(click images to enlarge)
The Marines were wet and tired. The landing the day after Christmas had been hectic. The surf was rough, the beach narrow and bordered by jungle and swamp. Japanese air raids had inflicted little damage on the Marines landing that day but had added to the confusion. Resistance ashore had been light at first. The advance toward the airfield on the second day had been hellish. There was only a narrow coastal track with swamps to the left and bluffs and surf to the right. Pockets of Japanese resistance and small but fierce counter-attacks were overcome with the help of tanks and firepower. On the third day swamps gave way to jungle on the left and enveloping tactics could be used. On the fourth day they reached the airfield. The first runway was mainly clear open space. The Marines would have been sitting ducks had there been heavy resistance at that point. The second runway was overgrown with kunai grass. The Marines moved rapidly forward over the relatively open terrain. On that day much of the airfield area was occupied. On the last day of 1943 the American flag was raised high above the airfield.

Heavy fighting continued east and west of the airfield area of Tuluvu. Japanese elements were also concentrating to establish new defense lines to the south. Some Marines of the 1st and 5th Marine Regiments had the duty to provide security for the airfield and continue to search and clear it in the days after it was taken. Parts of the airfield were pocked with unfilled bomb craters. Several wrecked airplanes had been discovered. Propellers and other aircraft parts littered the area. Young Marines dirty, tired and wet from rain and sweat came across a sight no one expected and almost every one of them could recognize as significant. A Japanese fighter, untouched by bombs or bullets, stood intact in the kunai grass covered with camouflage of brush and branches.

The hidden jewel -
Type 3 fighter.

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