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No.23 Fighter Squadron, RNZAF, took part in the later stages of the campaign on Bougainville, was the first New Zealand squadron to move to Los Negros (the most westerly Pacific base used by the RNZAF) and took part in the campaign to neutralise Rabaul.
No.23 Squadron was formed at Ardmore in August 1944. In September it moved to Espiritu Santo, where it continued to train.
In October the squadron moved forward to Guadalcanal, and later in the month it was moved to Piva on Bougainville. This brought it into the combat zone, and between late October and 14 November the squadron flew daily bombing missions against the Japanese positions on Bougainville.
During the summer of 1944 the Americans had agreed that the RNZAF should take over operations in the Bismarck Islands and western Solomons. The most westerly of the new bases would be Los Negros in the Admiralty Islands. The first New Zealand ground staff arrived in September, but work progressed slowly, and during October there was some doubt as to if the change of control would actually take place.
Early in November the Americans finally decided to hand over Los Negros. On 9 November, much to everyone's surprise, a small formation of Japanese aircraft bombed the airfield and the Commander of Air Forces in the North Solomons asked the RNZAF to send a fighter squadron immediately.
No.23 Squadron, RNZAF, was chosen to fill the gap. On 16 November it was sent from Bougainville but for the next week the squadron was busy completed the ground facilities.
Operations began on 22 November. The squadron was responsible for the air defence of Los Negros, which involved a mix of dawn and dusk patrols and scrambles to intercept unidentified aircraft. Most of these were found to be friendly but amongst them were a number of Japanese aircraft from Rabaul that were probably probing the defences of Los Negros. On each occasion these Japanese aircraft returned to base before they could be intercepted. No.23 Squadron was relieved by No.25 Squadron in January 1945.
In March 1945 No.23 Squadron replaced No.22 Squadron on Emirau, to the north-west of New Ireland. The squadron's main role was to keep a constant daylight patrol over the Japanese base at Kavieng and carry out occasional bombing raids. No.23 Squadron was replaced by No.25 Squadron in May 1945.
In June 1945 the squadron moved to Bougainville as part of a mass relief of all four RNZAF fighter squadrons based on the island (replacing No.16 Squadron, RNZAF). It was still on Bougainville when the Japanese surrendered.
All four squadrons had to provide dawn and dusk patrols to guard against any possible Japanese air attacks. They were also used for ground attack missions, attacking tactical targets close to the Australian lines, troop concentrations behind the lines and targets around the main Japanese bases. Between them the four squadrons averaged over 60 sorties per day, with a peak of over 100.
The squadron was disbanded in October 1945
August 1944-October 1945: Chance Vought F4U Corsair
August-September 1944: Ardmore
September-October 1944: Espiritu Santo
October-16 November 1944: Piva, Bougainville
November-December 1944: Los Negros
February-March 1945: Guadalcanal
March-May 1945: Emirau
June-October 1945: Bougainville