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Treasury Islands

Relief map of Treasury Islands

The Treasury Islands (155.57E 7.40S) are located south of the southern tip of Bougainville and southwest of the Shortland Islands in the Solomons. The largest island is Mono Island to the north , while Stirling Island to the south encloses the anchorage of Blanche Bay. Mono Island is dominated by three old volcanoes reaching a maximum height of 1053 feet (321 meters). The only suitable landing beaches were near the village of Falamai (155.575E 7.398S) on the south coast of Mono near the east entrance to Blanche Bay. Almost completely undeveloped when war broke out, Mono did have a primitive road net supporting copra plantations. it was occupied by the Japanese early in 1942.

New Zealand 8 Brigade Group landed in the Treasury Islands beginning on 27 October 1943. The islands had been scouted by Marine Raiders from submarine Greenling on 22-23 August 1943 and again by PT boats on 21-22 October. The scouts reported that the garrison numbered just 225 men. The New Zealand troops of the main landing force, some 5700 in number, were reinforced with 2000 U.S. antiaircraft and liaison troops. The main landings comprised three waves commanded by George H. Fort, who brought in the New Zealanders on 8 APDs, 8 LCIs, 2 LSTs, 8 LCMs, 3 LCTs, and 2 APcs escorted by destroyers Conway, ConyEaton, Pringle, Philip, and Renshaw. A novel feature of this landing was the use of two LCI gunboats, the first LCIs so modified in the Pacific.

Eaton provided fighter direction while Pringle and Phillip bombarded the landing areas. Resistance was light, though one LST came under heavy machine gun fire from a hidden pillbox when she lowered her ramp. The New Zealanders aboard commandeered a Seabee bulldozer and used its blade as an armored shield to advanced and bury the pillbox under coral sand. The main objective, Blanche Bay, was secured by nightfall. There were subsidiary landings on Stirling Island, which confirmed that it was unoccupied, and at Soanotalu ( 155.565E 7.331S) on the north coast, which was desired as a radar station.

The Japanese were caught off-guard but mounted a raid by 25 D3A "Vals". These lost 12 aircraft to antiaircraft fire and the Allied fighter cover in exchange for damaging destroyer Cony with two bomb hits. There were also a number of counterattacks against the Soanotalu beachhead, beginning on 1 November, by Japanese troops desperate to capture the Allied landing craft and escape the island. By this time, the Seabees had constructed a pillbox, two platoons from Stirling Island had been shifted to Soanotalu, and the position was held. On 6 November the last Japanese resistance on the island was eliminated.

Total Allied casualties were 40 New Zealand and 12 U.S. troops killed and 145 New Zealand and  21 U.S. troops wounded. About 305 Japanese were killed and another eight taken prisoner.

Following its capture, the island became a PT boat base and an airstrip was constructed on Stirling Island. Its 5600 foot (1700 meter) runway became operational in late November and was extended to 7000 feet (2130 meters) by the end of December. By late 1944 the base was far behind the active combat zone and it was disestablished in March 1945.

References

Gailey (1991)

Morison (1950)

Rentz (1946; accessed 2014-5-4)

Rottman (2002)



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