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Bougainville: The Battle for Hill 700

Discussion in 'Land Warfare in the Pacific' started by TD-Tommy776, Jun 5, 2011.

  1. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Here's an interesting article from Historynet.com on the 37th Infantry Division's Battle for Hill 700 on Bougainville. I came across it while researching my great uncle's service during WWII. He was with the 129th Infantry Regiment and earned his CBI in this battle. It's also interesting to read through the comments. :)
     
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  2. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    I'd be interested in any comments or critiques of the article. Also, if anyone can recommend any other articles or books that may shed some light on this battle. Thanks!
     
  3. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5

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    Tom,
    I thought the article was pretty good with some minor discrepancies that you mentioned. There are some good vet relative comments after the article, yours included. When I talked to the secretary, Mandy, at the 37th ID Veterans Association she told me that after the Battle for Hill 700 only a handful of men from the two companies (E and G) walked off the hill. I am in the process of determining if she has AAR's and S 3 reports for the time 37th ID was on Bougainville. I know two of them but have not had the chance to ask this specific question (one man, Paul Glasgo, my great uncle is deceased). I do know that Staff Sergeant Otis Earl Hawkins called in mortar and artillery fire on his own wire to break up one night attack by the remnants of two regiments who had succeeded in breaching their perimeter and occupying two pillboxes in a 10 yard wide path. These positions were recaptured within a few hours. At least he didn't have to call in Broken Arrow!


    In Liddel Hart's History of the Second World War there is only a little information about the Japanese intel mistake on the landing site. The IJA was waiting on the S. end of the Island, with their main force 40,000 IJA and 20,000 IJ Navy personnel, and by the time they figured out the U.S. was staying put in the West the Japanese had to march 50 miles through jungle to set up their counter attacks.

    In Blue Devils US Navy and Marine Corps Aces of World War 2 by Styling and Tillman pages 151-152 The Black Sheep Squadron's pre-invasion attacks (strafing, cover for B-24's and SBD Dive Bombers) on Bougainville are recounted. They attacked the island for six straight weeks in Sept. - Oct. 1943 from Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. They returned to action here, after the airfield was secured and Japanese air threats were diminished, for attacks on Rabaul.

    Lt. Cdr. Roger Hedrick got his first, of nine (total deployment confirmed), Zeros above Empress Augusta Bay (3 of the 9 here) on Nov. 1, 1943, the first day of the invasion from a base on Ondonga. In a Navy Corsair F4U-1A of VF-17.

    Bougainville's strategic importance is large as it allowed the Allies to bypass the major base at Rabaul, saving many casualties there. The campaign also solidified Naval superiority in the "Slot".


    New Pics 28 Not 37th but what the heck.
     
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  4. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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  5. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    That's the way it always is. The Army does the hard work and the Marines get the glory! :p

    (Before I get flamed by a horde of angry Marines, that was a lighthearted jab made with all due respect and appreciation. I'm just sayin' that the Army has been finishing the job for the Marines since 1784, but the Marines just have better PR. :D)

    Okay, back to the topic...

    Great additions to the thread, Rick. Wonderful details. I didn't realize that Companies E & G of the 145th had taken such casualties.
     
  6. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Thanks, Biak. Nice tie in with Rick's post. I hadn't checked the AAF angle before and will endeavor to do so. It looks like it deals mainly with the invasion of Bougainville and not so much the Japanese counterattack in which Hill 700 took place.

    That reminds me that I should have referenced HyperWar: US Army in WWII: CARTWHEEL: The Reduction of Rabaul.

    Here's the link to the chapter that discusses the Japanese Counterattack and the Battle for Hill 700 (page 358+). There is also a great map here. It shows the positions of the regiments and the routes of the Japanese attacks.

    Sorry I didn't include that in the OP. Thanks for the memory jogger, Biak!
     
  7. syscom3

    syscom3 Member

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    Thanks to all of you for bringing up this relatively unknown battle in the SW Pacific.
     
  8. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Here's a link to some photos from the Battle of Bougainville. I'm fairly certain that the "battle" photos are staged. However, I do suggest that those who are squeamish may wish to exercise discretion. There are some photos of dead bodies in some of the photos.
     
  9. Chrisdm4

    Chrisdm4 Member

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    Strong Men Armed by Robert Leckie dose a good job talking about the battle. He also talks about every battle that the Marines were in durning the war.

    Also about the Army finishing the job for the Marines were because most of the time they had so many casualties by the end of the battle that they were not a effective fighting force, so the Army had to do the "mopping up". And to that the eastern part of the picific was run by the Navy and the west was run by the Army so that is another reason. Not saying the Army did not do their part because they did.
     
  10. syscom3

    syscom3 Member

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    The battle for New Georgia (the island proper, not Rendova) was mostly an army affair. The invasion of the Admiralty Islands was an army affair. The invasions of the Aleutians was strictly an army show. The army also participated in the battles for Eniwetok and Kwajelein, had a division fighting at Peleliu and had a division each for the invasions of Saipan and Guam. The army also had divisions fighting at Okinawa.

