The invasion of the Treasury Islands was a small stepping stone in the occupation of the Solomon Islands, a prelude to the much larger Bougainville expedition. It is notable for being the first amphibious action by New Zealand troops since Gallipoli. They made up around two thirds of the invading force, the balance being US Marines. Although it was a one sided operation, with nearly 7,000 troops in total facing less than 250 Japanese, it was not without its dramas. The Japanese chose to fight to the death and they they took 40 New Zealanders and 12 Marines with them, with more wounded. Only 8 Japanese were taken prisoner.
An account of the fighting on the Treasury Islands can be found at New Zealand War History, including the deadly fighting at the blockhouse where command eventually devolved to the Cook, Private Joe Smith, because there had been so many New Zealand casualties in the Company.
Off shore the USS Cony was amongst the ships covering the invasion. Everything was going well for a while, until Japanese planes found them. They gave a good account of themselves but only just survived being sunk. On board the USS Cony rear gunner Stanley Baranowski’s diary kept a brief but graphic record:
Oct. 27, 1943
We got up at 3:30AM and at 5:00AM we went into GQ. We were laying off from island “Treasury” because we were fighting director for our planes. Nothing happened all morning. Everything was going good, then at 3:00PM got contact with a lot of planes – enemy.
Then at 3:15PM, they came at us. So many of them. We started to fire everything we had. Bombs dropping all around us. 17 of them missed us. Then at 3:25PM we got 2 direct hits on port and starboard. Shrapnel flew everywhere. Lots of men were hit. 3-4-5 guns went out. Fire broke out on engines, they went out of order. We started to leave Treasury at 4:00PM. Worked on fires. Was up all night taking care of wounded.
Oct. 28, 1943
Still working on fires. Everyone was ordered to lighten ship so we started to throw ammo over the side. Ship was listing to port. Everybody getting ready to jump over side. Japs are still after us. We are going on one engine. Then at 11:15AM port engine gave out. tug came along and started to tow us and at 12:00PM or later, fire was out. Then at 9:30PM we we entered nets of Port Pervis. At 11:00PM moored to tanker “Oragon” and we took off wounded men.
Oct. 29, 1943
Got up at 6:0AM. Worked like hell and at 1:35PM took off 2 dead fellows burned to death – what a horrible sight. There are 4 men in number, 3 magazine we can’t get at them too much pressure on hatch. Admiral came aboard to look things over, said its a State side job and at 5:30PM a show started named “Accidents Will Happen.”
Oct. 27, 1943
From “Landing Craft Flotillas, South Pacifice Force, Office of the Commander:
The performance of Cony in shooting down four, or possibly five, enemy planes during this attack is highly commendable.
Signed G.H. Fort Commander Task Group Thirty-one
Oct. 27, 1943
From: Commander Destroyer Squadron Twenty-Two J.E. Hurff
To: Comander-inChief, U.S. Pacific Fleet:
Subject: USS Cony Action Report October 27, 1943
1. The Cony was alert in picking up the impending attack and gave timely warning to other ships present. The ship was skillfully handled and ably fought during the attack. The handling of damage was particularly gratifying. Only a ship thoroughly drilled and organized in damage control could have met this sistuation.
2. In separate correspondence it has been recommended that the Navy Cross be awarded to the Commanding Officer, Commander Harry D. Johnston, U.S. Navy.
For more on the USS Cony see USSCony.com