The Strategic Defensive and Tactical Offensive1
By August 1942 the Allies had established a series of defensive island bases, along an arc reaching from Honolulu to Sydney, which served as steppingstones for the supply system and the springboard for later offensive operations. The Japanese threat to these islands in late summer 1942 put the Allies on the tactical offensive, strategic defensive. Rabaul, the principal Japanese base in the Southwest Pacific, became the objective of a two-pronged Allied counterattack. One prong, starting with Guadalcanal, was directed up the chain of Solomons; the other prong, starting from Port Moresby, was directed through northeastern New Guinea toward New Britain.
The Guadalcanal Campaign, first in the Solomon ladder, was undertaken with extremely limited means. Ground forces, aided by the Navy and Air Forces, fought tenaciously, bringing the campaign to an end on 21 February 1943, a little over six months after its inception. Advancing further up the Solomon chain, the Allies made unopposed landings in the Russells on 21 February. Construction of airstrips, a radar station, a motor torpedo boat base, and facilities to accommodate a large quantity of supplies was immediately undertaken there.
In preparation for the assault on the Munda airfield, New Georgia, combat troops underwent rigorous training during the following months. Before this assault, Rendova was occupied on 30 June against only light opposition. This island provided gun positions and a staging point for the thrust against Munda Point
two days later. Munda airfield was captured on 5 August and by the 25th all organized resistance on New Georgia Island ceased. The next objective was Vella Lavella where landings were made on the southern end of the island on 15 August without opposition. Simultaneously, the lesser islands in the New Georgia group were occupied and the enemy evacuated Vella Lavella during the night of 6-7 October. The New Georgia group operation was closed on 15 October.
On the night of 26-27 October 1943, New Zealand troops landed on the Treasury Islands which were to be used as a staging area for landing craft. On 28 October a U.S. Marine battalion executed diversionary landings on Choiseul in preparation for a surprise attack at Bougainville on 1 November. By the end of the year a naval base and three airfields had become operational on Bougainville. No further offensive action was undertaken by U.S. forces on the island since the American troops expected to be replaced by Australian units. Naval engagements and air attacks throughout this entire period effected considerable damage on the enemy.
In the latter part of September 1942, nearly two months after the invasion of Guadalcanal, the initial Allied blow of the second prong was made in Papua. On 16 September the enemy advance in Papua was halted at a point less than 20 miles from Port Moresby where it was met by stiffened Australian resistance. American troops were rushed into Port Moresby by plane and boat, and a counterattack was launched in the last days of September. The enemy fell back to Buna and, while the Australian forces laboriously made their way over the steep mountain trails, American troops were flown overland toward Jaure. During this campaign U.S. troops in New Guinea learned the bitter lessons of jungle warfare by actual experience. By 23 January 1943 organized resistance had been wiped out, ending the Papua Campaign.
While the ground forces were fighting the enemy in Papua, U.S. aircraft struck at his bases at Salamaua, Lae, Finschhafen, Ma-dang, and Wewak in Northeast New Guinea. In the latter part of January, American troops followed by Australian troops, were flown over the mountains to engage the enemy at threatened points along his advance from his defense bases. Fighting over the rugged terrain in this area was slow and costly. Salamaua was overrun on 12 September, and when troops entered Lae on 16 September the enemy had
fled into the hills to the north. To prevent the Japanese from attempting further advances between September and December, pressure was maintained by the Allies in a slow move toward Ma-dang on the northeast coast of New Guinea.
New moves to isolate Rabaul started on 15 December, when troops landed on Arawe on the southern coast of New Britain, and on 26 December, when landings were made on both sides of Cape Gloucester. At the end of the year Rabaul was under constant air attack by U.S. aircraft, and the enemy's line of communication from Rabaul to the Solomon-New Guinea area was severed.
Meanwhile, the plan of operation against the Japanese in the Aleutians was to attack Attu in an attempt to compel them to evacuate Kiska. Attu was invaded on 11 May 1943 and for eighteen days a bitter and bloody fight ensued. The fighting ended on 30 May but mopping-up operations continued for several days. When Kiska was invaded on 15 August the island was deserted; the Japanese had withdrawn.
While the enemy was fully occupied in the Southwest Pacific, an invasion of the Gilbert Islands was made on the Makin and Tarawa Atolls on 20 November. This was the first in a series of moves to recover Japanese-held bases that could be used to further the Allied advance toward the heart of the Japanese Empire. Only moderate opposition was met at Makin and by evening of the 23d its capture was complete. At Tarawa much stronger resistance was encountered but was destroyed by the 24th, except for isolated groups which were later eliminated. Other islands in both atolls were occupied during the following days.
HENDERSON FIELD in the Lunga area, Guadalcanal, as it appeared in November 1943. Lunga River can be seen in right foreground. The airfield, in the process of being built by the Japanese in the summer of 1942, was the immediate objective of the marines who landed on the island on 7 August 1942. This broad, level, coastal plain on the north coast of Guadalcanal was the only territory in the southern Solomons offering terrain suitable for the construction of large airfields.
SOUTHWEST PORTION OF FLORIDA ISLAND, looking across Gavutu Harbour toward the northwest part of Florida. The immediate objectives in the Guadalcanal Campaign were the Tulagi-Gavutu-Tanambogo area, the largest and best developed anchorage in the southern Solomons, and the nearly completed airfield on Guadalcanal. The Guadalcanal Campaign was the first amphibious offensive operation launched by the United States in World War II.
RESULTS OF AIR AND NAVAL BOMBARDMENT on Tanambogo, which the Marines requested in order to halt enemy fire hindering their progress on Gavutu. Gavutu Island, on left, is connected with Tanambogo by a stone causeway and is about a mile and three quarters to the east of Tulagi Island. These islands form the western side of Gavutu Harbour where the Japanese had developed a seaplane base. On 7 August 1942, concurrent with landings on Guadalcanal, marines landed on Tulagi, Gavutu, and Florida Islands.
TROOPS LANDING ON FLORIDA ISLAND. Occupation of the island group, Tulagi and its satellites, was accomplished in three days. The enemy garrisons were wiped out except for about 70 survivors who made their way to Florida Island. Mopping-up operations on Florida continued for a few weeks.
