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The Admiralties

With the end of the second phase of the offensive against Rabaul the Joint Chiefs of Staff changed their plans. They decided that seizure of Rabaul would be unnecessarily costly. The same results could be obtained by encircling Rabaul and neutralizing it by aerial bombardment, and by seizing a base for Allied use in the Admiralties.

An air base in the Admiralties would support the westward drive along the north coast of New Guinea and support Central Pacific advances by long-range air reconnaissance; the Admiralties would also provide a major naval base for the Fifth Fleet of the Central Pacific.

Despite the changed plans the seizure of western New Britain began on December 15, 1943 when Army units landed at Arawe, followed by a Marine landing at Cape Gloucester on December 26. In mid-February 1944, New Zealand troops of Halsey's command took an air base on one of the Green Islands, east of Rabaul, and at the end of the month MacArthur's forces tightened the circle on Rabaul by landing in the Admiralty Islands.

These islands eventually provided two heavy bomber fields as well as two fields for carrier-type planes, and Seeadler Harbor was developed into one of the largest naval bases in the Pacific. In the following three months Marine and Army forces completed the encirclement, and effectively isolated the 100,000-man Japanese garrison at Rabaul.

This operation set the pattern of Allied operations in the Pacific for the rest of the war. Frontal attacks against strong Japanese positions were avoided if possible. Rather, Allied forces "leap-frogged" toward Japan, their leaps limited only by the range of land-based aircraft and the availability of carrier-borne planes. Bypassed Japanese positions were thereby left isolated and strategically impotent.


[The primary source for this text is the U.S. Army Center for Military History. For a more general overview of the war see the Brief History of WWII e-text."]


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