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War Stories: The Pacific - The Solomons to Saipan

By HistoryNet Staff 
Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: May 22, 2013 
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A B-25 Mitchell flying low over the harbor during an attack on the Japanese base at Rabaul

The Japanese soldiers left on Guadalcanal did not represent as serious a threat to the 1st Marine Division and the air complement at Henderson Field as did the Japanese strategy. The plan of the Seventeenth Army, Eighth Fleet and Eleventh Air Fleet leaders at Rabaul, guided by Combined Fleet chief Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and sanctioned by war leaders in Tokyo, was to retake the island. This meant a continuous campaign of air and naval bombardment and landing troops under guns of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Presently, however, some 700 miles northeast of Guadalcanal, an event occurred that knocked the spotlight off the Solomon Islands for a brief moment …

The paragraphs above are taken from War Stories: The Pacific, Volume Two: The Solomons to Saipan. The book picks up the story of World War II's Pacific Theater where Volume One: Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal left off. The Allied beachheads on Guadalcanal are far from secure, but the U.S. Navy is gaining confidence in its ability to disrupt Japanese operations in the Pacific and American pilots' experience and skills are increasing. The Imperial Japanese forces have suffered serious defeats in the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, but they remain powerful though spread out across most of southern Asia and half of the Pacific Ocean.

Click for full-sized map
Click for full-sized map
War Stories is a 10-volume series on the Second World War from Weider History Publications. Three volumes have been published thus far, the two on the Pacific War and D-Day: The Campaign Across France. All present the war from both macro and micro views. A narrative describes the war's major events, explaining the strategies and considerations that were behind them gives readers an overarching understanding of the war. But that broad perspective is brought down to a personal, through-the-rifle-sights view by the stories of those who were there.

Author Jay Wertz has interviewed hundreds of veterans from both sides of the worldwide conflict in order to preserve their memories in the War Stories series, to tell of the war from their perspective and experiences. These stories are liberally interspersed within the narrative, along with excerpts of veterans' memoirs found in previously published materials and in archives.

Twenty of the veterans whose stories are told in 'War Stories.' Click for full page.
Twenty of the veterans whose stories are told in 'War Stories.' Click for full page.
Among the dozens of veterans whose stories are included in The Pacific Volume Two: The Solomons to Saipan is Edwin C. Bearss, Chief Historian Emeritus for the National Park Service, who served in the 3rd Raider Battalion at Guadalcanal and 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division in the fighting on New Britain where he was severely wounded. Others include Navajo Code Talker Chester Nez; Kazuo Kamoto, a Japanese-American who interrogated Japanese prisoners, PT boat crewman James Gilchrist; Athol Snook, navigator on a torpedo bomber in the Royal Australian Air Force, and many more. A few excerpts follow. Period photographs and posters, plus artwork and original maps aid in understanding the campaigns and battles.

Oh, and that "event" 700 miles northeast of Guadalcanal that "knocked the spotlight off the Solomons"—some 200 men of the 2nd Raider Battalion of the U.S. Marine Corps were paddling ashore in rubber boats at Makin Island. Ben Carson was part of a 10-man squad among those raiders. They made it ashore without being discovered, but then …

U.S. Marines wade ashore on Cape Gloucester. Click to enlarge.
U.S. Marines wade ashore on Cape Gloucester. Click to enlarge.
Marine Raider Battalion, Makin Island
"One of the many BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) men we had, damn fool, was loading his weapon and cranked off about a three-round shot, and that woke every Jap up that was in the South Pacific, and from then on, all hell broke loose … Well, the whom damn command situation broke down the minute the firing started," says Carson. "None of the people there outside of a couple of sergeants that had fought in the civil war in Spain, none of them had any war experience, and so it kind of turned out to be everybody for himself and the devil for the hindmost and it was an unorthodox battle. And it was my first battle, so I had nothing to compare it to, and I got to thinking if this is an organized war, we're in a hell of a shape."

Japanese POW, Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
Michiharu Shinya, a sub-lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Navy, was captured after his destroyer was sunk in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. He wound up in a POW camp at Featherstone, a suburb of New Zealand's capital.

"Other than thinking about dying there was nothing else. To become a prisoner of war was more shameful even than death. That's what's taught in the Japanese military. In that regards, the thinking of being a prisoner of war is completely different from what foreigners think of being a prisoner of war. It's only Japan that teaches us that to be a prisoner of war for a soldier is worse than death."

U.S. Army 5th Cavalry goes ashore on Negros Island. Click to enlarge
U.S. Army 5th Cavalry goes ashore on Negros Island. Click to enlarge
U.S. Army, New Guinea
Leonard DeWitt was on the line in Company I as the 1st Battalion of the army's 162nd Infantry Regiment advanced slowly toward Salamaua.

"The peninsula was heavily defended, it was all built up and they had plenty of time to do it. But we started driving the Japs back and it was a whole bunch of small skirmishes … We would hit Jap company-sized outfits and get in fights with 'em and in spite of what Tokyo Rose told us every night, that we were gonna get shellacked in a fight with the Japanese Imperial forces."

U.S. Navy, off Attu Island
David Lake was in charge of Mount Two of the 5-inch guns on USS Pennsylvania. The ship was among those sent to the waters off Alaska to aid in re-capturing islands there that had been occupied by Japanese troops.

"It was pretty darn cold up there, too. I stood my watches on Mount Two all the time … And we bombarded Attu and it got cold up there, I kid you not. The ice inside them guns mounts, you'd fire them and that ice would fly everywhere. "

Black Cat PBY night bomber squadron
Lou Conter, after surviving the sinking USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, went to flight school. In the spring of 1943 he was with the first Black Cat squadron, PBY flying boats that "could fly all night long." From 5:30 in the evening until after midnight, they would cruise the waters around New Britain, looking for enemy ships. Then they would hit the ships in the wee hours of the morning.

Aaron Bohrod's 'Landing Artillery on Rendova Island, Solomons Group.' Click to enlarge.
Aaron Bohrod's 'Landing Artillery on Rendova Island, Solomons Group.' Click to enlarge.
"At first we'd go up to 1,200, 1,400 feet and then the Japanese started hitting the planes at that time … and they'd make a pass at you and go under you. So we dropped down to 5 feet, 10 feet off the water and we'd go up through the channel there. They'd stay up there 1,500 feet then because they knew if they made a pass at us they'd hit the water."

These excerpts are samples of those found in War Stories: The Pacific, Volume Two: The Solomons to Saipan. Click on the title for more information.

To learn about War Stories: The Pacific, Volume One: Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal or the first War Stories book that covers the war in Europe, War Stories: D-Day, the Campaign Across France (a Silver Medal winner in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards for the History–World category), click on their titles.


 


One Response to “War Stories: The Pacific - The Solomons to Saipan”


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    [...] Click here to see more pages and read more veterans' stories from War Stories: The Pacific, Volume Two. [...]



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