Letter from General Harmon to
Admiral Ghormley, 6 October 1942*
Noumea, New Caledonia
6 October 1942
SUBJECT: Occupation of Ndini. [Ndeni] TO: Comsopac.
- From a military viewpoint the occupation of Ndini at this time under the existing strategic situation has not appealed to me as a measure best utilizing the capabilities of our forces.
I regret that I have not previously more completely expressed myself on this subject. While fully prepared to support to the utmost your final decision it does not appear that it is even now too late to review the plan, as action for its accomplishment has but just been initiated.
Attention is therefore invited to the following considerations:
- It is understood that the primary reasons for the occupation of Ndini are:
- To provide a base for airplane operation for: Anti-submarine patrol; extension of patrols to the North and Northeast and protection of east flank of Line of Communication to the Solomons.
- To deny it to the enemy.
- To afford an intermediate field between Button [Espiritu Santo] and Cactus [Guadalcanal] for staging short range aircraft.
Reference a. (1) These are all admittedly important reasons in favor of this line of action but cannot afford our forces any benefit or influence enemy action for at least two and probably three months. In the final analysis they are not individually or cumulatively vital to the success of main offensive operation or accomplishment of primary mission of maintaining security of South Pacific bases and lines of communication.
Reference a. (2) It is not probable that the enemy will develop Ndini or occupy it in force as long as we are able to conduct intensive bomber operations from Button.
Reference a. (3) While desirable this is not a necessity as practically all air craft can make the flight Button-Cactus direct.
- The occupation of Ndini at this time represents a diversion from the main effort and dispersion of force. The situation in Cactus-Ringbolt cannot be regarded as anything but "continuingly critical." Infiltration continues and recent additions probably give the enemy a force ashore in the neighborhood of 3,500. Pack or other mobile artillery in the hands of this force if skillfully employed could develop into a serious danger. With or without augmentation by infiltration, this force could well tip the scales in favor of an enemy victory if skillfully used against our Southern and Western front in conjunction with a determined night attack from the seaward approaches. There is no effective defense against his support of such an attack by fire from warships.
If we do not succeed in holding Cactus-Ringbolt our effort in the Santa Cruz will be a total waste--and loss. The Solomons has to be our main effort. The loss of Cactus-Ringbolt would be a four way victory for the Jap--provide a vanguard for his strong Bismarck position, deny us a jumping off place against that position, give him a jumping off place against the New Hebrides, effectively cover his operations against New Guinea.
It is my personal conviction that the Jap is capable of retaking Cactus-Ringbolt and that he will do so in the near future unless it is materially strengthened, I further believe that appropriate increase in strength of garrison, rapid improvement of conditions for air operation and increased surface action, if accomplished in time, will make the operation so costly that he will not attempt it.
- The airdrome (including both fields) cannot be considered suitable for continuous operation. The durability of the mat, considering the character of the surface on which it is laid, for continuous operation of heavy ships is open to doubt. The mat is not completed on the runway, and there are no taxiways or standings. With any considerable degree of rain, air operations under present conditions will practically cease. The Jap has not shown himself unskillful at forecasting meteorological conditions nor slow in taking advantage of them.
- There may be some plan behind his recent method of Fighter-Bomber approach. Is there perhaps the idea that on the right day, at the appropriate time, after having exhausted our Fighters and apparently withdrawn his Bombers, he will return with them and strike heavily? Dispersion at Cactus is poor. Of concealment and protection there is relatively none. We do not have sufficient Fighters or facilities to operate them in two echelons of sufficient strength. Such an attack, well executed, would be a stunning blow.
- The availability of a suitable runway and adequate facilities to permit the full effective operation of B-17 squadron would go far toward the security
of our position by extending the range of daylight reconnaissance and by providing a ready striking force to be used against appropriate objectives as far northwest as Buka.
- It is recommended that any reconsideration of plans take cognizance of the following proposed lines of action.
- The abandonment of the Ndini operation until such time as a condition of reasonable stability and security is achieved in the Southern Solomons.
- The immediate re-enforcement of Cactus by not less than the equivalent of one Infantry Regimental Combat Team.
- The intensification, as means and conditions permit, of naval surface action in South Solomon waters.
- The prompt dispatch to Cactus of all the airdrome construction personnel, equipment and construction supplies that can be effectively employed and used; with the initial mission of:
- Completing one all-weather runway with taxiways and dispersed standings.
- Completing a second all-weather runway with taxiways and dispersed standings.
- Improvement of fueling system, dispersal, camouflage and protection of aircraft.
- Material augmentation of fuel supply to a minimum level of 250,000 gallons.
- Conduct of intensive air operations from Cactus against Buin-Tonolei-Faisi and Buka.
- Continuation of intensive short range air operations against air, land and sea objectives.
- Occupation of tactical localities in the New Georgia group by infiltration.
- Appreciating that I have not exhausted this subject and that you may have important considerations in mind that are not covered herein, I nevertheless feel obligated to present these views to you.
M. F. HARMON
Major General, U.S.A.
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[*] This letter, when written, was classified "Secret."