With Japanese opposition to Allied operations in the Southern Solomons confined to harassing air raids after February, the South Pacific Forces finally realized that the battle for Guadalcanal was over. Guadalcanal had grown into a great base, humming with activity and accumulating huge stocks of supplies and equipment. Thousands of men trained in the battle-scarred jungle for operations to come.
In the Russell Islands, some 30 miles to the northwest, other Americans likewise prepared for future moves. Here the PT boats that conducted raids up the slot made their base; here, too, Allied fighters roared up to intercept Japanese planes. The South Pacific forces were in good shape, in an excellent condition of battle readiness. The time had come to consider future moves, to execute further steps in Operation WATCHTOWER by carrying out General MacArthur's ELKTON plan.
Patrol, pilot and coastwatcher reports, collated and evaluated in Noumea, then forwarded to Washington for information and consideration, dictated the selection of targets in the South and Southwest Pacific areas.
Fully realizing this situation, the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, apparently impatient at the slowness with which General MacArthur and Admiral Halsey were carrying out the Combined Chiefs' 23 January directive, ordered ComSoPac and ComSoWesPac to neutralize Rabaul's effectiveness at once by a sustained and coordinated air effort. Meanwhile, land and surface forces in the two commands would continue their attacks on enemy holdings between the front and the ultimate Allied goal. This directive, in effect, simply reiterated the original 2 July 1942 plan.1
In their original plan, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had modified the initial boundary between the South and Southwest Pacific theaters, set at 160° on 30 March 1942, by moving it westward to 159°. Thus all of Guadalcanal was included in the South Pacific area. This enabled the South Pacific commander to exercise direction of the Guadalcanal operation in entirety. On 13 January 1943, when it became apparent that further northward moves in the Solomons were in the offing for South Pacific forces, Rear Admiral Turner recommended that the boundary
JAPANESE DEFENDERS of the Solomons, pictured at Buin in May 1943. Seated second from left is Admiral Ota, then General Sasaki, and in the center is Admiral Samejima. Immediately behind Sasaki is Major Kamiya. Others in the photograph are Eighth Fleet Staff and Base Force officers. (Photograph courtesy of the Morison History Project.)
be moved to 154°. Because of Army objections, this recommendation received short shrift in Joint Chiefs' consultations. By 28 March 1943, however, it became evident that continuation of the Solomons campaign--intrinsically naval in character--should be commanded by Halsey, operating under MacArthur's "general directives." The Joint Chiefs, therefore, so decreed.2
Meanwhile, Brigadier General DeWitt Peck, the ComSoPac War Plans Officer, with the aid and asistance of Halsey's capable staff, devised a scheme--dubbed TOENAILS--for the invasion of the Central Solomons. Early in January Halsey sent Peck to Washington to present his TOENAILS concept to the Joint Chiefs. Peck pleaded in vain for the additional forces necessary to assault vulnerable Japanese positions in the New Georgia group.
At a meeting at Pearl Harbor in March, South Pacific staff officers suggested execution of the TOENAILS plan, and recommended its commencement about 1 April. MacArthur's representatives at the conference agreed that New Georgia should be struck. But they demurred on the suggested date, 1 April, because this was too close at hand and the Southwest Pacific forces did not have enough time to prepare for concomitant operations. The question, therefore, was referred to the Joint Chiefs for solution. And the Joint Chiefs directive of 28 March solved the problem: Mac Arthur would determine the date.3
The Brisbane Decision
When apprised of this decision, Admiral
Halsey directed General Peck and Admiral Turner to continue with their planning and collection of intelligence. A few days later he flew to Brisbane to consult MacArthur, who--in practice--had become Halsey's immediate superior and as such had to approve any stratagem devised by the ComSoPac staff.4
Admiral Halsey arrived at General MacArthur's headquarters early in April. Here the two commanders conferred informally, and worked out details for coordination of operations in the Central Solomons and in the Trobriands (the next Southwest Pacific target). As a result of this meeting MacArthur approved the admiral's plan to invade New Georgia at an early date and promised to support the operation by launching neutralizing air strikes against Rabaul before and during the initial stages of the TOENAILS attack. L-Day (the day of the landing) was set for 15 May to coincide with planned advances in New Guinea and the Trobriands.
As soon as the Japanese revealed the magnitude of their Central Solomons undertakings, South Pacific planes and ships had struck the area with repeated blows. But these seemed ineffectual and did not appear to hamper the progress of the Japanese labors. Pilot and naval task group commander reports finally had led Admiral Halsey, after seizing the Russells, to initiate a series of amphibious reconnaissance patrols into the New Georgia area to determine what action he could take to counter the Japanese threat. At this time General Peck's long-range planning was well under way and Halsey desired information for future use when South Pacific forces undertook execution of the TOENAILS operation.
About the end of February the first of these patrols--six Marines led by Lieutenant William Coultis, USN, a ComSoPac staff officer--landed in Roviana Lagoon. For three weeks Coultis and his men scouted beaches, reconnoitered trails, contacted coastwatchers and friendly natives, and closely observed Japanese activities in and around Munda. Coultis returned to Halsey's Noumea headquarters just after the Joint Chiefs issued their 28 March directive and stated that an assault against New Georgia was entirely practicable.5
At this time General Peck's plan envisaged a division landing at Segi Point on the southeast tip of New Georgia. The force would then sweep westward, destroy the Japanese garrisons on New Georgia, and seize Munda airfield. A landing at Segi would be unopposed because Allied coastwatchers there had the friendly natives firmly under their control and no Japanese dared enter the area.
When presented with this plan, General Harmon expressed serious doubts as to the feasibility of landing on Segi's limited beaches or of moving overland through the jungle with such a large body of men. To determine the validity of Harmon's objections, Halsey directed the I Marine Amphibious Corps (IMAC) to send small amphibious reconnaissance parties into the area. This mission was undertaken and action initiated even before Coultis had made his report and Halsey had departed for Brisbane.
On 21 March 1943, four small patrols, made up of personnel from the Marine Raider Battalions and native guides, landed at Segi in PBY's. For the next three weeks, on foot or in native canoes, they reconnoitered the coasts of Kolombangara, New Georgia and Vangunu. The information they gathered proved beyond question that General Harmon's doubts were well founded, and that a new plan would have to be devised.6
As a result of the Brisbane decision that a landing would be made in New Georgia, coupled with the IMAC patrol reports indicating the difficulties faced by a division landing at the eastern end of New Georgia, Halsey directed IMAC to redouble its efforts to gather information for use in further planning.
For the next three months, therefore, still other amphibious reconnaissance patrols probed the jungle coasts of the New Georgia group in
search of landing beaches and areas suitable for the construction of airfields and boat bases. One group, led by Lieutenant Colonel Michael S. Currin, made two trips along New Georgia's south coast, surveying beaches and gathering hydrographic information in Roviana Lagoon. A party under Captain Edwin B. Wheeler scouted the shores of Kolombangara; another followed Captain Clay A. Boyd around islands offshore from Zanana Beach (see Map #10) and overland by trails and tracks to the vicinity of Rice Anchorage.
Gunnery Sargeant Frank Guidone headed a patrol that landed in Grassi Lagoon to locate a site for a PT base. A unit under Captain Lincoln Holdzkom operated up and down the western shores of Kula Gulf. Second Lieutenant Harold G. Schrier twice went to Vangunu in June to seek out and mark beaches for a landing projected there, and Captain W. C. Givens reconnoitered Rendova. Another group accompanied Commander Wilfred Painter, USNR, into Segi Point to survey a site for an airstrip. Each patrol received invaluable help from coastwatcher (FERDINAND) units in the areas in which it operated. Each brought back information upon which to base further planning.7
For example, amphibious reconnaissance patrols, operating out of Coastwatcher Kennedy's hide-out at Segi Point, shoved off for Wickham Anchorage, Viru Harbor, Rendova Island and Zanana Beach on 14 June. After operating in their respective areas for approximately 10 days, they returned to their base with information that eventually led to last-minute changes in the plans. The Wickham Anchorage patrol discovered that it would be impossible to move wheeled vehicles off the beaches. Another patrol observed that it would take a minimum of two days--maybe longer--to move troops overland from Nono to Viru Harbor. No new information could be obtained at Rendova, for the patrols there were unable to enter the Rendova Plantation area, where the projected landing would take place.
As those patrols operating in the Wickham, Zanana and Rendova areas withdrew, they left behind small parties to serve as guides for the assaulting troops on D-Day.8
Meanwhile, other fact-gathering agencies continued unceasing operations. Reconnaissance planes closely checked developments around Munda airstrip; aerial photograph interpreters pored over shots of hostile installations and suggested landing beaches; coastwatchers made periodic reports on enemy troop and ship movements, and intelligence officers analyzed all available data and made careful estimates of the situation.
By 13 June certain fundamental aspects became apparent. The enemy had dispersed his available troops among several widely separated points. He had occupied Munda with an estimated 3,000 and Kolombangara with
Actual and Estimated Enemy Land Strength--30 June 1943 Estimated Actual Jap Army Jap Navy Jap Total Rabaul 30,000 to 40,000 55,000 35,000 90,000 Rekata Bay 1,000 800 3,400 4,200 Kolombangara 5,000 to 7,000 3,000 1,000 4,000 Vella Lavella 250 1,000 100 1,100 Wickham-Viru 290-460 260 50 310 Rendova 100 150 140 290 Munda 2,000 to 3,000 2,000 2,500 4,500 Bairoko 500 300 800 1,100
approximately 7,000 more. It appeared that 500 men held the Dragons Peninsula and about 300 were in the Wickham Anchorage area. But evidently he had placed only 20- or 30-man outposts at the other numerous target areas. The ComSoPac staff estimated that the Japanese had about 400 planes, based mainly at Rabaul, which could attack on very short notice. No major warships had been observed in the immediate Solomons area.
On the basis of these estimates, Admiral Halsey's staff made its plan for an operation designed to seize Munda Point.9
Although some of the American intelligence information was faulty, the general picture it presented was amazingly accurate.
