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Solomon Islands

B-17 over Bougainville during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-17 over Bougainville during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Prowling Consolidated Catalina flying boats flown by Navy and AAF pilots. The lumbering but versatile Catalina was used for reconnaissance, bombing, strafing and air-sea rescue missions. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Prowling Consolidated Catalina flying boats flown by Navy and AAF pilots. The lumbering but versatile Catalina was used for reconnaissance, bombing, strafing and air-sea rescue missions. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Japanese Mitsubishi "Sally" bomber, seconds before it was shot down by an AAF B-25. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Japanese Mitsubishi "Sally" bomber, seconds before it was shot down by an AAF B-25. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This captured Japanese Kawasaki "Nick" fighter was tested and evaluated for intelligence purposes. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This captured Japanese Kawasaki "Nick" fighter was tested and evaluated for intelligence purposes. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Armband from a Japanese war correspondent who reportedly witnessed the destruction of Admiral Yamamoto's aircraft near Bougainville, Solomon Islands. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Armband from a Japanese war correspondent who reportedly witnessed the destruction of Admiral Yamamoto's aircraft near Bougainville, Solomon Islands. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Allied defensive line in the Pacific was threatened at another point in the summer of 1942. The Japanese had moved into the lower Solomon Islands and were rushing to complete an airfield on Guadalcanal from which they could threaten the lifeline between Hawaii and Australia. On Aug. 7, 1942, preceded by AAF B-17 reconnaissance and bombing missions, U.S. Marines made a surprise landing on the island. For the next three months, AAF, Navy and Marine forces fought bitterly against heavy odds, and by year's end had repulsed the enemy's most serious attempts to drive U.S. forces from the Island.

Although the Allies initially were manned and equipped for a defensive war in the Pacific, the invasion of Guadalcanal and the Papuan campaign marked the beginning of a two-pronged Allied offensive north through the Solomons and along the northern coast of New Guinea to neutralize the enemy's key supply center at Rabaul on New Britain Island. Organized resistance on Guadalcanal ended in February 1943 and New Georgia in the central Solomons was invaded in June. The capture of the airfield at Munda on New Georgia in August placed enemy bases throughout the Solomons within range of Allied fighters and light bombers. On Nov. 1, 1943, Marines landed on Bougainville in the final major operation of the Solomons campaign.

During the campaign in the Solomons, 13th Air Force P-38 pilots successfully completed one of the most spectacular feats of the Pacific war. With less than a day's planning, yet with almost split-second timing after a 435-mile wave-hugging flight, they intercepted and shot down the aircraft carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Japan's highest ranking naval officer, who was on an inspection tour.

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