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.
David M. Shoup
General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commandant of the Marine Corps
Reviewed and approved
16 May 1963