Battle of Cape Gloucester, 26 December 1943-April 1944

Battle of Cape Gloucester, 26 December 1943-April 1944

Battle of Cape Gloucester, 26 December 1943-April 1944

The battle of Cape Gloucester (26 December 1943-April 1944) was the main American attack during Operation Dexterity, the invasion of western New Britain, and was carried out in order to secure control of the Dampier and Vitiaz Straits, between New Britain and New Ireland.

The western end of New Britain was important for two reasons. First, it would allow the Allies to tighten their grip on Rabaul, the powerful Japanese base at the northern tip of the island. Second, it would give the Allies control of the Dampier Strait, which ran between New Britain and the smaller island of Umboi (or Rooke). The allied campaign on the Huon Peninsula had given them control of the Vitiaz Strait, between Umboi and New Guinea. Once both straits were in Allied hands they could be used by shipping heading further west along the coast of New Guinea, and eventually on the return to the Philippines.

The Japanese had decided that an invasion of western New Britain was probably going to be the next Allied move. In September General Iwao Matsuda had been sent from Rabaul to the western end of the island. In October the 17th Division began to reach Rabaul from China, and most of it was then ordered west to join Matsuda. When the Americans landed the Japanese had the 65th Brigade, the 4th Shipping Group and part of the 17th Division at Cape Gloucester, around 10,000 men.

The attack was to be carried out by the US Marines, under General William Rupertus. The plan was for a two-pronged attack on either side of Cape Gloucester. The 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Division, was to attack at Tauali, on the western side of the peninsula, and cut off the main road, isolating the Japanese defenders. Combat Team C, of the 7th Marines, was to land in Borgen Bay, to the east of the peninsula and establish a beachhead. They would then be joined by Combat Team B, made up of the rest of the 1st Marines. Combat Team B would advance inland and capture the Japanese airfield on the cape.

Eleven days before the Cape Gloucester landings another force landed at Arawe on the southern coast of western New Britain. This was a diversionary attack, intended to attract Japanese attention away from Cape Gloucester. The Japanese did commit some troops to this battle, but the slow speed of movement on the island meant that it didn't have much impact on the fighting at Cape Gloucester.

The western landings went without a hitch. When the Marines landed on the morning of 26 December they found the Japanese defences around Tauali abandoned and met with no resistance. By the end of the day they had blocked the road along the west coast of the cape.

In the east there were more problems, but these were mostly caused by the terrain. Pre-invasion reconnaissance had suggested that there was a damp flat area behind the beaches, but this turned out to be a deep swamp. The first US fatality of the invasion was actually caused by a falling tree in the swamp, undermined by US artillery fire. Despite the difficult terrain the 7th Marines managed to get across the swamp without running into heavy resistance and established a position on dryer ground some 900 yards inland.

The 1st Marines then passed through them as planned and began to advance towards the airfield. They ran into the first Japanese defences, a network of four bunkers, and were held up for some time. Eventually an Amtrak that had been called inland managed to destroy one bunker, and this gap in the network allowed the Marines to finish off the rest.

On 27 December the Marines advanced three miles along the coastal road towards the airfield.

On the night of 27-28 December the Japanese launched a fierce counterattack against the original landing point. The attack failed and cost the Japanese at least 200 dead.

At noon on 28 December the Marines ran into a stronger defensive position, this time of twelve bunkers, with over 250 men. By now the Marines had landed their tanks, and a combination of 75mm HE shells and infantry quickly eliminated this position. The Americans lost 9 dead and 36 wounded, the Japanese at least 266 dead. The area was given the name Hell's Point by the Marines, but the opposition was overcome far more quickly than this would suggest.

On 29 December the Marines reached the eastern end of the airfield and emerged from the jungle. Expecting to meet fierce resistance they formed up for a formal assault, with the tanks supported by infantry groups and artillery, but the Japanese failed to appear in any numbers and the airfield was taken very quickly.

The Japanese reappeared on 30 December. They had taken shelter to the south of the airfield during the American attack and now carried out a banzai attack. As was so often the case this was a total failure, and the survivors fled into the mountains in the centre of the peninsula.

The newly captured airfield took quite a lot of effort to bring back into use. US attacks had left 27 damaged Japanese aircraft scattered across the runways, the ground turned to mud and the area now came under Japanese attack. Even so the airfield was ready for its first Allied aircraft by mid-February.

This didn’t end the fighting around Cape Gloucester. The Japanese still had a large number of troops to the south of Borgen Bay, and were potentially within artillery range of the airfield. The terrain in this area was typical of that encountered in much of the New Guinea campaign, with a series of steep sided jungle covered ridges leading up to Hill 660, the key position in the area. The Japanese had built bunkers and emplacements on most of these ridges and would have to be evicted from each in turn. Very few weapons were effective in this terrain. The tanks that had been so effective on the road to the airfield couldn't cope. Bazookas and flame throwers lost much of their impact in the wet while the thick foliage meant that mortars, grenades and artillery were ineffective against the bunkers. The answer was to get up really close and use explosives to destroy the bunkers.

It took the Marines the first half of January to advance the two miles between the landing positions and Hill 660. On 12 January the hill was the target of a powerful air and artillery bombardment, and on 13 January the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines (Colonel Buse), made their first attack on the hill. The main attack was made from the north-west, while a second detachment, with an armoured bulldozer, was sent around to the south to cut off the defenders. The main attack failed, but the bulldozer party, under Captain Joseph Buckley, did manage to get into place.

The Marines attacked again on 14 January, and this time, with support from 60mm mortars, they managed to reach the summit of the hill. The Japanese were forced to retreat into the surrounding jungle, while many of them ran into Buckley's roadblock. A few days of minor skirmishes followed before soon after dawn on 16 January the Japanese made one final banzai attack on the hill. They managed to reach the summit in some places, but were eventually repulsed with heavy losses. The battle for Hill 660 cost the Marines 50 dead and wounded, while the Japanese lost 200 dead.

The capture of Hill 660 secured the Cape Gloucester area. The Marines then slowly advanced east, to give themselves a strong defensive perimeter. Their final target was the Willaumez Peninsula and the airfield at Talasea. On 6 March they carried out a new amphibious attack at Talasea, and after a few days fighting had taken control of the area. That marked the effective end of the American campaign on New Britain, and at the end of April the Marines were relieved by the Army's 40th Division.