The Japanese high command at Rabaul was divided into two co-equal parts: The Army and the Navy. Both General Imamura, and Admiral Kusaka had placed ground forces from their respective commands at identical spots in the Central Solomons. On 2 May 1943, for the defense of this area Imamura, had created the Southeast (Nanto) Detached Force and had placed it under the command of Major General Noboru Sasaki, chief of infantry of the 38th Division. Kusaka had assigned similar responsibility to rear Admiral Minoru Ota and the Eighth Combined Special Naval Landing Force.10
In general reserve on Eastern New Britain, Imamura had available approximately 55,000 men for commitment anywhere in the Japanese Southeast Area; Kusaka's reserve numbered about 35,000. In his Fourth Air Army Imamura could count about 300 planes, but most of these were charged with the defense of Japanese positions in New Guinea; Kusaka's Eleventh Air Fleet numbered in the vicinity of 290 aircraft. Imamura had only a few small ships (transports) available, but Kusaka had his Eighth Fleet including eight cruisers, eight submarines, about 16 destroyers and nearly 200 miscellaneous smaller craft.11
COMMANDER WILFRED L. PAINTER, USN, accompanied Marine amphibious scouts into the Central Solomons to survey possible airfield sites. Painter often accomplished these tasks under the very nose of enemy outposts. (Navy Photo.)
After the Guadalcanal disaster, the Allied landings in the Russells, the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, and the failure of their "I" operation,12 the Japanese commanders at Rabaul were painfully aware of the impending threat to their Central Solomons positions. Upon the withdrawal from Guadalcanal, Imperial General headquarters had vested over-all responsibility for the defense of the Solomons in Kusaka, while responsibility for New Guinea remained with Imamura. But both these officers had forces committed in both areas, a situation that resulted actually in divided command. The Allied threat facing them demanded clarification of their relationships and immediate positive action.13
Frequent face-to-face conferences and close personal friendship on the part of General Imamura and Admiral Kusaka surmounted many of the difficulties imposed on them by divided responsibilities and a vague command
structure. Although neither officer was responsible to the other, and both reported individually and separately to different higher headquarters, they arrived at a solution of their joint problem of defending the Central Solomons.
Defense of the Central Solomons was entrusted to Admiral Ota's Force and General Sasaki's command which consisted of small detachments from Lieutenant General Sadaaki Kagesa's 38th and Lieutenant General Masatane Kanda's 6th Divisions. As the Japanese
JAPANESE COMMAND STRUCTURE--CENTRAL SOLOMONS, JULY 1943
defenders numbered only about 9,000 men in early May, Imamura and Kusaka took immediate steps to move in additional portions of the 6th Division and the 3d Mixed Regiment from staging areas at Rabaul and in Bougainville to Munda. Before the Americans landed at Rendova on 30 June, the Japanese had added three increments of 600 to 800 men each.14
30 June 1943
Responsibility for employment of ground troops and coordination of all land defenses in the Central Solomons fell to General Sasaki. The general, in turn, delegated responsibility for tactical control of troops in the area to the commander of the 229th Infantry, Colonel Genjiro Hirata, who moved to Munda from Kolombangara shortly after 1 June for that specific purpose. Antiaircraft defenses of Munda Point came under the control of Colonel Shiroto's 15th Field Defense Unit.
Admiral Ota's Eighth Combined Special Naval Landing Force was made up of the Kure 6th, the Yokosuka 7th and the Maizuru 4th15 Special Naval Landing Forces (SNLF) plus several other assorted naval detachments. The Kure 6th (Commander Saburo Okumura), with its headquarters at Bairoko Harbor, occupied the Dragons Peninsula. Okumura stationed small detachments on Rendova (the 140-man 2d Company, Lieutenant (j.g.) Funata), and divided the 1st Company between Viru Harbor and Wickham Anchorage. The main strength of Okumura's antiaircraft machine gun company was attached to Colonel Shiroto's unit at Munda airfield. Admiral Ota placed the remaining strength of his force on Kolombangara under the control of Commander Koshin Takeda of the Yokosuka 7th SNLF. Takeda established his headquarters near Vila.
Colonel Hirata put his 7th Company, 229th Infantry (First Lieutenant Suzuki) on Rendova, sent his 3d Company (First Lieutenant Takagi) to Viru Harbor, and deployed the remainder of his force in the vicinity of Munda Point, at Lambeti Plantation and along the Bairoko-Munda Trail.
As naval and army reinforcements reached New Georgia, from Rabaul, Bougainville and Kolombangara, each of these units was built up and augmented. From time to time the defense
forces for specific areas were rotated.
Shortly after Admiral Halsey returned to Noumea from the Brisbane conference, he received a message from General MacArthur directing a postponement of L-Day. Information had reached the general that the enemy air strength at Rabaul had been augmented by large numbers of Army planes. Moreover, it was evident that the incessant American bombing of Rabaul by large land-based planes was not paying the dividends previously expected. Then, too, General Imamura had recently sent reinforcements to the Eighteenth Army for the defense of Eastern New Guinea. MacArthur's job would be more difficult than anticipated and he would need more time to prepare for his offensive.
Agreement on 30 June as L-Day was later reached by mutual consent. Thus Admiral Halsey and General Harmon had nearly three months to perfect and publish their plans for the TOENAILS operation. The ComSoPac plan, dated and signed on 3 June, envisaged seizure of Wickham Anchorage (ARMCHAIR) and Viru Harbor (CATSMEAT) as staging points for small craft, plying between the Russells and Rendova with supplies and reinforcements. A reinforced regiment (less two battalions) would seize Segi Plantation (BLACKBOY) for construction of an airstrip that could handle fighter cover for the final attacks on Munda Point.
The main body of the attack force would seize Rendova Island (DOWSER) to construct a patrol-torpedo boat base and as an area on which a strong force could be organized for further operations against Munda (BINGHAMPTON), Kolombangara (PLUMBLINE) and other enemy garrisons
Halsey's Attack Plan
Landing Force Organization for the TOENAILS Operation
in the New Georgia group. Wickham Anchorage, Viru Harbor and Segi Plantation had to be taken with a minimum expenditure of effort and troops, since the bulk of available ground forces would be committed to the capture of Rendova without delay. Then, after a shore-to-shore movement to New Georgia itself, the main attack would turn toward Munda airfield, while a subsidiary operation, designed to prevent movement between Munda and Kolombangara, would be undertaken in the vicinity of Bairoko Harbor (PYRITES).16
General Harmon determined that the 43d Division of Major General Oscar W. Griswold's XIV Corps would furnish the Army troops required. General air support for the operation became the responsibility of Rear Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, who on 1 April had assumed command of ComAirSols (TG-33.1), the major subordinate unit of Vice Admiral Aubrey Fitch's South Pacific Air Command (TF-33). Mitscher, in turn, assigned the mission of direct tactical air support for the operation to Brigadier General Francis P. Mulcahy's Guadalcanal-based 2d Marine Air Wing. Mulcahy, as ComAir New Georgia, would control all Allied aircraft dispatched to the Munda area by ComAirSols.17
Halsey gave Admiral Turner, South Pacific Amphibious Force commander (TF-31), overall supervision of the operation. Turner would control the Landing, Occupation and Air (when flying in the New Georgia area) Forces. Under the principle of unity of command, Admiral Halsey directed Major General John H. Hester of the 43d Division, largest ground unit involved, to command all land, sea and air units assigned to the New Georgia Occupation Force after Turner's withdrawal. Similarly, Halsey's order provided that control of all services assigned to any given position within the operation area would be vested in the senior commander responsible for that position. No
VICE ADMIRAL AUBREY W. FITCH, ComAirSoPac, directed Admiral Halsey's air war against the Japanese. Under the principle of unity of command, Fitch supervised all aviation activities in the South Pacific Area. (Navy Photo.)
divided command or responsibility would plague the Allies during the Central Solomons campaign.
Units of Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet (TF-36 and TF-72) would provide the necessary naval support. During the approach and debarkation phases of the operation, while cruisers bombarded enemy airfields in the Northern Solomons, destroyers would screen the transports. Submarines would conduct long-range search and interception missions and mine sweepers would perform their normal functions. Carriers were detailed to provide planes to intercept and destroy all enemy aircraft or ships approaching the target area.
Meanwhile, concomitant operations by Southwest Pacific forces at Nassau Bay in New Guinea and in the Woodlarks and Trobriands would protect the south flank of the Central Solomons and force the enemy either to divide his defensive effort or surrender vitally important areas without a struggle. Southwest Pacific air was expected to attack and neutralize enemy airfields in the Bismarcks and Northern Solomons.
L-Day, the day of the planned simultaneous landings, would be known as D-Day in the Central Solomons. Further planning, coordination, and execution of details became the responsibility of Admiral Turner.18
The Turner Concept
During the last two weeks in May, Admiral Turner's staff had kept abreast of Halsey's planning; and on 4 June the admiral published his ideas (Operation Plan A8-43) about the operation.
Turner divided his allotted forces into two Task Groups: Western Force (TG-31.1) and Eastern Force (TG-31.3). To the Western Force, which he would personally direct, Turner assigned the mission of seizing Rendova, Munda, Bairoko and adjacent positions. The Eastern Force, commanded by Rear Admiral George H. Fort, would take Wickham Anchorage, Segi Point and Viru Harbor.
The New Georgia Occupation Force (Major General John H. Hester, USA) was likewise divided into segments for the operation. The Western Landing Force (General Hester) consisted of the 43d Infantry Division (less the 103d RCT), the 3d Battalion of the 103d Infantry, and the 136th Field Artillery Battalion (155mm howitzers) from the U.S. Army; most of the 24th and part of the 20th Naval Construction Battalions, U.S. Navy; the 1st Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Fiji Infantry; and the 9th Marine Defense Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel William J. Scheyer) and Company O19 of the 4th Marine Raider Battalion (First Lieutenant Raymond L. Luckel), Fleet Marine Force.20
The Eastern Landing Force (Colonel Daniel H. Hundley, USA) was composed of Hundley's own 103d Infantry (less the 3d Battalion), the 2d Battalion, 70th Coast Artillery (AA), specifically assigned service units (including parts of the 20th and 24th Naval Construction Battalions and Acorn 721), and Lieutenant Colonel Michael Currin's 4th Raider Battalion (less Company O).
