guns but the. move was made too
l ate. By the ti me the i ?d Battalion uni ts
reached Bzi roko, Enogai had been cap-
tured. When Li verSedge’s i ntenti ons to
conti nue the attack toward Bai roko be-
came more evi dent, more rei nforcements
were rushed to the harbor. These i ncl uded
several compani es of the $2d Battalionl
.&5thl?eg~ment and the 8th Battery of the
6th Field Artillery Regiment whi ch had
recentl y arri ved from Bougai nvi l l ea.
Si nce contact wi th the enemy had been
negl i gi bl e after the capture of Enogai , the
NLG had no basi s for compari son of
strength and were not aware of the added
enemy capabi l i ty to defend Bai roko. Pa-
trol s di d not, aggressi vel y test the Japa-
nese defenses; i n fact? no probi ng attacks
agai nst the outposts guardi ng Bai roko
were attempted. The onl y enemy pri soner
taken duri ng thi s peri od was a badl y
burned pi l ot, rescued from an offshore i s-
l and and i mmedi atel y evacuated. I n ef-
fect, the NLG was faci ng an unknown
quanti ty i n i ts attack agai nst the harbor.
“Z HAVE COMMI TTED
THE WOliK&” 10
The approach to Bai roko by the rai ders
began over trai l s and terrai n now fami l i ar
through much patrol l i ng. Whee]er’s Com-
‘0 Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i r e(l frol l l : 3’r/r Cror, qi oCampa i fpl ;
NGOF .4 mount; (k)nl Ai r%l s Jf-arD, ,Ju143:
CornAi r New Georgi a S.4R, 29Jun–13Aug43;Ist
Rdrltcgt SAR; Ist Rc7rRegt Jnl; Ist RdrRegt
135
pany B l ed the approach march wi th Com-
pany D (I 1OWcommanded by Fi rst Li eu-
tenant Frank A. Kemp, Captai n Boyd
]l avi ng been evzcuate.d wi th mal ari a), the
demol i ti ons pl atoon, Curri n’s 4th Rai der
Batta]i on, and the regi mental command
post fol l owi ng i n col umn. The two com-
pani es i n the 1st Battal i on had been
brol ~ght np to nenr-ful l strength for the
attack by taki ng men from Compani es A
and C. These nnderstrength compani es
mnl ai ned behi nd wi th the 145>s Company
L at Eno~ni . (See l fap 9.)
AS the NI .G fi l e moved throngh the
dri ppi ng jnn~l e , scrambl i ng over sharp
coral rocks and cl i mbi ng l ow but, steep
hi l l s and ri dges, the Mari nes wai ted to
hear the fi rst sounds of bombi ng and straf-
i ng whi ch wo~l l d i ndi cate that the 0900 ai r
stri ke on 13ai roko’s defenses was bei ng ex-
ecuted. The rai ders wai ted i n vai n-there
woul d be no stri ke.
Unknown to Li versedge, hi s request, was
apparentl y made too l ate. The support
stri kes by C’on~.i i rSol s for 20 ,JLdy were
al ready schedul ed and the pl anes al l otted.
The NLG commander, howewr, di d not,
kno~v thi s. Consi derabl e di ffi cul ty was
enco~l l ~tered i n transmi tti ng the messmge
on the afternoon of the I f)th, but the mes-
sage was fi nal l y cl e:ued. Schedul i ng of
the stri ke was not confi rmed, Li versedge.’s
communi cati on offi cer recal l s:
Acknowl edgment was requested, as I re-
member, but thi s acknowl edgment di d not
come unti l ni ght. I t was actual l y nothi ng
mor e than an acknowl edgment of the r e-
.Vs~Fi l c; 1st Rdr Regt Ptl Repts, op. cit.; .jth
Rdr131& Ju143 TTJarI); Griflth Ur; LtCol Anthony
Wal ker l tr to CMC, dtd 23 Feb51; LtCol Edwi n
R Wheel er l tr to CMC, dtd 20Mar52; ONI , Com-
bat A-orratiues X; Rentz, Marines in the Central
6’olomons.
691–360 O—63—l O
136 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
cei pt of the message by the staff offi cer on
duty at the headquarters addressed.11
Wi thout ai r support, the odds for suc-
cess i n capturi ng 13airoko I engt hened con-
si derabl y. Di sappoi nted but determi ned,
the two Mari ne batt al i ons kept, movi ng
forward.
The fi rst shots crone shortl y after 1015.
A ,Japanese o{~tpost opened fi re on the
hTLG col umn, nnd Wheel er and Kemp
qui ckl y depl oyed tl ~ei r compani es i nto at-
tack formati on. The outpost was over-
run. Wi thout pause, the rai ders conti n-
ued forwnrd. feel i ng thei r wzy through
the tangl ed jungl e. .I t 1040, Gri ffi th i n-
forn~ed Li versedge by messzge tl mt he was
depl oyed ancl pushi ng forward ag~i nst
several machi ne gul l s.
Fi ve mi nutes l ater, the rai ders were i n
a vi ol ent, al l -out battl e. A sudden erup-
ti on of i ntense and accl l rate fi re from cl ose
range raged at them. The Mari ne attack-
ers were pi nned down, cl osel y pressed
agai nst banyan roots, l ogs, and coral out-
c.roppi ngs, unabl e to move agai nst the
“ Stevensonttr. Al l NLG records, both Mari ne
and Army, i ndi cate that such a stri ke was ex-
pected. ComAi rSol s and ComAi r New Geor gi a
records, however , do not r eveal any notati on of
the request. Thi s parti cul ar i nci dent, whi ch i l -
l ustrates I W.G l i ai son di ffi cul ti es wi th hi gher
echel ons, remai ns nnr f?sol ved. Evi dentl y a staff
offi cer at ComAi rSol s, adher i ng to a pol i cy that
ai r support requests had to be r ecei ved befor e
1600 on the day pr i or to the date of executi on,
took no acti on on the request. The XI V Cor m
G–3 Journal of 19 JUI y cent si ns a message fr om
Li versedge, sent at 2235, 18 Jul y, requesti ng a
12-pl ane stri ke on the 19th and a “l arge stri ke
to stand by for Jul y 20 A M and SBD’S to stand
by for i mmedi ate cal l r emai nder of day. ” Corps
headquarters r epl i ed that a “l arge stri ke stand-
by” for the 20th was “i mpracti cabl e.” Quoted
i n .Mi l l er, Reduction of Rabaul, p. 1.30n.
wi theri ng fi re from automati c weapons
and machi ne guns whi ch raked the jungl e.
Recoveri ng qni ckl y, the Mari nes returned
the fi re, the battl e racket becomi ng l ouder.
As the i ntensi ty of the fi ri ng i ncreased, the
di n was punctured by hoarse shouts and
curses as the Mari nes tri ed t.o maneuver
agai nst the murderous fi re pouri ng from
the jungl e faci ng them.
Confronti ng the rai ders was a seri es of
l og and coral bunkers dug i nto the ri si ng
ground under banyan roots, and wel l cam-
oufl aged wi th pal m fronds and branches.
The ri dge ahead bl azed wi th fi re from
these l ow forti fi cati ons. Si mi l ar to those
encountered by the NC~OF i n i ts approach
to Munda, the empl acements supported
exch other wi th l anes of i nterl ocki ng fi re.
Further protecti on was furni shed by Jap-
anese sol di ers i n trees overhead who sni ped
at the Mari nes wi th l -Tambu (.25 cal i ber)
l i ght machi ne guns. Okumura had pre-
pared hi s defenses wel l .
The pi tched battl e went on, both si des
fi ri ng at a rapi d rate. Wheel er’s company,
wi th i ts ri ght fl ank near the end of the
l agoon, was unabl e to move forward and
COU1 d not make contact wi th Chri sti e’s
pl atoon on the sandspi t. Heavy fi ri ng
across the l agoon i ndi cated that Chri sti e,
too, was engaged. Kemp’s company, on
the l eft, fi nal l y regai ned fi re superi ori ty,
however, and begwn to i nch forward i n an
attempt to take hi gh ground to the front.
As casual ti es began to mount i n both com-
pani es, Gri ffi th moved hi s sol e reserve uni t
—the demol i ti ons pl atoon under Mari ne
Gunner Angus R. Goss—to the l eft fl ank
for protecti on from attacks from that di -
recti on. At 1105, after 20 mi nutes of furi -
ous combat, Gri ffi th reported to Ll vers-
e.dge: “Harry: I have commi tted the
THE DRAGONS 1’ENI AWI ;I ,A CAMPAI GN
137
138 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
works. . . . Movement forward cent i nues.
Sam.” ‘2
By noon, ti l e fi rst l i ne of Pl l emy resi st-
ance crumbl ed, broken under the rel el ~tl ess
pressure of the rai der uni ts. I Tnabl e to
use the 60nml mortars because of the jun-
gl e canopy, l acki ng the ne~v fl an}e-thro]yer
weapons, tnd wi thout ai r or arti l l ery sup-
port., t]l e Mari IIW brencheci ~kl ml ur:~’s cl e-
fensi ve ]i nc by l mocki ng out fi rst one pi l l -
box and tl )en anotl ~er by demol i ti ons nnd
over ~vl l e]mi ng smal l -arms fi re. BUt l osses
were heavy and progress was sl ow.
Shortl y after noon, wi th the 1st Bat-
tal i on cl earl y needi ng qui ck assi stance,
Li versedgc con~mi tted Curri n’s battal i on
to the fi ght. Company P (Captzi n
Wal ker) was i n cl ose sl ~pport behi nd Gri f-
fi th’s battal i on. and thus abl e to move
qui ckl y i nto the l i ne. Kemp’s Company
D, whi ch had moved stemdi l y ahead de-
spi te numerol l s casual ti es, was recei vi ng
heavy fi re on i ts l eft fl ank and Wal ker now
xttacked toward thi s opposi ti on. Goss’
demol i ti on pl atoon, i n turn, ci rcl ed
through the rear of the 1st Battal i on to
take up a new posi ti on on Kemp’s ri ght
fl ank to bri dge the gap between Company
D and Company B.
Wal ker’s fresh company, unci er orders
to attack southwest to the shores of the
i nl et before turni ng north to hi t the ene-
my;s ri ght fl ank, was barel y abl e to move
forward before cri ss-crossi ng fi re from
both ri ght, and l eft fl anks hel d i t back.
Whi ]e Wal ker scouted hi s front l i nes to
determi ne the l ocati on of the machi ne
guns faci ng hi m, Captai n Snel l moved hi s
Company N i nto posi ti on behi nd Wal ker’s
uni t to refuse the l eft fl ank and support
W’al ker;s attack. The battl e conti nued i n
“ IstRdrRcflt,lJsyFi/e, Gri ffi th to Li versedge,
{l td 20Ju143.
ful l fury al l al ong the l i ne, the rai der
gai ns measured a yarcl at a ti me. Con-
tact, wi th the pl atoon on the sandspi t sti l l
ha(l not been made. Chri sti e’s uni t, faci ng
a marshy swanl p backed by a strong l i ne
of Japanese forti fi cati ons, COUI C1 not ad-
vance.. Seven enemy machi ne guns, pour-
i ng t deadl y fusi l ade, over the swamp and
al ong the shores of the sandspi t, resi sted
every attempt at forward movement.
I n the next two hours, the rai der attack
sl owl y pl l ncbed through two di fferent de-
fensi ve l i nes, uncoveri ng a number of
bunkers on the reverse sl opes. Company
D, ri ddl ed wi th casual ti es by the heavy
and conti nuous enemy fi re, scrambl ed to
the top of a ri dge l i ne whi ch overl ooked
the hzrbor at Bai roko, about 500 yards
away. But between the rai ders and thei r
objecti ve l ay another seri es of formi dabl e
forti fi cati ons. Hopi ng to cement Kemp’s
posi ti on on the commandi ng terrai n, Li v-
ersedge di rected Fi rst Li eutenant Ray-
mond L. Luckel ’s Company O i nto the gap
between Company D on the ri dge and
Company P. Both compani es had been
hi t hard by several machi ne guns i n thi s
area, and I ~uckel ’s company was ordered
to si l ence these weapons. k Company O
l unged forward, the maneuver reduced fi re
on Company P and Company N. Wal ker
and Snel l then moved thei r compani es for-
ward to take a smal l ri dgel i ne to the l eft
front.
At thi s ti me, the NLG front l i nes arched
i n a wi de U poi nted towards the harbor
wi th Company D as the l eadi ng uni t. On
the l eft fl ank, Curri n had three compani es,
bent around to the southwest. Gri ffi th’s
two compani es and the demol i ti ons pl a-
toon, on the ri ght, had managecl to move
nearl y to the end of the l agoon, but a
sl i ght gap sti l l exi sted between the bat-
THE DRAGONS I ’ENI NSULA CAMPAI GN 139
tal i on and the l agoon’s shorel i ne. Li vers-
edge, i n al l attempt to pl ug thi s gap nnd
try once I l l ore to contact (?hri sti e, n~oved
Fi rst Li eut en:~nt Leonard W. Alford wi th
a rei nforced pl atoon fl om Col l ]pa]]y O to
thi s fl ank. Al ford’s pl atoon l l ]ade a sl )i r-
i tecl attack, but the vol ume of el )emy fi re
prevented I l l oven)ent beyond that of
Wheel er% con~pany. The move, howwer,
ti ed Chri st i e’s pl atoon cl oser to the mai n
NLG l i ne.
Atj 1445, spora(l i c but accurate mortar
fi re from enemy posi ti o]i s on the i l ]l et sLl d-
denl y changed i l )to an i ntense barrage tl ]at
shook the attacki ng l i nes. ‘rhe Mari nes,
wi thout wmpons for col l ]]terl )ntte.l ”j7 fi re,
coul d onl y press cl oser i nto thei r shal l ow
posi ti ons hehi n(l scant cover on the ri dge
l i nes and try to weatl ~er the pol ]ndi ng.
Esti mated to be 90mm rou]~cl sj the sl ~el l s
i nfl i cted further casual ti es, mai nl y from
tree bursts overhead. The barrage JVaS i n~-
medi atel y fol l owed by a screnmi ng coun-
terattack. Kemp’s comp~ny, beari ng the
brunt of the enen]y chi ~]”~~,was pi nnecl be-
tween seari ng fi r e fr on~ the fr ont and the
mortar shel l i ng. \Yi thdra~v i ng to the fi rst
ri dge taken, Kemp orgal ~i zed a counterat -
tack of hi s own, ancl wi th a badl y depl ete(l
company stormed l x~ck to l ]i s ol d posi ti on
i n a sudden rush. The qui ck conquest was
the fi rst vi si bl e crzck i n the ,Japanese de-
fenses. Mnri nes reported ti l e enemy fl ee-
i ng,
ma~y of them wi thout weapons.
Gri ffi th sent x hasty note to I .i ~-ersedge,
advi si ng the i W,G comrna,n(l er that the
addi ti on of just one company (I . of 3/145)
WOU1 d take Pmi roko I )y ni ght. Tl ~e ,Japa-
nese, C~ri ffl tl l bel i eved, wel e on the ri m, but
casl l al t i es were heavy among the rai ders
ancl rei n forcen~ents I voul d be neede(l .
Unfortunatel y, there were no rezdy re-
serve uni ts. Nothi ng had been l ~eard from
the Army battal i on whi ch was supposed to
hi t the south fl ank of the enemy, but sounds
of fi ri ng from that di recti on i ndi cated that
Schul tz was engaged. I ’reer’s battal i on,
scattered between Ri ce, Tri ri , and 13nogzi
was not i n posi ti on to hel p, even i f those
bases col dd have been l eft unguari i e(l .
Company L at Enogai had been ordered
to the front l i nes wi th ammuni ti on, ra-
ti ons, and bl ood pl asma at 1400, but had
not yet arri ved. Li versedge woul d have to
take the Japanese posi ti on wi th the. troops
al ready at hand.
Fol l owi ng Company D’s return to i ts
former posi ti on, the 4th Batti ~l i on found
movement easi er, and Compani es N and
P managed to move forward i n the face of
sti ffeni ng fi re to extend the NLG l i nes
more to the southwest. Bl l t the move was
costl y: both compani es recei ved heavy cas-
ual ti es. Company Q (Captai n Li ncol n N.
Hol dzkom), the sol e remai ni ng company
as yet l mcommi tted, moved up to the rear
of the other three 4th Battal i on uni ts to
be i n posi ti on for an attack when di rected.
By 1600, the ,Japanese had been p~l sl l ed,
sti l l defi mt. and dangerous, i nto m m-es
on the l ~ai roko Harbor headl ands mbout
300 yarcl s wi de and 800 yards l ong. Thei r
back to the sez, the enemy defel ~ci ers kept
up x sustai ned and nl urdel ol l s machi ne
gun and mortar fi re that showec] few si gns
of sl ackeni l ~g. I n an effort to stri ke one.
l ast, concl usi ve bl ow, Li versecl ge ordered
Company Q i nto the l i nes. Hol cl zkom’s
company moved arouncl the l eft fl ank of
Company N i n an attack strai ght i nto the
teeth of hewvy enemy fi re. Acti on al ong
the rest of the front l i ne dwi ndl ed as the
fury of the attack on ti l e sol l th fl ank i n-
creased. Now al l combnt uni ts had been
commi tted; onl y the demol i ti ons pl atoon
of Curri n’s battal i on remai ned as securi ty
for ti l e command posts i n cwse of an enemy
breakthrol @l . l ~l l eel er’s Conl pany R, re-
140 I SOLATI ON OF RAFl A12L
questi ng rei nforcements for a l ast attackj
was tol d that no hel p was avai l abl e.
The outcome of Li versedge’s l ast at-
tempt to take hi s objecti ve was not l ong i n
doubt. Despi te the vi gor of Company Q’s
attack, the overwhel mi ng fi re of the enemy
won. Badl y depl eted i n a matter of mo-
ments, Company Q was forced to reti re.
Repul sed, the company reel ed back, vi r-
tual l y noneffecti ve through i ts l osses. The
tacti cal si tual i on had been opportune for
one l ast heavy punch to knock out the en-
emy defenders, but wi thout arti l l ery, ai r
w~pport, or other heavy weapons, the
rai der battal i ons coul d not del i ver i t.
Duri ng the, earl y part of the Mari nes’
attack, (?ol one] T.i verswl ge he:i rcl nothi ng
from Schul tz, w-11owas supposed to have
bi t the enemy’s other fl ank. From hi s
command post just behi nd the rai ders>
front, l i nes, the NI X+ commxnder tri ed to
contact Schul tz by tel ephone to order reg-
i strati on of the battal i on’s 81mm mortars
on the harbor’s defenses. The wi res, l ~o\\--
ever, were dead, apparentl y grounded
somewhere i n the rel ay l i nki ng Li versedge
to Enogq~i and then to Schul tz. And, i n
thi s cruci al moment, tl ~e TRXS carri ed by
the rai der regi ment fai l ed to rezch even
the short di stance back to Enogai . Cha-
gri ned by the absence of contact wi th
3/148, and desperatel y needi ng assi stance
i n hi s bi d to capture 13ai roko, Li w+rsedge.
at 1345, di rected McCxffery to take a smal l
patrol and try to contact Schl l l tz as soon
I s possi bl e. For ti l e operati ons offi cer, thi s
entzi l ed a rugged tri p to F.nogai , then w
boat ri de to Tri ri , and a subsequent, march
to Schnl tz’ posi ti on,
The fi rst word Li versedge had from
Schul t.zl a fi el d message fronl F.nogai at
about, 1500, was not encouragi ng:
Harry: Steve [Stevenson] has contact
wi th Dutch. Dutrh has been hi t 3,400 yards
from Tri ri . Steve tol d Dutch to keep push-
i ng and try to connect wi th our outfi t. Ar-
ti l l ery fi re i s fal l i ng between Ri ce and Tri ri .
LaHue.”
Schul tzl battal i on had departi d Tri ri on
schedul e that morni ng, Company K l ead-
i ng the col urnl ) down ti l e Tri ri -Bai roko
trai l . Progress was sl ow, the heavy ma-
chi ne guns and nl ortars carri ed by the sol -
{l i ers addi ng to the di ffi cul ty of movement
over the sl i ppery jungl e terra i n. By noon,
the battal i on had rezched a poi nt on the
trai l where el ~emy posi t i ons had been re-
ported, bl ~t ti l e .Japanese had apparentl y
evacuated the area. The onl y enemy con-
tact Jvas a :1 i mpse of a ,Japanese pat,rol
of about, 15 men movi ng hurri edl y down
the trai l al ~ead of the col t~mn, but no shots
\vere ti red. ,Short I y afterwards, however,
the chatter of an enemy l i ght machi ne gun
sent the col nm]) oti the tr<l i l . fjevev<tl prol )-
i ng attacks were made to determi ne the
enemy posi ti on, and at 1515 Schul tz sent
a messa~ye to 12nogai for rel ay to Li ver-
sedge:
Li ght Horse Harry : Have met Ni ps about
31~ mi l es down trai l . Have not yet hi t
Munda-Bai roko trai l . Strength of enemy
undeter mi ned, but know they have four au-
tomati c weapons. We are attacki ng. Wi l l
keep you i nfor med as si tuati on devel ops.
They hol d hi gh gr oumi to our front. Dutch
I )el .”
Schul tz then moved hi s compani es i nto
attack formati on al ]d ordered a mortar
barrage on the Japanese posi ti ons. The
“ I bi d., Capt Foster C. I .aHue to Li versedge,
dtd X).Tui 43.
“ I I Ji /1.. Srbnl tz to Li verse{i ge, (i td 20.Jni 43.
I .i verse(l ge, ;I for nl w Ol ympi c athl ete, was
~~i del y kn(nyn I )y the ni c,knsme used i n the mes-
WWW. I .i eutenant Col onel Srhul tz si gned most
of hi s nl ess:l ges wi th the name used her e, evi -
(I e]]tl y a conl l l i ng of a ni ckname and the contrac-
ti on {jf hi s .zi ven name, Del bert.
THE DRAGONS PENI NSULA CAMPAI GN
141
pre-atta.ck bombardment was to start at
1600. Enemy strength, Schul tz deci ded,
was about one company. Shortl y after the
mortar barrage began, Li verSedge was
abl e to contact Schul tz di rectl y by tel e-
phone and advi se hi m of the si tuati on that
faced the Mari nes on the ri ght fl ank.
Schul tz must establ i sh contact wi th the
mai n posi ti ons at Bai roko--and soon—
Li versedge tol d hi m, or the attack on Bai -
roko woul d fai l .
The Army commander, not knowi ng
whether hi s present attack woul d succeed,
reported that. he di d not thi nk i t possi bl e
that contact wi th the Mari ne uni ts coul d
be made before ni ghtfal l . McCaffery, who
had reached Schul tz after the attack had
been started, coul d onl y urge that Schul tz
push forward as rapi dl y as possi bl e. The
battal i on’s attack carri ed forward onl y a
few hundred yards before sti ffeni ng enemy
resi stance stopped the advance.
Schul tz
then ordered hi s men to di g i n and hol d the
~~ound taken. He had, he fi bmred, reached
a posi ti on from whi ch he coul d l aunch an
attack the fol l owi ng morni ng.
For Li verSedge, Schul tz’ fai l ure to at-
tack aggressi vel y on the l eft fl ank was the
fi nal bl ow i n a seri es of sharp di sappoi nt-
ments. To hi s front, the battl e di n had
subsi ded i nto an uneasy cal m broken oc-
casi onal l y by the stutter of a machi ne gun
or the sharp report of a ri fl e. Whi l e both
forces—the Japanese compressed i nto a
corner and the Mari nes cl i ngi ng tenaci ous-
l y and ti redl y to shel l -pocked ri dges won
through sacri fi ce and courag~wai ted for
the next move, Li versedge asked Gri ffi th
to reconnoi ter the front l i nes and report
what acti on coul d be taken. Gri ffi th’s rec-
ommendati on: wi thdraw.
By thi s ti me the Rai ders (1st and 4th)
had near l y 250 casual ti es, or about 30 per -
cent of the for ce. We had another 150 men
ti ed up getti ng them evacuated to ai d sta-
ti ons and to Enogai . Ther e was nothi ng to
do but pul l back to r eor gani ze, r e-equi p, get
some rest, try to get somethi ng to cope wi th
the Jap !30mm mortars, and get the wounded
out.
The deci si on to pul l back was made by
Harry the Horse on r ecommendati on fr om
me after I had tal ked to Curri n and hi s and
my company commander s and had made a
personal reconnai ssance of the front. Harry
had a mi ssi on and was understandabl y l oath
to abandon i t. The fi nal deter mi ni ng factor
was the Japanese capabi l i ty to r ei nfor ce
fr om Vi l a Stanmore dur i ng the ni ght by
barge. We wer e al ready up agai nst a stone
wal l , l ow on ammuni ti on and out of water,
and had a responsi bi l i ty to 200 wounded men.
I n any case, reorgani zati on was a paramount
requi rement. I feel that the deci si on to wi th-
dr aw was enti rel y sound and the onl y sensi -
bl e one to have made.n
Vi ctory had been cl ose. At 1630 Gri f-
fi th had joi ned Kemp on hi s hard-won
ri dgel i ne overl ooki ng Bai roko. The har-
bor was about 300 yards away—but sti l l
unattai nabl e. For more than seven hours,
the rai ders had been i n conti nuous attack,
tradi ng punch for punch wi th the enemy
and had al most won. Exhausted and
nearl y out of ammuni ti on, wi th al most as
many men wounded as were sti l l fi ghti ng,
the rai ders coul d onl y reti re, carryi ng
thei r dead and wounded. The posi ti ons
won through courage and i ndomi tabl e wi l l
coul d not be hel d duri ng the ni ght be-
cause them were no other troops ready to
pi ck up the fi ght. Regretful l y, Li versedge
ordered the wi thdrawal of hi s forces.
The reti rement began shortl y after 1700.
Fi rst to l eave were the l i tter cases, about
90 i n number. Mari nes from the battal i on
and regi ment al headquarters compani es
carri ed the wounded off the ri dgel i ne i n
crude stretchers made from fol ded pon-
142
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
chos and tree branches. The wal ki ng
wounded fol l owed, a thi n stre~m of l urch-
i ng, bl oody men who had remai ned i n the
fi ght despi te i njuri es. Whi l e Compani es
N and P hel d the mai n posi ti ons. Company
Q pul l ed back. Compani es O and D di s-
engaged next. Despi te a conti nued spatter
of enemy mortar and machi ne gun fi re, the
reti rement was orderl y, Mari nes assi sti ng
the wounded and each other whenever nec-
essary. As they moved back, the men sal -
vaged weapons and ammuni ti on whi ch
had been dropped i n the fi ght.
As the abrupt jungl e darkness cl osed i n,
the rest of the rai der compani es di sen-
gaged to reti re to the hi gh ground east of
the end of the l agoon. A rough defensi ve
peri meter was set up both fl anks resti ng
on the l agoon. Company L of 3/145,
whi ch arri ved at 1800 wi th badl y needed
medi cal suppl i es and water, al so moved
i nto the defensi ve l i ne. Chri sti e’s pl atoon,
pul l ed back a short di stance on the sand-
spi t, bl ocked a possi bl e enemy counter-
attack from that di recti on.
After seei ng 80 wal ki ng wounded start
the l ong and tortuous ni ght march back to
Enogai , the Mari nes settl ed down i nto an
uneasy rest i n thei r shal l ow foxhol es.
That ni ght Li versedge made another re-
quest for ai r support. To forestal l any
swi ft counteract ack by the Bai roko de-
fenders, the NLG commander asked that
the area between the NLG peri meter and
the harbor be worked over by a bombi ng
and strafi ng attack the next morni ng.
Li versedge then concl uded hi s request
wi th: “You are coveri ng our wi th-
drawal .” “
The ni ght of 2&21 Jul y passed wi th
onl y one enemy attack to test the hasty
‘= Wevenson ltr.
peri meter. A l i ght Japanese force at-
tempted to penetrate the defenses on the
west fl ank, but was repul sed by Com-
pani es B and D i n a sharp fi ght that
wounded ni ne more Mari nes and ki l l ed an-
other. Four dead Japanese were found
the next morni ng.
At dawn on the 21st, another group of
wal ki ng wounded started toward Enogai
where three PBYs wai ted. The mai n body
of the NLG fol l owed, the Mari nes carry-
i ng the more seri ousl y wounded men on
stretchers. Shortl y after the gruel i ng
march began, a group of Corri gan’s na-
ti ves appeared to take over the stretcher
beari ng. Progres was sl ow and exhaust-
i ng as the nati ves and Mari nes, burdened
wi th extra weapons and packs, l abored
over the rough terrai n. A stopWa,s made
every 200 yards to rest the wounded and
the carri ers. The mai n body of troops
had gone about hal fway to Enogai when
the Mari nes were met by Company I ,
3/145, whi ch had hurri ed from Tri ri to
take over the rear guard. The rough
march was further eased when a number
of the wounded were transferred to l and-
i ng craft about hal fway down Lel and La-
goon. After that, the march speeded and
by 1400 al l troops were wi thi n the defen-
si ve peri meter at Enogai . Chri sti e’s pl a-
toon, whi ch reti red down the spi t, al so ar-
ri ved wi thout i nci dent.
Schul tz, who had been surpri sed at the
abrupt change of events, had kept hi s
sol di ers on the al ert for a morni ng attack
i f a swi tch i n orders came. When the
order for wi thdrawal was repeated,
Schul tz turned hi s battal i on around and
wi thi n several hours was back at Tri ri .
Duri ng the march toward Enogai , the
Mari nes had been heartened by the sounds
of conti nuous bombi ng and strafi ng attacks
THE DRAGONS PENI NSULA CAMPAI GN
at 13ai roko. Al though Li versedge’s re-
quest for ai r support the ni ght previ ous
hzd been recei ved at 2244, wel l past the
requi red deadl i ne for such requests, the
CornAi r New Georgi a headquarters ap-
parentl y read the appeal i n the NLG mes-
sage and the request was passed to Con~-
Ai rSol s. Every avai l abl e pl ane, i ncl udi ng
some outmoded scout pl anes, was di verted
to attack the enemy posi ti ons at Bai roko.
The stri kes began at 0950 on the 21st, and
1asted unti l 1710, l ong after the rai ders
hnd remched the base I t F.nogai . I n al l , 90
scout bombers, 84 torpedo bombers, 22
medi um bombers, and 54 fi ghter pl anes
took part i n the conti nuous ai r attack. A
total of 135 tons of bombs were dropped
on enemy posi ti ons, and strafi ng attacks
by the medi ums started a number of fi res
i n Suppl <y dumps and bi vouac areas. The
onl y resi stance by the ,Japanese was a
fl i ght of 17 fi ghters whi ch attempted to i n-
tercept the l ast fl i ght of medi um bombers,
but was dri ven off by the Al l i ed fi ghter
cover.
Evacuati on of the wounded from Eno-
gai conti nued despi te attempts by Japa-
nese pl anes to strafe the bi g, l umberi ng
PBYs whi ch l andecl i n 13nogai I nl et. The
i nterrupti ons del ayed, but di d not hal t,
the removal of wounded for hospi tal i za-
ti on at Guadal canal . M’i th al l the troops
i n bi vouac at Tri ri or Enogai , a soberi ng
count of wounded and dead was made.
The l st, Battal i on wi th two compani es i n
the attack had l ost 17 ki l l ed and 63
wounded. Curri n’s battal i on counted 29
dead and 137 wounded. I n the acti on
al ong the trai l south of Bai roko, Schul tz
l ost 3 ki l l ed and 10 wounded.”
“ 1st RdrRegt AS.IR ; Ist RdrBn WD ; ~th
RdrBn Ju14.7 lVD; $/148 Rept.
143
The rai ders had faced an esti mated 30
machi ne guns i n coral and l og empl ace-
ments, c]everl y camoufl aged wi th narrow,
hard-to-detect fi ri ng sl i ts. Onl y 33 enemy
dead had been counted duri ng the day-l ong
attack, but the evi dence of much bl ood i n
the bunkers whi ch had been reduced i n-
di cated that the Japanese casual ti es had
been consi derabl y hi gher.
The fol l owi ng day, 22 Jul y, Li versedge
recei ved orders from Gri swol d to remai n
at Enogai and Ri ce Anchorage. Acti ve
patron i ng was to be conti nued, and the
NTGOF was to be appri sed of any hosti l e
troop movement from Bai roko to Munda.
Evi dentl y, no further attempt to take the
wel l -forti fi ed harbor woul d be made for
a whi l e. Wi th these orders, the confl i ct
on Dragons Peni nsul a settl ed down to a
state of cauti ous but acti ve watchful ness.
Occasi onal fi re fi ghts fl ared as oppos-
i ng patrol s bl ml ped i nto each other, but
cl ose contact between the two forces was
i nfrequent. The .Japanwe recl ai med the
hi gh ground overl ooki ng Bai roko and re-
constructed thei r forti fi cati ons. Evi dent-
l y hopi ng to keep the NLG off bal ance,
the enemy harassed the Enogai posi ti ons
ni ght l y wi th bombi ng attacks by one or
more pl anes. Some ni ghts the number of
such attacks or al erts reached as hi gh as
seven. The Al l i es, meanwhi l e, pounded
Bai roko wi th short-range shel l i ng from
three destroyers on 24 Jul y and bombed
the harbor defenses on 23 and 29 Jul y and
2 August. For the most part, however, the
operati on reverted to a routi ne of enervat-
i ng patrol l i ng and ai r rai d al erts. Of par-
ti cul ar benefi t was a rest camp establ i shed
by Corri gan’s nati ves near Ri ce .~nchor-
age where Mari nes were abl e to rel ax for
three days away from the weary monotony
of patrol s and ai r rai ds.
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
144
ElVI) OF A CAiJf PA Z(7LV ‘8
The vi rtl ml stnl emate on I hwgons Pe-
ni nsul z ended on 2 .%l l gust. The XI V
Corps, poi sed for x l ast headl ong break-
throl l gh to Mundfl fi el cl , di rected the NLG
to rush another bl ocki ng force between
Mun& and 13ai roko to trap any retreati ng
enemy. After a hurri ed ni ght conference
wi th hi s battal i on commanders, Li ver-
se.cl geordered Schu]tz; battal i on on a qui ck
nmrch down the Munda-13ni roko trai l
from Tri ri . The 4th Rai der Battal i on, at
Ri ce, ret urned to reserve posi ti ons fi t
Enogzi and Tri ri . Schul tz’ battal i on,
l eavi ng Tri ri on the 3d, moved qui ck]y past
i ts ol d posi ti ons abandoned on 17 Jul y to
another trai l juncti on farther southwest.
Here he establ i shed a road bl ock. On 5
.~ugust, as Munda fel l , I .i versedge joi ned
hi m wi th wrei nf orci n.g ~roup (Compani es
I and K) from the 145th I nfantry and a
rei nforced pl atoon from each of the two
rai der battal i ons. The fi rst enemy contact
came on 7 August when a patrol from
Schul tz> battal i on encountered Japanese
bui l di ng a defensi ve posi ti on and ki l l ed
seven of them.
Contact between the forces capturi ng
Munda and Li versedge’s command was
made on 9 Auagust when a patrol from the
1st Battal i on, 27th I nfantry, commanded
by Li eutenant Col onel Joseph F. Ryneska,
appeared at Schul tz’ road bl ock.
“ I Tnl essotherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s (l er i ved fr om : .Vrw Geor gi a Campaign ;
.VGOI,’ .$cmmnt; 1st RdrR(>qt N.1R; Ist IMrR@
.1)![ : Ist I:{?rRrgt :~1.s,qFil~ : Ist li’drI{~t WarI) ;
-4th R(l r I \n Jy:l rI ). l ug-l :] : f I th I )rfl l n TVarD ;
l l th DefBn QI mr ter l y A.\ ReI )t, dtd 13Se@3 ; Maj
~I :l r~i n D. Gi rardeau, USA, l tr to CMC, dtd
fl Feb5i ; Gvifitll ltr ; Rentz, Marines in the Cen-
tral Solomons.
The fol l owi ng day, 10 August, on Gri s-
wol d’s orders, operati onal control of the
NLG passed to the 25th Di vi si on. Con-
trol of Schul tz’ battal i on passed to the
27th I nfantry, and Ryneska’s battal i on
joi ned the NLG i n Schul tz’ pl ace. Leav-
i ng the road bl ock posi ti on to be defended
by Ryneska’s outfi t, Li versedge and hi s
Mari ne-Army force returned to Tri ri and
Enogai . There the Mari nes had been ac-
ti vel y patrol l i ng to determi ne i f the enemy
was prepari ng to make another deter-
mi ned stand at Bai roko. Heavy barge
traffi c, however, and l ack of aggressi ve re-
si stance i ndi cated that Bai roko was bei ng
evacuated. Meanwhi l e, the ni ghtl y enemy
ai r rai ds conti nued wi th practi cal l y the
saul e resul ts as before: “No casual ti es, no
damage, no sl eep.” “
on 9 Augustl a l i ght anti ai rcraft battery
from the 1l th Defense Bat.tal i en arri ved
at Enogai . The 50 Mari nes wi th 40mm
anti ai rcraft guns and .50 cal i ber machi ne
guns were a wel come addi ti on to the base’s
defense. The fi rst ni ght that the battery
was i n acti on: the 40mm guns scored a hi t
on a surpri sed Japanese pl ane whi ch hur-
ri ed away trai l i ng smoke. The gl eeful
Mari nes scored the hi t as a “probabl e.”
Thereafter, the ni ghtl y enemy rai ders
cl i mbed consi derabl y hi gher; and as the
al ti tude i ncreased, the accuracy of the
bombi ng decreased.
The fi nal assaul t on Bai roko was made
on 24 August after two regi ments of the
25th Di vi si on (161st and 27th) had
pushed i nexorabl y toward the l ast Japa-
nese stronghol d. I n the l ate afternoon of
24 August, R-yneska-whose battal i on had
advanced steadi l y toward the objecti ve on
the Munda-Bai roko trai l —sent a message
to Li versedge that he was one hour’s
THE DRAG(3XS PEA’13WULA CAMPAI GN
mnr r h fr onl the sml thern end of the har hor
and that l l Q was ~oi ug i nto El ai roko on the
fol l owi l ~,c n~ol .ni n~ “come hel l or hi gh wr -
i ter.” 3(’ Ryneska’s message was fol l owed
by another nl essa~e fr om the 3cl Battal i on,
l $5th (l l o~l c ol l l l l l ;l l l cl ecl l l y~~ajot.~farl i n
D. ~ri rardeatl ) whi ch l ]md advanced from
Enogai over ti l e rai ders’ routeof 20,Tul y.
i i comp:l ny from that bnttal i on reported
that. i t l l :l cl el l tered 13ai rol <o l Ti tl l ol l t oppo-
si ti on. The harbor had been evacuated.
(’omposi te rai der compani es, forn~ed fronl
the effecti ve members of each battal i on,
were i n reserve at Tri ri ancl Enogai but
m-em not I l cedwl for tl ~e ti n:~] phases. The
l on~ fi ght for 13ai roko was over.
On the 28th, General Col l i ns, command-
i ng the 25th Di vi si on, arri ved at Enogai
nnd after an apprai sal of the si tuati on or-
dered the Mari nes wi thdrawn. That
ni ght and em]v on the 29th of Augnst, the
rai ders went ~board APDs. By 1130 on
the 30th, the rai cl ers were back at Guzdal -
cnl l al . Tl ~e l ast entry i n the 1st Rai der
Regi ment ,Journal , at mi dni ght of 31 .l u-
gust 1943, i s si gni fi cantl y el oquent: ‘{l st
Mari ne Rai cl er Re~i ment rel axes (bunks,
movi es, beer, C]1OW) .>! 21
The Mari ne rai cl er battal i ons whi ch re-
turnecl to Guadal caual w-ere a pal e shadow
of the two uni ts whi ch had ori gi nal l y been
assi gned to the NI ~G. i l l a]nutri ti on, UU-
avoi dab]y poor sani tary concl i ti ons, expo-
sure, fati gue, and conti nued l oss of sl eep
ancl mal ari a had taken thei r tol l . Battl e
casual ti es had been unexpectedl y hi gh-
25 percent of the total command of the 1st
Battal i on, 27 percent of ti l e 4th. Gri ffi th’s
battal i on had l ost 5 offi cers ki l l ed and 9
woundecl , wi th 69 enl i sted n~en ki l l ed and
““ l .st Rdr I fc~l .Vs~Fi Tr, Ryneska to Li versedge,
dt(l 24.\ug-13.
“ 1stRdrl?cgt J)/l.
145
130 wounded. Cnrri n’s battal i on, i n three
operati ons (~Ti ru, Wi ckham, and I l ai roko)
ha~l 2 offi cers ki l l ed and 8 wounded, 52
enl i sted nl eu ki l l ed and another 160
~vol l l l ded. (>f ti l e 591 men remai ni ng i n
tl ~e 1st Batt al i en, onl y 245 were judged
e (~ecti ve by batt al i ou medi czl offi cers.
Ol l l y 154 M:~ri nes out of the 412 offi cers
and men i n the 4th Battal i on coul d be
Cl tl ~S~d as efi wti ve. The cl octors con-
cl uded that furi l ]er commi tment to combat
at thi s ti me N-xs i mpossi bl e:
Not more than fi fty percent of the prf.s~nt
personnel \voul d& abl e to move out on a
n):l rch I vi tl ]out extreme exh:l usti on and of
these. the l l ndernl i ui n~of l jh~si cal and nerV-
ous stami na has l jeen so ~reat aS to render
none of them (,:1l u~l )l eof exerti ng si xty per-
wut of tkei r usual offensi ve effecti veness.n
COA’(’L I z7islolvhs
Th~ contri buti ons of the NLG to the
eventl ul l snccess of the hTew Georgi a cam-
l Jai gn fi ppe~r sl i ght< i n a post-operati onal
revi ew, The trai l bl ock, as ori gi nal l y si t-
uated, l ost al l surpri se val ue and useful -
ness after one engagement. The Japanese
di d not, contest i ts presence further, and
si mpl y moved rei nforcements to Munda
over another route. As l ater reconnai s-
sance proved, the actual l ocati on of the
trai l bl ock shoul d have been another 1,200
yards farther southwest at the juncti on of
the mai n Munda-Bai roko trai l .
Li versedge’s force, i n attacks on Enogai
and Bai roko, i nfl i cted a l arge number of
casual ti es on the enemy and forced the
Japanese to commi t addi ti onal troops to
the Dragons Peni nsul a area — troops
whi ch tl ~e enemy coul d have used to ad-
vantage i n the defense of Munda. Thi s,
2’I nformal Rept, Bn Sur geons to CO, 1st Rdr
Regt, dtd 8.kug43.
146 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
perhaps, was the pri nci pal l wnefi t deri ved
from the NI ,G’s operati ons at Enogai mnd
Bai roko.
The fai l ure of the attack on 13ai roko
can be ascri bed to the burden of handi caps
under whi ch the hTLG l abored-l ack of i n-
tel l i gence, poor communi cati ons, the vi tal
need for supporti ng ai r and arti l l ery, and
i nsuffi ci ent support from hi gher echel ons.
Each handi cap, i n i ts turn, contri buted to
the eventual fai l ure.
operati onal pl anni ng was l mndi capped
by the fai l ure of the NGOF i n maki ng
maps, mosai cs, and aeri al photogmphs
avai l abl e to the NLG pri or to the l andi ng.
Other than the operati onal mosai c, the
Li versecl ge force recei ved onl y one. hi gh-
I evel stereographi c set of pri nts of Bai -
roko~ whi ch reveal ed nothi ng. And, as
I ,i versedge l ater poi nted out, no provi si on
was nuade for the NLG to recei ve further
i ntel l i gence.z3
Real i sti c esti mates as to enemy strength
ancl rei nforcement capabi l i ti es were hLck-
i ng. On a par wi th the assumpti on that
Munda w-oul d be captured i n a matter of
days was the equal l y poor reasoni ng that
the Japanese woul d not stoutl y defend
agai nst an attack on thei r major port of
entry i nto N“ew Georgi a. Pre-attack pa-
trol l i ng by the Mari ne xni l Army battal -
i ons was extensi ve but, M Li versedge ad-
mi tted, not aggressi ve enough to force the
enemy to reveal the addecl strength of the
Bai roko defenses.
The seri ous di sadvantage i mposed by
communi cati on fai l ures i n the dri ppi ng
jungl e ba] keel the operat i on constantl y.
Contact wi th NGOF headquarters at Ren-
dova was di ffi cul t, and S1.G messages usu-
al l y had to be rel ayed by a vari ety of
stati ons, i ncl udi ng those at Segi and
“ Ist RdrRty)t SAR, p, 17,
~LUl dCi l C:l l l ~]. Not zI 1 the communi cati ons
woes were equi pment fai l ures, however. I n
some i nstances, transmi ssi on of messages
was refused. After Enogai was captured,
I ,i versedge reported, permi ssi on to trans-
111 i t three n rgent messages to the NGOF
w-as not grznted, and the NL~X was di -
rected to Cl el r the message wi th znother
stati on, unknown to the NI ,CX. The urgent
messages to the NGOF were fi n.dl y cl eared
nfter 15 hours of wai ti ng.zl
The zttack on Bzi roko, started and con-
ti nl l ed wi thml t, ai r bombardment, the onl y
support i n~ weapon avai l abl e to the NLG,
rai ses questi ons whi ch exi sti ng records do
not answer. Si nce hi s request for ai r prep-
arat i on on the objecti ve had apparentl y
l wen rejected and there was no assurance
that another req(~est woul d be honored,
Li versed~e undoubtedl y bel i eved that a
hi gher echel on had deemed ai r support
unnecessary for the zttack. As the next,
day, 21 JLl l y, was to prove, however, ai r
support — and l ots of i t — was avai l abl e.
The onl y restri cti on, apparentl y, was that
requests hfi d to reach the headquarters of
ComAi rSol s on Guadal canal before the
end of the worki ng day.
Another questi on unanswered was the
compl ete absence of any supporti ng ar-
ti l l ery. .&]though i t, woul d have been i m-
possi bl e to pul l arti l l ery pi eces through the
jungl e from Ri ce to Enogai , there. seems
to be no reason why arti l l ery coul d not
have been unl oaded. at Enogai after that
vi l l age wm captured. I t i s bel i eved that
one battal i on of l t)5mm howi tzers coul d
have been spfi red from the many battal i ons
then at ~~unda. Based at Enogai , these
guns woul d have made a vast di fference i n
the attack on Bai roko.
‘4Ibid., pp. 1>13.
THE DRAGONS PENI NSUI ,A CAMPAI GN 147
hTaval gl mfi re support, m known l wter i n
the war, was at thi s poi nt i n mi d-19+3 sti l l
i n ti l e expl oratory st:l <ges: “rel i abl e, fool -
proof communi cati ons and the cl evel op-
rnent of gl mnery techni ques for the cl e-
1i very of accurate, i ndi rect ti re from afl oat
onto l l nseen targets>>‘s :I sl l ore had not been
ful l y worked ol l t yet. .\s }wfore, records
do not i ndi cate the I PasoI l s why Al l i ed
pl znners wai tecl l l nti l after the repnl se at
B;l i roko to pl aster thi l t enenl y poi nt wi th
ai r and naval hombnr(l rnents.
Al though the Mari ne battal i ons were
forced to admi t fai l ure i n taki ng the as-
si gned objecti ve of Bai roko, the seven-
hol m attack by men armed wi th onl y gre-
nades, ri fl es, znd l i ght, machi ne guns ‘c
agai nst al l el l el l l y of near eql !a] nl l rneri cal
strel tgth barri caded i l l heavi l y for ti fi ed
bunkers st an(l s as one of the fi nest exanl -
pl es of personal cour age i n Bl nri ne annal s.
I t i s to the l ai ders’ credi t that vi ctory over
these over whel mi ng odds was at one poi nt
ver y near l y i n thei r grasp. ~rhetl l er the
“ Col Robert. D. Hei nl . Jr., l tr to Head, Hi stBr,
G–3, HQMC, dtd 3M:uW?.
‘c 31:1jor Gf.l l er:~l Rol x?rt S. 13ei ghtl er, who com-
m:l nde(l the 37th I nfnntr y I )i yi s i on at hTew
(l ef)r~i :l , nf)tecl th:tt he h:l d ‘{perso]l :i l l y ur ged”
(“( IIow1 Li versdxe “to a(l equatel y eqni p the Ma-
riue Imttal ions \vi th heavy nutom ati e weapons”
befor e they l eft Gl ]n<l al cannl . 31aj Gen Robert S.
l ~ei ~htl er. I “S.i , l tr to .\(:ofS, G–3. I I QMG, dtfl
1511ec60. her eafter Bci fl h tl cr [tr.
harbor coul d have been taken by more ag-
gressi ve acti on by ti l e 3d Battal i on, 148th
1nfantry i s pure conjecture. The records
i ndi cate that fi cti on of the l eft, fknk was
not coordi rtatecl wi th the rai der attack, and
that apparentl y ti l e urgency of the si tua-
ti on was not real i zed by Schul tz. Why the
3d I +~ttal i on, 145th 1n fantry was never
used except, as a support force and not
commi tted to combat i s al ~other questi on
whi ch was unanswered i n reports of the
acti on. Equal l y ptLzzli ng i s the fact that
the Army battnl i on’s 81mnl mortars were
not empl oyed to support the rai ders’
attack.
I n nny event, an eval uati on of the Drag-
ons Peni nsl ~l a campai gn does not di scredi t
the troops and thei r l eaders who fought
tl ~ere. Rather than bei ng remembered for
fai l l l re, the- Dragons Peni nsul a operati on
and the attack on Bai roko i n parti cul ar
are a testi moni al to the personal courage
of the Northern Landi ng Group, whi ch
achi eved at l eaSt P:l t’ti :k] SLI CWSS, a]thOLl @
al most l ~opel essl y l mndi capped by i nnu-
merabl e shortcomi ngs i n the i ni ti al phrn-
ni ng and i n ti l e support subsequentl y re-
cei ved. Fal l l ty i ntel l i gence whi ch under-
esti mated the enemy, fanl ty task organi zat-
i on wl ~i ch n~gl ected the i ncl l ~si on of re-
qui red fi ght illg el ements. and somethi ng
lCSS than ful l support, by hi gher headqnar-
tm-s are the m:l i n shortcomi ngs whi ch
ann]ysi s reveal s.
