Fortress Rabaul: The Battle for the Southwest Pacific, January 1942-April 1943

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Overview

As O'Hare closed rapidly from the right side of the enemy formation, some of the Japanese gunners opened fire....Ignoring the tracers, O'Hare took aim at the rearmost Mitsubishi and triggered a short burst.... The bomber piloted by FPO 2nd Class Ryosuke Kogiku careened out of formation, its starboard engine trailing smoke. O'Hare lined up his sights on the next aircraft and got the same result. Ribbons of vaporized gasoline streamed from the perforated wing of FPO 1st Class Koji...

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Fortress Rabaul: The Battle for the Southwest Pacific, January 1942-April 1943

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Overview

As O'Hare closed rapidly from the right side of the enemy formation, some of the Japanese gunners opened fire....Ignoring the tracers, O'Hare took aim at the rearmost Mitsubishi and triggered a short burst.... The bomber piloted by FPO 2nd Class Ryosuke Kogiku careened out of formation, its starboard engine trailing smoke. O'Hare lined up his sights on the next aircraft and got the same result. Ribbons of vaporized gasoline streamed from the perforated wing of FPO 1st Class Koji Maeda's bomber, which also veered out of formation....

O'Hare let his fighter's momentum carry him under the formation... and then climbed back into firing position behind the last bomber on the left side of the formation.... [H]e squeezed the trigger, and again his aim was true. The bomber shuddered under the impact of the heavy bullets and quickly fell behind, its right engine damaged and the left wing tank punctured. O'Hare then fired a burst at the next bomber in line, which caught fire as he closed to nearly point-blank range. With just two brief firing runs, he had carved half of the bombers out of formation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"With the publication of this magnificent Rabaul Trilogy, former Navy flight officer Bruce Gamble has established himself in the foremost rank of Pacific War historians. In a compelling narrative that reads like an exciting novel, Gamble details "a history of World War II's longest battle," from the capture of Rabaul, New Britain, by the Japanese in January 1942, to its isolation, bombardment and final liberation by Allied forces in August 1945." - Armchair General

WORLD WAR II

"Using international sources, Gamble musters anecdotes from airmen on both sides to illustrate the appalling natural challenges and capricious weather, miserable living conditions, primal diseases, and frightful hazards posed by limitless spans of water and cloud-cloaked jungle peaks. He also incorporates incisive sketches of key leaders among the antagonists, notable American Maj. Gen. George Kenny and Japanese Vice Adm. Jinichi Kusaka, and underlines the logistical nightmares that rendered both aircraft and spare parts scarce for combatants locked in war at such distant reaches—.Fortress Rabaul opens a broader vista on this under-studied campaign with its wide research, thoughtful analysis, and gifted story-teller's panache."

Col. Walter Boyne, USAF (Ret.), author of Clash of Wings "This tour de force by Bruce Gamble is an absolute must for anyone interested in the true story of one of World War II's most interesting—and most overlooked-battles. The author rivals Stephen Ambrose with his detailed personal accounts of not only victory and defeat, but also of the more routine events that entail quiet pride or-sometimes-suppressed embarrassment."

Eric Hammel, author of Islands of Hell: The U.S. Marines in the Western Pacific "Not for the first time, Bruce Gamble has done amazing work gathering a dazzling array of tiny, little facts, then arranging them in a big, dazzling story that amazes one's inner historian even as it breaks one's heart on its way to a triumphal conclusion."

Barrett Tillman, author of Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan, 1942-1945

"To most of the reading public, the aerial siege of Rabaul remains one of the untold stories of the Pacific War. Nobody is better qualified than Bruce Gamble to relate that lengthy campaign, beginning with the first 15 months of the conflict. The depth and variety of his coverage is exceptional: not only the Allied and the Japanese perspectives, but the personalities and their attendant feuds; and ultimately the successful air blockade that released the unstoppable might of an industrialized America to take the war ever nearer Japan itself."

Anthony Tully, coauthor of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway

"Continuing his theme of Rabaul opened in Darkest Hour: The True Story of Lark Force at Rabaul, Bruce Gamble now continues the saga, moving forward with the Japanese occupation in January 1942 to the almost immediate start of the Allied counter air-offensives against Rabaul. Gamble sets the stage magnificently, with a compelling description of the geography, volcanic origin and cultural setting and development level of Rabaul at the time of the Japanese occupation. After an excellent description of the too little, too late attempts to prepare for the Japanese invasion and the futile attempts to repel the powerful Japanese carrier strikes, the focus shifts to the Japanese construction at Rabaul that will make it the famous fortress port of the Solomons campaign. The human drama, Allied and Japanese, is enriched by skillfully placed anecdotes, like a botched demolition of an ammo dump by the Allied garrison to Japanese carrier aircraft having embarrassing results in bombing runs, to behind-the-scenes bickering of officers and staffs. The narrative reads with all the vigor and imagery of a novel, while incorporating copious facts and detail—Not only does Fortress Rabaul fill an important gap in the coverage of the Southwest section of the Pacific War, it makes fine and engaging reading."

AIR CLASSICS "Drawing on a variety of sources from both sides, the author has written a detailed reference book that reads like a novel."

WWII HISTORY MAGAZINE "...Fortress Rabaul opens a broader vista on this under-studied campaign with its wide research, thoughtful analysis, and gifted story-teller's panache."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780760323502
  • Publisher: Zenith Press
  • Publication date: 5/16/2010
  • Edition description: First
  • Pages: 398
  • Sales rank: 615,691
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Gamble is a retired naval flight officer and a former historian with the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. He is the author of several critically acclaimed books about the Pacific War: Swashbucklers and Black Sheep (2012), an illustrated combat history of Marine Fighting Squadron 214 in the Pacific; Black Sheep One, the definitive biography of Greg "Pappy" Boyington; Invasion Rabaul, the first book of the Rabaul trilogy; and Fortress Rabaul, the second book of the Rabaul trilogy. Bruce lives near Panama City, Florida. For more, visit www.brucegamble.com

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xiii

List of Maps xv

Rank Abbreviations xvii

Prologue 1

1 Volcanoes, God, and Coconuts 4

2 24 Squadron 12

3 Gladiators 22

4 Desperate Hours 36

5 The Fall of Rabaul 45

6 Counterattack 54

7 Stronghold 63

8 Task Force 11 68

9 Medal of Honor: Edward H. "Butch" O'Hare 76

10 Carmichael's Raid 95

11 Yanks Down Under 103

12 The Last Outpost 118

13 New Guinea Interlude 130

14 Wild Eagles 141

15 MO: The Offensive Blunted 154

16 Guests of the Emperor 177

17 Fading Glory 189

18 MacArthur's New Airman 196

19 Medal of Honor: Harl Pease Jr. 210

20 The Personification of Evil 225

21 A Shift in Momentum 233

22 New Identities 253

23 Heavy Bomber Blues 266

24 Medal of Honor: Kenneth N. Walker 271

25 Blood in the Water 288

26 Operation I-Go: Yamamoto's Last Offensive 316

27 Death of a Warrior God 328

Epilogue 348

Notes 351

Bibliography 377

Index 387

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2012

    Well written, couldn't put it down

    Very well written, very good read ............ rjp

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Mr. Gamble does an excellent job telling the story.

    Bruce Gamble's "Fortress Rabaul: The Battle for the Southwest Pacific, January 1942 - April 1943" is a magnificent and important work on this often neglected part of World War II. Mr. Gamble has paid the price in research. The accounts he collected from participants in the campaign, the US and Australian archives, and the official records of the US, Australian, and Japanese clarify and punctuate the events.

    You experience Rabaul and New Britain through his graphic description of the topography and weather. You get a clear understand of the volcanic origins of the Rabaul and the impact the volcanoes and volcanic activity to include earthquakes have on the land and inhabitants.

    Mr. Gamble does an excellent job telling the story. I read the book in one week while on vacation. I found it that compelling and entertaining. The author does an exceptional job telling the story. I was floored by the account of the bombing of the Komaki Maru. "The Komaki Maru shuddered under the impact of the two hits, which ignited the cargo of aviation fuel. 'A few seconds later,' recalled an Australian eyewitness, 'the ship was an inferno and the roar of the flames almost drowned out the screams of the Japanese trapped aboard.'

    The narrative reads with all the vigor and imagery of a novel. The chapter Medal of Honor: Lieutenant Edward H. "Butch" O'Hare reads like a Hollywood action movie. We learn the story of the man whose name graces O'Hare Airport in Chicago. We see how his action saved the USS Lexington and won him his nations highest military honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor. We learn the story of how he interposed his fighter between his ship and an advancing enemy formation of 9 attacking twin-engine heavy bombers. We see how without hesitation, alone and unaided, he repeatedly attacked this enemy formation, at close range in the face of intense combined machine gun and cannon fire. We find out that by his gallant and courageous action, his extremely skillful marksmanship in making the most of every shot of his limited amount of ammunition that he shot down 5 enemy bombers and severely damaged a sixth before they reached the bomb release point. As a result of his gallant action-one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation-he undoubtedly saved his carrier from serious damage.

    Other Medal of Honor stories like that of Harl Pease, Jr are include. The book is excellent. It is a must read for any military or aviation history buff. It would make a great addition to any community or university library.

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