Rabaul 1943-44 Reducing Japan’s Great Island Fortress

Published: January 26th, 2018     
Product Image
Author: Mark Lardas Illustrator: Mark Postlethwaite
Reviewed by: 
Hub Plott
Company: Osprey Publishing
ISBN #: 978-1-4728-2244-4
Other Publication Information: 94 pages, 67 B&W photos, 2 color photos, maps and color paintings
Price: $20.00
Product / Stock #: ACM

This book is the second in a new series covering major air campaigns in history. This book covers the fight against the Japanese held island stronghold of Rabaul. This island fortress was blocking the allied advance to Tokyo, Home to around 100,000 troops and numerous airfields it was felt that even an all-out assault would not lead to the taking of the island. Thus the Allies began a campaign of aerial assault adding in the use of naval and land forces to reduce the ability of Rabaul to play an important part in the war. This campaign became the blueprint for further combat in the Pacific, showing that it was not necessary to occupy the island to control it.

The book is broken down into 9 sections. The introduction discusses in brief the strategic importance of Rabaul and all the reasons it was such a natural and important base for the Japanese in WWII>

Next a chronology of events from the January 23rd 1942 Japanese capture of Rabaul to the September 6, 1945 surrender of Japanese forces on Rabaul to the Americans.

Chapter Three covers the capabilities of those attacking Rabaul. There is a brief listing and discussion of all the US aircraft used by the 5th AF, USN and USMC. The need for, acquisition of and building of the bases for these forces is covered.

Chapter Four discusses the capabilities of the Japanese forces based on Rabaul. Items discussed include the types of IJN aircraft used, the airfields and logistics, defenses as well as tactics.

Chapter Five gives us a look into the campaign objectives. Rabaul was the main base for the Japanese in the Southwest Pacific. At first taking Rabaul was the main desire of US forces but what had been learned from previous battles was that to remove the Japanese forces would considerable time and very large numbers of troops. Also the number of heavy bombers required would curtail the number available for use in Europe. These plans were revised to take islands near Rabaul and build airfields or capture existing airfields then use them to raid and isolate the Rabaul fortress.

Chapter Six covers the slow tightening of the noose in the actual campaign. Beginning efforts by air in 1942-43, the aerial siege of the island, naval actions and how having airfields closer to Rabaul allowed the use of single and twin engine fighters and bombers without the added wear and tear on equipment and men that long distance operations lead to. This is also the largest section of the book at 43 pages.

Chapter Seven is the aftermath and analysis section. When the island was surrendered in September of 1945, 140,000 Japanese troops were still on the island! The Australians who were administrating the island disarmed the Japanese and directed them to build camps to live in and to raise food to feed themselves. Returning these men to Japan did not begin until May 1946. The isolation and immobilization of Rabaul by airpower and naval forces differed from early battles where the airpower pounded the enemy then ground forces moved in to destroy and occupy.

The final two sections have suggestions of further reading and the index for this volume.

This is a good read. There is a lot of information in these pages and thoughtful analysis as well. This is a very interesting and concise coverage of the fighting around and isolation of Rabaul. Many interesting photographs, beautiful two pages combat paintings, maps all to please both the historian and the modeler. This promises to be a great series for those interested in not only the events covered but the rationale behind how they were conducted. I recommend this book to all!

Our thanks to Osprey Publishing for the review copy and my thanks to IPMS/USA for the review opportunity

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