MORTAR CREW IN ACTION on Guadalcanal. The mortar is an 81-mm. M1 on mount M1. On the evening of 8 August, the airfield on Guadalcanal was in U.S. hands. During the following weeks enemy attempts to retake the airfield were repulsed. On 7 October, six Marine battalions attacked westward to prevent the enemy from establishing positions on the east bank of the Matanikau River.
MARINES ON GUADALCANAL in October 1942 firing a 75-mm. pack howitzer M1A1 mounted on carriage M8. Although this weapon was primarily used for operations in mountainous terrain, it was capable of engaging antitank targets.
USS WASP lists to starboard, 15 September 1942, as smoke billows from the ship. Several men and a plane can be seen at the bow of the ship. This aircraft carrier, patrolling near Guadalcanal, was struck by three torpedoes from enemy submarines. Despite efforts of her crew, fires and explosions made such a shambles of the ship that she had to be sunk by her own men.
FLYING FORTRESS ON A SORTIE over Japanese installations on Gizo Island in October 1942. Smoke from bomb strikes can be seen in the background. This raid was part of a series of air attacks on the enemy during the fight for Guadalcanal. Most of the B-17's came from Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. (Boeing Flying Fortress heavy bomber B-17.)
NAVAL-AIR ACTION IN THE SOLOMONS, October 1942. The USS Hornet after a Japanese dive bomber hit the signal deck; note Japanese dive bomber over the ship and the Japanese torpedo bombing plane on left (top). The USS Enterprise, damaged during the one-day battle of Santa Cruz when a great Japanese task force advancing toward Guadalcanal was intercepted by a much weaker American task force (bottom). The American ships were forced to withdraw but the enemy turned and retired to the north instead of pursuing them.
DAMAGE AT HENDERSON FIELD following the bombardment of 13 and 14 October 1942 by enemy bombers and field artillery which severely damaged the runways and destroyed more than fifty planes. Japanese bombing at first was amazingly accurate. Smoking ruins are all that remain of an airplane hangar after a direct hit (top). Marines extinguish fire destroying a burning Grumman Wildcat fighter by the bucket brigade method (bottom). The raid also destroyed most of the ready ammunition available at the time.
ARMY TROOPS LANDING ON GUADALCANAL to reinforce the marines. B-17 giving protection to the landing forces; landing craft in left foreground is LCP(L), in the right foreground is LCP(R) (top). Four 37-mm. M3 antitank guns on the beach (bottom). On 13 October sorely needed reinforcements for the malaria-ridden marines started to arrive, and by the end of the year U.S. forces were strong enough to begin the final offensive on the island.
NEAR THE FRONT LINES, December 1942. Natives of Guadalcanal, employed by the Army, carry supplies to the fighting lines (top); 37-mm. antitank gun M3 in an emplacement guarding a bridge over the Matanikau River (bottom). The Japanese situation on the island had deteriorated rapidly by this time, partly because of the costly defeats suffered while attempting to bring in supplies and replacements.
JAPANESE TRANSPORTS AFIRE off the coast of Guadalcanal, 15 November 1942. A group of eleven transports proceeding to Guadalcanal were intercepted by aircraft from Henderson Field. Seven ships were sunk or gutted by fire. Four were damaged and were later destroyed near Tassafaronga Point where they had been beached.
SURVIVORS OF THE SS PRESIDENT COOLIDGE. This transport struck an Allied mine in Pallikula Bay. Espiritu Santo Island, 26 October 1942. Of the 4,000 troops aboard, only two men were lost; however, vitally needed equipment and stores went to the bottom with the ship.
MUDDY TRAIL. Trails such as this made the use of chains on wheeled vehicles imperative (top). Engineers, constructing a heavy-traffic bridge across the Matanikau River, l ay planking over framework of palm tree logs (bottom). Advance on Guadalcanal was difficult and slow. Troops cleared the areas from which the final drive was to begin and pressure slowly increased against the enemy until the offensive was in full swing.
JEEPS ON NARROW TRAIL. This trail, having many grades approaching 40 degrees, was slick and dangerous after heavy rains and was of little use for heavier vehicles.
BIVOUAC NEAR FRONT LINE, 15 January 1943. Note the use of steel helmets as cooking vessels. Fighting during the first part of the month had been bitter; the enemy had taken advantage of the numerous north-south ridges and streams to establish a strong defensive position. On the 15th a loud speaker was set up on this hill and the Japanese were told to send an officer to arrange for a surrender. There was no response to the order.
FIELD TELEPHONE, still in working order after being hit by a shell fragment when a Japanese "knee-mortar" shell landed six feet away. In the absence of reliable radio communications, wire communications were heavily relied upon. The EE-8 field telephone and the sound-powered telephone were used for long and short distances, respectively.
MOVING SUPPLIES FORWARD. Native carriers bringing supplies through the jungles into the hills (top); boat filled with radio equipment being pushed through a narrow, shallow portion of the Matanikau River. The boat line established on this river was called the "Pusha Maru" (bottom). The supplies first had to be brought by boat up the shallow river and then carried over the trails which were passable only for men on foot. During January the enemy situation became hopeless and some senior Japanese commanders began deserting their troops.
EVACUATING CASUALTIES FROM THE FRONT LINES. The jeep, converted into an ambulance used to transport patients to the rear areas, could carry three litters and one sitting patient (top). Casualties being unloaded near new bridge construction. The first part of their trip was in flat bottom boats pulled through shallow rapids; the latter part was made in outboard motor boats (bottom). The procedure for moving supplies forward for the most part was reversed for the evacuation of the wounded.
FIRE RESULTING FROM ENEMY BOMBS which fell into a bivouac area near a U.S. division headquarters on 22 January 1943. In mid-January ground force units attacked Mount Austen, the southern anchor of the enemy's position. While some Army units pushed through the jungle in an enveloping maneuver designed to cut off the enemy at Kokumbona, other Marine and Army units advanced along the coastal road.
ROAD LEADING TO FRONT LINE FROM BIVOUAC AREA (top). Supply dump which was set up on Kokumbona beach after pushing the enemy back; note shell and bomb craters which were used as foxholes by the troops (bottom). The enveloping movement trapped several enemy units at Kokumbona which were then quickly destroyed. By the end of the month U.S. troops had reached the Bonegi River.
