New Britain campaign

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New Britain campaign
Part of the Pacific Theater of World War II
New Britain WW2 map.jpg
New Britain. Rabaul is at the north-east extremity of the island.
Date December 15, 1943 – August 21, 1945
Location New Britain, Territory of New Guinea
Result Allied victory

 United States

 New Zealand
 Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
United States J. W. Cunningham
United States William H. Rupertus
United States Rapp Brush
Australia A.H. Ramsay
Australia H.C.H. Robertson
Empire of Japan Hitoshi Imamura
< 20,000 > 100,000
Casualties and losses
~30,000 dead, mostly from disease and starvation[1]

The New Britain Campaign was a World War II campaign by the Allies, between December 1943 and the end of the war in August 1945, to contain Japanese forces concentrated in Rabaul, the capital of New Britain, the major Japanese base for the New Guinea and Solomons campaigns.


New Britain is a crescent-shaped island north east of the mainland of New Guinea, approximately 600 kilometres (370 mi) along its south-eastern coast line, and from 30 to 110 km (20–70 mi) wide, not including a small central peninsula. The island has an area of 37,800 square kilometers (14,600 mile²).


There were more than 100,000 Japanese military and civilian personnel on New Britain and a smaller nearby island, New Ireland.[2] These were centred on the headquarters of the Eighth Area Army: the 17th Division (11,429 personnel at the end of the war); the 38th Division (13,108); the 39th Brigade (5,073); the 65th Brigade (2,729); the 14th Regiment (2,444); the 34th Regiment (1,879) and the 35th Regiment (1,967). By the end of the war, these Japanese forces were restricted to Rabaul and the surrounding Gazelle Peninsula.

United States, Australian and New Guinean forces, assisted by local civilians, were always a division-level command or smaller: the U.S. "Director" Task Force (effectively a regimental combat team) and the 1st Marine Division handed over to the 40th Infantry Division, which in turn handed over to the Australian 5th Division.



Marine mortar on Cape Gloucester

The main battles of the campaign were:

The initial landings at Arawe and Cape Gloucester were part of Operation Cartwheel. The main objective of the overall operation was the isolation of Rabaul. Part of this plan called for the Allies to secure beachheads on New Britain, within which air bases could be constructed.


  1. ^ Australian War Memorial. "Australia-Japan Research Project: Dispositions and deaths". Citing figures of the Relief Bureau of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, March 1964. 30,500 Japanese troops are listed as dying in the Bismarck Archipelago.
  2. ^ Long, Gavin (1963). "Chapter 10: Operations on New Britain" (PDF). The Final Campaigns (PDF). Australia in the War of 1939–1945. 7 (1st ed.). Retrieved 2013-01-12. 

External links

  • Miller, John, Jr. (1959). "CARTWHEEL: The Reduction of Rabaul". United States Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific. Office of the Chief of Military History, U.S. Department of the Army. p. 418. Retrieved October 20, 2006. 
  • The Pacific: Guadalcanal to Saipan August 1942 to July 1944 (Army Air Forces in World War II)
  • The Final Campaigns (Australian Army)
  • Air War Against Japan, 1943–1945 (RAAF)
  • Hough, Frank O., and John A. Crown (1952). "The Campaign on New Britain". USMC Historical Monograph. Historical Division, Division of Public Information, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps. Retrieved 2006-12-04. 
  • Shaw, Henry I.; Douglas T. Kane (1963). "Volume II: Isolation of Rabaul". History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II. Retrieved 2006-10-18. 
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