Landings at Cape Torokina

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Landings at Cape Torokina
Part of the Pacific Theater of World War II
3 Blue Beach.jpg
1st Battalion, 3rd Marines engaged during the landing at Cape Torokina.
Date November 1943
Location Bougainville, Solomon Islands
Result Allied victory
 United States  Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
William F. Halsey
Theodore S. Wilkinson
Alexander A. Vandegrift
Allen H. Turnage
Lawrence F. Reifsnider
Robert S. Beightler
Hitoshi Imamura
Harukichi Hyakutake
14,000 Marines 2,000 soldiers
1 x 75mm field gun
Casualties and losses
78 killed
104 wounded[1]
192 killed[1]

The Landings at Cape Torokina were the beginning of the Bougainville campaign in World War II, between the military forces of the Empire of Japan and the Allied powers. The amphibious landings by the United States Marine Corps and the United States Army during the month of November 1943 on Bougainville Island in the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific.

Opposing forces[edit]


The Japanese forces defending Bougainville were part of the General Harukichi Hyakutake 17th Army. This formation reported to the Eighth Area Army under General Hitoshi Imamura at Rabaul, New Britain. The main concentrations of Japanese troops were as follows:[2]

  • Northern Bougainville: approx. 6,000
  • Shortland Islands: approx. 5,000
  • Cape Torokina area: approx. 2,000.


The Bougainville invasion was the ultimate responsibility of Admiral William F. Halsey, commander U.S. Third Fleet, at his headquarters at Nouméa, New Caledonia. The landings were under the personal direction of Rear Admiral Theodore S. Wilkinson, commander Third Fleet Amphibious Forces, aboard his flagship attack transport George Clymer. Also aboard was Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift, USMC, commander I Marine Amphibious Corps.[citation needed][Note 1]

Loaded aboard five attack transports were the men of the 3rd Marine Division (reinforced), Major General Allen H. Turnage commanding. With General Turnage aboard the Hunter Liggett was Commodore Lawrence F. Reifsnider, who had responsibility for the transports as well as three attack cargo ships.[citation needed]

First echelon[edit]

Landing beaches near Cape Torokina

The first wave went ashore along an 8,000-yard front north of and including Cape Torokina at 07:10 hours on 1 November 1943. The 9th Marines assaulted the western beaches while the 3rd Marines took the eastern beaches and the cape itself. The 3rd Marine Raider Battalion under Lt.Col. Fred D. Beans captured Puruata Island about 1,000 yards west of the cape.[citation needed]

Because of the possibility of an immediate Japanese counterattack by air units, the initial assault wave landed 7,500 Marines by 07:30 hours. These troops seized the lightly defended area by 11:00 hours, suffering 78 killed in action while virtually annihilating the 270 troops of the Japanese 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment that were defending the area around the beachhead.[citation needed]

Sergeant Robert A. Owens, from Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in eliminating a Japanese 75 mm gun that had been shelling the landing force, after it had destroyed four landing craft and damaged ten others. At the cost of his life, Owens approached the gun emplacement, entered it through the fire port, and drove the crew out the back door.[3]

In the space of eight hours, Admiral Wilkinson's flotilla unloaded about 14,000 men and 6,200 tons of supplies. He then took his ships out of the area out of fear of an overnight attack by Japanese surface ships.[4] As it turned out, an American force of four light cruisers and eight destroyers encountered a Japanese force of two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and six destroyers in the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay that night (morning of 2 November).[citation needed]

Later echelons[edit]

The remainder of the 3rd Marine Division, as well as the US 37th Infantry Division under Major General Robert S. Beightler, and Advance Naval Base Unit No. 7 were landed at Cape Torokina throughout November. As late as Thanksgiving, the beachhead was still under hostile fire. As the sixth echelon of the invasion force was unloading, Japanese artillery fired on the landing ships, inflicting casualties. The Marines silenced these guns the following day.[5]

Organization of 3rd Marine Division for the landings at Cape Torokina[6][7]


  1. ^ Vandegrift had already been promoted to Commandant of the Marine Corps, but was asked by Halsey to command the landing force at Bougainville following the accidental death of the original commander, Major General Charles Barrett.


  1. ^ a b Rentz 1946.[page needed]
  2. ^ Morison 1958, p. 281
  3. ^ Gailey 199, p. 74
  4. ^ Morison 1958, p. 304
  5. ^ Morison 1958, p. 352
  6. ^ Nafziger, George. "Allied Invasion Forces Cape Torokina October-November 1943" (PDF). United States Army Combined Arms Center. United States Army. Retrieved 15 March 2017. 
  7. ^ Rottman, Gordon (2002). U.S. Marine Corps Order of Battle Ground and Air Units in the Pacific War 1939-1945. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. pp. 293–297.