Archive for “November, 2009”

The Bougainville Invasion (Part 4): March 1944 – May 1944

With this submission, CINCLAX’s in-depth review of this part of the Solomons campaign is complete. I think you will agree with me that considerable thought and work went into these articles and join me as a hearty “BZ” is passed his way.  On the horizon – inthe next few weeks we will wrap up the action at sea and then give each of the authors a chance to (briefly) state their analysis as to the relative importance of Midway vs. The Solomon Islands campaign. – SJS

Completing the Cartwheel – the Final Encirclement of Rabaul

Meanwhile at Cape Gloucester and Manus…

Almost contemporaneous with the 3rd Marines departure from Bougainville, the now well-rested 1st Marine Division of Guadalcanal fame was loaned to RADM Dan Barbey’s 7th ‘Phib for a December 26, 1943 landing at Cape Gloucester on the western tip of New Britain. This followed an insignificant diversionary Army landing 10 days earlier at Arawe on the southwestern coast. While the Cape Gloucester Marines succeeded in capturing an airstrip, this field never became a significant factor in the continuing reduction of Rabaul, and turned out to be a rather wasteful operation that cost some 248 lives. The Japanese force at Cape Gloucester had no artillery with which to close Dampier Strait, so it had been no threat to Allied operations. It was monsoon season, and daily rainfall could reach 16 inches; thus the 1st Marine veterans opined the terrain and weather conditions were as big an obstacle as the Japanese, and the mud even worse than Guadalcanal.

On February 29, 1944, MacArthur’s 1st Cavalry Division landed on Los Negros Island in the Admiralties (north of New Guinea), then a week later on Manus Island to seize the magnificent Seeadler Harbor. Later in the year, this would be an invaluable staging place for operations on Palau and Leyte.

Such was the work of the weaker of the two arms of the South Pacific campaign to “Break the Bismarcks Barrier.” Now it was up to the stronger arm, Halsey’s, to complete the reduction of Rabaul.

Continue Reading…

Article Series - Solomon Islands Campaign Blog Project

  1. The Solomons Campaign: Geographical and Political Background
  2. The Solomons Campaign: Status of the United States Fleet and Plans After Midway
  3. The Imperial Japanese Navy after Midway
  4. The Solomon Islands Campaign: Prelude to the Series
  5. The Solomons Campaign: WATCHTOWER — Why Guadalcanal?
  6. The Solomons Campaign: Guadalcanal 7-9 August, 1942; Assault and Lodgment
  7. The Solomons Campaign: Unleashing the Assassin’s Mace
  8. The Solomons Campaign: Execution at Savo Island
  9. The Solomons Campaign: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons, 24-25 August 1942
  10. The Solomons Campaign: Strategic Pause and Review – Japan’s Last Chance for Victory?
  11. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part I
  12. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part II
  13. The Solomons Campaign: Cactus Air Force and the Bismarck Sea
  14. The Solomons Campaign: Operation Vengeance – The Shootdown Of Yamamoto
  15. The Solomons Campaign: Ground Action – The New Georgia Campaign, June 20-November 3, 1943
  16. The Solomons Campaign: The Bougainville Invasion, November – December 1943(Part I)
  17. The Bougainville Invasion: November – December 1943 (Part 2)
  18. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 3): December 1943 – March 1944
  19. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 4): March 1944 – May 1944
  20. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (Part I)
  21. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (II)
  22. Solomon Islands Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (III)
  23. Flightdeck Friday – MIA Edition: WWII Navy Aircrew Returns Home

The Bougainville Invasion (Part 3): December 1943 – March 1944

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We resume the quite comprehensive articles provided by CINCLAX as part of the ongoing Solomon Islands Campaign blog project.  With the exception of some noteworthy battles at sea and on land, the Solomons campaign slogged on in near anonymity, except for those doing the fighting.  We would learn much in the process – about joint operations, supporting forces ashore, the flexibility of carrier- and shore-based air, logistics and the like that would be applied in the coming campaigns through the Southwest and Central Pacific that would break the back of the Japanese military and lead the way to ending the war in the Pacific.  That, however, lays still in the future.  In the meantime, Bougainville continues…

- SJS

Expansion of the Torokina Beachhead

The first—or 3rd Marines—part of the Bougainville campaign had cost the Marines 423 killed and 1,418 wounded. Japanese dead were counted at 2,458; only 23 were taken prisoner. It had been a remarkably smooth operation.

