Invasion Rabaul: The Epic Story of Lark Force, the Forgotten Garrison, January-July 1942. By Bruce Gamble. Minneapolis, Minn.: Zenith Press, 2014. Maps. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 304. $18.99 paperback ISBN: 13: 978-07603-4591-7
Zenith Press originally published this work as Darkest Hour in 2006. With the success of Gamble's Target Rabaul (reviewed in the Summer 2011 issue of Air Power History) and Fortress Rabaul, the publisher has re-issued it as a paperback under a new title consistent with the two other works in the trilogy. Gamble initially became interested in the battles involving Rabaul because of a family member who participated in the air attacks.
Invasion Rabaul covers the first six months of the Pacific War's impact on the island of New Britain and its principal port, Rabaul. Gamble details the fate of the Australian army garrison and the civilian population it was expected to protect from Japanese invaders. With the bulk of their regular army committed to the Eastern Mediterranean, government officials dispatched garrison troops, one battalion to each of three islands to the north of Australia: Ambon, Timor, and New Britain. The Western powers arrogantly believed that this feeble show of force, including the perception of a far more formidable naval base at Singapore, would discourage Japanese adventures at least until reinforcements could arrive from the United Kingdom and United States.
Of course, these leaders totally underestimated the ability of the Japanese to quickly expand their perimeter throughout the Central and Southwest Pacific after hostilities were initiated in December 1941.
Gamble examines the situation at Rabaul prior to the conflict. Once hostilities began, the Australian government quickly realized it would be unable to reinforce Rabaul yet made virtually no attempt to organize an evacuation...