North from Guadalcanal

By Richard B. Frank

Like the Americans, Japanese strategists were not idle. Much sobered by defeat on Guadalcanal, the imperial army advocated abandoning the Solomons south of Bougainville to concentrate on what it identified as the critical area in the Southeast Area: New Guinea. The Imperial Japanese Navy, however, refused to abandon the Central Solomons. Resolution of this clash emerged as a typical Japanese compromise: Each service agreed to do as it wished. The army kept its main forces on Bougainville and at Rabaul and detached only small contingents of soldiers to assist the navy’s Central Solomons endeavors. 4

As multiple entries in Nimitz’s war diary noted between February and June, his realm was “unusually quiet.” 5 Compared to the months before and after, a five-month lull settled over the Solomons sporadically broken by air and sea skirmishes. An unopposed American occupation of the Russell Islands, just north of Guadalcanal, on 21 February permitted construction of an air base there that extended U.S. aircraft range by about 60 miles. 6

The first of two modest sea encounters occurred on 6 March when Rear Admiral A. Stanton Merrill’s Task Force 38 (three cruisers and three destroyers) sent the Japanese destroyers Murasame and Minegumo to permanent berths at the bottom of Kula Gulf. Then on 8 May, three illustrious Imperial Japanese Navy destroyers (the Kagero , Oyashio , and Kuroshiro ) fell victim to a secretly installed American offensive minefield in Blackett Strait, off southern Kolombangara. 7

Aerial Prelude

Meanwhile, on 15 February 1943, orders amalgamated aviation units of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps as well as two New Zealand fighter squadrons into the new Aircraft Solomon Islands (AIRSOLS) command. This represented an evolution of Guadalcanal’s “Cactus Air Force,” forged by fiery necessity not premeditation during that tumultuous campaign. With Navy, Army, and Marine Corps officers rotating command and a multiservice, integrated staff, AIRSOLS formed the first true joint command in American military history—and the gallant Kiwis made it a combined command. 8

While AIRSOLS dispatched strikes regularly up the Solomons over these five months, a brace of Japanese counterblows overshadowed this attritional effort. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander–in-chief, Combined Fleet, conceived the first of these, the “I,” or “I-Go,” Operation, to blunt further Allied advances. To reinforce the 11th Air Fleet’s 185 operational aircraft (86 Mitsubishi A6M “Zeros,” 27 Aichi D3A “Val” dive bombers, and 72 Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” land attack planes) at Rabaul, Buin, and the Shortlands, Yamamoto ordered more than 160 aircraft (96 Zeros, 65 Vals, and a handful of Nakajima B5N “Kate” torpedo planes) from Japan’s premier carriers to wing to Rabaul as reinforcements.

I Go commenced on 1 April with a fighter sweep to the Russell Islands. On 7 April, a huge 224-plane raid targeted Guadalcanal. The Japanese sank the destroyer Aaron Ward (DD-483), oiler Kanawha (AO-1), and Australian corvette Moa . The American star of the day was Marine First Lieutenant James E. Swett of Marine Fighter Squadron 221. He slashed into a formation of Vals, shooting down seven in 15 minutes before he ditched because of battle damage. This stunning feat earned Swett the Medal of Honor.

In sum, these two encounters cost 13 Allied fighters, with four pilots lost; Japanese losses totaled 21 Zeros and 9 Vals. Three further strikes at New Guinea targets between 11 and 14 April produced losses of five Zeros, seven Vals, and nine Bettys. At least five Allied planes were lost in the air, and a pair of freighters became total losses. 9

Grossly overoptimistic reports from Japanese aviators convinced Yamamoto that the raids constituted a major success. He decided to wing forward from Rabaul to Buin for a morale-boosting inspection of his frontline fliers. In the now-well-known story, U.S. Navy intelligence decrypted a message with his precise itinerary. Army Air Forces P-38s intercepted his flight, shooting down the two Bettys at a cost of one P-38. All on board Yamamoto’s plane were killed. 10

A second Japanese series of five raids occurred between 13 May and 16 June. The first three produced losses of 19 Zeros for 10 American fighters. But on 16 June, another huge Guadalcanal strike by 70 Zeros escorting 24 Vals ran into a buzz saw. In exchange for six American fighters and five pilots, the Japanese lost 15 Zeros and 13 Vals. It marked the final major air battle over Guadalcanal. 11

This first half of 1943 found American fighter units converting on a large scale from P-39 Airacobras, P-40 Warhawks, and F4F Wildcats to P-38 Lightnings, F6F Hellcats, and F4U Corsairs. Only available in relatively small numbers, the P-38s suffered further from low operational readiness levels. Lofting from both land and sea bases, the Hellcats enjoyed much success in the Solomons. But the Japanese were most impressed with the speed, range, and ruggedness of the gull-winged Corsairs.