A TWO-MAN JAPANESE SUBMARINE after being raised from the sea, the remains of the Japanese transport Yamazuki Maru in the background (top); damaged Japanese landing craft on the beach near Cape Esperance (bottom). The Guadalcanal Campaign was a costly experience for the enemy. In addition to the loss of many warships and hundreds of planes with experienced pilots, the Japanese expended some two and one-half divisions of their best troops.
JAPANESE PRISONERS RAISING VEGETABLES for their own table. The Guadalcanal Campaign drew to a close shortly after two U.S. forces converged on Cape Esperance where the Japanese were effecting their evacuation on 8 February 1943. The enemy had committed at least 36,700 men on Guadalcanal. Of these, some 14,800 were killed or drowned while attempting to land; 9,000 died of sickness, starvation, or wounds; 1,000 were captured; and about 13,000 were evacuated.
RENARD FIELD, as seen from the southeast, on the eastern part of Banika Island in the Russell Island group. Sunlight Field can be seen across Renard Sound. Unopposed landings in the Russell Islands, located about sixty miles northwest of Guadalcanal, were made on 21 February 1943. By early evening all elements of the landing force could communicate by telephone, the troops had dug themselves into defensive positions, and outposts and observation posts had been established.
RENARD SOUND, separating the two airfields on Banika. Construction of roads, airfields, and boat bases began in February and by 15 April the first of the two airfields was ready for operation. The torpedo boat base at Lingatu (Wernham) Cove went into operation on 25 February.
SHIPS LOADING at the harbor, Noumea, New Caledonia, 12 February 1943. During the tactical offensive of the U.S. forces throughout 1943, New Caledonia remained a steppingstone in the supply line to the forces fighting up the Solomon-New Guinea ladder.
LCT(5) BEACHED FOR LOADING PURPOSES in the Russell Islands. By 16 March, 15,669 troops of all services had reached the Russells. Beach and antiaircraft defenses, including long-range and fire-control radar, 155-mm. guns, and 90-mm., 40-mm., and other antiaircraft guns, had been established. The Allied base there was ready to support further advances northward.
CONVOY OF SHIPS MOVING TOWARD RENDOVA ISLAND from Koli Point, Guadalcanal, 29 June 1943. Only a few miles south of Munda Point in New Georgia, Rendova was first to be occupied in strength to provide positions for 155-mm. guns and a staging area from which the main thrust against Munda would be made. This operation was covered by fighter planes which shot down more than a hundred Japanese aircraft in a few days.
PARACHUTE, CARRYING FILM OF MUNDA POINT, being dropped by a B-24 bomber to men on Rendova. The landing on Rendova, made on 30 June, met with light resistance. Fire from enemy batteries on near-by Munda Point was effectively neutralized by naval bombardment.
90-MM. ANTIAIRCRAFT GUN IN ACTION against enemy aircraft over Rendova. The later need for a dual-purpose weapon which could be fired against both aerial and ground targets led to the development of the 90-mm. gun M2. As soon as the Munda airfield and other strategically important points on New Georgia were taken, preparations were to be made for the capture of Kolombangara.
INFANTRY REINFORCEMENTS disembarking from LCI(L) on New Georgia, 22 July 1943. On 2 July 1943 troops had landed on New Georgia east of Munda Point. It was anticipated that these forces would be sufficient to seize the airfield and other objectives within thirty days, but because of the strong Japanese defenses encountered, reinforcements were ordered to New Georgia in mid-July to supplement the initial landing.
INFANTRYMEN fording a stream along a Munda trail in New Georgia in an advance against the enemy on 10 July 1943. The first man on the left is armed with a .30-caliber rifle M1; second man is armed with a .30-caliber rifle M1903. Strong enemy defenses, mud, dense jungle, and inaccurate maps all combined to slow the advance.
MUNDA AIRFIELD ON MUNDA POINT, 8 September 1943. On 25 August, twenty days after the airfield was captured, all organized resistance on New Georgia ceased. During this operation Allied planes destroyed an estimated 350 enemy aircraft at a cost of 93 Allied planes.
U.S. NAVY DESTROYER IN ACTION against an enemy destroyer force off Vella Lavella. The next step up the Solomon ladder became Vella Lavella instead of Kolombangara Island which was bypassed. While some units were still fighting in New Georgia, others landed on Vella Lavella on 15 August, established a defensive perimeter, and began the construction of an airstrip.
NEW ZEALANDERS LANDING ON VELLA LAVELLA, 17 September, to relieve U.S. units on the island. Earlier in September Americans had moved north on Vella Lavella driving the small enemy garrison into the northwestern part of the island.
TRUCK, LOADED WITH AMMUNITION for the field artillery, landing on Arundel Island from an LCT(5) (top); additional troops landing on Arundel, Rendova Island on horizon (bottom). The results of executing a landing on Vella Lavella and cutting the enemy's supply and reinforcement lines to Kolombangara and other lesser islands which were bypassed became apparent when one enemy position after another was abandoned, or easily neutralized by U.S. ground and air forces.
MEN CARRYING MORTAR SHELLS into the dense jungle while others rush back to the beach for another load (top); firing a 4.2-inch M2 chemical mortar into an enemy position (bottom). Arundel was one of the lesser islands in the New Georgia group, located between Rendova and Kolombangara.
155-MM. HOWITZER M1918 on carriage M1918A3 in firing position on Arundel. Without success the Japanese continually attempted to reinforce their remaining garrisons in the New Georgia group of islands.
MEN RECEIVING ORDERS for the next attack. Rifle in right foreground is a .30-caliber M1. The dense jungle on Arundel afforded the men excellent concealment from Japanese pilots. Before the New Georgia operation came to a close, the next phase of the Solomon campaign had begun.
NORTH AMERICAN B-25 MEDIUM BOMBERS on raid over Bougainville (top); Navy torpedo bombers (TBFs) on strafing mission over Bougainville (bottom). During the latter half of September 1943, before the New Georgia operation had ended, the Air Forces turned its attention to the Bougainville area.
MARINES IN CAMOUFLAGE SUITS hit the narrow beach at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, on D Day, 1 November 1943. Prior to the landing on Bougainville, the Treasury Islands were seized and developed as a staging area for landing craft, and diversionary landings were made on Choiseul in preparation for a surprise attack at Bougainville.
