Skip to main content

Naval History and Heritage Command

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

Bougainville Campaign:   November 1943-August 1945

Under U.S. Navy aircraft and gunfire support, Task Force 31, led by Rear Admiral Theodore S. Wilkinson, USN, landed First Marine Amphibious Corps, led by Lieutenant General Alexander A. Vandergrift, USMC, at Cape Torokina, Bougainville, Solomon Islands.   The beachhead was secured on November 13.  During this invasion, Task Force 39, led by Rear Admiral Aaron S. Merrill, USN, also shelled the airfields and installations at Buka-Bonis area.   The Japanese resisted with aircraft and surface forces from Rabaul resulting in the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay and Battle of Cape St. George.  With land-based planes, Air Command Solomons (Airsols) and V Army Air Forces, also assisted in the bombing of the Green Islands and the aerial assaults at Rabaul, New Britain, which lasted until August 1945.   As the perimeter to Rabaul was closed, the Japanese determined it was better to starve themselves than to surrender.   Due to the impending invasion at Leyte, Philippines, which resulted in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, American forces were replaced by the Australian II Corps, led by Lieutenant General Sir Stanley Savige, until the end of the war. 

Image:  80-G-207836:   Bougainville Campaign, January 1944.   U.S. Marine hault for a short rest on the front lines.   Note the newly erected bridge over a gulley.   Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collection of the National Archives.