CHAPTER 5
End of a Campaign
I n a matter of days after i ts sei zure by
the hTGOF, the ai rfi el d at Mnnda-shel l -
craterecl , wi th stri pped and fi re-bl ackened
pahn stl l mps ol l t ] i n i ng the ru]l ways-was
converted to :~n i l l l i ed b:~se for further
operati ons i l l the Central Sol on )ons. *i l -
most as soon as enemy resi st al l ce around
the ai rfi el d was ended, tl ]e busy bul l dozers
of the hTxvy>sconstructi on battal i ons were
smoothi ng the coral l andi ng stri ps ancl re-
pai ]i ng revetments for use by Conl Ai rSol s
p]tnes. As the 25th Di vi si on turned north
to fol l ow the enemy’s wi t hdrawa] toward
Bai roko, the 43d Di vi si on took over de-
fense of the ai rfi el d and began mop-up op-
erati ons on the offshore i sl ands.
Separated from New Georgi a by onl y
a few yords of shal l ow water> I l aanga I s-
l and north of Muncht Poi nt was a. ready-
‘ ~nl ~ss otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
wcti on i s dor i wd fr om : Ci nC’Pac–Ci nCPO.\
Rept of 01}s, PO.L, for Sep43, dtd 17Dw43 :
PO]*[i i ){’11 l :r~,t of 8oPac .1ctif,$l; (70msopac
.4?1g–fJcp43 WnrI)s; NGOF Account; ~3d In f-
Dil. Hi.st; 9th DefI Ln WarD, .\ug-Se1A3 : I l tl /
I)efBn lt’arl); 9th I)rfBn Tank OTIS; l oth I )efBn
Rept on Acti on of the TkPl nt i n the N’ew Geor gi a
Campai gn, dtrf 3Se1A3 ; -L3d I nfI )i ~Rept to (2G,
XI V Corps, Empl oyment of Tanks i n Ar nndel
Ops, dtd 23 Srp43 ; SE .-1rm 37(/uOps-11; S’mxN-
teenth .1 rm?l OIM—Z; ,JI CPOA I tem No. 1973,
Transl ati on of Captured J ~pan(?Se Document, dtd
2Z>-OT-4El:CIIC SoPacFor I tem Nos. 799 and 814,
dtd 260ct43, Transl ati on of Captured ,Japantwe
Documents; New Gcor gi c Contpaig}$; Karol eyi tz,
2~flI InfDirIIi.~t; Rentz, .l[ari?/cs in the Crn-
tral solonlons; Zi mmer, ~37’,s Historq.
made sanctuary for Japanese fl eei ng the
bi gger i sl and. As such, the densel y -
wooded appendage was a steppi ng stone
al ong the ,Japfi nese route of retreat. The
ori gi nal i sl and garri son h~d been smal l —
about 100 ~i rmy xnd Navy troops—but the
general exodus from Munda swel l ed the
popul ati on. Tag ends and remnants of
Munda’s defenders fl ed to the i sl ancl ei ther
to go ol rer]al l c~ to\\-ard Arundel or awai t
evacuati on by barge.
(See Map I I , Map
,Secti o l ].)
On 11 .i ugust, as the 43d Di vi si on
wi dened i ts cl eanup efforts around the ai r-
fi el d, a p:~trol confi rmed reports of Japa-
nese acti vi ty on 13aanga. The fol l owi ng
day, a company-si zed l l ~l i t moved by l anCl -
i ng craft to the i sl and. As the sol di ers
di sembarked, n wi theri ng fi re from the
jungl e fe.]l ed abol l t hal f of the force and
forced i ts wi thdrawal . Two days l ater,
whi l e an arti l l ery barrage from 155mm
guns hasti l y empl aced at Munda paved the
way, two battal i ons of the 169th made an
unopposed dawn l andi ng on the shore
opposi te the si te of the i l l -fnted assaul t of
the 12th. As the i nfantrymen moved i n-
l and, crossi ng the i sl and from east to west,
resi stance sti ff enecl . An esti mated 400
Japanese manned a strong l i ne of hasti l y-
bl ~i l t forti fi c:tt i ons bl ocki ng the advance.
On 16 August, two battal i ons of the 172d
Re~i ment wel ~t to 13aanga to rei nforce the
attack. ~b n]ore arti l l ery uni ts (i l l Cl Ll d-
i ng ti l e 155mI l i gun batteri es of the 9th
Mari ne l )efense Ratta]i on) moved i nto po-
148
END OF A CAMPAI GN 14!)
si ti on at Munda and on the offshore. i s-
I ands, and syst emat i ca}l y knocked out
every known enemy gun empl acement, re-
si st~nce dwi ndl ed. I l ~creascd barge traffi c
on the ni ght of 19 A~qy~st i ndi cated that,
the ,Japauese were wi thdrzwi nx. The fol -
l owi ng day, the southern part of the i sl and
was qui ckl y occi ~pi ed, and two battal i ons
then moved north al ong opposi te coast-
l i nes. Onl y scattered straggl ers were enc-
ountered; the enemy had abandoned
13aanga. The 43d Di vi si on l ost 52 nwn
ki l l ed ancl 110 wounded i n the week-l ong
battl e?
Contact wi th the Japanese was reestab-
l i shed on Arundel . One of the smal l est of
the major i sl ands i n the group and vi rtu-
al l y unoccupi ed by the Japanese except as
a barge stagi ng base, Arundel was wi thi n
easy di stance of both New Georgi a and
Kol ombangarw I ts eastern shore bor-
dered Hathorn Sound and i ts northern
fri nge of n~rrow reef i sl ands was just
1,200 yards from Kol ombangara-a stra-
tegi c posi ti on whi ch became i ncreasi ngl y
i mportant to both forces. For the Jap-
xnese, the i sl and was mni mportant outpost
to Kol ombangara nnd an i nval uabl e evac-
uati on poi nt. The NGOF wanted the i s-
l and because Aruudel i n Al l i ed hands
woul d bri ng Vi l a ai rfi el d wi thi n range of
arti l l ery. (See Map 10.)
On 27 l fLl gUSt, troops from the 172d I n-
fantry crossed Di amond Narrows from
hTewGeorgi a and l anded unopposed on the
southeastern ti p. After securi ng the south-
ern part of the i sl znd~ the l andi ng force
spl i t i nto two rei nforced compani es to be-
gi n extended patrol acti on north al ong the
east and west coastl i nes of Arundel .
As on New Georgi a, thb dense jungl e
and l arge mangrove swamps made travel
di ffi cul t,. Fi rst, enemy contact was made
by the east shore patrol on 1 September
sol l th of Sti ma Lagoon. Pushi ng on, the
patrol fought i ts ~yit~ through bri ef ski r-
n~i shes and del ayi ng acti ons wi thout trou-
bl e. To I l el p cut off the retreati ng enemy,
the Qd Battal i on of the 172d establ i shed
x beachl ~ead near the l agoon and rei n-
forced the eastern patrol . Meanwhi l e, the
1st Rxttal i on moved by I .CMS through
~Vana ~V:Lnn I ,a,goon to l i nk up wi th the
western patrol whi ch had reached Bus-
tl i ng Poi nt on the northwest coast w’i th-
out so much as seei ng an enemy sol di er.
The beachhead on that coast was then ex-
pancl ed to i ncl ude the extreme western
encl of Bomboe Peni nsul a.
When the 2d Battal i on’s attack near
St i ma Lagoon on 5 September was ab-
rl ~ptl y hal t ecl by fi erce enemy resi stance,
the 3d Batt al i on was l anded to rei nforce
the effort. Nei ther battal i on, however,
was abl e to penetrate the enemy’s strong
l i ne of defense whi ch i ncl uded mi ne fi el ds
and booby traps as wel l as many machi ne
gl ms. Art i l l ery fi re from Kol ombangara
supported the defense. The arri val of the
1st Battal i on from Bustl i ng Poi nt, where a
battal i on of the 169th hacl assumed re-
sponsi bi l i ty for the western beachhead,
pl aced the enti re 172d I nfantry on the east
coast and paved the way for the commi t-
ment of the 27th Regi ment. (25th Di vi -
si on) on Bomboe Peni nsul a. Two bat-
teri es of 155mm howi tzers and a 4.2-i nch
chemi cxl mortar company al so l anded at
Bustl i ng Poi nt to support the 27th Regi -
ment on that coast, whi l e, XTGOF arti l l ery
on New Georgi a empl aced on the shores of
Hathorn Sound del i vered counterbattery
fi re on Kol ombangara to support the 172d’s
attack on the east coast. Of the two i n-
fautry regi ments, however, onl y the 27th
I nfantry was rel ati vel y fresh, al though i ts
150
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
ri fl e compani es were =ri ousl y under-
strength and i ts men “wel l seeded wi th
mal ari a.’? 3 The 172d had been through
nearl y two months of arduous fi ghti ng and
T1-i l Sl ):I (l l J’ I l l l derstreugth.
Whi l e troops from the. 169th hel d the
Bustl i ng Poi nt area, the 27th I nfantry on
12 September openecl a dri ve east al ong
the l ength of 130mboe Peni nsul a. The
l ezcl i ng battal i on, restri cted to a narrow
stri p of i sl and onl y 400 yards wi de and
unabl e to make a fl anki ng attack, coul d
onl y gri nd strai ght ahead when i t ran i nto
sti ff opposi ti on. Smal l gai ns wi th mount-
i ng casl ~al ti es were the i nevi tabl e resul ts.
As the front l i nes i nched abreast of
Sngekarasa I sl and, whi ch paral l el s 130m-
boe Peni nsul a, a second batt al i en swam
and waded across a l agoon to establ i sh an-
other front on that i sl and. Unabl e to
erase the beachhead i n a seri es of scream-
i ng Counterattacks that ni ght, the Japa-
nese then hurri edl y evacuated thei r barge
base on the extreme western ti p of the i s-
l and. Souncl s of barge traffi c each ni ght,
however, i ndi cated that the enemy sti l l
had other bases on Sti ma Peni nsul a whi ch
coul d be used to resuppl y and rei nforce
the Arundel defenders.
By dusk of 14 September, the two bat-
tal i ons of the 27th were i n secur e posi ti ons
astri de Sa~ekarasa I sl and and Bomboe
Peni nsul a whi l e the 172d I nfantry pressed
sl owl y northward al ong the east coast. I n
the gap between, straggl ers from the %i ?9th
and a battal i on from Tomonari ’s 13th
Regiment fought determi nedl y to hol d
Sti ma Peni nsul a and a corner of Arundel ’s
northeastern coast.
‘ MajGen l ~i l l i :un W. Di ck, Jr., USA, l tr to
.\Cl ofS, G–3, HQMC, dtd 310(.t60, i ncl udi ng com-
ments by 31aj Gen Davi d H. Buchanan, USA.
On the ni ght of 14-15 September, the
remai ni ng battal i ons of the 13th Regi-
ment on Kol ombangara were l oaded on
barges for transfer to Arundel to begi n a
counteroffensi ve whi ch was supposed to
r egai n the i ni ti ati ve i n the Central SOl o-
mons. Undaunted by the l oss of Col onel
Tomonari and two battal i on commanders
who were ki l l ed by Ameri can arti l l ery fi re
as thei r barge beached on the Arundel
coast., the Japanese unl eashed a near-
fanati cal attempt to break out of the pe-
ri met er. The desperati on thrust fai l ed.
The l T2d and 27th, rei nforced qui ckl y on
l i ne by troops from the 169th, contai ned
the attack al though the battl e was touch-
and-go for some ti me. As the attack sub-
si ded, the ,Japanese reverted once more to
del ay i ns tacti cs to preserve thei r thi n foot-
hol d on Arunde]. The repul se deci ded the
tJapanese upon wi thdrawal from Arundel
and eventual evacuati on of the Central
Sol omons.
The counterattack, however, resul ted i n
Mari ne Corps tanks joi ni ng the 43d Di vi -
si on. Al erted earl i er for possi bl e commi t-
ment, the tank pl atoons of the 9th, 10th,
and l l th Defense Battal i ons moved thei r
remai ni ng 13 servi ceabl e machi nes by
LCM from Munda to Bomboe Peni nsul a
on the 16th. Whi l e the tanks of the 9th
and 10th went i nto bi vouac, fi ve tanks of
the l l th Defense Battal i on moved up to
hel p the 27th Regi ment i n the Bomboe
Peni nsul a area. The armored attack on
17 September took the Japanese by com-
pl ete surpri se. The heavy jungl e rai ns ap-
parentl y drowned the noi se of the tanks
cl anki ng i nto attack posi ti on. Movi ng
forward i n two waves wi th i nfantrymen
fol l owi ng, the Mari ne tanks crunched
through the enemy defenses before
abruptl y turni ng to the l eft i n a fl anki ng
END OF A CAMPAI GN 151
0
0
0
0
0
0
.3
.
c
c
c
c
.
c
*
.
c
.
.
Q
CL
a
>
691–360 0—63—11
152
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
manel l ver to compl ete the rout of enemy
i n that sector. I nfantry uni ts advanced
about, 500 ynrds i n the attack. The fol -
l owi ng day, however, as four tanks and
an i nfantry company jumped forward i n
another assaul t, the enemy suddenl y
opened poi n-hl fi nk fi re wi th 37mm anti -
tank guns. Two of the 1l th Defense Bat-
tal i on tanks were knocked out, of acti on,
but qui ck and effecti ve coveri ng fi re by the
i n fxntry al l owed the tank crewmen to es-
cape. The attack stal l ed.
On 19 Septemberj the remai ni ng effec-
ti ve tanks-two from the, 9th, four of the
10th—joi ned those of the l l th. Li ned up
i n two ranks vi rtual l y trei ~d to tr exd they
started toward the enemy l i nes. The rear
rfi nk cover ecl the fr ont wi th fi re. Concen-
trated bl asts of 37 mm cfi ni ster rounds
and bursts of machi ne ~wn fi re from the
l eadi ng txnks wi thered the jungl e ahead,
stri ppi ng fol i age from the enemy posi -
ti ons and hewi ng out an avenue of attack.
Behi nd thi s shi el d of fi repower, the i nfan-
try advanced rapi dl y. Afterwards de-
scri bed by 27th I nfantry offi cers as one of
the fi nest exampl es of tank-i nfantry co-
ordi nati on they l md seen, the attack moved
qui ckl y and steacl i l y forward.
Thi s fenrsome mass assaul t, coupl ed
wi th the Japanese deci si on to qui t .4run-
del , settl ed the fi ght for the i sl and. That
ni ght, despi te near-conti nuous arti l l ery
and mortar barrages, Japanese barges be-
g-an evacuati ng the bul k of Arundel ’s de-
fenders. Whi l e enemy arti l l ery fi re from
Kol ornbangara kept the two Ameri can
regi ments from cl osi ng i n, the remai nder
of the l~th Regiment was wi thdrawn the
next ni ght. On 21 September, wi th onl y a
few overl ooked straggl ers to contend wi th,
the NGOF decl ared Arundel secured.
I nstead of bei ng a routi ne moppi ng-up
job, the fi ght for Arundel had unexpect-
edl y devel oped i nto a major operati on
wb]ch requi red the pri nci pal el ements of
1hree i nfant ry regi ments as wel l as ar-
mored and arti l l ery support. <Japanese
l osses i n three weeks of fi ghti ng were 345
counted dead, al though the enemy must
have l ost consi derabl y more. Countl ess
shal l ow graves dotted Arundel ’s northern
coast, and the I zgoons and Bl ackett Strai t
yi el ded many other bodi es of enemy dead
who had been ki l l ed i n evacuati on at-
tempts or had drowned attempti ng to
swi m to Kol ornbangara.
Al l i ed l osses for the i sl and’s capture
were rel ati vel y l i ght, 44 ki l l ed and 256
wonnded. Army observers credi ted the
ti mel y support of Mari ne Corps tanks for
abruptl y termi nati ng the campai bm and
preventi ng the l oss of addi ti onal Al l i ed
1i ves.
Wi th Munda taken and the Al l i ed dri ve
sl owl y turni ng toward Vi l a ai rfi el d, the
~Japanese i n mi d- Au=gyst had every ri ght
to expect that the deci si ve battl e i n the
Central Sol ornons woul d be fought on the
bi g, vol cani c i sl and of Kol ombangara.
But Admi ral Hal sey, a former Naval
Academy hal fback, knew the val ue of an
end run i n warfare as wel l as i n footbal l .
Ten days after Munda was captured, the
Al l i es ski rted the strongl y defended posi -
ti ons prepared by the enemy on Kol om-
bangara and hi t at l i ghtl y-hel d Vel l a
Lavel l a.
4 Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om : Ci nCPac Rept, Sep43,
op. ci t. ; Ci nCPac-Ci nCPOA Rept of Ops, 0ct43,
(i td 20 J:11114; ~ol )~i N(~h Rc’pt of 80~flC .iCtiO?L ;
~ootSoI’oc 4 u~-ScpJ3 WarDs; Cor n I I I Phi bi ?or
END OF .4 CAMPAI GN 153
The deci si on to swi tch targets was made
a month earl i er. On 12 Jul y, just si x days
after aski ng for Admi ral Turner’s pl ans
for Kol ombangara, Hal sey changed hi s
mi nd and di rected that thi s i sl and be si de-
stepped and J-el l s Lave]l a taken i nstead.
By thi s ti me i t, was obvi ous to the staff of
ComSoPa{! that Munda was not, goi ng to
be taken as qui ckl y as esti mated and that
the i sl and of Kol ombangara, wi th nearl y
10,000 entrenched defenders, woul d be
even harder to take. Further, Vi l a ai r-
fi el d was reported to be poorl y (l rai ned and
poorl y si tuated. I f a better ai rfi el d si te
coul d be found, the chance to l and vi rtu-
al l y unopposed at Vel l a Lave]l a woul d be
a much sounder tacti cal moves
A reconnai ssance teal l l wl l i cl l scouted
the i sl and i n l ate Jul y returned to report
that the sm~thern end of the i sl and near
Barakoma drai ned suffi ci entl y wel l to en-
abl e constructi on of an ai rfi el d there, and
that there were adequate b~i i cl ~es, bi vol mc
AR, 10-19 Au$343, dtd 20Dec43 : COI U I I I Phi bFor
Rept of Occupati on of Vel l m I ,avel l a, 12 Aug-
3Sept43, dtd 20 Sep43: CTF 31 OPO A12+3, dtd
1l Aug43 : 3“r?e Gcorf/i a ~(~mpai ~?? ; NGOF Ac-
r ount ; A-I F FO h-o. 1, dtd l l Au~43 ; ~WCYttC(’nth
.Irmy Ops-I: SE Arm XfJv Op,s-11: Frankel ,
J7’fh I)lfDirHist : 0. .k Gi l l espi e, Th c O~riat
Hi8tory of New Zealand in the Second World
U’ar—T’h c I’ac’ific ( Wel l i ngton : War Hi story
Branch, Dep:nr tment of I nterrml Affai rs, 1957).
her eafter Gi l l espi e, Ncw Zral a Jtd History ; Hal -
sey and B~~iln, Hu7sry’s Story ; Karol evi tz, 25th
IttfI)i!,Hist: 310ri son, Brc({l ;i ti q tllcBix>))arcks
Barrier; 0S1, L’ojjf bat A-arratities, The S’olomotl
Is7a)lds Campfl iqn: .YI—I{070t)lban~/(!ra [J }ld T-(’l[a
L/[rel[a. 6 .Illgt(s-i C)ctolwr 1943 (Washi ngton.
1944), her eafter OXI , t70ntbat 7Vf/rnztiwx XI:
Rentz, .lforinm i)~ tl{c Cv~t)//t S(~70mon.s ; CSSBS,
(’awpflig)t<s.
5 Thi s i s not the fi rst i nstance of successful
1).vl l a.ss strate~~.r. The :I ]l l ]]hi l }i ous for te \\-hi f.h
l anded i n the Al el l t i ans i n lli~~ l fM3 took Attu
befor e for ci ng the eva{mati on by the enemy of
str ongl y-hel d Ki ska I sl and.
:l rews, :l nd MTI l anchorakres i n the area.
l ’el l :~ Lavel l a, the pi~trol reported, di ffered
1i ttl e from New Georgi a. A dense jl mgl e
of tangl ed creepers and huge trees covered
tl i e i sl and from comt l i ne to the l ow but
sharp mountai n peaks i n the i nteri or. One
of tl l e most devel oped i sl ands i n the group
before the w:l r, Vel l a Lavel l a’s l +;uropean-
l ype bui l di l ~gs i ncl uded a hospi tal , several
mi ssi ons, and tt I eprosari urn. (See Map
lo.)
Coast watchers on the i sl and added to the
report. Chl y about 250 ,Japanese were
esti mated to be, occl ~pyi ng the northern
part of the i sl and where Jrel l a Lavel l a’s i r-
regul ar coastl i ne provi ded many coves for
I )rotect i on for barges shut t1i ng between
Kol on~ban~ara and Bougai nvi l l ea. The na-
ti ves on the i sl and had remai ned fri endl ~;
to the Al l i es, and were wel l orgmi zed.
They had, i n fact, ai decl the man-y survi -
vors of the USS FI e7ena who had managed
to swi m to the i sl and and had assi sted i n
thei r evacuati on by fast APDs on 16 Jul y.’
on 11 August, orders were i ssued by
Con~SoPac for the sei zure of Vel l a Lavel l a
by Admi ral Wi l ki nson’s Task Force 31.
The forces on New Georgi a were di rected
to conti nue the cl eanup operati ons i n the
Munda area and to i nterdi ct T-i l a ai rfi el d
by arti l l ery fi re. The Al l i es had deci ded
tI mt enemy troop concentrati ons on Ko-
I oml .)angara di d not necessi tate an attack,
that neutral i zati on of the i sl and woul d be
as effecti ve :W occupati on and not as costl y
i n terms of troop casual ti es or suppl i es.
“ 1’. S. shi ps ~Ji cked up 93 men and 11 offi cer s
I t one poi nt and 39 men and 2 offi cer s at another
~]oi nt on the i sl and. Nati ves had pr otected and
fed both groups. The r escue of these survi vors
fr om an enemy-hel d i sl and i n enemy waters was
a di sti nct boost to mor al e to al l South Paci fi c
forces.
154
Further, soggy Vi l a ai rfi el d was no l onger
deemed worthy of capture.
The Xortl ~er~~Landi ng Force (NLF),7
organi zed to attack and occupy Vel l a La-
~-el l s, con~pr i wd the .~rrny’s 35th Regi -
mental Combat Team whi ch i ncl uded the
64th Fi el (l Arti l l ery Battal i on, the 58th
NaT7al Constructi on Battal i on, and the Ma-
ri ne Ah I l efense Battal i ol l ! as wel l as M-
di ti onal ;i rmy and N:Lvy support. uni ts.
13ri gadi er General Robert R. l f,’Cl l l re, the
25th Di vi si ol l ”s assi stant commander, was
named to head thi s organi zati on.
Emb~rkzti on of major l ~ni ts began at
Chmdal canal on 12 August. That same
ni ght, an l dvance for ce l anded near 13ara-
koma to mark channel s and l andi ng
beaches and to sel ect bi vouac areas and
defensi ve posi ti ons. After bei ng forced
to fi ght thei r way to snore, however,
through fi re from a motl ey col l ecti on of
survi vors from sunken barges, the recon-
nai ssance group hurri edl y requested rei n-
forcements. The next ni ght a i nfantry
company l anded to hel p them.
The mai n l andi ng force departed Gua-
dal canal on 14 August on a spl i t-second,
staggered schedl l l c. The sl owest transport
,~rotl p, L$+Ts, st:~rled fi rst and WaS PaSsed
-
l ater by the faster .kPDs. I n thi s manner,
the transports whi ch had departed Gau-
dal canal i n reverse order arri ved off Vel l a
Lavel ]a i n the proper order and at the ri ght,
ti me.
Debarkati on of troops began at dawn on
15 .fugmt, the i \PDs nnl oadi ng qui ckl y
i n one hol l r. The fi rst snag i n the i nva-
si on sche(l n]e occurred l v]l el l i t \V:l sdi scol ~-
ered that the beach coul d accommodate
‘ Thi s was a new echel on of the A’(2OF an(l is
I l ot to be confused wi th the A’or ther n I .andi ng
Gr oup commanded by Col onel I .i ver sedge at Eno-
gai and Bai rt)ko.
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
onl y 8 of the fol l owi ng 12 LCI I s. The
LSTS, whi ch ar r i ved l ater at the cor r ect
ti me, wer e for ced to stand offshor e wai t-
i ng to unl oad. Li mi ted beach areas had
resul ted i n the ver y del ay and exposure
whi ch i t was hoped the staggered schedul e
woul d prevent. There was, however, no
enemy opposi ti on ashore. As the beach-
head wi dened, sol di ers reported scattered
,Japanese troops fl eei ng northward.
Shortl y before 0800, jnst as the LCI S
were i n the unl oadi ng stage, the fi rst of
four franti c. ,Japanese ai r attacks struck.
After maki ng one pass at the protecti ve
destroyer screen standi ng offshore, the en-
emy bombers and fi ghters turned thei r at-
tack on the LCI S and I .STS, evi dentl y
ti ~l ri ng that the smzl l er transports car-
ri ed the bul k of i nvasi on troops and SLl p-
pl i es. Al ] four attacks were dri ven off by
al ert pl anes from ComAi r~Sol s and the
fi erce anti ai rcraft fi re from the task force
destroyers.
The fi ghter cover came from Munda ai r-
fi el d, whi ch hnd begun operati ons onl y the
day before. As a di vi dend for havi ng won
an ai rfi el d cl oser than Segi or Guadal -
canal , the Al l i es were abl e to keep an um-
brel l a over the beachhead most of the day.
Despi te, the presence of thi s ai r cover, how-
ever, the .Japznese persi sted i n sporadi c
attxcks, stri ki ng from di fferent al ti tudes
nnd di recti ons. The resul ts were negl i gi -
bl e. None of the shi ps i n the convoy were
dzmag-ed, and duri ng the day more than
4,600 troops and 2,3(Io tons of equi pment,
and suppl i es were unl oaded at Barakom:l .
Twel ve men were ki l l ed and 40 wounded
i n the day’s attacks. That ni ght, as the
convoy wi thdrew S1OW1 y down Gi zo
Strai ts, the shi l )s fought, off repeated tor-
l )e(l o attacks. Enemy fl oat pl anes kept the
area l i t wi th fl ares.
I I ND OF A CAMPAI GN
The successful jump from Muncl a to
Vel l a Lavel l a asserted Al l i ed domi nati on
i n the Cemtral Sol omons. Fai l i ng to re-
pul se the l andi ng, offi cers of the Ei ghth
~l~ef and the (~e11e7/ tcenth AP71/y hzst i l y
cal l ed a conference to consi der maki ng a
counterl andi ng on the i sl and. One batt al -
i en was :L1l that, coul d be sptredj i t was
deci ded. Thi s proposal was pr omptl y
squel ched by ~~qh th .1 r eu :l ?’?/2.Y. Such a
move woul d r e~t~i r e at l tmst two bri gades,
the hi gher headql mrters deci ded; and, i n
vi ew of the exi sti ng di ffi cul ti es i n r ei nfor c-
i ng ~n~ resl l l )pl yi ng other central sOl O-
mons ~arri sous, the i den was better for ~ot-
ten. ‘1’I l e onl y hel p the str<t~~l ers on ~el l a
Lavel l a r ecei ved was r ei nfor cement on
19 August by -.
.){)() .4 r l ny :t]i (] I (N) NaVY
per sonnel .
The NL~ beachhead expanded rapi dl y.
Wi thi n the fi rst 20 days of the operati on,
6,505 troops, l @7 tons of rati ons, 843 tons
of gasol i ne and oi l , 2,247 tons of’ ammuni -
ti on, 547 vehi cl es, and 1,011 tons of other
cl asses of suppl i es wer e l anded. Shi ppi ng
was to have been unl oaded duri ng ni ght
hours, but the attacks on the convoys i n
the narrow confi nes of Gi zo Strai t
changed that schedul e. After 18 ikttb~~stj
the convoys arri ved and cl eparted 13ara-
koma duri ng dayl i ght hours, protected
duri ng the unl oadi ng and passage through
Gi zo Strai t by Al l i ed pl anes from Munda.
There was l i ttl e opposi ti on to the ad-
vance of the ATLF. By 18 August, the
three battal i ons of the 35th I nfantry had
establ i shed a fi rm defensi ve. peri meter
across the southern end of the i sl and. Be-
hi nd thi s protecti ve barri er, ai rfi el d con-
structi on began i mmedi atel y. The Mari ne
+l th Defense Battal i on provi ded anti ai r-
craft and seacoast defense.
155
As the fi ght for \’el l s Lavel l a pro-
gressed, the 35th began dri vi ng the enemy
before i t. Toward the end of Au5gust, i n-
creased resi stance was met on the east
coast near Lambu I .ambu, and i t was 15
.September before the regi ment’s assaul t
battal i ons broke through the Japanese
defenses to overrun the barge base at
Horani u on the northeastern coast. The
enemy, however, escaped and fl ed north.
At thi s poi nt., the 14th Bri gade of the
New Zeal and 3d Di vi si on l anded at Bara-
koma wi th two i nfantry battal i ons, the
35th and 37th, as the mai n uni ts. I n a
reshui l l e of command, Major General
H. E. Barrowcl ongl l of the 3d Di vi si on
was named as commandi ng general of al l
Al l i ed forces on Vel l a Lavel l a. Wi th the
arri val of a thi rd New Zeal and battal i on,
the 30th, the Ameri can frontl i ne troops
were rel i eved. On 25 September, the col -
orful New Zeal anders-the majori ty of
whom di sdai ned the use of steel hel mets
to wear thei r di sti ncti ve fl ti t vi sored fi el d
hats-began thei r attack.
Whi l e the 35th Battal i on l eapfrogged
around the west si de of the i sl and i n a
seri es of l andi ngs, the 37th Battal i on began
movi ng by l andi ng craft up the northeast-
ern coast, maki ng l andi ngs at vari ous
poi nts to cut off the fl eei ng Japanese.
When cornered, the enemy sol di ers fought
stubbornl y and fi ercel y for survi val , but
i t was apparent that they were not under
a si ngl e command or organi zed i nto a
si ngl e uni t.
By earl y October, the New Zeal anders
were i n posi ti on to put the squeeze on the
Japanese, who had been backed i nto a jut-
ti ng pi ece of l and between Marquana. and
Watambari bays. The two battal i ons of
the 14th Bri gade made contact and joi ned
for the fi nal push to crowd the enemy i nto
,.,
156
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
the SL?:l .A Japanese pri scmcr reported that,
tl ~e ti red i l l l d hungry enemy force W:l s
wi l l i ng to surrender, but that, ,Japanese
offi cers woul d not permi t i t.
On the ni ght of 6-7 October, Al l i ed
troops heard voi ces and the sound of
barges scrapi ng coral , but the supporti n~
fi res were ordered too 1ate. The next
morni ng, onl y l i ttered stocks of ,Jmpanese
equi pment and suppl i es were scattered
over the peni nsul a. The enemy cori ]ered
on Vel l a I ~i l },el l a—589 by ,Tapanese ac-
counts—had been successfl l l l y wi thdrawn.
The hTe\vZe~li(]](lers ha(l esti mated tl l zt
the Tel l a I ~avel l a campai gn woul d end i n
l ess than tTT70weeks. The concl usi on came
sever:l l dttys earl y—one of the few success-
f~d ti nl etabl es i n the Central Sol omons
fi ghti ng. The 14th Bri gade cwsl l al ti es to-
tfi l ed 32 ki l l ed and 32 woul ~ded. .Jap:mese
l osses for the defense of the enti re i sl an(l
were about 250.
The pri ce for an i sl and of consi derabl e
strategi c xnd operati onal val ue was not
exorbi tant. Al l i ed casual ti es for the seven
weeks of fi ghti ng were l ess than 150 ki l l ed,
most of these i n ai r attacks, The practi ce
of bypassi ng a strong poi nt to bi t at a
weaker poi nt somewhere el se was now es-
tabl i shecl . Future Paci fi c operati ons fol -
l owed the strategy i ni ti ated i n the A]eu-
ti ans and used wi th success i n the Central
Sol omons.
WI RI A~Efi AT VELLA LA T7ELLA 8
Success of the Rendova beachhead had
proven the val ue of z Mari ne defense bat-
tal i on i n a l andi ng effort. When the task
‘ C nl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr mn : X(;OF ..1c(’ounf; 4th
1)efB1l Warl ), .\ug-0ct43 ; 4th I)ef13n SAR, dt(l
!).J :III-M ; C(). Corps Troops :i nd St agi ng .l rea,
l MAC, N“arrat.i ve Rept of 01)s i n Vel l a Lavel l a,
organi zati on to sei ze T7el l g Lavel l a was
pl anned, ti l e i ncl usi on of a si mi l ar uni t
seemed l ogi cal . Cl osest and most avai l a-
bl e was the 4th Defense Rattal i on, then
on C+uacl al cana]. Or gani zed at Parri s I s-
l and i n 1940, the battal i on was stati oned at
I l fate, New Hebri des, befor e transfer to
>Tew Zeal and, then @l ada]canal . I ts or -
mtni zati on was si mi l ar to other Mari ne
e’
defense battal i ons-155mm seacoast, arti l -
l er y gr oup, 90tnm anti ai rcraft gr oup, a
speci al weapons gr oup of 40mm, 20mm,
and .50 cal i ber weapons, and a tank
pl atoon.
13y ni @~tf al l of the fi rst day ashore at
Earakorna, about two-thi rds of the l i ght
ant i ai rcraft weapons wer e i n tempor ar y
fi ri ng posi t i ons. Otl l er guns of Major
McDonal d I . Shuford’s speci al weapons
group were kept set up on two LSTS i n
the l ~arbor, an i nnovati on whi ch i ncreased
1he fi repower of the beachhead. The ad-
di ti on was effecti ve. A total of fi ve enemy
p] anes -were cl ai med by the 4th the fi rst
cl ay.
Duri ng the next, si x days, other echel ons
of the battal i on arri ved and moved i nto
posi ti ons to defend the beach. Onl y the
ai r defense uni ts of the battal i on got i nto
acti on, however. Tl ~e 155mnl gun groups,
whi ch moved ashore shortl y after the ori g-
i nal l andi ngs, were i n coastal defense posi -
ti ons ready to fi re wi thi n a few days, but
the need never arose. The tank pl atoon
dtd 30Jan44; I ?wd Ech, Corps Troops, I MAC,
()1x) Xo. 143, dtd Z3Sel A3 : Col John H. Cook,
.Jr., l tr to CMC, dtd 2MarW ; (Jo1 I WcDonal d I .
Shnfor d l tr to (XC, dtd 4Mar52; l l Col ]Jonal d
11. Srhmuck l tr to (XC, dtd 28Apr32; LtCol
Chti rl es T’. ]I odges l tr to C31C, dtd 21 Mar52 ;
I .t(.’ol C:trl M. Johnson l tr to CMC, dtd 2MarW2 ;
X<I I O(J my7ia C’ampui,fw; Rentz, ,~fori ~trsjtl tl )<’
(’clltl’111 solo))) on.!+.
END OF A CAMPAI GN 157
whi ch l anded on 21 .4ugust was never com-
mi tted to acti on.
After the i ni ti al l andi ngs, the .Japa.nese
bombi ng attempts dwi ndl ed i n frequency
and feroci ty. Dl l ri ng the earl y part of the
operati on, the enemy attacks were pressed
home wi th fannti cal fury and many reck-
l ess pl anes were knocked spi nni ng i nto
Vel l a Gul f. Later the ,Jnpanese became
more cauti ous, and fewer mass assaul ts
were attempt ed. Si nce any acti vi ty at
Barakoma was readi l y cl i scerni bl e from
Kol omtmngara, the arri val of Al l i ed shi ps
was general l y fol l owed cl osel y by a stri ke
by a congl omerate force of enemy bombers,
fi ghters, and fl oat pl anes. Most of the at-
tacks were l ess than vi gorous, however, as
the ,Japanese pi l ots soon gai ned a heal thy
respect for ComAi rSol s pl anes and the ac-
curate shooti ng of the 4th Defense Bat-
tal i on. By l ate August, those few enemy
pl anes that di d attack usual l y di d not get
cl ose enough to bomb accuratel y.
Duri ng the Vel l a Lavel l a operati on, 15
iiug~~st to6 October, the 4th Defense Bat-
tal i on compi l ed an envi abl e accuracy rec-
ord. Duri ng 121 di fferent ai r attacks
ai med at the i sl and, the Mari ne anti ai r-
craft gun crews knocked down the fol l ow-
i ng: 90mnl gun group—20 pl anes; 40Lnm
batteri es—10 pl anes; 20mm batteri es-5
pl anes; the .50 cal i ber weapons of the spe-
ci al weapons groups+4 pl anes; and the
.50 cal i ber weapons of the seacoast arti l -
l ery group—3 pl anes. ‘Fhe total : 42.
Other Mari nes, not part of the NLF,
al so took part i n the Vel l a Lavel l a opera-
ti on. After the 35th RCT moved past
Horani u, establ i shment of a Mari ne ad-
vance stagi ng poi nt on the i sl and was or-
dered. PI ari ni ng for the Bougai nvi l l ea
operati on was al ready underway, and the
I Mari ne Amphi bi ous Corps wanted a
base cl oser than Guadal cana.1 to the North-
ern Sol omons. On 17 September, the new
Commandi ng General , I MAC, Major
General Charl es D. Barrett, w-hohad taken
command of the corps on ti l e 15th, named
l l ajor Donzl {l 11. Schmuck to head
the, proposed Corps Forward Stagi ng
Area, Vel l z Lavel ]a. The task organi za-
ti on i ncl ude(l el ements of the Mari ne 4th
Base Depot, a motor transport company,
a speci al weapons battery, a communi ca-
t i on tenm, pm-t of the Navy’s 77th Sea-
bees, as we]l as two provi si onal i nfantry
compzni es frol n the 3d Mari ne Di vi si on.
Al l tol d, the forward echel on of Corps
Troops i ncl uded 28 offi cers and 850 men.
The task force was to l xnd at two poi nts:
,JLI no r i ver and Ruravai beach, on Vel l a’s
east coast. Part of the organi zati on was
to begi n the establ i shrne.nt of a base camp
whi l e the combat el ements provi ded l ocal
securi ty. Hasti l y organi zed, the forward
echel on made one practi ce l andi ng at Gua-
dal canal before proceedi ng to Vel l a Lavel -
l a. On 25 September, troops went ashore
by l andi ng craft at ,Juno ri ver whi l e LSTS
beached some three mi l es north at Ruravai
beach.
Unl oadi ng at both poi nts proceeded
wi thout i nci dent l mt i l about 1115, when 15
,Japanese bombers and about 20 fi g,hters
swept over. After one bri ef si deswi pe at
the destroyer screen offshore, the enemy
pl anes turned toward Ruravai . Some
40mm and .5o cal i ber anti ai rcraft weap-
ons had been hasti l y set up on the beach,
and these opened wi th a steady fi re that
was accurate and effecti ve. Three bombers
were downed and a fourth damaged. TWO
of the doomed bombers, however , man-
aged to compl ete thei r bombi ng runs be-
for e crashi ng i n the jung-l e. The other
pl anes conti nued to bomb and strafe. One
40mm cr ew and gun was destr oyed by a
158 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
di rect hi t and a second crew knocked out
of acti on. Vol unteers qui ckl y manned the
seconcl gun w~d conti nued the fi re.
.As the bombi ng attack ended, Al l i ed
fi ghter cover appeared to cl ear the sky
i n a seri es of runni ng dogfi ghts. But
the l andi ng area at Ruravai was a sham-
bl es. Expl odi ng ammuni ti on conti nued
to wreak havoc. Caswdti es and damage
to suppl i es \vere hi gh. One LST had been
sunk outri ght, others had been damaged.
A total of 32 men on the beach had been
ki l l ed and another 58 wounded.
The Japanese di d not l et up. Each day
brought a number of pressi ng ai r attacks.
Despi te frequent i nterrupti ons, the con-
structi on of roads, LST beachi ng areas,
and base i nstal l ati ons conti nued. The
work was further handi capped by wander-
i ng bands of enemy straggl ers, whi ch ne-
cessi tated acti ve combat patrol s as wel l as
i ncreased guards at al l constructi on proj-
ects. Pro5gress, however, was fai rl y rapi d.
On 1 October, as the second echel on of
corps troops (i ncl udi ng the 2d Parachute
Battal i on ), arri ved, the Japanese struck
another heavy bl ow. Four ai r attacks dur-
i ng the day resul ted i n further damage
and more casual ti es. One LST was sunk
and another damaged. The Japanese l ost
onl y one pl ane. Convi nced at l ast of the
futi l i ty of tryi ng to l and men and suppl i es
over a beach i nadequatel y protected
agai nst ai r attacks, l MAC then di rected
al l further echel ons and suppl i es to be un-
l oaded at Barakoma under the protecti on
of the guns of the 4th Mari ne Defense Bat-
tal i on, The suppl i es were then trucked
to Ruravai , where wi de di spersal and i n-
creased ai rcraft defense measures ensured
fewer l osses.
After survi vi ng a number of such severe
ai r stri kes duri ng the next week (whi l e
Barakoma was studi ousl y avoi ded by the
Japanese), the Corps Stagi ng .4rea was
repl aced on 8 October by the newl y ar-
ri ved Vel l a Lavel l a Advance Base Com-
mand. Some troops were returned to thei r
parent organi zati ons: others remai ned at
the base under the new command. Rura-
vai was sel dom used for i ts i ntended pur-
pose, si nce most shi ps preferred the
l oadi ng faci l i ti es at Barakoma. Later,
however, the sawmi l l s and hospi tal of the
base command proved val uabl e duri ng the
Bougai nvi l l ea campai bn by provi di ng ti n~-
bers for bri cl gi ng and ready medi cal faci l i -
ti es for seri ousl y wounded men. I ts
constructi on had proved costl y, however.
I n the two weeks at Vel ]a Lavel l a, the l ?or-
ward Echel on had l ost 17 men ki l l ed and
132 wounded duri ng the many ai r attacks.
J APANESE M71TFI DBA WAL’
As the campai gn i n the Central Sol o-
mons drew cl oser to i ts i nevi tabl e end, the
Japanese efforts duri ng August and Sep-
tember became those of near-desperati on.
The Al l i ed attack on Vel l a Lavel l a, whi ch
effecti vel y shunted the enemy forces at
Kol ombangara to the si del i nes of the war,
had the added effect of nearl y i sol ati ng
,Japanese garri sons from the mai n sources
of suppl i es and rei nforcements i n the
Northern Sol omons. Aggressi ve acti on by
Al l i ed destroyer squadrons ti ghte.necl the
bl ockade. Camoufl aged enemy barges,
tryi ng to keep the suppl y l anes open by
sneaki ng al ong the coves and breaks of
i sl and coastl i nes were hounded and ha-
g Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om: Ci nCPac Repts, Sep-
0ct43, op. cit.; CominCh Re~t of S’oPac Action;
ComSo~ac Ott.+S ~Farll; New Georgia Cam-
paign.; Screnteenth Army Ops—I; 6’E Area iVav-
01}s-11; ON1, Combat Narratives X; Rentz,
Marinrs in the Pcotral Solomons; USSBS,
r’(zmpaig~~s.
160
rassed by the vi gi l ant MTI k and the bl ack-
hul l ed Catal i na fl yi ng boats (“Bl ack
Cats”) whi ch prowl ed the waters of Vel l a
and Kul a Gul fs. Nearl y stymi ed i n thei r
bmrge suppl y attempts, the Japmnese fi -
nal l y resorted to suppl yi ng garri sons by
fl oatpl anes and submari nes.
These i nadequate measures and a care-
ful second l ook at the strategi c si tuati on
forced the enemy to make the onl y deci si on
possi bl e: general evacuati on of al l forces
from the Centrnl Sol omons. The opera-
ti on began wi th the removal of troops from
the seapl ane base at Reketx on Santa I sa-
bel I sl and i n earl y September. An .i l l i ed
patrol , l andecl from an MT13 on 3 Sep-
tember, veri fi ed the absence of enemy
troops. Quanti ti es of rati ons and am-
l i ~uni ti on found on shore i ndi cal ed thzt the
wi thdrawal l md been hurri ed.
After scattered outposts on Gi zo and
Ganongga I sl ands reh~rned to Kol omban-
gara on the 19th and 23d of September, the
onl y remai ni ng enemy troops were the
smal l force defendi ng Arundel , a si zeabl e
body of troops on Kol ombangara, and the
straggl ers back-tracki ng al ong the coast
of Vel l a Lavel l a-about 12,000 troops i n
al l , by ,Japanese esti mates.
Wei ghi ng two factors—the di recti on of
the Al l i ed effort and the capabi l i ty of the
13th Regiment on Arundel to conduct a
del ayi ng acti on-the Japanese schedul ed
the wi thdrawal for l ate September duri ng
a moonl ess quarter. The northern coast
of Kol ombangara was desi gnated as the
evacuati on poi nt. Landi ng craft from
the Bui n area woul d ferry troops across
The Sl ot to Choi seul for further transfer
to Bougai nvi l l ea. Si ck and wounded
woul d be evacuated by fast destroyers.
The Japanese schedul e began none too
earl y. By 27 September the fi ghter ai r-
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
fi el d on Vel l a Lavel l a was operati onal al -
tl ~ough not yet compl eted, and enemy
troops on Kol ombangara were caught i n
a vi se between ComAi rSol s pl anes at
Munda and 13arxkonm. I n addi ti on, .41-
l i ed 155mm guns and howi tzers empl aced
on New- Georgi a’s northern coast were
poundi ng a steady tattoo on Kol ombang-
ara’s defenses.
The effect of wani ng moonl i ght — pl us
the i ncreased barge acti vi ty-was not l ost
on the Al l i es. By l ate September i t be-
came evi dent that al l Japanese acti vi ty
was di rected toward wi thdrawal . I mme-
di atel y, al l avai l abl e Thi rd Fl eet destroyer
squadrons rushed wi th protecti ng crui sem
i nto i ntercepti on duty i n Vel l a and Kul a
Gul fs.
The pl anned wi thdrawal begi n, but was
di srupted many ti mes by the sudden ap-
pearance of Al l i ed pl anes and shi ps. On
the ni ght, of 28 September, the Japanese
managed to l oad 11 destroyers wi th 2,115
si ck and wounded for a ql l i ck spri nt to
safety at Bougai nvi l ]e. Despi te the Al l i ed
i nterference and consi derabl e l oss of smal l
craft and men, the Jxpanese rel ayed an-
other 5,400 men by l andi ng barges to
Choi seul duri ng the next few cl ark ni ghts
and an addi ti onal 4,000 men were pi cked
up by si x destroyers. I n the squal l y
weather and murky darkness of the peri od,
the Al l i ed destroyers were hard-pressed
to keep track of al ] enemy acti vi ty. I n a
number of i nstances, the destroyers had
to choose between steami ng toward tar-
gets whi ch radar contacts i ndi cated as
smal l craft or headi ng towards reported
enemy destroyer forces. Someti mes con-
tact coul d not be made wi th ei ther target.
Al l i ed shi ps, however, reported a total of
15 barges sunk on the ni ghts of 29 and 30
September.
,.,
END OF .4 CAMPAI GN
Duri ng the ni ght of 1-2 october, al l
zvai l wbl e Al l i ed destroyers steamed
through The Sl ot seeki ng the mai n Jap-
xnese ev~cuati on attempt. Few contact,s
were made i n the pi tch darkness. About
20 of the 35 barges encountered were re-
ported sunk. The fol l owi ng ni ght the
.Ll l i ed shi ps agai n attempted contact wi th
the Japanese but coul d not cl ose to fi ri ng
range. Aware that the enemy destroyers
were acti ng as obvi ous decoys to l ure the
attackers away from the barge routes, the
Al l i ed shi ps abandoned the chase and re-
turned to The Sl ot to si nk another 20
barges.
Further enemy evacuati on attempts
were negl i gi bl e. and the Al l i es reasoned
that the wi thdrawal had been compl eted.
.i patrol l anded on Kol ornbangara on 4
October and confi rmed the bel i ef that the
Japanese had, i ndeed, successful l y com-
pl eted evacuati on of al l troops. Jumbl ed
pi l es of suppl i es and ammuni ti on attested
to the fact that the enemy had been con-
tent to escape wi th just thei r l i ves. The
-wi thdrawal , the Japanese reported l ater,
was about 80 percent successful , the onl y
l osses bei ng 29 smal l craft and 66 men.
The fi nal evacuati on attempt was made
on 6 October from Vel l a Lavel l a. A si ze-
abl e enemy surface force was reported
l eavi ng Rabaul i n two echel ons, and three
U.S. destroyers moved to i ntercept, the
enemy. Another Al l i ed force. al so hurri ed
to the scene. Contact was made i n hi gh
seas and a dri vi ng rai n. I n a fi erce battl e
whi ch l asted l ess than 12 mi nutes, the
Uni ted States l ost one destroyer to enemy
torpedoes and two other destroyers were
badl y damaged. The ,Tapanese l ost onl y
one of ni ne destroyers, and duri ng the bat-
tl e the transports managed to evacuate the
161
troops stranded al most wi thi n the grasp
of New Zeal and forces.
The removal of troops from Vel l a La-
vel l a ended the Japanese occupati on of the
New Georgi a Group. The l OSS of the
i sl ands themsel ves was not vi tal , but the
expendi ture of ti me and effort and the re-
sul tant l oss of l i ves, pl anes, and shi ps was
a reverse from whi ch the ,Japanese never
recovered. There coul d onl y be a guess as
to the number of casual ti es to the enemy
i n the vari ous bombi ngs, sea acti ons? and
l and battl es. Postwar esti mates pl aced
the number at around 2,733 enemy dead,l ”
but thi s does not account for the many
more who di ed i n ai r attacks, barge si nk-
i ngs, and shi p si nki ngs. I n any event, the
uni ts evacufi ted after the costl y defense of
the New Georgi a Group were ri ddl ed
shel l s of thei r former sel ves, and few ever
appeared agai n as compl ete uni ts i n the
Japanese order of battl e.
