BOUGAINVILLE, 1943-45: The FORGOTTEN CAMPAIGN. by Harry A. Gailey. Bougainville, the largest of the Solomons Islands, totals nearly 4,000 square miles. Inhabited by 45,000 Melanesians who spoke 18 different languages, Bougainville is rugged, hot, humid and jungle-covered. Its prize to the Allies: five Japanese airfields, numerous sheltered bays on the coastline, and a vital stepping stone to Rabaul and then Japan. The 3rd Marine Division and the U.S. Army's 37th Infantry fought non-stop for 52 consecutive days against the Japanese Nov.'43-Jan.'44. The Americal Division arrived in force during Jan.'44 and effectively replaced the Marines by March '44. Over shadowed by other battles, the U.S. Army 37th Infantry and Americal Divisions continued the bloody fighting on Bougainville against 40,000 Japanese troops for nearly two years with little publicity.
The 1943 invasion of Bougainville, largest and northernmost of the Solomon Islands, and the naval battles during the campaign for the island, contributed heavily to the defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific War. Here Harry Gailey presents the definitive account of the long and bitter fighting that took place on that now all-but-forgotten island. A maze of swamps, rivers, and rugged hills overgrown with jungle, Bougainville afforded the Allies a strategic site for airbases from which to attack the Japanese bastion of Rabaul. By February of 1944 the Japanese air strength at Rabaul had indeed been wiped out and their other forces there had been isolated and rendered ineffective.
The early stages of the campaign were unique in the degree of cooperation among Allied forces. The overall commander, American Admiral Halsey, marshaled land, air, and naval contingents representing the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Unlike the other island campaigns in the Pacific, the fighting on Bougainville was a protracted struggle lasting nearly two years. Although the initial plan was simply to seize enough area for three airbases and leave the rest in Japanese hands, the Australian commanders, who took over in November 1944, decided to occupy the entire island. The consequence was a series of hard-fought battles that were still going on when Japan's surrender finally brought them to an end.
For the Americans, a notable aspect of the campaign was the first use of black African American troops. Although most of these troops did well, the poor performance of one black company was greatly exaggerated in reports and in the media, which led to black soldiers in the Pacific theater begin relegated to non-combat roles for the remainder of the war.
In the pages of this book, Gailey brings again to life this long struggle for an island in the far Pacific and the story of the tens of thousands of men who fought and died there. 256 pages. Photographs, maps.
Includes the 3rd Marine Division, 37th Infantry Division, and the Americal Division.
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