In the fall, the Japanese weakly countered this stable of new adversaries with modest numbers of the Model 52 version of the Zero. It offered more firepower but only about a 20-mph increase in speed above older models. This still left the Model 52 30 to 60 mph slower than the new American fighters. In fact, some veteran Japanese fighter pilots preferred the older model Zeros, as they weighed 600 pounds less—a difference providing a split second more responsiveness that could be more valuable in combat than the small speed improvement. 12

Operation Toenails

The unbending mathematics of fighter-plane range dictated that Halsey’s forces would need to advance at least two steps beyond Guadalcanal to place Rabaul under concerted air attack. For the first step, Halsey targeted the New Georgia group in the Central Solomons. Delays in mounting MacArthur’s linked operations in the Southwest Pacific Area forced Halsey to postpone a complex choreography of landings around New Georgia (Operation Toenails) to late June. The main landing at Rendova on 30 June seized a key stepping-stone for an advance on the main prize, the Munda airfield on New Georgia. One of several subsidiary operations involved the landing of a contingent of two Army battalions and the 1st Marine Raider Battalion, all under Marine Colonel Harry Liversedge, at Rice Anchorage in Kula Gulf. This would seal off the obvious back door for Japanese reinforcements and supply to reach Munda. 13

Originally, Halsey planned to take Munda with the equivalent of about one division in one month. Before the campaign was over, close to four divisions (the Army’s 37th, 43rd, and 25th Infantry Divisions, plus Marine raiders and defense battalions) would fight for nearly four months. Ultimately, they faced about 10,000 Japanese soldiers and sailors who fought tenaciously and well under Major General Noburo Sasaki.

The campaign resembled Guadalcanal in reverse—the Americans trying to wrest from the Japanese an enclave with an airfield. Like the Japanese on Guadalcanal, the Americans found that a cross-country approach march to the airfield defense perimeter extremely arduous and a logistical nightmare. New Georgia’s jungle carpet ensnared and quickly exhausted soldiers of the originally committed 43rd Infantry Division. Worse, they proved extremely susceptible to Japanese harassment tactics. The exhausted and sleepless rifle units hemorrhaged massive numbers of neuropsychiatric casualties. Halsey sent forward Major General Oscar Griswold, the XIV Corps commander, who reported that the division was “about to fold up.” Even with heavy reinforcements, New Georgia was not finally secured until 6 October. 14

It was not only ashore that honors went to the Japanese. At the Battle of Kula Gulf (6 July), Japanese Type 93 “Long Lance” torpedoes sank the veteran cruiser Helena (CL-50). The Japanese lost the destroyer Niizuki with the Japanese commander, Rear Admiral Teruo Akiyama. At the Battle of Kolombangara (13 July), the Japanese lost their famous old light cruiser Jintsu , but their Long Lances sank the destroyer Gwin (DD-433) and severely damaged the light cruisers Honolulu (CL-48), St. Louis (CL-49), and HMNZS Leander .

The New Georgia campaign proved to be the last occasion during the war when the Japanese managed to evacuate most of their garrison from an island subjected to an Allied landing. The Americans did come out on top in the air. Japanese aviators sustained terrible attrition, and their attempted counterattack against the 30 June Rendova landings produced one of the worst reverses of the war when 13 of 72 Zeros and 17 of 26 Bettys were shot down. 15

The Birth of ‘Island-Hopping’

“The strategy and tactics of the New Georgia Campaign were among the least successful of any Allied campaign in the Pacific,” historian Samuel Eliot Morison later declared. 16 From this highly unsatisfactory episode came a huge leap forward in Allied strategy. Naval planners had contemplated the concept of “island-hopping” or bypassing Japanese-occupied islands, before the war, and even President Franklin D. Roosevelt had mooted the idea. In May 1943, American forces seemed to hop over Japanese-held Kiska for Attu in the Aleutians.