More than three months of combat had
been costl y to the New Georgi a Occupa-
ti on Force, too. Casual ti es to the many
uni ts of the NGOF total ed 972 men ki l l ed
and 3,873 wounded. I n addi ti on, 122 di ed
of battl e wounds l ater, and another 23
were decl ared mi ssi ng i n acti on. Mari ne
Corps uni ts, other than the 1st Mari ne
Rai der Regi ment, l ost 55 ki l l ed and 207
wound ed.1~
hTew Georgi a l acked the drama of the
earl y months of Guadal canal and the awe-
some scope of l ater battl es i n the Central
‘03-GOF Accow t, p. 29. The fi gur e r epor ted
her e i ncl udes the 230 enemy dead at Vel l a
Lavel l a.
“ Ibid., p. 29; Rentz, Mari nes i n the Central
Sol (mons, p. 174. These fi gures do not i ncl ude
non-battl e casual ti es.
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
Paci fi c. I nstead, i t was characteri zed by
a consi derabl e amount, of fumbl i ng, i ncon-
cl usi ve combat; and the fi nal tri umph was
mm-red by the f~ct that a nl l mber of com-
mand changes were requi red to i nsure the
vi ctory. There were few tact i cal or stra-
tegi c successes and the personal l mrdshi ps
of a ri gorol l s jl l ngl e campai gn were onl y
underscored by ti l e pl anni ng f mi l ures.
And too, the ori ~i nal opti mi sti c t.i metabl e
of Operati on T013&T.l I I ,S l ater becnme
al l embnrrassi rrg subject. For these ren -
sonsj n postwar resum6 of ti l e kmttl e for
the Central Sol bmons pnl es i n compari son
wi th accounts of l ater and greater Al l i ed
conquests.
The pri mnry benefi t of the occupati on of
the New (3eorgi a Group was the :i (l vance-
ment of Al l i ed ai r power another 200 mi l es
cl oser to Rabaul . The fi el ds at Munda,
Segi Poi nt, and 13arakoma provi ded
ComAi rSol s 1)1anes wi th three addi ti onal
bases from whi ch to stage rai ds on the ,Jap-
anese stronghol ds i n the Northern Sol o-
mons and to i ntercept qui ckl y any retal i -
atory rai ds ai med by the enemy at the mai n
Al l i ed di sposi ti ons on Gua(l al cana] and i n
the Russe]l s. Behi nd thi s protecti ve buf-
fer, rel ati vel y free from enemy i nterfer-
ence, the .I l l i es were abl e to mass addi -
ti onal troops and materi el for future
operati ons. Thi s extended cover al so gave
:Ml i ecl shi ppi ng near i mmuni ty from at-
tack i n southern waters. <kl though most
fl eet acti vi ti es conti nued to be staged from
Guacl al canal , the many smal l harbors and
i nl ets i n the hTew~~eorgi z Group provi decl
val uabl e anchorages and refuel i ng poi nts
for smal l er surface craft.
The capture of the Central Sol omous
al so afforded the Al l i es the un(l i sputed i ni -
ti ~ti ve to set the l ocati on and ti me for the
I I ext attack. The si mpl e maneuver of by-
pnssi ng Kol ombangar-a’s defenses won for
ti l e .111i ed forces the advantage of sel ecti ng
the next vul nerabl e poi nt i n the enemy’s
suppl y, communi cati on, and rei nforce-
ment 1i nes. The ,Japanese, guardi ng an
empi re overextended through earl i er easy
conquests, coul d now onl y wai t and guess
where the next bl ow wol ~l d fal l . The New
Georgi a Campai gn presented the ,Japanese
i n hi s true l i ght-an enemy of formi dabl e
fi ghti ng tenaci ty, but not one of over-
whel mi n~ sl l peri ori ty. Hi s ski l l at con-
ducti ng ni ght evacuati on operati ons, dem-
onstrated at (~uadal cmal and confi rmed at
New Georgi a, col ~l d not be deni ed, how-
ever. Both wi thdrawal s had been made
practi cfl l l y under the guns of the Al l i ed
fl eet.
On the Al l i ed si de, the campai gn fur-
thered the compl ete i ntegrati on of effort
by al l arms of servi ce—ai r, sea, and
ground. Sei zure of the Central Sol omons
was a vi ctory by combi ned forces—and
none coul d smy -who pl ayed the domi nant
rol e. Each force depended upon the next,
and al l knew moments of tragedy and wi t-
nessed acts of heroi sm. The New (3eorgi a
battl es marked a l ong step forward i n the
techni que of empl oyment of combi ned
arms.
There were val uabl e l essons l earned i n
the campai gn, too-l essons whi ch were put
to use duri ng the many months to fol l ow.
As a resul t of the New Georgi z operati on,
future campai gns were based on a more
real i sti c esti mate of the amount of men
and ti me requi red to wrest a heavi l y de-
fended objecti ve from a tenaci ous enemy.
Another l esson wel l l earned was that a
command staff cannot di vi de i tsel f to cover
both the pl anni ng and admi ni strati ve sup-
port for a campai gn as wel l as the acti ve
END OF A CAMPAI GN 163
di recti on of a di vi si on i n combat. After
New Georgi a, a top-l evel staff was super-
i mposed over the combat, echel ons to pl an
and di rect operati ons.
On a l ower l evel , the tacti cs, armament,
and equi pment of i ndi vi dual uni ts were
found basi cal l y sound. As a resul t of
campai gn cri ti ques> a number of worth-
whi l e equi pment i mprovements were fos-
tered, parti cul arl y i n communi cati ons
where the bi ggest l :~ck was a l i ght and
easi l y transported racl i o set. From ti l e
successful operati on of Mari ne Corps l i ght
tanks over jungl e terrai n came a number
of recommendati ons whi ch i mproved t:i c-
ti cs, communi cati on and fi re c!oordi nat i on
of the bi g~er xnd more potent n~acl l i nml
whi ch were i ncl uded i n the task organi za-
ti on for future jungl e operati ons. The
battl e agai nst the enemy’s bunker-type de-
fenses on ?i TewGeorgi a al so poi nted up the
desi rabi l i ty of tanl s-mounted fl ame throw-
ers. Experi mental portabl e model s used
i n the fi ght for Munda had proved i nval -
uabl e i n reduci ng enemy pi l l boxes. I n-
creased cl ependency upon thi s newl y de-
vel oped weapon was one di rect resul t of
i ts l i mi ted use i n the Central Sol omons
fi ghti ng.
Throughout the enti re campai gn, the
i mprovement i n amphi bi ous l andi ng tech-
ni ques and practi ces was rapi d and di s-
cerni bl e. Despi te seemi ng confusi on, l arge
numbers of troops and mountai ns of sup-
pl i es were qui ckl y deposi ted on i sl and
shores, and rapi d bui l dup of men and ma-
teri al conti nued despi te enemy i nterfer-
ence. One contri buti ng factor was the i n-
creased avai l abi l i ty of the shi ps needed
for such i sl and-to-i sl and operati on—LCI s,
LSTS, LSDS, and the workhorse LCMS.
By the end of the Central Sol omons cam-
pai gn, two years of war producti on was
begi nni ng to make i tsel f fel t. Equi pment
and shi ps were arri vi ng i n bi gger num-
bers. The effi ci ency of these shi ps and
craft was? i n part, a refl ecti on on the
soundness of Mari ne Corps amphi bi ous
doctri nes—vi ndi cati on for the earl y and
cent i nl l eci i nsi stence by the Mari ne Corps
on thei r devel opment and i mprovement.12
“ I ’{)r the story of the Mari ne Corps part i n
the devel f~l m]ent of l :mdi ng craft, see Chapter 3,
I ’art I i n Vol ume I of thi s seri es.
. . .
PART 111
Northern Solomons Operations
CHAPTER 1
Continuing the Pressure
STRATEGI C REQ UZ12EN ENTS ‘
There was l i ttl e ti me for extended rest
for i i l l i ed sea, ai r, and ground forces after
the fi nal Central Sol omons acti on i n Oc-
tober. AS earl y as the previ ous March, a
cl eci si on had been made tbzt the Northern
Sol omons woul d be the target next after
New Georgi a; and by the ti me Munda fi el d
w%s operat i onl ] under Al l i ed control ,
pl ans for the sei zure of a beachhead i n the
Shorthands - Choi seul - Bougai nvi l l ea area
were i n the fi nal stages. I n effect, ComSo-
Pac operati ons of September and October
were the l ast. act to the successful compl e-
ti on of the Central Sol omons campai gn as
*Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om : Ci nCPac–Ci nCPO.4
W:l rDs, Ar r g thr ough Nov43 ( COA, XI I I ) ) ;
(Yonrgopur .JulL–Xov~.j IVarT)s; ThirdPlt .Narr-
Rept; 1111’hi l ~For AR, Sei zure and (kcupati on
of Xorthern Err]press Augusta Bay, Bor r gai n-
vi l l e, 1–13SOV’H, dtd 31)ee43 ( Bougai nvi l l ea
AreaopFi l e, Hi st,Br, HQMC ) her eafter ZIZPhib-
J’(,t+ AJi’; I M.\C AR, Phase I , Sec A, Rept on
Bongai nvi l l e Operati on, dtd 2131ar44 (Bougai n-
vi l l ea .\reaOpFi l e. Hi stBr, HQMC ) her eafter
I JI A C AR–I; E[aj .John X. Rentz, J;ouqwinvitlfi
and tile .~’ortl[cm t3010nLO?Z8,
(Washington:
Hi stSec, Di vI nfo, HQMC, 1948 ) her eafter
Rentz, BougainviUe and tli e Northern Solo-
tnOHS; Mori son, Breul ; i ng theBiwnarcks Barrier;
I sel y and Crowl , Mari nes and Ampl! ibious War;
Halsey and Bryan, Hal,sc{/’,s Story; Ki ng r md
Whi tehi l l , Ki //y’,s ,47ara7 L’ccorz; lliller, Rrdltc.
tion of Ra0au7; I {i st I )i v, HQMC, ““1’he Bougai rl -
vi l l e Operati on,” MS, cu. Feb-lfi ( Hi stBr, HQ31C ),
her eafter Hi stL)i ti Acct.
691–360 0—63—12
wel l as the overture to the forthcomi ng
Bougai nvi l l ea attack.
The i mportance of Rabaul had not di -
mi ni shed duri n: the l ong peri od i nvol ved
i n taki ng New Georgi a, but the events of
the l ast si x months had put the ,Japanese
stronghol d on New- Bri tai n i n a new l i ght.
I n 1942 there had been no doubt that Ra-
baul woul d have to be physi cal l y el i mi -
nated to i nsure an i nvi ol ate hol d on the
.$otl tl l I Test-ASoutl l Paci fi c area. By mi d-
1943, there wxs a growi ng real i zati on that
the enemy ai r and naval base mi ght not
have to be erased by force, that neutral i za-
ti on woul d serve the Al l i ed cause as wel l .
Concurrent wi th thi s shi ft i n thi nki ng was
a proposal that, the mai n Al l i ed effort be
di rected through the scattered i sl ands of
the Central Paci fi c i nstead of through the
l arger l and masses of New Gui nea and
the Phi l i ppi nes.
Both concepts bad many hi gh-ranki ng
proponents. The di vergent vi ews resul ted
i n some open di sagreement among the
many strong-wi l l ecl commanders and staff
offi cers responsi bl e for the Al l i es’ opera-
ti onal strategy, bLLt, the eventual sol uti on
was born of the i magi nati on and experi -
ence of al l , and there was no fl ~rther di s-
pute once the course of acti on had been
chartecl . The actual deci si on to strangl e
Rabaul by ai r i nstead of capturi ng i t was
made by the Combi ned Chi efs of Staff
Ll pon reconl nl el l (btt i on of the JCS. The
CCS conference at Quebec i n August al so
di rected that the advance through the
167
168 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
,Sol ~tl ~\~’est-So~l thPaci fi c by (%meral Mac-
.i rth~l r and Admi ral Hal sey was to con-
ti nue whi l e .fdmi ral Ni mi tz ai med a new
offensi ve al on<g the Central Paci fi c zxi s.
The i dea of two campai ~rrs was an effecti ve
compromi se. .i l i hoi @ some real i gntnent.
of forces l vas n(?C13SSi l r’ ~, al l extensi l -(?
shuffl e of troops or shi ppi ng from ei ther
(heater woul d not be requi red: and :L co-
ordi nated attack nl ong two fronts wonl d
have the advantage of keepi nx ,Japnnme
defenses off l ml anw and comrni tt ed ovrr
a wi de are,a.
Throngbout thi s eval uati on peri od. Gen-
eral MacArthur hel d fast to the ori gi nal
EI ,KT03T concept. On the. 411 of Sep-
teml)~l’. the l yI I Pl ~i hFor (Adnl ;ral Bar-
bey’s comnr:l rrd ) 1:~nrl edSoWest,P:~c troops
on the Hl l on Peni nsul a of New Gui nea to
set the st:l ge for eventual passage of Mac-
Arthur’s forces tbroug]l the Vi ti az-
Dampi er Strl i ts. Success of the venture,
though, depended upon i nsurance i n the
form of ai r bases wi thi n fi @ter pl ane di s-
t ante of I l ab~ul . Thus, MacArthur’s con-
ti nued surge toward the capture of Sal -
amaua, I .ae, and Fi nschhafen vi rtual l y
di ctated wtabl i sl m]ent of i kl l i ed ai r faci l i -
ti es i n the Northern Sol omons by Novem-
ber or I )ccember of 1943. Pl ans for a
l andi ng i n the Bougai nvi l l ea vi ci ni ty, tem-
porarily shel vecl whi l e other strate~i c con-
cepts were bei ng
exami ned, were once
agl i n restored to the stztus of ,a ful l -scal e
operati on by MacArthur’s i nsi stence.
The exact l ocati on for such an under-
taki ng had been the cal l se for consi derabl e
di scussi on and recon]l a i ssance b.y Hal sey>s
staff. Several i sl ands l Md been proposed
as targets but cl oser exami nati on el i nl i -
rratecl them. ‘1’he i sl and of Choi seul was
l i ttl e regarded as a major l andi ng si te be-
cause of two factors: i t was not wi thi n
fi ghter escortrange of New Bri tai n; and
Mac.4rthur was of the opi ni on that an
assaul t on Choi seul di d not di rectl y
threaten Rabaul . Buka, the smal l i sl and
appendage to northern 130ugni nvi l l e, was
too far from Al l i ed i ~i r bases for a l andi ng
there to be protected adequatel y. I ni ti al
plans to sei ze the southern end of Bou-
gai nvi l l ea were cancel ed because the ai r-
fi el ds at Kahi l i and Kara were too strong-
l y protected to attack wi th the forces then
avai l abl e to Hal sey. Wi th the drawn-out
campai g[l on Munda sti l l fresh i n hi s
mi nd, ComSoT’zc was rel uctant to mi x
w-it])the ,Jap;tnese i n a prol onged struggl e
that woul d tri ke too many l i ves and too
much ti me wi thout payi ng i mmedi ate
di vi dends.
After some del i berati on, Hal sey pro-
posed that the SoPac forces sei ze the
Sl ~ortl and I sl ands (Bal l al e and Fai si ) as
ai rfi el d si tes and then i nterdi ct Kahi l i and
Kam wi th arti l l ery fi re as the Rendova
forces di d at Murrda. Thi s move woul d
put Al l i ed ai r support wi thi n ti ghter range
of Rabaul . MacArthur, wi l l i ng to settl e
for any act i on whi ch WOU1 d hel p hi m real -
i ze hi s expressed ambi ti on to return to the
Phi l i ppi nes, approved thi s concept. But
l ater reconnai ssance reveal ed that the
Shortl ands had no beaches bi g enough or
good enough over whi ch an amphi bi ous
assaul t, coul d be staged, and that ai rfi el d
si tes were l i mi ted.
Hal sey’s top-echel on pl anners, abandon-
i ng the Shorthands i dea,z on 6 September
I dvanced another pl an to sei ze the Treas-
‘ ‘l ’he major factors gover ni ng the at)arl don-
nwnt of the Shorthands m+I mi rnary targets w“er e
1hei r (l i stanrt, fr om Rabaul , “il l i ttl e far . . . for
:(UUC of ol [r shor t-l e~ged pl anes,” and the strong
feel i r )~ an~on: the I )l anuers that “~~e had to sl ~end
too nl u(h to *et too l i t ti e.” I ,t(;er] Fi ehl Harri s
I tr to ,\C(}fS, G–3, I I QM(l , dtd 2’i Oct60.
CONTI NUI NG THE PRESSURE 169
1’70
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
ury I sl ands and Choi seul as radar and PT
bases and jumpi ng-off poi nts for further
operati ons agai nst 130ugai nvi l l e. Mac-
Arthur, however, had concl l ~ded that the
ori gi nal i ntenti ons of EI .KTONT cal l ed for
a l andi ng cl i rectl y on El ougai nvi ]l e and
that the i nterests of the JCS-approved
pl an COUI C1 best be executed by an earl y
operati on (wi thi n the next few months)
agai nst 130ugai nvi l l e.
MacArthur i ndi -
cated that any target Hal sey sel ected
woul d be acceptabl e, but, thzt a deci si on
must be reached soon.
Ki eta, on the northmstern coast, of
Bougai nvi l l ea, wzs a protected anchorage
wi th an ai rfi el d cl ose by: but an assaul t on
Ki eta i nl ol vecl l ong approaches by sea—
fl ncl the .kl l i ed sI ]i ppi ng short age was cri t-
i cal . Ki eta was too cl ose to Choi seul ,
moreover> ancl that, i sl and woul d have to
be attacked M a prel i mi nary measure to
protect the ]nndi ng on 130ugai nvi l l e. Em-
press Angusta Bay, on the west coast, at,
fi rst gl ance had l i ttl e to recommend i t as
a l andi ng si te. The beaebes al ong ti l e bay
were exposed to wi nd and waves and hel d
no shel tered anchor:l ge for the amphi bi ol l s
shi ppi ng requi red for SUC1lan operati on.
The terrai n i n] and was known to be
swampy, heayi l y ti ml )ered, and wi th few
routes of communi cati on.
On the other
hand, the enemy had apparentl y di smi ssed
thi s area as a probabl e l andi ng spot and
the bay was onl y l i ghtl y defended. As
l ate as 17 September, the Al l i es stood at,
a fi gl tr>tti ~~ecrossroads, I l ]l deci de.d abol l t,
whi ch fork i n the road to t:~ke.
Fi ve days 1I t er, on 22 September, Hal -
sey announced a deci si on that, cancel ed al l
previ ous p] am and al erted hi s forces for
one of two al ternate courses of acti on:
sei ze and hol d the Treasury I sl ands and
northern Empress Augusta Bay area on
Bol l gai nvi l l e as ai rfi el d si tes; or, as a ~c_
oncl course, sei ze and hol d the Treasury
I sl ands and the (l oi seul Bay area as ad-
vance r~dar poi nts, torpedo boat anchor-
ages, and a stxgi ng base for l andi ng craft
before movi ng on to construct an ai rfi el d
on the east coast of Bougai nvi l l ea l ater i n
the year. The fi nal deci si on depended
upon l ast-mi nute reconnai ssance efforts.
SPOTLI GHT ON BOUGAI NVI LLE 3
For the ,Japanese, the convi cti on that
~ou~~i nvi l l e was the ul ti mate Al ]i ed ob-
jecti ve i n the Northern Sol omons was
hardl y a random guess. Lyi ng i n a posi -
ti on athwart the northern entrance to The
Sl ot, Bougai nvi l l eas bi g bul k domi nated
the rest of the Sol omons chai n. By vi rtue
of thi s i deal geographi c l ocati on, the i s-
1and served the Japanese as an advanced
sLl ])p]y and refuel i ng base for most of the
sea and ai r operati ons agai nst the Al l i es at
Guadal canal and i n the Central Sol omons.
Here, too, were staged the i nfantry re-
pl acements desti ned for combat or garri -
son duty on other South Paci fi c i sl ands.
No l ess than si x major ai rfi el ds and a num-
ber of naval operati ng bases were estab-
l i shed by the ,Japanese on I l uka, Bougai n-
vi l l ea, and the Shortl ands to hel p guard the
ol ~ter defenses of the ai rfi el ds and Si mp-
son Harbor at Rabaul . Easi l y supported
by ai r bases on New Bri tai n, New I rel and,
‘ Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om : Th irdFtt iVarrRep t ;
IIIPhibFm AR; IMAC AR-I; HistDiv Acct; 3d
Jl arDi v Terrai n I nfoRept, n.d. (Bougai nvi l l ea
AreaOpFi l e, Hi stBr, HQMC) ; Mi l Hi stSec, G–2,
FEC Japanese hl cmo.gr aph No. 100, SE Area
NavOps, Part I I I (OCMH), her eafter SE Area
.NauOps—IZI; Rentz, Bougainvillea and the
Northern Solomon8 ; Mori son, Breaking the Bis-
mn.rcl<s Barrier; hI i l l er, Reduction of Rabaul;
Fel dt, The Coa.staoatcher.s.
CONTI NUI NG THE PRESSURE
and Trl l k—poi nts outsi de the range of
most Al l i ed l and-based pl anes-Bougai n-
vi l l e was al so under the umbrel l n of naval
support from Rabaul and Truk. I n short,
the Al l i es needed Bougai nvi l l ea for further
operati ons agai nst ~~abau]; the ,Japanese
needed I l ougai nvi l l e to defend Rabaul .
Vi ewed from ei ther camp, the i sl and was a
pri ori ty possessi on.
130ugai nvi l l e was never a part of the
Bri ti sh Sol omon I sl ands protectorate.
German expansi on had cl ai med the i sbmd
i n 1899, some 130 years after i ts bel ated
di scovery by the French expl orer whose
name i t bears. Mandated to Austral i a
after Worl d War 1, the i sl and sti l l was
i nfl uenced b-y. German mi ssi onari es, for
the 130ugai nvl l ]e nati ves i n 1943 were rec-
ogni zed as ]l ost,i l e to t,l ~eA]l i es and consi d-
erabl y more fri endl y to the Japanese.4
Some 40,000 nati ves were on the i sl and,
{rathered nl :l i ]~l y i n smal l vi l l ages of l ess
~han 200. Energeti c and i ndustri ous, they
provi ded an adequate ]ahor force for the
l arge pl antati ons whi ch, before the ,Japa-
nese occupati on, were owned by European
compani es.5
The i sl and i s the l argest of the Sol omons
group. Nearl y 30 mi l es i n wi dth, Bougai n-
vi l l ea i s di vi ded cl own the center by moun-
tai n ranges whi ch extend nearl y the enti re
125-nl i l e l ength of the i sl and. The north-
ern Emperor range i s capped by the di s-
ti ncti ve 10,171-foot peak, Mt. Bal bi . The
second range, Crown Pri nce, i s l ess rugged
and settl es gradual l y i nto a broad, wi den-
i ng pl ai n at the southern end of the i sl and.
Thi s area has the best anchorages and the
bi ggest pl antati ons. The two coastl i nes,
‘ IMAC’ .4 R–1, C–2 Est of Si t, p. 26.
‘ Rentz, Bougainvillea and the Northern tYolo-
n~ons,Appendi x V, contai ns an excel l ent descri p-
ti on of the i sl and of Bougai nvi l l ea and i ts peopl e,
terrai n, and geogr aphi c features.
171
east and west, are markedl y di fferent. The
eastern si de of the mountai n ranges sl opes
to a fai rl y open pl ai n wi th good beach
areas. The western si de, however, i s deep-
l y etched by rushi ng mountai n streams
whi ch carry si l t i nto a swampy, al l uvi al
pl ai n borderi ng the coastl i ne. The char-
acteri sti c resul t i s a seri es of deep val l eys
endi ng i n swamps and sand bars cut by
meanderi ng waterways and sl uggi sh ri vers
of varyi ng depths. Thi s soggy fri nge
area, covered wi th tal l marsh grass and
bamboo-l i ke growth, i s trapped between
mountai ns and the sea by a grey-bl ack
beach stri p whi ch sel dom exceeds 15 yards
i n wi dth.
The i sl and i nteri or i s envel oped by a
dense rai n forest and choki ng jungl e
growth whi ch combi ne wi th the rugged
mountai n ranges to di scourage overl and
expl orati on. A number of good trai l s tra-
verse the more popul ated areas i n the south
and east, but onl y a few nati ve tracks ven-
ture across the i nhospi tabl e i nteri or. One
path cuts across the mountai ns from Numa
Numa to Empress Augusta Bay where i t
connects wi th the East-West trai l . Thi s
pat ]L joins the western villages of Maw-
areka anti Mosi getta to Bui n i n the south.
Fai rl y wi de and cl eared, the East-West
trai l ski rts the coastal swamps and can be
travel ed most of the year.
Al though the Japanese had occupi ed the
i sl and si nce March 1942, onl y those faci l i -
ti es necessary to mai ntai n the war i n the
Sol omons had been constructed i ni ti al l y.
I n ti me, four ai rfi el ds were i n operati on,
two at each end of the i sl and, and addi -
ti onal troops were stati oned on Bougai n-
vi l l ea. Scant attenti on, however, was gi ven
to the i sl and regi on between the major ai r-
fi el ds. For more than a year, ,Japanese
acti vi ty was restri cted l argel y to the Bui n
area i n tbe south ancl the Buka-Roni s pas-
172
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
sage i n the north. G There was l i ttl e over-
l and travel . Barges movi ng al ong the
coastl i ne served most of the transportati on
needs. AS a resul t, few roads were i m-
proved and i n the l ater defense of the i s-
l and, thi s proved an i mportant, oversi ght.
i 4nstrzl i an coastwai chers and a few
fri end] y nai i ves mai ntai ned observnt i on
posts on the southern p:~rt of the i sl and
unti l the surnn~er months of 1943. Then
xggr-essi ve ,Japanese patrol s, assi sted by
l mfri endl y nati ve gui des, forced the i i l l i ed
scont,s to abandon thei r radi o equi pment
and wi thdraw to the i nteri or. i As a re-
sul t, mi l i tary i nformati on about the i sl and
and i ts defenders was cut off abruptl y just,
when i t became most neecl ed.
I ntel l i gence esti mates on the number of
,Jzl mnese sol di ers and sai l ors i n the area
~vwi ed wi del y. I ntercepti ons of radi o mes-
s:~ges provi ded l nost, of the i nforrnat i on
on troop di sposi ti ons, and thi s i ntel l i gence
was angn~ented and checked by enemy doc-
uments captured i n the Central Sol omons
and by pri soner of war i nterrogati ons. Al -
l i ed guesses pl aced the total number of de-
fenders i n the vi ci ni ty at 98,000—2,000 at,
Choi seul , 35,000 or more at Bougai nvi ]l e
and the Short 1ands, 5,000” at New I rel and,
and the reumi ni ng 56,000 at Rabaul . The
esti mates on the strength of the Bougai n-
vi l ]e forces, based on order of battl e i nfor-
mati on from pri soners. rnngwl between
35,000 and 4+000. The bi ggest conce]l tra-
ti on of defenders was i n the southern part
of the i sl and, where an esti mated 17,000
‘ US.kFI SPA Ohj Fol der, I l ongsi nvi l l e I sl and,
dtd 1Auw13 (Fkmg’ai nvi l l e Arenol mFi l e, Hi stBr,
I I QMC).
‘ ComSoPac WarD, 22Jun43. An i nteresti ng
sequel to thi s i nstance i s the 13 December entr y :
‘“The nati ve responsi bl e for the capture of Al l i ed
per sonnel i n Bougai nvi l l ea i n ,Tnur was sei zed and
shot.” ComSoPac nrc4S WarD.
sol di ers of the Seventeenth Army were
headquartered. .4nother 5,000 troops were
bel i eved to be i n the Buka-Boni s area, wi th
a si mi l ar number at Ki eta. The onl y
known enemy concentrati on on the west
<w:l st,was at Mosi getta, where about 1,()()()
,Japanese-bel i ered to he l aborers-were
engaged i n cul ti vati ng the extensi ve ri ce
fi el cl s of that coast. Less than 300 troops
were esti mated to be i n the Cape Toroki na
vi ci ni ty of Empress Augusta Bay. The
Shorthands defense force was esti mated at
3,000 to 6,000, most of these naval persom
nel from Eighth Fleet headquarters and
SNLF uni ts.
Postwar records of the ,Japanese i ndi -
cate that the Al l i ed esti mates were cl ose.
The. Rui n area actual l y had about 15,000
troops of the Seventeenth Army and 6,800
of the Eighth Fleet headquarters and base
force personnel , pri mari l y for defense of
Kahi l i and Kara ai rfi el ds. About 5,000
men were depl oyed i n the Shorthands.
The ai rfi el d on Bal l al e was defended en-
ti rel y by naval personnel wi th seacoast
art i l l ery.
The troop di sposi ti ons were i n l i ne wi th
the enemy concepti on of the pl ans of the
.\l l i e.s. After Guadal cwral was evacuated,
xnd tl ~e ,Japanese became aware of the re-
sponsi bi l i ty of defendi ng what they had
so easi l y grabbed, the Shortl and Bay area
was deci ded upon as the strategi c key i n
the defense of the Northern Sol omons.
.fccordi ng]y, the southern part of Bou-
gai nvi l ]e and the Shortl and I sl ands re-
cei ved fi rst pri ori ty i n troop al l otments.
At that earl y date, the enemy bel i eved that
any Al l i ed offensi ~e woul d be di rected
against, the ai rfi el ds i n the southern por -
ti on of the i sl and wi th a possi bl e subsi di -
i l r y acti on i n the Buka area. Troop
streng! h el sewhere was proporti onate to
CONTI NUI NG THE PRESSURE
the .Japmwse esti mate of the Al l i ts’ abi l i ty
to hi t each anm. 13011 gai nvi l l e’s defense
wm based on the prem i w that a l andi ng
anywhere on the i s] and coul d be met by a
transfer of ground troops nnd a counter-
mandi ng by an amphi bi ous grol ~p.
Responsi bl e for the defense of Bougai n-
ri l l e and the adjacent, i sl ands was an ol d
xcl versary, I .i eutenant Generzl Harrryoshi
Hyakut ake,’ who had commanded the
,Japanese forces on Guadal canal . The
general l md apparentl y l ost l i ttl e presti ge
wi t h the Z7nperY”a7~~tafl thro~l gl l the de-
feat, for he was sti l l i l l command of the
Smenteenth .4rmy. Hi s forces, however,
had not shared hi s fortl me. ‘1’he 2d Di vi -
si on was al most wi ped out at Grradal canal ,
and the 38th Di&iorL had l ost heavi l y at
Guadal cana] and New Georgi a. Hi s sol e
remai ni ng di vi si on, the 6thj commanded
by Li eutenant General Masatane Kanda,
was sti l l i n fi ghti ng shape. Two regi -
ments, the W%? and 45th, were near
top-strength, but the thi rd regi ment of the
cl i vi si on, the l JtA l nfc~?i tv~/. had been
badl y maul ed i n the Central Sol omons.
To thi s di vi si on, Hyakutake coul d add
detachments of SI W,F uni ts, pl LMI he scat-
tered remnants of other i nfantry regi ments
whi ch were, tri ckl i ng i nto 130ugai nvi l ]e
after the vri tl ~drawal from the Central
Sol omons.
The .411i ed esti mate of the .Tapanese
shi ps i n the i mmedi ate vi ci ni ty (Buka,
Bougai nvi l l ea) was 2 crui sers, 8 to 10 de-
stroyers, 21 personnel transports, and 12
submari nes, pl us a vari ety of smal l er
craft. The I mperi al Navy al so had a
heal thy reserve of warshi ps at Truk and
Rabaul . Ai r support i n the Northern
“ Mi l l er, Reduction of Rabaul, p. 235n. Earl y
i ntel l i gence reports transl ated Hyakutake’s
gi ven name vari ousl y as Si eki chi or Haruki chi ,
173
Sol omons was bel i eved to be about 160
fi ghters, 120 di ve bombers, 120 medi um
bombers, and 39 fl oat pl anes.’
There were defi ni te si gns i n September
that the, Japanese expected an assaul t on
Rorrgai nvi l l e. Despi te i ncreasi ng ai r at-
tri t i on, p] ane strength at 13uka, Kara,
Kahi l i , and Bal l al e remai ned fai rl y steady
as the Japanese repl aced thei r l osses. Ai r-
fi el ds were i mproved and expanded despi te
steady pol l ndi ng by Al l i ed bombers, and
suppl y routes to the i sl and were mai n-
tai ned i n spi te of l osses i ncurred through
harassment by Al l i ed patrol bombers and
torpedo boats. I n l ate October, as the
.411i es compl eted thei r pl ans for attack,
even the ]ong-negl ected west coast of Bou-
gai nvi l l e was gi ven some attenti on by the
Japanese. I ntel l i gence photos for the
fi rst ti me reveal ed evi dence of mi l i tary ac-
ti vi ty near Empress Augusta Bay. Some
mi nor constructi on wi th a few scattered
defensi ve i nstal l ati ons were di scovered
behi nd Cape Toroki na, but si nce the
i mprovements were ]i mi ted and no addi -
ti onal troops appeared to have been moved
i nto the area, the Al l i es remai ned con-
vi nced that the Japanese had not al tered
thei r basi c defensi ve pl ans and that they
had not awakened to the dangers i nherent
i n an undefended coastl i ne.
HALSEY’S DE(’lSI ON ‘“
Before a fi nal deci si on was made on the
di recti on of the SoPac attack, reconnai s-
‘ Thi rdFl t OPl an 14+3, Annex A, dtd 150ct43
(COA, NHD) .
‘o Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
serti on i s der i ved fr om : Com130Pac i3@&
?VarD; T?!irdFlt A-orrRept; IIIPhibFor AR;
IMAC AR-I; HLstDiu Acct; Rentz, Bouga irwille
(U’Ld t/ Le .Vo?’thmn ~O10WtOn8; &fOriSOn, Breaking
tlLe Bis?fLarclc8 Barrier; Mi l l er, Reduction of
Raba u1; Hal sey and Bryan, Ha~8eg’8 Story.
174 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
sance efforts to obtai n every possi bl e scrap
of i nformati on and i ntel l i gence about the
vari ous projected l andi ng si tes conti nued.
AS at Guadal canal and New Georgi a, pri or
knowl edge of the Bougai nvi l l ea area was
l i mi ted to sketchy reports from former res-
i dents, pl anters, medi cal offi cers, schooner
masters, and mi ssi onari es. Al though
these report~ were val uabl e i n regard to
general condi ti ons and physi cal i mprove-
ments i n certai n areas, few facts of mi l i -
tary si gni fi cance were obtai ned. As be-
fore, personal reconnai ssance by trai ned
observers was requi red to accumul ate the
necessary detai l ed geographi c and hydro-
graphi c i nformati on upon whi ch to base a
deci si on. The fi rst i ntel l i gence efforts cov-
ered the enti re Northern Sol omons-Santa
I sabel , Choi seul , the Treasurys, Short-
hands, ancl Bougai nvi l l ea. Later, as some
i sl ands were el i mi nated and the choi ce of
targets mwrowed to ei ther ti l e east or ~vest
coast of Bougai nvi l l ea, reconnai ssance ac-
ti vi ti es were concentrated on the Ki eta and
Empress Augusta Bay areas.
I ni ti al combat i ntel l i gence was gathered
from ai r reconnai ssance and submari ne pa-
trol s. Aeri al photography was l i mi ted be-
cause of unfavorabl e weather, enemy ai r i n-
terference, and l ack of fi ghter pl a~,e es-
corts. Submari nes moved’ i n cl ose to the
i sl and t.o shoot pi ctures through rai sed
peri scopes, but thi s practi ce was hazardous
si nce the outdated hydrographi c charts
then avai l abl e fai l ed to show the exact,
l ocati on of dangerous coral outcroppi ng
and reefs known to exi st. Besi des, the
pi ctures di d not reveal much except a good
profi l e shot of Bougai nvi l l eas rugged
peaks. I n ti me, patrol s from submari nes,
torpedo boats, and seapl anes sl i pped ashore
to scout vari ous areas, and the i nforn~a-
ti on gai ned from physi cal reconnai ssance
and personal observati on was added to
Conl SoPac’s growi ng fi l e.
Two patrol s, di spatched to Bougai n-
vi l l eai n September after Hal sey announced
hi s two-part al ert, hel ped the SoPac com-
mander deci de on the fi nal choi ce of ob-
jecti ves. One Mari ne-ATavy team, wi th an
Austral i an offi cer and four nati ves as
gui des, remai ned four days i n the Ki eta
vi ci ni ty, prowl i ng the northeast coast of
the i sl and duri ng the ni ght and spendi ng
the dayl i ght hours underwater i n the sub-
mari ne USS Gccto. Consi derabl e Japanese
troop acti vi ty was observed; and despi te
several cl ose scrapes from patrol l i ng en-
emy barges, the group measured beach
di stances, took depth soundi ngs, and
scouted the area i nl and. On 28 September,
the patrol boarded the submari ne for the
l ast ti me and returned to Guadal canal .
The patrol ’s report was general l y unfavor-
abl e,l l i ndi cati ng that the harbor had many
reefs and coral outcroppi ng, and that the
area i nl and was not, sui tabl e for ai rfi el ds
si nce the Japanese had apparentl y gi ven
up on Ki eta.
Another patrol si mi l arl y organi zed
l anded from the submari ne USS GuardfLsh
near the Laruma Ri ver i n north Empress
Augusta Bay. Here the terrai n was found
to be fai rl y sol i d wi th thi ck bush and a
dense rai n forest i nl and. Rel uctant to
arouse the ,Japanese to any Al l i ed i nten-
ti ons, the patrol studi ed Cape Toroki na
through bi nocul ars and took photographs
through tel escopi c l ens. The l ong-range
exami nati on reveal ec] a narrow. beach stri p
some 10,000 yards l ong wi th the expected
coastal swamps i nl and. Ti dal range i n the
bay was moderate, about 3~2 feet. A coco-
“ I I I Phi bFor Rept of Reconnai ssance of the
Northeast Pi ougai nvi l l e Coast, 2.3-27 Sep43, n.d.
(Bougai nvi l l ea AreaOpFi l e, Hi st13r, HQMC).
CONTI NUI NG THE PRESSURE 175
nut, grove on Cape Toroki na l ooked l i ke a
favorabl e spot for an ai rfi el d, the patrol
deci ded, si nce the area appeared dry
enough and l ong enough to support a
fi ghter pl ane stri p. Unabl e to obtai n a
soi l sampl e of the area~the patrol di d the
nextbest thi ng andbrought back soi l from
a si mi l ar area. The scouts then turned
back tothe Laruma ri ver and headed i nto
the bush i n a -wi de ci rcl e that ended four
days l ater i n a rendezvous wi th the Guard-
fish i n ~tsi ni ma Bay, some di stance to the
north. The onl y enemy si @ed wer e a. l one
sentry on post near the Laruma ri ver,
and a number of Japanese reconnai ssance
pl anes fl yi ng patrol duty over Empress
.l ugusta Bay beaches.”
The endeavor had one bi g di vi dend.
Jvhi l e wai ti ng for the patrol , the subma-
r i ne commander checked hi s posi ti on and
di scover ed that the navi gati on chart then
i n use was about seven mi l es i n er r or i n i ts
l ocati on of Cape Toroki na. Undetected,
thi s one factor mi @t wel l have jeopar -
di zed any futur e operati ons. Too, the soi l
sampl e r etur ned by the patrol was de-
cl ared favorabl e for constructi on of an
ai rfi el d.
The prospect of l andi ng i n a l i ghtl y de-
fended area cl ose to an acceptabl e ai rfi el d
si te appeal ed to Hal sey and hi s SoPac
pl anners. To confi r m the patrol ’s r ecom-
mendati on, a number of l ow-l evel aeri al
reconnai ssance fl @ts wer e made by
I M~C staff members. Thei r qui ck
gl i mpses of the Cape Toroki na area con-
vi nced them that the oper ati on coul d be a
success. On 1 October, Hal sey noti fi ed
Mac~rthur that Cape Toroki na was the
mai n objecti ve and that D-Day woul d be
“ I MAC Reconnai ssance Rept of Empress Au-
gusta Bay area, 23–26 Sept43, dtd 10ct43 (Bou-
gai nvi l l ea AreaOpsFi l e, Hi stBr, HQMC).
1 November. The Sol $TesPac commander
expressed hi s compl ete agreement wi th thi s
deci si on.’3
After 12 days of pl anni ng, Hal sey’s
ComSoPac headquarters i ssued the orders
whi ch outl i ned the mi ssi ons of the sea, ai r,
and ground forces under the admi ral ’s
command. Speci fi cal l y, ComSoPac di -
rected the I I I Amphi bi ous Force to
sei ze and hol d (on D-mi nus fi ve days) the
Treasury I sl ands as a stagi ng area and
advanced naval base, pri or to establ i shi ng
a beachhead on D-Day i n the northern
Empress Augusta Bay area for construc-
ti on of ai rfi el ds and another advanced
naval base. The ul ti mate ai m was stran-
gul ati on of enemy operati ons i n south
Bougai nvi l l ea and preparati ons for further
offensi ves agai nst Rabaul .
Code names sel ected by ComSoPac for
the pl anni ng phases were DI PPER, de-
noti ng the enti re Northern Sol omons op-
erati on, and CHERRYBLOSSOM, the
Empress Augusta Bay area. The Treas-
ury I sl ands phase of the operati on was
l abel ed GOODTI ME. Later the code
name DI PPER was appl i ed to the Bou-
gai nvi l l ea operati on and the i sl and, whi l e
the Treasury I sl ands l andi ng retai ned the
GOODTI ME desi gnati on.
Sel ecti on of Cape Toroki na as a l and-
i ng si te despi te i ts di sadvantages was tac-
ti cal l y and l ogi sti cal l y sound. The l oca-
ti on fi tted wel l i nto the pl ans for neutral -
i zati on of Rabaul by ai r, and a beachhead
on the weskrn si de of 130ugai nvi l l e made
l ogi sti c support much easi er. Moreover,
the attack was ai med at a weak poi nt i n
the Japanese defenses, thus avoi di ng a di -
rect assaul t on mai n enemy defenses i n the
southern and eastern coasts of the i sl and.
Success of the venture depended upon the
‘a ComBoPa.c Oct& WarD.
176 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
abi l i ty of the Al l i es to beat back any de-
termi ned sea and ai r offensi ve by the Jap-
anese duri ng the cri ti cal stages of l andi ng
and estnhl i shi n,g a beachhead. ComSoPac
pl anners admi tted that a strong enemy
reacti on was hi ghl y probabl e, but thi s
threat was accepted as a ca]cukted ri sk.
The projected operati on was ‘(no better
demonstrati on of the fi rml y hel d, but at
ti mes sorel y tri ed, bel i ef i n the Al l i ed su-
peri ori ty over the enemy i n the South
Paci fi c.” “
Less obvi ous i n the choi ce of Empress
Augusta Bay was the fact that the Cape
Toroki na pl ai n, bordered by the natural
obstacl es of the I .arLl l ]a Ri ver to the nor th-
west, the mountai ns i nl ancl , and the Toro-
ki na ri ver to the southeast, fel l i nto an
i deal defensi ve area about si x mi l es deep
and ei ght mi l es l ong whi ch coul d be de-
fended by ti l e Al l i ed forces then avai l abl e.
The l ocati on, too, was bel i eved so i sol ated
from known Japanese di sposi ti ons by the
nature of the i sl and’s terrai n that at, l east
three months woul d be requi red before a
strong force movi ng overl and coul d seri -
ousl y threaten the beachhead. I n short,
l arge bodi es of rei nforci ng enemy troops
coul d come to the area onl y from the sea,
and the Thi rcl Fl eet fel t confi dent that i t
coul d handl e that. threat. The Al l i es hacl
no desi re to capture the enti re i sl and—the
si ze of Bougai nvi l l ea and the rough terrai n
precl uded SLI CI I zrnbi ti ons — but two i n-
fantry di vi si ons coul d hol d the (l ape Tor o-
ki na area agai nst any enemy for ces i n the
i mmedi ate area or l i kel y r ei nfor cements.
These facts cl i d l i ttl e to i ncrease enthu-
si asm for such bol d pl ans. Sent i ment was
mi xed — some opti mi sm, some hesi tati o]l ,
some rel uctance — but wi th D-Day l ess
than a month away, al l hands bent, to the
“ IM.4G’ AR–?, p. 2,
task of prepari ng for the assaul t on the
Treasurys ancl Bougai nvi l l ea.
AMPHI A’10 UA~PL.4NNZNG ‘5
The pl anni ng team that cl i rectecl the
preparati ons for the Bougai nvi l l ea opera-
ti on was essenti al l y the same command
l i neup that out 1i ned the ATew Georgi a
l ttack-wi th one i mportant change. As
before, Admi ral Hal sey retai ned personal
control of the proceedi ngs> di vi di ng hi s
attenti on between compl eti on of the Cen-
tral Sol omons campai gn and the devel op-
ment of a new operati on. From hi s
hel cl quarters i n Noumea, Hal sey coordi -
nated the pl anni ng acti vi ti es of Admi ral
Fi tch on Espi ri tu Santo and Admi ral
Wi l ki nson and General Harmon on
Guadal canal . A new member of the pl an-
ni ng staff was Li eutenant General Al ex-
ander A. Vancl eg-ri ft, who had repl aced
General Vogel as commandi ng general
of the I Mari ne Amphi bi ous Corps, the
counterpart to the Army’s ground force
command under Harmon. .4s such,
Vancl egri ft, hel d admi ni strati ve respon-
si bi l i ty over practi cal l y al l Mari ne Corps
personnel i n the South Paci fi c, the ex-
cepti ons bei ng l and-based ai r uni ts un-
der General Mi tchel l ’s command (Mari ne
.i i r, South Paci fi c) and shi ps; detach-
ments. The l MAC staff had not parti ci -
pated i n the New Georgi a pl anni ng si nce
the bul k of the troops were to be furni shed
“ Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om: Comi SoPac S’ep-Ott-j3
WarDs; IIIPhil)For AR; CTI ? 31 WarDs, Se~
0ct43, n.d. ( COA, hTHD), her eafter CTF .31 WarD
wi th month ; I M.4C AR-1; ThirdlW NarrRept;
lIi.~tDi?> .4cct; Rentz, Bougainvillea and the North-
frn Solomons; I sel y and Cr ow-1, Marines and
.Arnphibiows War; Mori son, Breaking t7Le Bis-
marclcs Barrier; Mi l l er, Redaction of Rabaul.
CONTI NUI NG THE PRESSURE 177
by Gri swol d’s XI V Corps, but Hal sey’s
fi rst pl anni ng di recti ve desi gnated the
Northern Sol omons as an I MAC assi gn-
ment. As a resul t, the Mari ne command
became tacti cal as wel l as admi ni strati ve.
Vandegri ft, who had won a Medal of
Honor for hi s l eadershi p of the 1st Mari ne
Di vi si on at Guadal canal , was the fi rst of
three I MAC commanders to parti ci pate i n
the 130ugai nvi l l e operati on. After com-
pl eti ng prel i mi nary pl ans, Vandegri ft was
rel i eved by Major General Charl es D. Bar-
rett cm 15 September and was en route to
the Uni ted States to become the 18th Com-
mandant of the Mari ne Corps when hi s
return was abruptl y si detracked. 10 Gen-
eral Barrett had suffered a cerebral hemor-
rhage i n an acci dental fal l , and hi s un-
ti mel y death l eft I MAC pl anni ng i n mi d-
ai r. The operati onal order for I MAC’S
part i n the sei zure of the Treasurys and
Bougai nvi l l ea had been drafted before Bar-
rett’s death, and Vandegri ft resumed com-
mand on 18 October i n ti me to si gn
the compl eted order “-noti ng, meanwhi l e,
that the enti re concept of the operati on
had changed wi thi n the space of one
month.l x Vandegri ft compl eted the pl an-
ni ng and wi tnessed the start of the opera-
ti on before rel i nqui shi ng command of
‘0 Vandegri ft was i nfor med i n January that hi s
nomi nati on to succeed Gener al Hol comb as Com-
mandant hi](l been appr oved by Admi ral Ki ng
:l nd the Secretary of the A’avy. The gener al ,
accompani ed by Col onel Ger al d B. Thomas, had
r eached Penrl Harbor when hi s retenti on i n the
South P/i ci l i c was requested by Hal sey to Ki ng
1hr ough Xi mi tz. (l en Al exander A. V&ndegr i ft
i nter vi ew by Hi stBr, G–3, HQMG, dtd 5Aug59
(WWI 1 OpHi stFi l e, Hi stBr, HQMC ), her eafter
T’andcori ft ~?ttf’WieU).
“ BGen James Snedeker l tr to CMC, dtd
14May48 (130ugai nvi l l e Monogr aph Comment
Fi l e, Hi stBr, HQMC ).
“ ~7undrgrif t Intt?rvieu~.
I MAC to Major General Roy S, Gei ger on
9 h’ovember, wel l after the success of the
beachhead was assured.
Even as the Northern Sol omons pl an-
ni ng shi fted through a number of changes
before the fi nal draft emerged, so di d the
task orgmi zati on assi gned to the I MAC
l andi ng force. Of the three Mari ne di vi -
si ons i n the Paci fi c i n 1943, onl y the 3d was
avai l abl e for the 130ugai nvi l l e operati on.
The 1st Mari ne Di vi si on was schedul ed by
MacArthur to spearhead the Cape
Gl oucester beachhead on New Bri tai n, and
the 2c1Mari ne Di vi si on l md been shi fted to
the Cent ral Paci fi c for the C~i l bert 1s1ancl s
assaul t. To augment the 3d Mari ne Di vi -
si on and I MAC troops, the Army’s 25th
Di vi si on and the 1st Mari ne Rai der Regi -
ment were tentati vel y assi gned to the
130ugai nvi l l e venture; but, as the Central
Sol omons campai gn wore on, both or-
gani zati ons were commi tted to acti on far
beyond ori gi nal pl ans, wi th the resul t that
nei ther was avai l abl e for the Northern
Sol omons.
