Battle of Rabaul (1942)

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Battle of Rabaul
Part of the Pacific theatre of World War II
Awm P02395.012.jpg
Late January 1942. Australian soldiers (right centre) retreating from Rabaul cross the Warangoi/Adler River in the Bainings Mountains, on the eastern side of Gazelle Peninsula. Photographer: Sgt L. I. H. (Les) Robbins.
Date23 January – February 1942
Location
Rabaul, New Britain
Territory of New Guinea
Result Japanese victory
Belligerents
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Japan
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Australia (converted).svg John Scanlan   White flag icon.svg Naval ensign of the Empire of Japan.svg Shigeyoshi Inoue
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg Tomitaro Horii
Strength
1,400 soldiers (New Britain)
130 soldiers (New Ireland)
5,000 soldiers (New Britain)
Casualties and losses
6 aircrew killed
5 aircrew wounded
28 soldiers killed
1,000 soldiers captured
16 killed
49 wounded

The Battle of Rabaul, also known by the Japanese as Operation R, was fought on the island of New Britain in the Australian Territory of New Guinea, in January and February 1942. It was a strategically significant defeat of Allied forces by Japan in the Pacific campaign of World War II, with the Japanese invasion force quickly overwhelming the small Australian garrison, the majority of which was either killed or captured. Hostilities on the neighbouring island of New Ireland are also usually considered to be part of the same battle. Rabaul was significant because of its proximity to the Japanese territory of the Caroline Islands, site of a major Imperial Japanese Navy base on Truk.

New Britain Island in Papua New Guinea

New Britain is the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea. It is separated from the island of New Guinea by the Dampier and Vitiaz Straits and from New Ireland by St. George's Channel. The main towns of New Britain are Rabaul/Kokopo and Kimbe. The island is roughly the size of Taiwan. While the island was part of German New Guinea, it was named Neupommern.

Territory of New Guinea Australian administered territory est. 1920

The Territory of New Guinea was an Australian administered territory on the island of New Guinea from 1920 until 1975. In 1949, the Territory and the Territory of Papua were established in an administrative union by the name of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. That administrative union was renamed as Papua New Guinea in 1971. Notwithstanding that it was part of an administrative union, the Territory of New Guinea at all times retained a distinct legal status and identity until the advent of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the "United Nations" from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

Contents

Following the capture of the port of Rabaul, Japanese forces turned it into a major base and proceeded to land on mainland New Guinea, advancing toward Port Moresby. Heavy fighting followed along the Kokoda Track, and around Milne Bay, before the Japanese were eventually pushed back towards Buna–Gona by early 1943. As part of Operation Cartwheel, throughout 1943–1945, Allied forces later sought to isolate the Japanese garrison on Rabaul, rather than capturing it, largely using air power to do so, with US and Australian ground forces pursuing a limited campaign in western New Britain during this time.

Rabaul Place in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea

Rabaul is a township in East New Britain province, on the island of New Britain, in the country of Papua New Guinea. It lies about 600 kilometres to the east of the island of New Guinea. Rabaul was the provincial capital and most important settlement in the province until it was destroyed in 1994 by falling ash of a volcanic eruption in its harbor.

New Guinea Island in the Pacific Ocean

New Guinea is a large island separated by a shallow sea from the rest of the Australian continent. It is the world's second-largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 785,753 km2 (303,381 sq mi), and the largest wholly or partly within the Southern Hemisphere and Oceania.

Port Moresby Place in National Capital District, Papua New Guinea

Port Moresby, also referred to as Pom City or simply Moresby, is the capital and largest city of Papua New Guinea and the largest city in the South Pacific outside of Australia and New Zealand. It is located on the shores of the Gulf of Papua, on the south-western coast of the Papuan Peninsula of the island of New Guinea. The city emerged as a trade centre in the second half of the 19th century. During World War II it was a prime objective for conquest by the Imperial Japanese forces during 1942–43 as a staging point and air base to cut off Australia from Southeast Asia and the Americas.