On December 15, 1943 command of the Torokina beachhead Area had passed from IMAC (MG Roy Geiger) to XIV Corps (MG Oscar Griswold). Almost all of the 3rd Marines were withdrawn by the end of the month, and the Americal Division (MG John R. Hodge) and 37th Division (MG Robert Beightler) moved in to take their places. In fact elements of the 37th had already been in place, and initially Geiger had assigned them to the comparatively “peaceful” western part of the perimeter. Of the Marines, only the 3rd Defense Battalion would remain. Their 155mm guns would prove invaluable in defense of the perimeter.

Meanwhile the airfields were being readied to reduce Rabaul and its environs. Since December 10th, F4U Corsairs of VMF 216 had been based on the new Torokina strip, and they would initially be the key to the successful AirSols bombing offensive against Rabaul. Before the Piva strips became operational on January 9th, Allied bombers would lift off from more distant fields and be joined by the Torokina fighters, so as bomber escorts they made feasible large-scale raids from elsewhere.

During the initial period of the landings, air activity in support of the beachhead, consisted of daily flights over the Torokina area, in close air support (CAS), as well as regular strikes on southern Japanese bases like Kahili, Kieta, Kara and Ballale, and as visits to Buka and Bonis in the north.

Meanwhile the Marines were perfecting their CAS techniques, and on ten occasions in November-December ground troops requested it. Each of these required that the strike be run within 500 yards or less from American front lines; three at 500 yards, three at 200 yards, one at 120 yards, one at 100 yards, and two at only 75 yards. Marine spotter aircraft used colored smoke to mark front line positions and white smoke to mark the target areas, setting up a solid liaison between air and ground units. Techniques developed here would form the doctrinal basis for later Marine campaigns.

Very occasionally Japanese aircraft from Rabaul would score hits on command posts, supply dumps, ships, or small craft in Puruata Harbor (between Puruata Island and Cape Torokina), and on airfields which were under construction within the American perimeter. The net effect of these raids was minimal, and as enemy air strength diminished on Rabaul, raids dwindled to virtually nothing by the end of February 1944.

In time, most of AirSols assets would move to Bougainville, and it would become AirNorSols in June 1944.

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THE 155mm “Long Tom” guns of the Marine 3d Defense Battalion could range out to appx. 20,000 yards, and could thus cover all parts of the perimeter with their 100 lb. shells.

The Americal Division was somewhat unusual in that it had never been given a number designation. In fact it was so-named because it had been formed up in May, 1942 in New Caledonia (representing the “Cal” part of the name). The Americal was also the first Army Division to take offensive action against the Japanese, and had fought with some with some distinction in the latter phases of the Guadalcanal campaign.

Like many other early Army divisions, the Americal was formed from National Guard Regiments, in this case 132nd (Massachusetts), the 164th (North Dakota), and 182nd (Illinois).

The 37th, or “Buckeye Division,” also had National Guard roots—only from Ohio. It had originally been formed in Fiji, then moved to Guadalcanal for training in March 1943. Four battalions had assisted the initially hapless 43rd Division on New Georgia, and learned their trade the hard way in the attack on Munda. It was at Munda that XIV commander Griswold had “cut his teeth” as he straightened out the faltering Army effort.

