Fortress Rabaul by Bruce Gamble

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

The Second World War was fought by millions of men, and women, in ten thousand places, in a condensed hellish time period of over one thousand, three hundred days.  It was fought in huge massed battles on four continents, bloody assaults on dozens of islands, man to man in streets, and jungles, in the air, and on virtually every surface of the earth's oceans.  Acts of heroism, sacrifice, and defiance occurred daily for almost four years, most of which went undocumented, and have been lost to the march of time. History remembers the large encounters between armies, navies, and air forces, but has a tendency to overlook many events that were more drawn out, in favor of the more spectacular.  The battle for Rabaul, the geographic center of the New Guinea/ Solomon Island campaign, is one of them.  Bruce Gamble's book, Fortress Rabaul reminds us that here was a compelling, never ending battle worthy of the same awe inspired by D Day, or Okinawa, with heroism to match.  After reading this well documented, detailed account of that battle saga, the reader is reminded that the war might be remembered by brief, hot spots of engagement, but, it was won by constant, grinding, and, determined daily fighting that mostly occurred without herald.  In that respect, the battle for Rabaul, which lasted three and one-half years, was a microcosm of the entire war. 
This is a history book that reads like a novel, with fine narrative, and researched players on both sides of the conflict.  Air planes and ships are sunk by real people, who we get to know thanks to the author's diligent need to recognize, by name, and personality, the participants.  He has immortalized those brave souls who fought over Rabaul, by researching faces, and personalities that we can identify with.  All American kids next door, and, the names of savage enemy combatants whose actions should be placed right alongside those of their sadistic Nazi allies. Also revealed are the personalities of some of our country's most storied leaders, such as MacArthur, and the egos that motivated them, and, framed many of their decisions.
This is not a dry book. It is alive with fast paced narration of a battle that, by the very nature of its' endlessness, got pushed to the back burner of media scrutiny, because it was always there, just like the war itself. A hearty recommendation for aviators who, like this reviewer, have a fascination for the grand old war birds of that era, history buffs, or, anyone who wants to know what the horrible under belly of unrelenting war really looks like.

Reviewed by: Bob Flourny (2010)

Author's Synopsis

For most of World War II, the mention of Japan's island stronghold sent shudders through thousands of Allied airmen. Some called it "Fortress Rabaul," an apt name for the headquarters of the Imperial Japanese forces in the Southwest Pacific. Drawing upon a vast array of Japanese as well as Allied sources, award-winning author Bruce Gamble chronicles Rabaul's crucial role in theater operations. Millions of square feet of housing and storage facilities supported a hundred thousand soldiers and naval personnel. Simpson Harbor and the airfields were the focus of hundreds of missions by American air forces. Fortress Rabaul details a critical and, until now, little understood chapter in the history of World War II.