The Solomon Islands Campaign
The next stepping stone for securing the Solomon Islands was the largest of the island group, Bougainville. Task Force 31 with Destroyer Squadron 45 which included the BRAINE was formed to escort a large convoy of troop transports, supply ships, LST’s and smaller landing craft enroute to an invasion at Empress Augusta Bay on the island of Bougainville scheduled for 1 November 1943. The squadron provided submarine screen for the convoy and fire support for the landing troops. During the month of November 1943, the BRAINE settled into a routine of escorting support convoys to the beachhead on the island of Bougainville. The reality of war returned abruptly on the night of 3 December 1943. The BRAINE operating with Task Force 31 was again part of a submarine screen for a slow supply convoy for Bougainville, running at ten knots. The ship had orders not to fire unless attacked which would give away our position. The night was black with no moon. The BRAINE was on the starboard side of the convoy close to Treasury Island. Suddenly Japanese torpedo planes, flying low over the island to avoid radar contact, spotted the formation and attacked.
The attack happened so quickly that General Quarters was sounded and the 20mm and 40mm batteries started firing as the crew rushed to their battle stations. The Officer of the Deck reported that three planes approaching on the starboard side, flying in a triangle formation, with a lead plane on the point.
This pilot suddenly saw the BRAINE broadside to him and launched his torpedo too late and the torpedo went between the stacks. The other two dropped their torpedoes and were so close to the BRAINE as they were diving, the torpedoes went under the ship before they could arm, reached their depth and exploded harmlessly in the center of the convoy. Other ships in the convoy fired on the planes and one was shot down by the USS BENNETT - DD473.
During one of the convoy trips in December the BRAINE had its first submarine contact and dropped depth charges in a pattern. No kill could be confirmed. The BRAINE continued the convoy duty with Task Force 31.7 during January 1944. The Japanese attempted many air attacks on the convoys but were repelled by the air cover from the new airfield on Bougainville.
In January 1944 DesRon 45 steamed to Havannah Harbor, Efrate, New Hebrides for routine maintenance alongside a destroyer tenders USS MEDUSA and the USS DIXIE. Enroute the squadron conducted routine drills of target practice and torpedo attack runs. The squadron returned to Purvis Bay in the Solomon Islands in late January to prepare for the next operation.
The ring of Allied bases continued to form around the Japanese base at Rabaul. On 15 February 1944, the BRAINE was again a part of the supporting force for the landings on Green Island at the northern end of the Solomon Islands. An airbase was planned for Green Island for land based bombers to continue the assault on Rabaul.
At dawn, when the convoy was a few miles south of Green Island, eight Japanese dive bombers attacked the formation. The BRAINE maneuvered at high speeds in tight circles and opened fire on the nearest plane diving on the ship. The dive bomber was hit, burst into flames and crashed in the sea. A second dive bomber dived at the formation and dropped a bomb about five hundred yards from the BRAINE. When the landing was successful the BRAINE returned with the squadron to Purvis Bay at Guadalcanal.
On 24 February 1944, after fueling at Treasury Island, DesRon 45 formed up and proceeded to the Rabaul area for shore bombardment and went to General Quarters as the squadron steamed into St. Georges Channel to put the finishing touch on the Japanese base at Rabaul.
The Squadron in column heavily bombarded the Japanese base starting huge fires which spread to other installations. The BRAINE expended 500 rounds of 5" ammunition. It was a perfect operation carried out on a very dark night and completed without mishap. On 20 March 1944 the BRAINE was again part of the screen for the support of an invasion of Emirau Island north of the enemy base of Rabaul. The operation was conducted without enemy interference. In March and early April the BRAINE made several trips as escorts to re-supply the landing force at Emirau. The Squadron returned to Purvis Bay.
The BRAINE had been at sea for seven months with only occasional recreation on the islands of the Solomons. In mid-April good news quickly circulated around the ship. The BRAINE along with the battleships USS NEW MEXICO - BB41 and USS PENNSYLVANIA - BB38 with escorting destroyers were to proceed to Sydney, Australia for ten days for recreation and minor repairs. The liberty in Sydney was exhilarating with friendly girls, drinking and dancing. While in Australian, the BRAINE celebrated its first birthday on 11 May 1944 with a change in command. Commander William W. Fitts, USN relieved Captain Newman who was promoted to a Destroyer Division Commander.