Wikipedia:Peer review/Battle of Cape Gloucester/archive1

I've listed this article for peer review because I am hoping to take this article to GA soon and would like some feedback about anything that might be missing, or things that could be improved before I do. Thank you to all who stop by. Thanks, AustralianRupert (talk) 01:22, 3 February 2018 (UTC)

  • For the dispositions map, suggest including a legend in the caption. Nikkimaria (talk) 01:12, 5 February 2018 (UTC)
    • Thanks, Nikki. Added. AustralianRupert (talk) 11:00, 6 February 2018 (UTC)

    Comments The article is certainly in good shape. I'd like to offer the following comments and suggestions:

    • The material on the background to this battle could be more strongly focused on the air campaign against Rabaul, noting the scale and purpose of this effort.
      • Added a bit, but not sure if it really hits the mark: [1]. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 09:23, 10 February 2018 (UTC)
      • Done. AustralianRupert (talk) 10:16, 8 February 2018 (UTC)
      • Split into a subsection of the Background. AustralianRupert (talk) 11:00, 6 February 2018 (UTC)
      • Created a preparations section inside a separate Prelude. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 09:49, 12 February 2018 (UTC)
      • Added. Had to move a few images around, but I think it works now. AustralianRupert (talk) 11:00, 6 February 2018 (UTC)
      • Thanks, Nick, I will look to work on these comments over the weekend. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 11:00, 6 February 2018 (UTC)
        • @Nick-D: G'day. Nick, if you have a moment would you mind taking a look at my changes and letting me know if it meets your intent? Thanks for your time. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 09:56, 2 March 2018 (UTC)
          • Those changes all look good to me, and the article should cruise through GA and A-class reviews. The para on the Japanese order of battle is a nice bit of work in its own right given how surprisingly complex this topic is (if you really want to go down a rabbit warren in expanding the article, the Japanese build up could be covered in more detail). I might have a go at adding a bit more on the aerial background, in part to soften myself up for a planned article on the air campaign against Rabaul. Nick-D (talk) 10:23, 2 March 2018 (UTC)
            • Cheers, Nick, any additions would be most welcome. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 10:25, 2 March 2018 (UTC)

            Reviewing by Cinderella157 Edit

            Hi, @AustralianRupert, I am sorry to disagree with Nick and IMHO, the article probably still needs a bit of work - though whether this is to meet GA or A Class is moot. Some initial observations are:

            Initial Comments Edit
            • There is quite some scope to improve the prose per: readability, clarity and economy.
            • At least one error (of sorts) became apparent after a cursory review of the sources
              • "The force came ashore aboard craft of various types including APDs" - they were transported by the APD and off-loaded into landing craft.
                • Adjusted. AustralianRupert (talk) 10:16, 8 February 2018 (UTC)
                • Yes, they are PD. AustralianRupert (talk) 10:16, 8 February 2018 (UTC)
                  • Adjusted maps now. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 07:38, 9 February 2018 (UTC)
                    • I would think that Map 22, p 302, Shaw & Kane might be better than the first map, as it shows more of the localities being discussed? Cinderella157 (talk) 09:55, 9 February 2018 (UTC)
                      • I'm kind of keen to keep the first map as the creator put a lot of work into it. Which localities would you like added? I will see if it can be adjusted. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 10:13, 9 February 2018 (UTC)
                        • Long Island, Rooke Is, Goodenough Is, Gasmata and Talasea. The text "Madang", could swap sides. The font size for Lae, Wau and some others is bigger than say Madang. I am thinking ahead a bit here. If it were saved to commons with better resolution, sections could be cut and saved for individual pages. The north point and scale locations could be an issue. So thinking more generally, it might be good to add some more points (all at once) - say: Wide Bay, Open Bay, Admiralty Islands (Manus Is), Kirawina Is, Woodlark Is, Normanby Is, Fergusson Is and any other relevant points, such as Shortland Islands and the Treasurys. Some thoughts. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 01:59, 11 February 2018 (UTC)
                          • No worries, added a request on the creator's talk page. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 04:26, 11 February 2018 (UTC)
                            • The map has been updated now. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 07:16, 17 February 2018 (UTC)
                              • Hi, Two "errors" that leap out. Gasmata is missing an "a" and Telasea is too low - about half-way between where it is now and the constriction before the end of the cape and on the eastern coast as shown (see [2]). Cape Sudest is mentioned a few times ([3]). In the circumstances, It might be worth adding too. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 07:48, 17 February 2018 (UTC)
                                • No worries, I have posted a comment on Chris' talk page to see if he can adjust it a bit more. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 08:02, 17 February 2018 (UTC)

                                Would be happy to work with you on this. I would need to get my head around the available (on-line) material. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 13:09, 7 February 2018 (UTC)

                                That would be great. Happy for any help I can get. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 10:16, 8 February 2018 (UTC)

                                Structural comment Edit

                                @AustralianRupert, I have reviewed the OHs to the extent of that covered in the Battle section. It raises a concern that should be resolved and/or reconciled and suggests a structural change and, perhaps, some expansion. The info box gives the battle as "26 December 1943 – 22 April 1944". I have looked at New Britain campaign and the Cape Gloucester section. This covers up to the Battle of Talasea. From the end of the Gloucester section:

                                In mid-January, Sakai requested permission to withdraw his command from western New Britain, and this was granted by Imamura on the 21st of the month. The Japanese forces subsequently sought to disengage from the Americans, and move towards the Talasea area.[46] Marine patrols pursued the Japanese, and a large number of small engagements were fought in the centre of the island and along its north coast.

                                This article does not cover the Green Beach landings by LT 21, their withdrawal and marry-up. Nor does it cover the advance toward Borgen Bay. LT 21 was an integral part of the operation. I think that there is scope to expand the battle section IAW this, at least to the point leading into the Battle of Talasea or a link up with forces from Arawe (which ever comes first)? For part of this, I note the dates given in the info box. I donot know why these have been chosen (ie a source) but mid-January (per the quote) appears more consistent with events? On the otherhand, Rooke Is. is not an intrinsic part of this op, yet it appears in the Battle section?

                                In a similar vein, the article starts with a full head of steam (detail) advancing to the beachheads but seems to loose its puff (IMHO)? Perhaps these other things might provide a ending to the action.

                                The Battle section concludes with a summary of casualties? Except as an intermediate summary, I would think this is more to the Aftermath? The Base Development commences within the time of the Battle section. Perhaps this might better be a main section, between the Battle and the aftermath. Similarly, the mopping up might better be a part of the battle. The Aftermath would then deal with casualties, subsequent development (on New Britain and in the SWPA), an analysis of the action and a broader analysis (noting that the latter but not the former is covered). I think that Hough offers something on the former, such as the value of the Green Beach landings. In short, I think that some details are in the wrong places within the structure.

