New Zealanders from 8 Brigade, 3rd New Zealand Division, helped their American allies clear Mono Island of its Japanese defenders.
While New Zealand’s effort in the Second World War was largely focused on fighting in the Northern Hemisphere, our forces also played a significant role in the Pacific War against the Japanese. An important part of this campaign was the struggle for control of the Treasury Islands, a small group of islands to the south of Bougainville in the Solomon Islands. The two largest islands in this group, Mono and Stirling, are only 1 km apart.
The troops of 8 Brigade arrived on Guadalcanal, the largest island in the Solomons archipelago, in mid-September 1943. On 16 October orders were received from 1 US Marine Amphibious Corps to seize and hold Mono and Stirling Islands, in order to establish a long-range radar station on Mono.
The New Zealanders landed on Mono Island at approximately 6.25 a.m. on 27 October. They immediately came under enemy machine-gun fire, including from Cummings Point on nearby Stirling Island. The landing enjoyed ‘excellent naval and air support’ and the New Zealand and American forces managed to establish a beach-head. By the end of the day 21 New Zealanders had been killed and 70 wounded. American units under the brigade’s command suffered nine killed and 15 wounded.
Although the Japanese defenders were outnumbered, Mono’s geography afforded them some protection. The island rose steeply from the sea to a cone a little over 300 m high, and its dense forest cover concealed many caves in which the enemy was able to hide. Flushing Japanese soldiers out of their concealed positions was a slow and difficult task which took days to accomplish. By 12 November 8 Brigade Group had killed 205 Japanese and taken eight prisoners. New Zealand casualties had risen to 40 killed and 145 wounded. Enemy positions were still being mopped up at the end of November and a number of Japanese eluded capture for months.