An important element of the island hopping campaign, but like many other battles seldom mentioned, was one which took place after the securing of Guadalcanal. This episode (video link at bottom) is one of a series entitled Battle History of the U.S. Marine Corps: Marines in the Pacific.
Courtesy of Wikipedia (most links disabled):
The Battle of the Coconut Grove was a battle between United States Marine Corps and Imperial Japanese Army forces on Bougainville. The battle took place on 13–14 November 1943 during the Bougainville campaign, coming in the wake of a successful landing around Cape Torokina at the start of November, as part of the advance towards Rabaul as part of Operation Cartwheel.
In the days following the landing, several actions were fought around the beachhead at Koromokina Lagoon and along the Piva Trail. As the beachhead was secured, a small reconnaissance party pushed forward and began identifying sites for airfield construction outside the perimeter. In order to allow construction to begin, elements of the 21st Marine Regiment were ordered to clear the Numa Numa Trail. They were subsequently ambushed by a Japanese force and over the course two days a pitched battle was fought. As the Marines brought up reinforcements, the Japanese withdrew. By the end of the fighting, the Marines had gained control of a tactically important intersection of the Numa Numa and East–West Trails. A further action was fought around Piva Forks in the days following the ambush.
In early November, US forces had landed around Cape Torokina and established a beachhead, as part of Allied efforts to advance towards the main Japanese base around Rabaul, the isolation and reduction of which was a key objective of Operation Cartwheel. A Japanese counter landing at Koromokina Lagoon was defeated in the days following the US landing, and the beachhead was subsequently secured. Following this, a blocking force was pushed forward towards the Piva Trail, a key avenue of approach towards Cape Torokina, to defend the narrow beachhead while further supplies and reinforcements were landed. The Japanese commander on Bougainville, Lieutenant General Harukichi Hyakutake, ordered the 23rd Infantry Regiment to advance towards Cape Torokina from the main Japanese position around Buin. Heavy fighting subsequently took place during the Battle for Piva Trail as the Japanese advancing from Buin clashed with the Marine blocking force. The battle resulted in the capture of Piva by US forces, after which a small reconnaissance party of naval construction personnel, escorted by a force of Marine infantrymen, was sent out in search of of a site suitable for an airfield. Led by Commander William Painter, a Civil Engineer Corps officer, the party identified a suitable location about 1 mile (1.6 km) beyond the perimeter, about 3 miles (4.8 km) inland, and they set about preparations for the construction of several landing strips for bomber and fighter aircraft.
E04: Bougainville – Securing the Solomons 23 min
Obtaining the most appropriate material to remember our vets, in place of the usual fare, took more time than I had thought; which is why this is being posted at 0145 hrs on November 12th.
One of the most famous last stands of the Second World War. In the waters off Samar, 13 escort carriers, destroyers and destroyer escorts were the only elements of our fleet in place to defend the Leyte Gulf invasion forces.
October 25 1944:
The US Third Fleet, having fallen for a decoy operation, left the American Invasion beaches of Leyte Gulf all but defenseless, with the exception of a small group of escort carriers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts known as Taffy-3. For the better part of the day, Taffy-3 endured the full power of the Japanese counter-attack. Despite overwhelming odds, managed to stop the Japanese fleet, but at a price.
By the time the guns of the Battle off Samar fell silent five of Taffy 3’s 13 ships: USS Gambier Bay, USS St. Lo, USS Johnston, USS Hoel, and USS Samuel B Roberts had been sent to the bottom, along with 898 sailors, airmen and marines, many of whom would fall victim to shark attacks over the next two days.
When the War Got Personal: The Story of the Men of the USS Hoel
This video doesn’t actually start til 0:26; the essential part begins at 2:08. Made in 2015, these were some of the survivors of the Battle off Samar.
Published on May 21, 2015
In October 2014, twelve First Class Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy (all History majors) attended the reunion of Taffy III in San Diego to conduct oral histories of those World War II survivors from the Battle off Samar. This documentary reflects part of that work.
USS Johnston Survivor’s Story Part I
Skip to 1:14:30 in this documentary; emphasis being the battle of Leyte Gulf, and the heroic stand by Taffy 3. Only four destroyer escorts, a few destroyers, and the slow, small, escort “jeep” carriers, with no armor, would find themselves taking on a large Japanese force of battleships, cruisers and destroyers.