This book, the second in a projected five-volume series, continues the comprehensive history of Marine Corps operations in World War II. The story of individual campaigns, once told in separate detail in preliminary monographs, has been largely rewritten and woven together to show events in proper proportion to each other and in correct perspective to the war as a whole. New material, particularly from Japanese sources, which has become available in profusion since the writing of the monographs, has been included to provide fresh insight into the Marine Corps' contribution to the final victory in the Pacific.

The period covered in these pages was a time of transition in the fighting when the Allied offensive gradually shifted into high gear after a grinding start at Guadalcanal. As the situation changed, the make-up of the Fleet Marine Force changed, too. We passed through the era of hit and run and through the time for defensive strategy. Our raider and parachute battalions were absorbed in regular infantry units, the seacoast batteries of our defense battalions became field artillery, and our air squadrons were re-equipped with newer and deadlier planes.

In the converging drives that made the Japanese fortress Rabaul their goal--one under Navy command and the other under Army leadership--Marines played a significant part well out of proportion to their numbers. In those days, as in these, the use of trained amphibious troops in a naval campaign overloaded the scale in our favor.

As one hard-won success followed another in the Solomons and on New Guinea, a progression of airfields wrested from island jungles gave us the means to emasculate Rabaul. While the enemy garrison waited helplessly for an assault that never came, we seized encircling bases that choked the life out of a once-potent stronghold.

Once the front lines passed by Rabaul, other island battles seized the headlines--battles of the great two-pronged advance on Japan, which was made possible in large part by the victories of 1943 in the Southwest Pacific. For thousands of Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders, however, the campaign against Rabaul never ended until the last day of the war. In this unheralded epilogue of blockade and harassment, Marine air units took the lead just as they had in the all-out aerial battle that preceded.

The outstanding aspect of all the operations covered in this volume, one evident in every section of the narrative, was the spirit of cooperation between different services and national forces. No finer example exists in recent history of the awesome combined power of distinct military forces pursuing a common goal.


Reviewed and approved
16 May 1963


The Allied campaign to reduce Rabaul was not an uninterrupted series of flawless operations. It had, like most human enterprises, a share of mistakes to match its successes. Since we learn by both errors and accomplishments, the lessons, good and bad, absorbed during the fighting on New Georgia, Bougainville, and New Britain were priceless in value. They undoubtedly saved the lives of many Marines who went on to take part in the Central Pacific drive that culminated in the battle for Okinawa.

Our purpose in publishing this operational history in durable form is to make the Marine Corps record permanently available for study by military personnel and the general public as well as by serious scholars of military history. We have made a conscious effort to be objective in our treatment of the actions of Marines and of the men of other services who fought at their side. We have tried to write with understanding about our former enemies and in this effort have received invaluable help from the Japanese themselves. Few peoples so militant and unyielding in war have been as dispassionate and analytical about their actions in peace.

This volume was planned and outlined by Colonel Charles W. Harrison, former Head, Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, working in conjunction with Mr. Henry I. Shaw, Jr., the senior historian on the World War II historical project. Major Douglas T. Kane wrote the narratives of the New Georgia and Bougainville operations, using much of the research material gathered for the monographs prepared by Major John N. Rentz, Marines in the Central Solomons and Bougainville and the Northern Solomons. The remainder of the narrative was written by Mr. Shaw, who in treating the story of operations at Cape Gloucester and Talasea drew upon the research data assembled for the monograph, The Campaign on New Britain, by Lieutenant Colonel Frank O. Hough and Major John A. Crown. The appendices concerning casualties, command and staff, and chronology were prepared by Mr. Benis M. Frank. Colonel Harrison, Major Gerald Fink, Colonel William M. Miller, Major John H. Johnstone, and Colonel Thomas G. Roe, successive heads of the Historical Branch, did most of the final editing of the manuscript. The book was completed under the direction of Colonel Joseph F. Wagner, Jr., present head of the branch.

A number of leading participants in the actions described have commented on preliminary drafts of pertinent portions of the book. Their valuable assistance is gratefully acknowledged. Several senior officers, in particular General Alexander A. Vandegrift, General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., and Vice Admiral Daniel E. Barbey, made valuable additions to their written comments during personal interviews. General Vandegrift, in addition, made his private correspondence with senior commanders in the Pacific available for use and attribution.

Special thanks are due to the historical agencies of the other services for their critical readings of the draft chapters of this book. Outstanding among the many official historians who measurably assisted the authors were: Dr. John Miller, Jr., Deputy Chief Historian, Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army; Mr. Dean C. Allard, Head, Operational Archives Branch, Naval History Division, Navy Department; and Dr. Robert F. Futrell, Historian, U.S. Air Force Historical Division, Research Studies Institute, Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base.

Chief Warrant Officer Patrick R. Brewer and his successor as Historical Branch Administrative and Production Officer, Second Lieutenant D'Arcy E. Grisier, ably handled the many exacting duties involved in processing the volume from first drafts through final printed form. The many preliminary typescripts and the painstaking task of typing the final manuscript for the printer were done by Mrs. Miriam R. Smallwood. Much of the meticulous work demanded by the index was done by Mrs. Smallwood, Miss Mary E. Walker, and Miss Kay P. Sue.

The maps were drafted by Chief Warrant Officer Brewer and Corporal Robert F. Stibil. Official Defense Department photographs have been used throughout the text.


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