United States Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific

CARTWHEEL: The Reduction of Rabaul

by John Miller, Jr.


. . . to Those Who Served

Table of Contents



Chapter 1: The Strategic Background

Early Pacific Strategy—The Casablanca Conference

Chapter 2: Selecting Objectives

Preliminary Theater Planning—The Pacific Military Conference—Preparation of the Directive of 28 March 1943

Chapter 3: ELKTON III: The Plan For CARTWHEEL

The Southwest Pacific Area—The Plan of Maneuver

Chapter 4: The Japanese

Japanese Command and Strategy—Japanese Offensives, January–June 1943—Japanese Strength and Dispositions, 30 June 1943

Chapter 5: CARTWHEEL Begins: The Southwest Pacific


Chapter 6: TOENAILS: The Landings In New Georgia

South Pacific Organization—Preparations and Plans—Secondary Landings—Rendova—The Move to Zanana—Rice Anchorage

Chapter 7: The Offensive Stalls

Japanese Plans—Operations of the Northern Landing Group—Operations of the Southern Landing Group—Casualties—Command and Reinforcements

Chapter 8: Griswold Takes Over

The Attack on Bairoko—Pressure on the Japanese—Preparations for the Corps Offensive

Chapter 9: XIV Corps Offensive

Plans—Ilangana and Shimizu Hill: The 43rd Division—The Attack Against the Ridges: The 37th Division—Capture of the Airfield

Chapter 10: After Munda

The Airfield—Reinforcements—The Cleanup—Vella Lavella: The Bypass—Final Operations

Chapter 11: The Markham Valley and the Huon Peninsula

Plans—Allied Air and Naval Preparations—Lae: The Seaborne Invasion—Nadzab: The Airborne Invasion—Strategic Reconsideration—Advance Through the Ramu Valley—The Coastal Advance

Chapter 12: The Invasion of Bougainville

The Decision To Bypass Rabaul—The General Plan—Air Operations in October—Forces and Tactical Plans—Preliminary Landings—Seizure of Empress Augusta Bay

Chapter 13: Exploiting the Beachhead

Air and Surface Action, 1–11 November—Operations Ashore—December Attacks Against Rabaul

Chapter 14: Crossing the Straits

Plans and Preparations—Arawe—Cape Gloucester—Saidor

Chapter 15: Expanding into the Bismarck Archipelago

General Plans—Reducing Rabaul and Kavieng—Seizure of the Green Islands

Chapter 16: Action in the Admiralties

The Decision—The Reconnaissance in Force—To the Shores of Seeadler Harbour—Lorengau