A number of provi si onal uni ts were
formed from scattered battal i ons, and
these—wi th the l ater addi ti on of the 37th
I nfant ry Di vi si on—were assi gned to
I MAC. Vandegri ft’s command eventu-
al l y i ncl uded hi s own headquarters and
corps troops, the 3d Mari ne Di vi si on, the
Army’s 37th Di vi si on, the 8th Bri gade
Group of the 3d New Zeal and Di vi si on,
the 3d Defense Battal i on, the 2d Mari ne
Rai der Regi ment (Provi si onal ), the 1st
Mari ne Parachute Regi ment, the Army’s
190th Coast ~l rt i l l ery Regi ment (.4nti ai r-
craft ), and vari ed naval smal l craft, con-
structi on, and communi cati on uni ts. The
Mari ne pzrachute r egi ment, then on l ’el l s
1,avel l a2 was desi gnated the corps’ r eser ve
for ce. I n area r eser ve wer e several coast
178 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
arti l l ery battal i ons on Guadal c anal and
the .l rmy’s .I meri cal Di vi si on, then i n the
Fi ji I sl al l tl s. Thi s l atter cl i vi si on, how-
ever, coul cl be commi tted onl y on Hal sey’s
approval .
After the target had been defi ned i n
l ate September, Hal sey establ i shed hi s
operati onal chai n of command v-i th hi s
amphi bi ous force commander, Admi ral
Wi l ki nson, i n charge of the enti re 130 LI-
g-itj l l \~i l l e-Tl .e:l sl l rys expedi t i on.
Wi l ki m
son mai ntai ned control of Task Force 31
(I I I Amphi bi ous Force ) wi th the ground
force and transport grol l ps as subordi nate
commands. As cl i rectecl by Hal sey, Wi l -
ki nson woul d cent i nue. to conml wl cl al l
forces afl oat and ashore unti l t}l e ]ancl i ng
force commander was ashore ancl had i n-
di cated that he w-as abl e to take commanc{
of tl ~e Wol md forces.l g The 1~1:~~ com-
mancl er, i ~t ti rst El arrett ancl then ~Tande-
gri ft, was responsi bl e for the scheme of
manel l ver ashore at, both Cape Torol ti na
ancl the Treasurysj ancl was to exer ci se
comman(l over al l uni ts asl i orej whether
;\l l i ed forces, Jl ari ne corps, .I rmy, ~’a~-y,
or grol mcl echel ons of :ai r l tni ts.
.1s Let
New Georgi a, the actual empl oyment of
“ Thi s con(+pt of comnmnd evol ved duri nz the
Gl l ad:l l c:l nal ml I ap:l i gn nftcr di sagreenl ent be-
tween ~’ancl e~ri ft and the commander of the
.~mphi bi ous Force, South I ’nc4i ti c, Rear Admi ral
Tl l rner. 31:l ]l y J]>l v:[] ofi {.prs ~{,nsi der ed the
fol ’(.~s ashore as ;I n c.xtel l si [}u of the for ces
:I fl o:]t, :~(l l l l i l l i str:l ti vel y a]l d mi l i tari l y suborcl i -
I I nte to the amphi bi o~l s comm:tnder at al l ti mes.
T-al l (l egri ft sl l cccssfn]l y fml l tel l ded th:l t the l :l n,l -
i ug for ce c{jl l l ul ander \vas mor e exper i enced :i nd
better qual i fi ed i n ~r onncl ol )erati ons and shol dd
h:i ye u]l (l i vi (l e{l rt,sl )f)msi l l i l i ty on(e the tr(l (~l x
\ver e :l shf)re, I ,t(’t)l Fr:l l )l c (). Hough, l I aj Ver l e
E. I ,udwi g, and Henr y I , Shnw, ,Jr,, PcarZ Har-
?Ic)r to {; lladc(7mt )lal-lfi.xtor~t of ~. A’. Mc!rinc
(’orp.! Opfratio)/ , s iit TI”o/ lf7 TI~(/ ). 11, v. 1,(Wash-
i ngton : Hi stBr, G–3, HQMC, 1958), p;). 240–241.
aeri al support was to be under the opera-
ti onal control of ai r offi cers. Thi s ai r
echel on, Comnl ander Ai rcraft hTorthern
,Sol onl o]~s ((xom.i i r XorSol s) was a subor-
di nate commancl of Com.l i rSol s and was
uncl er the di l ’ect i on of I l zri ne Bri g<l cl i er
General Fi el cl I I nrri s. Hi s tasks i l ~cl uded
the respol l si bi ]i ty for acti ve ai r cl efense of
tho Bougai nvi l l ea regi on (Toroki na and the
Treasurys) as wel l as operati onal control
of al l supporti ng ai rcraft enteri ng thi s
regi on.
Harri s’ responsi bi l i ti es al so i n-
cl ~~decl establ i shment of an ai r warni ng
system for both Toroki na and the Treas-
urys and organi zati on of ai r support con-
t rol procedures for both areas.
For tl ~e.Treasury 1s1ands phase of the
operati on, Wi l ki nson aci decl another eche-
l on to hi s commancl , di vi di ng hi s task
force i nto a h-orthern Force for the Em-
l )ress .i ugustn Bay l andi ngs anc~a South-
ern Force (Task Force 31.1 ) for the di ver-
si onary l andi ngs. Wi l ki nson retai ned
command of the. Nort hem Force (actu-
al l y, a name desi gnati ng the mai n uni ts of
Task Force 31) and pl aced Admi ral Fort
i n conml and of the Southern Force. The
Trensl l rys l ttncl i ng force, compri si ng
mostl y troops from the 8th Bri gade Group
of the 3cl New Zeal and Di vi si on, was conl -
nl al ~cl ecl by 13ri gacl i er P~. A. Row, uncl er
tl w general cl i recti on of the I MAC conl -
n~ancl er.zo
By nl i cl -October, al l s~l bordi nate echel -
ons of Task Force 31 and I MAC had i s-
sued operati onal orcl ers, ancl the cl i verse
sea and ai r cl enl ents under Thi rd Fl eet
commancl had been assi gnecl general n~i s-
si ol l s i l l support ot’ Wi l ki nson’s task force
i n the l l {>u~,~i n\~i l l e-Tre:~s~l r~~s venture.
T~an(l -basetl ai r uni ts of (’om.fi rSol s
“ The l}l;lllnillg nnfl cf)n(lucl of the Tre:wurys
{}l wri [ti otl i s rel ated i n the fol l owi ng chapter.
CONTI A’UI NG THE PRESSURE 179
(TaskForce33) wereorde.redtoconti nue
the general l l l i ssi ons of reconnai ssance and
CI estrl l cti on of el l em~ shi ps and ai rcraft
wi th the added duti es of provi di ng ai r
cover and sl l ppol ”t for the l and and sea
fc)rcesi l l ~-ol ve(l i l l tl l e X’ortl l erl ~Sol ol l l ol l s
assaul t. Rear Admi ral Frederi ck C.
Sl l erl ~l al \’sc:l rri em (Task Force3S) were
di rwtecl to support, the expedi ti on by ai r
stri kes at Ruka fi nd I l ol ~i s ai rfi el ds whi ch
were beyond the effecti ve range of fi ghter
pl anes from the nowconl pl eted ai rfi el ds
i n the hTewGeorgi a area.
Crui sers and destroyers of Rear .i d-
mi ral l [erri l l ’s Task Force 3!) were to fl ~l --
ni sl l ])rotecti on for the al l ~l ~hi bi ol l s force
as wel l as bonl barcl ene]l l y i l l stal l ati o]l s i n
the 13uka-130ni s and Shortl ands area be-
fore ti l e operati on. Task Force 72, the
sl ~bmat-i nes l mder the col l l mand of C’ap -
tai n ,Jwnes Fi fe, ,Jr., was to carry ol l t of
fensi ve recol l nai ssnnce l j)i ssi ons north of
ti l e Bol l gai nvi l l e area.
Fi nal pl anni ng for tbe nctl l al assal l l ts
a~ Cape Toroki na aucl the Treasurys was
faci l i tate(l by tl ~e move of 131.l C l ]et~cl -
quarters from Noumea to Guadal canal ,
l vhcre the :unpl l i bi ol l s fol .ces wer e i n tl ’i l i l l -
i ng. Yzn(l egri ft’s conul l al l d post was es-
tabl i shed k a coconut ~r o~-e near Tetere,
~LI St n s~~ort di stance fr om the hEVl (l quaI -
ters of the I I I Phi bFor and the 3d l I ari ne
Di ~-i si on bi vouac area. The cl ose proxi m -
i t~ of ti l e tl ~ree m:l jor hcaquarters respm-
si bl e for w.ml di l l z{ i ng tl ~e efforts of the
forces i nvol ved eawl col l si derab]y ti l e
probl en~s that :lJ ’OSP dl l ri n: (I I e l :l st l f-eel fs
of preparati on. Ancl probl enl s arose-
many of them. I n effect, the Northern
,Sol omons opera ti ml s l )a(l I wcol l ]e t\\-oo11-
(’I ’:l ti 011S—ei l Cl l One wi th L’C’Sl l l ti l l l t pl ”Ol )-
l ems of transport at i ol ~, rei nforcrnl ent,
and resuppl y.
Tacti cal l i mi tati ons i n l aunchi ng the
130ngai nTi l l e operati on became apparent
enrl y.zl I n fact, tl ~e enti re ~entl l re l ~ore
the ti tl e of “Shoestri ng No. 2,7’ a reference
to the general pal l ci ty of means l vl l i ch
characteri zed the Guada]canal ol )erati on
i l l 1942.ZZ Earl y i n :i ugust, Hal sey l l acl
revi e]ved ti l e shi l )pi ng si tl l ati on i l l t]w
.Sol l tl l Paci fi c and esti mated that he woul d
need si x addi ti onal troopshi ps to compl ete
I )reparati ol l s for tl i e next operati c)l l , de-
cl ari ng tl ~at at l east 14 .i P.~s and 6 ~~l <Ai s
~voul d be requi red from D mi nus 15 to D
pl (~s 5 for the assaul t on 130ug-ai nl ’i l l e.z3
Other cml uni tments, parti cul arl y the Cen-
{ral Paci fi c campai gn, hnd cl ai med al l but
ei ght .l P~\s and four AKAs from the
SoPac area; and thi s l i mi ted amount of
amphi bi ol ~s shi ppi ng was the specter
w]l i ch haunted the I l oucgai nvi l l e prepara-
t i ons. The acl l te shortage seri ousl y re-
stri cted the number of troops ancl suppl i es
that coul d be transported i n the i ni ti al
assal dt and prohi bi ted a rapi d bui l dup
at ti l e objecti ve. Fl wther, any l oss of
sl ~i ps col l l d not, be repl aced i mmedi ate-
l y: :Ll l C~> si nce these h2 shi ps were a
bare mi ni mum for transporti ng an as-
saul t di vi si on wi th the I I ecessary arti l l ery,
itit’ servi ce personnel ! engi neel s, an(l heavy
equi pl l l ent to col l st rtl ct al ~d mai nt ai u an
ai rfi el d, the si nki ng of any of tl l ese shi ps
“ When Vaudegri ft bPgan i ni ti al pl anni ng, he
enu)hasi zed that hi s subl ni tted tentati ve Pl ans
for operi ~ti ons i n the N-or ther n Sol omons en-
vi si oue(l wnduct under opti mum condi ti ons, and
ndde(l that i t was “reacl i l y for eseeabl e that the
means r equi r ed may exceed the resources a~7ai l -
al )l e i n thi s are; l , P(l rti cul arl y i n respect to trans-
ports and l audi ng craft. ” CG. IMAC l tr to
Ct)mSoPnC, dt(l Hw43 (Bougai nvi l l ea ~rea@s-
Fi l e. Hi stTl r, I I Q31C).
“ 310ri st)n, l l r(,al :i )l ~ th (, Bi smarcks I l arri w,
P, 288.
“ ComSoPac .luq43 WarD.
180
I SOLATI OA7 OF RABAUL
dnr i ng the befl chbeacl phase woul d seri ol l s-
l y threaten the ent i re operati on. The defi -
ni te possi bi l i ty of qui ck and effecti ve ai r
retal i fl ti on by the rl l emy pronl ptecl a deci -
si on by Wi l ki nson that i he sl ow-movi ng
LSTS under hi s conl nmncl wol l l d not be
ri skecl cl uri ng the earl y ph:l ses of the
operati on.
The gl ari ng contrmt between the com
duet of the (%mdal cti nfi l l andi ng ~nd the
New Georgi a operati on ]\-fi s enl ])hasi zecl
i n the concept of the Rol l gai nvi l l e assal l l t.
Trancl egri ft had the experi ence nnd tacti -
cal foresi ght requi red for sl l ch an opera-
ti on. I n Wi l ki nson he fol l nd a partner
wi th a good grasp of amphi bi ol l s sl l pport
of operati ons ashore. Together t]l e tl vo
commanders were w good team, and the
pl ans they e~ol ved were prfl rti cal appl i ca-
ti ons of the ~vai l abl c~ me~ns to the si tua-
ti on. Gl l ndal (’nnal I l nd ken 111 fi ssal l l t
fol l owe(l by the establ i shment of :1 pro-
tecti ve peri meter thrown abont a captl l retl
ai rfi el d. The Japanese had dashed
themsel ~es zgxi nst thi s peri meter, sl dTer-
i ng rui nons casl ml ti es i n the process. ?i Tew
Georgi al ]~o~~-ever,]I l c~ l >t~el lti l e rel .erse—
n l ancl i ng, then a protracted overl :l ncl at-
tack thfl t had berl l a ti ri ng, I )l oocl y smash
agai nst a ,Jap:l nrse peri nl eter.
G i l -en
these exampl es, ~~andegri ft ancl Wi l ki n-
son were (l etermi necl tl mt the tact i cal
errors of Xew C~eorgiI wol l l ci not be re
peated. .I t Bougai nvi l l ea, the Mari nes
11’ol l l cl l ane{ fi rst, estal )l i s]l i l l )(l expand
a beachl l el d, :I n(l -wl l m ti l e fi gl ~ti l l g
wi rl ened i nto extenderl l and operati ons-
the Army woul d take o~er. Ai rfi el cl con-
structi on woul d con2mence upon l andi ng.
wi th compl eti on of ni r stri ps expecte(l i l l
ti me to hel p cl efel l d xga i nst any deter-
mi ned assccul t,by the Jmpanese.
I n order to take advantage of the exten-
si ve stretch of beach north of Cape Toro-
ki )l n, n si ml l l t mncol w l andi ng of al l troops
:~n{l snl )p] i es owr ml l l ti pl e benches was
schedul ecl . Thi s wonl d al l ow ti l e vi tal l y
i l nportant shi ps to drop anchor, nnl oacl ,
al ~d depart wi tl ~out undue cl el ay i n the ob -
je~ti \“earel . To further rec~uce unl oadi ng
ti me, 111 car~o sl ~i ps WO1l l C{be restri cted
tO S]l Ort ]O:l Ck, :l l l Ci aSSal L]t tl ”OO]>S TYOLl l C~
be di ver ted to hasten the un]oadi ng ~cti v-
i t i es. Twel ~-e hc:~chcs were to be empl oyecl
i n the assal dt, el eyen extendi ng northwest
from Cape Toroki na tow:~rd the Larumn
Ri ver :111(1 tl l e tv-e]ft 1~l ocate(l on tl l e north-
ern (i nl ~er) shorel i ne of Purl l ata I sl ancl ,
the l :trger of two i sl ets l yi ng off Cape
Toroki na.
Tl ~ree assillllt l l l ~i ts of four l :~ndi ng
tei~]ns each were to l ancl abremt over these
12 be:~c]l es. (j]](. t:l sl <uni t was to l nncl i n
the ri ,zbt sector of the beach area wi th a
seconcl task uni t l ancl i ng i n the l eft sector.
Tl ~e thi rcl task nni t was to be di vi ded, two
lillldill: teams l andi ng i n each sector.
Eri ch i nfantry uni t wccs to overrun any
enenl y defenses al ~d sei ze a broacl but sh~l -
l ow beachl l eacl . Reconnai ssance was to be
started i mmedi atel y to the front and
franks, whi ]e Ul l l oacl i ng was compl eted.
Beach ant] anti ai rcraft defenses were to be
preparecl i l nnl cdi atel y to i nsure protecti on
fronl a possi bl e el ~el ~~ycounterl :ancl i ng or
the expected enenl y ai r attacks.
I hrri ng unforeseen di ffi cul ti es, fl t l eccst
13.900 n]ml wol ~]d go ashore i n the D-Day
l andi ngs at Cape Toroki na. Unl oadi ng
ti me for the troops :l ncl the 6,200 tons of
embnrkecl suppl i es and equi pment was set
at no mol e than si x hours. NTOfl oati ng
r eser ve for the Rougai nvi l l e :l SS2LLl t was
pl annccl , si nce the enemy si tuati on ashore
cl i cl not seem to warrant thi s ri sk of em-
CONTI NUI NG THE PRESSLTRE 181
l mrkeci troops zncl sl l ppl i es. I ni ti l l pl ans
cal l ed for the beachhead to be rei nforced
and resuppl i ed by fi >’e LST echel ons fi ve
days apart, each ec]l e]on bri ngi ng i n an-
other 3,000 troops and 5,300 tons of cargo.
Vami egri ft, npon resl l mpti on of the
I M.LC c!Ol l Hl l W@ Obj&Cte<l to thi s sl ow”
bui l cl ul ) and i nsi sted that rei nforcement of
the beachhead proceed at fi n nccel erat ccl
rcrte. He proposed that the 37th Di vi si on
fol l ow the 3c1Di vi si on ashore no l ater than
D pl us 7.” Thi s change i n pl ans was
agr eed upon. The I MAC genera] al so as-
sumed responsi bi l i ty for beachhexd l ogi s-
ti cs~ and, i n pl anni ng ti l e rapi cl unl oatl i l ~g
sequence, Vandegri ft assi ~ned about one-
I l al f of hi s combat Mari nes the tempol ’ary
task of getti ng suppl i es ashore. Dnri ng
the i ni ti al stages, these Mari nes woul d
work i n ti l e hol ds of the shi ps ancl on the
beach as i t shore p~rty before returni ng
to thei r uni ts for combat operati ons.
Such preparati ons were not i dl e ges-
tures. Once ashore, tl ~e I M.I C troops
facecl the prospect of havi l ]s an extrwnel y
tenuous suppl y chai n cut behi nd them by
enemy counteracti ons. To forestal l any
el nergeucy l ater, N’i l ki nson deci ded to use
211 avai l abl e sni ps i n snppl y operati ons
before the l andi ng. .fccordi n~]y, Tn a-
tempt ]vas made to bri ng a ;10-day l e}-el of
al l cl asses of snppl y f orwcrrd to Vel l a I .a-
vel l a, consi (l el abl y cl oser to ti l e objecti ve
area than tl ~e st:i gi l l g-stormge-bi ~~ol l :~c
areas on Guadal caual or i n the Russel l s.
Thus, a steady fl ow of suppl i es to the
beachl wa(l CO1l I CI be n~oyec{by the means
avai l abl e-LSTs, LCTS, APDs, or even
DDs. Tl ~e area pi cke(l was I i [l ravai 011
the east coast of ~~el l a Lavel l a, then sti l l
under attack by 25th Di vi si o]l and Ne\v
“l”a?~dc~rift Intcrcicw.
Zeal znd troops. The l andi ng at Rurcrvai ,
however, was bombed wi th effecti veness by
tl w ,Tapal l esel and tl ~e i nabi l i ty to cl i vert a
sl dti ci ent nul l l ber of LSTs from the 3Tew
Geor~i a Sl tppl y chai n ul ti matel y resul tecl
i n a stockpi l e consi derabl y smal l er thnn
that propose(l -zbout 10-days’ l evel , i n
fact. Cape Toroki na, I MAC l ater di s-
coverecl , l ~as outsi (l e the range of smal l
craft from T’el l s Lavel l a, a fact whi ch fur-
ther reduced tl ~~val ue of the 131AC sup-
pl y stat i on at Rnravai . The end resul t
Jvas thcl t, despi te seemi ngl y adequate
preparati ons, the suppl y probl em re-
mai ned a major obstacl e throughout the
operati onal pl anni ng.
Equal l y vi tal to the operati on’s success
was the speed wi th whi ch ai rfi el ds coul d
be constructed. Al though the earl i er re-
connai ssance patrol s had l ocatecl a possi bl e
ai rfi el cl si te, the OCI CI S were sti l l hi gh that
tl ~i s area n)i ght prove too swanl py for
qui ck compl eti on of a stri p. At l east three
I )omber fi el {l s ~ncl two fi ghter stri ps were
cl eemed essenti al to threaten Rabaul from
I l ougai nvi l l e, nnd the probl enl of l ocati ng
sui tabl e areas i Ls wel l as havi ng a suffi ci ent
number of naval constructi on battal i ons
assi aml ed to the task were monunl ental
worri es. The ai rfi el d annex to the I MAC
operati on order cal l ed for two stri ps to
be establ i shed as SOOI Ias possi bl e 2’ Wi th
the remai ni ng fi el cl s to get underway as
the beachhead wi dened. To assi st 17ande-
gri ft, an experi enced engi neer staff was
ol gani zed wi thi n I MAC, thi s group conl -
pri si ng Mari ne ancl 5T:avy offi cers who had
di rected ai r[i el (l cwl ]strl l (’i i on LI nder conl -
hmt cmn(l i ti ons :I t Gua(l al eanal and hTew
“ 11[.i c’ ()1)0 x-o. 1, .Anx F), I MAC Ai rfi el (l
1’1:111, dt(l 13C)(t43 (P,ougai nvi l l e .h-eaOI EFi l e,
I I i stl l r, I I Q31C’), her (’after IX.IC OpO Xo. 1.
. . . .
182 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
Georgi a” —a si tuati on l i kel y to be re-
peated on Bougai nvi l l ea. Si nce the. Cape
Toroki na area was sti l l rel ati vel y un-
scouted, xnd the exi stence of coral a debat-
abl e questi on, pl ans were made to use
pi erced pl anki ng for al l fi el ds. Thi s added
z fresh burden to the l i mi ted shi ppi ng, but
provi ded i nsurance that runvvays coul d be
fashi oned for at l east l ocal ai r support.27
The proposed fi ghter runway, l ocated i n
the pl antati on area at Cape Toroki na, was
to be about 4,500 feet l ong and about 600
feet wi de. A bomber stri p i nl and about
2,000 to 7,500 yards woul d requi re an ex-
tensi ve amount of cl eari ng. Even though
swamps were preval ent, drai nage was be-
l i eved possi bl e.’* The remai ni ng fi el ds
woul d have to wai t for the wi deni ng of
the beachhead.
Another facet of the l andi ng—naval
gunfi re support—al so recei ved cl ose atten-
ti on duri ng the l ast. weeks of preparati on.
Coordi nati on between the amphi bi ous
force and the l andi ng force had i mproved
markedl y si nce the fi rst days of Guadal -
canal , but many i mperfecti ons unfortu-
natel y sti l l exi sted i n the ti re support of
ground forces by shi ps’ guns. The use
of naval gunfi re by Al l i ed shi ps at Guadal -
canal had l i ttl e effect on the progress of
the i ni ti al l andi ngs, and bombardrne.nts to
cover a l andi ng force i n the Central Sol o-
mons had been i mpromptu affai rs; ~.e., re-
turni ng the fi re of the Munda batteri es
duri ng the Rendova l andi ng, and the
shel l i ng of the Enogai garri son duri ng
the Mari ne rai der operati ons at Ri ce
Anchorage.
“ Col Franci s M. M{Al i ster l tr to CMC, dtd
2!)May48 (Bougai nvi l l ea Monogr aph Comments,
Hi stBr, HQMC).
‘7 I I I ti.
2“1.W.4COpo No. 1.
&Tew enthusi asm, however, had been
generated for naval shore bombardments
after Kol ombangara’s capture. The i s-
l and’s forti fi ed defenses were sti l l i n-
tact after the Japanese wi thdrawal , and
I I I Phi bFor was granted permi ssi on to
test new gunfi re procedures on these bunk-
ers and pi l l boxes. One of Wi l ki nson’s de-
stroyer squadrons di d the shooti ng, wi th
al l avai l abl e I MAC and 3d Mari ne Di vi -
si on gunfi re l i ai son otl i cers and spotters
aboard to wi tness the demonstrati on. zo
The destroyers pounded the beach defenses
i n a si mul ated pre-H-Hour stri ke before
one destroyer moved i nshore to act as a
spotti ng shi p for omcal l mi ssi ons. At the
concl usi on of the fi ri ng, sni ps’ offi cers and
the observers went ashore. The prepma-
ti on fi res, they found, had bl asted the
beach areas, and the adjusted fi ri ng mi s-
si ons had knocked out other bunkers and
forti fi cati ons.’” As a resul t of thi s con-
vi nci ng di spl ay, I MAC offi cers were eager
to gi ve naval gunfi re support a promi nent
part i n the assanl t pl ans for 130ugai nvi l l e.
To retai n the el ement of surpri se, no
pre-D-Day shel l i ng of Cape Toroki na was
schedul ed. Thi s further i ncreased the
necessi ty for effecti ve gunfi re whi ch woul d
knock out beach defenses before the Ma-
ri nes went :I shore and provi de as wel l for
qui ck fi re support to reduce any undi s-
covered Japanese defenses whi ch mi ght
hol d up the assaul t waves l ong enough for
the expected enemy counteracti on to
threaten the l andi ng force. The I MAC
gunfi re offi cers i ni ti al l y made pl ans for a
support group of about 4 heavy or l i ght
“ Col Frederi ck 1’. Hender son, “Naval Gunfi r e
Support i n the Sol omon I sl ands CamPai m,”
MS, 19754 (Bougai nvi l l ea AreaOpsFi l e, Hi stBr,
HQMC), pp. 51–52, her eafter Hender son, “Naval
Gunfi r e Support.”
‘0 Ibid., p. 52.
CONTI NUI NG THE PRESSURE
183
crui sers and at l east 10 destroyers; gl but
i n l i ght of the mul ti pl e commi tments
of the Thi rd Fl eet, thi s was a prohi bi ti ve
request. Eventual l y, four destroyers,
none of them practi sed i n shore bombard-
ment, were schedul ed for pre-H-Hour and
post-H-Hour gunfi re support. I n al l
trut hf (l l ness, I M.kC l i ai son offi cers were
unhappy wi th the amount of assi stance
offered by the I I I Pl l i bFor, but accepted
the preferred support wi th the real i zati on
that Wi l ki nson’s force had other mi ssi ons,
too.
The fi nal gunfi re pl an 32posi ti oned three
destroyers (Si gouwtey, Anthony, Wads-
~to~~fi,)on the southeast flank of the ]and-
i ng area, wi th the fourth shi p (Terry)
stati oned on the opposi te or extreme north-
west fl ank. These shi ps were to open fi re
at 10,000 yards before cl osi ng to 3,000
yards for cl ose support and on-cal l mi s-
si ons. Target desi gnati on was to be taken
from a photo mosai c of the Cape Toroki na
coastl i ne, photographed from about 1,000
yards off-shore by a l ow-fl yi ng pl ane. Af-
ter one fi nal rehearsal i n the New Hebri -
des area where the four shi ps tri ed to
approxi mate area, range, beari ngs, and
maneuvers as cl ose as possi bl e to those
expected on D-Day$
33the destrover sql l ~d-
ron joi ned the assaul t echel ons for the
move to the objecti ve.
FI NAL PRZ?PARA TI ONS 34
Major General Al l en H. Turnage’s 3d
Mari ne Di vi si on was a wel l -trai ned, al bei t
%Ibid., p. 58.
“ ~TP’ OPO 3T0. AI S43, dtd l tWct43, Arm A
(Bougai nvi l l ea AreaOpsFi l e, Hi stBr, HQMC ) ;
Hender son, “Naval Gunfi r e Support,” pp. 61–62.
“ ComDesDi v 90 AR of 1Nov43, dtd 14Jan44
(COA, NHD) .
WUnl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om: IZIPhibFor AR; I MA(7
i nexperi enced, outfi t, a fusi on of a nunl -
ber of combat teams and supporti ng
troops. Three i nfantry regi ments-the
3d, 9th, and 21st Mari nes—together wi th
the 12th Mari nes (arti l l ery) and the 19th
Mari nes (engi neers and Seabees) formed
the nucl eus for the di vi si on whi ch was
fi rst assembl ed as a uni t i n May 1943.
To these major commands was added a
number of servi ce and support groups-
tanks, speci al ~veapons, nmphi bi an trac-
tors, motor transport, si gnal , and medi cal
battal i ons. Wi th a background of ex-
tensi ve jungl e warfare trai ni ng i n Samoa
and Guadal canal , the 3d Mari ne Di vi si on
was ful l y expected to be capabl e of meet-
i ng the ri gors of the 130ugai nvi l l e
operati on.
The mi ssi ons assi gned the 3d Mari ne
Di vi si on were an” extensi on of l MAC
tasks: capture or destroy enemy forces
i n the area: establ i sh a beachhead i n the
Cape Toroki na area about 2;250 yards i n-
l and and about T,350 yards wi de to i ncl ude
the two smal l i sl ands offshore; commence
sel ecti on of ai rfi el d si tes and constructi on
of ai r stri ps; establ i sh l ong-range radar
poi nts and an advance naval base to i n-
cl ude operati ng faci l i ti es for torpedo
boats: expand the beachhead on corps
order.
After Turnage had been al erted to the
major rol e of the di vi si on i n the f orthcom-
i ng l andi ngs,35 the task organi zati on as-
AR-I; 3d MarDi v AR, 1-11 Nov43, dtd l SDec43,
her eafter .!?dMarDiv AR; H&?tDiv Acct; Rentz,
Bouguinville and the Northern Solomona; I sel y
and Crowl , Mari nes and .4mpitibious War;
Mi l l er, Reduction of Rabaut; Mori son, Breaki ng
the Bi.!imarck8 Barrier; Aurthur and Cohl mi a,
$d ,MarDi vHi st.
= CG, I MAC I tr of I nstm to CG. 3(1 MarDi v,
dtd 27 Se@3.
691–360 0—63—13
184
I SOLATI ON OF RABAC1,
si gned to the di vi si on grew rapi dl y wi th
the addi ti on of a number of corps troops
ancl provi si onal battal i ons, some of them
sti l l i n the process of formi ng. The major
attachments were the 2d and 3d Rai der
Battal i ons, now joi ned i n a provi si onal
regi ment, and the 3d Defense Battal i on.
As expected, the combat experi ence of
these corps and di vi si on forces vari ed.
El ements of the 2d Rai der Battal i on had
rai ded W&i n I sl tnd i n 1942 before goi ng
to Guadal canal , and the 3d Defense Bat-
tal i on was battl e-tested at Tul agi and
Guadal canal . But the rest of the I MAC
force—wi th the excepti on of the 37th Di -
vi si on—were wi thout pri or experi ence.
The Army di vi si on, however, had been
bl ooded i n the Munda campai gn.
Earl y i n October, the di verse el ements
of I MAC and the 3d Mari ne Di vi si on were
assembl ed at Gundzl cxnal where the tmsk
of wel di ng them i nto l andi ng teams began.
The three task uni ts were based on the
rei nforced 3d and 9th I l ari nes and the
3d Defense Battal i on. Task Uni t A-1,
four l andi ng teams compri si ng the 3d
Mari nes and the 2d Rai der Battal i on, was
assi gned si x beaches i n the vi ci ni ty of Cape
Toroki na. Task Uni t .4-2 (9th Mari nes)
was schedul ed to l and over fi ve beaches on
the l eft (northwest ) fl ank, wi th the Mari ne
3d Rai der Bzttal i on, attached to the
9th Mmri nes, to go ashore on Puruata I s-
l and. Task I Jni t A–3, the anti ai rcraft
batteri es of the 3d Defense Battal i on and
sl l pporti ng troops, was to l and behi nd the
assaul t. troops i n each sector. Each task
uni t i ncl uded arti l l ery, ai r l i ai son and
si gnal personnel , engi neers, and naval base
constructi on troops. .4s di rected, every
l andi ng team was sel f-sustai ni ng and sel f-
supporti ng unti l the di vi si on as a whol e
coul cl be consol i dated behi nd the contem-
pl ated force beachhead l i ne.3s
The 21st Mari nes pl us the remai ni ng
arti l l ery uni ts and supporti ng troops were
formed i nto task uni ts whi ch woul d be
brought to the objecti ve area after D pl us
3 cl ays. By 7 November, al l el ements of the
3d Mari ne Di vi si on woul d be ashore wi th
the l ast i ncrements of the I MAC head-
quarters troops sl ated for arri val by 15
November. The fi rst uni t of the 37th I n-
fantry Di vi si on-the 148th Combat
Team—was to be unl oaded starti ng 7
hTovember wi th the remai ni ng combat
tewns-the 129th and the 145th—sched-
ul ed to be on Bougai nvi l l ea by 22 Novem-
ber. I n al l , an addi ti onal 13,000 troops
and another 26,672 tons of cargo were to
be brought to the Toroki na beachhead to
rei nforce and resuppl y the assaul t el e-
ments.37 Ori gi nal l y these echel ons were
to be transported by LSTS and APDs, but
l ater Al l i ed sea and ai r vi ctori es permi tted
the conti nued use of the l arger APAs and
AKAs i n rei nforci ng the Bougai nvi l l ea
beachhead.
Wi th onl y l i mi ted shi ppi ng space avai l -
abl e to the combat troops, the assaul t
echel ons carri ed onl y enough suppl i es—
three uni ts of fi re, B-rati ons, and fuel —to
conti nue operati ons ashore for 10 days.
The rest of the al l otted cargo space con-
tai ned addi ti onal ammuni ti on, rati ons,
fuel , engi neeri ng tool s, and equi pment
whi ch coul d be unl oaded qui ckl y i f the
si tuati on permi tted. The heavi er equi p-
nl el ~t and faci l i ti es materi el woul d be
36CofS, 3d MarDi v l tr to CO, 3d Mar, dtd
16Ck.t43.
3’ I M.4C OpO No. 1;I M.\C, Movement of Task
Organi zati on, dtd 290ct43 (Bou~ai nvi l l e Ar ea-
Ol ,sPi l e, I I i stI l r, HQMC ) ; Nor For Loadi ngOs
Nos. X)1-43 thr ouxh 309+3, dtd 120ct–15hTov43
i n lIIP1! ifiFor CJ ct-No@$ WarDx.
CONTI NUI NG THE PRESSURE
185
brought ashore i n l ater echel ons. The
I MAC troops maki ng the i ni ti al l andi ngs
woul d carry a haversack onl y; knapsacks
and bl anket rol l s were to be carri ed ashore
wi th organi zati onal gear.
Offi cers of
I MAC anti the 3d Mm-i ne Di vi si on ordered
al l seabags, cots, and mattresses to be stored
at Guadal canal ; ancl these were never
embarked.
The three assaul t task uni ts and equi p-
ment were embarked at Guadal canal .
Tzsk Uni t A–1 went on board four trans-
ports on 13 C)ctober for rehearsal s at
Efate, and then stood by at Espi ri tu Santo
to awai t the assembl y date. Task Uni t
&2, after embarki ng 18 October on the
remai ni ng four transports, al so rehearsed
the l andi ng operati on for four days at
Efate before headi ng back to the Guadal -
canal area for the rendezvous. The thi rd
task uni t conti nued trai ni ng and rehears-
al s at Guadal canal unti l 26 October, at
whi ch ti me the troops and equi pment were
taken on board the four .kKAs.38 The re-
hearsal s i ndi cated that, wi th a 2,500-yard
run to the beach and each shi p restri cted
to about 500 tons, uni nterrupted unl oad-
i ng coul d be accompl i shed i n about 41/2
hours.30 JTTi th al l owance for ti me l osses
by ai r al erts whi l e underway and duri ng
the assaul t phme, the amphi bi ous force
commander was sure that troops and sup-
pl i es coul d be xshore before the end of D-
Day. On 30 October, the vari ous el ements
of the Northern Lancl i ng Force—trans-
ports, cargo shi ps, mi ne sweepers, and de-
stroyers—began steami ng toward the ren-
3’c(l , 3d }l arDi v l trs of I nstrn, ~td 7C)ctA3
aI )d l ~()~t~3 (Bougai nvi l l ea .kreaOp~Fi l e, Hi ~tBr,
HQMC) .
w ComTransGru, I I I Phi l JFor, Rept of I ,and-
i ngOps, Empress Augusta Bay area, Bougai n-
vi l l ea I sl and, 1–2A”ov43, dtd 22 Dec43 (Bougai n-
vi l l ea AreaOpsFi l e, Hi stBr, HQMC).
dezvous poi nt off Guadal canal for the fi nal
run toward Bougai nvi l l ea.
I ,90LA TI NG THE TARGET ‘0
As Wi l ki nson’s transports and screen-
i ng el ements formed i nto the mai n con-
VOv to open the second phase of Operati OI I
D~PPER, the fi nal naval bombardment
and ai r stri kes ai med at the compl ete neu-
tral i zati on of Bougai nvi l l ea ai rfi el ds be-
gan. For nearl y a month the i sl and’s de-
fenders had been on the recei vi ng end of
frequent bombi ng and strafi ng attacks as
a prel i mi nary to the actual l andi ngs. The
fi nal stri kes were cal cul ated to i nsure neg-
l i gi bl e ai r i nterference by the Japanese
duri ng the amphi bi ous assaul t the next
day.
Al though the .411i ed ai r power was rec-
ogni zed as greater than that whi ch coul d
be mustered by the ,Japanese i n the area,
the fact that the Al l i es were movi ng cl oser
to the mai n enemy strength was an equal -
i zi ng factor. Late September esti mates
pl aced the Japanese ai r strength i n the
Northern Sol omons at about 154 pl anes, or
l ess than $f~of the esti mated 476 i n the
Rabaul -Bougai nvi l l e area. Agai nst thi s
number, the Al l i ed ai r command—Com-
Ai rSol s-coul d ante 728 pl anes of al l
mI Jnl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
sf?cti on i s der i ved fr om : MarCorpsBd Study and
Eval uati on of Ai rOps Affecti ng the USMC dur -
i ng the War Wi th Japan, dtd 31 Dec45 (Hi stBr,
HQMC ) ; ComSoPac 0ctJ3 WarD; TMrdFlt
A7arrR~pt; ComAi rSol s Stri keComd WarD,
26.Ji l l –19A”ov43, dtd 17Jan44 (CO.4, NHD ), her e-
after i 5’tri ke(70md WorD; ComAi rSol s I ntel See
Repts for 0ct43, n.d. (COA, hTHD ) ; ZIZPhibFor
.4R; I .UAC AR–I ; Hi stDi v Acct; SE A?xm Naw
Op.+III; Mi l l er, Reduction of 17abaal; Morison,
Brcoking tile 13ismarcl:8 Barrier; Rentz, Bou-
{]aiari71e ond ttt c ii’orihem S’ol omons; Sher r od,
.UarAirHist.
186
types. Thi s composi te group i ncl uded 14
Mari ne Corps squadrons wi th 181 pl anes,
19 Navy squadrons wi th 274 pl anes, 16
Army squadrons wi th 216 pl anes, and 3
NTew Zeal and squadrons wi th 57 pl anes.
By n~i d-October, at l east 314 fi ghters and
317 bombers were bei ng- cl i rected agai nst
the enemy bases. The recent acqui si ti on
of ai rfi el ds on Sew Georgi a and Vel l a La-
vel l a was a deci ded asset to ComAi rSo]s
operati ons; for, al though most of the
bombers were sti l l based on Guadal canal
and the Russel l s, nearl y al l of the fi ghter
strength had been moved forward wi thi n
stri ki ng di stance of Bougai nvi ]l e. Thi s
i ncl uded 31 fi ghters and 148 bombers at
Muncl a, 103 fi ghters at nearby Ondonga,
48 at Segi , and 60 at Barakoma.
The ai ,r acti vi ty over Bougai nvi l l ea had
steadi l y i ncreased as D-Day moved cl oser.
Duri ng the month of October, ComAi rSol s
pl anes rangecl northward on 21 of the 31
days i n rai ds that ranged from tree-l evel
strafi ng runs by torpedo and scout bombers
ancl fi ghter pl anes to hi gh-l evel bombi ng
attacks by B–2% and B–25s. ih the
month neared i ts encl , i ntermi ttent attacks
became al most dai l y occurl ’ences to the
bel eaguered ,Japanese defencl ers. Kahi l i
and Kara were hi t most often, 23 ti mes
and 17 ti mes respecti vel y, but Buka, Bal -
l al e, Ki eta, and the Tre.asurys al so were
raked ancl cratered by .l l l i ed pl anes.
Choi seul , too, was ,rocked occasi onal l y by
ConAi rSol s craft wi th Choi seul Bay ancl
the Kakasa submari ne base the favori te
targets.
By 18 october, jubi l ant avi ators hacl
reported that Bal l al e>s ai rfi el d was “pul -
veri zed.>? ‘I Photographs veri fi ed thei r
cl ai ms by showi ng 98 bomb craters on the
runway, 23 of them i n the center of the
“ 8trihvContd WarD, 180et43,
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
stri p. By the 22d, Kahi l i was l i kewi se i n-
operabl e. ~ week l ater, Bal l al e was hi t.
agai n, and the enemy’s repai r wor k r en-
cl er ed i neffecti ve. Postwar enemy r ecor ds
al so attest to the attenti on ~i ven the
enemy ai rfi el ds by Com~i rSol s. The
Japanese admi ttecl that, just pr i or to the
i nvasi on, the ai rfi el ds on Bougai nvi l l ea
wer e usel ess.
l l abaul , too, w7as feel i ng the sti ng of
.\l l i ed bombi ngs. Gener al Kenney’s Al -
l i ecl Ai r Forces, commi tted by Gener al
Al ac.l rthnr to ]encl al l assi stance to the
neutrccl i zati on of Rabaul by ai r, r oar ed
ont of 3Tew ~ui nea bases on 12 October to
sl ug Si mpson I 1arbor and the Rabaul ai r-
fi el ds wi th a 349-pl ane rai cl . Thi s bl ast
was e.ncor ecl by an equal l y l arge attempt
si x cl ays l ater, but thi s ti me bad weather
cl osed i n over NTew Bri tai n and onl y 54
bombers compl eted thei r mi ssi on. Day-
l i @l t attacks by fi ghter -bomber gr oups
wer e ,repeatecl on the 20th, 24th, and 25th
of October. Kenney’s fl i ers i nsi stecl that
the bombi ngs had cr i ppl ed Rabaul , and
opti mi sti c reports of cl amage i nfl i cted and
enemy ai rcraft destr oyed wer e r el ayed to
the i nvasi on forces. Later assessments,
however, di scounted these eval uati ons.
Far from bei ng a smoki ng rui n, the Jap-
anese stronghol d wi th i ts fi ve ai rfi el ds was
sti l l very much operati onal and sti l l a fac-
tor to be reckoned wi thi n the Bougai nvi l l ea
sei zure.
As a matter of record, however, the So-
WesPac bombers di d consi derabl e dam-
age to enemy i nstal l ati ons and consi der-
abl y recl l ~ced the. Japanese abi l i ty to stri ke
at the Bougai nvi l l ea assaul t forces. Fur-
ther, thi s damage was accompl i shed on
restri cted tmgets i n the face of hot recep-
ti ons by enemy fi ghter craft and accurate
anti ai rcraft cl ef enses. Unfortunatel y,
foul weather near D-Day prevented the
COXTI NUI ATG THE PRESSURE 187
Al l i ed .ki r Forces from cent i nu i ng thei r at -
tacks whi ch woul cl ha\-e f urt her di verted
tl ~e .Japanese attenti on from the Bougai n-
vi l l ea ]an{l i ngs. As i t turi l cd out, the So-
WesPac fl i ers I vere abl e to stl ’i ke another
sol i d bl ow agai nst P~abal d onl y after the
I MAC troops ~~ere.a]ready ashore at Cape
Toroki na.
As part of ComSoPac’S progr:un to stun
the Bougni nvi l l e cl efenses dl l ri ng the
i ni ti l l stages of tl m opernti on, ti l e support-
i ng task forces of ~l dnl i ral s Merri l l and
Sherman took UI Jthe cudgel for a whack
I t the ,Japanese ai rfi el ds pri or to D-Day.
Merri l l , wi th fo(l r l i ght (mi sers and ei gl i l
destroyers, steamed cl ose i nshol ’e to ti l e
Buka Passaxe shortl y after nl i (l ni ~l l t, ;;l
October–1 November, to r:~ke I l ukn an(l
130ni s ai rfi el ds wi th a 30-nl i l ]l l te bonl bar(l -
ment. The gl l l l ti re was gi vel ~ addecl ac-
CLU’aC~ by the. spotti ng reports frol n two
Com.\i rSol s pl nnes overhead. Thet:~sk
force then reti red, I mrasse(l but nl l scathecl
by enemy pl anes. TWOhours and 60 mi l es
1ater, the BLI ka fl ames wer e sti l l vi si bl e to
the task for ce..
l l erri l l was barel y o~~t of the nei @bor-
hood befor e Sher nmn ar r i ved i n the area
wi th ti l e carri ers flarato~ct and Przkeetonj
escortecl by 2 l i ght crui sers and 10 cl e-
stroyers. Undetectecl by several enemy
fl i ghts, the C:l rri er pl anes took of f and
dropped an addi ti onal 20 tons of bombs on
tl ~e. two ai rfi el ds before the carri er task
force reti recl nnopposed and unchal l engecl .
.i dn~i ral Merri l l , meanwhi l e, was compl et-
i ng the second part of hi s mi ssi on. The
:l l l ’ezcl y- ri cl cl l ecl ai rstri p at Bal l al e was
shel l ed by hi s tmk force, as was Fai si and
several of the smal l er i sl an~l s. Sti l l uno-
pposed, Meni l l ’s force headed for Vel l a
I Javel l a to refuel ancl rearm, sati sfi ed that
t]~e s~~ppol ti ng bonl bardments hacl slLc-
cessflllly launc]~ed tl~e assault on I;ougaill-
ville.
CHAPTER 2
Diversionary Assaults
TREASURY I SLA,$’Z) LANDINGS 42
I f the i ni ti al pl ans for the di rect assaul t
on the Bui n area or the Shortl ands had
been carri ed out, the two smal l i sl ands of
the Treasury Group woul d have been by-
passed and l eft i n the backwash of the
campai gn. I nstead, wi th the change i n
pl ans to stri ke cl i rectl y at Empress Augus-
ta Bay, the i sl ands of Mono and Sti rl i ng
became i mportant as l ong-range radar si tes
and torpedo boat anchorages. Moreover,
i n an attempt to decei ve the enemy as to
the di recti on of the attack on Bougai m
vi ne and convi nce hi m that the ul ti mate
Al l i ed ai m mi ght be the Bui n area or the
Shorthands, the sei zure of the Treasurys
was gi ven added emphasi s by bei ng set
as a prel i mi nary to the Toroki na I ancl i ngs.
To hel p thi s decepti on succeed, reconnai s-
“ Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om: CornSoPac Ott-iVov&3
WarDs; ThirdFlt NarrRept; IMAC AR–I; IMAG
C–2 Repts, 270ct–13Dec43 (Bougai nvi l l ea Area
OpFi l e, Hi stBr, HQMC ), her eafter IMAC C–2
Rept.$; I MAC C–2 .Jnl , 270ct–27Nov43 (Bougai n-
vi l l ea AreaOpFi l e, Hi stBr, HQMG ), her eafter
ZMAC C–2 Jut; I MAC D–2 Mi scRepts (Treasury
I s), 270ct43, dtd 10 Nov43 (TreasuryI s Ar eaOp-
Fi l e, Hi stBr, HQMC ) : 8 (XZ ) Br i gGr u Rept on
Ops, TreasuryI s (Op GOODTI ME ), dtd 30Sov-
43 (TreasuryI s AreaOpFi l e, Hi stBr, HQMC ) ;
8( NZ ) Br i gGr u OpO Xo. 1, Op GOODTI ME, dtd
210ct43 (TreasuryI s AreaOpFi l e, Hi stBr,
HQMC ) : OA’1, ComZJut 37arra.t tve XII: Hender -
son, “l Naval Gunfi r e Support ;“ Rentz, Bouqain-
ville aufl the Northern Rolomons; Mi ner, Reduc-
tion of Rabaul; Mori son, Breaking the Bis-
marckg Barrier.
sance patrol s to the Shortkmds and di ver-
si onary operati ons on the i sl and of Choi -
seul —pl us l ow-fl yi ng photo mi ssi ons over
the Short l ands—were schedul ed by I MAC
to i ncrease the enemy’s convi cti on that the
fol l ow-up objecti ve was the Shortl ands.
Thi s coul d have been a natural assump-
ti on by the enemy. The Treasurys are
about 60 mi l es northwest of Vel l a Lavel l a
ancl ol ~l y 18 mi l es south of the Shorthands.
Whi l e the si ze of the Treasurys l i mi ted con-
si derati on as a major target, Mono and
Sti rl i ng were cl ose enough to Shortl and
I sl and to cause the Japanese some concern
that, tl ~ey mi ght be used as handy steppi ng
stones by SoPac forces. But then agai n,
the Tremurys are onl y 75 mi l es from Cape
Toroki m-a fact whi ch the Al l i es hoped
mi ght be l ost on Bougai nvi l l eas defenders.
The Treasury I sl ands are typi cal of
other smal l i sl ands jutti ng out of the sea
i l l the Sol omons chai n. Mono i s a thi ckl y
forested promi nence of vol cani c ori gi n,
wi th abrupt peaks and hi l l masses more
than 1,000 feet hi gh i n the southern part.
These hei ghts sl ope gradual l y i n an ever-
wi deni ng fan to the west, north, znd east
coasts. The shores are fi rm, wi th fe~~’
swamps, and rai n waters drai n rapi dl y
through deep gorges. The i sl and i s smal l ,
about four mi l es north to south ancl l ess
than seven mi l es l engthwi se.