                                I hope this is sufficiently clear. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 12:22, 22 February 2018 (UTC)

                                • Regarding the date in the infobox I believe it comes from this source: [4], which seems to use the date the Marines were relieved. A date of 16 January is supported by Shaw & Kane p. 389 as the end of organised defence: "The capture of Hill 660 and the repulse of the counterattack to retake it marked the effective end of the Japanese defense of the Cape Gloucester-Borgen Bay area". I could adjust to this, if you think that best.
                                • I think that the info box should reflect the scope of the article - so yes, I think it needs to be adjusted. 16 Jan sounds consistent with the article. Talasea falls within the dates of this article, so it becomes problematic - both that Talasea is a separate article and that it is not covered in the Battle section here. It is appropriate though, to reconcile the sources. This could be done with a note. But it could also be addressed in the Aftermath. Given the status of the article, I wouldn't exclude notes at this time (as opposed to Torakina - where the article was in a better state). I also observe that "annotation" notes do not have to be grouped separately from citations (shortened footnotes). This could be an option where there are only very few annotations. Cinderella157 (talk) 11:42, 23 February 2018 (UTC)
                                • Adjusted with clarification in text. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 09:53, 2 March 2018 (UTC)
                                • Regarding your comment "Rooke Is. is not an intrinsic part of this op": do you mean Long Island? If so, yes I agree it could be moved. I wonder if this might be better up in the Preparations section, or in the Aftermath?
                                • Yes, my error. Suggest Aftermath. Cinderella157 (talk) 11:42, 23 February 2018 (UTC)
                                • Moved now. Added mention of Rooke Island landing in Feb 44 also. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 02:39, 25 February 2018 (UTC)
                                • Regarding casualties, these were moved into the Aftermath on 8 Feb: [5].
                                • I was referring to: "The position was finally secured on 16 January 1944 during which 50 Marines and over 200 Japanese were killed. The capture of this position represented the end of Japanese defensive operations in the Cape Gloucester and Borgen Bay areas." As it stands, this figure creates an apparent inconsistency with the Aftermath and might need to be reconciled. As I said above though, intermediate figures are not inappropriate in the Battle section. Cinderella157 (talk) 11:42, 23 February 2018 (UTC)
                                • No worries, I've adjusted the wording now to hopefully make it clearer that those figures are intermediate and relate only to the fighting around Hill 660. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 02:39, 25 February 2018 (UTC)
                                • Regarding the Green Beach landing, it is covered in the paragraph beginning "The Japanese defenses around the western landing. ". Agree, though, the this should be expanded. In the meantime, I've adjusted the paragraph slightly to make it clearer which landing related to which beach.
                                • Split into its own section now. Added details of a few of the clashes and the main engagement and subsequent collapse and link up. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 02:39, 25 February 2018 (UTC)
                                • The advance to Borgen Bay is covered in the paragraph beginning "In the weeks that followed, US troops pushed south towards Borgen Bay. " Agree, though, that it could be expanded.
                                • Split into its own section now. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 02:39, 25 February 2018 (UTC)
                                • I've split base development out into its own section with a level two heading as it probably doesn't quite belong in the Battle section, nor is it completely part of the Aftermath. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 09:15, 23 February 2018 (UTC)

                                Hi @AustralianRupert, There is probably some scope to discuss the evolution of the plan, particularly as it evolved from dividing the force into two attacking elements and an airborne landing. Reasons why this changed to the final plan and was delayed because of shipping availability. Also, there is the allocation of tasks, with the 5th Marines being a reserve? The logistics plan and how this played out. Movement of the force to the landing, including the deception plan. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 02:14, 25 February 2018 (UTC)

                                No worries, will look at this, too. The 5th Marines being in reserve is already mentioned twice currently, though, so probably won't mention that again. AustralianRupert (talk) 02:39, 25 February 2018 (UTC) I found the evolution of the plan very interesting in the OHs. I think this could be developed more as a section. Please see Battle of Arawe. As I read things, the initial plan was an attack on Gasmata and Cape Glocester by 1st Marine Div. Pardon me if I get the "details" wrong. I have not double-checked them. My point is the the broad picture, the initial plan and how this evolved. The initial plan was to divide 1 Marine between Gasmata and Cape G. At Cape G, it was to have two lodgements of similar size (east and west) and a para drop (given MacA had allocated paras). Japanese reinforcement to Gasmata killed this part and the alternative was to Arawe with the Cav. This freed the Div to work as a formation (save that 5 Marine Regt was in reserve). The initial plan was for the moon in Nov but this was delayed by the navy because of landings in NG. The initial plan for Cape G was for two lodgements and a para drop. The Marines weren't happy with dividing their force (principle is to concentrate force). The revision gave Green Beach a limited task. I think that all of these points are a credit to the Marines particularly, and the article should reflect this - even if it is a case of reading between the lines. The A, B and C combat teams were not so clearly defined on regimental lines as the plan evolved? As to the logistics plan, I think this was particularly well formed but is not so represented in the article. There are the general planning factors per the scale of supply to be initially landed etc. There is also the planning as to how this was to be achieved - the loading on trucks v bulk cargo and the plan for dispersal to "sub dumps" rather than congesting traffic at major dumps. These are a degree of "subtly" in planning that I don't usually associate with the US. How events after the first shot is another issue. Clearly, there were hiccups, such as the Army drivers and the terrain. These might be a section witin the Battle? The embarkation and move might be a separate section? The convoy initially moved to Finschaffen as a deception? The landing forces were separate, even if they convoyed together initially. The different allocations should be made clear. The rocket firing DUWKs did not travel the whole way - they were disembarked. But the text reads as if they did? There were LCPs with rockets that took the flanks for the yellow beach landings (not mentioned?) The Blue beach landings were significant (even though that didn't go off without a hitch. I did a search for "blue" with no return? Hope this helps. I am sorry to be pointing rather than shooting. I should be asleep. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 16:14, 26 February 2018 (UTC) Thanks, I'll keep working on it. Can you please provide a ref that says they moved to Finschhafen as a deception? I haven't been able to find this. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 09:08, 27 February 2018 (UTC) This was my recollection, but I could be wrong. I will look and get back to you. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 09:20, 27 February 2018 (UTC) With apologies, it appears I was wrong. Regards Cinderella157 (talk) 09:46, 27 February 2018 (UTC) No worries, thanks for getting back to me. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 10:43, 27 February 2018 (UTC) Think I've covered off on most of these points now. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 09:53, 2 March 2018 (UTC) I will look at things when I get a chance (when it is too hot to be outside). Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 10:51, 2 March 2018 (UTC)


                                First Navy Cross, Nicaragua

                                As a first lieutenant, Chesty earned his first Navy Cross for commanding a Nicaraguan National Guard unit. From February through August 1930, Chesty led five successful engagements against superior numbers of armed bandits, completely routing the enemy forces each time, according to his award citation.

                                “By his intelligent and forceful leadership without thought of his own personal safety, by great physical exertion and by suffering many hardships, Lieutenant Puller surmounted all obstacles and dealt five successive and severe blows against organized banditry in the Republic of Nicaragua,” his citation reads.


                                Battle of Cape Gloucester

                                The Battle of Cape Gloucester was fought in the Pacific theater of World War II between Japanese and Allied forces on the island of New Britain, Territory of New Guinea, between 26 December 1943 and 16 January 1944.

                                Codenamed Operation Backhander, the US landing formed part of the wider Operation Cartwheel, the main Allied strategy in the South West Pacific Area and Pacific Ocean Areas during 1943–1944. It was the second landing the US 1st Marine Division had conducted during the war thus far, after Guadalcanal. The objective of the operation was to capture the two Japanese airfields near Cape Gloucester that were defended by elements of the Japanese 17th Division.

                                Arthur Pendleton

                                ARTHUR PENDLETON – Corporal, 1st Marine Division (Company H, 2nd Battalion, 1st Division) On 2 January 1942, at age 20, Arthur found himself among a small group of recruits headed to Paris Island, South Carolina, [Read more]


                                Battle of Cape Gloucester, 26 December 1943-April 1944 - History

                                The Capture of the Cape Gloucester Airfields

                                The 1st Marine Division's overall plan of maneuver called for Colonel Frisbie's Combat Team C, the reinforced 7th Marines, to hold a beach head anchored at Target Hill, while Combat Team B, Colonel William A. Whaling's 1st Marines, reinforced but without the 2d Battalion ashore at Green Beach, advanced on the airfields. Because of the buildup in preparation for the attack on Conoley's battalion, General Rupertus requested that Kreuger release the division reserve, Combat Team A, Colonel John T. Selden's reinforced 5th Marines. The Army general agreed, sending the 1st and 2d Battalions, followed a day later by the 3d Battalion. The division commander decided to land the team on Blue Beach, roughly three miles to the right of the Yellow Beaches. The use of Blue Beach would have placed the 5th Marines closer to Cape Gloucester and the airfields, but not every element of Selden's Combat Team A got the word. Some units touched down on the Yellow Beaches instead and had to move on foot or in vehicles to the intended destination.

                                While Rupertus laid plans to commit the reserve, Whaling's combat team advanced toward the Cape Gloucester airfields. The Marines encountered only sporadic resistance at first, but Army Air Forces light bombers spotted danger in their path—a maze of trenches and bunkers stretching inland from a promontory that soon earned the nickname Hell's Point. The Japanese had built these defenses to protect the beaches where Matsuda expected the Americans to land. Leading the advance, the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, under Lieutenant Colonel Hankins, struck the Hell's Point position on the flank, rather than head-on, but overrunning the complex nevertheless would prove a deadly task.

                                Rain and Biting Insects

                                Driven by monsoon winds, the rain that screened the attack on Conoley's 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, drenched the entire island and everyone on it. At the front, the deluge flooded foxholes, and conditions were only marginally better at the rear, where some men slept in jungle hammocks slung between two trees. A Marine entered his hammock through an opening in a mosquito net, lay down on a length of rubberized cloth, and zipped the net shut. Above him, also enclosed in the netting, stretched a rubberized cover designed to shelter him from rain. Unfortunately, a gale as fierce as the one that began blowing on the night of D-Day set the cover to flapping like a loose sail and drove the rain inside the hammock. In the darkness, a gust of wind might uproot a tree, weakened by flooding or the effect of the preparatory bombardment, and send it crashing down. A falling tree toppled onto a hammock occupied by one of the Marines, who would have drowned if someone had not slashed through the covering with a knife and set him free.

                                The monsoon rains flood a field kitchen at Cape Gloucester, justifying complaints about watery soup. Department of Defense (USMC) photo 72821

                                The rain, said Lieutenant Colonel Lewis J. Fields, a battalion commander in the 11th Marines, resembled "a waterfall pouring down on you, and it goes on and on." The first deluge lasted five days, and recurring storms persisted for another two weeks. Wet uniforms never really dried, and the men suffered continually from fungus infections, the so-called jungle rot, which readily developed into open sores. Mosquito-borne malaria threatened the health of the Marines, who also had to contend with other insects—"little black ants, little red ants, big red ants," on an island where "even the caterpillars bite." The Japanese may have suffered even more because of shortages of medicine and difficulty in distributing what was available, but this was scant consolation to Marines beset by discomfort and disease. By the end of January 1944, disease or non-battle injuries forced the evacuation of more than a thousand Marines more than one in ten had already returned to duty on New Britain.

                                The island's swamps and jungles would have been ordeal enough without the wind, rain, and disease. At times, the embattled Marines could see no more than a few feet ahead of them. Movement verged on the impossible, especially where the rains had flooded the land or turned the volcanic soil into slippery mud. No wonder that the Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., compared the New Britain campaign to "Grant's fight though the Wilderness in the Civil War."

                                Flooding caused by the monsoon deluge makes life miserable even in the comparative comfort of the rear areas. Department of Defense (USMC) photo 72463

                                Rupertus delayed the attack by Hankins to provide time for the division reserve, Selden's 5th Marines, to come ashore. On the morning of 28 December, after a bombardment by the 2d Battalion, 11th Marines, and strikes by Army Air Forces A-20s, the assault troops encountered another delay, waiting for an hour so that an additional platoon of M4 Sherman medium tanks could increase the weight of the attack. At 1100, Hankins's 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, moved ahead, Company I and the supporting tanks leading the way. Whaling, at about the same time, sent his regiment's Company A through swamp and jungle to seize the inland point of the ridge extending from Hell's Point. Despite the obstacles in its path, Company A burst from the jungle at about 1145 and advanced across a field of tall grass until stopped by intense Japanese fire. By late afternoon, Whaling abandoned the maneuver. Both Company A and the defenders were exhausted and short of ammunition the Marines withdrew behind a barrage fired by the 2d Battalion, 11th Marines, and the Japanese abandoned their positions after dark.

                                Roughly 15 minutes after Company A assaulted the inland terminus of the ridge, Company I and the attached tanks collided with the main defenses, which the Japanese had modified since the 26 December landings, cutting new gunports in bunkers, hacking fire lanes in the undergrowth, and shifting men and weapons to oppose an attack along the coastal trail parallel to shore instead of over the beach. Advancing in a drenching rain, the Marines encountered a succession of jungle covered, mutually supporting positions protected by barbed wire and mines. The hour's wait for tanks paid dividends, as the Shermans, protected by riflemen, crushed bunkers and destroyed the weapons inside. During the fight, Company I drifted to its left, and Hankins used Company K, reinforced with a platoon of medium tanks, to close the gap between the coastal track and Hell's Point itself. This unit employed the same tactics as Company I. A rifle squad followed each of the M4 tanks, which cracked open the bunkers, twelve in all, and fired inside the accompanying riflemen then killed anyone attempting to fight or flee. More than 260 Japanese perished in the fighting at Hell's Point, at the cost of 9 Marines killed and 36 wounded.

                                A 75mm pack howitzer of the 11th Marines fires in support of the advance on the Cape Gloucester airfields. Department of Defense (USMC) photo 12203

                                With the defenses of Hell's Point shattered, the two battalions of the 5th Marines, which came ashore on the morning of 29 December, joined later that day in the advance on the airfield. The 1st Battalion, commanded by Major William H. Barba, and the 2d Battalion, under Lieutenant Colonel Lewis H. Walt, moved out in a column, Barba's unit leading the way. In front of the Marines lay a swamp, described as only a few inches deep, but the depth, because of the continuing downpour, proved as much as five feet, "making it quite hard," Selden acknowledged, "for some of the youngsters who were not much more than 5 feet in height." The time lost in wading through the swamp delayed the attack, and the leading elements chose a piece of open and comparatively dry ground, where they established a perimeter while the rest of the force caught up.

                                Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, attacking through that regiment's 3d Battalion, encountered only scattered resistance, mainly sniper fire, as it pushed along the coast beyond Hell's Point. Half-tracks carrying 75mm guns, medium tanks, artillery, and even a pair of rocket-firing DUKWs supported the advance, which brought the battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Walker A. Reaves, to the edge of Airfield No. 2. When daylight faded on 29 December, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, held a line extending inland from the coast on its left were the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, and the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, forming a semicircle around the airfield.