COAST GUARDMEN TRYING TO FREE AN LCVP after discharging its load of men and supplies during the initial attacks to secure a beachhead on Bougainville. Enemy action and heavy surf took their toll of many boats at the water edge. Enemy machine gun positions that caused some disorganization among landing boats were taken before the end of the day.
LST BEACHED AT PURUATA, off Cape Torokina, Empress Augusta Bay. Marines, supplies, and equipment landed from the open bow of the ship to reinforce the men on the beachhead established on 1 November 1943. The troops that landed on the north shore of Empress Augusta Bay encountered only slight initial resistance and losses were considered negligible. Excellent air support for the assault was rendered by both carrier and land-based planes.
TROOPS RECEIVE A STIRRING SEND-OFF as they prepare to embark at Guadalcanal to reinforce the marines at Bougainville (top). LCV taking drums of gasoline to transports headed for Bougainville (bottom). After the enemy had been driven off of Guadalcanal, efforts were directed toward improving the defensive strength of the island and establishing a base that could support further operations in the Solomon chain.
105-MM. HOWITZER AMMUNITION for Bougainville being loaded on an LCV at Guadalcanal. Artillery fire, prior to an attack by the infantry, was effectively used against the Japanese system of defense, usually consisting of well-dug-in, concealed foxholes, equipped with a high percentage of automatic weapons.
INFANTRYMEN CLIMBING DOWN A CARGO NET of the transport President Jackson, 5 November 1943, for the trip to Bougainville to reinforce the marines. Note collapsible rubber raft (LCR) on side of transport. Before the assault on Bougainville, combat troops underwent rigorous training based upon lessons learned in the Guadalcanal Campaign.
105-MM. HOWITZERS M2A2 BEING FIRED by American forces near Buretoni Mission, 8 November. One of the early objectives on the island was to establish a road block astride the Buretoni Mission-Piva trail, which led inland from one of the beaches. The road block would serve to deny the enemy use of the trail, the main route of access from the east to an Allied position.
MOVING ALONG A MUDDY TRAIL from the beachhead area, 9 November, men pass stalled water tanks and vehicles; note chains used on vehicle in left foreground (top). Amphibian tractor, LVT(1), passing men who have stopped to rest (bottom). The advance on foot progressed at a rate of 100 yards an hour. The Japanese resisted the advance using light machine guns and "knee mortars." The assault was frontal of necessity since swamps flanked the trail.
4-TON 6X6 STANDARD TRUCK, with closed cab, towing a 155-mm. howitzer off the ramp of an LST (top); beachhead loaded with ammunition, oil drums, and other equipment (bottom). The barrage balloons over the LST's in the background of bottom picture helped to protect the ships from Japanese dive bombers. Balloons had been let down because of heavy rains. So rapidly were troops and equipment sent in that by the middle of November 34,000 men and 23,000 tons of supplies had been put ashore.
RESULTS OF JAPANESE AIR RAID over Bougainville, 20 November. Fuel-dump fire raging on near-by Puruata Island; note wrecked landing craft in foreground (top). Fire and wreckage can be seen in background of the 90-mm. antiaircraft gun M1A1 which was hit during the night of 19-20 November, killing five men and wounding eight (bottom). Again on 21 November the same area was struck and fires continued all night, this time destroying a trailer loaded with 3,000 rounds of mortar ammunition and artillery propelling charges.
DOUGLAS TRANSPORT C-47 dropping supplies and equipment on an uncompleted airstrip, 30 November 1943 (top); members of a construction battalion laying pierced planking across a runway in the Cape Torokina area, 2 December (bottom). By the end of the year three airfields had been put into operation. The mission of the forces on the island at this time was to maintain a defensive perimeter, approximately ten miles long and five miles deep, guarding installations in the Empress Augusta Bay area.
INFANTRYMEN ON GUARD near the Laruma River, 16 November, man a .30-caliber heavy barrel machine gun M1919A4, flexible. This gun was an automatic, recoil-operated, belt-fed, air-cooled machine gun (top). Taking time out to make a batch of fudge, these men are using mess kits as cooking pans. Note treatment of identification tags (dog tags) on center man. Binding the edges of the tags eliminated the noise and made them more comfortable (bottom). Instead of infantrymen slugging it out on the ground, land-based bombers neutralized enemy airfields in the Buka-Bonis Plantation area of northern Bougainville, and American cruisers and destroyers shelled enemy coastal positions.
ADDITIONAL TROOPS ARRIVING ON BOUGAINVILLE, 25 December 1943. Trucks in foreground are 4-ton 6x6's (top). 40-mm. automatic antiaircraft gun M1 on carriage M2 in position to protect landing operations; loaded ships in background are LST's (bottom). Troops continued to land at the base established on Cape Torokina for two months after the invasion.
MAIL CALL NEAR THE FRONT LINES (top). Message center in operation, 9 January 1944; note the lamp shade improvised from a tin can (bottom). By this time Allied air and naval power had isolated the enemy; his line of communication to Rabaul had been severed.
LITTER PATIENT being carried by medical aid men into an underground surgery room (top). Emergency operation being performed in a dugout. This underground surgery room was dug about four feet below the surface and the sides were built up with sand bags and roofed with heavy logs. The entire structure was covered with a pyramidal tent, shielding the occupants from the sun (bottom).
INFANTRYMEN FIRING MORTAR, located on one side of a bitterly contested hill, at Japanese positions on the other side of the hill, 8 March 1944. The mortar is a 60-mm. M2 on mount M2. The Japanese forces had been ordered to drive the Allied forces from Bougainville because of the precarious situation at Rabaul.
MEMBERS OF A PATROL CROSSING A RIVER on Bougainville. The bamboo poles on the right in the river form a fish trap. At the end of 1943, further offensive action on Bougainville had not been planned because of expected new strategic plans of operations against the enemy; however, renewed enemy activity evidenced in February 1944 necessitated further action.