Sti rl i ng I sl and to ti l e south i s smal l er,
more mi sshapen. Fai rl y l evel , thi s i sl and
i s about four mi l es l ong and vari es from
300 yards to nearl y a mi l e i n wi dth. There
Ma
DI VERSI ONARY ASSAULTS
189
are several smal l , bracki sh l akes i nl and,
but the i sl and i s easi l y traversed and, once
cl eared of i ts coveri ng forest, woul d be an
excel l ent si te. for an ai rfi el d. Between
these two i sl ands i s a mi l e or more of deep,
shel tered water+ne of the many ancl ~or-
ages i n the Sol omon I sl ancl s to bear the
name Bl anche Harbor. The combi nati on
of these features—ai rfi el d si te, radar
poi nts, good anchorage-was the factor
whi ch resul ted i n the sei zure of t]l e Treas-
urys as part of the Bougai nvi l l ea operati on.
Earl y i nformati on about the i sl ands
was obtai ned by an I MAC patrol whi ch
spent si x days i n the Tremur-ys i n Au-
gust, scouti ng the area, observi ng the
movement of the Japanese defenders, and
i nterrogati ng the nati ves. I n thi s l atter
i nstance, the l oyal and fri endl y peopl e of
the Trezsurys were a remarkabl e contrast
to the suspi ci ous and hosti l e Bougai n-
vi l l ea i nhabi tants. Addi ti onal detai l s were
recei ved from rescued avi ators who found
Mono I sl and a safe hi di ng pl ace after
thei r pl anes had been forced down by
damage i ncurred i n rai ds over Bui n and
the Shortl ands. Thi s fi rst-hand i ntel l i -
gence was augmented by aeri al photo-
graphs. The reports and photos i ndi cated
that the best l andi ng beaches were i nsi de
Bl anche Harbor, on opposi te shores of
Mono and Sti rl i ng. The onl y beaches
sui tabl e for LSTS, however, were on Mono
between the Saveke Ri ver and a smal l
promontory, Fal amai Poi nt.
As l i mi ted as thi s i nformati on was, the
amount of i ntel l i gence on the enemy di s-
posi ti ons on the two i sl ands was even more
meager. The Japanese strength was esti -
mated at 135 men, l i ghtl y armed. These
were bi vouacked near Fal nmai but mai w
tai ned a radi o stzti on an(l ol )servati on
posts i n vari ous areas. Nati ves reported
that much of the ti me the Japanese moved
about Mono armed onl y wi th swords or
hand guns. Sti rl i ng I sl and was appar-
entl y undefended.
The 8th New Zeal and Bri gade Group,
attached to I Mari ne Amphi bi ous Corps
for the sei zure and occupati on of these i s-
l ands, arri ved at Guadal canal from New
Cal edoni a i n mi d-September. Al though
the New Zeal anders woul d form the bul k
of the assaul t troops, the GOODTI ME
operati on was I MAC-di rected and I MAC-
supported. The l andi ng force compri sed
about 7,700 offi cers and men, of whom
about 1,900 were from I Mari ne Amphi -
bi ous Corps support troops-anti ai rcraft
arti l l ery, constructi on battal i ons, si gnal ,
and boat pool personnel . Mari nes at-
tached to the bri gade task organi zati on
i ncl uded a detachment from the I MAC
Si gnal Battal i on and an ai r-ground l i ai -
son team from General Harri s’ Com.&i r-
XorSol s headquarters.
On 28 September, Bri gadi er Row, the
l andi ng force commander, was i nformed
of the general nature of the GOODTI ME
operati on, and pl anni ng i n conjuncti on
wi th .i dmi ral Fort began i mmedi atel y, al -
though there was onl y enough i nforma-
ti on avai l abl e to the commanders of the
task grol ~p and the l andi ng force to for-
mul ate a pl an i n broad outl i ne. The task
was far from easy, for the Southern Force
was confronted wi th the same l ogi sti cal
and transportati on probl ems that faced
the Empress Augusta Bay operati on,
Fort and Row deci ded that the mai n
assaul t woul d be made i n the area of
Fal amai , where beaches were sui tabl e for
LSTS. Sti rl i ng I sl and woul d be taken
concurrentl y for arti l l ery posi ti ons. No
other l andi ngs were pl anned; but after
Row was i nformed that the l ong-range ra-
d~r wonl d have to be posi ti oned on the
northern si de of Mono to be of benefi t to
190 l SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
TREASURY ISLANDS LANDINGS
I MARINE AMPHIBIOUS CORPS
27 OCTOBER 1943
MAP 12
the Bougai nvi l l ea operati on, another l and-
i ng at Soanotal u on the north coast was
wri tten i nto the pl ans.
Fi nal shi ppi ng al l ocati on to Fort’s
Southern Force i ncl uded 31 shi ps of si x
di fferent types—8 A1’Ds, 8 1.(.’1s, 2 LSTs,
and 3 LCTS for l andi ng troops and sup-
pl i es, 8 LCMS and 2 APCS for heavy
equi pment. and cargo. The l i mi ted troop
and cargo capaci ty of thi s col l ecti on of
shi ps and l andi ng craft restri cted the
Southern Force’s abi l i ty to put more than
a mi ni mum of troops and suppl i es ashore
i ni ti al l y, but thi s probl em was sol ved by
reduci ng the strength of the bri gade’s bat-
tal i ons and l i mi ti ng the number of arti l -
l ery weapons, motor transport, and en-
gi neeri ng equi pment i n the fi rst echel on.
The bri gade’s assaul t uni ts i ncl uded 3,795
troops wi th 1,785 tons of suppl i es and
equi pment. Succeedi ng echel ons were
scl ~edu]ed to sai l forward at i nterval s of
fi ve days.
The fi nal pl ans, i ssued by Row’s head-
quarters on 21 C)ctober, cl i rected the 29th
and 36th Battal i ons to l and nearl y abreast
near Fal mni Poi nt, wi th the 34th Battal -
i on l andi ng on Sti rl i ng I sl and. Si nl ul -
taneousl y, a rei nforced i nfantry company
accompani ed by radar personnel and Sea-
DI VERSI ONARY ASSAULTS
bees woul d go ashore at Soanotal u i n the
north. The two battal i ons on Mono woul d
then dri ve across the i sl and to l i nk up
wi th the Soanotal u l andi ng force whi l e
naval base constructi on got underway at
Sti rl i ng.
The i ni ti al l andi ngs i n Bl anche. Harbor
were to be covered by a naval gunfi re sup-
port group of two destroyers, the Prhgle
and Philip. Li ai son offi cers of I MAC
pl anned the gunfi re support, as the NTew
Zeal and offi cers had no experi ence i n thi s
phase of operati ons. Whi l e the bri gxde
group expectecl to have no troubl e i n sei z-
i ng the i sl ands, the naval support was
schedul ed to cover any unforeseen di ffi -
cul ti es. The gunfi re pl an cal l ed for the
two destroyers to fi re preparati on sal vos
from the entrance to Bl anche Harbor be-
fore movi ng i n toward the beaches wi th
the l andi ng x’aves to take targets under
di rect fi re. The I I I Phi bFor, however,
took a di m vi ew of ri ski ng cl estroyers i n
such restri cted waters. The desi red cl ose-
i n support mi ssi on was then assi gned to
the newl y devi sed LCI (G) —gunboats
armed wi th three 40mm, two 20nl m, and
fi ve .50 cal i ber machi ne guns-whi ch were
maki ng thei r fi rst appearance i n combat.
Two of these deadl y l andi ng craft were to
accompany the assaul t wav~s to the
beaches.
After one fi nal practi ce l andi ng on
Fl ori da I sl and, the bri gacl e. group began
l oadi ng suppl i es and embarki ng troops for
the run to the target arew Admi ral Fort’s
Southern Force was di vi ded i nto fi ve
transport groups under separate conl -
manders, and these groups departecl i nde-
pendentl y when l oaded. The sl ower LSTS
and LCMS l eft fi rst, on the 2%1 and 2-l t.h
of October, ancl were fol l owed the next
day by the LCI S. The APDs sai l ed on 26
191
The Southern Force departed wi th a
message whi ch del i ghted the hTewZeal and-
ers as typi cal of the remarks to whi ch
Ameri cans at war seemed addi cted: “Shoot
cal ml y, shoot fast, and shoot strai ght.” 2
At 0540 on the 27th, the seven APDs
of the fi rst trmsport group l ay to just
outsi cl e the entrance to Bl anche Harbor
and began putti ng troops over the si de
i nto l andi ng craft. Heavy rai n and over-
cast weather obscured the beaches, but the
pre-assaul t bombardment by the Pri nql e
and PhiZip began on schedul e. The L~SS
.Eaton moved to the harbor’s mouth and
took up stati on as fi ghter-di rector shi p as
the destroyers regi stered on Mono I sl and.
The fi ri ng was accompl i shed wi thout as-
si stance of an ai r spotter, who l ater re-
ported radi o fai l ure at the cri ti cal moment.
Thi s probabl y accounts for the di sappoi nt-
i ng resul ts of the preparatory bombard-
ments, whi ch proved to be of l i ttl e val ue
except to boost the moral e of the assaul t
troops. The Pringle’s fi re was l ater de-
cl ared to be too far back of the beach
area to be hel pful , and the bombardment
by the PhiZip l eft a great deal to be de-
si red i n accuracy, ti mi ng, and quanti ty.
A fi ghter cover of 32 pl anes arri ved
promptl y on stati on over the Treasurys
at 0600, ancl , under thi s protecti ve screen,
the assaul t waves formed i nto two col umns
for the dash through Bl anche Harbor to
the beaches. L’nexpectedl y, enemy ma-
chi ne gun fi re from Fal amai md Sti rl i ng
greeted the assaul t boats as they pl oughed
through the channel . At 0623, just three
mi nutes before the l andi ng craft nosed i nto
the beaches on opposi te si des of the har-
bor, the pre-assaul t cannonadi ng ceased;
and the two LCI gunboats-one on each
‘ Quoted i n Gi l l (,sI )i e,XC70Zcalwid History, P.
October 148.
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
fl ank of the assaul t wa~~e-took over the
task of cl ose support for the l andi ng for-
ces. At l east one Mmm twi l l -mount gun,
several machi ne guns, and several enemy
bunkers were knocked out by the accurate
[i re of tI l ese.two shi ps. Promptl y at 0626,
the announced H-Hour, New Zeal and
troops went ashore on Mono and Sti rl i ng.
At Fal amai , the 29th and 36th Battal -
i ons moved i nl and qui ckl y agai nst 1i ght
ri fl e and machi ne gm fi re, mostl y from
the hi gh ground near the Saveke Ri ver.
Casual ti es i n the fi rst wave were l i ght–-
one New 2kdand offi cer and fi ve sai l ors
wounded-and the second -wave had no
casual ti es.
The New Zeal anders began to wi den the
peri meter as more troops were unl oaded.
.&t 0735, enemy mortar and medi um arti l l -
ery fi re regi stered on the beach area, caus-
i ng a number of casual ti es and di srupti ng
unl oadi ng operati ons. Both LSTS were
hi t, wi th one shi l ) reporti ng 2 dead and 18
wounded among the sai l ors and sol di ers
aboard. The other shi p reported 12
wounded. Source of the enemy fi re COUI C1
not be determi ned. The Eaton, wi th Ad-
mi rxl Fort on board, i gnored a previ ous
deci si on not to enter Bl anche Harbor and
resol utel y steamed between the two i sl ands.
Thi s venture ended, however, when enemy
pl anes were reported on the way, and the
Eaton reversed course to head for more
maneuveri ng room outsi de the harbor.
.4ssured that the ai r rai d was a fal se
al arm, the destroyer returned to Bl anche
Harbor and added i ts sal vos to those of the
LC1 gunboats. Thi s fi re, di rected at
l i kel y targets, abruptl y ended the Japa-
nese exchange.
By 1800, the two battal i ons had estab-
l i shed a peri meter on Mono I sl and and
were dug i n, tryi ng to fi nd some comfort
i n a di smal rai n whi ch had begun agai n
after a cl ear afternoon. Evacuati on of
casual ti es began wi th the departure of the
I J3Ts. Wi th the excepti on of one I . ST,
whi ch sti l l had 34 tons of suppl i es aboard
when i t retracted, al l shi ps and l andi ng
craft had been unl oaded and were on thei r
way back to Guadal canal by the end of D-
~kLy. The casual ti es were 21 h’ew Zea-
l anders ki l l ed and 70 wounded, 9 Ameri -
cans ki l l ed and another 15 wounded.
The l andi ngs at Sti rl i ng and Soanotal u
were uneventful and wi thout opposi ti on.
There were no casual ti es at ei ther beach-
head. At Sti rl i ng, the 34th Battal i on i m-
medi atel y began acti ve patrol l i ng as soon
as the command was establ i shed ashore.
Ti l e Soanot al 11 l andi ngs proceeded i n a
si tl l i l arl y I l nhi ndered manner. A peri m-
eter was establ i shed qui ckl y, and bul l -
dozel ’s i ul medi atel y went to work con-
Struct i n: a posi ti on for the racl ar equi p-
ment whi ch was to arri ve the next day.
The fi ghter cover throughout the day
had shi el ded the troops ashore from enemy
ai r attacks. The escorti ng destroyers,
however, were hi t by an enemy force of 25
l l ux1i l l n~ and di ve bombers at about 1520,
and the USS Oony took two hi ts. Ei ght
cre.~vmenwere ki l l ed and 10 wounded. The
ti re from the destroyer screen and the
fi ghter Co>.er downed 12 of the enemy
l )l aues. That, ni ght the bombers returned
to pol l nd the Mono I sl and si de of Bl anche
I I arbor and, i n two rai ds, ki l l ed two New
Zeal anders and wounded ni ne.
Acti on al ong the Fal amai peri meter the
11i ght of 27 October was concentrated
mai nl y on the l eft fl ank near the Saveke
Ri ver, the former si te of the Japanese
l ~e.adquarters, and several attacks were
beaten back. The. fol l owi ng day, patrol s
moved forward of the peri meter seeki ng
DI VERS1ONARY ASSAU1,TS 193
the enemy, and onc rei nforced company
set out cross-coml try to occupy the vi l l age
of Mal si on the northeast coast. There
~l :l sl i ttl cc ol l tact. .Ti l p:Ll l esegrOul l d:t~ti I ’-
i ty on the ni ght of tl ~e28tl ~\v:~s l i gl ~t, :~~l (l
enemy ai r :I cti vi ty was l i ni i tdto one l ow-
l evel strafi ng attack ancl severzl qui ck
bombi ng r~i ds-zl 1 wi thout danl age to the
bri gade group.
By 31 octobm-, the enti re si tuati on was
stabl e. The peri meter at F’a,l amai was se-
(’l l l ’e~3[:l l si IIil-(1 1)(’ell occupi e(l wi tl ~o(l t O])-
posi ti on, ant{ radar equi pment at Soano-
tal u l mcl been i nstal l ed ancl was i n opera-
ti on. Wi th the arri vxl of the second
echel on on 1 November, the New Zeal ande-
rs bega]l an extel )si ve sweep of tl ~e i sl and
to search out a] 1 remai ni ng enemy troops
on the i sl and. The goi ng was rough i n
ti l e l ~i gl ~, rl l gged mountai n areas, but, by
,; Novel l l ber, enenky stragg]ers i n groups of
10 to 12 had been tracked down zncl ki l l ed.
The New Zeal anders l ost one ki l l ed and
four wounded i n these n~op-up operati ons.
~~ndi sti l rbed for some ti nl e, tl ~e peri m-
eter at Soanotal u WZSl ater subjected to a
nl l mber of sharp att~cks, ench one. growi ng
i n i ntensi ty. The Soanota]u force was
struck fi rst on 29 October by smal l groups
of Japanese who were tryi ng to reach the
beach after travel i ng across the i sl and
from Fal amai . These attacks conti nued
tl ~roughout the afternoon unti l a fi nal
charge by about 20 .Japnnese was hurl ed
hack. Constructi on of the radar st.a.ti on
conti nl l ed throughout the fi ghti ng. Enemy
contact on the next two days was l i ght, and
the fi rst r:~dar stnti on was compl eted and
a second one be~un.
on the l ~i ght of 1 November, a strong
force of about 80 to 90 .Japanese suddenl y
struck the peri meter i n an organi zed at-
tack, apparentl y determi ned to break
through the New Zeal and cl efense to sei ze
a hmdi ng craft and escape the i sl and. The
i i g]l t, pl l l l ctnated by grenade bursts and
mori ar fi re, raged for nearl y fi ve hours i n
t 11Pfl arkl l ess. one smal l group of enemy
penetrated the, defenses as far as the beach
before bei ng destroyed by a command
group. About, 40 ,Japanese were ki l l ed i n
tl ~o attack. The Soanotal u defenders l ost
one ki l l ed and ni ne wounded. The fol l ow-
i l ~g ni ght, 2 hTovember, another attempt
by a smal l er ,Japanese force was made and
tl ~i s attack was al so beaten back. Thi s
wns the l ast organi zed assaul t on the Soan-
otal u force, and the remai nder of the
Japanese on the i sl and were searched out
and ki l l ed by the New Zeal and patrol s
stri ki ng overl and.
l ~y 12 November, the New Zeal anders
had occupi e(l the i sl xnd. ,Japanese dead
counted i n the vari ous acti ons total ed 205;
ti l e Sew Zeal anders took 8 l )ri soners.
I t i s ckmbt ful that any Jxpanese escaped
the i sl ancl by nati ve canoe or swi mmi ng.
I n addi ti on, al l enemy weapons, equi p-
ment, and rat i ons on the i sl and were cap-
tured. The Al l i ed casual ti es i n thi s pre-
l i mi nary to the _Bougai nvi l l e operati on
were 40 New Zeal anders ki l l ed and 145
wounded. Twel ve Ameri cans were ki l l ed
and 29 wounded.
Duri ng the peri od of fi ghti ng on Mono
I sl and, acti vi ty on Sti rl i ng was di rected
toward the establ i shment of suppl y dumps,
the bui l di n: of roads, and the constructi on
of adval l cc naval base and boat pool faci l -
i ti es. Al thol l gl i several nl i nor enemy ai r
rai ds darnxged i nstal l ati ons i n the earl y
phases of the operati on, the l andi ng at
Enl press Augusta Bay di verted the attel ~-
t i on of the enemy to that area and ended
al l Japanese attempts to destroy the force
i n the Treasurys.
,.. .
194
I SOLATI ON OF RABACL
I f the ,Japanese had opportuni ty to
specul ate on the si gni fi cance of the Treas-
urys i nvasi on, the probl em mity have been
compl i cated a few hours l ater by a l and-
i ]l g of an Al l i ed force on the northwest.
const of Choi seul I sl and, just, 45 mi l es from
the southeasterl y] coast of I l ougai nvi l ]e.
‘he l andi ng was another ruse to draw
,Japanese al tenti on from the Treasurys,
poi nt away from the Al l i es’ general l i ne
of attack, and di vert, the enemy’s i nterest—
i f not effoti -toward the defense of an-
other area. More speci fi cal l y, the Choi seul
di versi on was cal cul ated to convi nce the
,Japanese that the southern end of Bou-
gni nvi l l e was i n i mmi nent danger of attack
from another di recti on. The sal i ent facts
whi ch the Al l i es hoped to conceal were that
the rei~l objecti ve was Empress Augusta
Bay, and thzt the Choi seul l andi ng force
consi sted onl y of a rei nforced battal i on of
Mari ne parachute troops.
.4ctual l y, the rai d on Choi seul was a
smal l -scal e enactment of l andi ng pl ans
whi ch had been di scarded earl i er.
Choi seul was consi dered as a possi bl e ob-
jecti ve for the l nai n h’orthern Sol omons
‘ ~Tnl~ss(ythel -wi ~enoted, the ~ateri ~l i n t,hl ~
set.ti o]l i s (l eri rwl from : ComN(/PacOtt–.No?.4.7
I l ”fI rT); SoI ]arF(}r CI C, Study of (I hoi seul I Sl ~n[I ,
(~td 1~SeI M (Choi seal Are:l OI JFi l e, Hi stBr,
HQMC) : IIII)lt ibFor .4R; 1.1[.4C :11{–1, Anx
Q. 1;1,1SSkI ~TJ : I .l f.-!(’ (’–.2.J)L/ ; I M.\C 01)() Xo.
2. dt<l ?20(t#3 (Choi seal .kreaOl ]Fi l e, I I i st13r,
I I QM(’) : (’0, M ParnBn, Prel i mRept, Op BLI SS-
F[JL, dtd 3XOY-K+ ((’hoi seul AreaOpFi l e, Hi stBr,
I I Q3[C) : ~{1 I l :l r:l l ;n I Tni t.Jnl , 270~t&l h”ov-Kl
(Choi seul .\reaOpFi l e, Hi st13r, HQMC) ; 2d
1’ar:~Bn 01)() No. 1, dtd 2:30(t43 ((’hoi seul Area-
opFi l e, I I i stBr, HQMC) ; MajGen Vi ctor A.
I {rnl :l k l tr to A(’ofS, G–3. HQ31C,{I td 170MI 0,
here:(fter Krul al c ltr; Rentz, I l ouqai ??vi l te and
t 1!<’ .\’o)’tlLfr?7 No 10)n0?7,s; I sel y and Crowl ,
.I I I cI ’[Ncs and Antph ibious War.
attack; but when the deci si on was made
that the Al l i ed attack woul d stri ke di rectl y
ami dshi ps on the western coast of Bou-
gai nvi l l ea, the Cboi seul i dea was dropped.
Then, v-hen the suggesti on was advanced
by Major ,James C. Murray, l MAC Staff
.Serretary, tl l atl because of the si ze and l o-
cat i on of Choi seul , a fei nt toward that
i sl and mi ght further decei ve the Japanese
as to the .\l l i es’ i ntenti ons, the di versi on-
ary rai d was acl ded to the Northern Sol o-
Tl l ons operati on.
Choi seul i s one of the i sl ands formi ng
the eastern barri er to The Sl ot; and as
one of tl ~e Sol omon 1sl xnds, i t shares the
l ~i gh rai nfal l total , the uni form l l i ~b heat
an(l humi di ty common to other i sl ands of
the chai n. About 80 mi l es l ong and 20
mi l es wi cl e nt the wi dest poi nt, C%oi seul
i s joi ned by reefs at, the southern end of
two smal l i sl ands (Rob Roy aml Wagi na)
wl l i cl ~ seems to extend Choi seul >s l el ~gth
another 20 mi l es. The bi g i sl and i s not as
rl qgged as 130ugai nvi l l e and ti l e mountai n
peaks are not as hi gh, but Choi seul i s ful l y
as overgrown and choked wi th rank. i m-
I )enetrabl e jungl e and rai n forest. The
mount ai n ranges i n the center of the i sl and
extend l o])g spurs and ri dges toward t]l e
coasts, thus effecti vel y di vi di ng the i sl and
i nto a seri es of l arge compartments. The
beaches, where exi stent, vary from wi de,
s:tl l d}~ ~l reas to narrow, rocky Shores wi th
l i ewvy fol i age growi ng al most to the wa-
ter’s edge. (l her compartments end i n
hi g]l , broken cl i ffs, pounded by the sea.
TI Lei sl and was popul ated by nearl y 5,000
nati ves, most o f whom (before the war)
were under the teachi ngs of mi ssi onari es
of vari ous fai ths. Wi th the excepti on of
a smal l mi nori ty> these nati ves remai ned
mi l i tal ~tl y l oyal to the ~i l l stral i an govern-
ment and i ts representati ves.
As a resul t,
DI VERSI ONARY ASSAULTS
coml watchi ng acti vi ti es on Choi seul were
gi ven val uabl e assi stance wl d protecti on.
Combat i ntel l i gence about the i sl and
was obtai ned by patrol s whi ch scouted
vari ousareas. Onegroup, l ancl ed from a
PT boat on the sol ~thmest coast of Choi -
seul , moved nortl ~~~ard :I 1oI 1: TI I e Sl ot si de
of ti l e i sl and towarc] the ,Japanese bzse
at Kakasa before tl ~rni ng i nl and. After
crossi ng the i sl and to the coastwatcher sta-
ti on at Kanaga, the l mtrol was evacuated
by a l i ”avy patrol bomber on 12 September
after si x days on the i sl and.
Two other patrol s, compri si ng Nl zri nr+,
naval offi cers? and New Zeal andel sj scouted
the northern end of the i sl and and Cl ~oi -
seul Bay for ei ght days, (22–30 Septem-
ber) before bei ng ~vi thdrawn. Thei r re-
ports i ndi cated tl ~at tl ~e mai n enemy
streng-th was at Kakasa where nearl y 1,000
,Japanese were stati oue{l and Choi sel l l Ray
where another ;100 troops mai ntai ned a
barge anchorage. Several fai r ai rfi el d
si tes were observed l ~ear (l oi seul Harbor,
and a number of goo(l beac]l es sui tabl e for
l andi ng purposes were marked. ,Japanese
acti vi ty, the patrol s noted, was general ]y
restri cted to Kakasa and Choi senl Bay,~
])uri ng the enenl y evacuati on of the
Central Sol omons, Choi seul bri dgecl the
gap between the New Georgi a Group and
Bougai nvi l l ea. The retreati ng ,Japanese,
deposi ted by barges on the southern end
of Choi seul ~ movecl overl and al ong the
coast to Choi sw~l Bay where ti l e second
hal f of the barge rel ay to I I ougai nvi l ]e was
compl eted. Thi s traffi c was checked and
reported upon by two acti ve coastwatcl ~-
ers, Charl es J. Wadcl el l and Sub-Li euten-
‘ I M.\C I ’atrfjl Rel ~t. {m Choi seol Bay, 22–
:I osqm dtd 4oct43 : 31 MarI )i v ReI ]t of Patrol
ti ) K:i ki ~~~,CW13Spp-X3, {I t(l 16Sep43 (Bougai n-
vi l l ea.l reaOI )Fi l e, I I i stBr, HQMC).
195
ant, C. W. Seton, Royal Austral i an Navyj
who nl ai nt ai ued radi o co~l tact wi th Gua-
dal canal .
Seton, on 13 October, reported the south-
ern end of Choi seul free of Japanese, but
acl ded tl mt at l east 3,000 to 4,000 enemy
had passed Bambatana Mi ssi on about 35
mi l es south of Choi seul Bay. On 19 Octo-
ber, the coastwatcher reported that, the
enemy camps i n the vi ci ni ty of Choi seul
Day and %ngi gai (about 10 mi l es north
of Bambatana, Mi ssi on) hel cl about, 3,000
,Japanese who were apparentl y wai ti ng for
bnrge, transportati on to 130ugai nvi l l e.
.Setol ~ i ndi cated that the ,Jzpanese were
di sorgani zed, l i vi ng i n di spersed huts, and
were short of rati ons. They had l ooted
nati ve gar(l ens and searched the jungl e for
food. Furthe,r, the Japanese were edgy.
i l l trai l s had been bl ocked, securi ty had
been ti ~hteued, and sentri es fi red i nto the
j ut)gl e at random sounds.’
Aft er thi s i nformati on was recei ved at
I MAC headql mrters, l ’ancl egri ft and
Wi l ki nso]l deci ded that a di versi onary
rai d on Choi seul T\-OLdCl be staged. On
20 October, Li et~tena]l t col onel Robert H.
Wi l l i ams, conl mandi ng the 1st Mari ne
Parachute Regi ment., and the commandi ng
offi cer of hi s 2d Batttl i on, Li eutenant
Col onel Vi ctor H. Krul :Lk,were summoned
from Vel l a Lavel ]a to Guada]canal . At
I MAC headquarters, Wi l l i ams and Krul ak
conferred wi th Vandegri ft and hi s staff.
The orders to Kr~~l ak were si mpl e: Get
ashore on Choi seul and make as bi g :1
demonstrati on as possi bl e to convi nce the
‘ The .TaI mneseuneasi ness had an excel l ent
Lmsi s. S{]b-Li eutenant Seton “had organi zed 25
]l :~ti vmi nto a qn:l si -mi l i tary force, armed them
(.Japanese weapons) and, on 2 October, am-
bnshed an [enemy] group i n s l :mdi ng mwft,ki l l -
i ng seven.” h-rufuk ltr.
196
I SOLATI ON OF RABAI JI ,
DI VERSI ONARY ASS.4ULTS 197
Japanese that a major l andi ng was i n
progress. I n addi ti on, reconnai ssance
woul d be conducted to detel ’mi ne possi bl e
si tes fol a torpedo boat patrol base.
The l MAC opemt i on order, gi vi ng the
cocl e nanl e 1)1.I SSFTI L to ti l e (’hoi seul di -
versi on> was i ssued o]~2’2 October. Based
on i nformati on and l .ec~ol l l l ~l el ~cl :~ti ol l s frol u
Seton, the Mari nes’ ]al l di ng \Yas set for
the beaches i n the vi ci ni ty of Voza vi l -
l age, about mi (l way between Choi seul Bay
and Bambat ana Mi ssi ml . Thel ’e the
benches were good, fri endl y hat i Yes woul d
hel p the i nvacl i nx forces, and there re-
portedl y were no enemy troops. More-
over, i t was fi rml y astri de the mxi n route
of evacl l ati on of the ,Japa]]ese straggl ers
from Kol ombal ~gara a)~d poi nts south.
After recei vi ng fhe order: Krul ak v-ent to
the ai rstri p on Guadal canal , and, whi l e
wai ti ng for a l )l ane to take l ~i m bark to
hi s comnmnd, wrote out the operati on or-
der for hi s b~ttal i on’s l ancl i ng.
Thi s was to be the fi rst combat operat i ol ~
of the 2d Battal i on as wel l as i ts fi rst
amphi bi ous venture. Al thm~~h equi pped
and trai ned for speci al assi gnnl ents be-
hi nd enemy l i nes, these, Mari nes-known
m Pararnari nes to thei r co]rl l ”:l ci es—neT7(’r
chuted i nto acti on bemuse sl l i tabl e ob-
jecti ves were usLml l y beyon(l the range
of ai rborne troops and the necessary trans-
port pl anes were i n chron i cal l -y short sup-
pl y. The 1st Parachute Battal i on, how-
ever, had taken Gavutu and Tanambogo
I sl ands before goi ng to Gl l zdal cml al to
take part i n the defense of the ai rfi el d
there i n 1942. Thi s battal i on had then
formed the nucl eus for the present 1st
Parachute Regi ment, now consi sti ng of
three bntta]i ons i n I MAC reserve nt Vel l a
Lave]l a. Each battal i on, of three. ri fl e
cornpmi es each, was armed wi th a pre-
ponderance of l i ght automati c and semi -
automati c weapons. The ni ne-man squads
i n Li eutenant Col onel I {rul ak’s ri fl e pl a-
toons carri ecl three Johnson l i ght machi ne
guns G and si x Johnson semi -automati c
ri fl es; each company had, i n addi ti on, si x
Wmm mortars.
Krul ak’s return to hi s command set off
a fl urry of near-frenzi ed acti vi ty, si nce
ti l e battal i on had a mi ni mum of ti me for
preparati on. For the next four days, offi -
cers and men worked al most around the
cl ock to assembl e equi pment, make fi nal
pl ans, ancl bri ef themsel ves on the task
ahead. Ch the 24th, Coastwatcher Seton
and two of hi s nati ve gui des arri ved at
Yel l s I ,avel l a to meet Kru]ak’s offi cers
and i l l en and gi ve them l ast-mi nute i nfor-
mat i on. i ~fter bei ng bri efed by Seton,
Krl l l ak requested ai ~ci was gi ven author-
i ty by l MAC to operate i n any di recti on
on Choi seu], i f consi stent wi th hi s mi ssi on.
Eql l i pment and suppl i es for the opera-
ti on were pre-sorted i nto four stacks; and
l ate on the afternoon of the 27th of Octo-
ber the parachute battal i on and i ts gear
\Y:LSembarked on board ei ght LCMS bor-
rowed fronl the Ve]l a Lavel l a boat pool .
Krul ak’s three compani es were rei nforced
by a communi cati ons pl atoon, a regi mental
weapons company wi th mortars and l i ght
machi ne guns, and a detachment from an
experi mental rocket, pl atoon (bazookas
and rockets) from I MAC. Total battal i on
strength was 30 offi cers and 626 men, I n
addi ti on, one naval offi cer accompani ed the
battal i on for reconnai ssance purposes re-
l at ed to the possi bl e estabol i shment of a
torpedo boat base.
At dusk, when four APDs whi ch had
just co]npl et ed the Treasury l andi ngs ar-
G“The ,Johnmn l i ght machi ne gun was more
:)n autwri fl e th:l n a nuachi negun : more .a m,a-
{,hi ne gun than the BAR.” Ibid.
198
ri ved off Vel l a Lavel l a, the troops and
equi pment were transferred from the
LCMS to the ,VcXean, ~ro~b,y, Kilt,y, and
Wa~d i n a qni ck operati on that was com-
pl eted i n l ess than 45 mi nutes. The de-
stroyer di vi si on , wi th the I TSS (?wnuwy
acti ng as escort, sai l ed from Vel l a La-
vel l a at 1921. The don?ooy)s radar wou]d
l ocate the hmdi ng poi nt i n tl ~e dark.
Movi ng i n rol nmn through the ni ght,
the convoy was si gl ~ted short 1y after 2300
by an enm~l y snooper p] me whi ch droppe(l
one bomb, scori ng a l l ezr mi ss on the l ast
APD i n l i ne. Shortl y before mi dni ght,
at a poi nt son~e 2,000 yar(l s off the nortl i -
west coast of Choi seul , the convoy stopped,
and x reconnai ssance party i n a rubber
boat l ~eadecl toward shore to scout the
l andi ng area. A si gnal l i ght was to bc
shown i f no enemy defenders were en-
connterecl . Whi l e wai ti ng for the si gnal .
Krul ak ordered Compani es F and G i nto
the l anc{i ng boats.
After wai ti ng unti l 0019 (28 october),
Company F hea(l ed toward the beach w’i tl ~
Company G cl ose behi nd. The operati on
order had di rected Company G to make
the i ni ti al assaul t, but the APDs had
dri fted apart and the Ki tty wi th Com-
pany F embarked was cl oser to shore.
Si nce no l i ght on sl ~ore was yet di scm-ni bl e,
the Mari nes expected opposi ti on. The
l andi ng, however, was uneventful , ancl the
patrol was wai ti n~ on shore. Observers
on shi p reported l ater that the l i ght was
vi si bl e at 0023, just four nl i nutes after the
parachute compani es beg-an the run for
the beach. After setti ng the troops
ashore, the 1andi ng craft i mmedi atel y re-
turned to tl ~e transports to bri ng i n a l oad
of suppl i es.7
‘ DesDi ,\-M AR for ni ght of 27–280ct, I ni ti al
I ,i l l l ci i ng of h~~~ri neI ’:i ratroopers oi l Choi seul
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
I I l one enemy pl ane detected the ~on-
zuay standi ng patrol duty seaward, and
dropped two bombs near the shi p. The
(’on.ll;(ty: rel uctant. to draw attenti on to
the l andi ng, di d not return the fi re, and
the enenl y l )l al ~e droned away. An Al l i ed
escort pl ane, :I ssi gned to protect the con-
voy agcci nst sL~ch attacks, d,rew consi der-
abl e cri ti ci sm, however, for not remai ni ng
l ow enough to spot sl ~ch bombi ng runs.
Two hours after arri val i n the area, the
convoy reversed course and steamed back
to T’el l a I .avel l a, l eavi ng behi nd four l and-
i ng cr:~ft, (LCP (R) ) wi th thei r crews for
tl ~e battal i on’s use. These craft were di s-
persed l l nder the cover of overhangi ng
nml ~groves near the offshore i sl and of
Zi noz, and the Mari nes turned to movi ng
sL~ppli es off the beach. Seton, who l anded
on Choi seul wi th the battal i on, di sap-
peared i nto the bush and returned al most
i nl medi atel y wi th a group of nati ve bear-
ers. Wi th thei r hel p, the Mari nes moved
i nto the jungl e. The transfer was none
too soon; enemy reconnai ssance pl anes ap-
peared at dawn to bomb the area but -wi th-
out success.
Earl y on the morni ng of the 28th, a
base of operati ons was establ i shed on a
hi gh jungl e pl ateau about a mi l e to the
northwest of ~~oza and outposts were set
up on the beac]~ north and south of the
vi l l age. Securi ty was establ i shed and
wi re communi cati ons i nstal l ed. The pl a-
teau, behi nd natural barri ers of ri vers and
hi gh cl i ffs, was an i deal defensi ve spot
and :L necessary base camp for the heavy
radi o gear wi th whi ch I MAC had
equi pped the parachute battal i on.
I sl an(i , dtd Nov-13: USS Con?ra~ AR, 27–
280ct4:l , [M 25Ncw43 (Ci ]okeul AreaOpFi l e,
I I i stBr, l I QMC).
DI VERSI ONARY ASSAULTS 199
Duri ng the day of 2?8 October, whi l e
the Mari nes establ i shed thei r camp, an-
other enemy tl i gl ~t appeared and raked the
beachhead wi th a strafi ng ancl bombi ng
attack, The effect was wasted. The Ma-
ri nes had di spersed; thei r equi pn~el ~t had
been moved; and good camoufl age di sci -
pl i ne h:td been observed. TOO, t]l e *,a.
ti ves had obl i terated every si gn of a l and-
i ng at, I ?oza and establ i shed a dummy
beachl macl several mi l es to ti l e north for
the speci al bel ~efi t of .Japanese pl anes seek-
i ng a target,
I nformed by Seton’s .g~~i des that the
Mari ne battal i on, was bi \-ouackeci between
a barge stagi ng-repl eni shment base :I t
i %ngi gai fi bol l t ei ght mi l es to the Wi th
and an enemy outpost, at ti l e Warri or
Ri ver about 17 mi l es to the north, K,rul al c
on the morni ng of tl l e XX 11sent. out recon-
nai ssance patrol s to the nortl ~ and south.
These yrol l ps were to l ocate trai l s, scout,
any enemy di sposi ti ons, :~ndbecotne fami l -
i ar wi th the area.
Kru]ak persortal ]y l ed one patrol to-
ward Sangi ~ai , goi ng overl ancl toward the
Vagara R-i &r whi ch was about hal fway
between the Mari ne can~p and the enemy
base. Whi l e part of tl ~e patrol headed
i nl and toward the hi g]l ground to the
rear of Sangi ~Ti , to sketch the approaches
to the vi l l age, the Mari ne comander l ed
the rest of ti l e patrol to the ri ver. There
the hi dden Mari nes si l entl y watched a
group of about 10 ,Japanese l ml oadi ng a
b~rge; and si l ~ce thi s appeard to be an
excel l ent, opportuni ty to announce the ag-
gressi ve i l l tel l t i ons of ti l e Kr~l l ak fo[’~e,
ti l e Ameri cans opeue(l fi re. Seven of the
.Jxpal ~ese w-ere ki l l ed, an(l the barge sunk.
Krul :l k’s secti on then returned to tl l e base,
fol l ol ved shortl y by ti l e other hal f of the
patrol . .\fter the attack order NW i ssued,
:1 sql l ad was sent bzcl c over the trai l to
691–3600—63——14
the Vag-ara to hol e] a l andi ng poi nt for
Kru] ak)s boats ancl to bl ock the Japanese
who mi ght be fol l owi ng t}l e Mari nes>
track. The patrol ran i nto a pl atoon of
the enen]y about three-quarters of a mi l e
from the ori gi nal Mari ne l andi ng poi nt
and drove the <JapaneseOfi .s
Jkt (MOOti l e fol l owi ng morni ng, 30 Octo-
ber, Kruhl k l ecl Compani es E and 1?, pl us
the rocket detacl ml ent, toward Voza for
an .l ttzc L- on San~~i gai . The barge base
l l a(l been n~arked as a target si nce 22 Octo-
ber. To hel p hi m i n hi s assaul t, and
gi ve the i mpressi on of a l arger attacki ng
force, Krul ak requested a preparatory ai r
stri ke on reported <Japanese posi ti ons
northwest of the base. Esti mated enemy
stren@~ was about 150 defenders,
al though Seton warnecl that Sangi gai
coL~l d have been rei nforced easi ]y from
ti l e Southl vest si nce the Mari nes7 l andi ng.
I {ru]ak’s attack pl ans were changed at
VOZ:t, ho~~ever, si nce one of the four boats
had been damaged a few mi nutes ear]i e.r
i n an attack by Ml i ed pl anes, The straf-
i ng ended when the fi ghter pi l ots di s-
covered thei r error and apol ogi zed to ti l e
boat crews wi th a fi nal pass a]l cl a cl earl y
vi si bl e “thumbs-up>’ si gnal The request-
ed ai r stri ke at Sangi gai hi t at 0610 wi th
better resul ts. Whi l e 26 fi ghters fl ew
escort, 12 T1~J?s dropped a total of more
tl ~an two tons of bombs on enemy
di sposi ti ons.
Unabl e to use the boats for passage to
the Vagara, Krul ak ordered hi s troops to
begi n a route march overl and from Voza.
Seton and hi s nati ve gui des l ed the way,
fol I ow-ec]by Company ~ (Gtpt ai n Spencer
H. Pratt) wi th a secti on of machi ne guus
‘ Thi s encounter l eft Krul ak “i n no doubt
that we needed to go at them qui ckl y, because
they were obvi ousl y aggressi ve.” K“rutal cl tr.
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
ancl the rocket detachment. Company I ?
(Captai n Robert E. Manchester) and at-
tached uni ts fol l owed. ~~t about 1100,
Japanese outpostson the l ~agara opened
fi reon the Mari necol umn. Tl ri sk return
fi re from tl ~e parachuti sts forced the
enemy pi ckets to wi thdraw towards
Sangi gai .
Fol l owi ng the en~-el opment pl an he had
formul ated on tl i e 29th, Krnl ak sent
Company E al ong the coast] i ne to I al l nch
au att ark on ~San~Ti qrai from that d i rec -
t i on whi l e the remai nder of the force, un-
der hi s command, moved i nl and to attack
from the hi gh *~ound to the rear and east
of Sangi gai . The assaul t was set for 1400,
but as that, hour drew near, tl ~e group i n
the i nteri or found that i t N-as sti l l a con-
si derabl e di stance from the vi l l age. The
mountai nous terrai n, tangl ed cl osel y by
jungl e creepers and cut by rushi ng
streams, sl owed Krul ak’s force, and, by
H-Honr, the col l l nm was sti l l not i n posi
ti on to make i ts attack effort. When the
sound of fi ri ng came from the {l i recti ou of
Sangi gai vi l l age, the second force was st i l l
movi ng towards i ts desi ~uated jump-off
poi nt. ,Seton’s nati ves> however, i ndi cated
that the enemy \vere just ahead.
Company E, movi ng al ong ti l e bezch,
reached i ts attack posi ti on wi thout troubl e.
Al though the assaul t was del ayed a few
mi nutes, the company opened wi th an ef-
fecti ve rocket, spread and mortar fi re. 44s
the Mari nes moved fmn~ard, the Japanese
defenders l msti ]y wi thdrew, abandoni ng
the base and ti l e vi l l age to fl ee to the hi gh
ground i nl and. The hl ari ne company em
tered the vi l l age wi thout opposi ti on.”
“ The Mari nes wi th Krul ak saw the fi rst enemy
posi ti on “wi thi n a few mi nutes of E Company’s
openi ng fi re. I n thi s sense, the ti mi ng was
extremel y l ucky. Had the envel opi ng col umn
been 30 mi nutessl ower, the .Tapswoul d ha~egot-
The enemy’s wi thdrawal to prepared
posi ti ons i nl and fi tted perfectl y i nto Kru-
l ak’s scheme of maneuver. The Japanese
moved from the vi l l age strai ght i nto the
fi re of Company F, and a pi tched battl e
that l asted for nearl y an hour ensued. An
envel opi ng movement by the Mari nes be-
hi nd the effecti ve fi re of l i ght machi ne
guns forced the Japanese i nto several un-
coordi nated lm-wai charges whi ch re-
sul ted i n further enemy casual ti es. As
the Mari nes moved once more to turn the
enemy’s ri gl ~t fl ank, the ,Japanese di sen-
gaged and about 40 survi vors escaped
i nto the jungl e. A fi nal count showed 72
enemy bodi es i n the area. Krul ak’s force
l ost four ki l l ed. Twel ve others, i ncl udi ng
Krul ak and Pratt, were wounded.
Company E, possessors of Sangi gai , had
been busy i n the i nteri m. Manchester’s
company, usi ng demol i ti ons, destroyed the
vi l l age, the Japanese base and al l enemy
suppl i es, scuttl ed a new barge, and cap-
tured a number of documents, i ncl udi ng a
chart of enemy mi ne fi el ds off southern
Bougai nvi l ]e. The Mari nes then wi thdrew
to the Vagara to board the four l andi ng
craft (the di sabl ed boat had been re-
pai red) for the return to Voza. Krul ak’s
force, after buryi ng i ts dead, retraced i ts
path to the Vagara and spent the ni ght i n
a ti ght defensi ve peri meter.l ” Earl y the
ten away from E Co i nto the bush. As i t was,
the sentence i n the operati on order ‘Prevent
enemY wi thdrawal i nto the mountai ns’ (}Var
1)i :\ry—1600W Dee) worked out wel l . ” I fi i d.
‘0The ori ~i nal pl an was for the boats to make
two tri ps on the X)th, but by the ti me Company
E got hack to base i t was getti ng dark. The
I mttal i on executi ve offi cer cancel l ed the return
tri p i n vi ew of the dangers of runni ng the boats
al ong the reef shel f at ni ght. Krul ak’s radi o
h:~dbroken down and so he had no way of l earn-
i nz of thi s deci si on, :[l though he guessed that
tl ]i s was the case. Sti l l , i t was an anxi ons ni ght.
DI VERSI ONARY ASSAULTS
next morni ng, 31 October, the l andi ng
craft returned to carry the parachuti sts
to Voza and the base camp.
Tt’i th the battal i on reassembl ed once
more, the Mari nes prepared ambushes to
forestal l any Japanese retal i atory attacks,
and aggressi ve patrol s were pushed out
al ong the coast to determi ne i f the Japa-
nese were tl meateni ng and to keep the
enemy off bal ance and uncertai n about
Mari ne strength. A Navy PBY l anded
near Voza the fol l owi ng day to evacuate
the wounded Mari nes and the captured
documents; and, on the same day, i n an-
swer to an urgent, request by Krul ak, 1,000
pounds of ri ce for the nati ves and 250
hand grenades and 500 pounds of TNT
were ai r dropped near Voza. Several
bri sk engagements between opposi ng pa-
trol s were reported on thi s day, 1 hTovem-
ber, but the base camp was not attacked.
Seton’s nati ves, however, reported that
Sangi gai had agai n been occupi ed by the
tJapanese.
After Krul ak returned to the base camp
on 31 October, hi s executi ve offi cer, Major
Warner T. Bi gger, l ed a patrol to Nuki ki
Vi l l age, about 10 mi l es to the north. No
opposi ti on was encountered. On the fol -
l owi ng day, 1 NTovember, Bi gger l ed 87
Mari nes from Company G (Captai n Wi l -
l i am H. Day) toward Nuki ki agai n to i n-
vesti gate pri or reports of a l arge enemy i n-
stal l ati on on the Warri or Ri ver. Bi gger’s
i nstructi ons were to move from Nuki ki
across the Warri or Ri ver, destroyi ng any
enemy or bases encountered, and then
move as far north as possi bl e to bri ng the
mai n Japanese base at Choi seul Bay under
Hhnm mortar fi re. Enemy i nstal l ati ons
on Guppy I sl and i n (Moi seul Bay were an
al ternate target.
The patrol moved past Nuki ki wi thout,
opposi ti on, al though the l andi ng craft
201
carryi ng the Mari nes beached conti nual l y
i n the shal l ow mouth of the Warri or
Ri ver. Si nce the sound of the coxswai ns
gunni ng the boats’ motors to cl ear obstruc-
ti ons was undoubtedl y heard by any
enemy i n the area, Bi gger ordered the Ma-
ri nes to di sembark. The boats were then
sent downri ver to be hi dden i n a cove near
Nuki ki . Bi gger’s force, meanwhi l e, l eft
four men and a radi o on the east bank of
the ri ver, and al l excess gear i ncl udi ng
demol i ti ons was cached. Mortar ammuni -
ti on was di stri buted among al l the Ma-
ri nes. -The patrol then headed upri ver
al ong the east bank, and the Warri or was
crossed l ater at a poi nt consi derabl y i n-
l and from the coast.
By mi dafternoon, the nati ves l eadi ng
the patrol confessed to Bi gger that they
were l ost. Al though i n the mi dst of a
swamp, the Mari ne commander deci ded to
bi vouac i n that spot whi l e a smal l er patrol
retraced the route back to the Warri or
Ri ver to report to Krul ak by radi o and to
order the boats at Nuki ki to return to
Voza. I n response to Bi gger’s message,
Kru]ak asked Seton i f he had any nati ves
more fami l i ar wi th the country north of
the Warri or Ri ver; the onl y man who had
vi si ted the regi on was sent to gui de the l ost
Mari nes.
The smal l er patrol bi vouacked at the
radi o si te on the ni ght of 1–2 November
and awoke the next morni ng to the real i -
zati on that a Japanese force of about 30
men had sl i pped between the two Mari ne
groups and that thei r smal l camp was vi r-
tl l al l y sl l rrounded. Steal thi l y sl i ppi ng
past enemy outposts, the patrol members
moved to Nuki ki , boarded the boats, and
returned to Voza. After heari ng the pa-
trol ’s report, Krul ak then radi oed I MAC
for fi ghter cover and PT boat support to
202 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
l vi thdraw tI l e groul ) fronl 1l l e ( ‘l l oi se~d
]I ay area.
Bi gger was unaware of the acti vi ty be-
hi nd hi m. I ntent upon hi s mi ssi on, he de-
ci ded to conti nue toward Choi seul Bay.
After determi ni ng hi s posi ti on, Bi gger
ordered another smal l patrol to make i ts
way to the ri ver base camp and rac]i o a
request that the boats pi ck up hi s force
that afternoon, 2 hTovember. Thi s second
patrol soon cl i scovered the l )resence of an
enemy force to Bi gger’s rear, and was
forced to fi ght i ts way towards hTuki ki .