But there are three major caveats to honoring Attu as the first bypass. To begin, the lack of assault shipping to land on Kiska but enough to land on Attu formed the fundamental impetus for this skip. Attu also failed to exemplify the lower-casualty bonus of a bypass. Proportionately, the American losses on Attu ranked second only to Iwo Jima in the Pacific; for every 100 dead Japanese, 71 Americans were killed or wounded. Finally, in August American-Canadian forces turned around and still assaulted Kiska, thus nullifying the bypass—only to discover fortunately that the Japanese had evacuated the garrison. 17

Washington planners began contemplating the bypass of Rabaul in May-June 1943 and persuaded Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall to support the idea. In August 1943, Washington effectively directed a bypass of Rabaul over MacArthur’s sharp protests. Among the most important beneficiaries of this decision were the 2d Marine Division and a New Zealand division originally listed by Halsey at the head of the Allied order of battle in a direct assault on Rabaul that would have far exceeded the horrors of Tarawa. 18

But simultaneous with the progress of bypass thinking in Washington, the trials of the New Georgia campaign convinced Halsey to adopt a new strategy as early as 10 July. Rather than, as the Japanese expected, attack Kolombangara, the next island after New Georgia, Halsey chose to bypass it for the euphoniously named Vella Lavella on 15 August. This represented the first unadulterated instance of island-hopping by the Allies in the Pacific. U.S. Army soldiers later replaced by elements of the New Zealand 3rd Division cleared Vella Lavella at low cost, while Seabees constructed a useful airfield there. 19

Fighting on and off Bougainville

Grudgingly resigned to the bypass of Rabaul, MacArthur insisted that its airpower be neutralized. That required another airfield site within fighter-plane range of the Japanese bastion. Apart from specifying a deadline of 1 November for a landing to seize airfield sites, MacArthur gave Halsey a free hand. After mulling over a number of possibilities, the admiral selected Cape Torokina, Empress Augusta Bay, on Bougainville’s southwest coast. A reconnaissance party landed in the wrong spot—understandable as the chart location of the cape, at the bay’s northern end, was eight miles off—and missed Torokina’s swampy ground. Even this error worked to Halsey’s advantage. The soil sample verifying that the ground could sustain an airfield proved valid for the actual location, and the swamps at Cape Torokina convinced the Japanese to discount its prospects as a landing site. 20

There were two preliminaries to Operation Dipper, the final code name for the Bougainville landing. The New Zealand 8th Brigade Group landed on the Treasury Islands, about 30 miles south of Bougainville, on 27 October. By 12 November, the New Zealanders had cleared the islands, which would serve as a radar site, PT-boat base, and small-craft staging base. Also on 27 October, Lieutenant Colonel Victor Krulak’s 2d Marine Parachute Battalion landed on Choiseul. Over the next eight days, the Leathernecks, expertly guided by native scouts, generally raised hell and killed at least 143 Japanese at a cost of 11 killed or missing and 15 wounded. The Japanese correctly identified this as a diversion, and Krulak’s command prudently withdrew on 3 November as the Japanese prepared to crush it. 21

In the face of potent threats by air and sea from nearby Rabaul, Rear Admiral Theodore S. Wilkinson, commander, Amphibious Force South Pacific, orchestrated a remarkably efficient landing on 1 November 1943. The 3d Marine Raider Battalion secured Puruata Island to prevent rear and flank fire on the main landings by the novice 3d Marine Division. The approximately 270 Japanese defenders raked the division’s 3d Marines on the right (south) with bullets and shells, but the Marines pushed ashore nonetheless. While the 9th Marines on the left (north) encountered no human opposition, an angry surf wrecked numerous landing craft, arguably inhibiting the landings more than the Japanese. 22

A Japanese aerial counterattack on the landing sustained devastating losses. Of a total of 104 sorties, the Japanese lost 25 Zeros, 5 Bettys, and 3 torpedo planes for only 4 defending fighters shot down with the loss of just one pilot. Notwithstanding delays caused by air raids, Wilkinson’s adroit planning had 8 of 12 assault ships unloaded by nightfall with 14,000 men and 6,000 tons of supplies ashore. 23

To Rear Admiral Sentaro Omori fell the task of replicating the victory of Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa at the Battle of Savo Island—but this time the U.S. naval covering force was not caught napping. Starting at 0227 on 2 November, Admiral Merrill’s four light cruisers and eight destroyers comprising Task Force 39 met Omori’s two heavy and two light cruisers and six destroyers in the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay. Over the next 3 hours, 13 minutes, Merrill released his destroyers to attack from the flanks while he wheeled his cruiser column elegantly in simultaneous turns ultimately inscribing “figure 8s” on the sea.

