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Intermission Story (1) – SeaBees on Bougainville

“SEABEES COVER SELVES IN BOUGAINVILLE LANDING” – First Hand Account

Landing under fire at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, Seabees first joined with Marines in defending the beaches against counter-attack, then got busy on construction of military roads feeding front lines. The fighting builders ran one of their roads 700 yards in advance of the Marines’ front lines before the Leathernecks yelled for them to hold up a while.

Sizable detachments of Seabees, who stormed ashore with Marine assault trrops in the first,second, and third waves to land on Bougainville in the Solomon Islands, distinguished themselves by the skill and valor with which they filled their combat assignments.

As the invasion forces approached the enemy beaches, the Seabees manned machine guns on Higgins boats, tank lighters and landing craft. Dare-devil builders leaped ashore from the first boats to nudge into the sand, and unloaded fuel, ammunition, rations and packs while heavy fighting broke out all about them on the beaches. Then, as the Japs were driven back into the jungle, the Seabees manned beach defenses side-by-side with the Marines.

In addition to these activities, which were beyond the normal call of duty, the volunteer group of 100 Seabee officers and men who landed with the first wave also were credited with additional acts of bravery performed with complete disregard for their personal safety.

unloading gas and oil drums on Bougainville

unloading gas and oil drums on Bougainville

Landing craft from one transport had to pass through a narrow channel between two small islands just off Bougainville. Japanese machine gun nests on the inside of both islands had been firing upon every boat that attempted to move through the channel until Seabees manning landing craft guns effectively liquidated them. The Seabee sharp-shooters also helped drive away Japanese Zeroes that attacked the mother ship.

On landing, the rugged construction men rushes supplies from landing craft to combat line. Seabees carried ammunition and water to the front and, as was learned later, kept a group of Marines from being wiped out because of lack of supplies.

One Seabee jumped aboard a crippled tractor after its Marine driver had been shot off, hauled large quantities of ammunition, and helped place 20-mm anti-aircraft guns. Another group of the aroused builders riddled enemy pillboxes while Marines moved in to remove the Japs with hand grenades. Still other Seabees moved a Marine heavy artillery battery to the front.

Without thought for their own safety, the Navy Construction men carried wounded from the front lines to the landing craft which would return the casualties to the transports for immediate evacuation. The Seabees scooped out foxholes, not only for themselves and the Marines, but for the injured who were unable to dig their own.

When one of the landing craft was hit by heavy artillery fire, a Seabee officer helped unload the wounded and badly needed supplies while other Seabees held the Japs at bay.

Piva Bomber Field, Bougainville

Piva Bomber Field, Bougainville

The medical department set up a first aid station and treated men on the front lines (which were still the beach) with morphine and bandages carried in their packs. The first night of the landing, the Seabee detachment was assigned the defense of a portion of the beach. The volunteer group continued to hold this area for the next twenty-four days.

For days after the landing, the battling builders teamed up with Marine patrols to locate and neutralize Japanese snipers infiltrating through the lines.

From the small galley they had set up on the beach, Seabee cooks served hot meals to men on the front lines a few hundred yards away.

If you are interested in reading more on the SeaBees, try their museumHERE!

Click on images to enlarge,

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Military Humor – 

by: Bill Mauldin

by: Bill Mauldin

Navy Humor - courtesy of Chris @ Muscleheaded.wordpress.com

Navy Humor – courtesy of Chris @ https:// muscleheaded.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Vincent Allen – Bridgeport, CT; US Air Force, Korea

Roderick Campbell – Ladysmith, CAN; RC Army, WWII/ RC Air Forcesalutetop

Santiago Erevia – San Antonio, TX; US Army, Vietnam, 101st Airborne, Medal of Honor

Brian Griffiths – W.AUS; RA Air Force, Korea & Vietnam

Theodore Hansen – Stuart, FL; US Navy (Ret.)

Gustave Karge – Cleveland, TN; US Navy, WWII, carrier pilot

James Maxson – Roseville, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne

Victor Ostini – brn: SWITZ; US Army, WWII

Keith Saull – Auckland, NZ; RNZ Navy, RAdmiral

Warren Warchus Sr. – Chicago, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, B-29 bombardier

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November 1943 (1)

troops ready to invade bouganville 1943

Troops ready for landing at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville.

