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Royal New Zealand Air Force



The events of 2 November showed that, while many Japanese airfields had been put out of action by the continuous pounding they had received from the aircraft of the South Pacific Command, the enemy was still capable of flying strong forces over from Rabaul. In addition the naval forces there constituted a continuous threat to the success of the Bougainville operation.

Until aerodromes could be built on Bougainville the subduing of the enemy at Rabaul was, in the main, carried out by bombers of the South-West Pacific Command, supported by strikes by carrier-borne aircraft of Admiral Halsey's forces. A heavy raid was carried out by the former on 2 November when about 300 tons of bombs were dropped in twelve minutes on the town itself and on shipping in the harbour. On 5 November Rear Admiral Sherman's two carriers, supported by cruisers and destroyers, launched an attack from the sea. Altogether nearly a hundred aircraft were flown off the carriers and took part in the raid, while the ships were protected by land-based fighters from New Georgia. The attackers met heavy opposition over Rabaul, but the American fighters claimed to have shot down half of the enemy, while the dive- and torpedo-bombers scored a number of hits against shipping in the harbour.

Following this attack three additional carriers, the Essex, Bunker Hill and Independence, under Rear Admiral Alfred E. Montgomery, USN, were lent by Admiral Nimitz to the South Pacific Command, and on 11 November Rabaul suffered the heaviest raid it had yet received. Photographic reconnaissance the day before had shown that there were four cruisers, twelve destroyers, five submarines, ten merchant ships and seven other vessels in the harbour, while the air strength was estimated at 180 fighters, 21 light bombers, 20 medium bombers and 32 float-planes. Attacks were made by dive- and torpedo-bombers from the carriers, escorted by fighters, which claimed successes against both the shipping and the enemy aircraft. Immediately afterwards the land-based bombers went in and did further damage. As most of the enemy fighters were by then on the ground refuelling they met only light opposition in the air. Later, when the carrier force was retiring, page 210


the Japanese again took off and made a heavy but unsuccessful attack on the ships.

Planes from the Solomons supported these operations. As on 5 November fighters covered the carrier group, and bombers took part in the attack. These and other operations made 11 November the busiest day that the Allied bases in New Georgia had yet experienced. From Munda alone 700 aircraft took off during the day.