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Operation Cartwheel (1943–1944) was a major military operation for the Allies in the Pacific theatre of World War II. Cartwheel was an operation aimed at neutralising the major Japanese base at Rabaul. The operation was directed by the Supreme Allied Commander in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA), General Douglas MacArthur, whose forces had advanced along the northeast coast of New Guinea and occupied nearby islands. Allied forces from the Pacific Ocean Areas command, under Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, advanced through the Solomon Islands toward Bougainville. The Allied forces involved were from Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the US and various Pacific Islands.
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.
The Pacific War, sometimes called the Asia–Pacific War, was the theater of World War II that was fought in the Pacific and Asia. It was fought over a vast area that included the Pacific Ocean and islands, the South West Pacific, South-East Asia, and in China.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
Japanese forces had captured Rabaul, on New Britain, in the Territory of New Guinea, from Australian forces in February 1942 and turned it into their major forward base in the South Pacific, and the main obstacle in the two Allied theatres. MacArthur formulated a strategic outline, the Elkton Plan, to capture Rabaul from bases in Australia and New Guinea. Admiral Ernest J. King, the Chief of Naval Operations, proposed a plan with similar elements but under Navy command. Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, whose main goal was for the US to concentrate its efforts against Nazi Germany in Europe and not against the Japanese in the Pacific, proposed a compromise plan in which the task would be divided into three stages, the first under Navy command and the other two under MacArthur's direction and the control of the Army. This strategic plan, which was never formally adopted by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff but was ultimately implemented, called for the following:
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 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.
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.
Tulagi, less commonly known as Tulaghi, is a small island in Solomon Islands, just off the south coast of Ngella Sule. The town of the same name on the island was the capital of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate from 1896 to 1942 and is today the capital of the Central Province. The capital of what is now the state of Solomon Islands moved to Honiara, Guadalcanal, after World War II.
The Santa Cruz Islands are a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, part of Temotu Province of the Solomon Islands. They lie approximately 250 miles (400 km) to the southeast of the Solomon Islands Chain. The Santa Cruz Islands lie just north of the archipelago of Vanuatu, and are considered part of the Vanuatu rain forests ecoregion.
The protracted battle for Guadalcanal, followed by the unopposed seizure of the Russell Islands (Operation Cleanslate) on 21 February 1943, resulted in Japanese attempts to reinforce the area by sea. MacArthur's air forces countered in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea from 2–5 March 1943. The disastrous losses suffered by the Japanese prompted Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto to initiate Operation I-Go, a series of air attacks against Allied airfields and shipping at both Guadalcanal and New Guinea, which ultimately resulted in his death, on 18 April 1943.
The Russell Islands are two small islands, as well as several islets, of volcanic origin, in the Central Province of Solomon Islands. They are located approximately 48 kilometres northwest of Guadalcanal. The islands are partially covered in coconut plantations, and have a copra and oil factory at Yandina. Yandina also has basic services, including a store, post office, and airport.
The Battle of the Bismarck Sea took place in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) during World War II when aircraft of the U.S. Fifth Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) attacked a Japanese convoy carrying troops to Lae, New Guinea. Most of the Japanese task force was destroyed, and Japanese troop losses were heavy.
Isoroku Yamamoto was a Japanese Fleet Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy and the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II until his death.
MacArthur had presented Elkton III, his revised plan for taking Rabaul before 1944, on 12 February 1943. It called for him to attack northeastern New Guinea and western New Britain and for Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., then in command of the South Pacific Area, to attack the central Solomons. The plan required seven more divisions than were already in the theatre, which raised objections from the British. The Joint Chiefs responded with a directive that approved the plan if forces already in the theatre or en route were used and the implementation was delayed by 60 days. Elkton III then became Operation Cartwheel.
Admiral is a four-star commissioned naval flag officer rank in the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, and the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, with the pay grade of O-10. Admiral ranks above vice admiral and below fleet admiral in the Navy; the Coast Guard and the Public Health Service do not have an established grade above admiral. Admiral is equivalent to the rank of general in the other uniformed services. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps has never had an officer hold the grade of admiral. However, 37 U.S.C. § 201 of the U.S. Code established the grade for the NOAA Corps, in case a position is created that merits the four-star grade.
Cartwheel identified 13 proposed subordinate operations and set a timetable for their launching. Of the 13, Rabaul, Kavieng, and Kolombangara were eventually eliminated as too costly and unnecessary, and only 10 were actually undertaken:
Kavieng is the capital of the Papua New Guinean province of New Ireland and the largest town on the island of the same name. The town is located at Balgai Bay, on the northern tip of the island. As of 2009, it had a population of 17,248.
Kolombangara is an island in the New Georgia Islands group of the nation state of Solomon Islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The name is from a local language, a rough translation of its meaning is "Water Lord" with approximately 80 rivers and streams running down its flanks.
The New Guinea Force, under General Thomas Blamey, was assigned responsibility for the eastward thrusts on mainland New Guinea. The 6th Arm, under General Walter Krueger, was to take Kiriwina, Woodlark, and Cape Gloucester. The land forces would be supported by Allied air units under Lieutenant General George Kenney and naval units under Vice Admiral Arthur S. Carpender.
In the midst of Operation Cartwheel, the Joint Chiefs met with President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Quadrant Conference in Quebec City in August 1943. There, the decision was made to bypass and isolate Rabaul, rather than attempting to capture the base, and to attack Kavieng instead. Soon afterward, the decision was made to bypass Kavieng as well. Although initially objected to by MacArthur, the bypassing of Rabaul, instead of its neutralisation, meant that his Elkton plan had been achieved, and after invading Saidor, he then moved into his Reno Plan, an advance across the north coast of New Guinea to Mindanao.
The campaign, which stretched into 1944, showed the effectiveness of a strategy of avoiding major concentrations of enemy forces and instead aiming to sever the Japanese lines of supply and communication.
The Guadalcanal Campaign, also known as the Battle of Guadalcanal and codenamed Operation Watchtower by American forces, was a military campaign fought between 7 August 1942 and 9 February 1943 on and around the island of Guadalcanal in the Pacific theater of World War II. It was the first major offensive by Allied forces against the Empire of Japan.
Operation Ke was the largely successful withdrawal of Japanese forces from Guadalcanal, concluding the Guadalcanal Campaign of World War II. The operation took place between 14 January and 7 February 1943, and involved both Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) and Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) forces under the overall direction of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters (IGH). Commanders of the operation included Isoroku Yamamoto and Hitoshi Imamura.
The Bougainville Campaign was a series of land and naval battles of the Pacific campaign of World War II between Allied forces and the Empire of Japan. It was part of Operation Cartwheel, the Allied grand strategy in the South Pacific. The campaign took place in the Northern Solomons in two phases. The first phase, in which American troops landed and held the perimeter around the beachhead at Torokina, lasted from November 1943 through November 1944. The second phase, in which primarily Australian troops went on the offensive, mopping up pockets of starving, isolated but still-determined Japanese, lasted from November 1944 until August 1945, when the last Japanese soldiers on the island surrendered. Operations during the final phase of the campaign saw the Australian forces advance north towards the Bonis Peninsula and south towards the main Japanese stronghold around Buin, although the war ended before these two enclaves were completely destroyed.
The Solomon Islands campaign was a major campaign of the Pacific War of World War II. The campaign began with Japanese landings and occupation of several areas in the British Solomon Islands and Bougainville, in the Territory of New Guinea, during the first six months of 1942. The Japanese occupied these locations and began the construction of several naval and air bases with the goals of protecting the flank of the Japanese offensive in New Guinea, establishing a security barrier for the major Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain, and providing bases for interdicting supply lines between the Allied powers of the United States and Australia and New Zealand.
The New Guinea campaign of the Pacific War lasted from January 1942 until the end of the war in August 1945. During the initial phase in early 1942, the Empire of Japan invaded the Australian-administered territories of the New Guinea Mandate and Papua and overran western New Guinea, which was a part of the Netherlands East Indies. During the second phase, lasting from late 1942 until the Japanese surrender, the Allies—consisting primarily of Australian and US forces—cleared the Japanese first from Papua, then the Mandate and finally from the Dutch colony.
The New Britain campaign was a World War II campaign fought between Allied and Imperial Japanese forces. The campaign was initiated by the Allies in late 1943 as part of a major offensive which aimed to neutralise the important Japanese base at Rabaul, the capital of New Britain, and was conducted in two phases between December 1943 and the end of the war in August 1945.
The Battle of the Green Islands or Operation Squarepeg was fought from 15 to 20 February 1944, between Imperial Japan and Allied forces from the New Zealand 3rd Division and the United States. Undertaken after landings to secure lodgments on New Britain and Bougainville, the main focus of the operation was the capture of Nissan Island, which was secured by New Zealand forces after only a short ground campaign. At only very limited cost in terms of casualties, the Allied operation resulted in the capture of several small atolls in the island chain, which were subsequently used to support air and naval operations focused on reducing the main Japanese base on Rabaul.
The Battle of Vella Lavella was fought from 15 August – 6 October 1943 between Japan and the Allied forces from New Zealand and the United States. Vella Lavella, an island located in the Solomon Islands, had been occupied by Japanese forces early during the war in the Pacific. Following the fighting around Munda Point, the Allies recaptured the island in late 1943, following a decision to bypass a large concentration of Japanese troops on the island of Kolombangara.
AirSols was a joint command for Allied air units in the Solomon Islands campaign of World War II, from April 1943 to June 1944. It was subordinate to the Allied Pacific Ocean Areas POA Command. AirSols superseded and absorbed Cactus Air Force, which controlled Allied air units in the Solomons during 1942–43. AirSols units came from elements of the United States Navy (USN), United States Marine Corps (USMC), the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and the Thirteenth Air Force, United States Army Air Forces (USAAF).
Minoru Sasaki sometimes referred to as Noburo Sasaki, was a commander in the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.
The Landings at Cape Torokina, also known as Operation Cherryblossom, took place at the beginning of the Bougainville campaign in World War II. The amphibious landings were carried out by elements of the United States Marine Corps in November 1943 on Bougainville Island in the South Pacific, as part of Allied efforts to advance towards the main Japanese base around Rabaul under Operation Cartwheel. Coming in the wake of Allied successes at Guadalcanal and in the central Solomons, the landings were intended to secure a beachhead with the purpose of establishing several bases from which to project air and naval power closer towards Rabaul, in an effort to neutralize the large Japanese force that had been established there.
The Battle of Wickham Anchorage took place during the New Georgia Campaign in the Solomon Islands during the Pacific War from 30 June -3 July 1943. In the battle, a force of United States Marine Corps Raiders and United States Army soldiers landed by ship in Wickham Anchorage on Vangunu Island and attacked a garrison of Imperial Japanese Navy and Army troops. The purpose of the attack by the U.S. was to secure the lines of communication and supply between Allied forces involved in the New Georgia Campaign and Allied bases in the southern Solomons. The U.S. forces were successful in driving the Japanese garrison from the area and securing the anchorage.
The Drive on Munda Point was an offensive by mainly United States Army forces against Imperial Japanese forces on New Georgia in the Solomon Islands from 2–17 July 1943. The Japanese forces, mainly from the Imperial Japanese Army, were guarding an airfield at Munda Point on New Georgia that the U.S. wished to capture.
The Battle of Munda Point was a battle, from 22 July-4 August 1943, between primarily United States Army and Imperial Japanese Army forces during the New Georgia Campaign in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific War. In the battle, U.S. forces captured a Japanese airfield constructed at Munda Point on New Georgia.
The Battle of Bairoko was a battle between American and Imperial Japanese Army and Navy forces on 20 July 1943 during the New Georgia Campaign in the Solomon Islands during the Pacific War. In the battle, U.S. Marine Raiders—supported by two U.S. Army infantry battalions—attacked a Japanese garrison guarding the port of Bairoko on the Dragons Peninsula on New Georgia. The day-long assault on well-prepared Japanese defensive positions by the Americans was unsuccessful.
Operation Dexterity was a military operation, part of Operation Cartwheel in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) for the Allies in the Pacific theater of World War II. The operation was directed by the Supreme Allied Commander in the SWPA, General Douglas MacArthur. Dexterity included amphibious landings at Arawe on 15 December 1943, and Cape Gloucester on 26 December 1943 in the northwest of New Britain, the capture of the Imperial Japanese held Tuluvu aerodrome on the 30 December 1943 and the amphibious landing at Saidor on 2 January 1944. The operation ended on 10 February 1944.
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.
Operation I-Go was an aerial counter-offensive launched by Imperial Japanese forces against Allied forces during the Solomon Islands and New Guinea Campaigns in the Pacific Theater of World War II from 1–16 April 1943. In the operation, Japanese aircraft—primarily from Imperial Japanese Navy units under the command of Admirals Isoroku Yamamoto and Jinichi Kusaka—attacked Allied ships, aircraft, and land installations in the southeast Solomon Islands and New Guinea. The goal of the operation was to halt the Allied offensives in New Guinea and the Solomons and to give Japan time to prepare a new set of defenses in response to recent defeats to the Allies in the Battle of Guadalcanal and in New Guinea at Buna–Gona, Wau, and the Bismarck Sea.
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.
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