New Georgia Campaign
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The New Georgia Campaign was a series of battles of the Pacific campaign of World War II. It was part of Operation Cartwheel, the Allied grand strategy in the South Pacific. The campaign took place in the New Georgia group of islands, in the central Solomon Islands from 20 June-25 August 1943, between Allied forces and the Empire of Japan.
The Japanese had captured New Georgia in 1942 and built an airbase at Munda Point which began operations in December 1942 to support the Guadalcanal offensives. As it became clear at the end of 1942 that they could not hold Guadalcanal, the Japanese commanders guessed that the Allies would move toward the Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain, and that the central Solomon Islands were logical steps on the way.
The Imperial Japanese Army believed that holding the Solomon Islands would be ultimately unsuccessful and that it would be better to wait for an Allied attack on Bougainville which would be much less costly to supply and reinforce. The Imperial Japanese Navy preferred to delay the Allied advance for as long as possible by maintaining a distant line of defence. With no effective central command, the two services implemented their own plans: the navy assumed responsibility for the defence of the central Solomons and the army for the northern Solomons.
By early 1943, some Allied leaders—notably the supreme commander in the neighboring South West Pacific Area command, General Douglas MacArthur—had wanted to focus on capturing Rabaul, but Japanese strength there and lack of landing craft meant that such an operation was not practical in 1943. Instead, on the initiative of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, a plan known as Operation Cartwheel was developed, which proposed to envelop and cut off Rabaul without capturing it, by simultaneous offensives in the Territory of New Guinea and northward through the Solomon Islands.
In early 1943, Japanese defenses were prepared against possible Allied landings on New Georgia, Kolombangara and Santa Isabel. By June 1943, there were 10,500 troops on New Georgia and 9,000 on Kolombangara well dug in and waiting for an Allied attack.
The first Allied landings were on 20 June 1943 by the U.S. 4th Marine Raider Battalion at Segi Point on New Georgia. There was no resistance, and airfield construction began there on 30 June. From 12 July, planes operating from Segi Point Airfield provided close air support for the battle.
On 30 June, the 4th Raiders captured Viru Harbor. The main landing was made on the same date at Rendova Island, south of Munda. Munda point, the Japanese airbase on New Georgia Island, was the main objective of the assault on the island. This base was not taken until 5 August 1943.
The Japanese facilities at Bairoko Harbor—8 mi (13 km) north of Munda—were secured by American forces on 23 August, after weeks of difficult jungle operations. Fighting continued on islands west of New Georgia until October 1943.
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- Oral history interview with John Higgins, a 2nd lieutenant who took part in the New Georgia Campaign from the Veterans History Project at Central Connecticut State University