The ready reserve for the operation consisted solely of Colonel Harry B. Liversedge's 1st Marine Raider Regiment (less the 2d, 3d, and 4th Battalions). In general area reserve was the reinforced 37th Infantry Division (less the 129th and most of the 148th RCT's), commanded by Major General Robert S. Beightler, USA.
Destined to become part of the Occupation Force after Hester relieved Turner were the Naval Base Force (Captain Charles Eugene Olsen, USN) and General Mulcahy's New Georgia Air Force.22
Admiral Turner's concept of the operation was one of simple, direct and speedy action. On 30 June the Western Force would seize Rendova and its outlying islands while the Eastern Force would occupy the Viru Harbor, Segi Point and Wickham Anchorage areas with simultaneous landings under cover of darkness or at first light. Believing all positions lightly held and hoping to gain an element of surprise, Turner planned to omit the use of preparatory naval gunfire. He hedged this bet, by arranging for called and counterbattery fire should it be needed. Then, on 1, 2 and 3 July small numbers of APD's and beaching craft, advancing in separate convoys designated "echelons," would move additional troops and supplies forward from the Russells and Guadalcanal. The threat of Japanese air counteraction would restrict such movements to the hours of darkness. Throughout daylight hours, therefore, these vessels would lay-to in newly seized, sheltered harbors (Wickham, Segi and Viru) protected by antiaircraft weapons. Thereafter, engineers of the naval construction battalions would construct a fighter strip at Segi Point, in order to provide a nearby strip from which fighter planes could cover the final drive on Munda. (See Map #4.)
The Western Force would emplace 105mm howitzers and 155mm guns and howitzers on Bau and Kokorana Islets, flanking Renard Entrance to Rendova Harbor, to begin a bombardment of Munda Point and support the infantry. Meanwhile, Sergeant Harry Wickham,23 coastwatcher in the Roviana Lagoon area, would assemble about 20 natives with 18 canoes in the Onaiavisi Entrance area and, with Captain Clay A. Boyd's amphibious scouting patrol, meet the first units landing in the vicinity. Covered by a Marine Raider Company, the Wickham and Boyd units would combine, then reconnoiter and stake out a channel
REAR ADMIRAL GEORGE H. FORT; USN, commanded the Eastern Force (TG-31.3) during the invasion and occupation of Segi Point, Viru Harbor and Wickham Anchorage. (Navy Photo.)
ORGANIZATION AND ARMAMENT
9TH DEFENSE BATTALION
from Onaiavisi Entrance to Zanana Beach near Bana Island, some 1,400 yards northeast of Elolo on New Georgia's south coast. The scouts had reported that this was the only beach in the vicinity suitable for an assault landing.24
For the 1st Marine Raider Regiment Turner visualized either a direct assault on the Enogai-Bairoko area or on Roviana Lagoon beaches discovered by Lieutenant Colonel Currin's
amphibious reconnaissance patrols in March and April. If the latter course were adopted, the Marines, after reaching shore, would move overland through the jungle to Bairoko, and there attack and destroy the enemy garrison. In either event Turner hoped to initiate the action about D-plus 4 days. In the interval between D-Day and 3 July, Liversedge would provide Hester with six 5-man patrols from the Raider Regiment. These patrols were expected to conduct vigorous reconnaissance along New Georgia's south coast, inland from the beaches, to find suitable avenues of approach from the Elolo area toward Munda. When the main body of their parent regiment came ashore, these Marines then would revert to Liversedge's control. To gain more specific information about the terrain inland from the beaches, Turner dispatched a party under Captain Boyd with instructions to reconnoiter the trails leading toward Bairoko and to determine time and space factors.25
The admiral believed that he would have assembled sufficient forces by 4 July to permit Hester to undertake a direct assault on Munda after a shore-to-shore movement from Rendova, across reef-filled Roviana Lagoon, to the designated beaches of Munda Point. This operation would be protected by small infantry units occupying key islets in the lagoon, by heavy artillery and naval gunfire laid on Munda Point, and by fighter aircraft. At the same time the Raider Regiment would occupy the Bairoko-Enogai area to prevent Japanese traffic in either direction between Munda and Kolombangara. When Munda and Bairoko had fallen, and the enemy's New Georgia garrison had been destroyed, the New Georgia Occupation Force--on Halsey's order--would then assault Kolombangara.26
Such was the plan on 4 June.
Although brilliantly conceived, Turner's concept underwent many changes before it became an order and the operation actually began. As the Americans laid plans and assembled troops, ships, and supplies for the coming invasion, Allied coastwatchers and aerial observers in late May and early June noted Japanese movements toward the Central Solomons in implementation of General Imamura's 2 May directive. Evaluation of this information led South Pacific intelligence officers to make a revised estimate of enemy potentials. But the Allies were not prepared to employ additional forces to meet the increased enemy strength, for, as then envisaged, the complete TOENAILS operation included the capture of Kolombangara. Some combat units must be held back in order to be ready to execute that task. And the Joint Chiefs had approved TOENAILS with the proviso that no major forces would be committed.27
These considerations prompted Admiral Turner, on 12 June, to request two additional reinforced infantry divisions, three Marine Defense Battalions, four Marine Raider or Parachute Battalions, and 14,000 other troops (Seabees, medical, boat pools, service, supply, etc.). While this request was unsuccessful, subsequent events proved its submission well founded.28
A week after failing to obtain additional troops, Turner received further discouragement. Boyd's amphibious reconnaissance patrol returned and submitted a report indicating that it would take about a month for Liversedge's unit to move from Zanana to Bairoko. In addition, Boyd ventured the opinion that even the highly trained Raiders could not negotiate the treacherous Roviana Lagoon and make a rapid landing without undue difficulty. Turner therefore abandoned his earlier plans for the Marine Raiders and directed Liversedge to land at Rice Anchorage on New Georgia's western shore. Marine amphibious patrols, reconnaissance planes, and coastwatchers--ably assisted by friendly natives--continued the search for suitable landing beaches and the most practicable
routes of approach to Bairoko Harbor.29
Upon receiving Admiral Turner's plan, General Hester, as Commander of the New Georgia Occupation Force, set about drawing up his order. Because of the involvement of large numbers of units from all the services, and because of the wide area covered by the diverse operations, Hester decided to split his 43d Division staff into two segments: One, to supervise the activities of the Occupation Force as a whole, worked immediately under the general and his chief of staff; the other, responsible solely for the initial landing at Rendova, was directed by the 43d Division's assistant commander, Brigadier General Leonard F. Wing. Both staffs, of course, reported to Hester.31
By his order, issued first on 16 June but modified many times thereafter as circumstances warranted, Hester specified the details and assigned combat units in accordance with the broad outline laid down by Turner's plan.32
But a number of events foreshadowing innumerable last-minute revisions occurred before the eventual landings in the Central Solomons. As will be seen, only five days after Hester signed his Field Order #1, Admiral Turner found it expedient to commit a portion of the forces that the general had expected to
TOP COMMANDERS GATHER on the bridge of the USS McCawley while en route to the D-Day landings at Rendova. Left to right: General Wing, Admiral Wilkinson, Admiral Turner, General Hester. (Army Photo.)
A JUMBLED MESS in the hold of a supply vessel awaits this 4th Base Depot working party. Situations such as this were not unusual, but the Marines nevertheless unloaded the ships quickly, repaired the damaged matériel and reestablished order out of chaos.
use in the TOENAILS operation. The occasion: Seizure of Segi Point by half of the 4th Marine Raider Battalion on 21 June.
This unexpectedly early employment of the Marines, who were followed the next day by additional elements of Hundley's force, dictated readjustment of the time-tables for the Eastern Landing Force and reallocation of troops designated for specific missions. Taking Segi before schedule had one favorable aspect, however; it eventually permitted completion of a fighter strip at that place a week to ten days before the previously expected date. Contrariwise, solution of resupply and reinforcement problems for that little occupation force tied up some of the all-too-few ships Turner then had available. Also, it could have imposed an insurmountable burden on the Marine 4th Base Depot in the Russells--supply center for the entire Occupation Force--which was not normally geared to meet premature requirements. But this unit fortunately was staffed by men well trained and capable of "doubling in brass." With the invaluable assistance of high-ranking "red tape cutters" on Admiral Turner's staff, the 4th Base Depot overcame all obstacles and gathered and issued the necessary gear with even less than normal confusion. Then too, Turner's arbitrary--but considered--removal of the Raiders' Company O from the Western Landing Force compelled Hester to use two of his own 43d Division companies in
Hester's Scheme of Maneuver
the seizure of Zanana's several offshore islets.
Late reports of Allied amphibious patrols and coastwatchers, and intelligence estimates based on aerial photographs and intercepted enemy radio messages, indicated a continual increase in the strength available to General Sasaki and Admiral Ota. Thus, General Hester had to plan to commit his Reserve much earlier than previously anticipated. These reports also revealed that unseasonal rains had flooded streams and had turned all low ground into morasses, innundating many projected roads and storage areas. The additional discouraging information that Zanana Beach could accommodate only four LCM's simultaneously, was somewhat alleviated by the revelation that additional troops could easily be landed on the banks of the Piraka River, which emptied into Roviana Lagoon some 1,000 yards northeast of Zanana.
The scouts had still another enigma to present to Hester's harried staff: They discovered that the channel across Roviana Lagoon from Onaiavisi Entrance to the two landing points was shallower than previously estimated. Therefore before undertaking the jump from Rendova to New Georgia, the Western Landing Force would have to conduct a more thorough investigation than originally believed necessary and stake out a suitable channel after the initial assault.
