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Carrier raids on Rabaul
Part of the Pacific Theater of World War II
Japanese cruiser Chikuma
Japanese cruiser Chikuma under attack on November 5, 1943
Date November 1–11, 1943
Location 4°11′58″S 152°10′4″E / 4.19944°S 152.16778°E / -4.19944; 152.16778 (Rabaul)Coordinates: 4°11′58″S 152°10′4″E / 4.19944°S 152.16778°E / -4.19944; 152.16778 (Rabaul)
Rabaul on New Britain in the Bismarck Archipelago
Result Allied victory, prevented Japanese naval forces from threatening invasion of Bougainville
Belligerents
 United States
 Australia
 New Zealand
 Empire of Japan
Commanders
George Kenney (land air forces),
William Halsey, Jr.,
Frederick Sherman (naval forces)
Mineichi Koga,
Jinichi Kusaka
Strength
3 fleet carriers,
2 light carriers,
2 light cruisers,
9 destroyers,
282 carrier aircraft,
94 land-based aircraft[1 ]
10 cruisers,
11 destroyers,
200 aircraft[1 ]
Casualties and losses
10 carrier aircraft,
1 land-based aircraft destroyed[2]
5 cruisers heavily damaged,
52 aircraft destroyed[3]

The Allies of World War II conducted a bombing of Rabaul in November 1943 at the major Japanese base. Allied carrier and land-based planes attacked Japanese airfields, ships and port facilities, on the island of New Britain, to protect the Allied amphibious invasion of Bougainville. As a result of the Rabaul raids, several Japanese heavy cruisers and numerous smaller warships and transports were damaged, effectively ending the Japanese naval threat to the initial landings on Bougainville.

Contents

Background

Rabaul, on the island of New Britain, was one of two major ports in the Australian Territory of New Guinea. It was the main Japanese naval base for the Solomon Islands campaign and New Guinea campaign. Simpson Harbour — captured from Australian forces in February 1942 — was known as "the Pearl Harbor of the South Pacific" and was well defended by 300 anti-aircraft guns and five airfields.

In early 1943 Rabaul had been distant from the fighting. However, the Allied grand strategy in the South West Pacific Area, Operation Cartwheel, aimed to isolate Rabaul and reduce it by air raids. Japanese ground forces were already retreating in New Guinea and in the Solomon Islands, abandoning Guadalcanal, Kolombangara, New Georgia and Vella Lavella.

Land based air attacks

From October 12, 1943, as part of Operation Cartwheel, the U.S. Fifth Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force, directed by the Allied air commander in the South West Pacific Area, General George Kenney, launched a sustained campaign of bombing against the airfields and port of Rabaul. The biggest raid was on November 2.

Carrier attacks

With the invasion of Bougainville on November 1, 1943, Rabaul came under threat from another direction. A hasty attempt to drive Allied forces off Bougainville had been defeated in the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay. Now Koga planned to reinforce Rabaul and overwhelm the limited Allied forces around Bougainville while most of the U.S. Navy was involved in preparations for the invasion of Tarawa.

Rear-Admiral Frederick Sherman planned to pre-empt this threat by a carrier raid. Saratoga and Princeton headed for New Britain under cover of a weather front and launched every plane at Rabaul.

While no ships were sunk in the raid, six cruisers were damaged, four heavily. Atago was near-missed by three 500-lb bombs that caused severe damage and killed 22 crewmen, including her captain.[4] Maya was hit by one bomb above one of her engine rooms, causing heavy damage and killing 70 crewmen.[5] Mogami, was hit by one 500-lb bomb and set afire, causing heavy damage and killing 19 crewmen.[6]Takao was hit by two 500-lb bombs, causing heavy damage and killing 23 crewmen.[7] Chikuma, was slightly damaged by several near-misses.[8] Agano was near-missed by one bomb which damaged one anti-aircraft gun and killed one crewman.[9] Three destroyers were also lightly damaged.[10] Most of the Japanese warships returned to Truk the next day for repairs and to escape further Allied airstrikes. One was hit by 12 bombs and sank in 21 minutes.

