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Operation Cartwheel

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Title: Operation Cartwheel  
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Subject: 2nd Battalion 11th Marines, Guadalcanal Campaign, 11th Marine Regiment (United States), 1st Battalion 11th Marines, Naval Battle of Vella Lavella
Collection: 1943 in Papua New Guinea, 1943 in the Solomon Islands, 1944 in Papua New Guinea, 1944 in the Solomon Islands, Battles and Operations of World War II Involving Papua New Guinea, Battles and Operations of World War II Involving the Solomon Islands, Battles of World War II Involving Australia, Battles of World War II Involving the United States, Conflicts in 1943, Conflicts in 1944, Operation Cartwheel, South West Pacific Theatre of World War II, United States Marine Corps in World War II, World Digital Library Related
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Operation Cartwheel

The eastern part of the Territory of New Guinea, and the northern Solomon Islands; the area in which Operation Cartwheel took place, from June 1943.

Operation Cartwheel (1943–1944) was a major military strategy for the Allies in the Pacific theater of World War II. Cartwheel was a twin-axis of advance operation, aimed at militarily neutralizing the major Japanese base at Rabaul. The operation was directed by the Supreme Allied Commander in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA)—General Douglas MacArthur—whose forces advanced along the northeast coast of New Guinea and occupied nearby islands. Allied forces from the Pacific Ocean Areas command—under Admiral Chester W. Nimitz—advanced through the Solomon Islands toward Bougainville. The Allied forces involved were from Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the US and various Pacific Islands.[1]


  • Background to Operation Cartwheel 1
  • Implementation of Cartwheel 2
    • Cartwheel operations 2.1
  • Footnotes 3
  • References 4
    • Official histories 4.1
  • External links 5

Background to Operation Cartwheel

U.S. Marines hit three feet of rough water as they leave their LST to take the beach at Cape Gloucester, New Britain. 26 December 1943. (Source:National Archives)

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff but which was ultimately implemented, called for:

The protracted battle for Guadalcanal—followed by the unopposed seizure of the Russell Islands (Operation Cleanslate) on 21 February 1943—resulted in Japanese attempts to reinforce the area by sea. MacArthur's air forces countered in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea from 2–5 March 1943. The disastrous losses suffered by the Japanese prompted Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto to initiate I Go (Operation 'I'), a series of air attacks against Allied airfields and shipping at both Guadalcanal and New Guinea, which ultimately resulted in Yamamoto's death on 18 April 1943.

Implementation of Cartwheel

Elkton III Plan, March 1943.

MacArthur had presented Elkton III, his revised plan for taking Rabaul before 1944, on 12 February 1943. It called for an attack by MacArthur against northeast New Guinea and western New Britain, and by Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr. (then in command of the South Pacific Area) against the central Solomons. This plan required seven more divisions than were already in the theater, raising objections from the British. The Joint Chiefs responded with a directive that approved the plan using forces already in the theater or en route to it, and delaying its implementation by 60 days. Elkton III then became Operation Cartwheel.

Cartwheel operations

The Cartwheel plan identified 13 proposed subordinate operations and set a timetable for their launching. Of the 13, Rabaul, Kavieng, and Kolombangara were eventually eliminated as too costly and unnecessary, and 10 were actually undertaken.

The Vice Admiral Arthur S. Carpender.

In the midst of Operation Cartwheel, the Joint Chiefs met with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Quadrant Conference in Quebec in August 1943. There, the decision was made to bypass and isolate Rabaul rather than attempting to capture the base and attack Kavieng instead. Soon after the decision was made to bypass Kavieng as well. Although initially objected to by MacArthur, the by-passing of Rabaul in favor of its neutralization meant that his Elkton plan had been achieved, and after invading Saidor, MacArthur then moved into his Reno Plan, an advance across the north coast of New Guinea to Mindanao.

The campaign—which stretched into 1944—showed the effectiveness of a strategy which avoided major concentrations of enemy forces and instead aimed at severing the Japanese lines of communication.


  1. ^ a b c "Operations Against the Japanese on Arundel and Sagekarsa Islands".  


  • Frank, Richard B (2000). "Chapter 1, Strategy, Command and the Solomons". Guadlacanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle. New York, NY, USA: Random House.  
  • Griffith, Brig. Gen. Samuel B (USMC) (1974). "Part 96: Battle For the Solomons". History of the Second World War. Hicksville, NY, USA: BPC Publishing. 
  • Bergerud, Eric M. (2000). Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific. Boulder, CO, USA: Westview Press.  
  • Birdsall, Steve (1977). Flying buccaneers: The illustrated story of Kenney's Fifth Air Force.  
  • Gamble, Bruce (2000). Black Sheep One: The Life of Gregory "Pappy" Boyington. New York:  
  • Henebry, John P. (2002). The Grim Reapers at Work in the Pacific Theater: The Third Attack Group of the U.S. Fifth Air Force. Pictorial Histories Publishing Company.  
  • McAulay, Lex (1987). Into the Dragon's Jaws/the Fifth Air Force over Rabaul, 1943. Champlin Fighter Museum Pr.  
  • McGee, William L. (2002). The Solomons Campaigns, 1942-1943: From Guadalcanal to Bougainville--Pacific War Turning Point, Volume 2 (Amphibious Operations in the South Pacific in WWII). BMC Publications.  
  • Sakaida, Henry (1996). The Siege of Rabaul. St. Paul, MN, USA: Phalanx.  

Official histories


  • The New Guinea Offensives (Army)
  • Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945
  • Air War Against Japan, 1943–1945 (RAAF)

New Zealand

  • The Pacific

United States

  • Miller, John, Jr. (1959). "CARTWHEEL: The Reduction of Rabaul". United States Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific.  
  • Shaw, Henry I.; Douglas T. Kane (1963). "Volume II: Isolation of Rabaul". History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II. Retrieved 2006-10-18. 
  • Craven, Wesley Frank; James Lea Cate. "Vol. IV, The Pacific: Guadalcanal to Saipan, August 1942 to July 1944". The Army Air Forces in World War II. U.S. Office of Air Force History. Retrieved 2006-10-20. 

External links

  • The History Channel, June 30 — 1943 Operation Cartwheel is launched (2005)
  • David Horner, "Strategy and Command in Australia’s New Guinea Campaigns" (2004)
  • An Animated History of Operation Cartwheel (2006)
  • "Encyclopædia Britannica Article: The encirclement of Rabaul". Retrieved 2006-05-16.  Brief synopsis of Allied campaign to isolate Rabaul.
  • "Rabaul and World War II". Retrieved 2006-05-16.  Brief account of Japanese occupation of Rabaul and subsequent war crimes trials of many of the Japanese troops who had been stationed there.
  • Mersky, Peter B. (1993). "Time of the Aces: Marine Pilots in the Solomons, 1942-1944". Marines in World War II Commemorative Series. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. Retrieved 2006-10-20.  Account of U.S. Marine involvement in air war over Solomon Islands and Rabaul.
  • "World War II Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Major Gregory 'Pappy' Boyington". Archived from the original on 2006-05-09. Retrieved 2006-05-16.  Information on "Pappy" Boyington
  • "Title: THE ASSAULT ON RABAUL. Operations by the Royal New Zealand Air Force December 1943 — May 1944". Retrieved 2006-05-30. 

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