Thi s patrol was wzi ti ng there, when the
l andi ng craft returned to h-t~ki ki .
The mai n force, meanwhi l e, fol l owed the
new ~gui de to the coast and then turned
north al ong the bel ch toward Choi seul
Bay. opposi te Redman I sl and, a smal l
offshore i sl et, a four-man Japanese outpost
suddenl y opened fi re. The Mari nes qui ckl y
knocked owt thi s opposi ti on, but one
,Japanese escaped—undoubtedl y to gi ve
the al arm.
Because any el ement of surpri se was
l ost and thi nni ng jungl e towards Choi seul
Bay provi ded l ess protecti on and cover
for an attacki ng force, Bi gger deci ded to
execute hi s al ternate mi ssi on of shel l i ng
Guppy I sl and. Jungl e vegetati on grow-
i ng down to the edge of the water masked
the fi re of the 60mm mortars, so Bi gger
ordered the weapons moved offshore. The
shel ]i ng of Guppy was then accompl i shed
wi th the, mortars empl aced on the beach
~vi th part of the basepl ates under water.
The enemy suppl y center al ~d fl l el base was
hi t wi th 143 rounds of hi g]l expl osi ves.
Two 1arge fi res were observed, one of them
obvi ousl y a fuel ({ump. Bi gger’s force,
under return ene]l l y ti re, turned around
and heacl ecl back toward the Warri or
Ri ver.
The Japanese , attempti ng to cut off
Bi gger’s ret i ren-mnt, l anded troops from
barges al ong the coastl i ne; and the Ma-
ri ne, force W:LS~l l l der attack four separate
ti mes before i t successful l y reached the
Warri or Ri ver. There the patrol set up
a peri meter ol l the west bank and wai ted
for the expected boats.
Several mel ~ were i n the ri ver washi ng
the sl i me :Lnd muck of the jungl e march
from thei r cl othi ng when a fusi l l ade of
shots from the opposi te bank hi t the Ma-
ri ne force. The patrol at fi rst thought i t
was bei ng fi red upon by i ts own base camp,
but, when di spl ay of a smal l Ameri can fl ag
drew i ncreased fi re, the Mari nes dove for
cover. Heavy return fi re from the Mari ne
si de of the ri ver forced the enemy to wi th-
draw. Sei zi ng thi s opportuni ty, Bi gger
cl i rected three Mari nes to swi m across the
Warri or to contact the expected boats and
warn the rescuers of the ambush. Before
the tri o coL~l d reach the opposi te shore,
though, the ,Japanese returned to the fi ght,
and onl y one survi vor managed to return
to the i l [ari ne peri meter.
Even as the fi erce exchange conti nued,
the Mari nes si ghted the four boats maki ng
for the 11’arri or Ri ver from the sea. An
approachi ng storm, ki cki ng up a heavy
sl ~rf, added to the cl i ffi cul ty of rescue. Un-
cl er cover of the Mari nes’ fi re, the l ancl i ng
craft fi nal l y beached on the west shore, and
the Bi gger patrol cl ambered aboard.
one boat, i ts motor swamped by surf,
dri fted toward the enemy shore but was
stopped by a coral head. The rescue was
compl eted, though, by the ti mel y arri val
of two PT boats—whi ch came on the
scene wi th al l guns bl azi ng.’l Whi l e the
“ One of these boats was commandedby Li em
tenant tJohnF. Kennedy, USNR, l ater the 33th
Presi dent of the Uni ted States, Krutak ltr.
DI VERSI ONARY ASSAULTS
203
patrol boats raked the jungl e opposi te wi th
20mm and .50 cal i ber fi re, the Mari nes
transferred from the stal l ed craft, to the
rescue shi ps and al l craft then wi thdrew.
A ti mel y rai n squal l hel ped shi el d the re-
ti rement. Ai rcraft from Munda and PT
boats provi ded cover for the return to
Voza.
The ti me for wi thdrawal of the battal -
i on from Choi seul was near, however, de-
spi te the fact that Krul ak’s force had
pl anned to stay 8-10 days on the i sl and.
On 1 November, another strong patrol , one
of a seri es sent out from the ~70za camp to
keep the enemy from cl osi ng i n, returned
to the Vagara to dri ve a strong Japanese
force back towards Sangi gai . From al l
i ndi cati ons, the ,Japanese defenders now
had a good i deza of the si ze of the Krul ak
force, and aggressi ve enemy patrol s were
sl owl y cl osi ng i n on the Mari nes. Seton’s
nati ves on 3 November reported that 800
to 1,000 Japanese were at Sangi gai and
that another strong force was at Mol i
Poi nt north of Voza.
After the recovery of the Bi gger patrol
from Nuki ki , I MAC asked Krul ak to make
a frank suggesti on as to whether the ori -
gi nal pl an shou]d be compl eted or whether
the Mari ne battal i on shoul d be removed.
The Cape Toroki na operati on was wel l
underway by thi s ti me, and I MAC added
i n i ts message to Krul ak that Vandegri ft’s
headquarters consi dered that the mi ssi on
of the parachute battal i on had been ac-
compl i shed. Krul ak, on 3 November,
radi oed that the Japanese aggressi veness
was forced by thei r ul ”gent need of the
coastal route for evacuati on, and that l arge
forces on ei ther si de of the battal i on i ndi -
cated that the Japanese were aware of the
si ze of hi s force and that a strong attack,
prob~bl y wi thi n 48 hours, was l i kel y. The
Mari ne commander stati d that he had food
for seven days, adequate ammuni ti on, and
a strong posi ti on; but that i f I MAC con-
si dered hi s mi ssi on accompl i shed, he rec-
ommended wi thdrawal .
Commenti ng l ater on hi s si tuati on at
thi s ti me, Krul ak remarked:
As a matter of fact, I fel t we’d not possi -
bl y be wi thdrawn before the Japs cut the
beach route. However, we were so much
better off than the Japs that i t was not too
worri some (I say now !) The nati ves were
on our si de-we coul d move across the i s-
l and far faster than the Japs coul d fol l ow,
and I fel t i f we were not pi cked up on the
Voza si de, we coul d make i t on the other
si de. Seton agreed, and we had al ready
pl anned such a move. Besi des that we fel t
confi dent that our posi ti on was strong
enough to hol d i n pl ace i f necessary.’*
on the ni ght of 3 November, three LCI S
appeared offshore at a desi gnated spot
north of Voza to embark the wi thdrawi ng
Mari nes. I n order to del ay an expected
enemy attack, the Mari nes ri gged mi ne
fi el ds and booby traps. Duri ng the em-
barkati on, the sounds of expl odi ng mi nes
were cl earl y audi bl e. Much to the para-
chuti sts’ amusement., the LCI crews nerv-
ousl y tri ed to hurry embarkati on, expect-
i ng enemy fi re momentari l y. Krul ak’s bat-
tal i on, however, l oaded al l suppl i es and
equi pment except rati ons, whi ch were
gi ven to the coastwatchers and the nati ves.
Embarkati on was compl eted i n l ess than
15 mi nutes, and, shol tl y after dawn on the
4th of October, the Mari ne parachute bat-
tal i on was back on Vel l a Lavel l a.
Krul ak’s esti mate of the Japanese i n-
tenti ons was correct. Wi thi n hours of the
Mari nes’ departure, strong Japanese
forces cl osed i n on the area where the para-
chute battal i on had been camped. The
enemy had been surpri sed by the l andi ng
=Il)id.
204 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
and undoubtedl y had been duped regard-
i ng the si ze of the l andi ng force by the
swi ft acti vi ty of the battal i on over a 25-
mi l e f rent. Then, after the operati on at
Empress Augusta Bay got underway, the
Choi seul ruse became apparent to the
Japanese, who began prompt and ag-gres-
si ve acti on to wi pe out the Mari ne force.
The conti nued presence of the Al l i ed
group on Choi seul compl i cated the evacua-
ti on program of the Japanese, and, once
aware of the si ze of the Krul ak force, the
enemy l ost no ti me i n movi ng to erase that
compl i cati on.
Before the battal i on wi thdrew, though,
i t had ki l l ed at l east 143 Japanese i n the
engagement at Sangi gai and the Warri or
Ri ver, sunk two barges, destroyed more
than 180 tons of stores and equi pment, and
demol i shed the base at Sangi gai . TJn-
known amounts of suppl i es and fuel had
been bl asted and burned at Guppy I sl and.
Mi ne fi el d coordi nates shown on the cha~
captured at Sangi gai were radi oed to the
task force en route to Cape Toroki na,
vastl y easi ng the thoughts of naval com-
manders who had l earned of the exi stence
of the mi nes but not thei r l ocati on. Later,
the charts were used to mi ne channel s i n
southern Bougai nvi l l ea waters that the
Japanese bel i eved to be free of danger.
The destructi on of enemy troops and
equi pment on Choi seul was accompl i shed
at the l oss of 9 Mari nes ki l l ed, 15 wounded,
and 2 mi ssi ng i n acti on. The l atter two
Mari nes were decl ared ki l l ed i n acti on at
the end of the war.’s
‘8Thi s i s the casual ty fi gure gi ven by Rentz,
Bougai)tciUe and the il’orthern Solornons, p. 114.
Few accounts of the Choi seul attack are i n ac-
cord on Mari ne casual ti es. Muster rol l s of the
battal i on i ndi cate 9 KI A, 12 WI A, and 5 MI A.
Of those mi ssi ng, four were l ater decl ared dead
and one bel i eved a pri soner of war. I MAC C-2
The effect of the di versi onary attack up-
on the success of the Cape Toroki na oper-
ati on ww sl i ght. The Japanew expected
an attack on Choi seul ; the rai d merel y
confi rmed thei r confi dence i n thei r abi l i ty
to outguess the Al l i es. I n thi s respect,
the Japanese were gui l ty of basi ng thei r
pl anni ng on thei r opponents’ i ntenti ons,
not the capabi l i ti es. There i s l i ttl e i ndi -
cati on that enemy forces i n Bougai nvi l l ea
were drawn off bal ance by the Choi seul
epi sode, and enemy records of that pe-
ri od attach l i ttl e si ami fi cance to the Choi -
seul attack.
Thi s may be expl ai ned by the fact that
the mai n l andi ng at Cape Toroki na took
pl ace cl ose on the heel s of Krul ak’s ven-
ture and the, ruse toward Choi seul became
apparent before the Japanese reacted suf-
fi ci entl y to prepare a counterstroke to i t.
Certai nl y, the si ze and scope of the l and-
i ng operati ons at Empress Aua~sta Bay
were evi dence enough that Choi wnd was
onl y a di versi onary effort.
THE J APANE~YE 14
Enemy reacti on to the Al l i ed moves was
a bi t sl ow. The Japanese knew that an
offensi ve agai nst them was brewi ng; what
they coul d not deci de was where or when.
The Seventeenth Army was cauti oned
agai n to keep a watchful eye on Ki eta and
.Jnl ,4Nov43, and the report of the di versi on at-
tack, Operati on BLI SSFUL, p. 4, i ndi cate that
9 KI A and 16 WI A i s correct. IZIPhibFor AR,
pp. 34, states that 8 KI A, 14 WI A, 1 MI A, and
1 captured i s correct. LMA C AR–I, p. 11, gi ves
the casual ti es as 8 KI A, 14 WI A, and 1 MI A.
ONI , Combat Narrati ve XII, p. 24, gi ves the
l osses as 9 KI A, 15 WI A, and 2 MI A. The fi gure
gi ven by Rentz undoubtedl ytakes i nto cogni zance
a 13Dec43 message from Coastwatcher Seton to
the effect that the bodi es of two Mari nes, one of
them bound as a pri soner, had been found near
the Warri or Ri ver. Co?nfYoPac De+ WarD.
DI VERSI ONARY ASSAULTS
Buka, and General Hyakutake i n turn
di rected the 6th Division to mai ntai n a
fi rm hol d on Choi seul as wel l as strong
posi ti ons i n the Shortl and I sl ands. Then,
the tJapanese defenders on Bougai nvi l l ea
wai ted for the next devel opments.
After the Al l i ed l andi ngs i n the Treas-
urys, the Japanese thi nki ng crystal l i zed:
Munda was operati onal ; Vel l a Lavel l a was
not. Therefore, the onl y targets wi thi n
range of NewT Georgi a were the Short-
hands or Choi seu]. And based upon thi s
reasoni ng, the .i l l i es scarcel y woul d at-
tempt a l andi ng on 130ugai nvi l ]e before
stagi ng bases on Mono or Choi seul were
compl eted. Reassured by thi s assumpti on,
the ,Japanese rel axed, confi dent that the
next Al l i ed move woul d come duri ng the
dark quarters of the moon—probabl y l ate
i n November.
Wi th the Al l i ecl move toward Choi seul ,
the Japanese were more convi nced that
the Al l i ed pattern was predi ctabl e. Wi th
a fi rm foothol d on Mono and Choi s@ the
Al l i es woul d now move to cut Japanese
l i nes and then l and on the southern part
of Bougai nvi l l ea i n an attempt to sei ze the
i sl and’s ai rfi el ds. Basi ng thei r esti mates
on the i ncreased number of Al l i ed ai r
stri kes on Buka and the Shorthmds, the
Bougai nvi l l ea defenders deci ded that these
were the threatened areas. .411 si gns
poi nted to a bi g offensi ve soon—probabl y,
the Japanese agreed—on 8 December, the
second anni versary of the decl arati on of
war.
“ Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ved frt)m: SE .4rea. NaoOpS-III;
Scm’ntwnth Army Ops-II; Rentz, Bougai nvi tl e
a~~dthe .Vorthwn Nolomons; Mi l l er, Reduct@n
of Rubaul; Mori son, Breaki ng the Bismarcka
Barrier.
205
The enemy had no hi nt that such an un-
l i kel y area as Empress Augusta Bay
woul d be attacked. The defense i nstal l a-
ti ons were concessi ons to orders di recti ng
that the western coast be defended, and the
troops at Mosi getta-the onl y force cap-
abl e of i mmedi ate rei nforcement to the
Cape Toroki na area—were al erted onl y to
the possi bi l i ty that they mi ght be di verted
on short noti ce to the southern area to de-
fend agai nst an assaul t there.
Japanese sea and ai r strength was l i ke-
wi se out of posi ti on to defend agai nst the
Bougai nvi l l ea thrust. Admi ral Mi nei chi
Koga, commander i n chi ef of the Com-
bined Fleet at Truk, had deci ded earl i er to
rei nforce Vi ce Admi ral Ji ni chi Kusaka’s
Southeast .4rea P7eet and the l and-based
pl anes of the Eleventh Air F7eet at Rabaul
so that a new ai r campai gn coul d be ai med
at the Al l i es i n the South Paci fi c. Thi s
operati on, l i ?o, to start i n mi d-October,
was to short-ci rcui t Al l i ed i ntenti ons by
cutti ng suppl y l i nes and crushi ng any
preparati ons for an offensi ve. To Ku-
saka’s dwi ndl i ng array of fi ghters, bom-
bers, and attack pl anes, Koga added the
pl anes from the carri ers Zuikaku, Sho-
kai%u,and Zuiho-82 fi ghters, 45 di ve bom-
bers, 40 torpedo bombers, and 6 recon-
nai ssance pl anes.
Koga’s campai gn, though, was del ayed.
Al l i ed radi o traffi c i ndi cated that ei ther
Wake or the Marshal l I sl ands woul d be
hi t next, and to counter thi s threat i n
the Central Paci fi c, Koga sent hi s fl eet
and carri er groups toward Eni wetok to
set an ambush for the Paci fi c Fl eet. After
a week of frui tl ess steami ng back and
forth, the Japanese force returned to Truk,
and the carri er groups moved on to Ra-
haul . The Japanese admi ral had at fi rst
deci ded to del i ver hi s mai n attack agai nst
New Gui nea, but the Treasurys l andi ngs
206
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
caused hi m to swerve towarcl s the Sol o- operati on. The el ements of the Japanese
mons. Then, when .Ml i ecl acti vi ti es be- fl eet reached the area north of the Bi s-
tween 27 October and 1 I Yovernber dwi n- mamks on 1 November> just i n ti me to
di ed, the fl eet agai n turned toward New head back towards the Sol omons to try to
Gui nea to take up the l ong-del ayed Ro i nterrupt the l andi ngs at Cape Toroki na.
CHAPTER 3
Assault of Cape Torokina
;{
. . . THE TROOP8 ARE
MA G.VI FI (~l?NT.7’ 1
The Northern Landi ng Force arri ved
off Empress Auagusta Bay for the assaul t
of Cape l ’oroki na shortl y after a bri ght
dawn on 1 November, D-Day. The ap-
proach to the objecti ve area had been un-
eventful . After rendezvousi ng near Gua-
dal canal , the transports steamed around
the southern and western coasts of Ren-
‘ unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ved from : ComNoPac .No043 Warn;
Tltir(7F7t Xarrl{rpt; IIIPII ibFor :1R; IIIPhib-
For 3’0174,{Tt”arD; ComTransGru, I I I Phi bFor,
Rept of I .:nnrl i n@ps,EmpressAugusta Bay, Bou-
~:l i n~~i l l eI sl and, 1—2Nov43, dtd 22Dec43 (COA,
NHD) ; 11~.1C AR-I; I JfAC’ C–2 Rept.s ;I,IfAC?
(’–zJn7;M Marni v, Combat Rept of the 3d
MarDi v i n the Bougai nvi l l eOps, l hTov-28Dec43,
dtd 21Mi l r44 (I I ougai nvi l l e .LreaOpFi l e, Hi stBr,
HQM(<), hereafter ;?d .lIarDii ~onlbatl{ept; ,?d
.J[arJ)iv AR; M MarT)i v D–1 Jnl , 10ct–14Nov43
(I l ougai nvi l l e AreaOpFi l e, Hi stBr, HQMC) ; 3d
MarI )i v D–2 SAR, Empress .i u.gusts Bay Ops
dtd l Feb44 (130ugai nvi l l eAreaOpFi l e, Hi stBr,
HQMC), hereafter .’3(7MarI )i v D–2 SAR; 3d
31:l rDi v 1)–2 .Jnl , 2SOct–28Dec43 (130ugai n-
vi l l e .\reaO1)Fi l e,Hi stL3r,HQM~,). hereafter :;/i
l[arJ)iv D–2 ,Jnl; 3d MarI )i v D+ .Tnl , 310ct–
281)w43 (Rouxai nvi l l e AreaOpFi l e, Hi stBr,
HQJI C), hereafter $ftMarDio D–3 Jnt; 3d Mar-
J)i v D–3 Peri odi (,Repts,(?.Tu-27Dec43(Bougai n-
vi l l eaAreaOp],’i l e, Hi stJ3r,HQhI C), hereafter 3,1
MarJ)iL,r)–3 Rrpt.s; Hi,silliv .4rrt; OAT,Combot
Yarratire .1’11; He]l derson,“X”aval Gunfi re Sul J-
port :“ Aurthur and Cohl mi a, 3d .lfarJ)ioHi.st;
Rentz, T{onqainvi{!e and the Northern Eolomons;
I sel y and (’rowl , Marines and Am~JI I ibio?ts’ l~ar;
hfi l l er, Reduction of Rabaul.
dova and Vel l a Lavel l a toward the Short-
l and I sl ands. ComAi rSol s fi ghter pl anes
provi ded protecti on overhead and destroy-
er squadrons screened the fl anks. Subma-
ri nes ranged ahead of the convoy to warn
of any i ntercepti on attempt by the enemy.
When darkness fel l on 31 October, the
convoy abruptl y changed course and,
pi cki ng L~pspeed, started the fi nal spri nt
toward Empress Augusta Bay. Mi ne
sweepers probed ahead for mi ne fi el ds and
uncharted shoal s, whi l e Navy patrol
bombers and ni ght fi ghters took stati on
over the l ong l i ne of transports. Ei ght
ai r al erts were sounded duri ng the ni ght.
Each ti me the ni ght fi ghters, di rected by
the destroyers, i ntercepted and chased the
enemy snooper pl anes away from the con-
voy. The amphi bi ous force, movi ng di -
rect as an arrow toward the coast of Bou-
gai nvi l l ea, was never attacked.
Neari ng Empress Augusta Bay, the con-
voy sl owed so tl ~at the fi nal movement i nto
the objecti ve area coul d be made i n day-
l i ght. General quarters was sounded at.
0500, and, after the sun came Li p, the as-
saul t troops on the transports coul d see
the cl ark shorel i ne and rugged peaks of
Bougai nvi l l ea di rectl y ahead. Onl y a thi n
cl oud mi st hung over the i sl and, scant con-
ceal ment f o,r enemy pl anes whi ch coul d
have been wai ti ng to ambush the amphi b-
i ous force. The el ement of surpri se, whi ch
had been zeal ousl y ~guarded duri ng al l
preparati ons for the offensi ve, apparentl y
had been retai ned. The confl i cti ng re-
207
208 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
ports by Japanese snooper pl anesof task
forces observed at vari ous poi nts from
Buka to the Shorthands and Vel l a Lavel l a
had the general effect of confusi ng the
Japanese.z
At 0545, mi ne sweepers and the destroy-
er Wadsworth opened fi re on the beaches
north of Cape Toroki na to cover thei r own
mi ne-sweepi ng operati ons. As the Wads-
worth slowly cl osed to wi thi n 3,000 yards
to fi re di rectl y i nto enemy i nstal l ati ons,
the busy mi ne sweepers scouted the bay.
Thi rty mi nutes l ater, advi sed that no
mi nes had been found, the transports
moved i nto the area. Off Cape Toroki na,
each APA shel l ed the promontory wi th
rangi ng 3-i nch fi re before turni ng hard to
pofi - to take Pnruzta I sl ancl under fi re
wi th 20mm guns. i ~t 0645, the ei ght troop
transports were on l i ne about 3,OOOyards
from the beach and paral l el to the shore-
l i ne. Behi nd them, i n a si mi l ar l i ne, were
the four cargo transports wi th the de-
stroyer squadrons as a protecti ve screen
seaward.
On board the transports, observers
peered anxi ousl y toward the beaches near
the Laruma Ri ver. A two-man patrol
had been l anded on Bougai nvi l l ea on D
mi nus 4 days (27 October) wi th the mi s-
si on of radi oi ng i nformati on or l i ghti ng a
si gnal fi re near the Laruma i f the Cape
Toroki na area was defended by l ess than
300 Japanese. Concern mounted as H-
Hour approached wi thout the expected
message or si gnal . The al ternati ves were
that the patrol had been captured or that
the cape area was unexpectedl y rei nforced
by the enemy. Because the l andi ng waves
had been organi zed to handl e cargo and
suppl i es at the expense of i ni ti al combat
‘ i3h’ Area NavOps-IZI, p. 12,
strength, any change i n the enemy si tua-
ti on at thi s l ate date was cause for worry.
H-Hour, set for 0715, was postponed for
15 mi nutes on si gnal from Admi ral Wi l -
ki nson, but the l andi ng was ordered as
pl anned. (The patrol l ater reported un-
harmed, ci ti ng radi o fai l ure and terrai n
di ffi cul ti es for the l ack of messages.)
Preparatory fi res by the mai n support
group began as soon as vi si bi l i ty permi t-
ted i denti fi cati on of targets. From thei r
fi ri ng posi ti ons south of the transport
area, the Anthofiy and Si gourney-and
l ater the Wadsworth — poured 5-i nch
shel l s i nto Puruat a I sl and and the beaches
north of Cape Toroki na. The Terry, on
the l eft fl ank of the transport area, fi red
i nto known enemy i nstal l ati ons on the
north shoul der of the cape. The effect
was a crossfi re, centered on the beaches
north of Cape Toroki na. Thi s i ndi rect
fi re on area targets was control l ed by
spotter ai rcraft.
Debarkati on of troops began after the
transports anchored i n posi ti on and whi l e
the pre-assaul t bombardment crashed
al ong the shorel i ne. The order to l and
the l andi ng force was gi ven at 0645, and
wi thi n mi nutes assaul t craft were l owered
i nto the sea, and embarkati on nets tossed
over the si de of the transports. Mari nes
cl ambered down the nets i nto the boats,
and, as each LCVP was l oaded, i t joi ned
the ci rcl i ng parade of l andi ng craft i n the
rendezvous ci rcl es, wai ti ng for the si gnal
to form i nto waves for the fi nal run to the
beach. Nearl y 7,500 Mari nes, more than
hal f of the assaul t force, were boated for
the si mul taneous l andi ng over the 12
beaches.
At 0710, the gunfi re bombardment
shi fted to prearranged targets, and fi ve
mi nutes l ater the fi rst boats from the
210
I SOLATI ON Ol i ’ RABAUL
APAs on the south fl ank of the transport
area started for shore. The support. shi ps
conti nued to shoot a.t beach targets unt i ]
0721, when the shel l i ng was l i fted to cover
targets to the rear of the i mmedi ate shore-
l i ne. As the fi re l i fted, 31 torpedo and
scout bombers from Munda streaked over
the beaches, bombi ng and strafi ng the
shorel i ne just ahead of the assaul t boats.
The pl anes, from VMTB-143, -232, and
–%X3, and l TMSB-144, were covered by
VMF-215 and -221 and a Navy fi ghter
squadron, VF-–17.3 The ai r stri ke l asted
unti l 0726, cut short, four mi nutes by the
earl y arri val of the fi rst l andi ng craft at
the beaches.
The 9th Mari nes (Col onel Edward A.
Crai g) l anded unopposed over the fi ve
northernmost beacheeRed 3, Red 2, Yel -
l ow 4, Red 1, and Yel l ow 3. Al though
no enemy fi re greeted the approach of the
boats, the l andi ng was unexpectedl y haz-
ardous. Rol l i ng surf, hi gher and roug-h-
er than anti ci pated, tossed the l andi ng
craft at the beaches. The LCWPS and the
LCMS, caught i n the poundi ng breakers,
broached to and were smashed agai nst
shoal s, the beach, and other l andi ng craft.
The narrow shorel i ne, backed by a steep
12-foot embankment, prevented the l and-
i ng craft from groundi ng proper]y, and
thi s further compl i cated the l andi ng.
Some boats, unabl e to get near the shore
because of rough surf and wrecked boats,
unl oaded the Mari nes i n chest-deep water.
Other Mari nes, i n LCVPs wi th col l i si on-
damaged ramps, jumped over the si des of
the boats and made thei r way to shore.
I n -spi te of these di ffi cul ti es, the battal i on
l andi ng teams managed to get ashore
qui ckl y, and, by 0750, several whi te para-
chute fl ares fi red by the assaul t troops i n-
2SherrocL,MarAirHist, p. 181,
di cated to observers on board shi p that the
l andi ng was successful .
Once ashore, combat uni ts of the 9th
Mari nes compl eted i ni ti al reorgani zati on
and moved i nl and to set up a peri meter
around the fi ve beaches. Acti ve patrol -
l i ng was started i mmedi atel y, and a strong
outpost was set up on the west bank of the
Larurna Ri ver. Other Mari nes remai ned
on the beach to hel p unl oad the ‘ank l i ght-
ers and personnel boats whi ch conti nued
to arri ve despi te the obvi ous i nadequacy
of the beaches and the di ffi cul t surf. At
l east 32 boats were wrecked i n. the i ni ti al
assaul t and l ay smashed and awash al ong
the beach. By mi d-morni ng, hul ks of 64
LCVPS and 22 I ,CMs—many of them be-
yond repai r—l i ttered the fi ve beaches.’
The l andi ngs on the si x southern beaches
(Yel l ow 2, Blue 3, Bl ue 2, Green 2, Yel l ol v
1, and Bl ue 1) and the si ngl e beach on
Puruata I sl and (Green 1) were i n stark
contrast to the nort hem zone. Enemy re-
si stance i n thi s area wzs evi dent al most
as soon as the boat groups from the ri ght-
fl ank transports came wi thi n range. The
2d and 3d Battal i ons of Col onel George W.
hfcHenry’s 3d Mari nes l anded on the
three beaches south of the Koromoki na
Ri ver agai nst smal l -arms fi re. Surf was
hi gh but not di ffi cul t, and no boats were
l ost. The Mari nes, di sembarki ng wi thout
cl el ay, spri nted across the narrow beach
t.o take cover i n the jungl e. Reor~~ni z:~-
ti on was compl ekd qui ckl y, and the bat-
tal i ons startec] to di g out the smal l nul n-
ber of Japanese defenders attempti ng to
hol d back the assaul t, from hasti l y pre-
4“Many automati c weapons were mounted on
these l andi ng boats. These weapons were sal -
va~ed by the Mari nes and used l ater to rei nforce
thei r normal arms when the fi nal defensi ve l i ne
\~i l sestabl i shed.” I ,tGen Edward A. Crai g l tr
to CMC, dtd 240ct60, hereafter Crai o l tr.
ASSAULT OF CAPE TOROKI NA
211
pared posi ti ons. I n a fev- nl i nl l tes, the
scattered enemy i n the area had been ki l l ed,
and sni per patrol s began n~ovi ug i nl and.
Contact was establ i shed wi th the 9th
Mari nes on the l eft, but a wi de sl ~anl p pre-
vented l i nkup wi th the 2cl Rai der 13at-
tal i on on the ri gl ~t.
The rai ders, I ecl by Major Ri chard T.
Washburn, went ashore i n the face of
heavy machi ne gun and ri fl e ti re from two
enemy bunkers and z number of support-
i ng trenc]~es about 30 yards i nl and. J:i p-
anese defenders v-ere esti mated at about,
a rei nforced pl atoon. After the fi rst SaV-
age resi stance, the enemy fi re sl ackened as
the rai cl ers bl asted the bunkers apart to
ki l l the occupants. Otl l er enemy sol di ers
retreated i nto the jungl e. onl y after the
beach area was secured di d the rai ders di s-
cover that the regi mental executi ve offi cer,
Li eutenant Col onel ,Joseph W. McCaffery,
had been fatal l y wounded whi l e coordi nat-
i ng the assaul t of combat uni ts agai nst the
enemy di sposi ti ons.s
Extensi ve l agoons and swwnpl and back-
i ng ti l e narrow beach l i mi tecl reconnai s-
sance efl orts, and reorgani zati on of the
assaul t pl atoons and compani es was hi n-
dered by constant sni per fi re. Despi te
these handi caps, the rai ders pushed sl owl y
i nto the jungl e and, by 1100, had wi ped out
al l remai ni ng enemy resi stance. Rai der
Company M, attached to the 2d Rai der
Battal i on for the job of setti ng up a trai l
bl ock farther i l ~l and to stal l :Lny enemy at-
tempt, to rei nforce ti l e beachhead, movecl
out, al ong the wel l -marked Mi ssi on Trai l
and was soon far out ahead of the rai der
peri meter.
The 1st 13atta]i on of the 3d Mari nes hi t
the hot, spot of the enemy defenses. As
5MajGen Al an Shapl ey l tr to ACofS, G–3,
HQMC,dtd 130ct60,hereafter S1/aplc~ ltr.
the waves of boat groups rounded the
western ti p of I >uruata I sl and, they were
caught i n a vi ci ous cri ss-cross of machi ne
gLUIand arti l l ery fi re from Cape Toroki na
and Purl ~ata and Toroki na I sl ands.
Headi ng towarcl the extreme ri ght of the
l andi ng area over beaches whi ch i ncl uded
Cape Toroki na, the 1st Battal i on pl ougl ~ed
ashore strai ght through thi s deadl y cross-
fi re. An enemy 75mnl arti l l ery pi ece,
whi ch had tri ed eml i er to hi t one of the
transports, remai ned under cover duri ng
the aeri al bombi ng and opened fi re a~~i n
onl y after the assaul t boats reached a
poi nt sorn~ 500 yards offshore. I ts l oca-
ti on was such that al l boats headi ng to-
ward the beach had to cross the fi ri ng
l ane of thi s g-LuI .’
One of the fi rst casual ti es i n the assaul t
waves was the LCP carryi ng the boat
group commander. The command boat,
bl asted by a di rect hi t, sank i mmedi atel y.
The expl osi on resul ted i n di spersi on, di s-
organi zati on, an d confusi on among the
boat group. I n a spl i t second, the ap-
proach formati on was broken by l andi ng
craft taki ng evasi ve acti on to avoi d the
xnti boat fi re.
The resul t w-as a compl ete mi xup of
assaul t, waves. A total of si x boats were
hi t wi thi n a few mi nutes; onl y four of
them rei maged to make the bezch. As
tl ~e fi rst waves of boats grounded on the
beaches, the ,Japanese opened up wi th ma-
chi ne gun and ri fl e fi re, and mortar bursts
began to range al ong the shorel i ne. A
wi theri ng fi re poured from a conceal ed
compl ex of l og and sand bunkers con-
nected by a seri es of ri fl e pi ts and trenches.
8Col George O. Van Orden l tr to CMC, dtd
27May48 (Bougai nvi l l ea Monograph Comment
Fi l e, Hi stBr, HQMC) pl aces the l ocati on of thi s
gun wel l wi thi n the l i mi ts of Bl ue Beach 1, the
l andi ng area of the 1st Battal i on, 3d Mari nes.
,.,
212
I SOI ,~TI ON OF R~BA
.
o
1-
H
.
.
.
z
:JI .
ASSAULT OF CAPE TOROKI NA 213
The enemy empl acements, barel y above
ground l evel and hi dden beneath the
tangl ed underbrush al ong the shorel i ne,
were si ted to cover the beaches and bay
wi th i nterl ocki ng bands of fi re. The pre-
assaul t bombardment by gl mfi re shi ps and
pl anes had not knocked ont ti l e enemy
forti fi cati ons; i n most cases i t had not even
hi t them.
The Mari nes, -wi th al l tacti cal i ntegri ty
and coordi nati on l ost, p]unged across
the thi n stri p of beach to take cover i n the
jungl e. An orderl y l andi ng agai nst such
concentrated fi re had been i mpossi bl e.
After the scrambl i ng of the assaul t waves,
uni ts from the battal i on l andi ng team had
gone ashore where l )ossi bl e and practi cal l y
every uni t was out of posi ti on. Contri but-
i ng to thi s confusi on was the fact that the
majori ty of the boats hi t were LCPS
carryi ng boat group commanders. The
Japanese, correctl y surmi si ng that the
more di sti ncti ve. LCPS were command
craft, di rected most of thei r fi re on these
boats.
The i ni ti al reorgani zati on of the el e-
ments of the battal i on l andi ng team was
handi capped further by the woundi ng and
l ater evacuati on of the battal i on com-
mander, Li eutenant Col onel Leonard M.
Mason. Control of boat teams was di f-
fi cul t under the poundi ng of 9tl mm and
“knee mortar” ‘ bursts mi xed wi th the
raki ng fi re of machi ne guns and ri fl es.
Pl atoons and squads from al l compani es
were mi xed al ong the bench. The ori gi nal
pl ans di rected Company A to l and on Cape
Toroki na, but after the assaul t waves were
di spersed and tangl ed by the effecti ve fi re
of the Japanese 75nl m arti l ]ery pi ece, e]e-
ments of Company C l anded on the pronl -
7The common term for the ,Japanese50mm
xrenwl e di scharger.
ontory. Several squads from Company
F of the 2d Battal i on al so l anded i n thi s
area and were forced to fi ght thei r way
al ong the beach to reach thei r parent uni t.
Onl y Company B of the 1st Battal i on
l anded on i ts assi gned beach. Casual ti es
were fai rl y l i ght, though, despi te the i n-
tense fi re of the enemy. I n addi ti on to at
l east 14 men l ost i n the l andi ng craft
whi ch had been sunk, fewer than a dozen
Mari nes had been ki l l ed on the beach.
The 1st Battal i on hesi tated onl y a short
ti me; then the extensi ve school i ng of the
past asserted i tsel f. Trai ni ng i n smal l
uni t tacti cs agai nst a forti fi ed posi ti on
t~ow pai d bi g di vi dends. Ri fl e groups
began to form under ranki ng men, and the
fi ght al ong the shorel i ne became a number
of smal l battl es as the Mari nes fought to
.
wi den thei r beachhead agai nst the enemy
fi re. As the Mari nes became ori ented to
thei r l ocati on and some sembl ance of
tacti cal i ntegri ty was restored, the pace of
the assaul t, qui ckened.
Before the operati on, al l uni ts had been
thoroughl y bri efed on the mi ssi on of each
assal l ]ti ng el ement, and each squad, pl a-
toon, and company was acquai nted wi th
the mi ssi ons of other uni ts i n the area. I n
addi ti on, each Mari ne was gi ven a sketch
map of the Cape Toroki na shorel i ne.
Smal l groups formed under the l eadershi p
and i ni ti ati ve of juni or offi cers and staff
l ~oncomrni ssi oned offi cers, and these groups,
i n tl l rn, were consol i dated under one con-
mand by other offi cers. Bunker after
bunker began to fal l to the coordi nated
and wel l -executed attacks of these groups.
As the Japanese defensi ve compl ex sl owl y
cracked, the 1st Battal i on command was
establ i shed under the battal i on executi ve
offi cer, and the hasti l y re-formed com-
pani es took over ti l e mi ssi on of the area
i n whi ch they found themsel ves.
214
The effi ci ent reducti on of the enemy’s de-
fensi ve posi ti on added another testi moni al
to pri or trai ni ng and pl anni ng. offi cers
of the 3d Mari ne Di vi si on had studi ed the
Japanese system of mutual l y prokcti ng
bunkers on New Georgi a and deci ded that
i n such a defensi ve compl ex the reducti on
of one bunker woul d l ead to the el i mi na-
ti on of another. I n effect, one bunker un-
l ocked the enti re posi ti on. The qui ckest
way to knock out such pi l l boxes wi th the
fewest casual ti es to the attacki ng force
was for automati c ri fl emen to pl ace fi re
on the embrasures of the bunker whi l e
other Mari nes raced to i ts bl i nd si de to
drop grenades down the venti l ators or
pour automati c ri fl e fi re i nto the rear en-
trance.
By mi dmorni ng, through such coordi -
nated attacks, most of the Japanese bunk-
ers on Cape Toroki na had been knocked
out. The posi ti on cent ai ni ng the murder-
ous 75mm gun was el i mi nated by one
Mari ne who, di recti ng the assaul t of a ri fl e
.ggoup, crept Up to the bunker and ki l l ed
the gun crew and bunker occupants before
fal l i ng dead of hi s own wounds. After
the l ast empl acement was si l enced l ate
that afternoon, Mari nes counted 153 dead
<Japanesei n the Cape Toroki na area.
For a whi l e, the si tuati on on the ri ght
fl ank had been touch and go. One hour
after the l andi ng, a vari ati on of the ti me-
honored Mari ne Corps phrase was fl ashed
from the Cape Toroki na beach. “The si t-
uati on appears to be i n hand,” was the
fi rst message, but a few mi nutes l ater a
more hi story-consci ous offi cer fl ashed an
amended si gnal : “Ol d Gl ory fl i es on Toro-
ki na cape. Si tuati on wel l i n hand.” The
most expressi ve message, however, to ob-
servers on board the transports was the
report from a young offi cer to Col onel
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
McHenry: “ . . . the troops are mag-
ni fi cent. ” 8 The Mari ne offi cers who had
di rected the assaul t on the forti fi ed posi -
ti ons added si ncere endorsements to thi s
expressi on of admi rati on.
On Puruata I sl and, the 3d Rai der Bat-
tal i on (Li eutenant Col onel Fred D.
Beans) l anded wi th one rei nforced com-
pany i n the assaul t and the remai nder of
the battal i on as reserve and shore party.
Onl y sporadi c fi re hi t the boats as they
neared the i sl and. By 0930, the rai ders
had establ i shed a peri meter about 125
yards i nl and agai nst hi dden sni pers and
accurate machi ne gun and mortar fi re.
The Japanese, obvi ousl y outnumbered,
gave l i ttl e i ndi cati on of yi el di ng, and, by
1330, the reserve pl atoons of the battal i on
were commi tted to the attack. The rai d-
ers, wi th the added support of several sel f-
propel l ed 75mm guns attached from the
9th Mari nes, then moved about hal fway
across the i sl and.
Puruata was not decl ared secured unti l
mi dafternoon of the fol l owi ng day. A
two-pronged attack, l aunched by the rai d-
ers earl y on the morni ng of 2 November,
swept over the i sl and agai nst onl y spo-
radi c ri fl e fi re, and, by 1530, al l Japanese
resi stance on the i sl and had been erased.
Onl y 29 dead enemy were found, al though
at l east 70 were esti mated to have been on
the i sl and. The remai nder had appar-
entl y escaped to the mai nl and. The
rai ders l ost 5 men ki l l ed and 32 wounded
i n the attack,Y
83d MarRegt Jnl , 1Nov43 (Bougai nvi l l eaArea-
OpFi l e, Hi stBr, HQMC).
‘ Thi s i s the number gi ven i n .!?dMwDiv COTW
bat Rept, p. 343. The same report, on p. 153,
al so gi ves 6 KI A and 18 WI A for thi s part of the
operati on. I n cases of di screpanci essuch as thi s,
the report of the uni t engaged i s gi ven i n thi s
aeeount.
216
The Mari nes’ fi ght uncovered extensi ve
enemy defenses whi ch were not di scl osed
i n aeri al photographs taken before the
operati on. The enti re headl and was
ri nged by 15 bunkers, 9 of them faci ng
to the west and 6 of them overl ooki ng
the beaches on the east si de of the cape.
Behi nd thi s protecti ve l i ne and farther
i nl and was another defensi ve l i ne of ei ght
bunkers whi ch covered the fi rst l i ne of
forti fi cati ons. Two other bunkers, about
750 yards i nl and, provi ded addi ti onal
cover to the fi rst two l i nes.
Constructed of i ronwood and coconut
]c)gs t~~o feet thi ck, t]l e bunkers ~Yerebi l l .
warked by sandbags and set l ow i nto
the ground. Camoufl aged by sand and
tangl ed underbrush, the bunkers were
hard to cl etect and di ffi cul t to knock out
wi thout fl amethrowers or demol i ti ons.
Despi te thi s, the 3cl Mari nes suffered fe~~
casual ti es i n destroyi ng thi s defensi ve i n-
stal l ati on. Twenty of the bunkers had
been el i mi nated by the coordi nated fi re ancl
maneuver of i ndi vi dual Mari nes; the re-
mai ni ng fi ve were bl asted apart by sel f-
propel l ed tank destroyers fi ri ng 75n~m
armor-pi erci ng shel l s di rectl y i nto the
embrasures.
The enemy 75mm arti l l ery pi ece si ted
as a boat gun hi t 14 boats duri ng the i ni -
ti al l andi ngs before i t was put out of
acti on. Onl y four of the boats sank. De-
spi te the hi gh vel oci ty of the shel l s and
the sl ow speed of the l andi ng craft, the 50
or more rounds fi red by the enemy scored
remarkabl y few hi ts. Thi s was attri buted
to two factors: the poor accuracy of the
Japanese gunners and the l i mi ted traverse
of the gym. Mari nes found, after knock-
i ng out the bunker, that the aperture i n
the pi l l box permi tted the muzzl e of the
gun to be moved onl y three degrees ei ther
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
way from center. Thi s prohi bi ted the gun
from bri ngi ng enfi l ade fi re to bear on the
beaches. Had thi s been possi bl e, the l arge
number of boats al ong the shorel i ne woul d
have been si tti ng targets whi ch even poor
gunners coul d not, mi ss, and the casual ti es
to the l andi ng force woul d have been cor-
respondi ngl y greater.
The unexpected resi stance on Cape
Toroki na and Puruata i sl and after the
naval gunfi re bombardment and bombi ng
was a sharp di sappoi ntment to l MAC of-
fi cers who had requested much more exten-
si ve preparatory fi res. The gunfi re pl an,
whi ch was i ntended to knock out or stun
enemy defenses that mi ght del ay the l and-
i ng, had accompl i shed nothi ng. The .4n-
thony, fi ri ng on Puruata I sl and, reported
that i ts target had been wel l covered;
but ti l e rai der battal i on, whi ch had to di g
the cl efenders out of the empl acements
on the i sl and, reported that few enemy
i nstal l ati ons had been damaged.
The Wudsworth and Sigourney, fi ri ng
at ranges openi ng at 11,000 to 13,000
yards, had di ffi cul ty hi tti ng the area and
ni nny shots fel l short of the i ntended tar-
gets. The Terry, cl osest to the shore but
fi ri ng at an angl e i nto the northwestern
face of Cape Toroki na, was poorl y posi -
ti oned for effecti ve work. &Tone of the
25 bunkers faci ng the l andi ng teams on
the ri ght had been knocked out by gunfi re,
and onl y a few of the ,Japanese huts and
bui l di ngs i nl and were bl asted by the shi ps’
fi re. The gunnery performance of the
destroyers l eft much to be desi red, I I I -
Phi bFor admi tted l ater. Parti cul arl y
cri ti ci zed was the fact that some shi ps fi red
short for al most fi ve mi nutes wi th al l sal -
vos hi tti ng the water. After two or three
rounds, the range shoul d have been ad-
justed, but apparentl y the practi ce bomb-
ardment at Efate had not been suffi ci ent.
ASSAULT OF CAPE TOROKI NA
Thel ong-range sni pi ug at ~ape Toroki na
wi th i nconcl usi ve resul ts was vi ndi cati on
for the l MAC requests pri or to the opera-
ti on that, ti l e cl estro-yers move as cl ose to
the shorel i ne as possi bl e for di rect fi re.
The sa{l thi ng about the tyhol e show, to
the t,or]man[l tl i vi si ou guufi re I )l anners,w:l s
th:l t the n]e:~msactual l y Tyere~l vai l :~bl eto
A.i veus just wh:~t\ve~v;i ntwl , l jl l t ~~erefl i ssi -
I )ated el sewhere i n what we fel t was frui t-
l ess cmnnonacl i ng,’”
Val uabl e l essons i n gunfi re support were
l earned at I l ougai nvi l l e that D-Day. For
one thi l ~g, the l i ne of fl at trajectory fi re i n
some pl aces passed through a fri nge of
tal l pxl m trees whi ch expl oded the shel l s
premztnrel y and deni ed di rect observati on
of the tnrget area. Further, the shi ps had
troubl e seei ng the shorel i ne through the
combi nati on of earl y morni ng haze znd
the smoke and dust of expl odi nx shel l s
znd bombs, ri si ng n~~i nst a mountai nous
bi tck~ronnd.
.\l t bough the enemy ai rfi el ds i n the 130u-
gai nvi l l e m-es were knocked out by Ad-
mi ral Merri l l ’s fi nal bombardment and the
pri or acti on of Com Ai rSol s bombi ng
stri kes, the ,Japnnese reacti on to the l ancl -
i ng came swi ftl y. .i t 0718, l ess thfi n two
I I ours after the transports nppeared off
Cape Toroki na and about ei ght mi nutes
before the fi rst assaul t boats hi t the befi ch,
a l arge fl i xht of ,Japanese pl mnes was de-
tected wi ngi ng toward Empress Augusta
Bay. The transports, most of them trai l -
i ng embarkati on nets, i mmedi ttel y pul l ed
out of the bay toward the sex to take eva-
si ve acti on agai n.
The fi rst enemy fl i ght, of abont 30 pl anes,
evi dentl y fi ghters from the naval carri er
groups l and-based i n New Bri tai n, was i m
‘0Henderson, “x’aval Gunti re Support,” pp
61-62.
217
tercepted at about 0800 by a New Zeal and
ti ghter squadron fl yi ng cover over the
befi chhead. Seven of the Japanese pl anes
I vere knocked down, but not before a few
enemy rai ders strafed the beaches and
di ve-bombed the franti cal l y maneuveri ng
.~P.% and .I KAs. Ten mi nutes l ater, sn-
other fl i ght of enemy fi ghters and bombers
struck the area i n a determi ned attack, but
were turned away by the fi erce i nterference
of other ComAi rSol s pl anes, i ncl udi ng
Mari ne fi ghters from TTMF-215 and VMF-
221. Radi cal evasi ve tacti cs by the trans-
ports—ai ded by excel l ent anti ai rcraft
gunnery by tl ~e destroyer screen and sav-
age pul swi t by the fi ghter cover—pre-
vented tl ~e l oss of any shi ps, al though the
Weds ~rmth took some casual ti es from a
near mi ss. Tl ~e fi ghter cover downed ei ght
pl anes, and the destroyer screen cl ai med
another four rai ders.
Two hours after the attack began, tl ~e
.~P.\s and AI <.I s returned to resume op-
erati ons. Val uabl e ti me, however, had
been l ost. I ntrudi ng enemy pl anes con-
ti nued to harass the transports, but un-
l cmdi ng operati ons kept up unti l about
1300, when the arri val of another ] arge
format i on of about TO enemy pl anes put
the shi ps i nto acti on a~~i n.
One APA, the American Legion,
grounded on a shoal and remai ned there
duri ng the attack despi te the persi stent ef-
forts of tw-o tugs whi ch attempted to free
i t. A destroyer resol utel y stood guard,
pumpi ng anti ai rcraft fi re i nto attacki ng
pl anes. The shi p was pul l ed free before
tl ~e ai r attack was dri ven off. As before,
the :I ggressi ve fi ghter cover and heavy fi re
from the destroyer screen prevented dam-
wge to the amphi bi ous force, and the shi ps
turned bxck to the task of urdoadi ng.
Duri ng the attacks, the Al l i es cl ai med 26
enemy pl anes as shot down-four more
218
than the ,J~panese records i ndi cate—wi th
the l oss of four pl anes and one pi l ot. For
the fi rst day, at l east, the threat of enemy
ai r retal i ati on had been turned back.
ESTABLI SHI NG A BEACHHEAD “
Ashore, the defensi ve peri meter now
stretched a l ong, i rregul ar semi -ci rcl e over
the area from the La.rums. Ri ver past Cape
Toroki na, a di stance of about four mi l es.
Onl y the northern beaches were qui et; the
area around the cape was sti l l bei ng con-
tested by sni pers \vi thi n thi s peri meter and
by smal l groups of enemy i n the jungl e
outsi de the l i ne. Wi thi n thi s area, the
logistics Si tl l at,i on was begi nni ng to be
cause for concern.
Confusi on began after wrecked tank
l i ghters and personnel boats were broken
on the northern beaches, cl osi ng those
areas to further traffi c. When unl oadi ng
operati ons began once more after the fi rst
ai r rai d, the northern beaches were ordered
abandoned and al l cargo desti ned for the
!%h Mari nss sector was di verted to beaches
south of the Koromoki na Ri ver.
Thi s
change, the onl y move possi bl e i n vi ew of
11I l nl ess ~therl vi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ved from : CizcPae-CincPOA
Nov.j3 Warn; Corn SoPac A’0vJ3 J+TarD; Tltird-
Flt NnrrRcpt; IIIPh ibFor .4R; lIIPhibPor
~ov~~ Ji7arD; IMAC AI<–Z; $d .liarDiv Cow bat
Rept; 3d .l[arDiti AR; 3d MarI )i v 1)–4 Jnl 1-16
xOTT# (Rougai nvi l l e AreaOpFi l e, Hi stBr,
HQMC! ). hereafter .?d MarI Ji v I Pl J*1Z; 3d Mar-
Di v ServTrps Rept of Ops, Nov–Dec43, dtd
27Jan44 (Bougai nvi l l ea AreaOpFi l e, Hi stBr,
HQMC), hereafter $d MarDiv S’crvTrp.s Rept; 3d
3fi {rDi v SI I ppl y and E~ac Rept, DI PPER Opera-
ti on, dtd 29.Jan44 (Bougai nvi Ue AreaOpFi l e,
Hi stBr, HQMC) : Hi .stDi v Acct; OATI ,Conl bat
Narra,ti ce ,YZZ; Aurthnr and Cohl mi a, 3d ~far-
DivHist; Rentz, Bougai?wil!e and the Northern
i3010mons; Mori son, Rrcaki nfl tJ\ r Bisntarcks
Rarrier.
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUJJ
the di ffi cul t surf condi ti ons, l ed to further
compl i cati ons because the beaches i n the
3d Mari nes’ sector were al ready crowded,
and the coxswai ns on the l andi ng craft
had no i nstructi ons regardi ng where the
suppl i es shoul d be dumped.
The l andi ng beaches i n the 3d Mari nes’
sector were hxrdl y an i mprovement. Few
had any depth, and from the outset i t was
apparent that the swampy jungl e woul d
stal l operi at.i ons past the beaches. The
onl y means of movement was l ateral l y
al ong the thi n beach, and the gear al ready
stacked al ong the shorel i ne was causi ng
congest i on al ong thi s route. The di ffi cul t
terrai n i nl and made the formati on of
dumps i mpracti cal , so al l carg-o was pl aced
above the hi gh water mark and some de-
gree of orderl i ness attempted. Despi te
thi s, the 9th Mari nes l ost much organi za-
t i onal property and suppl i es, most of
whi ch was never recovered.
As cargo and suppl i es mounted on the
beaches assi gned to the 2d and 3d El at-
tal i ons of the 3d Mari nes, the. bul k cargo
was di verted further to Puruata I sl and.
The l andi ng craft were unl oaded wi thi n a
few hundred yards of the battl e between
the rai ders ancl the smal l but determi ned
group of defenders empl aced there. Al -
most 30 percent of the total cargo carri ed
by the 1!2transports was unl oaded by 1130
of l )-l )ay, and thi s fi gure was extended
to al most 50 percent compl eti on by the
ti me that the APAs and AKAs had to de-
part the area for the second ti me. The
cargo remai ni ng on board was vari ed;
some shi ps had unl oaded al l rati ons but
1i ttl e ammuni ti on. Other transports had
unl oaded ammuni ti on fi rst and were ju*
starti ng to move the other suppl i es.
TVhi l e the combat troops ashore pre-
m~red to defend the newl v won beachhead,
, .
ASSAULT OF CAPE TOROKI NA
the transport groups proceeded to unl oad
as rapi dl y as the ai r attacks, l oss of boats,
and el i mi nati on of a number of beaches
woul d permi t. l l y 1600 on D-Day, onl y
the four northernmost transportethe
ones most affected by the boat mi shaps and
the unsui tabl e beaches-sti l l had cargo on
board.
The qui ck unl oadi ng of the other fi ve
AP.i s and three .~KAs, despi te the i nter-
rupti ons, was a refl ecti on of the measures
taken by Admi ral Wi l ki nson and General
Vandegri ft to i nsure rapi d movement of
suppl i es ashore. Embarked troops on
each APA and AKA had been requi red to
furni sh a compl ete shore party of about
500 men. Duri ng the unl oadi ng, 6 offi cers
and 120 men remai ned on board shi p to
act as cargo handjers w]l i l e a further 60
were boat ri ders to di rect the suppl i es to
the proper beaches. Another 200 Mari nes
stayed on each beach to hel p unl oad the
l andi ng craft. The remai ni ng personnel
were used as beach gui des, vehi cl e dri vers,
cargo handl ers, and supervi sors.12
The
3d Servi ce Battal i on, augmented by sup-
porti ng troops—arti l l erymen, engi neers,
mi l i tary pol i ce, si gnal men, tank men, com-
muni cators, and Seabees-forrned the bul k
of these worki ng parti es.
I n some i n-
stances, these supporti ng troops were not
rel eased to thei r uni ts unti l several days
after the beachhead had been establ i shed.
I n al l , about 40 percent of the enti re l and-
i ng force was engaged i ni ti al l y i n shore
party acti vi ti es.
By l ate afternoon, each l andi ng team re-
ported i ts mi ssi on accompl i shed. I n the
absence of any i denti fi abl e terrai n features
i n the i nteri or, the l andi ng teams had been
di rected to extend the beachhead certai n
“ I MAC Adn]i nO No. 1, dtd 150ct43 i n IMAC
.411-I .
219
di stances, and, by the end of D-Day, each
of the battal i ons was establ i shed i n a
rough peri meter al ong the fi rst of these
cl esi gnated I nl and Defense Li nes.
The
di vi si on front l i nes extended i nto the jun-
gl e about 600 yarcl s near the Laruma Ri ver
and about 1,000 yards i n front of Cape
Toroki na. Al though the 1st Battal i on, 3d
Mari nes, i n the area of the cape pl antati on,
and the 3d Rai ders on Puruata I sl and were
Sti l l recei vi ng occasi onal sni per fi re, the
remai nder of the peri meter was qui et and
defense was not, a speci al probl em.
There was, however, sti l l congesti on on
tl ~e shorel i ne. I n order to bri ng some or-
c]er out of the near chaos on the beaches
an(l to redl we the paral yzi ng effect of the
n~ountai ns of suppl y pi l ed hel ter-skel ter,
addi ti onal Mari nes from the combat forces
were detai l ed as l abor gangs to sort the
suppl i es and haul them to the front-l i ne
uni ts. Thi s pl aced a doubl e-burden on
some uni ts who were al ready near hal f-
strength by the assi gnment of troops to
the shore party work.
.I n addi ti onal probl em, l ate on D-Day,
was the correl ati on and coordi nati on of the
defensi ve posi ti ons and mi ssi ons of the
maI l y assorted and unrel ated supporti ng
nni ts whi ch had l anded duri ng the day.
These i ncl uded echel ons of arti l l ery, anti -
ai rcraft arti l l ery, and seacoast defense
nni ts. The 12th Mari nes, decentral i zed
wi th m battery attached to each l andi ng
team, was i n varyi ng stages of readi ness
for defense of the beachhead. Battery B,
i n the 9th Mari nes area, was i n posi ti on
by earl y afternoon but was so engaged i n
c:~rgo hauling that the fi rst L’e~Ll eStSfOr a
fi ri ng mi ssi on coul d not be compl eted.
Otber batteri es were al so i n posi ti on by
the end of D-Day, and several had fi red
regi strati on shots and were avai l abl e for
i nterrni ttent fi res duri ng the fi rst ni ght.
220
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
The remai ni ng batteri es were ready for
support mi ssi ons the fol l owi ng day.
Sel ecti on of posi ti ons i n most areas was
di ffi cul t. The battery supporti ng the 2d
Rai der Battal i on was forced to move i n-
l and about 100 yards through a l agoon
before a posi ti on coul d be l ocated. TWO
amphi bi an tractors ferri ecl the guns and
most of the xmnl uni ti on across the water,
and the arti l l el ’ymen transferred the re-
mai ni ng ammuni ti on from the beach to the
gun posi ti on by rubber boats. Thi s bat-
tery regi stered on Pi va Vi l l age by ai r
spot, and the next day fi red 124 rounds on
suspected enemy posi ti ons i n the vi ci ni ty
of that vi l l age.
Anti ai rcraft batteri es (90mm) and the
Speci al Weapons Group of the 3d Defense
Battal i on l anded ri ght behi nd the assaul t
uni ts. Advance detai l s of the seacoast
defense battery al so moved ashore earl y
and i mmedi atel y begzn seeki ng sui tab]e
posi ti ons to mount the bi g guns. After
the fi rst ai r rai d on the morni ng of D-nay,
the remai ni ng anti ai rcraft guns of the
Mari ne defense battal i on were hurri ed
ashore so that protecti on of the beachhead
coul d be i ncreased as soon m possi bl e. By
ni ght fal 1 of D-Day, 20 Mknrn Nl ns, 8
N)mm guns, and the .50 and .30 cal i -
ber mzchi ne guns of the battal i on were
i ntegrated i nto the defense of the peri me-
ter nnd were ready for acti on.
As ni ghtfal l approached, tbe frontl i ne
uni ts si ted al l weapons al ong fi xed l i nes
to coordi nate thei r fi re wi th adjacent uni ts,
and nl l compani es set,up an al l -around de-
fense. Supporti ng uni ts on the beach al so
establ i shed smal l peri meters wi thi n thi s
defensi ve 1i nc. There was to be no unnec-
essary fi ri ng and no movement. Mari nes
were to resort to bayonets and kni ves when
needed, and any .Japanese i nfi l trators were
to be l eft unchal l enged and then el i mi -
nated at daybreak. An open-wi re tel e-
phone watch was kept by al l uni ts, and ra-
di os were set to recei ve messages but no
generators were started for transmi ssi ons.
The ni ght passed as expected—Mari nes
huddl i ng three to a foxhol e wi th one man
awake at al l ti mes. A di spi ri ti ng dri zzl e,
whi ch began l ate on D-Day afternoon,
conti nued through the ni ght. Japanese
i nfi l trators were busy, and several bri ef
ski rmi shes occurred. An attack on a
casual ty cl eari ng stati on was repul sed by
gunfi re from corpsmen and wounded Ma-
ri nes; and one battal i on command post, di -
rectl y behi nd the front l i nes, was hi t by an
enemy patrol . l ’he attackers were turned
back by the battal i on commander, execu-
ti ve offi cer, and the bat tal i en surgeon who
wi el ded kni ves to defend thei r foxhol e.
Whi l e the Mari nes ashore had busi ed
themsel ves getti ng ready for the fi rst ni ght
of defense of the beachhead, the transport
groups proceeded wi th the unl oadi ng de-
tai l s. At 1645, the transports were ad-
vi sed to debark al l weapons, boat pool per-
sonnel , and cargo handl ers and l eave the
area at 1700. The four transports sti l l
wi th suppl i es aboard (the A zchhz, .4mer-
i can Legion, Hwnte~ Liggett, and the
Crescent City) were to keep worki ng unti l
the fi nal moment and then l eave wi th the
rest of the transports despi te any Mari ne
worki ng parti es sti l l on board.
Admi ral Wi l ki nson, aware that the si tu-
ati on ashore was wel l under control , had
deci ded that al l shi ps woul d reti re for the
ni ght and return the next day. I n event
of a ni ght attack, the transports i n Em-
press Augusta Bay woul d be si tti ng ducks.
The admi ral fel t that hi s shi ps coul d not
maneuver i n uncharted waters at ni ght,
and that ni ght unl oadi ng operati ons were
not feasi bl e. The admi ral had another
reason, too. An enemy task force of four
ASSAULT OF CAPE TOROKI NA
crui sers and si x destroyers was reported
headi ng toward Rabaul from Truk, and
these shi ps, aft er one refuel i ng stop, coul d
be expected near Bougai nvi l l ea l ater that
eveni ng or earl y the next morni ng. The
amphi bi ous force, as di rected, moved out
to sea for more protecti on.
At 2300 that ni ght, 1 h’overnber, the
four transports whi ch were sti l l to be un-
l oaded were ordered to reverse course and
head back toward Empress Augusta Bay
whi l e the rest of the transports conti nued
toward Guadal canal . The four trans-
ports, screened by destroyers, rebwl ated
thei r speed and di rwti on so as to reach the
Cape Toroki na area after daybreak. A
short ti me l aterl al erted to ti l e fact, that a
l arge enemy fl eet was i n the area, the
transports headed back toward Guadal -
canal agai n.
Admi ral Merri l l ’s Task Force 39, after
the successful bombardment of Buka and
the Shortl ands -whi ch opened the Bou-
gai nvi l l ea operati on, had moved north of
Vel l a Lavel l a to cover the reti rement of
the transport group. At thi s parti cu]xr
ti me, Merri l l ’s concern was the condi ti on
of hi s force whi ch had been underway for
29 hours, steami ng about 766 mi l es at
near-maxi mum speed. .41though the
crui sers were sti l l abl e to fi ght, the fuel
oi l snppl y i n the destroyers was bel ow
the l evel requi red for anythi ng but sm~l l
engagements at moderate speeds.
So, whi l e Merri l l ’s ci wi sers wai ted, one
of the two destroyer di vi si ons i n the task
force turned and headed for New Georgi a
to refuel . That afternoon, 1 November,
whi l e an oi l barge was pumpi ng oi l i nto
the destroyers at maxi mum rate, the re-
port of the Japanese fl eet beari ng down
on 130ugai nvi l l e was recei ved. The de-
stroyers, i mpati ent to get goi ng, hurri ed
through the refuel i ng.
221
At 1800, al l destroyers raced out of Kul a
Gul f to rejoi n Merri l l . The 108-mi l e
tri p was made at 32 knots, al though the
engi nes of two of the destroyers were on
the verge of breakdown. By 2330, the
shi ps joi ned Merri l l ’s crui sers south of the
Treasurys, ancl the enti re task force headed
toward Bougai nvi l l ea where i t i nterposed
i tsel f between the departi ng transports
and the oncomi ng enemy fl eet. Al l i ed
patrol pl anes had kept the attack force
l l l ~der survei l l ance al l day, and, by ni ght-
f i~l1, the di recti on of the ,Japanese shi ps
was wel l establ i shed. I f the Al l i ed thi nk-
i ng was correct, another trap had been
bai ted for the Japanese. The enemy,
guessi ng that, the same task force that hi t
Buka had provi ded the shore bombard-
ment for the Cape Toroki na l andi ng,
mi ght be l ured i nto assumi ng that the
fi ghti ng shi ps were now l ow on fuel and
ammuni ti on and had reti red wi th the
transports. I f that was the enemy as-
sl l mpti ol l , then Merri l l was i n posi ti on for
a sl l ccessful ambush.
Movi ng sl owl y to l eave scant, wake for
enemy snooper pl anes to detect, Merri l l ’s
force WM off 130ugai nvi l ]e by 0100, 2 No-
vember, i ~l ~dbegi nni ng to maneuver i nto
posi ti on to i ntercept the enemy fl eet. At
that ti me, the enemy was about 83 mi l es
di stant. Merri l l ’s basi c pl an was to stop
the enemy at al l costs, stri ki ng the ,Jap-
anese shi ps from the east. so that the sea
engagement woul d be defl ected toward the
west, away from Bougai nvi l l ea. Thi s
woul d gi ve hi s shi ps more room to maneu-
ver as wel l as al l ow any damaged shi ps to
ret i re to the east on the di sengaged si cl e.
Further, Merri l l respected the ,Japanese
torpedoes and fel t. that hi s best chance
to di vert the enemy force and turn i t
back-possi bl y wi thout l oss to hi s owm
222
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
force—was by l ong-range, radar-di rected
gunfi re.
The naval battl e of Empress Augusta
Bay began just 45 mi l es offshore from the
beachhead whose safety depended upon
Task Force 39. Merri l l -s crui sers opened
fi re at 0950 at ranges of 16,000 to 20,000
yards. The enemy fl eet, spread out over
a di stance of ei ght mi l es, appeared to be i n
three col umns wi th a l i ght crui ser and de-
stroyers i n each of the northern and southe-
rn groups and two heavy crui sers and
two destroyers i n the center. Detecti on
was di ffi cul t because, wi th the enemy so
spread out, the radar on Merri l l ’s shi ps
coul d not cover the enti re force at one
ti me.
The enemy’s northern force was hi t
fi rst, the van destroyers of Task Force 39
engagi ng thi s secti on whi l e the rest of the
Ameri can shi ps turned toward the center
and southern groups. As pl anned, the att-
ack struck from the east. Task Force
39 scored hi ts i mmedi atel y, drawi ng short
and i naccurate sal vos i n return. The
Japanese, rel yi ng on opti cal control of
gunfi re, l i ghted the ski es wi th starshel l s
and ai rpl ane fl ares; but thi s al so hel ped
Task Force 39, si nce the enemy’s fl ashl ess
powder made vi sual detecti on of the Jap-
anese shi ps al most i mpossi bl e wi thout
l i ght.
The two forces groped for each other
wi th torpedoes and gunfi re. I n the dark
ni ght, coordi nati on of uni ts was di ffi cul t
and i denti fi cati on of shi ps i mpossi bl e.
The maneuveri ng of Merri l l ’s task uni ts
for fi ri ng posi ti ons, as wel l as the franti c
scatteri ng of the enemy force, spread the
battl e over a wi de area, whi ch further i n-
creased probl ems of control and i denti fi ca-
ti on. on at l east one occasi on, Task Force
39 shi ps opened fi re on each other before
di scoveri ng thei r error.
I n such confused ci rcumstances, esti mat-
i on of damage to ei ther force was al most
i mpossi bl e, al though some of the .kmeri can
destroyers bel i eved that thei r torpedoes
had found Japanese targets, and other
enemy shi ps were bel i eved to have been hi t
by gunfi re. I n the scrambl e for posi ti ons
to take new targets under fi re, two destroy-
ers of Merri l l ’s force scraped past. each
other wi th some damage, and several other
cl ose col l i si ons between other destroyers
were narrowl y averted. One Ameri can
destroyer, the Foote, reported i tsel f di s-
abl ed by an enemy torpedo and two other
destroyers were hi t by gunfi re but re-
mai ned i n acti on. The onl y crui ser dam-
aged was the Denver, whi ch took three
8-i nch shel l s and was forced to di sengage
for a short ti me before returni ng to the
fi ght.
By 0332, Task Force 39 was pl ai nl y i n
possessi on of the fi el d. The enemy force,
roukd i n al l di recti ons, had ceased fi ri ng
and -was reti ri ng at hi gh speed. Merri l l ’s
crui ser di vi si on ceased fi ri ng at 0349 on
one l ast target at ranges over 23,000 yards.
Thi s ended the mai n battl e, al though the
TF 39 destroyers conti nued to scout the
area for addi ti onal targets and di sabl ed
enemy shi ps. At daybreak, TF 39 was
reassembl ed and a fl i ght of fri endl y ai r-
craft appeared to provi de escort for i ts
reti rement. The Foote was taken under
tow and the return to Guadal canal started.
The Merri l l force bel i eved that i t had
sunk at l east one enemy l i ght. crui eer and
one destroyer and i nfl i cted damage on a
number of other shi ps. Thi s esti mate was
l ater found correct.’3 I n addi ti on, the
1’ SE Area NavOps—ZIZ, p. 14.
ASSAULT OF CAPE TOROKI NA 223
Japanese al so had several shi ps damaged
i n col l i si ons.
Task Force 39 was struck a few hours
l ater by a furi ous ai r attack from more
than 70 enemy pl anes, but, the Japanese
made a mi stake i n headi ng for tl ]e crui sers
i nstead of the destroyers guardi ng the di s-
abl ed Foote. The hex~-y anti ~i rmaft fi re
and the aggressi ve protecti on of the Col n-
Ai rSol s fi ghter cover forced the enemy
pl anes away. The ai r cover shot down 10
pl anes, and the shi ps reported 7 enemy
ai rcraft, downed. Onl y one Ameri can
crui ser, the Montpelier, was hi t by bombs
but, i t was abl e to conti nue. Nl i l e tl i e ai r
battl e raged, the amphi bi ous force’s trans-
ports reversed course once more and re-
turned to Cape Toroki na wi thout i nterfer-
ence and compl eted the unl oadi ng. The
sea and ai r offensi ve by the ,Jzpznese had
been stopped col d by the combi ned acti on
of (l m-I SoPac’s ai r and sea forces.
THE J APANEgE “
To the Japanese defenders, the sudden
appearance of a number of transports off
Cape. Toroki na on the morni ng of 1 No-
vember came as somethi ng of a shock. Al l
Japanese pl ans for the i sl and had di s-
counted a l andi ng north of Cape Toroki na
because of the nature of the beaches and
the terrai n. I f the .411i es attacked the
western coast of Bougai nvi l l ea, the enemy
thought the l ogi cal pl ace woul d be south-
ern Empress Aubgusta Bay around Cape
Mutupena. ,Japanese defensi ve i nstal l a-
“ Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ved froul : I l f..l (YAR-1; 3d MarI)i17
CwthbatRrpt; Iflf.4 (1 C–2 .Jnl; .!?d .lfarDiv AR;
SE AT(YZ ?ia~;Ops—111: S’m.x>ntccnth Army Ops—
11; [JSSBS, C’ampaiflns; I “SSBS, l~/tcrroflation.s;
JIi.91Div Acct.
ti ons, of a l i mi ted nature, were posi ti oned
to repel an Al l i ed l andi ng i n thi s area.
But the smal l garri son i n the vi ci ni ty of
Cape Toroki na, about 270 men from the
fi?dCompany, 2Vd Regiment, -wi th a regi -
mental weapons pl atoon attached, was wel l
trai ned. From the ti me that the al arm
was sounded shortl y after dawn on 1 No-
vember, the Japanese sol di ers took up thei r
defensi ve posi ti ons around the cape and
prepared to make the i nvadi ng forces pay
as dearl y as possi bl e for a beachhead.
The i nvadi ng Mari nes found the i sl and’s
defenders dressed i n spotl ess, wel l -pressed
uni forms wi th rank marks and servi ce ri b-
bons, an i ndi cati on that the Cape Toroki na
garri son was a di sci pl i ned, trai ned force
wi th hi gh moral e., wi l l i ng to fi ght to the
death to defend i ts area. But after the
fi rst day, when the. ,Japanese were knocked
out of the concentrated defenses on Cape
Toroki na, the enemy resi stance was al most
negl i gi bl e. A wounded Japanese sergeant
major, captured by Mari nes the second
day, reported that the understrength gar-
ri son had bem wi ped al most out of exi st-
ence. The pri soner confi rmed that the
Japanese had expected an attack on Bou-
gai nvi l l ea for about three days—but not at
Cape Toroki na.
Wi th the noti ce of the Al l i ed operati ons
agai n% Bcmgai nvi l l e, al l avai l abl e Japa-
nese ai r power was rushed toward Rabaul ,
and Admi ral Kusaka ordered the i nter-
cepti on operati ons of the .Southeaat Area
Fleet (the Ro operati on) shi fted from
New Gui nea to the Sol omons. Because al l
pl anes of the IstAir h’qtuzdron and addi -
ti onal shi ps were al ready en route to Ra-
baul , thi s acti on pl aced the enti re mobi l e
surf ace and ai r strength of the Combined
Fl eet under the di recti on of the comman-
der of the Southeast Area Fleet.
224 I SOLATI ON OF RABATJL
The protests of some commanders
agai nst the use of surface vessel s i n the
area south of New Bri tai n-whi ch was
wel l wi thi n the range of the area domi -
nated by the pl anes of ComAi rSol s-w,ere
brushed asi de. Combined Fleet Z?ead-
qwmtens. convi nced that, thi s was the l ast
opportuni ty to take advantage of the stra-
tegi c si tl ~ati on i n the southeast, was deter.
mi ned to stri ke. a deci si ve bl ow at the Al -
l i ed surface strength i n the Sol omons and
di rected Kusaka to conti nue the operati on.
After the battl e of Empress Augusta
Bay, however, the defeated .Tapanese re-
ti red from the area wi th the real i zati on
that combi ned sea and ai r operati ons
were di ffi cul t wi th l i mi ted ai r resources,
especi al l y “i n a regi on where fri endl y
and enemy aeri al supremacy spheres
overl apped broadl y.” 15
The Seventeenth Army, charged wi th
the actual defense of Bougai nvi l l ea, took
the news of the Al l i ed i nvasi on a bi t more
bl andl y:
I n formul ati ng i ts operati on pl an, the Sev-
enteenth Army pl anned to empl oy i ts mai n
force onl y on the occasi on of an army i nva-
si on i n the southern or northern regi on, or
the Ki eta sector. Therefore, at the outset
of the enemy l andi ng i n the vi ci ni ty of Tor o-
ki na Poi nt, the Seventeenth Ar my was l ack-
i ng i n determi nati on to destroy the enemy.
The army’s i ntenti on at that poi nt was onl y
to obstruct the enemy l andi ng. 16
There were many avenues of obstructi on
open to the Japanese, despi te the fact that
the Al l i ecl sea and ai r acti vi ty probabl y
di scouraged the enemy from many aggres-
si ve overtures. Decei ved ori gi nal l y as to
the i ntenti ons of the Al l i es, the Japanese
apparentl y remai ned i n doubt for some
ti me as to the strategi cal and tacti cal i m-
portance of the operati ons at Cape Toro-
ki na. The enemy coul d have counter-
manded or prevented extensi on of the
defensi ve posi ti ons and occupati on of the
projected ai rfi el d si tes by shel l i ng or ai r
bombardments. But nune of these courses
of acti on were i ni ti ated i mmedi atel y or
carri ed out wi th suffi ci ent determi nati on
to jeopardi ze the beachhead sei zed by the
l MAc forces.
The chi ef threat to the Cape Torok@a
peri meter seemed to be from the ri ght
fl ank. Operati on orders, taken from the
bodi es of dead Japanese at Cape Toroki na,
i ndi cated that forces i n the area southeast
of the Cape coul d stri ke from that di rec-
ti on, and i t was to thi s Si & that the l MAC
forces ashore poi nted most of thei r combat
strength.
“ SE Area NavOp.s-11, p. 18. ‘“Neven.teentl&Army Op&—ZII, p. 103,
CHAPTER .4
Holding the Beachhead
.EXPANS1ON OF THE PEl?Zi7[ETER 1
The l andi ngs on Bougai nvi l l ea had pro-
ceeded as pl anned, except that the 3d &1a-
ri nes encountered unexpectedl y sti ff re-
si stance i ni ti al l y and the 9th Yl ari nes l and-
ed over surf and beaches whi ch were l ater
descri bed as bei ng as rough as any encoun-
tered i n the South Paci fi c. The success
of ti l e operati on! though, was obvi ous, and
(}ene,ral l Tande~ri ft, l eavi ng Turn age i n
tacti cal control of al l l E1.~C troops ashore,
confi dentl y returned to (I uadal canal wi th
JVi l ki nson.2
.~t, daybreak the second day, the 31a-
ri nes began expansi on of tl ~e beachhead.
Fl ank patrol s al ong the enti re peri meter
establ i shed a cohesi ve defensi ve front, and
fl ”om thi s posi ti on a number of reconnai s-
sance patrol s were pushed forward. There
was no enemy acti vi ty except occasi onal
sni per fi re i n the vi ci ni ty of Toroki na
pl antati on and on Puruata I sl and, where
the rai ders were sti l l engaged.
‘ Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s deri ved from: C’omS’oPacNovj<’?Warn;
ThirdFlt XarrRcpt; 1[1[’hit)Por AR; llIPliibFor
Nov~L? lVarD; 1.1(.4(? .4R–Z; I MAC Rel )t on Rou-
gai nvi l l e Oper i ]ti on, l ’h;l se I I , dtd 21 Mar43 (130u-
gai nvi l l e Area OpFi l e. I I i st13r, HQMC ), her eafter
I .1[.I C .11(–1[; 1.V.4 (} (:–2 Rcpts: I .1[..l P &2 Jnl;
,;d .lfar~ic (’o*aTJfltRr/ Jf; 3f73farf)il .41/ ; fld .Var-
l)ir D–,2 N.(R; 3(7 MarIjiv D–2 Jal; :jd lfarI)io
1)–J Rept.?; Histlliv .4 CC4; Rentz, Boa,qnint?illc
and thr .A”orthcm S’02017toHs; I sel y and Crowl ,
Ilarine.s and ,Impllibiow War; Aurthur and
Cohl mi a, 3(7Mm” DiuHist.
2 Vande.qrift intrroiezo.
Patrol s had to thread thei r way through
a maze of swamps that stood just back of
the beaches, parti cul arl y i n the 3d Ma-
ri nes’ zone of acti on. Bracki sh water,
much of i t knee to wai st, deep, fl ooded i n-
l and for hl undreds of yards. The bottom
of these swamps was a fi ne., vol cani c ash
whi ch had a qui cksand substance to i t.
Mari nes had troubl e, wadi ng these areas,
and bul l dozers and hal f-tracks al l but di s-
appeared under the water.3
Chdy two paths l ed out of thi s morass,
both of them i n the sector of the 3d hl a-
ri nes. These two trai l s, i n some pl aces
onl y i nches above the swamp]and, extend-
ed jnl and about 750 yards before joi ni ng
fi rmer ground. One of the pathways,
the Nl i ssi on Trai l toward the Pi va Ri ver
and Pi va I ?i l l age, was bel i eved to be the
mai n route of travel by the Japanese
forces, and thi s trai l was bl ocked on D-
Day by the qui ck acti on of rai der ti m-
pany bf. &l ore deta&d i nformati on on
the extent of swamps ,and the l ocati on of
hi gher ground woul d have been i nval u-
abl e at thi s stage of beachhead expansi on,
but, the aeri al photographs and hasty ter-
rai n maps avai l abl e furni shed few cl ues
‘ Col Franci s M. McAl i ster l tr. to CMC, dtd
29Mar48, her eafter McA 1Lster ttr.
The fact
that the 9th Mari nes was abl e to di g i n deepl y
an(l wel l shortl y after i t l anded “i ndi cated that
ther (~ was a good deal of fi rm gr ound back of
the heaehes>”much mor e than i s Kener al l y r ec-
ogn i zed or r emember ed by men who got soaked
wadi ng the swnmps. Crai g W.
225
,..
226 I SOLATI ON” OF RABACL
M to sl ~i tabl e l ocati ons for defensi ve posi -
ti ons or suppl y (l umps. The resul t was
compl ete dependence upon reports of the
reconnai ssance patrol s.4
Because the routes i nl and were passabl e
onl y to tracked vehi cl es, road bui l di ng be-
came the pri ori ty act.i vi ty of the operati on.
Wheel ed vehi cl es and hal f-tracks coul d be
used onl y al ong the be:tches, and i n pl aces
where the shorel i ne was onl y a few yards
wi de, the suppl i es pi l ed around had a
paral yzi ng efi ect on trnffi c. The 53d and
‘i l st Seabees, whi ch l ancl ed i n vari ous
echel ons wi t h the assaLdt troops, began
constructi on of a l ateral road al ong the
beach whi l e wai ti ng for the beachhead to
expand.
Constructi on of a si mi l ar road al ong the
~[i ssi on Trai l was handi capped by the
swamps and the 1ack of bri d~i ng materi al .
Progress was sl ow. Ai rfi el d reconnai s-
sance on Cape Toroki na was begun at day-
bretk despi te ti l e sporadi c sni per fi re, but,
pl ans for i mmedi ate patrol s to seek ai r-
fi el d si tes further i nl and was postponed by
the nerd for roads and ti l e l i mi ted beachh-
ead.
13zrl y on the morni ng of !?I $Tovember, a
shi ft i n the tacti cal l i neup al ong the peri m-
eter was ordered i n an attempt, to pul l i n
the fl anks of the beachhead and consti tute
4Ck?nernl Crai # recal l s : “I t was al most i mpossi -
bl e to spot onr tr oop di sposi ti ons on operati ons
maps at ti ni es. The nl aps \ver e ver y poor and
ther e wer e few i denti fyi ng’ marks on the terrai n
unti l we got to thp hi gh gr ound. .kt one ti me I
had eaeh fwmpany on the l i ne put :]1)weather bal -
l oons (sul :al l ones ) above the treetops i n the jnn-
gl e and then had a pl ane photo~r aph the area.
The smal l ~vhi te dots made by the bal l oons gave
a true pi cture fi nal l y of just how my defensi ve
l i nes ran i n a parti cul arl y thi ck part of the
jungl e. I t was the onl y ti tae dur i ng the earl y
I )art of the campai gn that I got a real l y good i {l ea
as to exactl y how my l i nes ran, ” Craig ltr.
a reserve force for I MAC. Pri or to the
operati on, General Turnage had been con-
cerned about the possi bi l i ty of hi s l engthy
but narrow beachhead bei ng rol l ed up l i ke
a rug by enemy acti on. Wi thout a re-
serve and l ~nabl e to organi ze a defense i n
depth to ei ther fl ank, the di vi si on com-
l nander l md pl anned to move i ndi vi dual
battal i ons l ateral l y to meet enemy threats
:Wtl ~ey devel oped. Now, wi th the beaches
i n the !l th Mari nes~ sector unsui tabl e for
conti nued use, and the 3d Mari nes needi ng
sol l l e rel i ef after the tough battl e to take.
rape Toroki na, redi sposi ti on of certai n
uni ts was di rected.s
.kt 0830, the 2d Battal i on, $l th Mari nes
started drawi ng i n i ts l eft fl ank toward
the beach whi l e 1/9, the extreme l eft
fl ank l andi l ~g team, began wi thdrawal to
ti l e vi ci ni ty of Cape Toroki na. S . ome
uni ts l noved al ong the beach; others were
l i fted by amphi bi an tractors. By ni ght-
fal l , 1/9 was under the operati onal con-
trol of the 3d Mari nes and wzs i n reserve
posi ti ons behi nd 1/3 on the ri ght fl ank.
Tw-o arti l l ery batteri es of the l !!th Mari nes
l ,egi stered fi re o~l t]l e I ,aruma Ri ver to
provi de support for 2/9 on the l eft fl ank.
The. fol l owi ng day, 3 November, 2/9
made the same wi thdrawal and moved i nto
posi ti ons to the ri ght of the 2d Rai der
Battal i on. T)nri ng the day, 1/9 rel i eved
1,/~ 011 t,he ri ght, fl ank of the peri meter,
and at 1800 operati onal control of Cape
Toroki na passed to the !l th Mari nes. At
thi s ti me, 3/9 wi th i ts l eft fl ank anchored
to the beach north of the Koromoki na
Ri ver, was pl aced under the control of the
3d Mari nes; 1/3, wi thdrawn from ac-
ti on, was desi gnated the reserve uni t of the
5 I .tCol Al pha 1., I hnvser, .Jr., l tr to CMC, dtd
l $)I I :l y~X (Bol l K2\i nvi ]l e Monogr aph Comnl ent
I {~i ](,, I l i stBr, HQMC ) , her eafter Bower Zfr.
HOLDI NG THE BEACHHEAD
Qg7
,
,/,
I A
I
+
i
0

CL
a
>
228
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
9th Mari nes. I n effect, after three days,
the two assaul t regi ments had tr~ded posi -
ti ons on the peri meter and had exchanged
one battal i on.
The l ast Japanese resi stance wi thi n the
peri meter had been el i mi nated, al so. On 3
hTovember, after several i nstances of spo-
radi c ri fl e fi re from Toroki na I sl and, the
arti l l ery pi eces of a battery from the 12th
Mari nes, as wel l as 40mm and 20mm guns
of the 3d Defense Battal i on, were turned
on Toroki na I sl xnd for a 15-nl i nute bonl -
bardment. A smal l detachment of the 3d
Rai ders l anded behi nd thi s shel l i ng found
no l i ve Japanese but 8–10 freshl y dug
graves. The enemy had apparentl y been
forced to abandon the i sl and.
Extensi on of the peri meter conti nued
despi te the shuffl i ng of front-l i ne uni ts.
On the l eft, 3/9 and the two battal i ons of
the 3d Mari nes conti nued to press i nl and
i n a course of advance general l y north by
northeast. Contact was mai ntai ned wi th
the 2d Rai der Battal i on on the ri ght of the
3d Mari nes, and patrol s scouted ahead
wi th the mi ssi on of l ocati ng the route for
a l ateral road from the l eft fl ank to the
ri ght fl ank. The 2d Rai ders, movi ng
al ong the Mi ssi on Trai l i n front of the
9th Mari nes, extended the beachhead al -
most 1,500 yards. I n thi s respect, the ad-
di ti on of a war dog pl atoon to the front-
l i ne uni ts was i nval uabl e. Not onl y di d
the al ert, Doberman Pi nschers and Ger-
man Shepherds smel l out hi dden Jap-
anese, hut tbei l ’ presence wi th the patrol s
gave confi dence to the Mari nes.
On 4 November, extensi ve pwtrol l i ng
beyond the peri meter north to the I Jaruma
Ri ver and south to the Toroki na Ri ver
was ordered, but enemy contact was l i ght
and onl y occasi onal sni per fi re was en-
count e.reel . The 1/9 pat rol to the Toro-
ki na Ri ver ki l l ed one sni per near the Pi va,
and some enemy acti vi ty was reported i n
front of 2/9; other than that, enemy
resi stance had vani shed.
By the end of the fol l owi ng day, 5 No-
vember, the I MAC beachhead extended
about 10,000 yards al ong the beach around
Cape Toroki na and about 5,000 yards i n-
l and. Defendi ng al ong the peri meter
were fi ve battal i ons (3/9, 3/3, 2/3, 2/9,
and 1{;9) wi th 1/3 i n reserve. The 2d
Rai ders, l eavi ng one company bl ocki ng
Mi ssi on Trai l , and the 3d Rai ders were as-
sembl ed under control of the 2d Rai der
Regi ment commander, Li eutenant Col onel
Al an Shapl ey, i n I MAC reserve on
Puruata I sl and and Cape Toroki na.
Al l other I MAC uni ts whi ch had been
engaged i n shore party operati ons al so re-
verted to parent control . By thi s ti me,
two battal i ons of the 12th Mari nes were
i n posi ti on to provi de arti l l ery support to
the beachhead and the anti ai rcraft bat-
teri es of the 3d Defense Battal i on were
operati ng wi th radar di recti on. Wi th al l
uni ts now abl e to make a muster of per-
sonnel , the I MAC casual ti es for the i ni ti al
l andi ngs and wi deni ng of the beachhead
were set at 39 ki l l ed and 104 wounded.
.4nother 39 Mari nes were reported mi ssi ng.
The Japanese dead total ed 202.
Nearl y 6,200 tons of suppl i es and equi p-
ment had been carri ed to Empress Au-
gusta Bay by the I I I Phi bFor transports.
By the end of D-Day, more than 90 per-
cent of thi s cargo was stacked al ong the
beaches i n varyi ng stages of organi zati on
and orderl i ness. The probl em was com-
pl i cated further by the fi nal unl oadi ng of
the four transports on D pl us 1. Prac-
ti cal l y every foot of dry area not al ready
occupi ed by troop bi vouacs or gun em-
pl acements was pi l ed hi gh wi th cargo,
and the troops sti l l servi ng as the shore
party were harcl -pressed to fi nd addi -
HOLDI NG THE BEACHHEAD 229
ti onal storage areas wi thi n the narrow
peri meter. Ammuni ti on and fuel dumps
had to be fi tted i n temporari l y wi th other
suppl y dumps, and these i n turn were si tu-
ated where terrai n permi tted. The resul t
was a seri es of dtunps wi th expl osi ves and
fuel s dangerousl y cl ose to each other and
to troop areas and beach defense i nstal l a-
ti ons.
Mai n source of troubl e was the l ack of
beach exi ts. Some use of the two trai l s
had been attempted, but these had broken
down qui ckl y under the conti nual dri zzl e
of rai n and the churni ng of tracked ve-
hi cl es. The l ateral road ‘al ong the beach
was practi cal l y i mpassabl e at, hi gh ti de,
and at al l ti mes trucks were forced to
operate i n sea water several i nches to sev-
eral feet deep. Seabees and engi neers, at-
tempti ng to corduroy some of the worst
stretches, had thei r efforts washed out.
The borderi ng swarnpl ands. whi ch re-
stri cted the nse of wheel ed vehi cl es and
hal f-tracks i n most i nstances, forced the
di scovery of the amphi bi an tractor as the
most versati l e and val uabl e addi ti on to the
l andi ng force. Al ready these l umberi ng
l and-sea vehi cl es had proven thei r worth
i n carryi ng cargo, ferryi ng guns, and evac-
uati ng wounded men through the marsh
l ands and the l agoons, and the vari ati ons
of thei r capabi l i ti es under such extreme
ci rcumstances were just begi nni ng to be
real i zed and appreci ated. The arri val of
the LST echel ons l ater bronght more of
these wel come machi nes to the beachhead.
l MAC and M Mari ne Di vi si on engi -
neers l anded i n the fi rst echel ons on D-
Day, but, reconnai ssance to seek suppl y
routes i nto the i nteri or and suppl y dump
l ocati ons was handi capped by the l i mi ted
expansi on of the beachhead. Many sur-
vey mi ssi ons bumped i nto the combat bat-
tal i ons and were di scouraged from patrol -
l i ng i n front of the defensi ve posi ti ons by
the Mari nes who preferred to have no one
i n advance of the l i nes except Japanese.
Thi s probl em was sol ved by the frontl i ne
uni ts fnrni sl l i ng combat patrol s for engi -
neer survey parti es who moved ahead
and then ~~orkecl a survey back to the ol d
posi ti ons.
The swampl ands were successful l y at-
tacked by a seri es of drai nage di tches i nto
the sea. As the ground dri ed, the vol cani c
fi sh was spread back as fi l l di rt. The ai r-
fi el d work was sl owed by the many suppl y
dumps and gun empl acements whi ch had
been pl aced i n the vi ci ni ty of the pl anta-
ti on, one of the few dry spaces around.
Many cl i vi si on dumps and arti l l ery posi -
ti ons had to be moved from the area, i n-
cl ndi ng one battery of 90mm guns of the
3d Defense Battal i on whi ch occupi ed a
posi ti on i n the mi ddl e of the projected
runway.
By the ti me the fi rst supporti ng echel on
of troops and cargo arri ved on 6 Novem-
ber, the Toroki na beachhead was sti l l han-
di capped by the l ack of good beach faci l i -
ti es and roads. Ai rfi el d constructi on had
sl owed the devel opment of roads, and vi ce
versa, and the l oose sand and heavy surf
acti on al ong the Cape Toroki na beaches
resi sted efforts to construct proper docki ng
faci l i ti es for the expected arri val of the
supporti ng echel ons.s Coconut l og ramps,
l ashed together by cabl es, were extended
about 30 feet from the shorel i ne, but these
requi red constant rebui l di ng. Later, sec-
ti ons of bri dges were used and these
proved adaptabl e to beach use.
The rei nforcements arri ved at Toroki na
earl y on the morni ng of 6 h~ovember. The
6 I ,tCol I I arol d I l . West I tr to CMC, dtd
28 May48 (Bougai nvi l l ea Monogr aph Comment
l ’i l e, Hi stBr, HQMC),
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
230
3,548 men and 6,080 tons of cargo were
embarked at Guadal canal on the 4th on
ei ght LSTS and ei ght APDs, whi ch were
escorted to Cape Toroki na by si x destroy-
ers. The APDs unl oaded a battal i on l ancl -
i ng tel m from the Zl st Mari nes and other
di vi si on el ements qui ckl y and tl ~en headed
back to Guadal canal for another echel on.
13ut the unl oadi ng of tl ~e LSTS wzs sl owed
by the crowded condi ti ons of the mai n
beaches and the l ack of beach faci l i ti es.
Most of the cargo was unl oacl ed at Puruata
I sl and where the tank l andi ng shi ps coul d
beach acl equatel y, and the cargo was then
transshi pped to the mai nl and.’ Thi s cre-
ated somethi ng of a probl em, too, for sup-
pl i es were poured onto Puruata wi thout a
shore party to organi ze the cargo; and
thi s condi ti on was barel y cl eared up before
another echel on of troops and suppl i es
arri ved.
CO UNTEli?LANDI NG AT
K(7ROMOKI N.48
After the fi rst desperate defense of Cape
Toroki na, the enenl y had offered no rwi st-
ante. Then, on 7 November, the ,Japa-
nese suddenl y l aunched a countermandi ng
a~~i nst the l eft fl ank of the beachhead.
The move caught the. 3d Mari ne Di vi si on
i n the mi dst of reorgani zati on of the
peri meter to meet the expected threat on
the ri ght fl ank.
‘ Ibid.
RT:nl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om : C’om6’o~fl c hTor &
Warn : Tl! irdFlt Sarrli’rl)t ; 1.11.4C A A-II;
T,I[.4 (: C–2 Rc/)ts ; 1.11..1C C–2 ,Jn7; .3d Ma.rll iv
Con! batRrpt,s; 3d llarD iv :1 R; ,?(1 .JlarT)ir D–2
S’,4R; Sd MarDiv D–2 .Jnl; 3@ lfar~iv D–3
Rrpts; Histl)ir Arct: Sk’ A rra XacOps—111;
S’cvcntrentlt Arm!] Ops-11; Rentz, Bo?l gai nvi l k’
UMItJLc IVurtfi cm. No70mon,s; Aurthur and Cohl -
rni :~, .I d MarDivHist.
The countermandi ng ful fi l l ed an ambi -
t i on l ong cheri shed by the Japanese. At
Rendova, an attempted l andi ng agai nst
the Al l i ed i nvasi on forces fi zzl ed out dur-
i ng a downpour that prevented the ren-
dezvous of the Japanese assaul t force; and
at New Georgi a, the enemy consi dered—
then rejected—an i dea to l and behi nd the
43d Di vi si on on Zanana Beach. The Cape
Toroki na operati on, however, gave the
tJapanese a chance to try thi s favored coun-
terstroke. Such a maneuver was i n l i ne
wi th the basi c pol i cy of defense of Bou-
gai nvi l l ea by mobi l e stri ki ng forces, and, i n
fact, a provi si onal batt al i en was i n read-
i ness at, Rabaul for just such a counter-
mandi ng attempt.
Thi s rai di ng uni t was actual l y a mi scel -
l any of troops from several regi ments of
the 17’th Division. Speci al l y trai ned, the
battal i on i ncl uded the 5th Company, 5.&h
I nfantry; the Cth Company, 53d Znfan-
try; a pl atoon from the 7th Company, 54th
Znfan.try; and a machi ne gun company
from the 5ith I nfantry, pl us some servi ce
troops. ,Japanese records pl ace the
strength of the battal i on at about 850
men.~
The attack force started for Cape Toro-
ki na on the ni ght of 1 November, but the
reported presence of an Al l i ed surface
fl eet of battl eshi ps and crui sers i n the
area, and the threat of bei ng cl i scovered by
Al l i ed pl anes, convi nced tl ~e Japanese that
a countermandi ng at thi s ti me woul d be di f-
fi cul t. Accordi ngl y, the attempt was post-
poned, ancl the troops returned to Rabaul
whi l e Admi ral Kusaka7s Southeast Area
Fleet concentrated on destroyi ng the
Al l i ed i nterference before another try was
made. The l andi ng party fi nal l y departed
Rabaul on 6 November, the four troop
‘ IMAC c’-2 Jnl; SE Area NavOpa—IZZ, p. 20.
232
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
destroyers screened by a crui ser and ei ght
escort destroyers.
Shortl y after mi dni ght, the transport
group entered the objecti ve area, but the
fi rst l andi ng attempt was hurri edl y aban-
doned when Al l i ecl shi ps were di scovered
bl ocki ng ti he way. The destroyers headed
north agai n, then back-tracked cl oser to
the shorel i ne for a second try. Thi s ti me
the troop destroyers managed to unl oad
the troops about two mi l es from the
beaches. The l andi ng force demanded
protecti ve gunfi re from the destroyers, but
the Japanese ski ppers, consi deri ng the
Al l i ed fl eet nearby, pai cl l i ttl e heed. The
troops, l oaded i n 21 ramp boats, cutters,
and motor boats,
10 ~vere l anded at dawn
near the Laruma Ri ver, just outsi de the
l eft l i mi ts of the l MAC peri meter.
Fi rst i ndi cati on that a Japanese coun-
termandi ng was i n progress came from one
of the shi ps at anchor whi ch reported
si ghti ng what appeared to be a Japanew
barge nbout four mi l es north of Cape
Toroki na.” Before a. PT boat coul d race
out to check thi s report, 3d Mari ne Di vi -
si on troops on that fl ank of the beachhead
confi rmed the fact that enemy barges were
l andi ng troops at scattered poi nts al ong
the shorel i ne and that the Mari nes were
engagi ng them.
The fi rst l andi ngs were made wi thout
opposi ti on. A Mari ne anti tank pl atoon,
si ted i n defensi ve posi ti ons al ong the
beach, di d not open fi re i mmedi atel y be-
cause of confusi on as to the i denti ty of the
l andi ng craft. The Mari nes who wi t-
nessed tl ~e l andi ngs sai d that the Japanese
ramp boats l ooked exactl y si mi l ar to
Ameri can boats, i ncl udi ng numbers i n
l o,~(1~J[a ~n~o11-~.Jn 1, 7Nov+M.
‘1Ibid.
whi te pai nt on the bow.== I n the earl y
dawn mi st, such resembl ance i n si l houette
was enough to al l ay the suspi ci ons of the
sentri es. once the al arm was sounded,
arti l l ery pi eces of the 12th Mari nes and
coast defense guns—i ncl udi ng the 90mm
ant i ai rcraf t bat teri es-of the 3d Defense
Battal i on were turned on the enemy barges
and l andi ng beaches.13
I nstead of l andi ng as a cohesi ve uni t,
however, the Japanese rai di ng force found
i tsel f scattered over a wi de area, a vi cti m
of the darkness and the same surf troubl es
that earl i er had pl agued the Mari nes.
Troops were di stri buted on ei ther si de of
the Laruma and were unabl e to reassembl e
qui ckl y. The ,Japanese w~re faced wi th
the probl em of attacki ng wi th the forces
on hand or wai ti ng to reorgani ze i nto tac-
ti cal uni ts. LTnder fi re al ready, deci d-
i ng thzt further del ay woul d be usel ess,
the enemy began the counterattack al most.
fi t once. Less than 100 enemy sol di ers
made the fi rst, assaul t.
The 3d Battal i on, %h Mari nes (I ,i eu-
tenant Col onel Wxl ter .4smuth, ,Jr.)—
occupyi ng the l eft-fl ank posi ti ons whi l e
wai ti ng to be moved to the Cape Toroki na
area—drew the assi gnment of stoppi ng the
enemy counterthrust. Arti l l ery support
fi re was pl aced i n front of the peri meter
and al ong the beach. At 0820, Com-
pxny K, 3/9, wi th a pl atoon from regi men-
tal weapons company attached, moved for-
ward to bl unt the Japanese counterattack.
About 150 yards from the mai n l i ne of re-
si stance (MI >R ), the advanci ng Mari nes
ni t the front of the enemy force. The
,Japznesej seeki ng cover from the arti l l ery
fi re, l md dug i n rapi dl y and, by taki ng ad-
“ Ibid.
“ I ,t(l ol .Jack Tabor l tr to CMC, dtd 7Jun48
(Rougai nvi l l e Monogr aph Comment Fi l e, Hi stBr,
HQMC).
HOLDI NG THE BEACHHEAD
233
vantage of abandoned foxhol es and em- gan to mri ve. .4t 1315, the 1st Battal i on
pl acements of the departed 1/9 and 2/9,
had establ i sl ~ed a hasty but effecti ve de-
fensi ve posi ti on.
Heavy fi ghti ng broke out i mmedi atel y,
the Japanese fi ri ng l i ght machi ne guns
from wel l -conceal ed forti fi cati ons covered
by ~ut.omati e ri fl e fi re from tree sni pers.
Agzi nst thi s bl aze of fi re, the Mari ne com-
pany’s attack stal l ed. The l eft pl atoon
was pi nned down al most at once, and,
when the ri ght and center pl atoons tri ed
to envel op the defensi ve posi ti ons, the
dense jungl e and enemy fi re stopped thei r
advance. The Japanese resi stance i n-
creased as rei nforcements from the re-
mai nder of tl ~e countermandi ng force bE-

of the 3d Mari nes i n reserve posi ti ons i n
the l eft sector was ordered i nto the fi ght.
Whi ]e Company K hel d the Japanese
engaged, Company B of 1/3 moved across
the MLR on the l eft fl ank and passed
through Company K to take up the fi ght.
At the same ti me, Company C of 1/3
moved forward on the ri ght. The 9th
Mari nes’ company wi thdrew to the MLR
l eavi ng the battl e to 1/3, now commanded
by Major ,Jol m P. Brody. I n the fi ve
hours that Company K resi sted the Japa-
nese countermandi ng, i t l ost 5 ki l l ed and
13 wounded, 2 of whom l ater di ed.
The two compani es of 1/3 found the
goi ng no easi er. The Japanese were wel l -
234
hi dden, wi th a hi gh proporti on of machi ri e
guns and automati c weapons, and the Ma-
ri ne attack was met shot for shot and
grenade for grenade. I n some i nstances,
Mari nes knocked out. machi ne gun em-
pl acements that were al most i nvi si bl e i n
the thi ck jungl e at di stances greater than
fi ve yards. Tanks moved up to hel p wi th
the assaul t, and the Mmri ne advance i nched
al ong as the 3’i ’mm cani ster shel l s
stri pped fol i age from the enemy posi ti ons.
Hi gh expl osi ve shel l s, fi red nearl y poi nt
bl ank, erased many of the enemy enl pl ace-
ments, and i n some cases the HE shel l s-
stri ki ng i ropwoocl trees—knocked enemy
sui pel s out, of the branches.
Late i n the afternoon, the advance was
hal ted and a heavy arti l l ery concentrati on,
i n preparati on for a ful l -scal e attack by
the 1st Battal i on, 21st Mari nes, was pl aced
on enemy defenses i n front of the Mari nes.
The arti l l ery fi re raged through the enemy
posi ti ons; and to keep the Japanese from
seeki ng cover and safety i n the area be-
tween the arti l l ery fi re znd the Mari ne
1i nes, Compani es B and C pl aced mortar
fi re al most on top of thei r own posi ti ons.
The attack by 1/21 (Li eutenant, Col onel
Ernest W. Fry, Jr. ) was set for 1700 on
the 7t~ but the effecti ve arti l l ery-mortar
fi re and the approachi ng darkness post-
poned the attack unti l the fol l owi ng morn-
i ng. Fry’s battal i on, whi ch l anded on
Puruatz the previ ous day, was moved to
the mai nl and to be avai l abl e for sLI ch re-
serve work after the Japanese struck. The
battal i on spent the ni ght, behi nd the 1/3
peri meter, whi ch, by the end of 7 Novem-
ber, was several hundred yards past the
ori gi nal peri meter posi ti on of 3/9 that
morni ng.
The enemy’s acti on i n l zndi ng at scat-
tered poi nts al ong the shorel i ne resul ted
i n several Mari ne uni ts bei ng cut off from
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
the mai n forces duri ng the day. one pl a-
toon from Company K, 3/9, scouti ng the
upper Larurna Ri ver regi on, ambushed a
pursui ng ,Japanese patrol several ti mes
before escapi ng i nto the i nteri or. Thi s
pl atoon returned to the mai n l i nes about
30 hours I ater wi th one man wounded and
one man mi ssi ng after i nfl i cti ng a number
of cmual ti es on the enemy l andi ng force.
~~nother outpost patrol from company
M, 3/9, was cut off on the beach between
two enemy forces. Unfortunatel y, the
radi o of the arti l l ery offi cer wi th the patrol
di d not functi on, and so support coul d not
be summoned.
The arti l l ery offi cer found hi s way back
to the mai n l i nes where he di rected an
arti l l ery mi ssi on that l anded perfectl y on
the Japanese posi ti on to the l eft. The
patrol then moved toward the di vi si on
mai n l i nes, onl y to fi nd the beach bl ocked
by enemy forces opposi ng Company ~. ~
message scratched on the beach 14cal l ed an
ai r spotter’s attenti on to the patrol ’s
pl i ght, and, l ate that afternoon, two tank
l i ghters dashed i n to the beach to pi ck
up the patrol . Si xty men were evacuated
successful l y after ki l l i ng an esti mated 35
Japanese. Onl y two of the Mari nes had
been wounded.
T’wo other Mari ne groups became i so-
l ated i n the fi ghti ng al ong the peri meter.
One pl atoon from 1/3, scouti ng the ene-
my’s fl ank posi ti on, sl i pped through th~
jungl e and passed by the enemy force
wi thout bei ng observed. Choosi ng to head
for the beach i nstead of the i nteri or, the
pl atoon struggl ed to the coast. There the
patrol cl eaned i ts weapons wi th gasol i ne
f roxn a wrecked barge, and spent the ni ght
i n the jungl e. The next morni ng, the at-
tenti on of an Al l i ed pl ane was attracted
“ Ibid.
HOLDI NG THE BEACHHEAD
235
and wi thi n anhourth epl atoon-w aspi cked
up by a tank l i ghter and returned to the
n~ai n l i nes.1~ The other i sol ated uni t, a
l J:l trol frol n Coi rl p:\l l y 13, was cutoff from
the rest of the battal i on duri ng the fi ghti ng
and spent the ni ght of 7—8l \”ovenl ber be-
hi nd the enemy’s l i l l m wi thout detecti on.
on ti l e nmrni ng of 8 h-oven]ber, after
a X)-mi nute preparati on by fi ve batteri es
of arti l l ery al l gnl ented by l nachi ne gl l l l st
mort m-s, ancl anti tank guns, 1}?1 passed
through the l i nes of the 1/3 conl ])ani es
and began the ~tta(’k. Li ght f nuks, pro-
tected by the i nfantrymen, spearhe:~cl ecl
the front. Onl y a few cl amd survi vors
of two concentrated arti l l ery pl ’eparati ons
contesteci the advance , and these were
ki l l ecl or captured. More tl mn 250 dea(l
,Japane se, some of them L-i l l ecl the previ ons
day, were found i n the area,” The bat-
tal i on f mm the 2?1st Mari nes moved about
1,500 yards throl l gb the jungl e paral l el i l ]g
the shorel i ne. No opposi ti on vas encoun-
tered. ‘That afternoon, 1/21 establ i shed a
defensi ve l i ne behi nd an extensi ve l a-
goc)l l “ and sent out strong patrol s on mop-
up cl nti es. There was no enemy cwntart.
The fol l owi ng morni ng, 9 November,
the area between the Mari ne posi ti ons and
the Laruma Ri ver was bombed and strafecl
by cl i ve bombers from Munda. The ai r
stri ke compl eted the anni hi l ati on of the
,Japanese l andi ng force. Pl trol s from
1/21 l ater found the bocl i es of many Jap-
anese i n the area, apparentl y survi vors of
the attacks of 7 and 8 November who had
‘5 Maj Robert D. Kennedy I tr to CMC, cl td
21 May-48 (Bou~ai nvi l l e Monogr :tph Comment
Fi l e, Hi st13r, HQMC ).
‘6 Two di ffer ent counts are gi ven for enemy
c;l sual ti es, .?d .l [ar~ i?? I R, p. ‘i. gi ves 234 enemy
dead : 1$1.4 C AR-II, p. 9, gi ves 277 enemy dead.
“ Thi s enga~ementi s mLl edthe Battl e of Koro-
moki na Lagoon i n some amounts.
taken refuge i n the Laruma Ri ver area.
There was no further enemy acti vi ty on
the l eft, fl ank oft he peri meter, and, at noon
of that, day, control of the sector passed to
the 14%11 I nfantry Regi ment of the 37th
Di vi si on, wl ~i ch l ]a(] arri ved the precedi ng
day. The battal i on from the 9th Mari nes
moved to the ri ght fl ank, and 1/3 returned
to regi mental reserve i n the 3d Mari nes
area. Fry’s battal i on, hol di ng down the
l eft-fl ank posi ti on, remai ned under oper-
ati onal control of the 148th Regi ment
unti l other uni ts of the 37th Di vi si on
arri ved.
The .Japanese attempt to destroy the
I MAC forces by countermandi ng had
ended i n abject fai l ure. The l andi ng
force, woeful l y smal l to tackl e a bri stl i ng
defensi ve posi ti on, had onl y l i mi ted
chances for success, and these were crushed
by the prompt acti on of Company K, 3/9,
and the rapi d empl oyment of the avai l -
abl e reserve forces, 1/3 and 1/21.
Esti mates di ffer as to the si ze of the
rai di ng uni t whi ch the ,Japanese sent
agai nst a force they bel i eved numbered no
more than 5,000 men. Japanese records
i i ~cl i cate that, 850 men were l anded, but
I Mi 3 C i ntel l i gence ofi qers bel i eved that no
more than 475 Japanese sol di ers were
thrown agai nst the defensi ve peri meter.
Most of these were ki l l ed i n the arti l l ery
~}i LrrageS and the ai r stri ke on 7–9 No-
vember. The l andi ng si te was an unfor-
tunate choi ce, al so. The ,Japanese had no
i dea of the exact l ocati on of the Al l i ed
beachhead and bel i eved i t to be farther
east around Cape Toroki na. The l andi ng
was not pl annecl for an area so cl ose to the
beachhead. Wi th al l tacti cal i ntegri ty l ost,
forced to attack before they were ready
:Ll ~ d reorgani zed, the ,Japanese were handi -
~:~PPedfrom the fi ~t.
236
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
.4nother factor i n the defeat was the
Japanese i nabi l i ty to coordi nate thi s coun-
terattack wi th a ful l -scal e attack on the op-
posi te si de of the peri meter, al though thi s
was the ori gi nal i ntenti on of the counter-
mandi ng. The enemy’s error of carryi ng
si tuati on maps and operati on orders i nto
combat was repeated i n the Laruma Ri ver
l andi ng. Wi thi n hours of the attack
by 1/21 on 8 November, I M.AC i ntel l i -
gence ofi cers had the Japanese pl an of
maneuver agai nst the enti re beachhead and
were abl e to recommend acti on to thwart
the enemy strategy.
PZVA TRAI L 13ATTLE “
The enemy pressure on the ri ght fl ank of
the peri meter began as a seri es of smal l
probi ng attacks al ong the Pi va Trai l l ead-
i ng i nto the beachhead fronti ng Cape To-
roki na. Japanese acti vi ty on thi s fl ank,
i n contrast to the countermandi ng effort,
was enti rel y expected. Si nce D-Day, the
2d Rai der Battal i on wi th Company M of
the 3d Rai der Battal i on attached had
sl owl y but steadi l y pressed i nl and astri de
the trai l l eadi ng from the Buretoni Mi s-
si on towards the Pi va Ri ver. Thi s trai l ,
hardl y more than a di scerni bl e pathway
through the jungl e, was the mai n l i nk be-
tween the Cape Toroki na area and t,he Nu-
ma Numa trai l ; and i f the Japanese
mounted a seri ous countw-stroke, i t woul d
probabl y be ai med al ong thi s route.
Advance defensi ve posi ti ons were
pushed progressi vel y deeper al ong thi s
“ Unl ess other -wi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om : I MA o AR_I I ; I .WA c
C–2 Rcpts; IMAC C–2 .3??1; $d MarDiv Combat-
Rept; .!3dMar13iv AR; 8d MarDiv D–2 t3AR; .!ld
.lfarDiv D–3 h?epts; HistDiv Acct; Rentz, Bou-
gainvillea and the Northern S’olomon.s; Aurthur
and Cohl mi a, $d MarD ivHi8t.
path by rai der compani es, and, by 5 No-
vember, the Mari nes hacl establ i shed a
strong trai l bl ock about 300 yards west of
the juncti on of the Pi va-Numa Numa
trai l s. Al though the responsi bi l i ty for
the defense of thi s sector now bel onged to
the 9th Mari nes, the i ?d Rai der Battal i on
sti l l mai ntai ned the trai l bl ock. I Jnti l the
ni ght of 5–6 November, there had been no
i nterference from the enemy except occa-
si onal sni per fi re. That ni ght,, wi th Com-
pany E of the Xi Rai ders manni ng the
defensi ve posi ti on, the Japanese struck
twi ce i n sharp attacks. Company E man-
aged to repul se both attacks, ki l l i ng 10
,Japanese, but duri ng the fi ght an undeter-
mi ned number of enemy sol di ers managed
to evade tl ~e trai l bl ock and i nfi l trate to
the rear of the rai ders.
The fol l owi ng day was qui et., but anti ci -
pati ng further attempts by the Japanese
to steamrol l er past the road bl ock, the 2d
and 3d Rai der Battal i ons, under regi men-
tal control of the 2d Rai der Regi ment,
were mored i nto posi ti on to gi ve ready
support of the road bl ock. The rai ders
remai necl att,mhed to the %h Mari nes, and
Col onel Crai g conti nued to control opera-
ti ons of both regi ments.”
The fi rst enemy thrust came duri ng the
earl y part of the afternoon of 7 Novem-
ber, shortl y after Company H of the 2d
Rai ders had moved up to the trai l bl ock to
rel i eve Company F whi ch had been i n po-
si ti on the ni ght before. A force of about
one company struck the defensi ve bl ock
fi rst; but Company H, ai ded by qui ck and
effecti ve 81mm mortar fi re from 2/9 i n the
defensi ve peri meter to the rear of the trai l
bl ock, turned the enemy’s assaul t. One
pl atoon from Company E, 2d Rai ders, then
rushed to the trai l bl ock to rei nforce Com-
“ Crui gltr.
HOLDI NG THE BEACHHEAD
pa.ny H unti l another rai der uni t, Com-
pany G, was i n posi ti on to hel p defend the
trai l . The enemy, unabl e to penetrate the
Mari ne posi ti on after several furi ous at-
tacks, wi thdrew about 1530, and was ob-
served di ggi ng i n around Pi va Vi l l age,
some 1,000 yards east. The ,Japanese force
was esti mated at about battal i ol ~ strength.
Several smal l -scal e attacks \vere start-
ecl l ater that afternoon by the Japanese,
but each ti me the two rai der compani es
cal l ed for mortar concentrati ons from
~/~ :l l l d t]l e ass:l l ~l t,s were beaten back.
One determi ned attempt by the ,Japanese
to cut the trai l between the road bl ock and
the l MAC peri meter was repul sed by
Company G. Duri ng the ni ght, the enemy
rai ned !l Omm mortar fi re on the trai l bl ock
and sent i nfi l trati ng groups i nto the Ma-
ri ne l i nes, but the two rai der compani es,
sti cki ng to thei r foxhol es, i nfl i cted heavy
casual ti es by wi thhol di ng return fi re unti l
the enemy was at poi nt-bl ank range. One
Mari ne wm ki l l ed.
Earl y the next morni ng, 8 November,
Company M of the 3d Rai ders hurri ed for-
ward to rel i eve Company H whi l e Com-
pany G took over the responsi bi l i ty for
the trai l bl ock. Company M took L~pposi -
ti ons behi nd the trai l bl ock and depl oyed
wi th two pl atoons on the l eft si de of the
trai l and one pl atoon on the ri ght. Be-
fore Company H coul d l eave the area,
however, enemy acti vi ty i n front of Com-
pany G i ncreased and returni ng patrol s
report ed that a l arge.-scal e attack coul d
be expected at any ti me. Rel uctant to
l eave a fi ght, Company I I remai ned at the
trai l bl ock. ‘rbe ,Japanese assaul t, was not
l ong i n comi ng. El ements of two ba.t-
tal i ons, 1ater i denti fi ed as the I st and 3d
[;attalion.~ of the 2.70?I nf antmj from the
13ui n area, began pressi ng forward be-
hi nd a heavy mortar barrage and machi ne
237
gun fi re. By 1100, the trai l bl ock was en-
vel oped on al l si des by a bl aze of gunfi re
as the Mari ne uni ts sought to push the
attackers back. Company G, sol i dl y
astri de the trai l , bore the brunt of the
enemy’s assaul t.
Shortl y after 1100, Company E moved
from a reserve area i nto the trai l bl ock
ant] took LI pposi ti ons on the ri ght of Com-
pany G. The pl atoons of Company E
were then extended to the ri ght rear to re-
fusg that fl ank. At thi s ti me, the com-
bi ned fronts of G and E Compani es astri de
the Pi va Trai l measured about 400 yards.
An hour l ater, at noon, Company L of the
3d Rai ders al so advanced from a reserve
area and stati oned i tsel f on the l eft fl ank
of Company G. The Mari ne posi ti on now
resembl ed a rough horseshoe, wi th Com-
pani es E, G, and L hol di ng the front and
fl anks and Compani es H and M connect-
i ng the trai l bl ock to t,he mai n _fMAC
peri meter.
Fl anki ng movements by ei ther the at-
tackers or the defendi ng Mari nes were i m-
possi bl e because of the swampy ground on
ei ther si de of the trai l , and two attempts
by enemy groups to envel op the fl anks of
the I l ari ne posi ti on ended as near-frontal
attacks wi th heavy casual ti es to the attack-
i ng troops. I n each i nstance, the Japanese
were exposed to the di rect fi re of a Ma-
ri ne company i n defensi ve posi ti ons.
Both attacks were beaten back.
At 1300, wi th the enemy assaul t per-
cepti bl y stal l ed, the 2d Rai ders at-
tempted a counterattack. Company F, re-
turned to the trai l bl ock from a reserve
area, together wi th Company E began a
fl anki ng maneuver from the ri ght. After
struggl i ng through the swamps for onl y
50 yards, the two rai der compani es struck
a l arge force of ,Japanese, and the fi ght for
possessi on of the trai l began once more.
238
I SOI ATI ON OF RABAUL
m dT
BATTLE FOR PIVA TRAIL
+
2d RAIDER REGIMENT .1,
8-9 NOVEMBER
1000 0 1000
Y%
YARDS
,6
,3
,0
Q
JO a~ese ,
r
~1 hckow” cm
t
R
m.
;
l’,
.,.
~ )] flankln’g ottocks
.4,
J I /
-.
(
“-, >
AI-1(
The enemy sol di ers, attempti ng another l Jrel mred 1i nes, and the Mari nes began to
counterattack, ran ful l i nto the fi re of
Company G’s machi ne guns and once agai n
took heavy casual ti es. Hal f-tracks of the
%11Mari nes Weapons Company, wi th two
supporti ng tanks, moved forward to hel p
the Mari ne attack gai n i mpetus, but the
thi ck jungl e and the muddy swamps de-
feated the attempts of the machi nes to re-
i nforce the front l i nes. Unabl e to hel p,
the machi nes began evacuati ng wounded.
By 1600, the fi ght, at the trai l bl ock was a
stal emate. The Mari nes were unabl e to
nl ove forward, and the enemy force had
been effecti vel y stal l ed. Another ,Jap-
anese counterattack. noti ceabl y l ess fi erce
than the fi rst, was turned back wi th addi -
t i onal casl l al ti es to the enemy.
Wi th darkness approachi ng, the rai der
compani es were ordered to return to thei r
wi thdraw through the trai l bl ock. Com-
pany F covered the di sengagement and
beat back one fi nal enemy attempt before
the wi thdrawal was compl eted. The
rai der casual ti es were 8 ki l l ed and 27
wounded. The Mari nes esti mated that at
l east 125 Japanese had been ki l l ed i n the
day’s fi ghti ng.
That ni ght, General Turnage di rected
Col onel Crai g to cl ear the enemy from the
area i n front of the 9th Mari nes and the
trai l bl ock so that the peri meter coul d be
advanced. Crai g, pl anni ng an attack wi th
an extensi ve arti l l ery preparati on, deci ded
to use Shapl ey’s 2d Rai der Regi ment
agai n because the rai ders were al ready
fami l i ar wi th the terrai n. The attack was
to be supported by 2/9 wi th a secti on of
tanks and hal f-tracks attached.
HOLDI NG THE BEACHHE.4D
At 0620 the fol l owi ng morni ng, 9 No-
vember, the rai der uni ts returned to the
trai l bl ock area whi ch had been hel d over-
ni ght by Company M and a fresh uni t,
Company I . The two assaul t compani es
depl oyed behi nd Company I wi th Com-
pany L taki ng posi ti ons on the l eft of the
trai l and Company F on the ri ght si de
of the trai l . At, 0730, the arti l l ery pre-
parat i on by 1/12 began to pound i nto the
tJapanese posi ti ons ahead of the trai l
bl ock. More than 800 rounds were fi red
as cl ose as 250 yards from the Mari ne l i nes
to prepare the way for the attack by the
two rai der compani es.
The Japanese, though, had not wai ted
to be attacked. At fi rst l i ght, the enemy
started strong acti on to overrun the trai l
bl ock and moved to wi thi n 100 yards of
the Mari ne posi ti on. There they had
establ i shed a si mi l ar trai l bl ock wi th both
fl anks resti ng cm an i mpassabl e swamp.
Other enemy sol di ers, who had crept up to
wi thi n 25 yards of the front. l i nes duri ng
the ni ght, remai ned hi dden unti l the arti l -
l ery fi res ceased and the rai der compani es
began the attack. Then the Japanese
opened up wi th short-range machi ne gun
fi re and automati c ri fl e fi re.
The enemy’s acti on del ayed part of
Company F, wi th the resl ~l t tl mt, when
Company L began the attack at 0800, onl y
hal f of Company F moved forward. Co-
ordi nati on between the two attacki ng
uni ts was not re~ai ned, and, by 0930, the
rai der attack had covered onl y a few
yards. The two compani es were forced to
move al ong a narrow front between the
swamps, and the enemy fi re from a l arge
number of machi ne guns and “knee nl or-
tars” stal l ed the Mari ne at,tack,
239
Nei ther the tanks nor the hal f-tracks
coul d negoti ate the muddy wrri dor to re-
i nforce the Mari ne atti ack. Unabl e to
fl ank the enemy posi ti on, the rai ders coul d
move forward onl y on the strength of a
concentrated frontal attack. The fi ght
al ong the corri dor became a toe-to-toe
sl uggi ng match, the Mari nes and Jap-
anese screami ng at each other i n the mi dst
of conti nual mortar bursts and gunfi re.
Sl owl y at fi rst, then wi th i ncreasi ng
speed, the Mari ne fi repower overcame that
of the Japanese. The rai der attack, stal l ed
at fi rst, began to move.
Threatened by a desperate enemy count-
eracti on on the ri ght fl ank, Col onel Crai g
—personal l y di recti ng the attack of the
rai ders—moved Company K i nto the gap
between Compani es L and F and depl oyed
the Weapons Company of the 9th Mari nes
on the ri ght rear of the trai l bl ock for ad-
di ti onal support. These moves stopped
the ,Japanese counterattack on that fl ank.
Later, another pl atoon from Company M
moved i nto the front l i nes to l end i ts fi re-
power to the rai der advance.
Suddenl y, I t 1230, the .Japznese resi st-
ance crumbl ed and the rai der compani es
pressed forward agai nst onl y scattered
sni pers and straggl ers. By 1500, the junc-
ti on of the Pi va-Numa Numa Trai l was
reached, and, si nce no enemy had been seen
for more tl mn m l ~our, the assaul t uni ts
hal ted. nefensi ve l i nes were dug, and pa-
trol s began movi ng through the jungl e and
i~loll~ the Numa N-urea Trai l . There was
no contact, amd a l arge enemy bi vouac
area ml ong the Nurn,a Numa Trai l was di s-
covered abandoned. More than 100 dead
.Japanese were found after the attack.
Ti l e Mari nes l ost 12 ki l l ed and 30 wounded
i n the operati on.
240 I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
An ai r stri ke set for earl y the next
morni ng, 10 November, was del ayed for a
short ti me by the l ate return of a patrol
from Company K, 3d Rai ders, whi ch had
been on an al l -ni ght scouti ng mi ssi on to
Pi va Vi l l age. The patrol reported no con-
tacts. Twel ve torpedo bombers from Ma-
ri ne squadrons VMT13-1K3 and –233 based
at Munda then bombed ancl str~fed the
areu from the Mari ne posi ti on to l ?i va Vi l -
l age. The front l i nes were marked by
whi te smoke grenades and a Mari ne ai r
l i ai son party gui cl ed the pi l ots i n thei r
stri ke. The fi rst bomb fel l wi thi n 150
yards of the markers. A 50-yard stri p on
botl ~ si des of the Numa Numa Trai l was
worked over by the pl anes, and, at 101,5,
the i nfantry began movi ng toward Pi va
Vi l l age.zo
Li eutenant Col onel Robert E. Cush-
man’s 2/9, fol l owed cl osel y by 1/9 com-
manded by Li eutenant Col onel Jai me Sa -
bater, passed through the rai der compani es
and moved al ong the trai l . The xdvance
was unopposed, al though scattered enemy
equi pment, ammuni ti on, and w’eapons-
i ncl udi ng a ‘i 5mm gun and fi 37mm gun as
wel l as ri fl es and machi ne guns—were
found. .knother 30–40 dead ,Japanese were
al so fonnd i n the area, apparent vi cti ms
of the extensi ve ai r and arti l l ery support
of the Mari nes.
By 1300, the two battal i ons of the $)th
l fari nes had moved through Pi va Vi l l age
and i nto defensi ve posi ti ons al ong the
Numa hTuma Trai l . Aggressi ve patrol s
m13ecause of the swnnIpy n:l ture of the gr ound
over ~vhi ch the advunce WaS made, an an]phi b-
i an +ractor r oul pany was attached to the f)th
Mari nes. Col onel Cr:]i g used the L1’Ts to carry
two days r:]ti ons and suppl i es for the r egi ment
,nnd to transport r,acl i o jeeps for the ai r I i ,ai son
party an(l hi s own and thp I mttal i ons’ headquar-
ters. Craig ltr.
began fanni ng out toward the Pi va Ri ver
ancl al ong the trai l , seeki ng the enemy.
The I MAC beachhead, by the end of the
day, was extended another 800 yards i n-
l and and contact had been establ i shed wi th
the 3d Mari nes to the l eft.
Ti l e 2d Rai der Regi ment, whi ch had
ttken the ful l force of the enemy’s attack
on the ri ght fl ank, returned to bi vouac
posi ti ons wi thi n the peri meter as the di -
vi si on reserve force. I n the space of three
days, the threat to the beachhead from
ei ther fl ank had been wi ped out by the i m-
medi ate offensi ve reacti ons of the 3d Ma-
ri ne Di vi si on. The attempted mouse-trap
pl ay by the tTapanese to draw the Mari ne
forces off bal ance towards the Korornoki na
fl ank, tQset the stage for a stri ke from the
Pi va Ri ver area, had been erased by wel l
conducted and aggressi ve attacks sup-
porteci by arti l l ery and ai r. The l andi ng
force of nearl y 475 ,Japanese on the l eft
fl ank had been al most anni hi l ated, and at
l exst 411 <Japanese di ed i n the attacks on
the ri ght fl ank.
.i nother factor i n the success of the
beachhei ~d was the conti nued arri val of re-
i nforcements, a testi moni al to the fore-
si ght, of C~eneral ~randegri ft who had i n-
si sted tl mt, the bui l dup of the forces ashore
not wai t the 30-day i nterval whi ch had
been pl anned. The 148th Regi mental
Combat Team of the 37th Di vi si on began
arri vi ng on 8 November, i n ti nl e to take
over responsi bi l i ty for the l eft sector of the
peri meter, al l owi ng Mari ne uni ts i n that
area to revert to thei r parent uni ts and
bol ster the ri ght fl ank defense. I n addi -
ti on, the arri val of these troops xnd addi -
ti onal equi pment and suppl i es al l owed the
peri meter to expand to i ncl ude a center
sector.
HOLDI NG THE BEACHHEAD
241
THE COCONUT GROV.E21
The second major battl e i n the vi ci ni ty
of the Numa Numa Trai l began after a
two-day l ul l fol l owi ng the sei zure of Pi va
Vi l l zge. Duri ng that i nterval , onl y mi nor
ski rmi shes occurred, most of them i nad-
vertent brushes between Mari ne scouti ng
patrol s and ,Japanese straggl ers. Al -
though contact wi th the mai n force of the
enemy had been l ost, there was 1i ttl e doubt
that the enemy was sti l l present, i n l arge
numbers north of the Pi va Ri ver. The
Mb Mari nes, hol di ng the area around Pi va
Vi l l age, concentrated on i mprovi ng the
suppl y routes i nto i ts posi ti on. Defensi ve
i nstal l ati ons and barri ers were al so ex-
tended and strengthened.
As the beachhead sl owl y wi dened be-
hi nd the 3d and %h Mari nes, ai rfi el d re-
connai ssance efforts were extended, and,
duri ng the ti me that, the trai l bl ock fi ght-
i ng was underway, a group of h’avy and
Mari ne engi neers wi th constructi on batt-
al i on personnel were busy maki ng a per-
sonal ground reconnai ssance of an area
whi ch had earl i er been sel ected as a possi -
bl e ai rfi el d si te. Thi s l ocati on, about mi d-
way between the Koromoki na and Pi va
Ri vers, was about 5,500 yards i nl and or
about 1,500 yards i n advance of the 3d
Mari ne Di vi si on posi ti ons.
The engi neers, accompani ed by a strong
combat patrol , managed to cut two 5,000 -
foot survey l anes nearl y east to west across
the front of the l MAC peri meter. The
patrol then returned to report that at, l east
one bomber stri p and one fi ghter stri p
“ Unl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti ou i s der i ved f rem.: I M.40 AR–II, IMA C C–2
I?epts; IMA C C–2 Jnl; 3d MaTDiv CombatRept;
$d MarDiv .4R; 8d ,VarDiv D–3 Rept.s; Hi8tDiv
Acct; Rentz, Boagain.wille and the Northern Solo-
??um.s; Aurthur and Cohl mi a, .?d MaTDivHi8t.
coul d be constructed i n the area scouted.
The survey party was unchal l enged by the
enemY, al though a combat patrol the fol -
l owi ng day cl ashed wi th a Japanese patrol
near the same area.
Recause the numerous swamps and di ffi -
cul t jungl e terrai n prohi bi ted the possi bi l -
i ty of extendi ng the beachhead i mmedi -
atel y to cover the proposed ai rfi el d si te,
General Turnage deci ded that a combat
outpost, capabl e of sustai ni ng i tsel f and
defendi ng the sel ected area unti l the front
l i nes coul d be l engthened to i ncl ude i t,
shoul d be establ i shed at the juncti on of
the ~uma ~uma and East-TVest Trai l s.
On 12 November, the di vi si on commander
di rected the 21st Mari nes (col onel Evans
O. Ames) to send a company-si zed patrol
up the Numa NTuma Trai l the fol l owi ng
morni ng. Thi s group was to move to the
juncti on of the two trai l s and reconnoi ter
each trai l for a di stance of 1,000 yards.
Thi s woul d del ay any Japanese attempts
to occupy the area, and woul d prevent
havi ng to fi ght m extended battl e l ater for
i ts possessi on.
At thi s ti me, the 21st Mari nes had two
battal i ons ashore and a thi rd due to l and
wi thi n the next few days. Fry’s battal i on
was sti l l i n support of the 37th Di vi si on
on the l eft, and 2f121 (Li eutenant Col onel
Eustace R. Smoak) was then i n bi vouac
near Cape Toroki na. Smoak’s battal i on,
wi th the regi mental command post group,
had arri ved on 11 November. Al erted for
act i on, 2/21 moved to a new bi vouac area
about 400 yards behi nd the 9th Mari nes
and wai ted for orders.
On the ni ght of 12 November, the di vi -
si on chi ef of staff (Col onel Robert E.
Bl ake) di rected that the si ze of the patrol
be i ncreased to two compani es wi th a sui t-
abl e comrnxnd group and arti l l ery observ-
ers to establ i sh a strong outpost at the trai l
242 I SOLATI ON Ol ? RABAUL
m-m-m-mi ni
2d BATTALION, 21st MARINES
13-14 NOVEMBER
500 0 500 1000
YARDS
-----
MAY Iu
junction. Aware of the i mportance of the
mi ssi on, Smoak requested and recei ved per-
mi ssi on to use hi s enti re battal i on i n the
assi gnment.
At 0630 the fol l owi ng morni ng, 13 No-
vember, Company E as the advance uni t
of 2/21 moved to the assembl y area behi nd
the 9th Mari nes but was ordered to hol d
up at thi s poi nt. An hour l ater, wi th the
remai nder of the battal i on sti l l en~~ged i n
drawi ng ammuni ti on, water, and rati ons,
Company E was di rected to begi n the ad-
vance. The remai nder of the battal i on
-woul d fol l ow as soon as possi bl e. An ar-
ti l l ery observer party, attached to the bat-
tal i on, fai l ed to arri ve unti l after Com-
pany E had departed.
The ri fl e company cl eared the 9th
Mari nes peri meter at 0800, and three houre
l ater was ambushed by a si zeabl e enemy
force l ocated i n an overa,gown coconut
pal m grove about 200 yards south of the
trai l juncti on whi ch was the objecti ve.
Company E depl oyed to return the fi re,
but mortar shel l s and machi ne gun fi re
restri cted movement and casual ti es began
to mount.
The enemy had won the race for the
trai l juncti on.
Al though i t i s possi bl e that the Japa-
nese had been i n an organi zed posi ti on i n
the coconut, grove for some ti me, i t i s un-
l i kel y that the ai rfi el d reconnai ssance
patrol woul d have been al l owed to operate
wi thout, attack i f such were the case. A
better possi bi l i ty i s that the Japanese
moved i nto the posi ti on coi nci dental wi th
the deci si on by Turnage to establ i sh an
outpost there.
HOLDI h”G THE BEACHHEAD 243
Smoak’s battal i on, at that ti me some
1,200 yards to the rear of Company E,
recei ved word of the engagement at 1200.
The battal i on, pul l i ng i n i ts sl ower mov-
i ng fl ank securi ty patrol s, hurri ed up the
tr~i l toward the ti ght. By 1245.2 /21 was
about 200 yarcl s behi nd Company E and a
nl l mber of di sturbi ng and confl i cti ng re-
ports were bei ng recei ved. The battal i on
conunal ~(l er was tol d tl ~at Company E was
pi nneci cl own by heavy fi re and sl owl y
bei ng anni hi l ated. A personal reconnai s-
sance by an offi cer i ndi cated that the com-
pany had taken severe casual ti es and
needec{ hel p i mmecl i atel y: Whi l e arti l l ery
assi stance was orci ered, Smoak sent, Com-
pany G forward to hel p the bel eaguered
Company E, and Company H was ordered
to set Up 81mnl mortars for addi ti onal
support.
I n the meanti me, more confl i cti ng re-
ports were recei ved as to the enemy’s l oca-
ti on and the pl i ght of Company E. As
mi ght be expected, several of the messages
bordered on pani c. Smoak then moved
hi s own command group nearer to the fi re
fi ght, and sent Company F forward so that
Company E coul d di sengage and wi th-
draw to protect the battal i on’s ri ght fl ank.
Company G was di rected to mai ntai n i ts
posi ti on on the l eft.
I n a matter of moments, the combat
si tuati on deteri orated from seri ous to cri ti -
cal . Company F fai l ed to make contact
wi th Company F., the battal i on executi ve
offi cer became a casual ty, and a gapi ng hol e
wi dened i n the Mari nes’ front l i nes. Com-
pany E, not as badl y hurt, M had been
fi rst reported, was rushed back i nto the
l i nes and establ i shed contact, wi th Com-
pany G. There was no si gn of Company
F. At 1630, wi th communi cati on to the
regi mental command post and the arti l l ery
battal i ons knocked out, Smoak ordered
l ~i s compani es to di sengage and wi thdraw
from the coconut grove. A defensi ve l i ne
was establ i shed several hundred yards
from the enemy posi ti on.
Shortl y after the Mari nes began to di g
i n al ong the trzi l , a runner from Company
F returned to the l i nes to report that Com-
pany F—fai l i ng to make contact wi th
Company E—had conti nued i nto ti he
,Japanese posi ti on and had penetrated the
enemy l i nes. The company had taken
heavy casual ti es, was di sorgani zed, and
seeki ng to return to the 2/21 l i nes. Smoak
orcl erecl the runner to gui de the company
around the ri ~rl ~tfl ank of the Mari ne posi -
t i on i nt o the rear of the l i nes. The mi ssi ng
company returned, as cl i rected, about 1745.
At 1830, communi cati on wi th the regi -
mental CP and the arti l l ery battal i ons was
rest ored, and arti l l ery support requested.
Cone.ent rati ons from 2/12 were pl aced on
the north, east, and west si des of the bat-
tal i on’s l i nes: and the 2d Rai der Battal i on,
now attached to the 21st Mari nes, was
rushed forward to protect the communi ca-
ti on and suppl y l i nes between 2/21 and the
regi ment,.
There were no enemy attacks
and onl y sporadi c ti ri ng duri ng the ni ght.
The fol l owi ng morni ng, despi te sni per
fi re, al l compani es establ i shed outposts
and sent out patrol s i n preparati on for a
coordi nated attack wi th tank support. A
schedul ed ai r stri ke was del ayed unti l the
l ast of these patrol s were recal l ed to posi -
ti ons wi thi n the Mari ne l i nes. At 0905,
the 18 Navy torpedo bombers then on sta-
ti on began bombi ng the coconut, grove and
the area between the enemy posi ti on and
the Mari ne peri meter. A Mari ne ai r-
ground l i ai son team di rected the stri ke.
.4rti l l ery smoke-shel l s marked the posi ti on
for the avi ators, who reported that 95 per-
244
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
cent of the bombs fel l wi thi n the target
area. Bombs were dropped as near as 100
yards from the forward Mari ne foxhol es.
Unfortunatel y, the ground attack was
del ayed unti l 1100 by the need to g-et water
to the troops, so that the effect of the ai r
stri ke was l ost. A break i n communi ca-
ti ons further del zyecl the attack, and new
pl ans were made for an attack at 1155. A
20-mi nute arti l l ery preparati on fol l owed
by a rol l i ng barrage preceded the assaul t.
At 1155, 2/!21 began movi ng forward,
Company Eon the l eft and Company G on
the ri ght wi th Compani es F and H i n re-
serve. Fi ve tanks from Company B, 3d
Tank Battal i on, were spaced on l i ne wi th
the two assaul t, compani es.
I n a short ti me, the attack had stal l ed.
The Japanese sol di ers had reoccupi ed
thei r posi ti ons; and the enemy fi re, pl us
the noi se of the tanks and the rol l i ng bar-
rage, resul ted i n momentary 10SSof attack
control . The tanks, dependi ng upon the
Mari ne i nfantry for vi si on, l ost di recti on
and at one poi nt, were di recti ng fi re at Ma-
ri nes on the fl ank. One tank was knocked
out of commi ssi on by an enemy mi ne, and
another was stal l ed by a hi t from a l arge
cal i ber shel l . The battal i on commander,
seei ng the confusi on, ordered the attack to
cease and the compani es to hal t i n pl ace.
Thi s act restored control , and after the
three remai ni ng tanks were returned to a
reserve posi ti on, the attack was conti nued
behi nd a coordi nated front. The enemy
posi ti ons were overrun, and the defenders
ki l l ed. Mop-up operati ons were com-
pl eted by 1530, and a peri meter around
the posi ti on was establ i shed. Onl y about
40 dead .Japanese were found, al though
the extent of the defensi ve posi ti on i ndi -
cated that the enemy strength had been
greater. The Mari nes l ost 20 ki l l ed (i n-
cl udi ng 5 offi cers) and 39 wounded i n the
two days of fi ghti ng.
The 2d Battal i on emerged from thi s bat-
tl e as a combat-wi se uni t. A seri es of
events, uni mportant, on the surface, had
resul ted i n seri ous consequences. The at-
tack on 13 November wi th compani es com-
mi tted to acti on successi vel y wi thout pri or
reconnai ssance or adequate knowl edge of
the si tuati on was not tacti cal l y sound.
Company E was beyond cl ose supporti ng
di stance when attacked, and the confl i ct-
i ng reports on the number of casual ti es
forced the battal i on commander to push
hi s remai ni ng strength forward as qui ckl y
as possi bl e. These uni ts were engaged
prematurel y and wi thout pl an. The or-
derl y wi thdrawal on 13th of November,
and the prompt cessati on of the attack on
14 November when control was nearl y l ost,
was convi nci ng evi denca that 2/21 was
rapi dl y gai ni ng combat stabi l i ty. The
l ast wel l -coordi nated attack was fi nal
proof.
I n vi ew of the bi tter fi ghti ng l ater, the
l ack of preparatory arti l l ery fi res before
Company E began i ts advance on 12 No-
vember has been poi nted out as a costl y
omi ssi on. Actual l y, had the presence of
the extensi ve and wel l -organi zed Japanese
posi ti on been determi ned by pri or recon-
nai ssance, the support of thi s val ued arm
woul d have been used. Mari ne command-
ers were wel l aware that i nfantry attack-
i ng prepared defenses woul d sustai n
heavy casual ti es unl ess the assaul ts were
preceded by an effecti ve combi nati on of
the support i ng arms—ai r, arti l l ery, or
mortars.
The sei zure of the coconut grove area al -
l owed the enti re beachhead to l eap for-
ward another 1,000 to 1,500 yards. By 15
November, the I MAC peri meter extended
HOLDI NG ‘THE BEACHHEAD 245
to the phase l i ne previ ousl y establ i shed as
Di vi si on on 13 hTovember, i ts commander,
I nl and Defense Li ne D.
Major Generwl Robert S. Bei ghtl er, as-
sumed command of the ArmY secto,r of the
DEFEiV/ SE OF TI ZE CAPE peri meter.
T(2ROKZNA AREA 2’ The enemy’s attempts to bomb the
I n the fi rst two weeks of operati ons on
Bougai nvi l l ea, the Mari ne-.i rmy l Jeri meter
had progressed to the poi nt where nothi ng
l ess than an al l -out efi ort by major Japan-
ese forces coul d endanger i ts conti n~~ed
success. From the l ong and shal l ow toe-
hol d al ong Empress Augusta Bay on D-
Day, the I M.~C peri meter graduzl l y crept
i nl and unti l , on 15 3Tovembe.r, i t covered
an area about 5,000 yards deep wi th a
7,000-yard base al ong the beach. I ncl uded
wi thi n thi s (l efensi ve area were the pro-
jetted si tes of a fi ghter stri p at Toroki na
and fi ghte,r and bomber stri ps near the
coconut grove.
The expansi on of the beachhead and the
,, arri val of the fi rst echel ons of the 37th Di -
vi si ol ~ marked a change i n the command
of the troops ashore. General Turnage
had been i n command of the 3d Mari ne
Di vi si on and al l I MAC troops on the
beachhead si nce D-Day; 2’ but after the
arri val of the. ~i rmy troops, I MAC once
more took up the. command of al l forces
ashore. On 9 November, Vandegri ft re-
l i nqui shed command of the Mari ne am-
phi bi ous corps to Mzjor (i eneral Roy S.
Gei ger, another Guadal canal veteran, and
returned to the uni ted States. Wi th the
arri val of the second echel on of the 37th
WKTnl ess otherwi se noted, the materi al i n thi s
secti on i s der i ved fr om : ComSoPac A’aw& WarIl;
Thir{7F’lt NarrRrpt; IJI.1 C! .4%11; 3d MorDiv
(70uabatRept; Ifi8tDiv .4 cct; Rentz, Bo+tgainville
beachhead af&r D-Day”were sporadi c and
uncoordi nated. The fi ghter cover of Com-
Ai rSol s, whi ch i ncl uded Mari ne Fi ghter
Squadrons -211,-212,-215, and –221, per-
mi tted few i nterl opers to penetrate the
ti ght screen; ancl the Japanese—after the
l osses taken i n the stri kes of 1 and 2 No-
vember-coul d not, mount an ai r attack of
suffi ci ent si ze and numbers to affect the
beachhead defenders. The enemy ai r i n-
terference over Cape Toroki na was l i m-
i ted to a few ni ght rai ds, and these were
i ntercepted by Mari ne pl anes from VMF
(N)-531.
Duri ng the fi rst 15 days of the beach-
head, there were 52 enemy al erts, 11 bomb-
i ri gs, and 2 strafi ng attacks. The onl y
si gni fi cant, damage was done i n a dayl i ght
rai d of 8 November duri ng the unl oadi ng
of a fol l ow-up echel on of troops and sup-
1>1 i es. More than 100 Japanese fi ghters
and carri er bombers jumped the 28 badl y
outnumbered Ai rSol s pl anes, and, duri ng
the ai r mel ee over the beachhead, the trans-
port. FuWr was bombed. Fi ve men were
ki l l ed and 20 wounded. A total of 26
,Japanese pl anes were cl ai med by the
Al l i ed fi ghters. Ei ght .4i rSol s pl anes, i n-
cl udi ng one from VMF-212, ware l ost.
I n the fi rst days of the beachhead, the
responsi bi l i ty for turni ng bqck any coor-
di nated sea and ai r operati ons by the Japa-
nese rested wi th the overworked crui ser-
destroyer forces of Admi ral Merri l l and
(Lnd the A70rtlLern A’olornons; Aurthur and Cohl -
the ~l anes of ComAi rSol s. Admi ral Hal -
mi a, 3d MarDiuHist; I sl ey and Crowl , Muri nes
.
and Amphibious War; Mori son, Breaking the
seyl wei ghi ng the ri sk of carri ers i n enemy
l <i s?narc%.s Barri er: Mi l l er. Reductio?t of Rabaul.
waters agai nst the need to cri ppl e further
–>
‘J 1“u/((7egrif t in tcruiew. the enemy’s strength at Rabaul , on 5 No-
246
vember sent Admi ral Frederi ck C. Sher-
man on a dawn rai d agai nst N’ew Bri tai n
wi th the carri ers Smwto,qa ancl Pri nceton..
Despi te foul weather, the carri er pl ane.s-
97 i n al l —found a hol e i n the cl ouds and
poured through to stri ke the enemy fl eet
at anchor i n Si mpson Harbor. The pl anes
re.portecl damage to four heavy and two
l i ght crui sers and two destroyers.
Si x days l ate,r, three carri ers (Essex,
Bunker $lill, and lrulepencZence ) on tem-
porary l oan from h’i mi tz’ Central Paci fi c
fl eet struck from the east whi l e Sherman’s
force hi t from the south. The 11 Novem-
ber stri ke found few targets. The enemy
fl eet was absent from Rabaul ; but the car-
ri er pl anes knockecl 50 Japanese i ntercep-
tors out of the ai r and worked over the
I SOLATI ON OF RABAUL
few shi ps i n the harbor. The two rai ds
encl ed the Japanese attempts to destroy
the Bougai nvi l l ea beachhead by concerted
ai r and sea acti on.
Whi l e the peri meter had been sl owl y
pushed i nl and, the arri val of addi ti onal
troops and suppl i es strengthened the
l MAC posi ti on. By the ti me of the ar-
ri val of the thi rd echel on on 11 N“overnber,
beach condi ti ons were more favorabl e and
faci l i ti es to al l ow qui ck unl oadi ng were”
devel oped. The thi rd and fourth echel ons
were unl oaded and the shi ps headed back
towards Guadal ca.nal wi thi n the space of
a day. Duri ng the peri od 1–13 NTovem-
ber, the fol l owi ng troops, equi pment, and
suppl i es were del i vered to the beach-
head: 24
Date Echel on Shi ps Troops car go tons
1 Nov. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 8APA,4AKA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14, 321 6, 177
6NOV --------------- 2 8 APD, 8LST ------------------ 3, 548 5, 080
8Nov --------------- 2A 4APA,2AKA __________________ .5. 715 3, 160
11 Nov -------------- 3 8APD,8LST . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,599 5, 785
13 Nov -------------- 4 4APA,2AKA- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6, 678 2, 935
Total __________ __________ ________________________________ 33, 861 23, 137
z~I I I Ptl i bFOr AR, pp. 11–12.
CHAPTER 5
Advance to Piva Forks
Throughout the fi rst weeks of opera-
ti ons on Bougai nvi l l ea, there was n