Rabaul 1943-44...

...Reducing Japan's great island fortress,  from Osprey Publishing

Title: Rabaul 1943-44

Author: Mark Lardas

Publisher: Osprey

ISBN: 978-1-4728-2244-4

This is the second book in the new Air Campaign series from Osprey.  This one moves across the world to cover the allied air campaign against the Japanese base at Rabaul.  Rabaul was the capital of New Britain, a large island to the eastern side of New Guinea, and also home to Simpson Harbour, a large, deep water natural harbour large enough to be home to a fleet.  It had formed a target for Japanese expansion as it gave a valuable stepping stone to Northern Australia.  They reinforced it with large numbers of troops and aircraft, building new airfield on surrounding islands as well.  It was also on the end of the Solomons Islands, with Guadalcanal.  The Japanese launched an offensive against New Guinea, with the aim of capturing Port Moresby from the Australians.  They suffered setbacks in that offensive and had to call off a planned assault on Port Moresby following the defeat at the Battle of the Coral Sea.  The Japanese pushed South and captured Guadalcanal, only to have it taken from them by the US Marines later in 1942.

Rabaul presented a major obstacle to the US advance across the Pacific but recognised that a direct assault would be a major undertaking and result in large numbers of casualties.  The solution was an attempt to try something new, and put a stranglehold on the base which could then be contained by air power rather than a ground assault. The book tells the story of this original strategy, one which was successful. Starting with an Introduction that explains the historical background and wartime situation of Rabaul, then with a Chronology of events, the Attackers Capabilities, then the Defenders Capabilities, moving on to the Campaign Objectives, the story of the Campaign itself before ending with the Aftermath & Analysis.  Following the Japanese surrender in late 1945, after the dropping of the atomic bombs, it was the Australians who were given the task of accepting the surrender of the base at Rabaul and the surrounding area.  They expected that to be 30,000 Japanese troops but in the end turned out to be a peaceful surrender but with the job expanded as they found out that they had to cope with over 100,000 troops, a significant logistical challenge in itself.

A really interesting story of an original plan for a successful air campaign fought in the Pacific theatre in WW2.  Plenty of archive photos along with maps, artwork and additional maps showing the various routes of attack and containment which isolated the base.  This new Osprey series is off to a good start.

Thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review copy.

Robin