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The battle of Baanga Island (12-22 August 1943) saw the Americans occupy a small island near Munda after unexpectedly fierce Japanese resistance.
Baanga Island is a long narrow island that runs in a north-south direction, just off the western coast of New Georgia, close to Munda. During the battle for Munda the island had been garrisoned by about 100 men, but it was a obvious refuge for retreating troops, and by the time the Americans attacked the island it was probably defended by around 400 men. The Japanese also had two 120mm guns on the island and could use them to bombard Munda airfield.
The Japanese presence on Baanga Island was detected on 11 August as the Americans extended their control of the area around Munda. The size of the defending force was underestimated and on 12 August a single company of American troops attempted to land on the island. They came under heavy fire as they left their landing craft and after suffering 50% casualties were forced to re-embark.
The Americans now prepared for a larger scale assault on the island. A number of 155mm guns were moved to Munda and two battalions from the 169th Infantry Regiment were allocated to the attack. On 14 August, covered by an artillery bombardment, the 169th landed on the east coast of the island. This time the Americans were able to establish a beachhead on the island, but as they advanced west they ran into a line of Japanese defences and the advance came to a halt.
More troops were clearly needed, and so on 16 August two battalions from the 172nd Infantry moved to the island. More artillery was also moved into place, and by 19 August most of the Japanese guns had been knocked out. That night the Japanese began to evacuate the remaining troops to Arundel Island. On 20 August the Americans were able to occupy the southern part of the island.
Over the next two days the Americans advanced up the eastern and western shores of the island, finding only limited opposition. By 22 August the entire island had been secured, and the American's attention turned to Arundel Island.
During the week-long battle for Baanga the Americans lost 52 dead and 110 wounded. Japanese casualties aren't recorded.
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