By the end of the war, there was still a sizeable garrison at Rabaul, with large quantities of equipment that were subsequently abandoned. In the aftermath, it took the Allies over two years to repatriate the captured Japanese soldiers, while clean up efforts continued past the late 1950s. Many relics including ships, aircraft and weapons, as well as abandoned positions and tunnels, remain in the area.

Prelude

Rabaul lies on the eastern end of the island of New Britain. At the time of the battle, the town was the capital of the Australian-administered Territory of New Guinea, having been captured from the Germans in 1914. [1] In March 1941, the Australians despatched a small garrison to the region, as tensions with Japan heightened. The small Australian Army garrison in New Britain was built around Lieutenant Colonel Howard Carr's 700-strong 2/22nd Battalion, an Australian Imperial Force (AIF) infantry battalion. This battalion formed part of Lark Force, which eventually numbered 1,400 men and was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John Scanlan. The force also included personnel from a local Militia unit, the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles (NGVR), a coastal defence battery, an anti-aircraft battery, an anti-tank battery and a detachment of the 2/10th Field Ambulance. [2] [3] The 2/22nd Battalion Band—which was also included in Lark Force—is perhaps the only military unit ever to have been entirely recruited from the ranks of the Salvation Army. [4] [5] A commando unit, the 130-strong 2/1st Independent Company, was detached to garrison the nearby island of New Ireland. [6]

Australian Army land warfare branch of Australias defence forces

The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) commands the ADF, the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army (CA). The CA is therefore subordinate to the CDF, but is also directly responsible to the Minister for Defence. Although Australian soldiers have been involved in a number of minor and major conflicts throughout its history, only in World War II has Australian territory come under direct attack.

2/22nd Battalion (Australia) infantry battalion of the Australian Army

The 2/22nd Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. Raised as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force for service during World War II, the battalion formed part of the 23rd Brigade, attached to the 8th Division. It was captured by the Japanese during the Battle of Rabaul in 1942. After being captured, the battalion was not re-raised and a large number of its personnel died in captivity; those that did not were returned to Australia at the end of the war in 1945.

Second Australian Imperial Force expeditionary force during World War II

The Second Australian Imperial Force was the name given to the volunteer personnel of the Australian Army in World War II. Under the Defence Act (1903), neither the part-time Militia nor the full-time Permanent Military Force (PMF) could serve outside Australia or its territories unless they volunteered to do so. The Second AIF fought against Nazi Germany, Italy, Vichy France and Japan. After the war, Australia's wartime military structures were demobilised and the 2nd AIF was disbanded, although a small cadre of its personnel became part of the Interim Army that was established in 1947, and from which the Australian Regular Army was formed in 1948.

Map depicting eastern New Guinea and New Britain New guinea.png
Map depicting eastern New Guinea and New Britain

Throughout 1941, the Allies had planned to build Rabaul up as a "secure fleet anchorage" with plans to establish a radar station and a strong defensive minefield; however, these plans were ultimately shelved. Allied planners later determined that they did not have the capacity to expand the garrison around Rabaul, nor was the naval situation conducive to reinforcing it should the garrison come under attack. Nevertheless, the decision was made that the garrison would remain in place to hold Rabaul as a forward observation post. [3] The main tasks of the garrison were protection of Vunakanau, the main Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) airfield near Rabaul, and the nearby flying boat anchorage in Simpson Harbour, which were important for the surveillance of Japanese movements in the region. However, the RAAF contingent, under Wing Commander John Lerew, had little offensive capability, with only 10 lightly armed CAC Wirraway training aircraft and four Lockheed Hudson light bombers from No. 24 Squadron. [7]

Vunakanau Airfield was an aerodrome located near Vunakanau, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. The airfield was constructed as a Royal Australian Air Force aerodrome and consisted of an unpaved single runway during World War II. The airfield was captured during the battle of Rabaul in 1942 by the Imperial Japanese and was extensively modified and expanded. Vunakanau was later neutralized by Allied air bombing from 1944.