Admiral Turner's decision to land the 1st Marine Raider Regiment at Rice Anchorage rather than on the Roviana Lagoon shore meant abandonment of the prospective deployment of those small, temporarily attached Marine units that Hester had thought would be working with him from D-Day to D-plus 4 days. Other units perforce would have to conduct the necessary patrolling inland after the initial landings. To complicate matters, the artillery positions proposed for Kuru Kuru, Bau and Kokorana, were too far from prospective targets on New Georgia to permit the guns to give the infantry effective support during its advance westward or to bring heavy fires to bear on Munda Point. This factor dictated displacement of the light and medium artillery battalions across Blanche Channel to Roviana, Baraulu, and Sasavele as soon as possible.
General Hester had to solve all these new problems before the operation began. Basically, he made few changes in Turner's original plan, but in details that affected small units, he made quite a number.
First, he divided his Western Landing Force into two parts: The Northern Landing Group, consisting of Colonel Harry B. Liversedge's 1st Marine Raider Regiment (less the 2d, 3d and
4th Battalions) and the 3d Battalions of the 145th and 148th Infantry Regiments (both of the 37th Division); and the Southern Landing Group, comprising all the remaining elements of the Western Landing Force. Detailed schemes of maneuver were left to these subordinate commanders, but over-all supervisory responsibility remained with Hester.33
The Southern Landing Group, initially under the direction of General Wing, would seize beachheads on Rendova and its outlying islands on D-Day. When the 43d Division command post moved to shore from the flagship McCawley later in the day, General Hester would resume active control of this force. To prevent air interference at this stage of the game, Hester requested air strikes on enemy-held Northern Solomons bases, simultaneous bombing of the Vila (Kolombangara) and Munda areas, and continuous air cover for troops and shipping in the target area.34
The general expected that by D-plus 4 days his force would be established firmly in its first beachheads and that patrols would have discovered and staked out adequate channels through the barrier reefs to Zanana and Piraka beaches. At this time the 172d Infantry (Colonel David N. M. Ross) would execute the shore-to-shore movement to Zanana Beach in small increments and, on a 2,000-yard front, begin a westerly march along the coast, astride the coastal track, to the Barike River.
The following day the 169th Infantry (Colonel John D. Easen), to advance to Rendova in the fifth echelon of transports during the night of 3-4 July, could land behind the 172d, push inland through the jungle-swamp, and deploy along the Barike on the 172d's right flank, thus presenting a united, two-regiment front to the enemy, with the Barike designated the line of departure for the final drive on Munda.
To cut the flow of enemy traffic between Munda Point and Kolombangara, the Northern Landing Group would land from APD's and seize in turn Rice Anchorage, Enogai Inlet and Bairoko Harbor. Indirect naval support in the form of bombardments of Kolombangara and Vella Lavella as well as the two successive objectives, and interception of Japanese surface craft (including barges) would assist the Liversedge force. This action--which will be described in detail later (see Chapter IV)--when coupled with the push along the south coast, would have the effect of a two-pronged drive on Munda airfield, one from the north and one from the east.
Under Hester's direction, General Wing made detailed plans for the D-Day landing of his Southern Group.35 His order directed the Barracuda (43d Division troops specially trained for scouting, jungle patrolling and assault missions) units to establish a shallow beachhead on Rendova, into which the remainder of the force could move without opposition. To protect small boats and landing ships passing through Renard Entrance, the Barracudas would seize Bau and Kokorana Islands before H-Hour. Simultaneously, Companies A and B, 169th Infantry, the 128-man South Pacific Scout Company,36 Boyd's amphibious scouts, and Wickham's coastwatcher unit would seize Baraulu and Sasavele Islands, to protect Onaiavisi Entrance. Wing also instructed these troops to locate channels through the lagoon to the Zanana and Piraka beaches.
The 172d Infantry on board transports and cargo vessels would climb into small boats, be lowered into the water, make the dash for Rendova, complete the initial H-Hour assault and expand the Barracudas' beachhead. Into this Wing and Hester could feed portions of the 9th Defense Battalion, the 24th Naval Construction Battalion, and the 3d Battalion, 103d Infantry.
After the infantry landings two 155mm howitzer battalions (136th and 192d) and the 103d FA Battalion (105mm howitzers) would land on Rendova, Bau and Kokorana Islands to support the 172d on Rendova, to secure Renard Entrance, or to fire on New Georgia.
The 3d Battalion, 103d Infantry, designated
SHIPS OF THE CONVOY assembled off Koli Point, Guadalcanal, during the afternoon of 29 June. Shortly after this picture was snapped, the vessels weighed anchor and steamed up the Slot toward their Rendova target. (Army Photo.)
the Southern Landing Group's reserve, supported by the 9th Defense Battalion's Special Weapons Group (Lieutenant Colonel Wright C. Taylor) and other assorted units, would mop up and defend Rendova.
The remaining elements of the 9th Defense Battalion also received specific assignments.37 The 90mm Antiaircraft Group (Major Mark S. Adams), responsible for the antiaircraft defense of the beachhead, would operate radars and searchlights as well as fire at high-flying planes. The 155mm Gun Group (Lieutenant Colonel Archie E. O'Neil), with 155mm M-1 guns (Long Toms), could undertake the interdiction and harassment of Munda Point from positions on Rendova's northern beaches, and repel attacks by hostile surface craft. The .50-calibre machine guns, and the 20mm and 40mm guns of the Special Weapons Group would protect the force against low-flying planes as well as augment beach defenses on Rendova and its off-lying islands.
Inasmuch as General Harmon had no tanks available in the South Pacific area to provide for the 43d Division, General Hester decided to utilize the eight vehicles of the 9th Defense Battalion's Tank Platoon (First Lieutenant Robert W. Blake). Hester initially attached Blake's Platoon to the 172d Infantry and gave it instructions to prepare to move to New Georgia on order, to assist the 43d Division on its drive on Munda.
This was the plan for the operation to be initiated on 30 June.
Seizure of Segi and Viru
A few days after General Hester issued his Field Order #1, certain events transpired that forced some of the modifications described above.
Captain Donald G. Kennedy, British District Officer of the Western Solomons, had begun operations in the New Georgia area even before invasion of Guadalcanal. From his hidden jungle post near Segi Point, Kennedy had performed almost miraculous feats as a coastwatcher, harrying the foe in every possible way at every opportunity. With a small but faithful band of native followers, he had kept Japanese outposts in Eastern New Georgia under continuous and close observation. Occasionally he launched sudden and audacious attacks against these positions, achieving such a degree of success that the enemy casualty toll exceeded the total strength of his own small force. Downed Allied aviators and shipwrecked sailors often found a haven in the Kennedy-controlled area. Kennedy's reports of enemy ship and plane movements proved of incalculable aid to the defenders of the Southern Solomons, who--thus alerted--could take immediate counteraction even before reached by the enemy attacks.38
Kennedy's immediate opponent in Eastern New Georgia was First Lieutenant Takagi, commander of the Viru Sector Unit. This 245-man command consisted of the 3d Company, 229th Infantry Regiment, IJA, a few assorted naval personnel from the Kure 6th and Yokosuka 7th SNLF's, one 3-inch coast defense gun, four 80mm guns, eight dual purpose (antiaircraft-antipersonnel) guns and a varying number of landing craft. Despite vigorous patrolling, both on foot and in boats, Takagi could not suppress Kennedy's activities, and over a period of several months his casualties mounted at an alarming rate.39
Wearying of Kennedy's incessant forays and the unarrested attrition suffered by Takagi's unit, General Sasaki decided to take positive action. Sasaki had moved the bulk of the 229th Infantry (Colonel Genjiro Hirata) of the 38th Division from Kolombangara to Munda on 2 June. Less than a week later--on 8 June--Sasaki ordered Hirata to push Kennedy out of Segi. For this task Hirata decided to use Major Hara's 1st Battalion (parent unit of the 3d Company) and accordingly ordered Hara to move to Viru Harbor, reorganize and reinforce the defenses there and in the vicinity of Wickham Anchorage, and then initiate a program of intensive activity against Kennedy.40
Shortly after Hara's arrival at Viru, strong enemy patrols began to probe the coast, villages, trails and jungle between Viru Harbor and Gatukai Island. Japanese barges, previously furtive when operating in Kennedy's bailiwick, became increasingly aggressive. When his native scouts reported the arrival of strong enemy reinforcements in the vicinity of Viru, Kennedy correctly estimated that Hara was preparing for an attack. Realizing that he could not hold Segi very long with the few native troops he had available, Kennedy therefore requested Admiral Turner to send reinforcements without delay.
This request reached Koli Point, Guadalcanal, during the night of 18-19 June. It did not take Turner long to make a decision. If he should land at Segi immediately, instead of 30 June as scheduled, he then could retain the beachhead so tenuously held by Kennedy. Moreover, he would be able to establish an advance base from which he could execute--with a reasonably strong force already ashore--the planned operations against Viru and Vangunu.
The next morning he issued the necessary orders.
Destroyer-transports Dent, Waters, Schley and Crosby, earmarked for the New Georgia landings by Turner's 4 June operation order, were already in the Guadalcanal area undergoing training and preparations for the forthcoming operation.41 Turner could utilize these readily available ships for the emergency movement. As a landing force he would employ some of the units already assigned to Admiral Fort's Eastern Force (TG-31.3) plus First Lieutenant Raymond L. Luckel's Company O, 4th Raider Battalion, previously detached to temporary
duty with Turner's own Western Force (TG-31.1), but immediately available for commitment. Currin's 4th Marine Raider Battalion (less Companies N and Q, scheduled to attack Vangunu) would move to Kennedy's aid immediately, followed shortly by Companies A and D (First Lieutenant Wendell L. Power and Captain Edgar F. Bishop, respectively), 103d Infantry, USA. These units could initially defend Segi and then carry out the planned attack on Viru.42
Currin embarked his troops on board the Dent and Waters in the evening of 20 June and sailed at high speed for Segi. Despite the presence of native pilots and the benefit of bonfires ignited by Kennedy's men on the beach, both ships repeatedly scraped bottom on the shoals in the foul water surrounding Segi Point. Nevertheless, at 0530 the next morning the Marines climbed into Higgins boats and landed 20 minutes later. By 1030 the ships were completely unloaded and Currin had already established defenses against a Japanese attack. No enemy appeared. The following day at 0600 the Schley and Crosby hove to and by 0745 the two Army companies, plus a survey party from Acorn 7 were ashore.
