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    The occupation of Rabaul, in New Britain, was initially planned to provide forward protection for the main Japanese naval base at Truk, in the Caroline Islands. It developed, however, into a major regional base of operations for Papua, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. The army’s South Seas Force occupied Rabaul, then, with assistance from naval landing troops, established bases and airfields on neighbouring islands.

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Campaign name

New Britain, Lae, Bougainville campaigns

Campaign dates

23 January 30 March 1942

Campaign codename

Bismarck Archipelago: RA Operation
Lae–Salamaua: SR Operation

Campaign overview

Frame 1Jan – Mar 1942
Rabaul became a major base for operations in the region. The army’s South Seas Force was assisted by the 4th Fleet.
Frame 223 Jan 1942
After preliminary raids on Rabaul since 4 January, the 4th Fleet nears New Britain after staging from Truk. Naval troops occupy Kavieng, on New Ireland.
Frame 323 Jan 1942
The South Seas Force invades Rabaul after staging from Guam. The small Australian garrison is quickly overpowered and forced west into New Britain.
Frame 49 Feb 1942
Elements of the Maizuru 2nd Special Naval Landing Party land at Surumi with naval construction troops. The airfield is secured and a relay base established.
Frame 58 Mar 1942
Army and navy landing troops meet little resistance when they occupy Lae and Salamaua, on the New Guinea coast.
Frame 630 Mar 1942
Navy establishment and garrison troops occupy Bougainville; at Buka, in the north, and Kieta and Shortland Island, in the south.


Campaign strength

New Britain


South Seas Force
Maj Gen Horii Tomitarō
    55th Infantry Group Headquarters
    144th Infantry Regiment
    55th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Company (minus one platoon)
    55th Cavalry Regiment Rapid-fire Gun Squad
    55th Mountain Artillery Regiment, 1st Battalion
    55th Engineer Regiment, 1st Company and Materials Platoon
    55th Division Signals Unit (part strength)
    55th Supply and Transport Regiment, 2nd Company
    55th Division Medical Unit (part strength)
    55th Division 1st Field Hospital
    55th Division Veterinary Workshop (part strength)
    55th Division Disease Prevention and Water Supply Unit (part strength)
    47th Field Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion (one company)
    10th Independent Engineer Regiment, 3rd Company (minus one platoon)
    Shipping Anti-aircraft Artillery Regiment (part strength)
    37th Anchorage Command (part strength)
    105th Sea Duty Company (one platoon)
    1st Shipping Signals Unit, 15th Platoon


South Seas Fleet (4th Fleet)
Vice Adm Inoue Shigeyoshi

Main Force (Rabaul invasion)
    19th Squadron
      Ten’yō Maru
      Mogamikawa Maru
    6th Torpedo Squadron
      29th Destroyer Squadron (Oite, Asanagi, Yūnagi)
      30th Destroyer Squadron (Muzuki, Yayoi, Mochizuki)
    Kiyokawa Maru, Kongō Maru, 5th Gunboat Squadron (Nikkai Maru, Seikai Maru)
    56th Submarine Chaser Squadron
      No. 5 Kotobuki Maru
      No. 8 Tama Maru
      No. 3 Toshi Maru
    14th Minesweeper Flotilla
      Tama Maru
      No. 2 Tama Maru
      Hagoromo Maru
      No. 2 Noshiro Maru
    Maizuru 2nd Special Naval Landing Force (part strength)
    7th Establishment Squad
    5th Special Base Force Anti-aircraft Unit

Detachment (Kavieng invasion)
    18th Squadron
    23rd Destroyer Squadron
    Kinryū Maru, Goyō Maru, Azumayama Maru
    Maizuru 2nd Special Naval Landing Place (main strength)
    5th Special Base Force Anti-aircraft Unit
    Kashima Special Naval Landing Party (one company)

6th Squadron
Rear Adm Gotō Aritomo

7th Submarine Squadron (part strength)
24th Air Flotilla
    Yokohama Air Corps
    Chitose Air Corps (part strength)

4th Base Force
5th Base Force

Support Fleet
    Mobile Fleet
      1st Air Fleet
      8th Squadron
      1st Torpedo Squadron



8th Special Base Force
Rear Adm Kanazawa Masao
    Maizuru 2nd Special Naval Landing Party (part strength)
    Establishment unit

Lae and Salamaua


Horie Unit
Maj Horie Tadashi
    144th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion
    2nd Mountain Artillery Company
    1st Engineer Company (minus 2 platoons)
    2nd Supply and Transport Company (one platoon)
    South Seas Force Signals Squad (part strength)
    Regiment Signals Unit (part strength)
    South Seas Force Munitions and Maintenance Squad (main strength)
    Medical Unit (part strength)
    Anchorage Command (part strength)
    Independent Engineer Company (one platoon)
    Field Anti-aircraft Artillery Company (main strength)
    Shipping Signals Platoon (part strength)
    Disease Prevention and Water Supply Unit (part strength)


Invasion Force
    6th Torpedo Squadron
    Rear Adm Kajioka Sadamichi
Support Group
    6th Squadron
    Adm Gotō Aritomo

Air Unit
    24th Air Flotilla
    Rear Adm Gotō Eiji

8th Special Base Force
Rear Adm Kanazawa Masao
    Maizuru 2nd Special Naval Landing Party
    4th Establishment Squad
    7th Establishment Squad



Invasion Force
Rear Adm Kanazawa Masao
    30th Destroyer Squadron
    8th Special Base Force
    Naval landing party (two platoons)

Cover Group
    6th Squadron
    18th Squadron

Campaign casualties

Rabaul: 16 killed, 40 wounded

Printer version

Hong Kong, Pacific
Celebes, Ambon, Timor
New Britain
Sumatra, Java

Reference links
Show details for Dispositions–DeathsDispositions–Deaths
Show details for CampaignsCampaigns

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