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Human face of war
Bougainville Island, which is located at the north of the Solomon Islands, became a strategic position for the Japanese to support planned operations to blockade the Allied supply route from Australia to the United States. Japanese army and navy forces, based on the 6th Division of the 17th Army, and navy construction and landing force units, occupied the island with little resistance in March 1942.

An American marine division landed at Torokina, on the western coast of Bougainville, in November 1943 as part of the Allied counter-offensive in the region. The Japanese commander delayed his counter-attack until March the following year, which gave the Americans time to establish a strong position and build serviceable airfields. The Japanese counter-attack failed, after which both sides were content to secure and patrol their respective positions and keep a watchful peace.

This changed after November 1944 with the arrival of the Australians, who set out to “destroy the Japanese of Bougainville”. Fronts were opened up in the centre of the island over the Numa Numa trail, in the south towards the main Japanese position at Buin, and in the north to destroy Japanese positions on the Bonis Penisula and Buka Island. While the Australian lost 516 killed or missing during these campaigns, Japanese losses for the entire campaign are estimated at over 42,000 killed from fighting, malnutrition and disease.

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