A second carrier raid was made on November 11 by the Saratoga, Princeton, Bunker Hill, Essex and Independence. Agano, which had remained at Rabaul after the November 5 strike, was torpedoed in this attack and heavily damaged.[11]

Notes

  1. ^ a b Gailey, Bougainville, p. 86-92.
  2. ^ Gailey, Bougainville, p. 88-89.
  3. ^ Gailey, Bougainville, p. 88-91 and Parshall & Hackett, Combinedfleet.com.
  4. ^ Hackett, HIJMS ATAGO: Tabular Record of Movement, Combinedfleet.com. Atago went to Yokosuka, Japan, for further repairs which were completed on December 30, 1943.
  5. ^ Hackett, HIJMS MAYA: Tabular Record of Movement, Combinedfleet.com. Maya went to Yokosuka for further repairs which, along with the addition of additional anti-aircraft guns, were completed on April 9, 1944.
  6. ^ Hackett, HIJMS MOGAMI: Tabular Record of Movement, Combinedfleet.com. Mogami went to Kure, Japan for further repairs which were completed on February 17, 1944.
  7. ^ Hackett, HIJMS CHIKUMA: Tabular Record of Movement, Combinedfleet.com. Takao went to Yokosuka for further repairs which were completed on January 18, 1944.
  8. ^ Hackett, HIJMS CHIKUMA: Tabular Record of Movement, Combinedfleet.com.
  9. ^ Hackett, HIJMS AGANO: Tabular Record of Movement, Combinedfleet.com.
  10. ^ Hackett, HIJMS FUJINAMI: Tabular Record of Movement, HIJMS AMAGIRI: Tabular Record of Movement, HIJMS WAKATSUKI: Tabular Record of Movement, Combinedfleet.com., Fujinami suffered minor damage with one crewman killed. Amagiri and Wakatsuki suffered minor damage and no casualties.
  11. ^ Hackett, HIJMS AGANO: Tabular Record of Movement, Combinedfleet.com. On February 16, 1944, as Agano traveled from Truk to Japan for further repairs, she was hit by two torpedoes from USS Skate (SS-305) and sunk. Her 523 survivors were picked up the destroyer Oite and returned to Truk. In Operation Hailstone, Oite was sunk by U.S. carrier aircraft, killing all of Agano's survivors.

References

  • Bergerud, Eric M. (2000). Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific. Boulder, CO, USA: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-3869-7.  
  • D'Albas, Andrieu (1965). Death of a Navy: Japanese Naval Action in World War II. Devin-Adair Pub. ISBN 0-8159-5302-X.  
  • Dull, Paul S. (1978). A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-097-1.  
  • Fry, John (2000). USS Saratoga (CV-3): An Illustrated History of the Legendary Aircraft Carrier 1927-1946. Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 0-7643-0089-X.  
  • Gailey, Harry A. (1991). Bougainville, 1943-1945: The Forgotten Campaign. Lexington, Kentucky, USA: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-9047-9.  - neutral review of this book here:[1]
  • Hara, Tameichi (1961). Japanese Destroyer Captain. New York & Toronto: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-27894-1.  
  • Lacroix, Eric; Linton Wells (1997). Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-311-3.  
  • McGee, William L. (2002). "Bougainville Campaign". The Solomons Campaigns, 1942-1943: From Guadalcanal to Bougainville--Pacific War Turning Point, Volume 2 (Amphibious Operations in the South Pacific in WWII). BMC Publications. ISBN 0-9701678-7-3.  
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot (1958). Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, vol. 6 of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Castle Books. ISBN 0785813071.  
  • Sakaida, Henry (1996). The Siege of Rabaul. St. Paul, MN, USA: Phalanx. ISBN 1-883809-09-6.  
  • Sherrod, Robert (1952). History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II. Washington, D.C.: Combat Forces Press.  
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