Royal Australian Air Force Air warfare branch of Australias armed forces

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), formed in March 1921, is the aerial warfare branch of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). It operates the majority of the ADF's fixed wing aircraft, although both the Australian Army and Royal Australian Navy also operate aircraft in various roles. It directly continues the traditions of the Australian Flying Corps (AFC), formed on 22 October 1912. The RAAF provides support across a spectrum of operations such as air superiority, precision strikes, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, air mobility, space surveillance, and humanitarian support.

Flying boat Aircraft equipped with a boat hull for operation from water

A flying boat is a fixed-winged seaplane with a hull, allowing it to land on water, that usually has no type of landing gear to allow operation on land. It differs from a floatplane as it uses a purpose-designed fuselage which can float, granting the aircraft buoyancy. Flying boats may be stabilized by under-wing floats or by wing-like projections from the fuselage. Flying boats were some of the largest aircraft of the first half of the 20th century, exceeded in size only by bombers developed during World War II. Their advantage lay in using water instead of expensive land-based runways, making them the basis for international airlines in the interwar period. They were also commonly used for maritime patrol and air-sea rescue.

For the Japanese, Rabaul was important because of its proximity to the Caroline Islands, which was the site of a major Imperial Japanese Navy base on Truk. The capture of New Britain offered them a deep water harbour and airfields to provide protection to Truk and also to interdict Allied lines of communication between the United States and Australia. [8] Following the capture of Guam, the South Seas Detachment, under Major General Tomitaro Horii, was tasked with capturing Kavieng and Rabaul, [9] as part of "Operation R". [10]

Caroline Islands archipelago

The Caroline Islands are a widely scattered archipelago of tiny islands in the western Pacific Ocean, to the north of New Guinea. Politically they are divided between the Federated States of Micronesia in the eastern part of the group, and Palau at the extreme western end. Historically, this area was also called Nuevas Filipinas or New Philippines as they were part of the Spanish East Indies and governed from Manila in the Philippines.

Imperial Japanese Navy Naval branch of the Empire of Japan

The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1868 until 1945, when it was dissolved following Japan's surrender in World War II. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) was formed after the dissolution of the IJN.

Chuuk State state in Federated States of Micronesia

Chuuk State is one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The other states are Kosrae State, Pohnpei State, and Yap State. It consists of several island groups:

Japanese planning began with aerial reconnaissance of the town, which sought to identify the dispositions of the defending troops. Planners, who had been flown from Guam to Truk, determined three possible schemes of manoeuvre based on these dispositions: a landing near Kokop, aimed at establishing a beachhead; a landing on the north coast of Rabaul, followed by a drive on Rabaul from behind the main defences; or a multi-pronged landing focused on capturing the airfields and centre of the town. They eventually settled upon the third option. [11] For the invasion, the Japanese established a brigade group based on the 55th Division. Its main combat units were the 144th Infantry Regiment, which consisted of a headquarters unit, three infantry battalions, an artillery company, signals unit, and a munitions squad, as well as a few platoons from the 55th Cavalry Regiment, a battalion from the 55th Mountain Artillery Regiment and a company from the 55th Engineer Regiment. [12] These forces would be supported by a large naval task force, and landing operations would be preceded by a heavy aerial campaign aimed at destroying Allied air assets in region, so that they could not interfere with the landing operations. [13]

A brigade group is a term used primarily in armies of the Commonwealth of Nations for an ad hoc arrangement of forces and not a permanent organisation whereas, with a capital G, a Brigade Group is.

The 55th Division was an infantry division of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. Its call sign was the "Sou" Division. It was formed on 10 July 1940 at Zentsūji, simultaneously with 51st, 52nd, 54th, 56th, and 57th divisions. The formation nucleus was the headquarters of the 11th Division. Its manpower came primarily from the four prefectures of Shikoku Island. The 55th Division was initially assigned to the Central District Army.

144th Infantry Regiment (Imperial Japanese Army)

The 144th Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment in the Imperial Japanese Army. The regiment was attached to the 55th Division. The regiment participated in the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II, fighting in the Pacific during a number of battles including those at Guam, Rabaul, and Salamaua. It also participated in the invasion of Buna-Gona, the Kokoda Track campaign and the battle of Buna–Gona.

