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The Fall of Rabaul

by Peter Stone

Author's notes about the book.
Chapter summary.
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The author.
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Update: Corrections and additional material.

Claimed as the definitive work on the invasion of Rabaul, Papua New Guinea in January 1942, and the subsequent events that led to the bombing of the harbour, Hostages to Freedom - The Fall of Rabaul is one of the most comprehensive books on World War 2. The book documents the invasion and futile attempt to ward off the 20,000 Japanese invasion force, the escape of only 400 out of an Australian garrison of 1400, and the horrific Tol Massacre. It tells of MacArthur's initial desire to invade, and then to bypass Rabaul, prefering to bomb the Japanese stronghold into isolation and ineffectiveness. As a result, over fifty ships and aircraft went to the bottom of the harbour. Chapters are devoted to identification and diving the shipwrecks in the harbour, and aircraft wrecks in the vicinity and elsewhere in New Britain and New Guinea. A significant section covers the post-war salvage of ships, aircraft and war surplus. The life of the Japanese on the island, and the Australian, British, American, Chinese, and Indian prisoners of war is detailed from first-hand accounts. Only one Australian military POW survived. The Coastwatchers, and guerilla warfare is included. Little wonder that the book takes up nearly six hundred large-format pages. This is truly a remarkable book and has been exceptionally well reviewed. The author has relied on personal narratives and flirst-hand accounts that took three years to collect, with contributions from Australia, Britain, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Japan. Whereas it is predominantly a war history, it is also one of the most thorough publications documenting the loss of ships and aircraft in World War 2.

Hardcover, large format, dust jacket, 598 pages, 
gloss art paper, maps, charts, 560 photographs, extensive 
appendix, index and bibliography.....$120.00 (Australian dollars)

This is not a pleasant story. It is not complimentary to the Japanese military, nor to Canberra politicians. It tells of atrocities and bureaucratic bungling that left over one thousand Australians dead. Yet within these pages are men like McCarthy, Cook, Lerew, Field, Morgan, Scharmach, Holland, Hewett, Metzler and hundreds of others who demonstrated the true courage and determination of Australians, Americans, Brits, Kiwis, Chinese and the indigenouspeople of New Britain during the Pacific War. 

In many respects it is a proud book, highlighting the incredible feats of nearly fourteen hundred soldiers left to defend the indefensible against the might of the Japanese war machine. Abandoned by the Australian command against an inevitable invasion, they fought and ran. The inhospitable New Britain jungle took its toll - the Japanese did the rest. At Wide Bay, over 150 young Australians were lined up and slaughtered. Many more were captured and sent to Japan as prisoners of war. Most did not make it - an American submarine saw to that. Of the original garrison of some 1400 men, only four hundred would see Australia again. Some would return to New Guinea - brave Australian 'coast-watchers' concealed within miles of Japanese-held posts rescued allied airmen and reported military activity.

During three and a half years of Japanese occupation, hundreds of kilometres of tunnels were dug into the volcanic soil surrounding Rabaul. The Japanese burrowed in whilst American Flying Fortress bombers and Australian Catalinas and Beaufighters bombed the harbour into useless isolation. Rabaul was hell in paradise. 

Peace came for the interned missionaries, the remaining prisoners of war, the Tolai natives and indeed the Japanese themselves in August 1945. Many of the original residents would never return. Rabaul and its magnificent harbour were a shambles. On the seabed lay some fifty ships. Those in shallow water became easy prey to Australian and Japanese salvaging non-ferrous metals. Taking enormous risks, huge propellers were lifted from 250-ft. The sea exploded in flames when aviation gas ignited from ruptured fuel tanks. Men died in their quest for the spoils of war. Rabaul harbour lay peaceful for fifty years. Residents feared the mighty eruptions of 1937 would repeat themselves. But nature does not announce her call.

In September 1994 the volcanoes of Rabaul erupted with little warning. Rabaul will rise from the ashes once again, but the town will never be the same.

As the foregoing descriptive text indicates, Hostages to Freedom - The Fall of Rabaul is predominantly about the importance of Rabaul in the Second World War. Although there has been many books written about Rabaul since the Japanese invasion in January 1942, no book has managed to cover the complete picture - the landing of the Australian Lark Force garrison in 1941, the pre-invasion bombing of Rabaul, the invasion and defence of the region, Australian soldiers and civilians on the run, the Tol massacre, the incredible escapes of some six hundred soldiers and civilians, the loss of soldiers on the Montevideo Maru, the incredible Reverend Father Scharmach and the plight of the missionaries, the Japanese occupation of Rabaul and the construction of over three hundred kilometres of tunnels, the bombing and isolation of the Japanese garrison, the enemy operations from Rabaul such as the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, the suffering of American, British, and one Australian prisoner, the subsequent surrender by the Japanese and the occupation by Australian forces once again, the render-mines-safe program, the salvage of shipping by Royal Australian Navy and Commonwealth Marine Salvage Board vessels, commercial salvage operators and enthusiastic amateurs, the ships and aircraft still visible in the Gazelle Peninsula region. 

This is not a history book, yet it concerns itself with history. I have avoided writing in 'text-book' style, and relie greatly on personal narratives and first-hand accounts. The result is an easily read book which emphasises interest, yet not at the expense of facts. Considerable use is made of end-chapter notes where specific details, which otherwise would have affected the readability of the main text, are included. Over three hundred photographs are, many of these quite rare and never before published. Most photographs are printed in mono (black & white). I have located private and government files in the U.S.A. and Australia, and have included material from the files of the U.S.National Archives, United States Naval Institute, Australian War Memorial, LaTrobe Library, Mitchell Library, Australian Archives (Melbourne and Canberra), (Japanese) National Institute for Defence Studies, Burns Philp Archives, and a number of private collections from Japan and Australia. Rare Pacific war photographs, commercial salvage operations, and more recent underwater and terrestrial photographs are also included; photographs and maps are an integral part of the final production.

Foreword - Introduction.
Chapter 1 - Pre-War Rabaul. Brief history of Rabaul, World War 1, the loss of the submarine AE1, the 1937 eruptions, general life in Rabaul, Chinese immigration. 
Chapter 2 - Softening Up. Build up of Japanese interest in South-East Asia, and entry into WW 2. Initial pre-invasion bombing of Rabaul, and the loss of RAAF defence. 
Chapter 3 - Invasion. The Japanese invasion of Rabaul and defence by Lark Force. The 'every man for himself' order and the retreat into the jungles of New Britain. 
Chapter 4 - Massacre and Misery. The escapes of some six hundred military personnel and civilians over various routes. The Tol massacre. McCarthy, Holland and Harry's efforts. 
Chapter 5 - Japanese Occupation. The Japanese tunnel into the Gazelle Peninsula. Garrison life for the Japanese and the natives. Comfort Women. Building of the tunnel system. Japanese impressions.
Chapter 6 - The Tolai . The indigenous people of New Britain, and their part in the Pacific War. Administration by the Japanese; brutality and loyalty. 
Chapter 7 - Battle Stations. Battle of the Bismarck Sea, Battle of the Coral Sea. Other enemy actions from Rabaul. 
Chapter 8 - Operation Cartwheel. The bombing of Rabaul by United States, Australian and New Zealand land and sea forces, resulting in total isolation of the garrison. 
Captain 9 - Ferdinand . The Allied Intelligence Bureau operations in New Britain. Rescue of allied airmen. 
Chapter 10 - Prisoners. Prisoners of war in Rabaul - the British, the Americans (and one Aussie), the Fathers and Nuns, and civilians. Controversy of the Montevideo Maru.
Chapter 11 - Peace. Peace and Repatriation Japanese surrender and the subsequent occupation of Rabaul by Australian forces. War crimes and treatment of natives and Chinese. 
Chapter 12 - Salvage. Land salvage and post-war clean-up. The salvage of Japanese shipping by the RAN, and Commonwealth Marine Salvage Board, followed by Japanese and Australian commercial and amateur interests.
Chapter 13 - A Maru or Two. The end result - Japanese shipping on the bottom of Simpson Harbour. 
Chapter 14 - Pete & Kate & Claude & Mavis. Japanese and allied aircraft in New Britain - wrecked aircraft. Chapter 15 - Rabaul Remembered. As it is now - memories of the people. War monuments and return of Lark Force Association to Rabaul.
Appendix 1 - List of Shipping and Wrecks. Comprehensive listing of all Japanese losses.
Appendix 2 - Japanese Customs. Includes the meaning of Banzai and Bushido.
Appendix 3 - Calendar of events. 
Appendix 4 - