Bougainville, 1943-1945: The Forgotten Campaign
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Although most of these troops did well, the poor performance of one black company was greatly exaggerated in reports and in the media, which led to black soldiers in the Pacific theater begin relegated to non-combat roles for the remainder of the war. Gailey brings again to life this long struggle for an island in the far Pacific and the story of the tens of thousands of men who fought and died there. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages.
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Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. Sort order. Dec 28, Mtravis rated it liked it. Bougainville, The Forgotten Campaign. Publisher: Univ Pr of Kentucky , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available.
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View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis The invasion of Bougainville, largest and northernmost of the Solomon Islands, and the naval battles during the campaign for the island, contributed heavily to the defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific war. Buy New Learn more about this copy. Customers who bought this item also bought. Stock Image. Under extremely difficult conditions, the Naval Construction Battalions CBs or Seabees and a group of New Zealand engineers carried out work on the three airstrips.
The fighter strip at the beach was the first to begin full-time operations with the first flights taking place on 10 December. The Japanese Army command at Rabaul was certain that the Allies would be moving on from Torokina; Imamura ordered a build-up of the defenses at Buin, on the southern tip of Bougainville. In November and December the Japanese emplaced field artillery on the high ground around the beachhead, concentrated in a group of hills along the Torokina River overlooking the eastern perimeter.
They shelled the beachhead, targeting the airstrips and the supply dumps. One hill, dubbed " Hellzapoppin Ridge", was a natural fortress. The 21st Marines attacked Hellzapoppin Ridge but were driven off on 12 December. Several air strikes missed the narrow ridge completely.
Griswold , the victor of the land campaign on New Georgia. Rabaul had already been raided multiple times between 12 October and 2 November by the heavy bombers of General George C. Significant damage was done to ground installations, although the Japanese adapted by moving aircraft facilities underground. To achieve this, the Allies began constructing several airstrips on Bougainville that would allow them to use their smaller, more manoeuvrable, aircraft against Rabaul.
The fighter strip on the beach at Torokina began operations on 10 December, while the inland bomber strip "Piva Uncle" followed on Christmas Day, and the inland fighter strip "Piva Yoke" on 22 January. General Ralph J. Once the three airstrips in the Torokina Perimeter became fully functional, Mitchell moved Airsols headquarters there from Munda on New Georgia Island. Japanese anti-aircraft fire, especially from ships, had improved greatly since Kenney's raids, and inflicted significant damage on the raiders.
The Americans developed new formations and tactics that brought about increasing attrition among the Japanese fighter arm. The Japanese Navy could no longer risk exposing its ships to the relentless air attacks, and by late January, Admiral Kusaka had banned all shipping except barges from Simpson Harbor, which removed any remaining naval threat to the Torokina beachhead.
By mid-February, when the Allies captured the Green Islands, the Japanese base was no longer able to project air power to interfere. From 8 March, while the Battle for the Perimeter was beginning on Bougainville, Air Solomons bombers began flying unescorted to Rabaul.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff had determined that Rabaul was to be encircled, with invasions of the Admiralty Islands and Kavieng on the north tip of the island of New Ireland , to begin 1 April at the earliest. Admiral Halsey, anxious to maintain offensive momentum, was unwilling to leave his forces idle until then. To that end, and to provide yet another airfield close to Rabaul, Halsey ordered his amphibious forces to invade the Green Islands , a group of small coral atolls about miles east of Rabaul.
Reconnaissance missions determined that the native Melanesians there were well-disposed toward the Europeans, and had been alienated by the Japanese. As a result, Allied planners determined that no preliminary bombing or shelling would be carried out. Experience gained from previous landings, coupled with detailed staff work, meant that the landings were completed with relative efficiency.
In addition, interference from Japanese planes was minimal. Morison attributed this to previous losses inflicted against the Japanese air arm, writing that the fact such a large fleet "could set thousands of troops ashore with impunity only miles from Rabaul proved what good work AirSols had already accomplished. This would have been inconceivable just two months earlier.
In addition, a detachment of Seabees constructed an airfield, putting the Japanese base at Kavieng in range of AirSols planes for the first time. General Hyakutake, commander of the 17th Army , commanded about 40, men. In addition, there were also about 20, naval personnel in the southern part of the island under Vice Admiral Tomoshige Samejima. Initially, Hyakutake was convinced of the Allied intent to remain permanently at Torokina and as a result remained on a defensive posture.
The resulting delay in Japanese offensive action gave Griswold plenty of time to deploy his men in suitable defensive positions. In December , Hyakutake resolved to launch an attack on the US forces around the perimeter and throughout the early months of his staff made the necessary preparations and plans. His faith in the ultimate victory was such that he planned on taking Griswold's surrender at the Torokina airstrip on 17 March. The Japanese dragged the greatest concentration of field artillery they had yet assembled onto the ridges overlooking the perimeter.
Griswold knew that allowing the Japanese to hold these ridges was better than stretching his own lines thin by occupying them himself. Griswold had learned on New Georgia that waiting for the Japanese to attack was a much surer way to victory than undertaking his own offensive operations in a jungle. As far as the press and the American public were concerned, the war had moved on from Bougainville.
As Morison writes, "the struggle for the Perimeter went almost unnoticed outside the Pacific. Griswold gave credit to the destroyers that provided bombardment of the Japanese positions, suppressing their attempts at reinforcement. Hyakutake's second thrust was delayed until 12 March. The Japanese advanced through a deep ravine to approach the Piva Yoke fighter strip, and succeeded in penetrating the Perimeter at one point.
General Beightler responded by sending combined tanks and infantry to drive them back. Also, Japanese artillery that had been bombarding all three American airstrips was silenced by AirSols bombers. This action ended on 13 March. Hyakutake attempted twice more to penetrate the perimeter, on 15 and 17 March, but was driven back both times.
The Japanese mounted a final attack on the night of 23—24 March, which made some progress but was then thrown back. During the Battle of the Perimeter, Air Solomons aircraft continued bombing Rabaul completely reducing its offensive capability. According to Morison, " AirSols delivered at least one strike on Rabaul every day that weather permitted. The Japanese army, having taken heavy losses during these operations, withdrew the majority of its force into the deep interior and to the north and south ends of Bougainville.
Two days later, while continuing a sweep for enemy forces, the regiment encountered prepared enemy defences, where they destroyed about 20 Japanese pillboxes using pole charges and bazookas. Later, the nd, together with elements of the Fiji Defence Force, was tasked with securing the heights west of Saua River. The Allied troops captured Hills , , , and in fierce fighting that lasted until 18 April, when the last of the Japanese defenders were killed or driven off.
Hundreds of soldiers deserted and wandered through the jungle, living on anything they could find, even on snakes, rats and crocodiles. The supply situation became so bad for the Japanese that, according to Gailey, "the normal rice ration of grams of rice for each soldier was cut in April to grams, and beginning in September there was no rice ration. A large portion of the available army and naval personnel had to be put to work growing food. Allied pilots took delight in dropping napalm on these garden plots whenever possible.
Australian intelligence officers, after studying records, estimated that 8, Japanese troops had been killed in combat during the American phase of operations, while a further 16, had died of disease or malnutrition. The invasion of the Philippines had been scheduled for January but the rapid pace of Allied victories in the Pacific caused General MacArthur to bring forward the Philippines operation to October The Australian Government and military chose to conduct aggressive operations on Bougainville with the goal of destroying the Japanese garrison.
This decision was motivated by a desire to bring the campaign to a conclusion and so free up troops to be used elsewhere, liberate Australian territory and the inhabitants of the island from Japanese rule, and demonstrate that Australian forces were playing an active role in the war. It consisted of the Australian 3rd Division 7th , 15th and 29th Brigades under the command of Major General William Bridgeford , as well as the 11th Brigade and the 23rd Brigade.
On 6 October, the first elements of the headquarters detachment of the 3rd Division landed. By mid-November, the 7th Brigade had relieved the U. By 12 December, the replacement of frontline American troops by Australians was complete, and with the exception of a few service troops, all American service personnel had departed by 1 February The 23rd Brigade garrisoned the neighbouring islands.
The Australians determined that Japanese forces on Bougainville, now numbering approximately 40,, still had approximately 20 percent of their personnel in forward positions and that although understrength, were organized in combat-capable formations, including the 38th Independent Mixed Brigade and General Kanda's tough 6th Division.
Offensive operations would consist of three separate drives: . The ridge was taken by a single battalion of Australians, suffering few casualties in the process. It was afterwards discovered that the position had been held by defenders rather than the 80—90 that had originally been estimated. Pursuant to General Savige's 31 December order to begin operations in the northwestern sector at the first opportunity, General J. Stevensons's 11th Brigade advanced along the coast, reaching the village of Rukussia by mid-January In the resulting Battle of Tsimba Ridge , the Australians encountered determined resistance in heavily fortified positions, and it was not until 9 February that the last Japanese dug in on the western edge of the ridge were rooted out.
Eventually, the approximately 1, Japanese fell back to a strong defensive line across the neck of the Bonis Peninsula. Because the 11th Brigade was exhausted from three weeks of jungle combat, frontal assaults were ruled out and an attempt was made to outflank the Japanese positions with an amphibious landing on 8 June. However, the landing force found itself pinned down and on the verge of being exterminated. Although Japanese losses were probably higher in the resulting Battle of Porton Plantation , the defenders received a boost in morale and the Australian command called off offensive operations in this sector for the time being.
On 28 December, General Savige issued orders to the 29th Brigade to begin the drive toward the principal Japanese concentration around Buin. After a month's fighting, the Australians were in control of an area extending twelve miles south of the Perimeter and six miles inland. The Australians then cleared an area near Mawaraka for an airstrip.
By 5 March, the Japanese had been driven off a small knoll overlooking the Buin Road; the Australians named this promontory after Private C. Slater who had been wounded during the fighting. During the 28 March — 6 April Battle of Slater's Knoll , the Japanese launched a strong counterattack during which several determined Japanese attacks against this position were repulsed with heavy losses. In Gailey's words, "General Kanda's offensive was a disaster Indeed, the entire series of attacks by the Japanese is as inexplicable as the Australians' desire to conquer all the island.
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The concentration was not complete until July. Savige took two weeks to allow his forces to recuperate and resupply before restarting the drive on Buin. However, shortly after reaching the Mivo River their advance came to a halt as torrential rain and flooding washed away many of the bridges and roads upon which the Australian line of communications depended. This rendered large scale infantry operations impossible for almost a month and it was not until late July and into early August that the Australians were able to resume patrolling across the Mivo River.
Combat operations on Bougainville ended with the surrender of Japanese forces on Bougainville on 21 August The Empire surrendered in Tokyo Bay on 2 September That the Australian soldiers performed so well when they had to know that what they were doing was in the larger sphere unnecessary and unappreciated at home says much for the courage and the discipline of the ordinary Australian infantryman".
Three Victoria Crosses were awarded during the campaign, one to a Fijian and two to Australians.
Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu of Fiji received the award posthumously for his bravery at Mawaraka on 23 June ; he was the first, and is currently only Fijian to have received the award. The U. Bougainville campaign.
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Solomon Islands campaign. New Guinea campaign. Main article: Landings at Cape Torokina. Main article: Bombing of Rabaul November Main article: Pacification of Rabaul.