For the next several days Currin's men, guided and reinforced by Kennedy's natives, conducted routine operations to seek out and destroy enemy units in the area, and reconnoitered to determine the most suitable means
MARINES OF THE 4TH RAIDER BATTALION man a machine-gun nest near Segi Point. Built and equipped by Captain Kennedy's "little army of natives," this position covered the seaward approaches to the Markham Planation, largest coconut grove in the area.
of attacking Viru Harbor. To protect Njai Passage, Currin set up a strong security outpost on Patutiva Point, Vangunu. No contact was made with the enemy, but the Marines discovered ample evidence of the presence of sizable numbers of Japanese, in the form of footprints, abandoned equipment, and trail blazes.43
Meanwhile, Admiral Fort, elated over the success of the Segi venture sent out the previously completed plans for his Eastern Force (TG-31.3). These were delivered at Segi early in the morning of 25 June. As written on 21 June (and modified the next day), before complete reports of the situation at Segi had filtered through, this order directed Company P (Captain Anthony Walker), advance unit of the force scheduled to attack Viru Harbor (CATSMEAT), to proceed via rubber boat and canoe on 28 June to Nono (at the Choi River mouth, about three airline miles west of Segi). Walker was to land at Nono, advance overland toward Tetemara on the harbor's western shore and there--on 30 June--launch an attack at about 0700. As soon as Walker's attack had begun, Commander Stanley Leith would sail into the harbor with the Kilty and Crosby, carrying a 355-man landing force (Captain Raymond E. Kinch, USA).44 Kinch would then land his troops and, in conjunction with Walker, capture Viru Harbor. The Americans then could develop Viru into a protected staging refuge for small craft and an operating base for motor torpedo boats. Succeeding echelons would move into Viru via APC's and small craft to reinforce the position and assist in the necessary construction work. Additional paragraphs of the order gave details concerning the proposed seizure of Wickham Anchorage (ARMCHAIR) and development of Segi Point (BLACKBOY), but no provision was made for Company O and that portion of 4th Raider Battalion headquarters already at Segi.45 Consternation reigned in the Marine camp when the order was read. Admiral Fort apparently had based his plan on the report of an early amphibious reconnaissance patrol which, with native guides, had gone from Segi to Nono in canoes and thence had hiked up a trail along the banks of the Choi River without encountering resistance. Moreover, early intelligence estimates had placed a maximum of 100 Japanese in the vicinity of Viru Harbor. Evidently Admiral Fort was not aware of the arrival of Major's Hara's battalion.
On the other hand Colonel Currin well knew, as a result of patrol reports, statements of natives and coastwatchers and personal observation, that numerous Japanese roamed the area through which Walker would have to pass.46 Although Viru Harbor lay but 11 airline miles to the west of Segi, it could be reached only over tortuous trails passing around the heads of unfordable streams, thus necessitating a trip of many times that distance. Furthermore, a tiny reconnaissance patrol can travel over jungle paths much faster than a large combat unit equipped for an assault.47
Additional reconnaissance after reception of the order indicated that Regi Village, about one mile east of Nono, possessed the sole beach suitable for landing of sizable body of men. Happily it was undefended by the enemy. Moreover, native scouts reported that an enemy force of undetermined size and composition had just occupied Nono. A rubber boat and canoe landing against Japanese troops, no matter what their numbers, would make the boated Marines sitting ducks for defending riflemen. At 1600, therefore, Currin radioed Admiral Fort for permission to land at Regi rather than Nono, to utilize Company O. as well as Company P, and to begin the operation on 27
THE LANDING AT SEGI POINT
rather than 28 June. Within an hour and a half he had an answer granting his request.48
Accordingly, at nightfall, 27 June, the Marines embarked in rubber boats and paddled to Regi where, at 0015 the following morning, they landed and established a hasty perimeter defense. At 0630, with Company O in the van followed by Headquarters Company and Company P, Currin's Marines began the march toward Viru. Three hours later a five-man Japanese patrol, unknowingly dogging the footsteps of the slow-moving column,49 stumbled into the rear party, Company P's 3d Platoon. Deploying rapidly, the Marines took the enemy under fire while the main body pushed on. During the short skirmish which ensued, four Japanese were killed. Again at
Viru Harbor Seized
1 July 1943
1115 another enemy group hit the rear guard. Walker's machine guns quickly went into action and within an hour the Japanese broke off contact and withdrew. Unfortunately, by the time the fight concluded, Sergeant Sudro and four men of the rear party inadvertently had fallen so far behind the main body that they found it expedient to return to Segi for a time and rejoin the battalion later.50
The delay imposed by this encounter, coupled with the steep hills, flooded streams, coral outcroppings, and tangled vines across the trail seriously impeded the advance. Currin, recognizing the impossibility of reaching his objective on schedule, dispatched a message to Admiral Turner stating that he would be a day late in reaching Viru.51
The next day the Marines resumed their advance and the morning passed without incident. At 1400, however, as Company P (still in the rear) crossed the Choi River, Captain Walker dispatched a 60-man force under 1st Lieutenant Devillo W. Brown to investigate a commanding piece of high ground some 300 yards to the right. In compliance with Walker's order Brown moved out rapidly but as his point advanced up the slope, an estimated 45 enemy, dug in on the crest, opened fire with rifles and three light machine guns. Brown's men deployed and returned fire. When sounds of this fire fight reached Colonel Currin, then some distance forward along the trail at the head of the main body, he ordered the column to halt and get off the trail. Efforts to raise Walker on the radio failed; no Company P runner appeared to acquaint Currin with the situation. Currin finally hurried back to Walker's position and there learned that the enemy had just disengaged and fled, carrying their wounded with them but leaving 18 dead behind. Brown's unit had suffered five killed and one wounded.
Inasmuch as these enemy no longer presented a threat, and his mission demanded that he proceed without delay, and since he had already lost an inordinate amount of time as a result of this and the fight the preceding day, Currin directed Brown's group to rejoin the column; Company P would detach a squad to follow independently after the main body and carry the wounded man. Upon Brown's return, Currin pushed on to the Choi's headwaters where he set up a perimeter defense for the night. At 2100 the carrying party, bearing the wounded man, safely reached the battalion position.52
The rising sun looked down on a strange scene on 30 June. At that time the Marines were still a day's march from their objective. But there, standing off Viru Harbor was Commander Stanley Leith's Occupation Unit (Hopkins, Kilty and Crosby) carrying Captain R. E. Kinch's Landing Force. After repeated attempts to establish radio contact with Currin had failed, Leith edged cautiously toward shore.
Grim-eyed Japanese manned defensive positions and trained unfriendly weapons on the approaching vessels. When the APD's hove into range at 0703, bedlam broke loose; shells from a Japanese 3-inch gun on Tetemara Point began bursting close aboard the slow-moving American craft. According to original plans this gun should have been either knocked out or manned by Currin's men. Obviously something had gone awry. Leith, having been forwarned of the possible delay to Currin's force, but unwilling to leave the scene inasmuch as he had not established radio contact with the Marines who might be in trouble, withdrew beyond range and steamed back and forth off the harbor mouth to await developments.
Shortly after 1000 the situation ashore was still obscure. At that time Leith, having secured Admiral Turner's approval, very correctly decided to put Kinch's force ashore at Nono. Kinch could then proceed overland and go to the aid of the Marines, whom he suspected were experiencing difficulties in carrying out
their mission.53 A jubliant Major Hara reported to General Sasaki at Munda Point that the Viru Sector Unit had repulsed an attempted American landing.
Colonel Currin, meanwhile, was pushing down the trail toward Hara's positions at Viru. Although the day passed uneventfully, the dripping jungle, slimy trails and heavy loads slowed the Marines. Fortunately, Hara did not choose to contest their advance that day.
That night Currin found himself within striking distance of his objective, Viru Harbor. Late intelligence reports indicated the enemy main strength was concentrated in the vicinity of Tetemara, a collection of grass huts on the harbor's western shore. Natives and coastwatchers also told of a small Japanese outpost at Tombe, directly across the harbor from Tetemara. Several hundred yards ahead of the Marine bivouac lay the junction of the trails to the two villages. The projected landing of Company B, 103d Infantry, at Tetemara after the Marine attack began, would not only have the effect of a two-pronged assault, but also would throw the preponderance of the American force against the main Japanese position.
To prevent the Tombe outpost from supporting the defense of Tetemara, and to deny his opponent the opportunity of withdrawing via Tombe after the American attack was launched, Currin had originally planned to dispatch one reinforced rifle platoon to reduce that position. In view of the repeated contacts on 28 and 29 June, however, Currin felt reasonably sure that the enemy, alerted for an impending attack, had probably taken steps to reinforce the outpost. He therefore ordered two platoons of Company P (approximately 100 men) to move independently down the Tombe Trail and on 1 July destroy the outpost and seize the village. The main body, meanwhile, would move along the Tetemara Trail, around the head of Viru Harbor, and strike the Tetemara-based Japanese
SUPPLY-LADEN LCT's landed at Tetemara in Viru Harbor only a few minutes after Marines had cleared the enemy from the area. These vessels entered the harbor's mouth as the Marines attacked from the jungle-swamp inland, thus giving the appearance of a coordinated land and amphibious assault.
in the rear. From the Marines' point of view the 1 July attack went generally as planned, although not without some unforeseen difficulties.