HALF-TRACK PERSONNEL CARRIER M3 mounting a .30-caliber machine gun parked at base of hill, its machine gun trained on a hillside target. This vehicle was used to bring men and supplies to the fighting lines and had seating capacity for thirteen men. The roller in front assisted in climbing out of ditches (top). Infantrymen, walking through a lane between barbed wire, carry 60-mm. mortar shells to the front lines (bottom).
LIGHT TANKS M3A1, mounting 37-mm. guns and .30-caliber machine guns in a combination mount in the turret, going up a steep grade in an attempt to drive the Japanese from pillboxes on top of the hill, 9 March 1944. Between 8 and 25 March the enemy launched several major attacks against the Allied forces on Bougainville.
THE SOUTHEAST SLOPE OF "BLOODY HILL" after the last enemy had been routed. The enemy fought with his customary tenacity and his resistance in defended positions won the grudging admiration of the U.S. troops. By 24 April 1944, ground forces had crushed the last important Japanese counteroffensive against the Bougainville perimeter.
INFANTRYMEN WITH BAYONETS FIXED advance through jungle swamp, following an M4 medium tank, to rout out the enemy, 16 March. The conquest of the island necessitated much advance patrol work and many mopping-up operations deep in the tropical jungle. Casualties were heavier than in any operation since the Guadalcanal Campaign in the Solomon chain.
AN AUSTRALIAN AIRFIELD, 18 September 1942. An Australian sentry is on guard near a Flying Fortress in right foreground as soldiers await planes to go to New Guinea (top); troops boarding a C-7 transport plane for New Guinea (bottom). During the last days of September 1942 the Allies launched a counterattack in Papua, New Guinea, thus starting the Papua Campaign. American troops for this action were sent to Port Moresby from Australia, partly by plane and partly by boat.
MEN WADING ACROSS THE SAMBOGA, near Dobodura, New Guinea. The enemy fell back under the weight of the 28 September 1942 attack. Australians laboriously made their way over steep mountain trails of the Owen Stanley Range while most of the American troops, a total of about 4,900, were flown overland to Jaure in C-47's. This was the first large-scale airborne troop movement of the war. Troops from Milne Bay garrison occupied Goodenough Island early in November.
MEN CROSSING AN IMPROVISED FOOTBRIDGE, 15 November. From the 10th, troops advanced as rapidly as possible along the muddy trails and waded, often breast high, through streams to approach Buna. A surprise attack on Buna was not possible as Australian patrols had learned that "bush wireless" carried the news of the American airborne movement to the Japanese.
AERIAL VIEW OF THE TERRAIN NEAR DOBODURA. The rugged terrain of Papua includes the high Owen Stanley Range, jungles, and impassable, malaria-infected swampy areas as well as coconut plantations and open fields of coarse, shoulder-high kunai grass encountered near Buna. Only one rough and steep trail existed over the range from the Port Moresby area to the front, taking from 18 to 28 days to traverse on foot; however, American troops and supplies flown over the range made the trip in about 45 minutes.
MEN BOARDING THE ARMY TRANSPORT GEORGE TAYLOR in Brisbane, Australia, for New Guinea on 15 November. The Papua Campaign and the almost simultaneous action on Guadalcanal were the first victorious operations of U.S. ground forces against the Japanese.
SOLDIERS CARRYING RATIONS ALONG A TRAIL for the troops at the front, 24 December. Only a few trails led from Allied positions to the enemy's fortified areas at Buna and Sanananda. Food was so short during November and the early part of December that troops sometimes received only a small portion of a C ration each day. The rain, alternating with stifling jungle heat, and the insects seemed more determined than the enemy; disease inflicted more casualties than the Japanese.
FIRING A 60-MM. MORTAR M2 into the enemy lines at Buna Mission. Because of transportation difficulties which lasted until the end of November, only about one third of the mortars were brought with the troops. Allied attacks were made on both Sanananda and Buna with no material gains.
BREN-GUN CARRIERS, disabled in an attack on 5 December. These full-track, high-speed cargo carriers, designed to transport personnel, ammunition, and accessories, were produced for the British only. The presence of several Bren-gun carriers proved a surprise to the enemy. However, enemy soldiers picked off the exposed crews and tossed grenades over the sides of the carriers. In a short time they were all immobilized and infantry following behind them met with intense fire from the enemy's defenses.
AMERICAN LIGHT TANKS M3, mounting 37-mm. guns, near the Duropa Plantation on 21 December 1942. During the latter part of December, tanks arrived by boat. Only one 105-mm. howitzer was used in the campaign and it was brought to the front by plane. After many set-backs, Buna Village was captured on 14 December. Although Allied attacks at various points were often unsuccessful, the Japanese, suffering from lack of supplies and reinforcements, finally capitulated on 2 January 1943 at Buna Mission.
U.S. SOLDIERS FIRING A 37-MM. GUN M3A1 into enemy positions. The 37-mm. gun was the lightest weapon of the field-gun type used by the U.S. Army. Japanese tactics during the Buna campaign were strictly defensive; for the most part the enemy dug himself in and waited for Allied troops to cross his final protective line.
A NATIVE DRAWING A MAP to show the position of the enemy forces. In general, the islanders were very friendly to the Allies; their work throughout the campaign, in moving supplies over the treacherous trails and in rescuing Allied survivors of downed aircraft, was excellent.
INFANTRYMEN READY TO FIRE .30-CALIBER M1 RIFLES into an enemy dugout before entering it for inspection (top); looking at a captured Japanese antiaircraft gun found in a bombproof shelter in the Buna area (bottom). Enemy fortifications covered all the approaches to his bases except by sea, and were not easily discerned because of fast growing tropical vegetation which gave them a natural camouflage.
CONSTRUCTING A CORDUROY ROAD with the help of the natives in New Guinea. Constant work was maintained to make routes passable for jeeps. Construction of airstrips near Dobodura and Popondetta, underway by 18 November, was assigned the highest priority because of the lack of a harbor in the area. Some supplies were flown to the airstrips and some arrived by sea through reef-studded coastal waters near Ora Bay. The last vital transport link was formed by a few jeeps and native carriers who delivered the supplies to dumps just beyond the range of enemy small arms fire.
ADVANCE PATROL CREEPING ALONG A BEACH to its objective just ahead, 21 January 1943. Attacks from all sides by the American and Australian units in their drive toward Sanananda met with stiff enemy resistance after Buna Mission had been captured.
