3-219 Editorial Note on Allied Naval Planning, May 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 1, 1942

Subject: World War II

Editorial Note on Allied Naval Planning

May 1942

While they assaulted the Malay Barrier in early 1942, the Japanese also began seizing the bases they would need to block the Allies’ reinforcement of Australia and New Zealand. Moving south from their great base at Truk in the Caroline Islands, on January 23 they seized Rabaul, a small town in northern New Britain in the Bismarck Archipelago. Rabaul had the best harbor in the archipelago, was easily defended, and afforded excellent sites for air bases. It would provide a key base from which to attack eastern New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Fortunately for the Allies, Japan’s first thrust—toward Port Moresby—had been blocked by the battle of the Coral Sea. A small Japanese force, however, had secured the small island of Tulagi (650 miles southeast of Rabaul) on May 3, and they immediately began constructing a seaplane base in the harbor—the best in the southern Solomons. For several weeks thereafter, the Japanese Navy’s attention turned to the Midway operation.

After the Coral Sea engagement, both Allied commanders in the South Pacific—General Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander of the Southwest Pacific Area, and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander in chief of the Pacific Ocean Area—began planning offensives designed to contain Japan’s threat to the South Pacific communications and supply lines. On May 28 Nimitz proposed an assault on Tulagi, but MacArthur responded that he could not provide the assistance the navy needed and that the forces Nimitz suggested were inadequate for success. While the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their planners considered this problem, MacArthur was formulating plans for a campaign aimed at conquering Rabaul. (John Miller, Jr., Guadalcanal: The First Offensive, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1949], pp. 4-9.)

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 233-234.

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