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World Battlefronts: Slow but Sure, I

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U.S. power whittled at Jap power in the northern Solomons.

Planes roved the Bougainville coast, kept a firm thumb on enemy airstrips, prodded with sharp fingers at supply depots and shore installations. The Japs sent up no interceptors. But his ack-ack came up strong from a few points: Kahili and Kara, on Bougainville’s southern tip; Buka, in the north.

Warships synchronized sea blockade with air blockade. Destroyers hunted the seaways for Jap reinforcements sneaking down from New Britain. PTs snapped at barges sneaking stranded Jap troops from Choiseul to Bougainville.

Ground forces on Bougainville made it a three-way attrition drive. Just before dawn 600 Marines barge-landed at the rear of the Jap lines at Empress Augusta Bay. Their objective: an arsenal and supply dump. After 40 hours of tough, hand-to-hand fighting, the raiders evacuated by sea. They had messed up the enemy’s stores, killed 200 Japs, lost 15 dead.

It was slow. But, like the companion drive in New Guinea, it was surely moving Allied power toward Rabaul, the Jap South Pacific powerhouse.

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