                                The Japanese officer responsible for defending the airfields, Colonel Kouki Sumiya of the 53d Infantry, had fallen back on 29 December, trading space for time as he gathered his surviving troops for the defense of Razorback Hill, a ridge running diagonally across the southwestern approaches to Airfield No. 2. The 1st and 2d Battalions, 5th Marines, attacked on 30 December supported by tanks and artillery. Sumiya's troops had constructed some sturdy bunkers, but the chest-high grass that covered Razorback Hill did not impede the attackers like the jungle at Hell's Point. The Japanese fought gallantly to hold the position, at times stalling the advancing Marines, but the defenders had neither the numbers nor the firepower to prevail. Typical of the day's fighting, one platoon of Company F from Selden's regiment beat back two separate banzai attacks, before tanks enabled the Marines to shatter the bunkers in their path and kill the enemy within. By dusk on 30 December, the landing force had overrun the defenses of the airfields, and at noon of the following day General Rupertus had the American flag raised beside the wreckage of a Japanese bomber at Airfield No. 2, the larger of the airstrips.

                                On 31 December 1943, the American flag rises beside the wreckage of a Japanese bomber after the capture of Airfield No. 2, five days after the 1st Marine Division landed on New Britain. Department of Defense (USMC) photo 71589

                                The 1st Marine Division thus seized the principal objective of the Cape Gloucester fighting, but the airstrips proved of marginal value to the Allied forces. Indeed, the Japanese had already abandoned the prewar facility, Airfield No. 1, which was thickly overgrown with tall, coarse kunai grass. Craters from American bombs pockmarked the surface of Airfield No. 2, and after its capture Japanese hit-and-run raiders added a few of their own, despite antiaircraft fire from the 12th Defense Battalion. Army aviation engineers worked around the clock to return Airfield No. 2 to operation, a task that took until the end of January 1944. Army aircraft based here defended against air attacks for as long as Rabaul remained an active air base and also supported operations on the ground.


                                History’s Storyteller: The Life of WWII Marine Ed Bearss

                                US Marine Corps Corporal Edwin Cole Bearss wearing his Purple Heart Medal circa 1945. Photograph archivingwheeling.org.

                                Edwin (Ed) Cole Bearss (pronounced ‘bars’) was born June 26, 1923, in Billings, Montana, to Omar and Virginia Bearss. He grew up on a 10,000 acre ranch, the B bar S, located 90 miles west of Billings. The Little Bighorn Battlefield was 35 miles southwest of the ranch. He had a younger brother, Pat, and there was a time Ed and Pat would ride together on horseback to and from the Sarpy Creek School a distance of six miles from the ranch.

                                Ed and Pat on horseback. Photograph courtesy of the Bearss Family, Robert Desourdis, and Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

                                Ed Bearss was born into a lineage of family members who served in the United States (US) Marine Corps. His father, Omar, was a Marine in WWI. Omar’s cousin Hiram “Hiking Hiram” Bearss was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1901 for extraordinary heroism during the Philippine-American War (February 4, 1899 – July 2, 1902) Hiram Bearss was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1918 for his valor in WWI (1914 -1918).

                                Omar Bearss would read history books to his boys on subjects including WWI, the American Civil War, and the US Marine Corps. Ed developed an intense interest in history that infused his life. Charles Crawford of the Georgia Battlefields Association said about Ed, “There was a Marine in Ed before Ed was ever in the Marines.”

                                On December 7, 1941, the National Football League was finishing its season. Three games were played that day: the Chicago Bears (34) against the Chicago Cardinals (24), the Brooklyn Dodgers (21) versus the New York Giants (7), and the Washington Redskins (20) played against the Philadelphia Eagles (14). During these three games public address announcers broadcast early reports of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii, or paged government and military personnel to report to their units.

                                The Bearss family on December 7, 1941, was listening to the Chicago Bears playing against the Chicago Cardinals at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois.

                                On April 28, 1942, Ed Bearss enlisted in the US Marine Corps.

                                Ed arrived at the US Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California, on April 30, 1942. After seven weeks training in Boot Camp Platoon 369, he was assigned to the newly activated 22nd Marine Regiment (22nd Marines). On June 18 the 22nd Marines began deployment to the WWII Pacific Theater of Operations. In September 1942 Ed requested and was assigned to the 3rd Raider Battalion which was being formed in the Samoas. [ The Samoan Islands are an archipelago in the central South Pacific Ocean.]

                                In April 1943 when the 3rd Raider Battalion was based in New Hebrides (an island group off the northern coast of Australia now called Vanuatu), Ed was diagnosed with malaria and sent to New Zealand for six weeks to recuperate.

                                Ed didn’t return to the 3rd Raiders after convalescence but was assigned to the 2nd Platoon of L Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. The 1st Marine Division would deploy to New Guinea to plan the assault on Cape Gloucester in New Britain, Territory of New Guinea.

                                The island of New Britain, Territory of New Guinea, is to the east of mainland New Guinea. Ed Bearss would land at Cape Gloucester with the 1st Marine Division on December 26, 1943. Map commons.wikimedia.org.

                                [The Battle of Cape Gloucester (December 26, 1943 – January 16, 1944) codenamed Operation Backhander had the objective to capture a major Japanese airstrip near Cape Gloucester and to defeat elements of the Japanese 17th Division in control of the area. The battle was in support of Operation Cartwheel (1943 – 1944).

                                Operation Cartwheel was a major Allied plan to neutralize and then to isolate and bypass Rabaul (far eastern end of island of New Britain) as the Allies moved northward towards Japan.

                                Rabaul was a Australian naval base that was captured by the Japanese in 1942. It became a major Japanese air and naval installation and was the most heavily defended Japanese fortification in the South Pacific. It was also the assembly point for convoys of ships, known as the “Tokyo Express,” that would race south to bring troops and supplies to areas of conflict in the Solomon Islands.]

                                On December 26, 1943, the 1st Marine Division would spearhead an attack at Cape Gloucester.

                                January 2, 1944, the Marines were driving eastward through dense jungle terrain. Corporal Bearss’ platoon was advancing through the jungle — Ed was walking point — when they approached a creek that would become known as Suicide Creek.

                                Medium tank crosses Suicide Creek to blast Japanese emplacements holding up the Marine advance. Photograph US Marine Corps January 1944.

                                In the 2003 book Edwin Cole Bearss History’s Pied Piper by John C. Waugh, Ed tells of being wounded as the Japanese, dug into the bank on the other side of Suicide Creek, opened fire:

                                “I was on my knees when the first bullet struck. It hit me in my left arm just below the elbow, and the arm went numb. It felt like being hit with a sledgehammer. It jerked me sideways and then I was hit again, another sledgehammer blow to my right shoulder. I fell, both arms shattered, and my helmet slipped down over my eyes. I couldn’t see. But there were now dead men lying all around me.

