Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 19 Feb 2014
Full Title: Target: Rabaul - The Allied Siege of Japan's Most Infamous Stronghold, March 1943-August 1945
When the Pacific War began, the harbor town of Rabaul in New Britain was among the first targets in the Japanese plan of conquest. This invasion was the topic of Bruce Gamble's Darkest Hour (to be re-released under the new title of Invasion Rabaul in Mar 2014).
Rabaul was then developed into a formidable fortress. Aerial and naval offensive campaigns were launched from nearby airstrips and Simpson Harbor, and Rabaul in turn received attention from the Allies. Fortress Rabaul became the second book in Gamble's series on Rabaul for this period in the war.
I had long awaited the third and final title, and Target: Rabaul did not disappoint at all. Between 1943 and 1945, attacks by both US Army Air Forces and US Navy aircraft slowly transformed Rabaul from a springboard for offensives into a defensive fortification. As the campaign continued, the base was gradually isolated and ultimately reduced. As the author moved through the book, he presented the progress from both sides of the war, whether it was from the memoirs of Japanese sailors, though interviews he conducted with surviving "Black Sheep" pilots, or from documents from New Zealand military archives. Gamble also expanded the geographical coverage of this book to cover the northern Solomon Islands, successfully explaining how the campaign against Rabaul was intimately connected to the Solomon Islands campaign. Perhaps the book's greatest success was found in the pages devoted to the prisoners of war at Rabaul, whose stories were told with drama but yet with utmost respect. If the stories of mistreatment and atrocities did not stir me immediately, Appendix A did, with its long list of individuals who became captive at Rabaul, and each of their ultimate outcomes.
I regard Target: Rabaul to be the finest of the three-book series on Rabaul by Gamble, and it will be a treasured volume in my personal library.
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Thomas Dodd, late 1945