|Part of World War II, Pacific War|
American troops disembarking from a LCI
| United States
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
Operation Chronicle was the Allied invasion of Woodlark and Kiriwina Islands during World War II, in the South West Pacific as part of Operation Cartwheel. An early planning name for this operation was Operation Coronet. The operation was executed without opposition on 30 June 1943.
Planning and Readiness
Initial planning for the seizure of Woodlark and Kiriwina was undertaken in May 1943 at General Walter Krueger's Sixth Army headquarters in Brisbane, Australia. General MacArthur gave command of the landings to Krueger as well as responsibility for the co-ordination of ground, air, and naval planning. Woodlark and Kiriwina were required as future airfield sites to support operations in both New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomon Islands. The invasion was the first amphibious movement undertaken in the South West Pacific Area, with planning thorough and comprehensive which became standing operating procedure for future invasions.
Air support for the operation was split between the United States Army Air Forces V Bomber Command and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) 1st Tactical Air Force and No. 9 Operational Group. The V Bomber Command was to bomb the Japanese airfields at Rabaul, each night from 25 through 30 June and be called upon to support the invasion fleet and provide close infantry support as required. The RAAF was to provide fighter cover as requested.
Reconnaissance parties landed on Woodlark and Kiriwina in May and reported that there were no Japanese troops occupying the islands. Due to a delay in gathering the units assigned to the operation together, as they were spread across the north of Australia and New Guinea D-Day was set for 30 June 1943. A RAAF LW-AW radar unit, No. 305 Radar Station arrived at Kiriwina Island on 17 May and was operational the next day, providing advance warning of airborne threats.
An advanced party of 112th Cavalry Regiment under the command of Major D. M. McMains, left Milne Bay at 16:00 on 22 June 1943 aboard the destroyer transports Brooks and Humphreys to Woodlark. Arriving at Guasopa Harbour at 00:32 on 23 June landing in six Landing Craft, Personnel (Ramped) (LCP(R)). The destroyer transports left at 04:00 for Milne Bay. An Australian coastwatcher, not having been informed of the landing, almost attacked the landing force with his native guerrilla force until overhearing the troops' broad accents. The advance party undertook reconnaissance, established defenses and facilities for the invasion force and cleared obstructions on the landing beaches.
The 158th Infantry Regiment advance party, with a detachment of the 59th Combat Engineer Company and the 158th Infantry Regiment's communication platoon, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Floyd G. Powell, departed Milne Bay at 18:10 on 23 June aboard the returned Brooks and Humphreys. Arriving at Kiriwina at midnight on 24 June they landed in LCP(R)s along a channel winding through the reef to the beach at Losuia on Kiriwina. The ships had not been emptied before departing, returning three nights later to unload heavy communication and engineer equipment left in their holds. The advance party built a coral causeway across the reef to allow landing.
On 25 June 2,600 troops of Woodlark Force, led by Colonel Julian W. Cunningham, consisting of units of the 112th Cavalry Regiment, the 134th Field Artillery Battalion, the 12th Marine Defense Battalion and quartermaster, port, ordnance, medical, and engineer units, a naval base unit and a construction battalion departed Townsville, Australia aboard six LSTs, with one subchaser SC-749 and two destroyers, Bagley and Henley, as escort. Arriving at Woodlark, with landing beginning at 21:00 on 30 June. Brooks and Humphreys carrying other troops from Milne Bay arrived at 01:00 on 1 July, with further supply echelons arriving in LCIs and LSTs.
On 30 June 2,250 troops Kiriwina Force, led by Colonel J. Prugh Herndon, consisting of 158th Infantry Regiment (less the 2d Battalion) the 148th Field Artillery Battalion with other artillery, engineer, ordnance, medical, antiaircraft, and quartermaster troops departed Milne Bay aboard twelve LCIs, escorted by six destroyers. Arriving at RED Beach near Losuia, Kiriwina at 21:00. A supply eschelon arrived on 30 June consisting of twelve LCTs and seven LCMs.
Except for reconnaissance flights and two small bombing attacks against Woodlark, the Japanese took no further action in relation to the occupation of the islands.
On Woodlark, the construction of Woodlark Airfield was begun by 20th and 60th US Naval Construction Battalions on 2 July and by 14 July the airfield consisted of single 3,000 feet (910 m) x 150 feet (46 m) runway which could accommodate Douglas C-47 Skytrains. By 21 July the runway was expanded to 5,200 feet (1584 m) of runway and a coral surface with the 67th Fighter Squadron arriving on 23 July. The airfield was ultimately extended to 6,500 feet (2,000 m) x 225 feet (69 m) with a parallel runway of 6,000 feet (1,800 m) x 60 feet (18 m) together with 110 hardstands. The airfield was used as a stopover point and refuelling point. Defensive positions were set up around Woodlark with antiaircraft and coast artillery pieces of the 12th Defense Battalion being installed, and machine gun and 37 mm beach positions established. A PT boat and landing craft repair base was also constructed at Guasopa Bay and the island was also used as a supply base.
On Kiriwina, due to the difficulty of landing heavy engineering equipment the construction of Kiriwina airfield was delayed and with heavy rains hindering construction, General Krueger unhappy with the progress of the works replaced Colonel Herndon in command of Kiriwina Force with Colonel John T. Murray. By 20 July a single runway 1,500 feet (457 m) x 150 feet (46 m) was cleared and roughly graded. By the end of July the runway was 5,000 feet (1524 m) and ready to be surfaced with coral. No. 79 Squadron of the RAAF began operations on 18 August. A seaplane base was also constructed at Losuia, consisting of an anchorage and jetty. A PT boat base was also constructed at Louisa in October 1943, however was closed in February 1944. The island was also used as a supply base.
Order of battle
- 112th Cavalry Regiment
- 134th Field Artillery Battalion
- 12th Marine Defense Battalion
- Quartermaster unit
- port unit
- ordnance unit
- medical unit
- engineer units
- 46th Engineer Combat Company
- 404th Engineer Combat Company
- naval base unit
- 20th Naval Construction Battalion
- 60th Naval Construction Battalion
- Argus Unit 1, (United States Navy Argus Units)
- 158th Infantry Regiment
- 148th Field Artillery Battalion
- artillery units
- engineer units
- ordnance units
- medical units
- antiaircraft units
- quartermaster units
- Task Force 74 (covering force)
- Task Force 76 (Amphibious Force)
- Miller (1959), p. 49
- Miller (1959), p. 50
- Miller (1959), p. 53
- Miller (1959), p. 55
- Miller (1959), p. 56
- Miller (1959), p. 57
- Miller (1959), p. 59
- Miller (1959), p. 58
- Rottman (2002), p.172.
- Rottman (2002), p.171.
- Miller, John, Jr. (1959). "CARTWHEEL: The Reduction of Rabaul". United States Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific. Office of the Chief of Military History, U.S. Department of the Army. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
- Rottman, Gordon, L. (2002). World War II Pacific island guide : a geo-military study. Westport: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-31395-4.
- Powell, James Scott (2006). "Learning Under Fire: A Combat Unit in the Southwest Pacific" (PDF). PhD Dissertation. College Station: Texas A&M University. OCLC 86115462. Retrieved 12 December 2011.