Bougainville sits at the top of the Solomon Island’s “Slot”, and during World War II was a part of the Solomons. The road to the Japanese bastion of Rabaul led through Bougainville. The islands on either side of “The Slot” were cleared in six weeks, but with a loss another 2, 000 Marines, soldiers and sailors.
In late October 1943, the 3rd Marine Division invaded Bougainville. One of those Marines in the 3rd Division was my brother,
Temple. Staking out a small chunk of the island’s west side, the Marines resisted all Japanese efforts to push them back into the sea. But not without costs, as the campaign claimed 732 dead Marines. Fortunately, Temple was not one of them. He did say he spent 72 straight nights on Bougainville, every one of the, in a wet foxhole. His division went on to make invasions at Guam in July 1944 and Iwo Jima in February 1945. He survived all three.
Returning to the States, he enjoyed a 30-day furlough, then went back to the west coast to train as a member of that huge force needed to invade Japan. The two atomic bombs dropped Japan in August 1945 cancelled those plans. Temple and I were both discharged at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Base, the same day, 18 October 1945.
When I visited Bougainville in 1983, it had been absorbed by Papua New Guinea for its open-pit copper mine, at the time the world’s largest.