Lakunai and Vunakanau airfields were prewar Australian strips. The naval guns guarded Simpson Harbor and its shipping and the three airfields of Tobera, Lakunai, and Vunakanau. At midnight on October 22, six Fortresses from the 63rd BS took off from Port Moresby behind six from the 64th BS/43rd BG. Benn and his men had been flying practice missions against an old wreck in the harbor at Moresby ever since he took command of the squadron in August. Kenney temporarily removed the group from operational status and put it back into training to sharpen the crewmen’s skills. The city of Rabaul is located on the northeastern tip of New Britain, one of two islands—the other is New Ireland—that make up the Bismarck Archipelago. Marine Major Gregory Boyington led a fighter sweep of 76 airplanes over the stronghold, but the Japanese failed to rise to meet them in large numbers. In the annals of military history magazines, this is one of those moments. The Japanese fighter pilots were not rookies, as the Marines learned on January 3 when their leading ace, Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, and his wingman were both lost over Rabaul. Gunn’s developments had actually entered combat in September 1942 when a squadron of modified Douglas A-20 gunships began low-altitude attacks in support of Australian troops fighting the Japanese on the Kokoda Track in New Guinea. By late 1943, AIRSOLOMONS was under the command of U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Ralph Mitchell, who had just replaced Army Air Forces Maj. Gen. Nathan Twining upon his transfer to the Mediterranean. One of his first actions was to activate the Fifth Air Force, which had been authorized several months before but which had yet to be staffed. Halsey had no surface forces anywhere near equivalent strength to oppose them. They dug many kilometres of tunnels as shelter from Allied air attacks such as the bombing of November 1943. "We would have to pump anything from 200 to 300 buckets of water a day. A few days later, on March 25, V Bomber Command was further reinforced with the arrival of several Martin B-26 Marauders of the 22nd Bombardment Group. Brief history of Rabaul, World War 1, the loss of the submarine AE1, the 1937 eruptions, general life in Rabaul, Chinese immigration. The Hudsons were a military version of the Lodestar transport, but they offered very limited capabilities. Apparently, they were on their way to oppose the Allied landings at Empress Augusta Bay, where U.S. troops had gone ashore three days before. The crews noted that Simpson Harbor was filled with ships, leading the commander of the 63rd Bombardment Squadron, Major William Benn, to conclude that the time was ripe to try out a new method of attack he and some of his crews had been working on for several weeks. After the bombing of Pearl Harbour on 7 December, the Chiefs of Staff advised War Cabinet that the Japanese would probably try to occupy Rabaul, Port Moresby, New Caledonia and Darwin. The end of 1942 saw another new development that would help the Allies in their efforts to gain air superiority in SWAPA as the Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter made its appearance in the skies over New Guinea. Some of the P-40s were in four New Zealand squadrons. After the first raid of 349 aircraft, bad weather blunted the effect of bombing, which saw only a single raid by 50 B-25 Mitchell medium bomberson 18 October. This idea is probably due, at least in part, to the writings of historian Samuel Eliot Morison, who held the rank of rear admiral in the U.S. Navy and who wrote with a definite pro-Navy slant. Colonel Clint True led the other 67 strafers in an attack on Vanakanau. During January, advanced bases were put into operation closer to Rabaul, allowing … A 1940 design, the Liberator was developed to replace the B-17, which had failed to live up to expectations as a long-range bomber. While the carrier strikes in November 1943 were the first air action against the Japanese stronghold by Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey’s South Pacific Area (SOPAC) forces, they were hardly the first attacks of the campaign, and they were far from the first against the complex. Marauder gunners claimed 16 Japanese fighters. After its return, TF 38 retired to the south without being detected. JAPANESE BOMBING RAID ON HORN ISLAND 14 MARCH 1942 . Dust and smoke obscured the airfield after the attack, but the men of the 3rd estimated that they had destroyed between 15 and 25 airplanes on the ground while group gunners claimed three air-to-air kills. The Australians tried to restrict Rabaul's development soon after its capture by a bombing counter-attack in March. After a whirlwind inspection of the combat squadrons, MacArthur’s new air boss ordered a stand-down of combat operations during which maintenance crews would work day and night to get the heavy bombers ready for a big mission. Raid on Rabaul on 2 November 1943 as told by Dick Walker.  The Japanese launched a series of counterattacks involving 120 aircraft against the U.S. carriers, but the force was intercepted and lost 35 planes without inflicting damage on Montgomery's ships.  