The Battle for Vella Lavella

The Allied Recapture of Solomon Islands Territory, August 15–September 9, 1943


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About the Book

During World War II, the Solomon Islands became the scene of a titanic struggle between Allied and Japanese forces. After their victory on Guadalcanal, Americans advanced into the New Georgia Group with horrendous casualties. Admiral Halsey then implemented an “island hopping” strategy, bypassing Japanese strongpoints. The first was an obscure island called “Vella Lavella.”
This book is the first detailed examination of the struggle for Vella Lavella, covering the ground, air and sea battles and the involvement of American and New Zealand soldiers, the coastwatchers, South Pacific Scouts and the Islanders.

About the Author(s)

Reg Newell has a doctoral degree from Massey University, Palmerston North (with a dissertation on New Zealand’s Third Division in the Pacific) and continues researching the Pacific War. He lives in Upper Hutt, New Zealand.

Bibliographic Details

Reg Newell
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 276
Bibliographic Info: 37 photos, 4 maps, chronology, appendices, glossary, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7327-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1984-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

Introduction 1

One—Ordeals of Fire and Water 7

Two—The Battleground—Vella Lavella: The “Euphonious Island” and the Islanders 24

Three—The Opposing Forces 28

Four—The Strategic Situation in the South Pacific, 1943 46

Five—The Initial American Invasion—15 August 1943 58

Six—The Kiwis Arrive 85

Seven—The Problem and the Plan 100

Eight—The Pincers and the Execution of Potter’s Plan 106

Nine—“Man Proposes, God Disposes”—The Isolated Platoons 166

Ten—The Final Push 176

Eleven—Consolidation and Development 185

Twelve—Resonance and Memory 224

Chronology 233


A: Naval Order of Battle, 15 August 1943 237

B: U.S. Order of Battle, 15 August 1943, Ground Units (Brigadier General McClure, U.S. Army) 238

C: U.S. Forces on Vella Lavella—1943 239

D: NZ Battalion Combat Teams 239

E: Japanese Order of Battle 240

Glossary 241

Chapter Notes 247

Bibliography 259

Index 263

Book Reviews & Awards

“Reg Newell illuminated an obscure part of WWII history. The book is a positive testament to those New Zealand and American soldiers who perished there. Thanks for writing it!”—Dick Arnold, 35th (Cacti) Infantry Regiment Association.