Battle

Most civilians who were not necessary to the defence of the base were evacuated in December 1941, shortly before Japanese air raids began. [3] Starting on 4 January 1942, Rabaul came under attack by large numbers of Japanese carrier-based aircraft. After the odds facing the Australians mounted significantly, the RAAF commander, Lerew, signalled RAAF HQ in Melbourne with the Latin motto "Nos Morituri Te Salutamus" ("we who are about to die salute you"), [14] the phrase uttered by gladiators in ancient Rome before entering combat. [15] On 14 January, the Japanese force embarked at Truk and began steaming towards Rabaul as part of a naval task force, which consisted of two aircraft carriers—Kaga and Akagi—seven cruisers, 14 destroyers, and numerous smaller vessels and submarines under the command of Vice Admiral Shigeyoshi Inoue. [9] On 20 January, over 100 Japanese aircraft attacked Rabaul in multiple waves. Eight Wirraways attacked and in the ensuing fighting three RAAF planes were shot down, two crash-landed, and another was damaged. Six Australian aircrew were killed in action and five wounded. One of the attacking Japanese bombers was shot down by anti-aircraft fire. [16] [9] As a result of the intense air attacks, Australian coastal artillery was destroyed and Australian infantry were withdrawn from Rabaul itself. The following day, an RAAF Catalina flying boat crew located the invasion fleet off Kavieng, [17] and its crew managed to send a signal before being shot down. [9]

Japanese fleet to be employed in the invasion of Rabaul, photographed by an RAAF Hudson over Truk on 9 January 1942 RabaulInvasionFleet1942.jpg
Japanese fleet to be employed in the invasion of Rabaul, photographed by an RAAF Hudson over Truk on 9 January 1942

As the Australian ground troops took up positions along the western shore of Blanche Bay where they prepared to meet the landing, [2] [18] the remaining RAAF elements, consisting of two Wirraways and one Hudson, were withdrawn to Lae. Once the aircraft had departed with a number of wounded, the Australians destroyed the airfield. [19] The bombing continued around Rabaul on 22 January and early that morning a Japanese force of between 3,000 and 4,000 troops landed just off New Ireland and waded ashore in deep water filled with dangerous mudpools. The 2/1st Independent Company had been dispersed around the island and the Japanese took the main town of Kavieng without opposition; after a sharp fight around the airfield the commandos fell back towards the Sook River. [6] That night, the invasion fleet approached Rabaul and before dawn on 23 January, the South Seas Force entered Simpson Harbour and a force of around 5,000 troops, mainly from the 144th Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Masao Kusunose, began to land on New Britain. [2] [9]

A series of desperate actions followed near the beaches around Simpson Harbour, Keravia Bay and Raluana Point as the Australians attempted to turn back the attack. [20] The 3rd Battalion, 144th Infantry Regiment, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Kuwada Ishiro, was held up at Vulcan Beach by a mixed company of Australians from the 2/22nd and the NGVR, but elsewhere the other two battalions of the South Seas Force were able to land at unguarded locations and began moving inland. [9] Within hours, Lakunai airfield had been captured by the Japanese force. [8] Assessing the situation as hopeless, Scanlan ordered "every man for himself", and Australian soldiers and civilians split into small groups, up to company size, and retreated through the jungle, moving along the north and south coasts. [21] During the fighting on 23 January, the Australians lost two officers and 26 other ranks killed in action. [22]

Only the RAAF had made evacuation plans. Although initially ordered to turn his ground staff into infantrymen in a last-ditch effort to defend the island, Lerew insisted that they be evacuated and organised for them to be flown out by flying boat and his one remaining Hudson. [23] In the days that followed the capture of Rabaul, the Japanese began mopping up operations, starting on 24 January. [24] Australian soldiers remained at large in the interior of New Britain for many weeks, but Lark Force had made no preparations for guerrilla warfare on New Britain. Without supplies, their health and military effectiveness declined. Leaflets posted by Japanese patrols or dropped from planes stated in English, "you can find neither food nor way of escape in this island and you will only die of hunger unless you surrender". [9] [25] The Japanese commander, Horii, tasked the 3rd Battalion, 144th Infantry Regiment with searching the southern part of the Gazelle Peninsula and securing the remaining Australians. [8] Over 1,000 Australian soldiers were captured or surrendered during the following weeks after the Japanese landed a force at Gasmata, on New Britain's south coast, on 9 February, severing the Australians' line of retreat. [9] Following this, the Japanese reorganised their forces, occupying a line along the Keravat River, to prevent possible counterattacks. [26]