                                It seemed a long time that I lay there, in fierce pain, pinned down by Japanese fire… Unable to stand it any longer and afraid of bleeding to death, I decided to risk getting up the Japanese gun just in front of me was firing off to the right. As I wiggled around trying to rise, another bullet grazed my butt and another hit my foot. I quit moving…”

                                After lying in an area without possible rescue for what seemed like hours, bleeding, and afraid he was going to die, Ed decided to try to move again.

                                “They [the Japanese] saw me [move] but couldn’t get their gun depressed fast enough before, without the use of either arm, I went over the lip of a knoll and slid down the other side, … I still don’t know how I did it. If that ground had been level, I would be dead. I realized then how important terrain was in a battle.”

                                Having moved to a different position, Lieutenant Thomas J. O’Leary and a US Navy corpsman named Hartman, crawled over to Ed and pulled him back behind the lines far enough so stretcher bearers could reach him and carry him to the battalion aid station.

                                Ed received medical treatment at military facilities in the South Pacific and would eventually arrive back in the US for continued medical care and rehabilitation. During his hospitalization Ed would spend countless hours reading history books. After 26 months recovering from his war wounds, Edwin Cole Bearss was discharged from the US Marine Corps on March 15, 1946. [But for those of us who have known a US Marine, “Once a Marine always a Marine.”]

                                Ed Bearss graduated from Georgetown University in 1949 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Foreign Service Studies. In 1955 he would earn a Master of Arts Degree in History from Indiana University.

                                After working at the Naval Hydrographic Office and the Office of the Chief of Military History, in 1955 Ed sought a position working for the National Park Service. He was assigned to the Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi, as a historian.

                                In 1957 a young schoolteacher born in Brandon, Mississippi, arrived at the Vicksburg National Military Park with a US Civil War question about Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Meridian Campaign. Her name was Margie Riddle. Her question and their discussion involved a campaign “cannonball,” and she was proved correct on the issue. Ed and Margie were married July 30, 1958, and they would be a formidable team in the field of American Civil War history.

                                In 1958 Ed would be promoted to Regional Historian for the Southeast Region of the National Park Service working out of Vicksburg.

                                While at Vicksburg, Ed studied Civil War maps and located what he thought was the sunken Union gunboat United States Ship (USS) Cairo (named after Cairo, Illinois). A ironclad warship, she was sunk on December 12, 1862, when clearing mines in the Yazoo River for the planned attack on Haynes Bluff, Mississippi. [It was the first ship sunk by a mine that was remotely detonated.] Along with Don Jacks, a maintenance man at the Vicksburg National Military Park, and Warren Grabau, US Army engineer and geologist, the USS Cairo was located buried in Yazoo River mud.

                                USS Cairo. US Naval Historical Center photograph.

                                With support from the State of Mississippi the ship was salvaged and can now be viewed at the USS Cairo Museum at the Vicksburg National Military Park.

                                In 1966, Ed, Margie, and their three children moved to Washington, D.C., where he became the Historian for the National Park Service’s historical sites. In 1981 he was named Chief Historian of the National Park Service. He held the position until 1994.

                                In the 1990 Ken Burns miniseries The Civil War, Ed Bearss was featured as one of the Civil War historians.

                                After retiring from the National Park Service Ed Bearss continues to share his love for history and vast knowledge by leading battlefield tours, writing, lecturing, participating in Civil War Roundtables, and encouraging remembrance of our national history. He has received numerous awards and has been called by many “A National Treasure.”

                                Ed Bearss leads a tour in 2011 about the US Civil War Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863), Pennsylvania, with South Mountain Expeditions. Photograph S. O’Konski Collection.

                                Ed leads the Battle of Gettysburg tour members across the July 3, 1863, “Pickett’s Charge” field in 2011. Photograph S. O’Konski Collection.

                                In an earlier quote from Ed Bearss in this story about his wounding and survival at the 1944 Battle of Suicide Creek, he said, “I realized then how important terrain was in a battle.” On his battlefield tours today he says, “You can’t describe a battlefield unless you walk it.”

                                Thank you to the Bearss family, Robert Desourdis, and Nova Science Publishers, Inc., for use of the Bearss family photograph.

                                Thank you to the US Marine Corps University Research Center for assistance in the research for this story.

                                Thank you to Dr. Vernon L. Williams, Military Historian and Professor Emeritus of History, at Abiliene Christian University, Abilene, Texas. He is the Director of the East Anglia Air War Project.

                                I first met Ed Bearss on a 2006 History America Tours cruise “Invasion of Italy.” The tour started in Valletta, Malta. We sailed on theClipper Adventurer to Sicily where we walked WWII Allied invasion beaches and visited battle sites. The ship then sailed from Messina, Sicily, to the mainland of Italy, and the tour travelled north with excursions to the WWII battle sites of Salerno, Monte Cassino, Anzio, the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial, and other WWII history locations.

                                After daily trip excursions with Ed, I was filled with information about WWII. I became a member of the “Ed Bearss Fan Club.” I learned a great deal about WWII from him and was motivated to pass on the history I learned to others interested in WWII history. In 2015 I started my website World War 2 History Short Stories and named Chief Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service Ed Bearss as one of the people who inspired me to undertake the project.

                                Dinner onboard the Clipper Adventurer in 2006. Left to right: Ed Bearss, this story’s author Susan O’Konski, and History America Tours company owner Peter Brown.


                                Battle of Cape Gloucester – 1943

                                From the Commander: Just another follow up to last month’s Military History and the history of island hopping in the Pacific. Although not widely published or reported, there were people back in the U.S. that opposed the lose of life during this time on islands nobody knew existed and wondered why soldiers were dying on these “God forsaken shores”. A point to remember is General MacArthur’s promise to the Philippine people that he would return. In April 2008, I was fortunate enough to visit the Philippines with my wife and two couples from Post 49 and we visited Corregidor and truly received a lesson in History.

                                An overlay of the U.S. over the many islands in the south Pacific. to give an idea of distances.

                                The Battle of Cape Gloucester was a battle in the Pacific theater of World War II between Japanese and Allied forces which took place on the island of New Britain, Territory of New Guinea, between late December 1943 and April 1944.

                                The battle was a major part of Operation Cartwheel, the main Allied strategy in the South West Pacific Area and Pacific Ocean Areas during 1943–44, and was the second World War II landing of the U.S. 1st Marine Division, after Guadalcanal.

                                The main objective of the American and Australian allies was the capture and expansion of the Japanese military airfield at Cape Gloucester. This was to contribute to the increased isolation and harassment of the major Japanese base at Rabaul. A secondary goal was to ensure free Allied sea passage through the straits separating New Britain from New Guinea.

                                Supporting operations for the landings in Cape Gloucester began on 15 December, when the U.S. Army‘s 112th Cavalry Regiment was landed at Arawe on the south-central coast to block the route of Japanese reinforcements and supplies from east to west and as a diversionary attack from the future Cape Gloucester landings.