    And of course that's excluding the obvious fact that the battles of New Guinea and the PI was primarily an army show.

    The primary reason the army was used to replace the marines was the doctrine each service subscribed too. The marines were a light assault force with a limited logistics pipeline. The army had a massive support infrastructure behind it, thus had the staying power for long campaigns.
     
  11. Chrisdm4

    Chrisdm4 Member

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    Yes very true! The Marines were very small so they did depend on the Army for help. Other then a few battles the army was with the Marines to help.
     
  12. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Thanks for the suggestion. Is the Leckie book cover the 2nd battle (aka Japanese counter-attack) of which Hill 700 a part or is it mainly focused on the initial invasion and 1st battle? The invasion of Bougainville was a joint effort, though I believe the Marines were the first wave. Elements of the 37th ID landed in subsequent waves.

    No offense intended in my comment. Only a little inter-service sparring/joking. I have much respect for the service and sacrifice of the Marines, especially in WW2. All branches of the armed services did plenty of fighting and dying in WW2.

    Thanks to Syscom3 for the thumbnail sketch of the invasions in the PTO. Good info.
     
  13. Chrisdm4

    Chrisdm4 Member

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    Do not worry none taken. I looked over the book again and I could not find anything about Hill 700. This is because the 3rd Marine Divition was replaced by the armys XIV Corps on the 15th. So Roberts book will just talk about the frist couple weeks till the Marines left the lsland. Sorry for that. It is good were talking about this because the landings were on the 1st of November in 1943.
     
  14. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    It seems like all of the PTO battles that get attention involve the Marines. Thus, my "tongue-in-cheek" comment about the Marines having better PR than the Army.

    Speaking of the 3rd Marine Division, I came across a copy of their WW2 unit history at a local used book store. This was an original printing, not one of the later reprints. Of course, I had to pick it up. Like the Roberts book, it also doesn't cover the 2nd Battle of Bougainville for obvious reasons.
     
  15. Chrisdm4

    Chrisdm4 Member

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    Oh good find! I need to start to go to used book stores for that reason. Yeah for the Marines their PR is a big deal. For the best or worst i guess. I found this book Bougainville, 1943-1945: The Forgotten Campaign. I have not read it but from the comments I have read about it it looks like it dose a great job telling the whole story. I also found this link to be helpful about Hill 700 Battle of Bougainville: 37th Infantry Division's Battle for Hill 700. You may have found these before me but I thought I would bring them up.
     
  16. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    I was very surprised to see it there, but I think I happened to be there at the right time. I've looked for unit histories before at that store and haven't found any.

    I'll see if I can track that one down.

    That was the link with which I started this thread. I was surprised that there was not more written about it. If you haven't already, you may want to read through the comments for that article. I found them fascinating and, in a way, sad. There are so many folks out there trying to find out about their relatives who fought on Bougainville who have left comments there. I've commented and responded to comments a couple times (aka Tom H.) in the hope of being some help.
     
  17. theprodigal

    theprodigal New Member

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    I am new to this board. I saw Bougainville and it caught my attention as my dad's uncle was stationed there and was KIA during an ambush. This action actually got a write up in the newspaper Yank and the article gives a brief description of the ambush and details the fate of the patrol my granduncle led. According to the article, Otis E. Hawkins (mentioned in the article in the original post) pulled my granduncle out of the Tauri River.
     
  18. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    If you'd like, I can see if he's mentioned in the 37th Division history. If he was KIA, he will likely be mentioned in the memorial section.
     
  19. Thurman

    Thurman Member

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    My father was there fror both battles of Bougainville...served with the Seabees..I have many rare photos..send me an e-mail..I also posted on the histoy.net "Battle for Hill 700" Hundred forum...