But there was a cost to such elegance: very few hits (about 12) for the massive number of shells fired (4,591 6-inch and 705 5-inch). The Japanese lost the light cruiser Sendai and destroyer Hatsukaze . A Japanese torpedo removed the stern of destroyer Foote (DD-511), but she was towed to safety even through a mass air attack repelled by Merrill’s hardworking task group. 24

Then Admiral Mineichi Koga, Yamamoto’s successor as Combined Fleet commander-in-chief, dispatched seven heavy cruisers, a light cruiser, and four destroyers to renew the Japanese challenge. In a daring riposte, Halsey sent the carriers Saratoga (CV-3) and Princeton (CVL-23) under Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman to strike the coiling Japanese naval power at Rabaul. While AIRSOLS planes protected his carriers, Sherman launched a combined 97-plane strike on 5 November. At a cost of ten aircraft, American bombs and torpedoes canceled Japanese plans for another strike at the beachhead by damaging four heavy and two light cruisers.

Rear Admiral Alfred E. Montgomery’s carrier task force of the Essex (CV-9), Bunker Hill (CV-11), and Independence (CVL-22) delivered a follow-up Rabaul strike on 11 November. This blow sank the destroyer Sazanami and damaged to varying degrees two light cruisers and three destroyers. Japanese carrier aviators lashed back at Montgomery, but sustained devastating losses. Of the 152 carrier planes flown to Rabaul in late October, some 120 were lost over Bougainville, Rabaul, or to Montgomery’s ships by mid-November. 25

Aerial Siege of Rabaul

By the fall of 1943, Rabaul was a gigantic base complex. Its splendid harbor was perhaps the finest in the South Pacific. The Japanese had expanded the two Australian prewar air strips at Lakunai and Vunkanau and added three more: Rapopo in December 1942, Tobera in August 1943 and Keravat, which drainage problems relegated to emergency use only. Save for Keravat, all these fields boasted concrete runways, otherwise unheard of in Japan’s Southeast Area. Aerial photography demonstrated miles of taxiways connected to more than 400 revetments for Japanese planes. The 90,000-plus garrison was formidably equipped and well supplied. 26

Allied air attacks on Rabaul had commenced almost immediately after the Japanese seized the location in January 1942. But it was not until the fall of 1943 that Rabaul became an exemplar of a novel development in warfare. Sieges of cities by land and sea stretch back to the earliest antiquity, but World War II brought for the first time a siege by air.

Lieutenant General George Kenney’s 5th Air Force from MacArthur’s theater mounted the fifth phase of the siege from 12 October to 7 November 1943. Just before Kenney commenced his campaign, aerial photographs verified the presence of about 263 Japanese aircraft, of which about 120 were Zeros. Other Zeros flew from nearby bases at Buka and Buin, at the opposite ends of Bougainville. They would soon pull back to Rabaul. 27

The 5th Air Force hit Rabaul on six occasions in October employing B-24 heavy bombers, B-25 medium bombers, P-38 fighters, and Australian Beaufighter heavy fighters. Despite the claims in Kenney’s communiqués and his postwar book of destruction of huge numbers of Japanese aircraft in the air and on the ground, at the end of the month, the air combat score was 25 Zeros for 20 5th Air Force planes (seven P-38s, five B-25s, seven B-24s, one Beaufighter). Similar disparities existed between Kenney’s claims of damage to ground facilities and shipping. The Japanese also substantially overclaimed the number of aircraft they shot down.