                                Monsoon rains kept everything wet

                                Although they lost the opening battle, the Japanese did not concede Arawe to the Americans without further struggle. Beginning on the afternoon of the invasion, 15 December 1943, and continuing for the next several days, they launched furious air attacks, especially targeting ships that had supported the assault. In addition, two nearby Japanese infantry battalions advanced on Arawe and dug in just beyond the American perimeter.

                                Beyond dealing with night-long battles, the Marines had to cope with Cape Gloucester’s terrible winter weather. Day after day of monsoon rains flooded the kitchens (causing the men to eat watery soup) and flooded the rearward tents (for those fortunate-enough to sleep in tents instead of outdoor hammocks covered with mosquito netting).

                                Wet uniforms never really dried, and the men suffered continually from fungus infections, the so-called jungle rot, which readily developed into open sores. Mosquito-borne malaria threatened the health of the Marines, who also had to contend with other insects—”little black ants, little red ants, big red ants,” on an island where “even the caterpillars bite.”

                                Why did anyone care about these hot, malaria-infested places? General MacArthur believed capturing Cape Gloucester, and other island locations with good harbors, was indispensable for his plan to recapture Japanese-occupied sections of the Philippines. All the military services, and especially the Allied navies, required logistical bases to resupply their forces, repair their equipment, treat their wounded, and support their fighting elements.


                                Base development

                                The Base Engineer and his operations staff landed on 27 December 1943 and completed a reconnaissance of the two Japanese airfields by 30 December. They found that they were 3 feet (0.91   m) deep in kunai grass and that the Japanese had neither attempted to construct proper drainage nor to re-grade the airstrips. They decided not to proceed with any work on No. 1 Airstrip and to concentrate on No. 2. The 1913th Engineer Aviation Battalion arrived on 2 January, followed by the 864th Engineer Aviation Battalion on 10 January and the 841st Engineer Aviation Battalion on 17 January. Work hours were limited by blackout restrictions imposed by the Task Force Commander, which limited work to daylight hours until 8 January 1944 and by heavy and continuous rain from 27 December 1943 until 21 January 1944, averaging 10 inches (254   mm) a week. Grading removed 3 to 6 feet (0.91 to 1.83   m) of material, mostly kunai humus, from two-thirds of the area. The subgrade was then stabilized with red volcanic ash that had to be hauled from the nearest source 8 miles (13   km) away. Marston Mat was then laid over the top but this did not arrive until 25 January 1944, resulting in further delay. By 31 January, 4,000 feet (1,200   m) of runway was usable and by 18 March a 5,200-foot (1,600   m) runway was complete. Natural obstacles prevented the runway being lengthened to 6,000 feet (1,800   m) as originally planned but there were four 100-by-750-foot (30 by 229   m) alert areas, 80 hardstands, a control tower, taxiways, access roads and facilities for four squadrons. [93]

                                A memorial service for Marines killed during the battle

                                A Beechcraft Model 18 had landed on the runway at Cape Gloucester in January, followed by a C-47. Lieutenant General Walter Krueger, the commander of Alamo Force, inspected the airstrip with Brigadier General Frederic H. Smith, Jr., on 9 January 1944. They estimated that the 8th Fighter Group could move in as early as 15 January. This did not prove feasible the airbase was not finished and was at capacity with transport aircraft bringing in much-needed supplies. The 35th Fighter Squadron arrived on 13 February, followed by the 80th Fighter Squadron on 23 February. Heavy rains made mud ooze up through the holes in the steel plank, making the runway slick. This did not bother the 35th Fighter Squadron which flew nimble and rugged P-40 Kittyhawks but the P-38 Lightnings of the 80th Fighter Group found themselves overshooting the short runway. Major General Ennis C. Whitehead, the commander of the Fifth Air Force Advanced Echelon (ADVON), decided to move the 8th Fighter Group to Nadzab and replace it with RAAF Kittyhawk squadrons from Kiriwina. [94] No. 78 Wing RAAF began moving to Cape Gloucester on 11 March. No. 80 Squadron RAAF arrived on 14 March, followed by No. 78 Squadron RAAF on 16 March and No. 75 Squadron RAAF two days later. No, 78 Wing provided close air support for the 1st Marine Division, assisted the PT boats offshore and provided vital air cover for convoys headed to the Admiralty Islands campaign. Operations were maintained at a high tempo until 22 April, when No. 78 Wing was alerted to prepare for Operations Reckless and Persecution, the landings at Hollandia (Jayapura) and Aitape. [95]

                                To support air operations, 18,000 US barrels (2,100,000   l 570,000   US   gal 470,000   imp   gal) of bulk petroleum storage was provided, along with a tanker berth with connections to the five storage tanks, which became operational in May 1944. The 19th Naval Construction Battalion worked on a rock-filled pile and crib pier 130 feet (40   m) long and 540 feet (160   m) wide for Liberty ships. It was not completed before the 19th Naval Construction Battalion left for the Russell Islands, along with the 1st Marine Division, in April 1944. Other works included 800,000 square feet (74,000   m 2 ) of open storage, 120,000 square feet (11,000   m 2 ) of covered warehouse storage and 5,400 cubic feet (150   m 3 ) of refrigerated storage a 500-bed hospital was completed in May 1944 and a water supply system with a capacity of 30,000 US gallons (110,000   l 25,000   imp   gal) per day was installed. Despite problems obtaining suitable road surface materials, 35 miles (56   km) of two-lane all-weather roads were provided, surfaced with sand, clay, volcanic ash and beach gravel. Timber was obtained locally, and a sawmill operated by the 841st Engineer Aviation Battalion produced 1,000,000 board feet (2,400   m 3 ) of lumber. [96]


                                Leading From the Front

                                During the opening weeks of the campaign, Puller won a fourth Navy Cross for his efforts in directing Marine units in attacks against the Japanese. On February 1, 1944, Puller was promoted to colonel and later took command of the 1st Marine Regiment. Finishing the campaign, Puller's men sailed for the Russell Islands in April before preparing for the Battle of Peleliu. Landing on the island in September, Puller fought to overcome a tenacious Japanese defense. For his work during the engagement, he received the Legion of Merit.


                                Battle of Cape Gloucester, 26 December 1943-April 1944 - History

                                Construction
                                Built prewar by the Australians as a single runway for civilian aircraft known as Cape Gloucester Airfield. During late late December 1942, after the Japanese built a second runway, the original runway became known as No. 1 Strip. The Japanese built second runway became known as Cape Gloucester No. 2 Strip, East Airfield or No. 2 Strip.

                                World War II Pacific Theatre History
                                On December 17, 1942 at dawn under cloud cover, Tachikaze and Patrol Boat No. 39 landed 350 Japanese troops at Cape Gloucester. This detachment was under the overall command of Major Kiyomitsu Mukai, the construction battalion commander and rapidly secured Cape Gloucester Airfield (No. 1 Strip) and established a 40 km beachhead area.

                                The Japanese immediately began improving and expanding the prewar runway and built a second runway (Cape Gloucester No. 2 Strip, East Airfield). Once built, the original runway became known as Cape Gloucester No. 1 (Old Strip, West Airfield).