By 0845 Company P's two platoons had reached the edge of Tombe and had moved into position for an attack. Achieving complete surprise with a sudden heavy burst of fire, the Marines charged the village. Thirteen dead Japanese were all that remained of the enemy defenses. There were no Marine casualties.54
Meanwhile, Currin's force, now consisting of Company O, Battalion Headquarters, and one platoon of Company P (1st Lieutenant Malcolm N. McCarthy), continued to advance. At 0900 six planes of VMSB-132 and VB-11 bombed and strafed the Tetemara area, driving the defenders from their beach positions to cover in the jungle. While the air attack progressed, LCT's, loaded with gasoline, oil, and ammunition for the proposed PT base moved into the harbor.55 Shortly thereafter (at 1010) Japanese riflemen opened fire on Currin's point. The enemy commander (Major Hara) undoubtedly believed a coordinated attack underway.
The Japanese outpost which had fired on the point quickly fell back, and the tired Marines deployed for action. A few desultory shots rang out from both sides as the Marines pushed quickly forward toward Tetemara. At 1030 the attackers suffered their first casualty when the volume of enemy fire noticeably increased. The advance slowed somewhat as Marines methodically shot at flitting targets. An hour later, though hostile machine guns on both flanks chattered viciously, the attack still pressed forward. By 1305 Currin's troops reached high ground southwest of Tetemara, and dug in until demolition squads disposed of the enemy machine gun emplacements. At 1500 Currin resumed the attack and an hour later launched the final assault on the Japanese defensive positions. With Company O and headquarters personnel establishing a base of fire, McCarthy's Company P platoon swept around the right flank and enfiladed the opposing left. With fixed bayonets and wild yells, the Marines carried the position, and a half-hour later entered Tetemara. Hara's defeated survivors scurried into the jungle. At 1700 the supply-filled LCT's dropped ramps and discharged their cargo.
Company O had overrun the enemy's position. Forty-eight Japanese were dead, at a cost to Currin's men of eight killed and 15 wounded. The Marine booty included 16 machine guns of assorted types and calibre, one 3-inch coast-defense gun, four 80mm guns and eight dual purpose guns, plus stores of food, clothing, ammunition and small-boat supplies.
Currin immediately organized the area for defense and consolidated his position. Three days later, Company B, 103d Infantry, completed its overland march and joined the Marine outpost that Currin had set up at Tombe. After establishing defenses the Americans guarded the area until relieved by a garrison force on 9 July. The following day the Raiders returned to their old camp on Guadalcanal and awaited further orders. Seizure of Viru Harbor had cost the 4th Raider Battalion 13 killed and 15 wounded. The enemy lost 61 killed and approximately 100 wounded in the two small actions at Tombe and Tetemara alone.56
Following this defeat General Sasaki ordered Colonel Hirata to abandon Eastern New Georgia and pull those Japanese garrisons stationed there back to assist in the defense of Munda airfield. The high command at Rabaul, hoping to delay Admiral Halsey's advance until such time as American forces would be exhausted and could be defeated in detail, or until Imperial General Headquarters would be willing to move additional forces into the Solomons-Bismarcks area, had ordered Admiral Ota and General Sasaki to hold their New Georgia line at all costs.57 About 170 survivors of Hara's force marched over the rugged jungle trails and reached the Munda area about 18 July, just in time to take part in the final defense of the airfield.
AIR VIEW OF SEGI POINT AIRSTRIP, built by Seabees immediately after Marines occupied the area. In the background lies the labyrinth of islets and coral reefs through which Currin's men paddled their rubber boats to make the landing at Segi. Upon its completion, the Segi airstrip became a base for fighter planes operating in support of the eventual drive on Munda Point.
Vangunu is separated from the southeast tip of New Georgia by the very narrow Njai Passage. Wickham Anchorage lies off the island's southeastern shore. It had figured prominently in early planning of the TOENAILS operation as an L-Day target.
Amphibious reconnaissance patrols and groups of Coastwatcher Kennedy's native scouts, sent to the island during the planning stages, had roamed the beaches at will. Their reports indicated few enemy troops present, but no suitable areas for airstrip construction.
Further study of Vangunu as a major objective revealed that a great effort here would prove of dubious value. That the enemy had failed to defend the island in strength was not surprising: Vangunu, for the Japanese, had little strategic or tactical importance other than as an advanced and little-used barge base. Conversely, for the Allies, possession of the island would make available a sheltered harbor along the supply route between the Rendova-Munda target area and the bases in the Southern Solomons.59
Therefore, Admiral Turner decided to seize Vangunu for this purpose. In mid-June he sent
Lieutenant Schrier60 back to the island to make a last-minute survey of the situation and gather information on which to base his operation order. Schrier, in the evening of 20 June, reported that the Japanese strength on Vangunu was negligible and that the beaches in the vicinity of Oloana Bay could handle the landing of a reinforced battalion. Accordingly, the next day, Turner directed Admiral Fort (TG-31.3) to occupy the island with a small force.
Admiral Fort, in turn, assigned the mission to Lieutenant Colonel Lester E. Brown, USA. Brown's own 2nd Battalion, 103d Infantry, Battery B, 70th Coast Artillery, and half of the 20th NCB would provide the bulk of the troops. Fort also gave Brown Companies N (Captain Earle O. Snell, Jr.) and Q (Captain William Flake), the Demolitions Platoon (Second Lieutenant Robert P. Smith) and a headquarters detachment of the 4th Marine Raider Battalion. The battalion's executive officer, Major James R. Clark, would command the Marines.61
Colonel Brown immediately set about making detailed plans for his operation. As his immediate objective, Brown selected Oloana Bay (see Map #7) where Admiral Turner desired to build a refuge for small ships and landing craft. He directed the Marines to land before dawn from the APD's Schley and McKean, contact the reconnaissance party under Lieutenants Schrier (the Marine scout) and Lamb (his own S-2) and a group of Kennedy's natives, and with them establish a beachhead. The Army battalion was formed into two echelons: One, embarked in seven LCI's, would land 30 minutes after the Marines; the other, in seven LCT's would land at 1000.
Brown's plan of action called for the 103d Infantry's Company E (Captain Edward I. Chappell), reinforced with 81mm mortars and six native carriers, to proceed to Vura Village and occupy the west bank of the Vura River. This move was designed to prevent the escape of an estimated 100 Japanese who, according to native reports, occupied the village. Meanwhile, the remainder of the force would drive well inland and set up a force beachhead line behind which artillerymen would emplace their guns and Seabees would begin construction of a small naval base.
Final reconnaissance and planning were completed on 27 June. The following day at 1133 the Schley and McKean, with Marines and supplies embarked, weighed anchor at Tetere and sailed for a rendezvous with the remainder of the force at Purvis Bay, Florida Island. The entire convoy hove to at 033562 on 30 June some two miles off Oloana Bay in Wickham Anchorage.
Darkness and a heavy downpour obscured not only the markers emplaced by Schrier several days before, but also the signal light which Schrier showed that night. Choppy seas and high winds caused confusion. The best radar available, in Admiral Fort's flagship Trever, was an old model that could not accurately fix the position of the force in relation to the invisible beach. Nevertheless, in accordance with their original orders, the APD's began to debark their passengers.
At this time Admiral Fort decided to postpone the landing until dawn, and instructed the Schley and McKean not to unload their Marine troops until further orders. But the APD's either ignored or never received the admiral's order and continued to send Marines over the side. While in the midst of debarkation, the APD commanders discovered they had incorrectly positioned their vessels. Relocation of the ships 1,000 yards to the east followed, and debarkation resumed. As the 36-foot landing boats forming the first wave jockeyed into position to make the dash to shore, they inadvertently filtered between the soldier-filled LCI's, which correctly had been remaining in company with the flagship.63 In the resultant confusion, coxswains lost the tenuous contact they had had; all attempts to regain it in the rain-filled darkness failed. The boats, therefore, proceeded shoreward individually or in pairs. But even from the small craft, the beach markers
remained invisible and as a consequence the Marines in the first wave landed at widely separated points.64
By far the most harrowing experience that stormy night was undergone by Marines of the 1st and 2d Platoons of Company Q. The two boats carrying these units, although remaining together despite wind, waves and rain, headed in the wrong direction in the darkness and grounded on a reef some seven miles west of Oloana Bay beaches. The craft containing the 1st Platoon (Second Lieutenant James E. Brown) was soon refloated, but in the process lost its rudder. Thereafter, the Marines, coached by the coxswain, steered it by manipulating buckets tied to the ends of lines trailing in its wake. The boat of the 2d Platoon (Second Lieutenant Eric S. Holmgrain) broached in the pounding surf and had to be abandoned. Holmgrain and his men waded and swam some two miles from the reef to shore. There, after a quick conference with Brown, he set up a local defense until daylight; Brown, meanwhile kept his platoon boated and just off the beach.
At first light the two platoons pushed eastward toward Oloana Bay, one platoon hiking along the beach, the other riding its crippled boat. About 45 minutes later the McKean hove into view and, upon being hailed and informed of the situation, immediately provided a replacement boat in which the 1st Platoon proceeded to Oloana forthwith. Meanwhile, Holmgrain led his 2d Platoon along the coast to rejoin the main body as soon as possible.65
Back at Oloana Bay, while Brown and Holmgrain struggled with elements to the west, an angry sea and coral shoals claimed six boats in short order. The Marine assault units landed at widely separated points, with some platoons as far as four miles from the designated beaches. Fortunately the enemy had failed to put any outposts in this area so despite the turmoil, no casualties resulted. Quickly orienting themselves, the Marines pushed inland and the individual units began to work their way toward Oloana Bay.
The first waves of soldiers, with the benefit of daylight and quieting seas, landed in good order at 0700. When Colonel Brown came ashore he found only 75 Marines holding the beachhead, awaiting the momentarily expected arrival of their missing comrades. Brown held a hasty conference with Lieutenants Schrier and Lamb, who informed him that the main body of a small enemy force was located at Kaeruka, some 1,000 yards northeast of Vura Village.
