TOP OF THE LADDER: Marine Operations in the Northern Solomons
by Captain John C. Chapin, USMCR (Ret)
The author owes a substantial debt to Cyril J.
O'Brien who was a Marine Combat Correspondent on Bougainville. A draft
he prepared describing this operation used U.S. Army, Coast Guard, and
New Zealand as well as Marine Corps sources, and contained a variety of
colorful vignettes and personal interviews, with some photographs not in
official USMC files, all gratefully acknowledged.
As always, the basic official Marine history of the
Pacific campaigns covers Bougainville and the auxiliary landings in
massive detail: Henry I. Shaw, Jr., and Maj Douglas T. Kane, USMC,
Isolation of Rabaul, vol. 2, History of U.S. Marine Corps
Operations in World War II (Washington: Historical Branch, G-3
Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1963).
An earlier, more condensed official history is Maj
John N. Rentz, USMCR, Bougainville and the Northern Solomons
(Washington: Historical Section, Division of Public Information,
Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1948).
The earliest, most modest official account is a
mimeographed summary, characterized as a "first attempt": U.S. Marine
Corps, Headquarters, Historical Division. Unpublished monograph: "The
Bougainville Operation, First Marine Amphibious Corps, 1 November-28
December 1943," dtd Feb45. VE603 1st .A2, Library, Marine Corps
Historical Center, Washington, D.C.
A quasi-official history of the 3d Marine Division
was "made possible by the Commandant, who authorized the expenditure of
the division's unused Post Exchange funds.
The final draft was approved by a group of 3d
Division officers The book is: 1stLt Robert A. Aurthur, USMCR, and 1stLt
Kenneth Cohlmia, USMCR, edited by LtCol Robert T. Vance, USMC, The
Third Marine Division (Washington: Infantry Journal Press.
An account representing direct personal participation
in the campaign, supplemented by later interviews, is: Capt John A.
Monks, Jr., A Ribbon and a Star: The Third Marines at
Bougainville (New York: Holt and Co., 1945).
Another history traces the campaign on the island
past the Marine operation to the subsequent U.S. Army battles, and
concludes with the Australians as the final troops leading to the
overall Japanese surrender in 1945: Harry A. Gailey. Bougainville
1943-1945The Forgotten Campaign (Lexington, Ky: University
Press of Kentucky, 1991).
The full story of the crucial naval battle as the
Marines landed is in RAdm Samuel Eliot Morison, Breaking the Bismarck
Barrier, 22 July 1942-1 May 1944, vol. 6, History of United
States Naval Operations in World War II (Boston: Little Brown and
A detailed account of the death of Adm Yamamoto is in
R. Cargil Hall, ed., Lightning Over Bougainville (Washington:
Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991).
Personal Papers and Oral Histories files at the
Marine Corps Historical Center were unproductive, but the biographical
and photographic files were most helpful. The staff of the Marine Corps
Historical Center was always cooperative, in particular Catherine Kerns,
who prepared my manuscript copy.
About the Author
Captain John C. Chapin earned a bachelor of arts
degree with honors in history from Yale University in 1942 and was
commissioned later that year. He served as a rifle platoon leader in the
24th Marines, 4th Marine Division, and was wounded in action during
assault landings on Roi-Namur and Saipan.
Transferred to duty at the Historical Division,
Headquarters Marine Corps, he wrote the first official histories of the
4th and 5th Marine Divisions. Moving to Reserve status at the end of
World War II, he earned a master's degree in history at George
Washington University with a thesis on "The Marine Occupation of Haiti,
Now a captain in retired status, he has been a
volunteer at the Marine Corps Historical Center for 12 years. During
that time he wrote History of Marine Fighter-Attack (VMFA) Squadron
115. With support from the Historical Center and the Marine Corps
Historical Foundation, he then spent some years researching and
interviewing for the writing of a new book, Uncommon Men: The
Sergeants Major of the Marine Corps, published in 1992 by the White
Mane Publishing Company.
Subsequently, he wrote four monographs for this
series of historical pamphlets, commemorating the campaigns for the
Marshalls, Saipan, Bougainville, and Marine Aviation in the Philippines
THIS PAMPHLET HISTORY, one in a series devoted
to U.S. Marines in the World War II era, is published for the education
and training of Marines by the History and Museums Division,
Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., as a part of the U.S.
Department of Defense observance of the 50th anniversary of victory in
Editorial costs of preparing this pamphlet have been
defrayed in part by a bequest from the estate of Emilie H. Watts, in the
memory of her late husband, Thomas M. Watts, who served as a Marine and
was the recipient of a Purple Heart.
WORLD WAR II COMMEMORATIVE SERIES
DIRECTOR OF MARINE CORPS HISTORY AND MUSEUMS
Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret)
WORLD WAR II COMMEMORATIVE SERIES
Benis M. Frank
George C. MacGillivray
EDITING AND DESIGN SECTION, HISTORY AND MUSEUMS DIVISION
Robert E. Struder, Senior Editor; W. Stephen Hill, Visual
Catherine A. Kerns, Composition Services
Technician, R.D. Payne, VolunteerWeb Edition
Marine Corps Historical Center
Building 58, Washington Navy Yard
Washington, D.C. 20374-5040
PCN 190 003141 00