Continue Reading…

Article Series - Solomon Islands Campaign Blog Project

  1. The Solomons Campaign: Geographical and Political Background
  2. The Solomons Campaign: Status of the United States Fleet and Plans After Midway
  3. The Imperial Japanese Navy after Midway
  4. The Solomon Islands Campaign: Prelude to the Series
  5. The Solomons Campaign: WATCHTOWER — Why Guadalcanal?
  6. The Solomons Campaign: Guadalcanal 7-9 August, 1942; Assault and Lodgment
  7. The Solomons Campaign: Unleashing the Assassin’s Mace
  8. The Solomons Campaign: Execution at Savo Island
  9. The Solomons Campaign: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons, 24-25 August 1942
  10. The Solomons Campaign: Strategic Pause and Review – Japan’s Last Chance for Victory?
  11. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part I
  12. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part II
  13. The Solomons Campaign: Cactus Air Force and the Bismarck Sea
  14. The Solomons Campaign: Operation Vengeance – The Shootdown Of Yamamoto
  15. The Solomons Campaign: Ground Action – The New Georgia Campaign, June 20-November 3, 1943
  16. The Solomons Campaign: The Bougainville Invasion, November – December 1943(Part I)
  17. The Bougainville Invasion: November – December 1943 (Part 2)
  18. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 3): December 1943 – March 1944
  19. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 4): March 1944 – May 1944
  20. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (Part I)
  21. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (II)
  22. Solomon Islands Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (III)
  23. Flightdeck Friday – MIA Edition: WWII Navy Aircrew Returns Home

Praise and Thanksgiving

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. (Psalm 100, KJV)

Happy Thanksgiving all and please remember all who serve in every capacity at home and overseas this day.

- SJS

Postcards from Deployment: Of Midpoints and Ground Hog Day(s)

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Milestones.  We live our lives and measure our time while deployed by milestones.  Workups, CQ, “safe-to-deploy,” night qual’d – those are all 091121-N-6720T-075milestones.  First day underway, first trap of deployment, last night the lights of home are visible on the far horizon. . .  We chop from one fleet to another in our transit; turnover with the offgoing CVN and airwing, turnover of target folders and liberty gouge -more milestones.  Soon (hopefully) the first month is behind – and with it the birthdays and first days of school, milestones we miss and try to live vicariously through a digital experience.  The Teacher wrote:

The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. 6 The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. 7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. 8 All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. 9 What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one can say, Look! This is something new? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. (Ecclesiastes 1:5-10)

. . .and behold, we are now at the midpoint of deployment…

SJS,

091123-N-3038W-047So this weekend is supposed to be, at least to my counting, hump day in cruise. Some time in the near future the cruise is supposed to be on the way down for getting ready to go home. There is still plenty of cruise left to go. That being said the other problem with the middle cruise is what can be deployment stress part II. This is the stress where after putting up with everyone else’s quirks, something causes  you to loose your mind. It leads to everything from a cold war between work center’s to outright fights in a berthing or work space. The hard part about this is if it happened ashore you could send someone to “lunch” or on some other errand to cool down. Out here you have 1123 feet to separate people from each other and even that isn’t enough.

It is really strange, even after the work up cycle in the same berthing with people, you never completely know someone who is living near you or working with you. It isn’t until deployment starts that things start to dawn on you. Everything from what they do when going to bed down to their own personality quirks. 0080615-N-4133B-071For example I did a deployment and living right across from me was a guy who had decorated his rack with all sorts of pictures of the various women he was dating or had dated. Then every night he would spend a moment saying good night to them and kissing the pictures. At first it was just one of those ho hum things, how one  guy kept his sanity out here. Then after about three months for some reason to the rest of us it got to be a little annoying, so we started to chime in just like they use to do on the TV show “The Walton’s”. After a while our neighbor would quit saying the names out loud. Then it just started to boil back up again till someone else in our cube started to rib him and next thing anyone knew it went to a wrestling  match that had to be broken up. Looking back on it now I can’t place my finger on what made it annoying to the rest of us, it just did. The same can be true as to what caused it to basically boil on over to become a wrestling match. I had one person attribute such things like that to cabin fever. Just being locked up near the same person for days on end, you start to find the tiniest thing to zero in on that starts to aggravate you; or for you to critique. Wait, what about port calls? Port calls and liberty overseas is alright, but for some reason sailors have this mentality of all hanging out together at the same places, so you will see each other  again.

