This week in the War, 8–14 May 1944: Rabaul
Crew of a US Marine Grumman Avenger board their plane for a mission over Rabaul, New Britain [Public domain]
New Britain, Territory of New Guinea, South Pacific: After much heavy fighting, aimed at preventing the Americans from expanding their beachheads, the Japanese retreated to their fortifications around Rabaul. Well over 5,000 Japanese had been killed in the fighting. Over 500 had been captured. (Having such a large number of soldiers taken prisoner was unusual for the Japanese army and perhaps reflected a lowering of morale due to the tide having turned so markedly in favour of the Allies.)
The Allied Command had already decided to bypass the Japanese stronghold of Rabaul. The town had been attacked from the air and would continue to be bombed on a regular basis almost until the end of the war. Rabaul’s substantial garrison remained useless and in place. Many of the Japanese aircraft stationed in Rabaul were flown out to other Japanese-held islands, saving both planes and pilots (but not their valuable mechanics).
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