Chapter 17: Bougainville Counterattack

Preparations—Hill 700—Hill 260—Action by the Creeks

Chapter 18: Finale: Emirau

Bibliographical Note




1. Comparison of Allied Intelligence Estimates With Japanese Strength and Dispositions, Southeast Area, 30 June 1943

2. American Casualties on New Georgia


1. Organization of Forces for CARTWHEEL

2. Estimated Timing and Sequence of CARTWHEEL Operations

3. Organization of Japanese Forces, Southeast Area, June 1943

4. Southwest Pacific Organization for Woodlark–Kiriwina

5. Organization of Principal South Pacific Forces, June 1943

6. Organization of South Pacific Forces for TOENAILS

7. Organization of Attack Force, D Day

8. Western Force on D Day

9. Eastern Force on D Day

10. South Pacific Organization for Vella Lavella Invasion

11. Organization of Northern Force [TF 31], Vella Lavella


1. Pacific Ocean (National Geographic Society Map)

2. The Pacific Areas, as of 1 August 1942


4. The Wau Area

5. Operation CHRONICLE Area, 30 June 1943

6. Southern Approaches to Salamaua

7. Landings in New Georgia, 21 June–5 July 1943

8. Approach to Bairoko, 5-20 July 1943

9. Drive Towards Munda Point, 2-14 July 1943

10. Capture of Munda Point, 22 July–4 August 1943

11. The Cleanup, 5-27 August 1943

12. The Huon Peninsula and the Straits

13. Opening the Markham Valley, 4-16 September 1943

14. Capture of Finschhafen, 22 September–20 October 1943

15. Bougainville Landings, 27 October–1 November 1943

16. Situation on Bougainville, 15 December 1943

17. Arawe Landings, 15 December 1943

18. Cape Gloucester Landings, 26-29 December 1943

19. Seeadler Harbour Area

20. Los Negros Assault, 29 February–9 March 1944

21. Lugos Mission to Lorengau, 15-18 March 1944

22. Japanese Counterattack on Bougainville, 9-17 March 1944


General Douglas MacArthur—Some Pacific Planners in Conference—Vice Adm. Jinichi Kusaka—General Hitoshi Imamura—Lt. Gen. Hatazo Adachi—Lt. Gen. Haruyoshi Hyakutake—Japanese Troop Transport Under Attack—Brig. Gen. Nathan F. Twining—Troops Disembarking From LCI—Natives Carrying Luggage—Jeep and Trailer Leaving an LST—Clearing Airfield Site With Hand Tools—Airfield at Segi Point—Men of 152nd Field Artillery Battalion—Ships Moving Toward Rendova—Aboard the Transport McCawley—Men of 43rd Signal Company Wading Ashore—Truck Towing a 155-mm. Howitzer Over Muddy Trail—Maj. Gen. Noboru Sasaki—Troops of the 172nd Infantry Wading Across a Creek—Evacuating Casualties, 12 July 1943—Jeep Trail From Zanana—Infantry Loading on LCP(R)s—LCMs Approaching Laiana, New Georgia—Rear Adm. Theodore S. Wilkinson—Japanese Prisoners Captured Near Laiana Beach—Pillbox Made of Coconut Logs and Coral—Soldiers of the 161st Infantry—Bombing of Munda Airfield, Early Morning—Munda Airfield—Reducing an Enemy Pillbox With a Flame Thrower—Light Tanks M3 of the 9th Marine Defense Battalion—Munda Airfield in Operation—4-Ton Truck Stuck in the Mud—37th Division Troops Carrying Weapons and Ammunition—Warship Firing at Japanese Destroyers—14th New Zealand Brigade Group—Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins—B-24 Over Salamaua—Enemy Aircraft Destroyed on the Ground—B-25 Medium Bombers—Salamaua—Crossing Rain-Swollen Francisco River—Australian Troops Debarking From LSTs—C-47 Transport Planes Loaded With Parachute Troops—Airdrop at Nadzab, Morning of 5 September 1943—Bombing Rabaul—B-25s Leaving Bougainville—Lt. Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift—Maj. Gen. Allen H. Turnage—Mount Bagana—3rd Marines Landing on Cape Torokina—LCVPs on the Beach at Empress Augusta Bay—Aircrewman Wounded in Strike on Rabaul—Amphibian Tractors LVT(1)—Tractor and Trailer in Mud—Soldiers of the 148th Regimental Combat Team—Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr—37th Division Troops—Results of Japanese Bombing of Puruata Island—105-mm. Howitzer—4.2-Inch Chemical Mortar—Lt. Gen. Millard F. Harmon—C-47 Air-Dropping Supplies—B-25s Over Wewak—Alligator Returning to Beach on Arawe—Early Morning Bombardment—7th Marines Landing on Narrow Beach—Rear Adm. Daniel E. Barbey—M10 Motor Carriage Mounting 3-Inch Gun—Japanese Ships Burning at Rabaul—Aboard the Cruiser Phoenix—First Wave of Landing Craft Unloading—2nd Lt. Marvin J. Henshaw—Digging a Foxhole Through Coral Rock—Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger—LSTs Loaded With Troops and Equipment—Men of the 8th Cavalry—Crossing the Lorengau River—Troop G, 8th Cavalry, Near Number 1 Road—60-mm. Mortar Emplacement—155-mm. Guns of the 3rd Marine Defense Battalion—37th Division Men Carrying 5-Gallon Cans of Water—Two Light Tanks M3 of the 754th Tank Battalion—“OP Tree” on Hill 260—South Knob, Hill 260—North Knob, Hill 260—Maj. Gen. Robert S. Beightler—Tank-Infantry Attack—Japanese Pillbox on Fire

Photographs are from the Department of Defense files.

Office of the Chief of Military History




Kent Roberts Greenfield, General Editor

Advisory Committee (As of 30 May 1958)

Elmer Ellis, University of Missouri

Brig. Gen. John B. Sullivan, U.S. Continental Army Command

Samuel Flagg Bemis, Yale University

Brig. Gen. Edgar C. Doleman, Army War College

Gordon A. Craig, Princeton University

Brig. Gen. Frederick R. Zierath, Command and General Staff College

Oron J. Hale, University of Virginia

Brig. Gen. Kenneth F. Zitzman, Industrial College of the Armed Forces

W. Stull Holt, University of Washington

Col. Vincent J. Esposito, United States Military Academy

T. Harry Williams, Louisiana State University

Office of the Chief of Military History

Maj. Gen. Richard W. Stephens, Chief

Kent Roberts Greenfield, Chief Historian

Col. Seneca W. Foote, Chief, Histories Division

Lt. Col. E. E. Steck, Chief, Editorial and Publication Division

Joseph R. Friedman, Editor in Chief

Elliot Dunay, Chief, Cartographic Branch

Margaret E. Tackley, Chief, Photographic Branch