On 2 November, Captain Tameichi Hara, a celebrated veteran of many Pacific air and sea battles, witnessed from his destroyer in Rabaul’s Simpson Harbor what he called “the most spectacular action of my life.” In 12 tumultuous minutes, the 5th Air Force sent racing in at mast-top level waves of 12 to 15 B-25 Mitchells, 75 altogether. The first waves laced Japanese airfields and antiaircraft positions, while succeeding waves assailed shipping. Meanwhile 80 P-38s contested the sky with the 115 Zeros that rose to intercept the raid. Bursting bombs kicked up smoke geysers; strings of colored tracers rose up from shore and ship or arched down from the sky in parabolas; flaming aircraft smashed into water or land.

When quiet returned, the tally was 9 B-25s, 10 P-38s, and 15 Zeros lost in air combat. The 5th Air Force returned two more times in November before shifting back to cover operations on New Guinea and a landing at Cape Gloucester, at the west end of New Britain, at the end of December to ease MacArthur’s march back toward the Philippines. Kenney’s aviators wounded Rabaul, but by no means knocked it out, as the general claimed. 28

Starting on 17 December, when the first Allied airfield on Bougainville became operational, AIRSOLS, with just fewer than 500 available aircraft, mounted the main onslaught against Rabaul. Thereafter, weather permitting, incessant AIRSOLS strikes with light, medium, and heavy bombers hammered the base’s air defenses and facilities while escorting fighters embraced their Japanese counterparts in a grinding attrition that prompted surviving Japanese pilots to recall Rabaul as the “Graveyard of Fighter Pilots.” It ended shortly after American fast carriers devastated the main Japanese Central Pacific base at Truk on 17 February.

Two days later, the last major air clash occurred over Rabaul. The Japanese had decided to pull back their remaining serviceable aircraft to guard Truk and other parts of their perimeter. For the rest of the war, Allied aircraft periodically pummeled Rabaul while Japanese airmen, patching together damaged and abandoned planes, continued a sporadic guerrilla campaign of interceptions and odd attacks. 29

Actual loss figures in this siege remain elusive. Total Japanese losses in the air and on the ground ran somewhere above 300 aircraft. AIRSOLS listed losses of 136 planes in “daylight missions” from November 1943 to March 1944. But this omits aircraft damaged beyond repair or lost in other circumstances. 30 If Japanese losses on the ground are subtracted, aerial combat losses may have been much closer than later histories acknowledged.

A different set of numbers affords a grim reminder of another feature of the war with Japan. More than 75 Allied airmen fell into Japanese hands around Rabaul. A clever and sympathetic Nisei acting as a Japanese interrogator managed to get himself and six fliers, including Marine Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, evacuated to Japan for “intelligence purposes.” At war’s end, just seven Allied aviators emerged from captivity at Rabaul. The rest perished from neglect, torture, and execution. 31

Beachhead Counterattack

The Japanese wrote the final bold punctuation mark on the Solomons campaign. After they belatedly recognized that the Cape Torokina landings on Bougainville represented a major American enterprise, not a mere feint, the 17th Army mounted a counterattack. Between 15,000 and 19,000 Japanese drawn mainly from the 6th and 17th Divisions marched from the opposite ends of Bougainville to converge on the American beachhead by March 1944. The Japanese estimated they faced about 30,000 men, 10,000 of whom were aviation personnel. The real total was 62,000 men of the U.S. Army’s XIV Corps. The main units were the 37th Division; the Americal Division (which had replaced the 3d Marine Division); the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry (1/24); and the 3d Marine Defense Battalion. Further, the American commanders also enjoyed a banquet of radio intelligence on enemy strength and plans. 32

The Japanese offensive commenced on 8 March and continued with sporadic renewals to 23 March. It managed shallow penetrations of American positions at all three points of attack, but massive U.S. artillery fire—one critical hill received no fewer than 10,000 105-mm howitzer shells—as well as air and tank support restored the lines. The Japanese sustained about 5,000 killed and 3,000 wounded, almost 50 percent of the men committed. American fatalities totaled 263. 33

Bougainville also marked the battle introduction of the first African-American combat units in World War II. The 1/24 and 25th Infantry, 93rd Division, units were composed of black enlisted men and largely white officers. Reflecting the racist attitudes of the time, these units were customarily relegated to labor duty. But after the March 1944 attack, the 1/24 conducted patrol actions. After the typical faltering beginning of any green unit, performance improved very rapidly and was declared “highly satisfactory” by the corps commander. Likewise, the performance of two black artillery battalions earned plaudits. But vastly exaggerated rumors about the misadventure of one 25th Infantry company on its first mission exerted a baleful influence on the long road to integration. 34

The Final Analysis

Rabaul served as the fulcrum of Japanese and American efforts for more than half the Pacific war. The Japanese permitted themselves to become entangled in a ferocious attrition campaign in the air and at sea at the far extremity of their logistical capabilities. Losses of high-quality airmen and valuable warships, especially destroyers, exerted a profound effect of Japan’s ability to prosecute the war thereafter.

