Bougainville – the desperate battle for Hill 260

With the Japanese firmly entrenched on the South Knob of Hill 260, several artillery pieces were hauled into the jungle and set up on nearby Hill 309. They blasted away point blank, pounding the Japanese at the base of the remains of the Observation Post in the banyan tree.

With the Japanese firmly entrenched on the South Knob of Hill 260, several artillery pieces were hauled into the jungle and set up on nearby Hill 309. They blasted away point blank, pounding the Japanese at the base of the remains of the Observation Post in the banyan tree.

A tall banyan tree on top of Hill 260 on Bougainville was deemed an ideal spot to observe enemy and friendly activity for miles around. A wooden platform was constructed high up in the tree.

A tall banyan tree on top of Hill 260 on Bougainville was deemed an ideal spot to observe enemy and friendly activity for miles around. A wooden platform was constructed high up in the tree.

On the island of Bougainville the Japanese were becoming increasingly isolated. Overall they were outnumbered by Allied troops but capable of massing in particular locations to cause a threat.

So it was on the 10th March when they launched an attack on a US Army outpost on the perimeter of the Allied positions around the Torokina Airstrip. Hill 260 was an isolated outpost sticking out from the main perimeter line because it had an excellent observation post.

The 78 men of Company G, 182nd Infantry Regiment suddenly found themselves under attack from around 1300 Japanese who had crept up through the jungle. As with many military reports, the events are somewhat understated, but it is easy to understand what type of battle this was:

Our casualties at 1050, 10 March 1944 were 16 EM [Enlisted Men] missing, One Officer missing, wounded, not determined. Enemy casualties, 20 known dead, 20 additional estimated.

Easy Co. moved out from the East-West Trail at 1000, toward Hill 260. At 1045, the South perimeter had been reached and a personal reconnaissance was made to check the South perimeter garrison. An attack was ordered to re-establish the perimeter.

A base of fire was set up at the South end (weapons platoon Co. E) and Lt. Oberle with the 5rd platoon Co. E. were ordered to attack. This attack started at 1115 and stopped at 1550, after having gained approximately 55 yards. Lt. Ricker and a platoon of Fox Co. attacked at the same time and was stopped at 1200, gaining 5 yards.

A new plan of attack was devised, a double envelopment, and Lt. Willard was ordered, at 14O5, to take his platoon inside the West wire, establish contact with Lt. Stone (Fox) and make his attack from the West, (see over-lay) azimuth 90°. Lt. Karl with his platoon was ordered to move East and envelop the enemy from the East. He moved out at 142O to envelop the enemy and cut their line of supply. The attack was to be launched after Lt. Willard had established contact with Lt. Stone. Lt. Willard started moving out at 1445.

Lt. Carlson was wounded at 11420 and Lt. O’Rourke assumed command of Easy Company.

At 1505, Lt. Karl came back wounded in the neck. He reported running into enemy machine gun and rifle fire (see overlay) which pinned him down and prevented his carrying out his mission. Lt. Karl was evacuated and Lt. Oertle, the Battalion B-2, then was given command of the 2nd Platoon Co. E and ordered to carry out the envelopment. He took a route just inside our wire (see overlay.)

A flame thrower was asked for by Lt. Oertle and as all trained flame thrower men had been wounded and evacuated Sgt. Denslow of the 50mm mortar section of Easy Co., volunteered. After two minutes of instruction by the Battalion Commander he accompanied Lt. Oertle and burned the Japs out of one pill box. He then returned, under machine gun fire, got the second flame thrower and returned to Lt. Oertle and got a second Jap position. For farthest advance of Lt. Oertle, see overlay.

At 1550 Col. Long came up to the Battalion OP, and inspected the front lines. He attapted to follow Lt. Willard’s route to the North perimeter but was pinned down by machine gun fire. He withdrew and asked the Bn. Commander if there was anything; he needed. The Battalion Commander stated that the perimeter would be reestablished in approximately 1 hour.

In the meantime Lt. Willard had made contact with Fox Co. and had launched his attack in conjunction with Lt. Oertle. The remainder of Easy Co. then attacked in the center under personal command of Lt. O’Rourke. The attack was stopped about 1700, only after Easy Co. had received over 50% casualties. For farthest advance see overlay.

It was then decided to use WP [White Phosperous] grenades to burn out the Japs. One hundred and fifty grenades were used and at 1800 we attempted to advance – still Jap machine guns opened up and at 1900 it was decided to organise a perimeter for the night.

A check was made and only 46 men were left available for the perimeter. It was necessary to pull Lt Willard and Lt Oertle back to hold a perimeter.

Lt. Oertle was evacuated with severe WP burns.

You can read more about the battle for Hill 260 at Company G 182nd Infantry Regiment, which covers much more of their experiences in the war.

The island of Bougainville itself was primitive, remote, and rugged - an easy place for the Japanese to hide. It featured dense jungle, as well as a number of soaring volcanoes. Earthquakes were a frequent occurrence, as were torrential downpours. The jungle was thick, overgrown, and as Jack Morton recalled, "spooky."

The island of Bougainville itself was primitive, remote, and rugged – an easy place for the Japanese to hide. It featured dense jungle, as well as a number of soaring volcanoes. Earthquakes were a frequent occurrence, as were torrential downpours. The jungle was thick, overgrown, and as Jack Morton recalled, “spooky.”

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