Marines in World War II Commemorative Series
Planning the Operation
Diversionary Landings
Battle at Sea
Action Ashore: Koromokina
The Battle for Piva Trail
The Coconut Grove Battle
Piva Forks Battle
Hand Grenade Hill
The Koiari Raid
Hellzapoppin Ridge
Bougainville Finale
Major General Allen H. Turnage
Special Subjects
3d Marine Division
The Coatwatchers
37th Infantry Division
War Dogs
Navajo Code Talkers

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 Unpublished monograph: "The Bougainville Operation, First Marine Amphibious Corps, 1 November-28 December 1943," dtd Feb45.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. 1948).

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 1943-1945—The 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 Co., 1950).

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

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, 1915-1922."

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 operations.

insignias from 50th Anniversary

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 that war.

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.


Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret)


Benis M. Frank

George C. MacGillivray

Robert E. Struder, Senior Editor; W. Stephen Hill, Visual Information Specialist;
Catherine A. Kerns, Composition Services Technician, R.D. Payne, Volunteer—Web Edition

Marine Corps Historical Center
Building 58, Washington Navy Yard
Washington, D.C. 20374-5040


PCN 190 003141 00

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