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Royal New Zealand Air Force



To encourage the enemy to believe that the main Allied landing on Bougainville would be made in the south, reconnaissance patrols page 206 were landed during the latter part of October in the Buin-Shortland area and deliberately left evidence of their visit, while almost every day photographic reconnaissance aircraft made low-level flights across the area in conjunction with bombing strikes. As had been hoped, the enemy moved troops, artillery, and heavy equipment over from Bougainville. Interrogation of Japanese officers after the war confirmed that they believed the Shortland area would be the scene of the Allied attack.

The landing operations at Empress Augusta Bay on the morning of 1 November were co-ordinated with naval and air bombardments of the enemy airfields in the north and south of Bougainville. A task force of cruisers and destroyers under Rear Admiral Aaron S. Merrill, USN, left Port Purvis on Florida Island in the early hours of 31 October for the run of 537 miles to northern Bougainville. During the day it was covered by fighters, including formations from Nos. 15 and 18 Squadrons, RNZAF, none of which saw any enemy aircraft. The force bombarded installations at Buka and Bonis shortly after midnight and then retired southward to shell the Shortland area just after sunrise.

Buka and Bonis were attacked again a few hours later by aircraft from a task force under Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman, built round the two carriers Saratoga and Princeton. Further strikes were made by this task force on the aerodromes and also on shipping in the area over the next two days.