By Brian Altobello
By the spring of 1943, now that Guadalcanal had finally been secured, it was time to move farther up the Solomons in the drive against Rabaul, the major Japanese headquarters & air base situated at the northeastern end of New Britain. The next obstacle up "the slot" from Guadalcanal was the Japanese air base at Munda on the island of New Georgia. The plan was simple: the Army's 43d Division lands on suitable beaches situated east of the Munda airbase & attacks west to secure the airbase while a brigade-size force of Marines lands to the north of Munda & drives south to capture Bairoko Harbor, thereby preventing evacuation of the Japanese defenders by sea. American planners were unaware, however, that the Japanese commander, Maj. Gen. Sasaki, had prepared a series of strong defensive positions & roadblocks on the trails east from Munda, the same trails that the Americans were counting on to speed their attack. These defenses, combined with incredibly difficult terrain, slowed the 43d Division to a crawl. New Georgia was not secured until August 25, three weeks behind schedule. And, General Sasaki had managed to evacuate to safety the bulk of his forces. With evocative, almost surrealistic prose, author Altobello places the reader on the trails to Munda with the American soldiers from this now almost forgotten campaign: "The jungle hissed as the men readied themselves for their first encounter with fear. Everything around them shimmered with movement from the jungle's huge population of small creatures. The earth itself seemed to crawl."
- Novato, CA