090914-N-5345W-130The stress also seems to not so much come from the people, but also as I said the feeling of cabin fever. The classic cartoon jokes of camping trips only eating beans all the time, could apply to us as well. Though the cooks really try hard bring variety to the meals. It really seems after a while that you have been served the same food again. One of the harshest things to us it seems to be when the menu starts to become like clock work. “Oh look it is Monday, let me guess they have lemon peppered cod or pork chops, with rice or scalloped potatoes, and carrots or broccoli.”, “Yea? How did you know?”, “Come on! For the last two months every Monday has had the lunch menu like that. The only difference has been whether the pork chops were the first or second meat choice.”  If it isn’t the meals,  then it is the fact that you head of to  the gym and as you walk in the staff secures the gym for cleaning. Try and settle down to watch a movie or the TV and they ar091104-N-3038W-152e secured for some drill/FOD/CO Speaking/etc. Just to get a chance to zone out and data dump the day. It becomes a challenge as well. Remember the ship isn’t set up for luxury. We are a man-o-war and there is really very little comfort built into the ship, we are a moving industrial work zone. So the  most  you can do some days it get a shower in (if the water is on and not secured for a drill), grab a book or portable electronic device and climb in to your rack to zone out tha t way.

Adding in the above paragraph is just the bureaucracy that is around the ship. Usually it appears as stress the first month of cruise then you start to figure out the loop holes, the people that can get the jobs done, or who just can’t be reasoned with. Then after that time period you have it figured out and really seem to get the jobs you need done. Then for some reason the half way point comes and the bureaucracy creeps up again. It not from people who you were able to horse trade with have rotated out, or some one higher on the food chain has decided to change rules. So you end up having to rework your deals, horse trade something else, or finally shift the problem on to the higher authority to argue with. Sometimes the changes in bureaucracy doesn’t make any sense and it seems that someone wants their fingers in the rice bowl. At other times these changes come from the fact that some one else screws the good deal up and things go draconian. Like I said ultimately it just becomes one of those things that your head starts to hurt with and causes you minor level of stress.

070807-N-9864S-003The final level of stress is just from getting your turn in the barrel with the powers to be. It could be that one second were everyone is in the shop after grabbing a bite to eat and one guy is checking their email real quick when the Chief walks in. It could be the fact that you spent the last twelve hours saying your working on a gripe and when maintenance calls up for you only to say, “We just started”.  It could be the fact that one of your guys who is the troubleshooter/final checker/IFF sniffer gets down in-between goes and flips the TV from the “Roger, Ball” show to something simple like the news or Sportscenter and the Chief walks in. Off to maintenance you go and sit there for the song and dance in front of all the maintenance controllers about how airplanes are down and until you have a zero item work load for the rest of the month you can rest and as soon as you can pass a NAMP audit with zero discrepancies can you watch something other then the “Roger, Ball” show or check your email. Quick hint for those not knowing, it is impossible to achieve either a zero hit NAMP audit and have nothing to work on regarding an airplane. Those are goals like trying to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or  the lost Dutchman mine. So you go through that, needing to understand that it isn’t you personally or even just your work center. You just happen to get caught this time. So take your licking and go back to work. 080415-N-4879G-310

At the end of the day though you find ways to get rid of the stress if you can or ratchet it down to a tolerable level. After which you wake up the next morning and hope it doesn’t rise again.

That is  about it for  here. I hope you all have a great holiday weekend coming up. For those of you that live near military bases take some time and see if they are offering a single solider or sailor program. Give some of those guys who don’t have a chance to go home. Sometimes getting accepted to a home cooked meal off base where they can sort of relax someplace else  then a lonely barracks room. Trust me when I say cafeteria style turkey can be beaten by a home cook turkey, even a Griswold style turkey because it is home cooked.