The colonel promptly made the necessary changes in his plan and designated Kaeruka as his objective. By 0705 all the Army infantry was ashore, and Brown issued his combat order on the spot. Company E would carry out its originally assigned mission, and be prepared to render mortar support to the main body. Company F (Captain Ray Brown), followed in turn by Company G (Captain Ollie A. Hood), eight natives and the Marines, would proceed down the Kennedy (Coastwatcher) Trail to a line of departure some seven miles to the northeast, which lay along high ground immediately east of the Kaeruka River and 700 yards inland from the objective.66 The artillerymen and Seabees would protect the Oloana Bay landing point, while those Marines who had been landed out of position would be instructed to rejoin the attacking force when they reached the beachhead. The force set out upon this venture about 0745.
A driving rain, deep mud and thick growth interfered with forward progress. Within minutes all the radios had fallen victim to the downpour, and without these Colonel Brown could not call on mortar support from the projected positions near Vura Village or artillery support from the Oloana Bay beachhead. Between the attackers and their objective ran two streams, reported by natives as "easily fordable." But because of the rain both of these were shoulder-deep, raging torrents, flowing with such terrific force that wading men repeatedily were swept off their feet. In each instance Brown ordered ropes strung from bank to bank, and individuals worked their way, hand over hand, to the opposite side.
Despite these tremendous obstacles, the force finally reached its line of departure about 1320.
By this time, to Colonel Brown's amazement and gratification, most of the missing Marines, all heavily laden with arms and ammunition, had covered the great distances from their landing points and had caught up with the column. Even Lieutenant Brown's platoon had rejoined its parent company.
For the next half-hour the four companies jockeyed into positions from which they could launch their assault; then the colonel gave the attack order. The axis of advance would be generally south. Company Q, on the extreme right flank, would guide on the east bank of the meandering Kaeruka. Company N, to the left of Q, would drive straight ahead for the enemy bivouac area at the river mouth. Still farther to the left, Company F, 103d (Captain Ray Brown) would execute a partial envelopment, as soon as resistance was met, by swinging in a southwesterly direction and assaulting. Colonel Brown designated Company G as the reserve, prepared to exploit any weakness discovered by the attackers and ready to protect the flanks.
The attack, launched at 1405, was such a surprise to the Japanese that their defenses were completely thrown off balance. Fifteen minutes passed before the Marines encountered the first resistance. Enemy riflemen hidden in trees or holed up in spider traps slowed the advance to a crawl. As the Marines deployed to exterminate these few Japanese, others on the west bank of the river opened fire. At 1445 Major Clark ordered his Marines to cross the stream, reduce the opposition, and continue their southward advance.
Captain Flake promptly turned to the right and began sending his men down the slippery banks, across the river, and up the other side. The first few men reached the west bank without undue difficulty but the enemy quickly divined the Marines' intention; bullets from
Action on Vangunu
30 June 1943
rifles and machine guns began to splatter in the vicinity of the fording point. By 1530 the fire had become so concentrated that Clark decided to discontinue the maneuver. By this time all of Company Q plus one squad of Company N had reached the western side. Unfortunately, the two companies had lost contact with each other, and, worse still, Major Clark was out of communication with Colonel Brown.
To the Americans' extreme left, Company F, shortly after crossing the line of departure, contacted some substantial enemy positions covered by machine guns. Captain Brown, in attempting to move farther left to outflank the enemy strong point, soon lost contact with the Marines' Company N, with the result that Colonel Brown committed Company G to fill the gap.
On the west bank of the river Captain Flake's men came under increasingly heavy fire from two well-protected bunkers, 300 yards inland from the beach. On the other bank Captain Snell, engaged to his front, had sent out patrols to reestablish contact with Major Clark and to locate the Japanese main line of resistance. Meanwhile, Company G, encountering little or no resistance, advanced to the shore without difficulty.
About 1700 one of Snell's patrols met Clark. Almost simultaneously Snell's riflemen gained fire superiority and closed with the foe, who withdrew along the beach toward the southwest in disorder. By this time Flake and Snell reestablished contact, and Clark ordered Flake to disengage from the few enemy opposing him and bring his men back to the east bank of the river. Fifteen minutes later, just as communications between Clark and Colonel Brown were restored, Flake executed this order and the Marines entered the old enemy bivouac area at Kaeruka. Meanwhile, Company F reduced the opposition on its flank and reached the beach.
As a result of this action 12 Marines were dead and 21 wounded, while the soldiers suffered 10 killed and 22 wounded. Counted Japanese dead numbered 120.67
While fighting was in progress at Kaeruka, Company E met 16 enemy with two light machine guns at Vura. Employing his mortars with great skill, Captain Chappell knocked out
the enemy weapons and drove off the Japanese survivors.68
At the conclusion of the Kaeruka fight Colonel Brown moved his command post from its previous position on the line of departure to the newly won position, and Major Clark set up a defense perimeter for the fast-approaching night. He placed Company G, the Demolitions Platoon and Company Q on the beach, facing seaward; Company N deployed along the river bank facing the village; and Company F occupied positions along a line facing inland toward the jungle with its flanks tied in to Company N's right and Company G's left. Clark then sent out small patrols to kill or capture surviving enemy riflemen and reduce the last hostile strong points in the immediate vicinity, including the bunkers that had stopped Company Q. Before the task was finished, pitch-black night settled, but considering the rain, mud, darkness and physical exhaustion of his men, Clark had erected a well-organized defense perimeter.
Spasmodically, during the early part of the night, mortar shells dropped on the beach and machine guns raked the inland line, from cleverly constructed enemy positions near Cheeke Point. Marines and soldiers alike fired at shadows, punctuating the night with sound. Shortly before 0200 the following morning, sharp-eared riflemen heard the unmistakable putt-putt of several landing barges, obviously approaching the Kaeruka's mouth. At once Major Clark ordered all Marine machine guns to assume positions on the beach "to repel boarders." At about 0205 three Japanese barges
37MM ANTIAIRCRAFT GUN manned by soldiers of Battery F, 70th Coast Artillery, is one of many such weapons emplaced for the protection of Wickham Anchorage and Viru Harbor. Friendly small craft pushing between Rendova and supply bases to the rear found sanctuary from enemy air attack under the protection of these and other antiaircraft weapons. (Army Photo.)
pushed their ugly snouts out of the darkness and attempted a landing near the junction of the Demolitions Platoon and Company G, only to meet a sudden hail of American fire.69
The boated enemy, obviously believing that they had been taken under fire by friends, shouted lustily but did not shoot back. Their barges continued beachward, providing a field day for the Americans. Rifle grenades arched from Company Q's position; machine guns chattered angrily. The first bursts of fire probably killed the coxswains, for thereafter the boats semed to drift out of control.
The Japanese soon realized their true situation and returned a few poorly aimed shots. A few jumped overboard and succeeded in reaching shore, only to meet a hand grenade barrage from the Demolitions Platoon. By 0235 the fight was over. One barge sank some 50 to 100 yards offshore; the other two broached in the surf, 109 of the 120 Japanese were dead. Five of the 11 enemy survivors met their ends on the beach several days later. Two Marines and one soldier, killed during the fight, were buried with other American dead on the Kaeruka's east bank after daylight.70
Translations of captured enemy documents and interrogations of prisoners of war subsequently revealed that this action had resulted from a routine Japanese effort to reinforce and resupply the Vangunu garrison, and not from a planned combat landing. In fact, the enemy barges carried provisions including live chickens and fresh vegetables, for the Kaeruka detachment. According to undocumented rumor, the chickens suffered total casualties. And the next morning the Americans feasted.71
At dawn of 1 July, Colonel Brown resurveyed the beach positions. In the darkness the night before, under fire, unfamiliar with the terrain, without an adequate map or the benefit of reconnaissance, Clark had had to determine where to set up his defenses. Realizing that the enemy must have had some reason for defending that particular locale, Clark had decided to put his own defenses there. How valid his reasoning was! The tiny beach at the Kaeruka's mouth offered the only possible landing point in that area. To the right a heavy mangrove swamp extended to the water's edge; to the left, numerous coral niggerheads and hidden reefs obstructed all beaches. Moreover, it was on that particular night that the unsuspecting enemy had chosen to resupply his garrison and had walked blindly into a hornet's nest. For the Marines it was like filling an inside straight.
While Colonel Brown reconnoitered the lines, aggressive combat patrols pushed out in all directions in an attempt to find and destroy the foe. But the 30-odd enemy survivors had pulled back and were reorganizing deep in the jungle. When his patrols reported no contacts, Brown decided to move his entire force to Vura Village, where he could set up a more efficient base of operations, one that could be supplied via water from Oloana Bay. Shortly after the Americans set out on their hike through the jungle and mangrove swamps toward Vura, the Japanese, now reorganized, harassed the column with long-range fires from machine guns and one 37mm gun, and inflicted several additional casualties. Fortunately, the enemy was in no condition to offer organized resistance. And none developed.
At Vura Colonel Brown set up a defense perimeter and conducted a campaign of attrition against the enemy. Bombardments from the 152d Field Artillery's Battery A, emplaced at Oloana Bay, and numerous air strikes hit suspected Japanese positions for three days; reconnaissance and combat patrols killed or captured Japanese survivors.
On 3 July Colonel Brown led his forces back to the original battlefield at Kaeruka. Enroute the Americans killed seven enemy, captured one, and destroyed several Japanese ammunition
and supply dumps that had been overlooked on 1 July.
The following day LCI's transferred the Marines to Vangunu's base camp at Oloana Bay for rest and preparation for further action. Finally on 8 July Clark's men crowded into a single LCT and made a night landing on Gatukai Island, where natives reported 50 to 100 hostile troops. For the next two days the Marines searched the island but found no Japanese although traces of recent occupation cluttered the landscape. These enemy were later found and dispersed by an Army patrol.
After returning to Oloana Bay and spending the night the Marines boarded LCI's 331 and 332, which landed them on Guadalcanal at 0700, 12 July 1943, where they rejoined their parent battalion. Wickham Anchorage was secure. The cost to the 4th Marine Raider Battalion was 14 dead and 26 wounded.72
In the meantime a larger and more significant action raged to the northwest.