    Jonathon17pim@aol.com
     
  20. Thurman

    Thurman Member

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    DURING THE JAPANESE COUNTER-ATTACK AGAINST THE PERIMETER DEFENSES ON MARCH 8, 1944, THE TWO EASTERMOST BOMBER AND FIGHTER STRIPS WERE EVACUATED OF ALL PLANES, AND TROOPS. THIS WAS DONE IN AN EFFORT TO MINIMIZE THE DAMAGE CAUSED BY THE JAPANESE LARGE CALIBER ARTILLERY WHICH WAS CONSTANTLY SHELLING THIS AREA. IN FACT, THE STRIPS WERE SO CLOSE TO THE JAP GUN EMPLACEMENTS THAT THE ENEMY COULD LOOK RIGHT DOWN FROM THE HILLS ONTO THE STRIP. THE NEWLY CONSTRUCTED TANK FARM WAS BETWEEN THIS STRIP AND THE JAPANESE POSITIONS. STRANGELY ENOUGH, IT WAS EITHER NEVER DISCOVERED OT IT WAS IGNORED, AT LEAST IT WAS NOT HIT. BECAUSE OF THE DIFFICULTY IN LOCATING ENEMY GUN POSITIONS IN THE DENSE UNDERGROWTH OF THE JUNGLE IT WAS NECESSARY THAT THE ARTILLERY SPOTTERS KEEP THEIR OBSERVATION PLANES IN THE AIR AT ALL TIMES. THERE WERE SOME 15 CUB PLANES AND 22 ARTILLERY PILOTS, UNDER THE COMMAND OF CAPT. WITT, ASSIGNED TO THIS SPOTTER DUTY. AT THE BEGINNING OF THE JAPANESE COUNTER-ATTACK, CAPT. WITT ACCIDENTALLY LANDED ONE OF HIS LANES ON A SHORT STRAIGHT STRETCH OF ROAD WITHIN THE NAVAL BASE. THE NAVAL BASE, ALTHOUGH WITHIN RANGE OF THE JAP FIELD PIECES, WAS NEVER ONE OF THEIR TARGETS. AT THE REQUEST OF CAPT. ESSING, COMMANDER OF THE NAVAL BASE, THE 75TH SEABEES SHAPED AND SURFACED THIS STRETCH OF ROAD AND TRIMMED THE SURROUNDING UNDERBRUSH AND TREES, MAKING IT MORE PRACTICAL FOR CAPT. WITT TO USE. A SMALL HANGAR WAS CONSTRUCTED AND THIS MINIATURE AIRPORT WAS NAMED HALSEY FIELD. IT WAS FROM THIS STRIP THAT THE ARTILLERY OBSERVERS MADE CONSTANT PATROLS WHICH RESULTED IN THE NEUTRALIZING OF THE ENEMY'S ARTILLERY. DURING THIS JAPANESE COUNTER-ATTACK OF MARCH 8 THE BATTALION WAS ALSO ASSIGNED A SECTOR ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE PIVA RIVER FROM THE BEACH EXTENDING 2,000 YARDS. IT WAS THE PURPOSE OF THIS SECOND LINE OF DEFENSE TO PROTECT THE TOROKINA AIRSTRIP FROM AN ANTICIPATED NORTHWARD ADVANCE OF THE JAPANESE. THE GUN EMPLACEMENTS WERE DUG, MACHINE GUN NESTS WERE PROPERLY LOCATED, AND FIRING LINES OUT TO GIVE THE MAXIMUM FIRE PROTECTION. AN OBSERVATION TOWER WAS ERECTED IN THE TOP OF A LARGE BANYAN TREE NOT FAR FROM THE BATTALION COMMAND POST. EACH COMPANY WAS CONNECTED BY TWO SEPARATE TELEPHONE LINES AND ALSO RADIO COMMUNICATION WITH THE MARINE COMMAND POST. THE BATTALION WAS ALERTED AND THE CONDITION WAS BLACK FOR SEVERAL WEEKS AND ON TWO SEPARATE OCCASIONS THE BATTALION OCCUPIED ITS DEFENSIVE POSITIONS. THE JAPANESE ATTACK ON THIS SECTOR WAS BROKEN UP AND THEIR FORCES WERE CONCENTRATED ON ANOTHER SECTOR OF THE PERIMETER SEVERAL MILES FROM THE 75TH'S DEFENSIVE POSITIONS. SEVERAL WEEKS AFTER THE JAPANESE ATTACK WAS BROKEN UP THEY RETREATED TO THE HILLS TO SPASMODICALLY HARASS WITH SMALL FIELD PIECES AND MORTARS.


    IN AN EFFORT TO KEEP THE BATTALION OCCUPIED AND TO BRUSH UP ON MILITARY TRAINING AND COURTESIES, BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF CONSTRUCTION PROBLEMS, THE BATTALION CARRIED ON EXTENSIVE MILITARY PROGRAMS AND REVIEWS ON THE HARDSTANDINGS OF THE ALMOST DESERTED BOMBER STRIP, WHICH AT THE SAME TIME WAS STILL UNDER CONSTANT SCRUTNY OF THE ENEMY. TOWARD THE END OF THE 75TH'S STAY ON BOUGAINVILLE THE BATTALIONS CONSTRUCTION WORK CONSISTED MOSTLY OF MAINTENANCE OF THE ROADS AND TOROKINA FIGHTER STRIP. IT WAS THE DUTY OF THE MEN WORKING ON THE STRIP TO FILL ANY HOLES AND REPAIR ANY DAMAGE TO THE PIERCED PLANK RUNWAY BY JAP ARTILLERY OR CRASH LANDINGS OF DISABLED PLANES.


    ONCE AGAIN THE BATTALION PACKED UP AND WENT THROUGH THE PROCESS OF LOADING AND ARRANGING MATERIAL IN LARGE SHIPS FOR ANOTHER MOVE. THE 75TH WAS COMPLETELY LOADED ON ONE LARGE SHIP AND ONE APA. THEY MADE A RATHER SHORT AND PLEASANT TRIP FROM BOUGAINVILLE DOWN TO BANIKA ISLAND IN THE RUSSELL ISLAND GROUP.
     

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