Sincerely,

Charles

Thanks Charles for the note and the memories.

It has been written that “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.“  We as a nation have been blessed with much, not least of which are those who volunteer to serve in our armed forces and first responders – who hazard themselves such that our safety, our liberties are secure.  Take time this Thanksgiving season and give back some — invite a Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman or Guardsman home to share a day away from the barracks or ship, to remember what the season was like at home – or even experience something that they never had the opportunity to while growing up.  Stop by the firehouse you drive by every day on the way to the store, work or the coffee shop.  Bring a sack of fresh bagels and hot coffee to share and just to say “Thank you.”

Show you care – it will mean the world to them. – SJS

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The Bougainville Invasion: November – December 1943 (Part 2)

Today — part 2 of CINCLAX’s articles on the Bougainville Campaign…

"The Little Beavers" - Destroyer Squadron 23 - November 1943  Led by Admiral Arleigh A. ("31-knot") Burke, DESRON 23 was part of Rear Admiral A. S. Merrill's Task Force 39 during the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay, November 1943, when four of the squadron's destroyers helped sink a Japanese cruiser and two destroyers. Ordered by Admiral "Bull" Halsey to scout the Buka-Rabaul evacuation route, on 25 November 1943, during the Battle of Cape St. George, The Little Beavers sank two new 2000 ton Japanese destroyers with their torpedoes and, after an hour long chase, a high speed transport by gunfire.

"The Little Beavers" - Destroyer Squadron 23 - November 1943Â

Battle of Empress Augusta Bay (the “short version”)

While the 3rd Marines were settling for their first night ashore, a critical sea battle was brewing offshore. As they had immediately responded in the air, the IJN was quick to counter attack by sea. In Rabaul, ADM Samejima (8th Fleet) ordered newly arrived ADM Omori (CO Crudiv 5, Nachi & Haguro) to sea with every other fighting ship he could conscript from Simpson Harbor with orders to attack the American transports

It was a bad decision. Omori had never exercised with any of the other ships in his scratch force (two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and six destroyers), while “Tip” Merrill’s force, TF 39 (4 light cruisers, eight destroyers), were by now old hands at night actions.

Sighting Omori on radar at 0229 on November 2nd, Merrill separated his ships into independent groups, while Omori began a series of S-turns designed to buy time until his floatplanes gave him more information, especially as it was a dark, moonless night. It was another bad decision, as multiple collisions ensued while light cruiser Sendai was smothered by American gunfire. Omori tried to bring his heavies into action, but only succeeded in getting a single hit on Denver. Destroyer Hatsukaze, her bow torn off in a collision with Myoko, was left adrift and finished off by American gunfire.

Incredibly, Omori believed he had inflicted serious damage on the Americans, so he retired to Rabaul without making an attempt to attack the beachhead—his original assignment. He had lost two ships and had three others damaged. For the Japanese, the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay had been a complete fiasco. For the Americans, the beachhead was saved and there would be no repeat of Savo Island.

Continue Reading…

Article Series - Solomon Islands Campaign Blog Project

  1. The Solomons Campaign: Geographical and Political Background
  2. The Solomons Campaign: Status of the United States Fleet and Plans After Midway
  3. The Imperial Japanese Navy after Midway
  4. The Solomon Islands Campaign: Prelude to the Series
  5. The Solomons Campaign: WATCHTOWER — Why Guadalcanal?
  6. The Solomons Campaign: Guadalcanal 7-9 August, 1942; Assault and Lodgment
  7. The Solomons Campaign: Unleashing the Assassin’s Mace
  8. The Solomons Campaign: Execution at Savo Island
  9. The Solomons Campaign: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons, 24-25 August 1942
  10. The Solomons Campaign: Strategic Pause and Review – Japan’s Last Chance for Victory?
  11. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part I
  12. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part II
  13. The Solomons Campaign: Cactus Air Force and the Bismarck Sea
  14. The Solomons Campaign: Operation Vengeance – The Shootdown Of Yamamoto
  15. The Solomons Campaign: Ground Action – The New Georgia Campaign, June 20-November 3, 1943
  16. The Solomons Campaign: The Bougainville Invasion, November – December 1943(Part I)
  17. The Bougainville Invasion: November – December 1943 (Part 2)
  18. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 3): December 1943 – March 1944
  19. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 4): March 1944 – May 1944
  20. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (Part I)
  21. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (II)
  22. Solomon Islands Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (III)
  23. Flightdeck Friday – MIA Edition: WWII Navy Aircrew Returns Home