WICKHAM ANCHORAGE LANDING
1. Ward ltr; Turner ltr; ELKTON II, 2; JCS 238/5/D. "At the Pacific military Conference in Washington, March 1943, representatives from CenPac, SoPac and SoWesPac, plus members of the JCS and JPS decided that available means would not be sufficient to take Rabaul in 1943, and that operations in the SoPac-SoWesPac in 1943 would be essentially those set forth as Task Two of the 2 July 1942 directive. Later in 1943 the JCS directed MacArthur and Halsey not to capture Rabaul but to neutralize it by air action." (Dr. John Miller, Jr., ltr to author, 4Feb52.)
2. Ward ltr; JCS CARTWHEEL directive, 29Mar43; Halsey, op. cit., 154-155.
3. Morison, Bismarcks, 94-96.
4. Halsey, op. cit., 153-157.
5. Interview with Maj Clay A. Boyd, 16Feb51. Boyd was a member of this first and several subsequent patrols.
6. Col W. E. Coleman. "Amphibious Recon Patrols," in Marine Corps Gazette, December, 1946.
7. Col Samuel B. Griffith, II, ltr to CMC, 12Feb51; Boyd interview; Feldt, op. cit., passim; LtCol Henry H. Reichner, Jr., ltr to Maj Carl W. Hoffman, 5Mar51; Capt. James E. Brown, ltr to CMC, 6Mar51.
8. LtCol W. J. McNenny report to CG, IMAC, 17Jul43.
9. ComSoPac OpnPlan 14-43; CTF-31, OpnPlan A8-43, Annex "C", 1-3; Halsey ltr.
10. IJN Hq Staff Directive #231, 2May43. See Southeast Area Naval Operations, II, 11.
11. USSBS, Allied Campaign Against Rabaul, 43-46, 51, 82-84, 101; ComSoPac ltr, serial 01244, 2Aug43.
12. Adm Yamamoto's abortive air offensive of early April, designed to win air supremacy over the Southern Solomons and Eastern New Guinea. See Morison, Bismarcks, 117-124.
13. Southeast area Naval Operations, II, 7-18.
14. USSBS, Allied Campaign Against Rabaul, 84, 107; CIC Item #43/153; CIC Item #598, 8; ComSoPac ltr, serial 01244, A12-1/(25), 2Aug43; ComSoPac ltr, serial 01324, A12-1/(25), 10Aug43.
15. The Maizuru 4th SNLF was not stationed on New Georgia during the TOENAILS operation.
16. ComSoPac Opn Plan 14-43, 3Jun43. Operations directed at Bairoko Harbor were conducted on Dragons Peninsula (AMAGANSETT). Details are discussed in Chap IV, following.
17. LtGen Francis P. Mulcahy ltr to CMC, 25Feb51; TF-33 OpnPlan 7-43, 18Jun43. For further details concerning air planning and operations see Chap VI, following.
18. ComSoPac Opn Plan 14-43.
19. This was later changed. Company B, 1st Raider Battalion, replaced Company O; Company B's mission, in turn was assigned to two companies of the 169th Infantry.
20. The 9th Defense Battalion (see Chart) was later redesignated the 9th AAA Battalion. Its commitment in this campaign is the first instance of a Defense Battalion in a purely assault mission. The seacoast artillery group of the battalion had been equipped with 155mm (M-1) guns for this specific purpose, and this was the first time these weapons were used in South Pacific combat. (Col A. E. O'Neil ltr to CMC, 1Mar51.)
21. Acorn 7 (50 officers and 1450 men) was a naval construction unit specially constituted for the purpose of building the Segi airfield.
22. TF-31 OpnPlan A8-43, 4Jun43, as corrected by CTF-31 dispatch 20 June 1943.
23. Of the British Solomon Islands Defense Force.
24. TF-31 OpnPlan A8-43, Annex A, 3-4, and Appendix 1 to Annex H; Turner ltr; Boyd interview.
25. Boyd interview; interview with Col. S. B. Griffith, II, 21Feb51.
26. TF-31 OpnPlan A8-43, 7 and Annex A, 4.
27. Turner ltr. The limited level terrain around Vila was capped by an extremely soft surface that eroded quickly under the prevalent, heavy, seasonal rains. Thus, construction of a suitable airfield would have been a tremendous undertaking. This factor--along with others--later led to abandonment of the Kolombangara phase of the TOENAILS plan. The airfield at Vila actually never proved of much value to the Japanese.
28. CTF-32 memorandum to ComSoPac, 12Jun43.
29. Boyd interview; Griffith ltr.
30. Unless otherwise cited, the information in this section was derived from one or more of the following sources: Gen Hester's ltrs of 9Feb51 and 15Mar52; interviews with BrigGens Harry B. Liversedge and William J. Scheyer on 10Sep51 and 5Jan52, respectively; 3dMarDiv Observers' reports; CNO, F-111 file for June 1943.
31. McNenny report.
32. NGOF Field Orders 1, 2 and 3; TF-31 Loading Orders; CTG-31 dispatch 262333.
33. Turner ltr; Boyd interview; LtCol William D. Stevenson ltr to CMC, 22Feb51.
34. ComSoPac, Weekly Air Intelligence Combat Reports 18Apr43-25Dec43.
35. 43dInfDiv Field Order #1, 17Jun43.
36. A commando unit made up of Tongan and Fijiian Islanders, trained and led by New Zealanders.
37. 9thDefBn, WD, Jun43; 9thDefBn, OpnO 5-43, 24Jun43.
38. Among Those Present, 43; Morison, Bismarcks, 141-142.
39. CIC Item #591, 9-10, 13; CIC Extract of Translations, serial 01244, 2Aug43.
40. CIC Item #591, 10; CIC Item #43/153, 1.
41. Dent and Waters previously had been designated "Rendova Advance Unit" (Cdr John D. Sweeney). Schley and Crosby were part of Transdiv 22 (LCdr Robert H. Wilkinson), temporarily assigned to TG-31.3 for the initial landing.
42. TF-31 OpnPlan A8-43, 4; ONI, Solomon Islands Campaign: X, "Operations in the New Georgia Area," 9; 4thRdrBn, SAR, 1 and Annex A; Chief, HistDiv, DeptArmy, ltr CSHIS 322, 26Aug49.
43. 4thRdrBn, SAR, 1-2.
44. Consisting of Finch's own Company B, 103d Infantry (reinforced), one-half of Company D, 20th Naval Construction Battalion, Battery E, 70th Coast Artillery (less one platoon), and a naval base unit.
45. TG-31.3 OpnOrder AL 10-43, 21Jun43, 1-4; TF-31 ltr FE25/L1 over 0013b, 22Jun43; TG-31.3 Loading Order 1-43, 16Jun43, encl 1, 9, 16-17, 22, 26. Under Turner's original plan Company O had been a part of the Western Landing Force.
46. Currin was eminently well qualified to make an intelligence estimate. In March and April he had spent 20 days in this area with amphibious patrols; upon his return to Segi on 21 June he had personally reconnoitered for avenues of approach to Viru.
47. Currin interview, 5Oct49.
48. 4thRdrBn, SAR, 3-4.
49. Limited to a single narrow trail, the battalion necessarily advanced in column of files which, even in good terrain, obviates rapid movement. Currin knew of the presence of the enemy patrol, but since his mission required immediate movement toward his objective he instructed Walker to be alert but not to attack unless the Japanese should harass the battalion rear.
50. Col M. S. Currin ltr to CMC, 8Feb51; LtCol Anthony Walker ltr to CMC, 23Feb51; 4thRdrBn, SAR, 5.
51. Interview with LtCol M. S. Currin, 22Apr49. Two native runners carried this message to Captain Kennedy at Segi, who unsuccessfully made repeated attempts to radio it to the Russells. The information, when it finally reached Admiral Fort, was promptly passed on to Leith, already underway. Admiral Turner did not learn of this situation until the forenoon of 30 June while on board ship off Rendova. (Turner ltr.)
52. 4thRdrBn, SAR, 6; Walker ltr; Currin ltr; Currin interview.
53. ONI, Combat Narratives, Solomon Islands Campaign, X, 17-18. Roy J. Batterton, "You fight by the book," in Marine Corps Gazette, Jul49.
54. 4thRdrBn, SAR, 7.
55. These LCT's were not to have landed until Viru Harbor had been secured.
56. 4thRdrBn, SAR, 8.
57. Southeast Area Naval Operations, Part II, 35.
58. Unless otherwise cited, the source of information for this section was extracted from Col Lester E. Brown ltr to author, 19Mar52.
59. Turner ltr. The subsequent Japanese failure to attack the Allied resupply convoys could not be foreseen.
60. On this trip Schrier was accompanied by 2dLt Lamb of the 103d Infantry.
61. The rest of the battalion was then operating under the battalion commander at Segi Point.
62. 4thRdrBn, SAR, Vangunu; Combat Narratives, X, 16.
63. RAdm Fort ltr to author, 30Jan52.
64. 4thRdrBn, SAR, 14Sep43, 1.
65. Capt James E. Brown ltr to CMC, 6Mar51.
66. Maj Earle O. Snell ltr to CMC, 16Feb51.
67. 4thRdrBn, SAR, 1-4.
68. The enemy force was a detachment of the Kure 6 SNLF. (ComSoPac (CIC), Interrogations and Translations.)
69. Snell ltr.
70. Maj Robert P. Smith ltr to CMC, Feb51. In a coincidental sequel to this action, the six enemy who escaped made their way along the eastern coast of Vangunu and New Georgia's northern coast to the Rice Anchorage area. There, weeks later, these Japanese met the self-same Demolitions Platoon, then holding an outpost position; in this latter encounter five enemy were killed and one was captured. (ComSoPac, Interrogation Reports, "Prisoner captured by 4thMarRdrBn off Rice Anchorage," Jul43.)
71. ComSoPac Interrogation Reports; ComSoPac ltr, Translations of captured enemy documents, Aug43; Smith ltr; interview with Capt James E. Brown, 12Dec51.
72. 4thRdrBn, SAR, 5-7.