Two days after the landing Admiral Mineichi Koga sent a large cruiser force down from Japan to Rabaul in preparation for a night engagement against Halsey's screening force and supply ships in Empress Augusta Bay. Australia also had small and susceptible forces in Ambon, Timor and Java and a major but equally vulnerable force in Malaya and Singapore. In early 1942, the only means of offensive operations in the region were the remnants of two squadrons of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers belonging to the 19th Bombardment Group, which had been brought out of the Philippines, then reinforced with additional aircraft and personnel sent from the United States. But fighter opposition was intense and the flak was heavy. Even if a raid put an airfield out of action, the Japanese could have it operational again within hours—days at most—by simply filling in the bomb craters. Prior to mid-September 1943, Rabaul had been beyond the effective range of the modified B-25s. A benefit of bombing from such low altitudes was that Fifth Air Force planes were able to achieve far greater accuracy than their counterparts in Europe, which were forced to drop their bombs from altitudes much higher than ever conceived in the pre-war Army Air Corps. His friend Chuck Howe followed and landed to give the crew of the stricken B-25 a ride home. Due to its position south of their main Pacific supply base at Truk Atoll in the Carolines, the Japanese quickly built up their presence at Rabaul, making it their advance base for the conquest of the Solomon Islands and Papua, New Guinea. The low-flying B-25 pilots opened fire on the antiaircraft guns, then swooped over the rows of parked airplanes and covered them with tiny but deadly parachute bombs. Japanese fighters singled out the crippled bomber and pressed their attacks. Prior to October 1942, the only heavy bombers in the theater were B-17s, but that changed when the 90th Bombardment Group arrived with a complement of Consolidated B-24D Liberators. Only two Liberators were lost. Major Raymond H. Wilkins, commander of the 8th Bombardment Squadron, continued strafing and skip bombing even after his airplane had been badly shot up. The initial raids were generally ineffective as far as doing serious damage, but they served as a good source of intelligence on Japanese strength at Rabaul. The Allies of World War II conducted an air attack upon a cruiser force at the major Japanese base of Rabaul in November 1943. The combined firepower could rip a hole in the side of a barge or small transport, and it demoralized the Japanese gunners on the decks of transports and even warships. In March 1942, Major Paul I. Two days later, true to Kenney’s word, V Bomber Command mounted a 16-airplane mission against Rabaul. With five airfields and extensive anti-aircraft batteries, the navy fliers considered it a hornet's nest. An effective early warning radar system provided 90 mi (78 nmi; 140 km) coverage from Rabaul, and extended coverage with additional radars on New Britain, New Ireland, and at Buka. Other pilots claimed hits that threw smoke and debris into the air. Operations by the Royal New Zealand Air Force December 1943 — May 1944", http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2-1Epi-c1-WH2-1Epi-d.html, "Solomons Campaign, August 23, 1942 – November 26, 1943", http://www.ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=8, http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/II/index.html, http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-P-Rabaul/index.html, "Imperial Japanese Navy Page (Combinedfleet.com)", Articles incorporating text from Wikipedia, South West Pacific theatre of World War II, United States Marine Corps in World War II, World War II aerial operations and battles of the Pacific Theatre, Battles of World War II involving the United States, Battles and operations of World War II involving Papua New Guinea, Battles of World War II involving Australia, Battles and operations of World War II involving New Zealand, Allied victory, prevented Japanese naval forces from threatening. Before it became the major Japanese forward base in the Southwest Pacific, Rabaul had been a picturesque island city located on the banks of one of the region’s largest natural harbors, a feature that brought it to the attention of military planners in both Washington and Tokyo as America and Japan geared up for war. Captain Charles W. Howe skipped a bomb into the side of another freighter, which sank immediately. Pease and his crew had flown a reconnaissance mission the previous day from which they returned with an engine shut down. COMAIRSOLS was a dual command made up of Army and Marine Corps squadrons, along with some New Zealand units. In spite of fighter opposition and antiaircraft fire, B-26 losses were surprisingly low; only three Marauders were lost in combat between April 24 and July 24. The U.S. Navy would dispute these claims, although Navy historian Samuel Eliot Morison would qualify the dispute by stating that Japanese loss reports may not have been entirely accurate, especially since they did not record losses of smaller vessels. The Bombing of Rabaul in November 1943 During the Bombing of Rabaul, the Fifth Air Force mounted a concerted campaign to render the Japanese bastion in … Most of the missions were flown at night, with the crews bombing under the light of flares. There were no Allied fighters available in 1942 that had the range to fly all the way to Rabaul. In response to the Allied invasion of Bougainville, the Japanese had brought a strong cruiser force down from Japan to Rabaul in preparation for a night engagement against the allied supply and support shipping. Two destroyers were on the approach path into the harbor, and the narrow slot made them difficult to attack. Japanese ground forces were already retreating in New Guinea and in the Solomon Islands, abandoning Guadalcanal, Kolombangara, New Georgia and Vella Lavella. His orders stipulated that the heavy bombers should attack at dawn when the Japanese would still be sleeping. Heavy bomber crews reported hits on at least two Japanese vessels and secondary fires on shore. Meanwhile, Admiral William F. Halsey’s SOPAC forces were advancing northwestward through the Solomons from Guadalcanal and preparations were being made to combine the two areas of operation under MacArthur’s command. With the bombing of Rabaul and the sinking of the Herstein the men and women left in Rabaul were effectively cut off from Australia. American fighters and light bombers, when they were available, had to be disassembled and loaded on ships for an ocean voyage of several weeks, then had to be reassembled after they were off-loaded in Australia. 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