                                Cape Gloucester Airfield was used by the Japanese as a forward airfield for fighters and bombers from both the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) and Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN).

                                On July 30, 1943 two Type 96 G3M Nell bombers from the 11th Air Fleet escorted by sixteen A6M Zeros including three from the 201 Kokutai that landed with the bombers at Cape Gloucester. Aboard one was Vice-Admiral Junichi Kusaka, commander of the Southeast Area Fleet and his staff for a brief inspection then departed transporting Major General Iwasa Shun. That same day, three Type 2 fighters (Ki-45kai Nick) from the 13th Sentai arrived as the first fighters based at the airfield.

                                On August 2, 1943 a Ki-51 Sonia from the 83rd Dokuritsu Chutai with passenger Lt. General Hatazo Adachi took off from Madang Airfield on a bound for Lae Airfield escorted by nine Ki-43 Oscars from the 24th Sentai. Flying at 4,900', the formation was spotted by P-38 Lightnings escorting B-25 Mitchells off Teliata Point on the north coast of New Guinea roughly 30 miles south of Saidor. To flee, Ki-51 Sonia dove to low level and managed to escape interception and proceeded eastward to land safely at Cape Gloucester Airfield.

                                As of October 19, 1943 defenses included 12 heavy and 34 light anti-aircraft batteries, including fake "dummy" gun positions.

                                Japanese units based at Tuluvu / Cape Gloucester
                                13th Sentai (3 x Ki-45 Nick) July 30, 1943
                                26th Sentai (Ki-51 Sonia)
                                83rd Dokuritsu Chutai / 83rd Independent Air Chutai (Ki-51 Sonia)

                                As of October 19, 1943 defenses included 12 heavy and 34 light anti-aircraft batteries plus fake "dummy" gun positions.

                                For roughly a year spanning from late December 1942 until the American landing at Cape Gloucester on December 26, 1943 Cape Gloucester Airfield was targeted by American bombers and fighters. The airfield was so heavily bombed by the 5th Air Force, a new term entered their vocabulary 'to Gloucesterize' a target, due to the pot-marked appearance of the airfield from aerial photos.

                                American missions against Cape Gloucester
                                December 23, 1942 - January 29, 1944

                                After the December 26, 1943 landing by the 1st Marine Division at Cape Gloucester, the Japanese 53rd Infantry commanded by Col. Kouki Sumiya fell back to Cape Gloucester Airfield on December 29 and centered their defense on "Razorback Hill" a ridge with bunkers that spans across the southwest approach to the airfield. The 5th Marines 1st Battalions and 2nd Battalions attacked this area on December 30 supported by tanks and artillery. Overpowered, Japanese were defeated by dusk.

                                On December 30, 1943 U. S. Marines occupied Cape Gloucester Airfield. On December 31, 1943 U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) General William H. Rupertus held a U. S. flag raising ceremony near G4M1 Betty on No. 2 Strip. Later on March 11, 1944 Colonel Oliver P. Smith and Lieutenant Colonel Henry W. Buse with a color guard of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines raised the same U. S. flag at Bitokara.

                                After capturing Cape Gloucester, the Marines located intact Ki-61 Tony 263. This aircraft was immediately recovered and transported to Australia for technical evaluation. Many other wrecks were surveyed by ATIU (Air Technical Intelligence Unit).

                                During January 1944, American forces worked to repair the runway but heavy rains delayed repairs until the end of the month. As of January 31, 1944 the runway was 4,500' x 100', with a parallel runway under construction and the west runway used as a crash strip.

                                American units based at Cape Gloucester
                                8th FG, 35th FS (P-40) from Finschafen February 19 - March 14, 44 Nadzab
                                8th FG, 36th FS (P-47) from Finschafen Feb 19 - March 14, 44 to Nadzab
                                8th FG, 80th FS (P-38s) Dobodura Feb 24 - March 25, 1944 to Nadzab
                                6th PRG 8th PRS (F4-F5s) from ? Lae - ? to Nadzab #1
                                12th Defense Battalion (USMC) Dec 30, 1943 - late May 1944
                                Australian units based at Cape Gloucester
                                78 Squadron (P-40s) March - April 25, 1944 to Tadji

                                Robert Rocker adds:
                                "The 36th FS and 80th FS were based at Gloucester in March of 1944, but it was raining so much in April they pulled both squadrons back into New Guinea. Bill Wallisch a 35th FS Crew Chief told me the mud was so bad there that they just could not operate properly."

                                Cape Gloucester I (Old Strip, West Airfield)
                                Lat 5° 27' 32S Long 148° 25' 57E Cape Gloucester I is located to the west, running roughly north-west to south-east, nearest to the ocean.

                                Built prewar by the Australian administration. The single runway was 600 yards long. When the Japanese occupied the airfield on December 17, this runway was unserviceable due to trench barricades, erosion, floodwaters and vegetation. Surveyed by on December 20, the Japanese decided to build a new runway adjacent to this runway. When completed, the runway was expanded to 3,900' runway and a series of revetments were built along the eastern edge of the strip.

                                Largely abandoned by the Japanese, it was overgrown when captured by Marines in December 1943. Reportedly, this strip was repaired and used until 1990s, when it was deemed unsafe.

                                Cape Gloucester II (No. 2 Strip, East Strip, New Airfield)
                                This runway runs east to west. Built prewar by Australians, 750 yards long. When the Japanese occupied the airfield on December 17, this runway was unserviceable due to trench barricades, erosion, floodwaters and vegetation.

                                Expanded by the Japanese , the first phase of construction was completed by January 15, 1943 for emergency landings 1,150m x 100m. On February 1 at 9am, a Ki-61 Dinah piloted by 1Lt. Okano and Sgt. Major Kanaya landed but, flipped over damaging the aircraft and injuring the crew. Next on February 5, four aircraft landed at 6am, likely Ki-43 Oscars of the 11th Sentai, en route from Rabaul to Lae.

                                By February 16, the runway was observed as 3,900', later expanded to 4,500' in length, with a large dispersal loop and taxiway to the north side. This was the primary Japanese strip at Cape Gloucester. Several wrecked and some intact Japanese Navy and Army aircraft were captured at this location. Repaired and expanded by the Americans. Post war, it was disused and overgrown today.

                                Today
                                Still in use today, known as "Cape Gloucester Airport". Airport code: IATA: CGC. Serviced by secondary airlines. Occasionally, nearby volcanic eruptions temporarily close the runway.

                                Brian Bennett adds:
                                "I found the old dump at Cape Gloucester some years ago but you would need to move a bit of dirt to get at it. I recall that there were bits of Japanese aircraft sticking out of the ground."

                                References
                                Engineers in Theater Operations [Pacific] "Advance Area Airdromes 31 January 1944", Map No. 24
                                Airdromes Guide Southwest Pacific Area - 1 July 1945
                                Cape Gloucester: The Green Inferno by Bernard C. Nalty, Marine Corps Heritage Center, 1994
                                Tuluvu's Air War by Richard Dunn
                                Tuluvu's Air War: Chapter V High Ranking Visitors by Richard Dunn

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