By Capt Charles Mathieu, Jr. - Originally Published November 1943
Almost a year-to the day-after U. S. Marines captured Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, American forces seized Japanese-built Munda airfield on New Georgia.
Actually the enemy had no chance to use Henderson Field as perfect timing took it away from them just a few days before it was scheduled to be completed. Once captured, the field remained in our control.
Munda airdrome was never used by the Japs for anything more than an emergency landing field. Continual bombing and harassing by American bombers from Guadalcanal kept Munda virtually inoperative since last December.
The seizure of Munda involved a good deal more fighting than the capture of Henderson Field. For months on end while Americans fought to hold Guadalcanal, Japanese built strongholds around Munda runway.
Once secured, Guadalcanal became a stepping-off stone for further attacks northward in the Solomons.
Ships laden with supplies anchored off Lunga Point, and ammunition, food, equipment and troops were placed ashore at Guadalcanal.
Attacking Jap planes, sometimes in flights as large as 100 dive bombers and fighters, did their best to damage shipping and supply areas on Guadalcanal, but seldom did they penetrate protecting American fighters.
In February, American forces occupied Japanese evacuated Russell Islands between Guadalcanal and New Georgia. Ammunition and supplies also were stored on the Russells-approximately sixty-five miles from Henderson Field on line with Munda. Fighter strips were built there: increasing the range of our planes that much more.
Advantage was taken of all opportunities.
On the night of June 29-30, American Naval forces converging off Guadalcanal headed northward.
Employing the important element of surprise, American soldiers and Marine jungle fighters at dawn rushed ashore at three strategic locations on New Georgia.
The main landing was made on Rendova Island, only seven miles across an inlet from strong Japanese positions on Munda Point.
Army patrols the next day were already on the mainland of New Georgia, establishing a beachhead where reinforcements could land and ultimately push down the coastline to close in on the Jap built airfield.
Again, the enemy brought into play his bombers and fighters to destroy our installations and again our fighters prevented their potential effectiveness.
Marine Raiders landed at Rice Anchorage to the North of Munda and worked their way toward the field despite extremely difficult undergrowth and rough terrain. This move closed off enemy supply routes to Vila, on Kolombangara, later to be abandoned by the Japs and occupied by American troops.
This writer spent days on the front lines, witnessing the hardships and difficulties encountered during this fierce battle.
Our forces employed every type of modern weapon to quicken the pace, but jungle warfare must be fought inch by inch.
For months our planes had bombed and strafed these enemy positions and they continued to do so until the last day of the fight.
Batteries of huge guns poured round after round of high explosives into the area. On several occasions naval ships had blasted Munda with salvos of shells.
However, the Japanese had spent months on fortifications which had to be knocked out one by one.