Aftermath

Casualties

From mainland New Guinea, some civilians and individual officers from the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit organised unofficial rescue missions to New Britain, and between March and May about 450 troops and civilians were evacuated by sea. [9] Notwithstanding these efforts, Allied losses, particularly in relation to personnel captured, were very high and casualties during the fighting for Rabaul in early 1942 were heavily in favour of the Japanese. The Allies lost six aircrew killed and five wounded, [17] along with 28 soldiers killed in action, [22] and over 1,000 captured. [27] Against this, the Japanese lost only 16 killed and 49 wounded. [28] [26]

Of the over 1,000 Australian soldiers taken prisoner, around 160 were massacred on or about 4 February 1942 in four separate incidents around Tol and Waitavalo. [22] Six men survived these killings and later described what had happened to a Court of Inquiry. The Australian government concluded the prisoners were marched into the jungle near Tol Plantation in small groups and were then bayoneted by Japanese soldiers. At the nearby Waitavalo Plantation, another group of Australian prisoners were shot. [29] [30] The Allies later placed responsibility for the incident on Masao Kusunose, the commanding officer of the 144th Infantry Regiment, but in late 1946 he starved himself to death before he could stand trial. [31] [8] At least 800 soldiers and 200 civilian prisoners of war—most of them Australian—lost their lives on 1 July 1942, when the ship on which they were being transported from Rabaul to Japan, the Montevideo Maru , was sunk off the north coast of Luzon by the U.S. submarine USS Sturgeon. [32] [14] [33]

Subsequent operations

According to Japanese author Kengoro Tanaka, the operation to capture Rabaul was the only operation of the New Guinea campaign that was completely successful for the Japanese. [34] Following the capture of Rabaul, the Japanese quickly repaired the damage to Rabaul's airfield and Rabaul became the biggest Japanese base in New Guinea, and the lynchpin to their defences in the region. The Australians tried to restrict Rabaul's development soon after its capture by a bombing counter-attack in March. [9] The Japanese eventually extended their control across New Britain, establishing airfields at Cape Gloucester on the island's western tip and several small outposts along the coast to provide stop-over points for small boats travelling between Rabaul and New Guinea. [35] Meanwhile, a handful of Lark Force members remained at large on New Britain and New Ireland and, in conjunction with the local islanders, conducted guerrilla operations against the Japanese, serving mainly as coast watchers, providing information of Japanese shipping movements. [6]

For the Japanese, the capture of Rabaul was followed with further operations on mainland New Guinea, beginning with operations to capture the Salamaua–Lae region beginning in March 1942. [36] [37] Throughout 1942 and into early 1943, the Allies and Japanese fought along the Kokoda Track, at Milne Bay and around Buna–Gona as the Japanese sought to advance south towards Port Moresby. [38] By mid-1943, the tide turned in favour of the Allies, who began an offensive in the Pacific, aimed at advancing north through New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. By late November 1943 the Japanese force in Rabaul had been reduced by airpower, with a large raid being mounted from the aircraft carriers Saratoga and Princeton on 5 November. According to author Eric Larrabee, "thereafter no Japanese heavy ships ever came to Rabaul." [39]

Allied planners had considered capturing Rabaul, but they eventually settled on isolating it and bypassing it as part of Operation Cartwheel. In December 1943, U.S. Marines and Army soldiers landed in western New Britain at Arawe and Cape Gloucester. Subsequently, Allied operations on New Britain gradually restricted the Japanese force to the area around Rabaul. In November 1944, the Australians returned to the island when advanced elements of the 5th Division landed at Jacquinot Bay on the south coast, and relieved the US 40th Infantry Division. [40] The Australians then conducted a number of other landings around the island as they conducted a limited advance north, securing a line across the base of the Gazelle Peninsula between Wide Bay and Open Bay. After this, they sought to isolate and contain the main Japanese forces around Rabaul. When Japan surrendered in August 1945, there were still around 69,000 Japanese troops in Rabaul. [41] [42]