1 November – RAdm. “Tip” Merrill brought 4 light cruisers and 8 destroyers to shell Buka and Bonin.  (See map).  They then sped around Bougainville to Shortland Island.  The Saratoga and Princeton hit airstrips in the north, while aircraft from as far away as Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, hit Buin.

1112-Map-of-Bougainville

The 3rd Marine Division of I Marine Amphibious Corps, under Lt. Gen. Vandergrift, landed smoothly at Cape Torokina on the west coast of Bougainville.  Most of the Japanese 60,000-strong garrison was concentrated on the south of the island.  Gen. Myakutake made the mistake of delaying an offensive and the Marines held off enemy patrols for weeks.  Operation Galvanic commenced.  The Japanese Combined Fleet of 10 ships, escorting over 1,000 troops, left Truk in response.

2 November – US Task Force 39 engaged in the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay against the Japanese Cruiser Div. 5 and 6 destroyers.  Adm. Omori was badly let down by his reconnaissance forces giving inaccurate intelligence.  At 0246 hours, the light cruiser Sendai was hit several times.  The destroyers Samidare and Shiratsuyu collided and were forced to retreat.

bougainville_marines_land

Marines hit the beach.

Adm. Merrill ordered a change in course, which is probably the reason why the Hatsukaze collided with a cruiser in an attempt to maneuver.  The Destroyer Div. 46 was scattered.  The Foote was hit by a torpedo intended for the cruisers.  The Spence was hit and the result lowered her speed.  By 0500, the US fleet was back together in time to repel the enemy 18 Vals and 80 Zeros.  A mixed force of 8 Hellcats, 1 Marine Corsair, 3 Army Lightnings and 4 RNZ Air Force Warhawks downed 8 enemy aircraft and the antiaircraft guns claimed 17.  The victory cost the Japanese 1 light cruiser and 1 destroyer, with damage to 2 heavy cruisers and 2 destroyers.  The US had damage to 5 vessels.

4-5 November – Adm. Halsey received word about the Japanese Combined Fleet responding and that they had stopped at Rabaul to re-fuel.  He ordered RAdm. Frederick Sherman to move his carriers of TF-38 to within range of the heavily fortified port and send out all 97 aircraft.  These were joined by aircraft from Barakoma and Vella Lavella and they were ordered to create as much damage as possible.

5-11 November – The dawn Naval air bombing was followed by 27 B-24 Liberators of the 5th Air Force and 58 P-38s.  The enemy’s Atago, Maya, Mogami, Takao, Chikuma and Agano received damage and crew deaths; 3 destroyers were slightly damaged.  RAdm. A. Montgomery’s TF-50.3 reached Halsey and joined in the 6-day attacks with the Bunker Hill, Essex and Independence.  The Agano was eventually sunk and the Japanese counterattack of 120 aircraft resulted in their loss of 35.  [other resources state: the Saratoga and Princeton were involved and that 2 Japanese warships were sunk, 11 others damaged and 55 enemy aircraft downed].

USMC tribute to the Seebees at Marine Hwy.

USMC tribute to the Seebees at Marine Hwy.

By the 15th of November, the troops on Bougainville reached 34,000, but advancement into the jungle was slow.  For the moment, the main objective was protecting the Seabees as they created an airfield out of the swamp at Torokina for air defense of this island and future operations.

Click on images to enlarge,

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Military Humor – 

funny-pictures-mariens-on-the-beach

military-humor-famous-last-words-hook-down-carrier

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Damon Alberty – Rockingham County, NC; US Army, WWII, POW, Bataan Death March survivor

William Bird – George, UT; US Army, WWII, PTOMay they soar w/ their fellow pilots forever....

Geoffrey Fenwick – Alberta, CAN; British Army, WWII, Africa

Philip Garippa – Hornell, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Murray Hale – Forest Lake, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne

George Levasseur – Sydney, AUS; RA Army (19 years), WWII

Pete Matteucci – brn: Lucca, Italy, Wichita, KS; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 830th Bomb. Squadron

Leonard Orrell Jr. – Montezuma, IA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Donald Renehan – W.Lebabob, NH; US Army, WWII, ETO, 112th Antiaircraft Battery

Selmar Woldstad – Shelby, MT; US Army, WWII

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