The 35th on Vella Lavella
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|From 9 February to mid-July, 1943,
after the fall of Guadalcanal, the 35th Infantry
Regiment worked with the rest of the 25th Division
maintaining the security of Guadalcanal. Preparations were made
for any potential counterattacks by the Japanese and
improvements to the new base of operations were made so that it
might be used in further operations against the Japanese, who
were still in strong positions in the Solomon Islands. The 25th
Division or "Tropic Lightning" as it had become known,
spent the spring and summer training and recuperating from the
battle it had just fought.
The planning for the drive to push the Japanese from the
Solomon Islands did not originally include the units of the
25th, however, as the fighting on New Georgia began, it became
apparent the more support was necessary. In July of 1943, both
the 27th and 161st RCTís were brought in to New Georgia to aid
in driving the enemy from the island and in capturing the
airfield that had been built at Munda. The 35th
Infantry, as division reserve, was scheduled to join the
division in August, to aid in the reduction of Rendova Island.
By that time, however, the 27th and 161st
had proven themselves masters of the situation and plans were
During the weeks following the fall of Munda, the Japanese
fled New Georgia, occupying Kolombangara, the island to the
northwest. They also established positions on Arundel, a smaller
island off the western tip of New Georgia. Admiral William F.
Halsey, commander of the South Pacific Area, decided not to
attempt an assault on Kolombangara. The New Georgia campaign had
already taken more time and men than originally planned and the
capture of Kolombangara would not be fast or easy. Forces,
instead, were committed on Vella Lavella, the island northwest
of Kolombangara, which was reported to be held only by a small
group of Japanese, and on Arundel. Halsey hoped that U.S.
possession of these islands would make the enemy positions on
Troop movement on Vella Lavella
|Brig. Gen. Robert McClure, the 25th Division's
assistant commander, led the Northern Landing Force that
assaulted the beaches of Vella Lavella. The force, formed around
the division's 35th Infantry, made its landings on 15 August,
1943, along the beaches near Barakoma, on the southeast coast.
The 2d Battalion, 35th Infantry, landed without opposition and
proceeded towards the Bilo Mission near the southern tip of the
|The 1st Battalion came ashore on
the 2d Battalion's right and moved north, crossing the Barakoma
River. The 3d Battalion faced greater difficulty in getting to
the beach. As their landing craft approached the shore, the
Japanese attacked from the air, strafing the beaches. This
forced the boats to pull back, and the battalion's landing was
held up until later that morning.
The landing force established a defensive perimeter across
the southern tip of the island, extending from the western
coast, opposite Bilo Mission, to just north of the Barakoma
River. It was from these positions that the U.S. troops searched
for pockets of enemy soldiers. These patrols met scattered
resistance, but for the most part were unopposed. At the end of
August, after the report of enemy activity near Kokolope Bay, in
the northeastern corner of the island, the 1st Battalion, 35th
Infantry, received orders to move to the region. McClure ordered
the battalion to seize the area around Kokolope Bay for future
use as a radar site.
The battalion started off on 30 August, with Company A in the
lead. Five days later Companies A and C reached the Boko
Mission, east of Kokolope Bay. The Japanese attacked the next
morning, but were driven off by Company A.
Companies B and C, on 11 September, again came under fire and
could not break through the enemy position. The companies
withdrew to the battalion line and waited for further orders.
McClure pulled the 3d Battalion, 35th Infantry, from the
defensive perimeter and directed it to move north as part of an
assault in conjunction with the 1st Battalion. The 1st Battalion
was to move on Valapata, southwest of Kokolope Bay. At the same
time the 3d Battalion was to drive north and prevent the enemy
from escaping to the west. Both battalions started off on 14
September, but rugged terrain slowed the 3d Battalion. This
delay allowed the enemy to slip away, and the 1st Battalion
reached Valapata to find the enemy emplacements abandoned. The
3d Battalion then relieved the 1st at Valapata, Boko Mission,
and Baka Baka. The 1st Battalion searched the area from the bay
to Lambu Lambu, further east, for any enemy stragglers.
While the 1st and 3d Battalions conducted operations in the
north, the 2d Battalion manned the defensive perimeter in the
south. The battalion had successfully extended its lines north
along the west coast to Nyanga Plantation and on to Paramata.
This was the situation when, on 18 September, Admiral Halsey
turned the command of the forces on Vella Lavella over to Maj.
Gen. H.E. Barrowclough, commander of the 3d New Zealand
Division, which relieved the 35th Infantry. For its assault
landing on Vella Lavella, the 35th infantry received
the bronze assault landing arrowhead device on its Northern
Solomons campaign streamer.
Upon relief by the New Zealand forces, the 35th
Infantry rejoined the division on Guadalcanal on October 20. On
10 November, the division embarked for a far too short, but
glorious rest period in New Zealand. This visit was undoubtedly
the high point in the regimentís career in the South Pacific.
The cordiality, generosity and consideration displayed by the
New Zealanders for battle-weary soldiers of another nation
cannot be too highly praised. But all too soon, the 35th
had to return to the business at hand; the extermination of the
Japanese. On 9 February, 1944, the regiment left New Zealand,
and on 13 February, debarked upon New Caledonia, where almost
immediately, a new training program was begun.
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