Large quantities of equipment were subsequently abandoned around Rabaul after the war, and it took over two years for the Allies to repatriate the Japanese garrison that was captured after Japan surrendered. In the late 1950s, Japanese salvage companies began work to salvage many of the ship wrecks around Rabaul. However, many abandoned positions, tunnels, and equipment relics such as aircraft and weapons can still be found in the area. [43] [44]

See also

Notes

  1. Moremon, John. "Rabaul, 1942 (Longer text)". Australia-Japan Research Project. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  2. 1 2 3 "2/22nd Battalion". Second World War, 1939–1945 units. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 Keogh 1965, p. 101.
  4. Gamble 2006, p. 144.
  5. Aerts 1994, p. 184.
  6. 1 2 3 "1st Independent Company". Second World War, 1939–1945 units. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  7. Wigmore 1957, p. 397.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Brooks 2013, p. 22.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Moremon, John (2003). "Rabaul, 1942". Campaign history. Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 31 August 2008. Retrieved 2 November 2006.
  10. Gamble 2010, p. 26.
  11. Tanaka 1980, pp. 102–103.
  12. Bullard 2007, p. 5.
  13. Tanaka 1980, p. 103.
  14. 1 2 Stanley, Peter. "The defence of the 'Malay barrier': Rabaul and Ambon, January 1942". Remembering 1942. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  15. Gamble 2006, pp. 74–75.
  16. Wigmore 1957, pp. 398–399.
  17. 1 2 Wigmore 1957, p. 399.
  18. Wigmore 1957, p. 401.
  19. Wigmore 1957, pp. 399–400.
  20. Gamble 2006, pp. 95–104.
  21. Wigmore 1957, p. 408.
  22. 1 2 3 Wigmore 1957, p. 410.
  23. Wilson 2005, pp. 117–118.
  24. Tanaka 1980, p. 109.
  25. Queensland Ex-POW Reparation Committee 1990, p. 70.
  26. 1 2 Tanaka 1980, p. 110.
  27. Keogh 1965, p. 108.
  28. Bullard 2007, p. 26.
  29. Wigmore 1957, pp. 668–669.
  30. Queensland Ex-POW Reparation Committee 1990, pp. 70–74.
  31. "Foreign News: Death". TIME Magazine. 3 February 1947. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  32. Wigmore 1957, p. 674.
  33. Hodges, Ian. "The sinking of Montevideo Maru, 1 July 1942". Remembering 1942. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  34. Tanaka 1980, p. 101.
  35. Shaw & Kane 1963, pp. 324–325.
  36. Tanaka 1980, p. 7.
  37. Bullard 2007, p. 33.
  38. Keogh 1965, pp. 155–285.
  39. Larrabee 1987, p. 339.
  40. Keogh 1965, pp. 410–411.
  41. Keogh 1965, p. 412.
  42. Long 1963, p. 268.
  43. Darby 1979.
  44. "Rabaul". Pacific Wrecks. Retrieved 1 October 2017.

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The Aitape–Wewak campaign was one of the final campaigns of the Pacific Theatre of World War II. Between November 1944 and the end of the war in August 1945, the Australian 6th Division, with air and naval support, fought the Imperial Japanese 18th Army in northern New Guinea. Considered a "mopping up" operation by the Australians, and although ultimately successful for them with the Japanese forces cleared from the coastal areas and driven inland, amidst difficult jungle conditions, casualties from combat and disease were high. With Japan on the verge of defeat, such casualties later led to the strategic necessity of the campaign being called into question.

