RABAUL - Reduction and Redemption
The Strategy and
Triumph of The Green Islands
The Pacific War was a battle for islands and against a foe that knew not surrender. Battles were bloody and costly on both sides.
While the best known struggles took a heavy toll in human lives, another strategy was evolving. Rabaul, in the New Britain Islands was the center of an enormous complex of Japanese troops and munitions. It loomed as a formidable obstacle to MacArthur's return to the Philippines, but the human and ammo resources to invade the area would be massive.
The solution - Operation Watchtower - is known as "The Reduction of Rabaul." It targeted the ability of the garrisoned troops to make war; planes, ships and boats, runways, munitions stockpiles would be destroyed, but there was no systematic effort to take lives. Air and sea traffic to and from the area was attacked and the area was quarantined against air or sea traffic raids
The Green Islands were a launching area for many forces who carried out the systematic vigilance and disabling of Rabaul. From mid-March 1944 until the end of the war, US and New Zealand dispatched a steady stream of PT boat/Black Cat (PBY) teams, dive bombers, PBJs, heavy and medium bombers, Corsairs and other fighters into the vast space over and around the occupied islands in search of potential war power.
Unbeknownst to the Allied forces was a POW camp where Pappy Boyington and Fr.George Lepping, SM, were incarcerated and dodging Allied bombs.
The following links contain the story of the Japanese troops before, during and after the war. It is particularly interesting to note that the life preserving Rabaul strategy returned nearly as many Japanese to their homeland as were killed in the atomic blasts. And they had used their island sojourn uniquely to prepare to take lead in building a peaceful and prosperous nation.
Papua New Guinea website for WWII – includes history and photos of wartime Rabaul
Australian nurse POWs on Rabaul