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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III

411 — Major-General Barrowclough to the Prime Minister

Major-General Barrowclough to the Prime Minister

29 February 1944

The seizure and occupation of the Green Islands Group is now complete and all enemy ground opposition has been eliminated with the exception of a few fugitive Japanese still hiding in the denser parts of the jungle. The forces involved comprised the greater part of 3rd New Zealand Division with, under command, a large number of United States troops, the latter consisting of combat units as well as administration, naval and construction organisations.

The initial landing was made at dawn on 15 February—there was a very great variety of ships and landing craft, escorted by the United States Navy and United States and New Zealand air squadrons. Air attacks on the convoy on the night 14–15 February resulted in no damage or casualties but cost the Japanese six planes which fell to our fighters and anti-aircraft guns. The first flight ashore met no opposition, but the subsequent flight received a considerable volume of fire from an enemy post 1500 yards south of the entrance to the lagoon. This page 428 post was quickly eliminated and our troops drove the enemy well clear of the landing areas. At 3 p.m. we shelled two barges and enemy positions on Barahun Island, causing casualties. There were no further ground contacts that day. On the night of 15–16 February an attack by ten to fifteen enemy aircraft resulted in no damage. There were no ground contacts on the 16th but our troops advancing saw signs of hastily evacuated positions. Some equipment was captured. On the night of 16–17 February further enemy air attacks resulted only in two Japanese aircraft being shot down by our night fighters.

On 17 February there was only occasional opposition to our advance on Green Island, but on Sirot Island an enemy detachment when cornered put up a desperate fight, twenty-one Japanese being killed. On 18 February our artillery engaged the enemy in the Mission area. On the 19th seven Japanese were killed and much booty captured, including automatics, anti-tank guns, radio sets, etc. On 20 February a strong enemy force was encountered and engaged in a fierce action in which tanks effectively co-operated with infantry. The result was sixty Japanese killed. This was the first occasion on which New Zealand tanks were in action in the jungle, and they did well.

Of three Japanese who escaped from this action by canoe, two were later killed and one taken prisoner. Between 21 and 23 February strong patrols on Pinipel Island located fourteen Japanese and killed them all. Subsequent operations involved active patrols which gradually eliminated all Japanese met. One other prisoner was taken. Our casualties throughout were relatively light.

Meanwhile the development of the island as a base for further operations proceeded with incredible speed, made possible only by the enormous variety and quantity of the equipment furnished by the United States Forces. I desire to pay tribute to the spirit of co-operation and harmony which existed throughout the operation between the staffs and troops of the United States and New Zealand forces. The amphibious operation was directed by Rear-Admiral Wilkinson, USN, under whom it was a privilege and a pleasure to serve. In all relations with him and with his staff we had the utmost help and consideration.

The success of the operation is not to be gauged by the extent of the fighting and the casualties, but by the smoothness with which large numbers of troops and great quantities of material were got ashore on open beaches into roadless jungle and put into immediate operation. From this standpoint the work of the planning staffs was excellent and the troops were splendid in carrying the plans into effect.1

1 Total New Zealand casualties were 10 killed and 21 wounded.

See also Withdrawal of 2nd NZEF IP, No. 429, for a fuller report on the Green Islands operation.