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Royal New Zealand Air Force

operations over green island

operations over green island

During the Green Island landings and for three weeks afterwards the RNZAF wing helped to provide fighter cover. On 15 February, the day the troops went ashore, New Zealand fighters were on patrol from eight in the morning until late in the afternoon. Nos. 14 and 18 Squadrons each flew twenty sorties and between them kept a constant cover of eight aircraft over the island. Large formations of American fighters were also on patrol throughout the day, and the total fighter cover was strong enough to deal with any attack the Japanese could have made from Rabaul or Kavieng.

The landing forces had been attacked en route to Green Island the previous night by enemy planes and one of the escorting cruisers, the USS St. Louis, had been hit. Another attack was made by fifteen dive-bombers early in the morning of the 15th as the first wave of troops was going ashore. After making sporadic attacks and slightly damaging one LST, the enemy were driven off by American fighters and intense anti-aircraft fire from the landing craft and destroyers. By the time the New Zealanders came on station the attack was over and they saw no enemy aircraft during the day.

Fighter patrols from Bougainville were maintained over Green Island until 7 March, when the fighter strip was completed and page 244 American squadrons were based there for local defence. The New Zealand wing took part every second day, the Green Island patrols alternating with flights to Rabaul. The patrols were combined with Jap-hunting expeditions round Buka and the northern Bougainville coastline. When returning to Torokina the fighters flew low round the coast and strafed whatever targets they found: barges, fuel dumps, huts and troops.