New Guinea Volunteer Rifles

The New Guinea Volunteer Rifles (NGVR) was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. It was initially raised as a unit of the Militia from white Australian and European expatriates in New Guinea upon the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, before being activated for full-time service following the Japanese landings in early 1942. NGVR personnel then helped rescue survivors of Lark Force from Rabaul in February and March 1942. Between March and May, the NGVR monitored the Japanese bases which had been established in the Huon Gulf region, being the only Allied force in the area until the arrival of Kanga Force at Wau in May. The battalion subsequently established observation posts overlooking the main approaches and reported on Japanese movements.

Landing at Lae

The Landing at Lae was an amphibious landing to the east of Lae and then the subsequent advance on the town during the Salamaua–Lae campaign of World War II. Part of Operation Postern, which was undertaken to capture the Japanese base at Lae, the landing was undertaken between 4 and 6 September 1943 by Australian troops from the 9th Division, supported by US naval forces from the VII Amphibious Force. The first major amphibious operation undertaken by the Australian Army since the failed Gallipoli Campaign, the Australians invested a significant amount of effort into planning the operation.

Lark Force was an Australian Army formation established in March 1941 during World War II for service in New Britain and New Ireland. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Scanlan, it was raised in Australia and deployed to Rabaul and Kavieng, aboard SS Katoomba, MV Neptuna and HMAT Zealandia, to defend their strategically important harbours and airfields.

Invasion of Salamaua–Lae

The Invasion of Salamaua–Lae, called Operation SR by the Japanese, was an operation by Imperial Japanese forces to occupy the Salamaua–Lae area in the Territory of New Guinea during the Pacific campaign of World War II. The Japanese invaded and occupied the location in order to construct an airfield and establish a base to cover and support the advance of Japanese forces into the eastern New Guinea and Coral Sea areas. The small Australian garrison in the area withdrew as the Japanese landed and did not contest the invasion.

Battle of Wide Bay–Open Bay

The Battle of Wide Bay–Open Bay was a battle during the New Britain campaign of the Second World War. Following the arrival of the Australians on New Britain in late 1944, replacing the US garrison on the island, they began a limited offensive against the Japanese forces on the island. Pushing east from the positions previously captured by the US troops earlier in the year, after landing at Jacquinot Bay on the southern coast in November, the Australians began advancing across the island towards the Gazelle Peninsula, where they sought to isolate the numerically superior Japanese garrison. This advance was effected along two axes: Cape Hoskins to Open Bay on the northern coast, and Jacquinot Bay to Wide Bay on the southern. Once the Australians had secured a line across the island between Wide Bay and Open Bay in March and April 1945, the fighting on New Britain died down as the Australians sought to contain the larger Japanese garrison while limiting their own casualties. This situation lasted until the end of the war in August 1945.

Landing at Jacquinot Bay

The Landing at Jacquinot Bay was an Allied amphibious operation undertaken on 4 November 1944 during the New Britain Campaign of World War II. The landing was conducted as part of a change in responsibility for Allied operations on New Britain. The Australian 5th Division, under Major General Alan Ramsay, took over from the US 40th Infantry Division, which was needed for operations in the Philippines. The purpose of the operation was to establish a logistics base at Jacquinot Bay on the south coast of New Britain to support the 5th Division's planned operations near the major Japanese garrison at Rabaul.

Neutralisation of Rabaul

Rabaul is a town in Eastern New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Japanese forces landed on Rabaul on 23 February 1942, capturing it in February of that year. The former Australian territory was transformed into a major Japanese naval and air installation. It was heavily relied on by the Japanese, and was used as a launching point for Japanese reinforcements to New Guinea and Guadalcanal. Throughout the Solomons Campaign, neutralizing Rabaul became the primary objective of the Allied effort in the Solomons.

The 2/21st Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. Raised for service during Second World War as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force, it was formed on 11 July 1940 at Trawool in central Victoria as part of the 23rd Brigade of the 8th Division. It was subsequently deployed to Ambon as part of Gull Force in December 1941 following the Japanese invasion of Malaya; however, with the defence of the island considered untenable due to the limited military resources available and overwhelming Japanese strength it was subsequently captured despite determined resistance, surrendering on 3 February 1942. Most members of the battalion became prisoners of war, and a large number died in captivity.

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