RABAUL - Reduction and Redemption

The Strategy and Triumph of The Green Islands
.  .  .  and a very surprising ending

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.

VMSB 431: Mel Clarks photos and maps of Rabaul bombing

Father George Lepping, SM, Missionary POW  on Rabaul


Papua New Guinea website for WWII – includes history and photos of wartime Rabaul

Australian nurse POWs on Rabaul

The Australia–Japan Research Project has some extraordinary resources on the personal and collective experiences of Japanese in New Guinea.


This is an extraordinary document
forces in post-surrender Rabaul."  Tanaka Hiromi


"Sources on Australian investigations into Japanese war crimes in the Pacific." David Sissons

HOSTAGES TO FREEDOM The Fall of Rabaul by Peter Stone