The Solomons Campaign: The Bougainville Invasion, November – December 1943(Part I)

The next four posts will cover the invasion of Bougainville and are provided via guest author CINCLAX.- SJS

The Last Spoke in the Cartwheel

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Strategic Progress

Before the Guadalcanal operation (Watchtower) even began in August 1942, it had been decided to neutralize the Japanese bastion of Rabaul by moving up the Solomons one step at a time until Rabaul could be pounded from the air on a daily basis. Operation Cartwheel—as it was to be called—had begun inauspiciously with strong Japanese responses by sea and air, and by the early fall of the year some people were even calling for a strategic retreat and the evacuation of Gen. Vandegrift’s First Marines. The Navy was having great trouble stopping IJN surface attacks on Henderson Field, and the “Tokyo Express” reinforcement runs from Rabaul could not be effectively stopped. Japanese night surface tactics and superior torpedoes were not yet understood by American commanders, and the soon-to-be-famous “Cactus Air Force” was often reduced to a handful of operational aircraft left to handle the daily Japanese air raids.

Rabaul continually haunted Allied leaders. No operation in the Solomons or New Guinea could be considered complete as long as Rabaul remained strong and served as a hub for aggressive Japanese troops to attempt the re-conquest of Guadalcanal or even eastern New Guinea.

Then the always aggressive VADM Halsey took over SOWESPAC and things slowly began to change for the better. By the summer of 1943 the Allies had moved into the Central Solomons, eventually capturing the Russell Islands, New Georgia, Rendova and finally Vella Lavella. Along with each conquest had come new air bases ever closer to Rabaul, relentlessly hacked out of the jungle by the seemingly tireless Seabees. Henderson Field had been some 560 miles from Rabaul; Munda (New Georgia) was some 200 miles closer, while Barakoma on Vella Lavella was only 320 miles from Rabaul. The ring was closing.

Moreover, Halsey’s campaigns had also worn down Japanese air and naval forces to the extent that they no longer had the upper hand in the Slot. Their surface warships had been sorely depleted, and many of their veteran IJN pilots had been lost in combat and operational accidents. The Cactus Air Force on Henderson Field had now grown into AirSols, one of the best small air forces in the world and a true “joint” command of Navy, Marine, USAAF and New Zealand planes operating out of multiple strips all over the Central Solomons. Masters of improvisation and scrounging since the dark days of Operation Watchtower, AirSols would take the unsuccessful P-39 and P-40 fighters (rejected for European service) and make them effective low-level fighter bombers. When they needed floatplanes, they snatched them off of damaged cruisers heading home for repair. Similarly, the vulnerable Lockheed Ventura patrol bomber was turned into a night fighter. Meanwhile new arrivals like the P-38, the F4U Corsair and F6F Hellcat would rule the higher altitudes against the Zero. Now AirSols “Black Cat” PBYs patrolled the nights over water and their “Dumbos” rescued hundreds of downed flyers who lived to fly and fight again.