CROSSING A JAPANESE FOOTBRIDGE, 22 January 1943. Converging attacks by Allied units, starting on17 January, isolated the enemy units and by 22 January the Papua Campaign came to a close. This long, hard counteroffensive freed Australia from the imminent threat of invasion and gave the Allies a toe hold in the New Guinea area of enemy defenses protecting Rabaul, one of the main Japanese positions in the Pacific.
WOUNDED AMERICAN AND AUSTRALIAN SOLDIERS waiting to be evacuated. Natives often acted as litter bearers for casualties. Of the 13,645 American troops taking part in the Papua Campaign, 671 were killed, 2,172 wounded, and about 8,000 evacuated sick. Troops fighting in this campaign learned the art of jungle warfare which proved of immense value in training divisions for subsequent operations.
ENEMY PRISONERS being fed canned rations by Australian soldiers. The enemy suffered heavy casualties in the Papua Campaign. Disease and starvation claimed many; only a few were evacuated and about 350 were captured by Allied troops.
ANTIAIRCRAFT CREWS MANNING THEIR GUNS in New Guinea; 3-inch antiaircraft gun M3 (top) and 40-mm. automatic antiaircraft gun M1 (bottom). On 29 January American transport planes began to ferry troops from Port Moresby to Wau, about 30 miles inland from the northeast coast of New Guinea. As the troops unloaded, they rushed to defenses around the edge of the field since the Japanese were then within easy rifle range of the airstrip. The next day a determined enemy attack was repulsed. On 3 February the Japanese began to withdraw.
TAR BARRELS BURNING after a Japanese bombing raid, May 1943. After the enemy had withdrawn from the area of Wau, months of constant fighting followed in the jungle-clad ridges between Wau and Salamaua, during which time the enemy suffered heavy casualties. On 30 June the islands of Woodlark and Kiriwina, off the northeast coast of Papua, were occupied. This facilitated the movement of troops and supplies by water to that area and gained valuable new airfields for the Allies.
B-24 OVER SALAMAUA, on north coast of New Guinea, during an air raid, 13 August 1943. Smoke from bomb bursts can be seen on Salamaua. While the ground forces were battling with the enemy, aircraft were striking at his bases at Salamaua, Lae, Finschhafen, Madang, and Rabaul as well as at the barges and ships bringing supplies and reinforcements to the enemy in New Guinea.
C-47 TRANSPORT TAKING OFF FROM BUNA, New Guinea (top); low-flying North American B-25 Mitchell medium bombers leaving Japanese planes and installations burning on Dagua airfield, one of the enemy's major air bases in the Wewak area (bottom). Aircraft operating from Port Moresby and from newly won fields in the Buna-Gona area intensified their attacks on the enemy's bases. A sustained five-day air offensive against Wewak, which began on 17 August, destroyed about 250 planes on the ground and in the air at a cost of only 10 U.S. planes.
AIRDROP AT NADZAB at its height, with one battalion of parachute troops descending from C-47's (foreground), while another battalion descends against a smoke screen and lands beyond a hill (left background). White parachutes were used by the troops, colored ones for supplies and ammunition. The men were dropped to seize the airdrome at Nadzab, located some 20 miles northwest of Lae, on the morning of 5 September 1943.
AMERICAN AND AUSTRALIAN TROOPS CROSSING A RIVER near Salamaua. An advance on Salamaua was initiated by Australian troops with assistance from American units that had landed at Nassau Bay on 30 June. This drive was an attempt to divert enemy strength from Lae, the real objective of the Allies. As a result of this move the Japanese did divert their reinforcements arriving at Lae to Salamaua to strengthen their defenses there, as the Allies moved closer to the town.
REMAINS OF SALAMAUA, 12 September 1943. Wrecked buildings and huge bomb craters resulted from earlier aerial attacks on the area. On this date Salamaua was taken, the final attack having been delayed until the Lae operation was well underway. During the period from 30 June to 16 September, a total of about 10,000 Japanese had been overcome in the Lae-Salamaua area. About 4,100 and 2,200 were reported killed in the vicinity of Salamaua and Lae, respectively. The remainder made their way north as best they could.
DOCKS AND INSTALLATION AT LAE, traffic moving along the road on left. This photograph was taken on 1 September 1944. After Finschhafen was captured by the Allies, U.S. troops halted to consolidate their gains. Offensive operations in New Guinea during the remainder of 1943 consisted of a slow advance toward Madang to maintain pressure on the enemy.
PARACHUTE BOMBS dropping from low-flying American planes during a raid over Rabaul. Parachute bombs were used to prevent self-destruction of the attacking low-flying bombers by the blasts of their own bombs. It was claimed that more than 200 enemy aircraft were destroyed or damaged on this raid, in addition to other materiel, ships, and installations.
ABOARD A TROOPSHIP, 14 December 1943, en route to invade New Britain on Arawe. Infantryman relaxes on a cork life raft (top) while two men check and reassemble a flexible, water-cooled .50-caliber Browning machine gun M2 (bottom). While Army and Navy bombers pounded Rabaul, landings were made on Arawe peninsula on the southern coast of New Britain, 15 December 1943.
U.S. COASTGUARD GUNNERS fighting against a determined Japanese aerial attack during the invasion at Cape Gloucester, New Britain. Bomb splashes can be seen in water, resulting from the enemy's attempt to hit the LST in foreground. This was the only effective resistance offered by the Japanese at Cape Gloucester. The invasion of New Britain was the climax of the drive up the Solomon-New Guinea ladder; at the eastern end of this island was Rabaul, chief enemy base in the Southwest Pacific.
PHOTOGRAPHER FILMING ACTIVITY ON ARAWE, using a 35-mm. Eyemo movie camera, while the beachhead was being made secure three days after the landings on Arawe (top). Infantryman watching aircraft from his camouflaged foxhole (bottom). Five days after the landings the Americans had cleared the enemy from Arawe peninsula.
ALLIGATOR, mounting a .50-caliber gun on the left and a .30-caliber water-cooled machine gun on the right, coming down a slope to a beach on Arawe for more supplies for the men on the front lines. Armored amphibian tractors proved to be valuable assault vehicles. They could be floated beyond the range of shore batteries, deployed in normal landing boat formations, and driven over the fringing reefs and up the beaches. One of the immediate missions of the forces landing on Arawe was to establish a PT boat base.
MARINES WADING THROUGH A THREE-FOOT SURF to reach shore at Cape Gloucester. Note that they carry their rifles high. On 26 December 1943 marines landed on the western end of New Britain at points east and west of Cape Gloucester. Their immediate objective, the airdrome on the cape, was a desirable link in the chain of bases necessary to permit the air forces to pave the way for further advances.
MARINES LOADED WITH EQUIPMENT go ashore to assemble for the move forward after disembarking from an LST. Craft in the background is an LVT; in the foreground a jeep is being pushed through the surf. Many of the men carry litters for the expected casualties. Troops succeeded in driving the Japanese out of the cape in four days. The lodgments on New Britain severed one of the main enemy supply lines between Rabaul and eastern New Guinea, and as the year drew to a close, Rabaul was rapidly being isolated.
MEN ABOARD AN LST, 6 May 1943, clean their rifles and prepare machine gun ammunition for the impending attack on Attu in the Aleutian chain which stretches southwest from Alaska. The attack scheduled for 7 May was delayed until the 11th because of unfavorable weather conditions. The attack on Attu was planned in the hope that Kiska would be made untenable, compelling the enemy to evacuate his forces there.
LANDING BEACH in Holtz Bay area, Attu, as seen from atop the ridge separating Holtz Bay and Chichagof Bay. In the foreground can be seen a crashed Japanese Zero airplane. To the right, men and equipment are unloading from landing craft. It was soon found that the steep jagged crags, knifelike ridges, and boggy tundra greatly impeded the troops and made impracticable any extensive use of mechanized equipment.
TRACTOR LEAVING LCM(3); note transport and several landing craft on horizon. A heavy fog on D Day caused several postponements of H Hour. The first troops finally moved ashore at 1620 on 11 May.
SUPPLIES BEING LOADED INTO TRAILERS to be taken to a supply dump back of the beach, 12 May or D Day plus 1. The cloud of smoke in the background is from an enemy shell; the men in the area can be seen running to take cover (top). Men pause in the battle of the tundra to identify approaching aircraft (bottom). Landings were made by forces at both Massacre Bay and Holtz Bay.
105-MM. HOWITZER M2A1 in position inland from the Holtz Bay beachhead. The gun crews worked in haste to set up their artillery pieces as contact was expected with the enemy at any moment.
CASUALTY BEING HOISTED FROM AN LCV into a transport. A cradle was lowered into the landing craft, the patient and stretcher were placed in it then hoisted aboard ship. Landing craft in background is an LCVP. The more serious casualties were evacuated from Attu in the early stages of the battle.
FIELD HOSPITAL which was set up and operating on the 12th. Two of the tents were used for surgery, the other two for wards. Foxholes were dug in the side of the hill for protection at night (top). Casualties suffering from exposure were housed in improvised shelters because of overcrowded wards (bottom). There were as many casualties resulting from exposure as from Japanese bullets.
HOLDING POSITIONS IN THE PASS leading to Holtz Bay on 19 May; in right foreground is a strong point overlooking the area, in the background the enemy had gun positions above the fog line (top). Ponton of the wrecked Japanese airplane found at Holtz Bay; the wooden wheel was probably to be used by the enemy to obtain a water supply from a near-by creek (bottom). The enemy put up a bitter fight which was to last for eighteen days.
REST AREA ON ATTU. After returning from the front lines on 20 May, the men busied themselves by doing some much needed laundry and cleaning their weapons. The men needed heavy winter clothing to help protect them from the bitter cold and damp weather.
DUAL-PURPOSE GUN near the beach, left by the Japanese when they departed in haste. The entrance to the right of the gun leads to an underground barracks which connected to the next gun emplacement in the battery (top). American 105-mm. howitzer M2A1 placed on wicker mats to help keep the gun from sinking into the tundra (bottom). Had the enemy used the guns which were found intact at the time of the invasion, the landing forces would have been greatly impeded.
HEAVY BARGE, loaded with a crane and other heavy machinery, in the Massacre Bay area on 31 May 1943, having been towed to shore by tugs. In order to get the crane off, it was necessary to make a sand ramp leading from the shore to the deck of the barge. Tractor at right is a 7-ton, high-speed tractor M2 (top). An oil and gas dump; at the left can be seen a motor pool (bottom). The battle for Attu ended on 30 May but mopping-up operations continued for several days.
FIRST FIGHTER STRIP ESTABLISHED ON AMCHITKA, located about seventy miles from Japanese-held Kiska. The P-40, on taxiway ready to take off, was used before twin-engined fighter planes were obtained. Often two 500-pound bombs were put on each of these planes, which were used a dive bombers.
THE AIRPORT AND HARBOR OF ADAK ISLAND operating in full swing, August 1943. Truck in right foreground is 2½--ton 6x6. Bombers used advanced airfields, set up in August 1942 on Adak and Amchitka Islands, to attack Attu and Kiska, two islands of the Aleutian chain which the enemy had occupied in June 1942 in an effort to limit American air and sea operations in the North Pacific. During the first half of 1943, 1,500 tons of bombs were dropped on enemy positions in the Aleutians.
LCT(5)'S AND INITIAL LANDING TROOPS on a stretch of beach along the northwest coast of Kiska. Men can be seen moving along the hillside like ants. At this time it was not known when the enemy would strike since prior to landing no ground reconnaissance had been attempted for fear of informing the enemy of the invasion.
VIEW OF THE NORTHERN PART OF KISKA HARBOR, LVT(1)'s in foreground were known as Alligators (top). Captured Japanese machine cannon 25-mm. twin mount type 96 in position to guard the harbor (bottom). U.S. naval forces had encountered heavy fire from enemy shore batteries and planes had met with antiaircraft fire through 13 August 1943. When troops landed on Kiska on 15 and 16 August, prepared for a battle more difficult than that at Attu, the island had been evacuated by the enemy.
SOLDIER DRYING HIS SOCKS. Occupation troops on Kiska provided themselves with whatever comforts they could devise. With the occupation of Kiska, U.S. troops had reclaimed all of the Aleutians. The islands then became air bases for bombing the northern approaches to Tokyo.
DOUGLAS DAUNTLESS DIVE BOMBER (SBD) ready to drop its 1,000-pound bomb on Japanese-held island of Wake, 6 October 1943. During the planning for the seizure of the Gilberts, concurrent with action on Bougainville and in New Guinea, air attacks were made on Marcus and Wake, and the Tarawa Atoll, to soften Japanese installations and keep the enemy guessing as to where the next full-scale attack would be delivered.
TROOPS ABOARD A TRANSPORT headed for Butaritari Island in the Makin Atoll; landing craft which have been lowered into the water to take troops inland can be seen in the background (top). Having just landed on one of the beaches, 20 November, the men crouch low awaiting instructions to advance inland; light tank is in the background (bottom). The Japanese, in September 1942, had occupied the Gilbert Islands. This group of islands included Makin Atoll and Tarawa Atoll. During the next year the enemy built garrisons on Butaritari Island and on Betio Island in the Tarawa Atoll. Only small enemy forces were placed on other islands in the Gilberts.
A PATROL ON THE BEACHHEAD. Patrols came ashore in LVT's before the main body of infantry and tanks. As the amphibians came over the coral reefs, no barbed wire, mines, or other military obstacles impeded them.
INFANTRYMAN with a Browning automatic rifle (BAR) guarding a trail (top); part of the crew ready to fire machine guns of an Alligator (bottom). Some of the men scrambled over the sides of the amphibians to seek cover from enemy riflemen. The tactics for knocking out the fortified emplacements on the island were as follows: The BARman with his assistant would cover the main entrance of an emplacement encountered, and two other men with grenades would make ready on both flanks. They would throw grenades into the pit and then without stopping, run to the other side and blast the entrance with more grenades. Once the grenades exploded, the BARman and assistant would follow up.
MEN SEARCHING FOR SNIPERS as they move inland from the beachhead on D Day, 20 November (top). Rifleman armed with a bazooka crouches behind a log near the front lines (bottom). The rocket launcher 2.36-inch M1A1, known as the bazooka, was tried against enemy defense emplacements but met with little success.
INFANTRYMEN MOVING FORWARD, 22 November, the day they took the east tank barrier on the island. Flanking machine gun and rifle fire from the enemy in the battered Japanese sea plane (upper right) harassed our troops on the 21st. This fire was silenced by the 75-mm. guns of medium tanks. Co-ordination between the infantry and tanks was good on the second day.
AMERICAN LIGHT TANKS M3A1 on Butaritari Island on D Day. Tank in foreground had bogged down in a water-filled bomb crater (top). The remains of a Japanese light tank which did not get into battle (bottom). During the morning of the first day American tanks could not make much headway against the combined obstacles of debris, shell holes, and marsh, but by afternoon they were able to render assistance to the infantry. The enemy had only two tanks on the island but they were not used since when they were found wooden plugs were still in the barrels of their guns.
MEDIUM TANKS M3, mounting a 75-mm. gun in the sponson and a 37-mm. gun in the turret, on Butaritari; medical crew waiting beside their jeep for tanks to pass (top). One of the antitank gun pits that ringed the outer defenses of one of the tank traps established by the enemy (bottom). Air observation prior to the operation had revealed most of the defensive construction and led to correct inference of much that lay concealed such as these antitank emplacements.
GUN CREW OF A 37-MM. ANTIAIRCRAFT GUN M1A2 at their station on the island, watching for enemy aircraft. This weapon was fully automatic, air-cooled, and could be employed against both aircraft and tanks (top). War trophies consisting of chickens and ducks captured on the island, were cherished in anticipation of Thanksgiving Day when they could be used to supplement the K ration (bottom). On 22 November it was announced that organized resistance had ended and on the next day forces on Makin were occupied with mopping-up activities. At this time enemy air activity was expected to increase.
MARINES LEAVING A LOG BEACH BARRICADE, face fire-swept open ground on Betio Island in their advance toward the immediate objective, the Japanese airport. Landings were made under enemy fire on Betio Island in the Tarawa Atoll on 20 November, concurrent with the invasion of Butaritari Island, Makin Atoll. Tarawa, one of the coral atolls which comprise the Gilbert Islands, is roughly triangular in shape; about 18 miles long on east side, 12 miles long on south side, and 12½ miles long on northwest side. The Japanese had concentrated their strength on Betio Island.
CASUALTIES BEING EVACUATED IN A RUBBER BOAT. Floated out to the reef, the wounded were then transferred to landing craft and removed further out to transports. The larger enemy force on Betio Island made the operation there very difficult for Allied troops and much more costly than the simultaneous operation on Butaritari Island in the Makin Atoll. By late afternoon of D Day supplies for the forces were getting ashore and reinforcements were on their way.
ASSAULTING THE TOP OF A JAPANESE BOMBPROOF SHELTER. Once ashore, the marines were pinned down by withering enemy fire that came from carefully prepared emplacements in almost every direction of advance.
CAPTURED JAPANESE COMMAND POST with enemy tank in foreground. Shells and bombs had little effect on this reinforced concrete structure. Most of the command posts, ammunition dumps, and communications centers found here were made of reinforced concrete and were virtually bombproof. Powerful hand-to-hand infantry assault tactics were necessary to dislodge the enemy.
ARMORERS place a .50-caliber aircraft Browning machine gun M2A1 in the nose of a North American B-25 at the airfield on Betio Island as interested natives look on. This gun was considered one of the most reliable weapons of the war.
UNITED STATES COLORS FLYING OVER BETIO, 24 November 1943. The island was declared secure on 23 November; the remaining enemy forces were wiped out by the 28th. Betio, with the only airfield in Tarawa Atoll, together with captured Butaritari in Makin Atoll and other lesser islands, gave the Allies control of the entire Gilbert Islands archipelago. From these new bases an attack against the Marshall Islands was launched in 1944.
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1. See John Miller, jr., Guadalcanal: The First Offensive, Washington, 1949, in the series U. S. ARMY IN WORLD WAR II; and Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua, John Miller, jr., Cartwheel: The Reduction of Rabaul, and Philip A. Crowl, The Seizure of the Gilberts and Marshalls, all three volumes are in the same series.