The Solomons campaign served as a vital seasoning experience for American services to gain operational maturity. It also contributed two enduring legacies to American warfare. The first was the trailblazing role of AIRSOLS in true joint operations. The second was the concept of island-hopping—the use of maneuver warfare at the operational and strategic levels.



1. Quoted in Richard Frank, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle (New York, Random House, 1990), 597.

2. Grace Pearson Hayes, History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in World War II: The War Against Japan (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1982), 141, 145–6.

3. Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, “Running Estimate and Summary” known as the “Gray Book,” COMINCH to CINCPAC 092200 February 1943, 1432 (American Naval Records Society, www.ibiblio.org/anrs/docs/D/D7/nimitz_graybook1.pdf . COMINCH to CINCPAC info COMSOPAC 131250 February 43 (Gray Book, 1435), COMSOPAC to COMINCH info CINCPAC 110421 February 43 (Gray Book 1432), COMSOPAC to COMINCH info CINCPAC 170617 February 43 (Gray Book, 1437) CINCPAC to COMINCH, COMSOPAC 112237 February 42, (Gray Book, 1434).

4. John Miller Jr., The United States Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific—Cartwheel: The Reduction of Rabaul (Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1959), 32–6.

5. Gray Book, 24 February 1943, 1417.

6. VADM George C. Dyer (Ret.), The Amphibians Came to Conquer: The Story of Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner , vol. 1 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1969), 457–78.

7. Destroyers lost in March and May: TROMs, Murasame , Minegumo , Kagero , Oyashio and Kuroshio and “The Destruction of DesDiv 15,” www.combinedfleet.com .

8. Robert Sherrod, History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II (San Rafael, CA: Presido Press, 1980), 131. Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., The Army Air Forces in World War II , vol. 4, The Pacific: Guadalcanal to Saipan, August 1942 to July 1944 (Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1983), 89–90. Samuel Eliot Morison, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II , vol. 6, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier 22 July 1942–1 May 1944 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1964), 99.

9. Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier , 117–27. Ikuhiko Hata and Yasuho Izawa, Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units in World War II (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1989), 65, Appendix D. Craven and Cate, The Pacific: Guadalcanal to Saipan , 212–3, 218. Sherrod, History of Marine Corps Aviation , 137–38. Barrett Tillman, The Wildcat in World War II (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1983), 159–61.

10. R. Cargill Hall, Lightning Over Bougainville: The Yamamoto Mission Reconsidered (Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 1991). Craven and Cate, The Pacific: Guadalcanal to Saipan , 213–14.

11. Craven and Cate, The Pacific: Guadalcanal to Saipan , 160–1, 218–19. Tillman, Wildcat , 165–66. Barrett Tillman, Corsair: The F4U in World War II and Korea (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1979), 33–35.

12. Henry Sakaida, The Siege of Rabaul (St. Paul: Phalanx Publishing, 1996), 10, 19. Tillman, Corsair , 29–32. Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier , 395.

13. Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier , 138–53, 156–8. Miller, Cartwheel , 67–92. Henry I. Shaw and Maj. Douglas T. Kane, History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II , vol. 2, Isolation of Rabaul (Washington, DC: Historical Branch, G-3 Division, 1963), Chapter 4.

14. Miller, Cartwheel , 78–188. Shaw and Kane, Isolation of Rabaul , 63–118.

15. Vincent P. O’Hara, The U.S. Navy Against the Axis (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2007), 173–87. Hata and Izawa, Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units , Appendix D. Miller, Cartwheel , 184–86. Tillman, Corsair , 36.

16. Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier , 224.

17. Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier , 225–27. Stetson Conn, Rose E. Engelman and Byron Fairchild, The United Stated Army in World War II: The Western Hemisphere, Guarding the United States and its Outposts (Washington, DC, Center of Military History, 1989), 277–80, 295.

18. Grace P. Hayes, The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: The War Against Japan (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1982), 369–70, 427, 431–33, 831, 841. Miller, Cartwheel , 222–25. COMSOPAC to CINCSOWESPAC 210951 June 1943, Grey Book, 1608. Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier , 370, 393.

19. COMSOPAC 110421 July, Grey Book, 1618, 1766. Miller, Cartwheel , 172–88.

20. Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier , 280–4, 298; Miller: Cartwheel , 222–29.

21. Miller, Cartwheel , 236, 239–41. Shaw and Kane, Isolation of Rabaul , 194–204. Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier , 293–96.

22. Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier , 296–304. Shaw and Kane, Isolation of Rabaul , 212–16, 223.

23. Hata and Izawa, Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units , Appendix D. Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier , 303–4. Sherrod, History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II , 181–83. Tillman, Corsair , 48–50.

24. O’Hara, The U.S. Navy Against the Axis , 207–16. Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier , 303–22. TROMs Myoko , Haguro , Sendai , Hatsukaze , www.combinedfleet.com . Eric Lacroix and Linton Wells II, Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1997), 319–21, 428.

25. Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier , Chapter 18. Hata and Izawa, Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units , Appendix D, 50–1. TROMs Atago , Maya , Takao , Mogami , Agano , Noshiro , Yubari , Amagiri , Fujinami , Naganami , Suzunami , Wakatsuki , www.combinedfleet.com .

26. Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier , 393. Bruce Gamble, Fortress Rabaul: The Battle for the Southwest Pacific, January 1942–April 1943 (Minneapolis: Zenith Press, 2010), 64, 261.

27. Richard L. Dunn, “Shootout at Rabaul,” Air Power History , Fall 2012, 18–9.

28. Ibid., 14–27. Captain Tameichi Hara with Fred Saito and Roger Pineau, Japanese Destroyer Captain (New York: Ballantine Books, 1961), 240.

29. Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier , 392–409. Sherrod, History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II , 193–205. Sakaida, Siege of Rabaul , 44–85.

30. Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier , 403–4.

31. Sakaida, Siege of Rabaul , 21, 87.

32. Miller, Cartwheel , 351–55.

33. Ibid., 356–78.

34. Ulysses Lee, United States Army in World War II, Special Studies, The Employment of Negro Troops (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1986), 498–515.


An Unlikely Friendship

On 15 April 1943, a pair of World War II’s strongest and most publicly popular American commanders, General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral William F. Halsey Jr., met for the first time. To the surprise of both men—and the relief of their superiors—the two larger-than-life figures forged an immediate and genuine friendship. “I have seldom seen a man who makes a quicker, stronger, more favorable impression,” declared Halsey. “I liked him from the moment we met,” seconded MacArthur, who warmed to Halsey’s gruff exterior and aggressive soul. Technically, Halsey was MacArthur’s subordinate for “strategic direction” during Operation Cartwheel. But in the surest sign of MacArthur’s authentic confidence, Halsey devised and executed his own operations. 1

The most remarkable moment of their collaboration came in March 1944. MacArthur darkly interpreted a Navy design to place a vast new naval base at Manus in the Admiralty Islands under Halsey’s jurisdiction as a plot against his dream of a return to the Philippines and as an aspersion on his abilities. MacArthur issued a preemptory order that only ships of his 7th Fleet could use the base. In front of startled, slack-jawed staff officers, Halsey blurted out, “If you stick to this order of yours, you will be hampering the war effort!” No one else during the war ever addressed MacArthur so bluntly. Yet after discharging more eloquent argumentative volleys, MacArthur finally managed a “charming smile,” reported Halsey, and said, “You win, Bill!” 2



1. Douglas MacArthur, Reminiscences (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), 173–4. William F. Halsey and Joseph Bryan III, Admiral Halsey’s Story (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1947), 154–5.

2. William F. Halsey and Joseph Bryan III, Admiral Halsey’s Story (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1947), 186–90. D. Clayton James, The Years of MacArthur: 1941–1945 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1975), 387–91.

—Richard B. Frank

 

 
 

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