Meanwhile Gen. Mac Arthur’s forces in New Guinea had slogged their way from Port Moresby to Buna and beyond, establishing a large air base at Dobodura (near Buna). There, Gen. George Kenny’s Fifth Air Force had established itself as the terror of the Bismarck Sea. On the last day of February 1943, Gen. Imamura (8th Area Army CO in Rabaul), sent out some 6900 troops to reinforce his garrison at Lae; eight destroyers and eight transports carried the load. Kenny attacked the convoy with 335 aircraft, and in two days the Japanese lost all eight transports, four destroyers and about 3500 soldiers. With the disaster of the Bismarck Sea battle, Imamura and his Rabaul Navy cohort Adm. Kusaka (11th Air Fleet) would dare no further reinforcement attempts in New Guinea.

So Bougainville would be the next—and virtually last—target of the Allied Solomons campaign. In the summer of 1943, Halsey’s staff in Noumea joined with VADM Aubrey Fitch from the New Hebrides, LTG Alexander Vandegrift, and RADM Theodore “Ping” Wilkinson at Camp Crocodile on Guadalcanal to complete their planning. If Bougainville was to be the logical target, the question remained as to where? It was estimated there were about 40,000 Japanese Army troops, plus 20,000 Navy personnel on Bougainville and its adjacent islands. Most of these were in the south: Kahili, Buin, and the Shortlands; there were also 6000 in the north on or around the Buka Passage. All these locations featured airfields which the Japanese could be expected to defend tooth and nail—as they had at Munda.

What the Allies needed was a relatively lightly defended location where they could build their own airstrips, and one far enough away from existing Japanese strongholds so that speedy overland reinforcement would be difficult if not impossible. After deliberating, they decided on Empress Augusta Bay, in the middle of Bougainville’s west coast and equidistant (about 50 miles) from Japanese strongholds. About 16 miles wide from Cape Torokina to Mutupina Point in the south, the Bay was not a well-protected anchorage from westerly storms, but it would have to do.

In many respects, Bougainville would be a repeat of Guadalcanal: establish a perimeter against initially weak resistance, construct several airstrips and defend them against counter-attacks, then go about the business of continuing to reduce the stronghold of Rabaul—only 220 miles distant. Unlike New Georgia or Vella Lavella, there would be no need to occupy the entire island.

Continue Reading…

Article Series - Solomon Islands Campaign Blog Project

  1. The Solomons Campaign: Geographical and Political Background
  2. The Solomons Campaign: Status of the United States Fleet and Plans After Midway
  3. The Imperial Japanese Navy after Midway
  4. The Solomon Islands Campaign: Prelude to the Series
  5. The Solomons Campaign: WATCHTOWER — Why Guadalcanal?
  6. The Solomons Campaign: Guadalcanal 7-9 August, 1942; Assault and Lodgment
  7. The Solomons Campaign: Unleashing the Assassin’s Mace
  8. The Solomons Campaign: Execution at Savo Island
  9. The Solomons Campaign: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons, 24-25 August 1942
  10. The Solomons Campaign: Strategic Pause and Review – Japan’s Last Chance for Victory?
  11. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part I
  12. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part II
  13. The Solomons Campaign: Cactus Air Force and the Bismarck Sea
  14. The Solomons Campaign: Operation Vengeance – The Shootdown Of Yamamoto
  15. The Solomons Campaign: Ground Action – The New Georgia Campaign, June 20-November 3, 1943
  16. The Solomons Campaign: The Bougainville Invasion, November – December 1943(Part I)
  17. The Bougainville Invasion: November – December 1943 (Part 2)
  18. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 3): December 1943 – March 1944
  19. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 4): March 1944 – May 1944
  20. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (Part I)
  21. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (II)
  22. Solomon Islands Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (III)
  23. Flightdeck Friday – MIA Edition: WWII Navy Aircrew Returns Home

USS BATAAN/MV-22 AVIATION MILESTONE

So the MV-22 has run through some rough patches in its long development and fielding and now that it is on its first operational deployment, a little good news has come across the (email) wires and is worth sharing:

091101-N-5319A-001 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 1, 2009) An MV-22 Osprey assigned to the Golden Eagles of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 prepares to take off from the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4) during Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX). COMPTUEX is a training exercise along the East Coast from Virginia to Florida. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brien Aho/Released)On NOV 6, BATAAN made history on their deployment. In addition to the maiden deployment of MV-22s, BATAAN successfully launched all ten Ospreys for combat operations into Afghanistan. This accomplishment is the culmination of teamwork forged over a year of deployment and work-ups as well as required daily, dedicated effort to keep these aircraft ready for tasking. N41’s LtCol Tim Abe and team collaborated and coordinated with CNAL and BATAAN’s Supply Dept. to synchronize Marine Logistics ashore, allowing the extension of Marine land based capabilities.  (h/t: maiznblue_swo)

Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away

PH2009111210894On Oct. 19, 1962, the Pentagon’s Bureau of Aeronautics contacted Koch while he and Ecker were fishing in Orange Park, Fla. The bureau had a top-security mission in mind. “They called up and said, ‘Can you really take pictures this good?’ ” Ecker recalled. “We said not only ‘yes’ but ‘hell yes.’ ” A few days later, Ecker got his assignment to fly over Cuba. Ecker and the pilot of a plane that flew just off his starboard wing were assigned to photograph a suspected missile site at San Cristobal. After the Havana skyline appeared, Ecker banked to the west, flying right over a fleet of Cuban VFP-62 launchtrawlers.

Despite that warning, the jets proved too fast for Cuban air-defense gunners. The flight time over Cuba totaled only 4 minutes. “You could see the popcorn in your mirrors,” Ecker said, referring to the white puffs of smoke left by anti-aircraft fire. “But we never got hit.” One of the jet’s photos even captured a soldier scrambling from an outhouse. More importantly, the photos also showed soldiers conducting activities around missile bases.

“Then it got kind of hectic,” Ecker recalled. “We were flying right into the granddaddy of all thunderstorms. We’re talking a wall of clouds rising to 50,000, 60,000 feet. “Here I’ve got the pictures, and if the airplane gets busted all to pieces, it wouldn’t do anybody any good,” Ecker said. At the last second, Ecker saw a jet-sized hole open up in the clouds. “It was just a sunspot,” he said. “I said, ‘Burners, now!’ We popped out the top.”

On November 5th, 2009 CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret passed away at the age of 85 near his home in Punta Gorda, Florida.  Born in Omaha, Nebraska, he joined the Navy in October 1942 and completed fight training in April 1944.  From there he was assigned to VF-10, embarked in USS Intrepid (CV-11) and flew combat operations in the Pacific Theater until he left the squadron in November 1945.  A series of assignments at sea and ashore stretched through the following decade until he reported for duty in Research & Development at the Bureau of Aeronautics and Bureau of Naval Weapons from 1958 to 1961. After that he reported to VFP-62 as the Commanding Officer where he played a critical role in leading the first and subsequent low-level reconnaissance missions over Cuba to confirm the presence of medium-range ballistic missiles emplaced by the Soviet Union. He was awarded the DFC and VFP-62, the first peacetime Presidential Unit Citation in a ceremony attended by President Kennedy.

Following VFP-62, Captain Ecker became the Head of Naval Photography and Reconnaissance in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations until he was ordered to the Naval War College in 1966. While at the Naval War College, he received his Master of Science degree and after language training, he reported to the Military Assistance Advisory Group, Denmark, as Chief, Navy Section.

He commanded the Naval Air Technical Training Unit, which included the Naval Schools of Photography, for one year before being ordered to report to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in September 1971. From there, he retired in 1974.

(h/t Msgt Tony Tang USMC Retired for bringing it to my attention)

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Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors

Admin notes

Just a quick note about a new feature – Table of Contents.  On more than one occasion I know I have used a category search to find a particular post, only to have to wade through pages of hits. Well, this nifty new plugin for WP blogs generates a table of contents by Category type on a single, scrollable page:

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Now you can just hit the “Table of Contents” tab at the top of the page, and scroll down to say, Flightdeck Friday to find that post you’ve been looking for on remembering the S-3 Viking:

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