The War in the Pacific


Gilbert Islands

Marshall Islands





Iwo Jima


Coast Guard

The Coast Guard During World War II

The Solomons

The Coast Guard's first major participation in the Pacific war was at Guadalcanal and Tulagi, the first major Allied offensive of the war. Here the service played an important part in the island landings. Nineteen of the 23 naval transports attached to the campaign's task force were either manned by the Coast Guard or carried Coast Guard members. The Coast Guard's primary role at Guadalcanal, and in almost every subsequent campaign, was to facilitate the landing of troops and supplies.

Hunter Liggett
Coast Guardsmen and Marines unload supplies from the Coast Guard manned attack transport Hunter Liggett in the shadow of the battered Japanese freighter Kinugawa Maru.

The Coast Guard continued its supporting role as the Allies moved north and west from Guadalcanal. In June and July 1943, the Army and Marines made landings at several points on Rendova, New Georgia, and Vangunu islands. Five transports with partial Coast Guard crews participated in the month-long operation.

Vella Lavella, just 40 miles from New Georgia, was the next link in the chain to be attacked. It lay on the other side of the fortified and well-garrisoned island of Kolombangara. In a tactic repeated throughout the war, the Americans bypassed Kolombangara and landed on Vella Lavella.

Coast Guard unloading barges
Coast Guard landing craft and barges deliver supplies to a Guadalcanal beach in late-1942.

On Aug. 15, the partially-manned Coast Guard LST-334 and the fully-manned LST-167 participated in the landings. For weeks both assisted with the supply of the troops ashore.

near misses from bombs
Two near misses splash close aboard a Coast Guard manned LST on its way to the invasion of New Britain.

On Sept. 24, LST-167 departed Guadalcanal and beached at Ruravai, Vella Lavella. Three Japanese dive bombers appeared as the last piece of equipment rolled off the ship. The LST's twenty anti-aircraft guns blazed away at the three planes as they rolled into their attack. The planes released their bombs and as they pulled out of their dive, one burst into flame and another began trailing smoke.

Despite the accurate and intense anti-aircraft fire, two bombs struck the LST. One penetrated the main deck, exploded, and the blast blew through the side of the ship. A second also went through the main deck and exploded on the tank deck, setting fire to 1,000 gallons of gasoline and 250 drums of oil that had yet to be unloaded.

The explosions caused an intense and lethal fire and forced most of the crew to abandon ship. Two officers and eight men died in the attack and an additional five men were listed as missing.

It took a week for American and New Zealand troops to secure Vella Lavella. Meanwhile GEN Douglas MacArthur began to attack New Guinea, located about 500 miles west of the Soloman Islands. Amphibious landings during a three-day period put 14,000 troops ashore without a casualty. Four Coast Guard LSTs took part in the landings at Finschafen Sept. 22. The Coast Guard-manned LSTs beached, Australian troops aboard stormed ashore, and the LSTs retracted without serious incident. Finschafen fell into Allied hands in only 10 days.

landing craft
The invasion of Bouganville commences.

Bouganville Island, 75 miles northwest of Vella Lavella and the most northwestern of the Solomon Island chain, was the Allies' next objective. The goal was to secure a portion of the island and build a base to strike at the Japanese stronghold of Rabaul. On Oct. 31, the amphibious forces assembled off Guadalcanal. Nine of the 11 transports attached to the operation had Coast Guardsmen aboard. The initial landing force consisted of more than 14,000 men.

The Coast Guard-manned Hunter Liggett (APA-14) served as the flagship of the amphibious forces and carried more than 1,800 men. On Nov. 1, the invasion force arrived off the island and the boats of the transports went into the water with incredible efficiency.

The Hunter Liggett led the transport column and opened fire on Cape Torokina with its 3-inch guns. With virtually no confusion, the first wave hit the beach about 40 minutes after the transports arrived.

In Empress Augusta Bay nearly 8,000 Marines went ashore in the first wave. Against light opposition, the men landed on 12 predetermined beaches that stretched for more than four miles. The steep beaches, combined with moderate surf, caused nearly 90 landing craft to broach or swamp. Over a period of a couple of weeks more than 33,000 men landed and 23,000 tons of supplies went ashore. Coast Guard-manned LSTs helped move supplies ashore and evacuate the wounded. By the end of the year the island was virtually in Allied hands.