Banika (and Pavuvu), Russell (or Russel) Islands
For starters: There is no clear apparent authority or consensus about the usage of RUSSEL vs. RUSSELL. For that matter, no one even seems to acknowledge the discrepancy. Google search for "Russel" assumes Russell. "Search within results" with "Russel" in quotation marks does yield one el. But all results appear to favor one use or the other without further comment
Russells Captured February 16, 1943 (OPERATION
The convenient bays and rivers and relatively even terrain of the Russell Islands in the Solomons, just above Guadalcanal, were providing the Japanese with needed cover, while they could be bringing Munda within Allied striking range.
The invasion took place February 16, 1943. Although Banika was captured by the Army, it was to be developed as a Naval base, while Pavuvu would be captured and held for use of Marine ground troops. The anticipated opposition never materialized, everlastingly annoying Marine Raiders who were better equipped to kill Japanese than to convert Pavuvu's squalid, mosquito-infested swamp into a "rest camp." Pavuvu's contribution to the war was immortalized by Harpers in the October 1949 article, "They called it a rest camp: The First Marine Division on Pavuvu" by George McMillan.
The Navy was far more pleased with Banika where the ground was solid and well drained, and waterways were navigable and camouflaged. Construction of air strips and buildings, docking and unloading facilities, and establishment of bases for flight and ground crews, PT squadrons, were rapidly completed by the Seabees..
Bob Conner reports that he could still see the peaks of Guadalcanal as the 93rd prepared to disembark at their first "Island X" on the eve of Armistice Day, 1943. The USS Perida's passengers were greeted with a hail of coconuts from the welcoming troops.
The Russells had been captured in February and Banika was already an established base when the 93rd Seabees arrived. Outfits newly arrived in the tropics generally were not directed into combat areas until they had a chance to adjust to the climate, lifestyle, and to the demands of wartime construction.
By the time the 93rd arrived, Banika was in the throes of a construction boom that would transform it from an Advanced Naval Base focused on conquering Munda and New Georgia to an Advanced Base Construction Depot (ABCD), stocking and supplying equipment and materials for the advancing troops in the north. The stevedores of the 6th, 9th and other Special Construction Battalions were arriving to unload the Cassiopeia and other ships transporting supplies along the route from the US to the most advanced bases.
The 93rd lost no time, erecting a 1300 bed hospital for MOB 10, creating
a ready-mix concrete plant, and establishing a pontoon assembly depot for
the 2nd Seabee Pontoon Assembly Detachment (PAD-2).
Four hospitals arose, providing for recouperation of sick and mildly wounded troops expected to return to their commands, temporary care for those permanently out of the war, and emergency and stabilization treatment for severely wounded before evacuation to the States.
Fred Krock, MD,
U.S. Naval Reserve was among the
physicians, and Helen Weant of the 13th AAF 801st Medical Evacuation
Squadron nursed the injured on their flights. Bob Conner spent his
first Christmas oversees in one of the hopspitals and Pilot Herb Sunderman used his recouperation time drawing
The Japanese had maintained only a minimal presence, mostly as a hiding place for ships in transit. At some point, they brought crabs in hopes of establishing them as a crop. Bob Conner reports rather vividly that they blanketed the beach in some places. The free-roaming cattle were occasionally hit by planes, and supplied Wimpy's Hamburger Stand at the airstrip.
A tragedy of the war effort that endures to this day has been the destruction of the abundant forests of both islands, due to extensive logging both during and after the war, when the islands reverted back to Lever Brothers.
Outfits based on Banika and Pavuvu
Naval Construction Battalions (Seabees)
Individual Battalions based on Banika
20th NCB Section 2 arrives to operate ABCD Annex, January 1944
12th (Special) early 1944: not on map
15 Mess hall, Bougainville, May 9, 1944
PT Base: Bob Conner described it as "lousey with PT boats"," living in trees" and crabs
Must have been Black cats,
Marines on Banika and Pavuvu
arr mid-June describes
"primitive, cramped airfield at Banika, "advanced base Knucklehead"
Marines on Pavuvu
Army Air Force
The 14th Infantry arr 7 Jun 43,
21 February, 1943: Marines (3d Marine Raider Battalion and 10th Defense Battalion detachment) and Army troops (elements of the 43rd Division) occupy Russell Islands in Operation CLEANSLATE, the inaugural movement through the central Solomons. Supported by TU 62.7.2 (Captain Ingolf N. Kiland), the landings are made with no opposition. Four light cruisers and four destroyers of TF 68 (Rear Admiral Aaron S. Merrill) and Henderson Field, Guadalcanal-based Saratoga (CV-3) Air Group provide cover.
5 April, 1943: Destroyer O'Bannon (DD-450) sinks Japanese submarine RO 34 near Russell Islands
15 May, 1943: Naval Advanced Base and Naval Air Facility, Russell Islands, Solomons, are established.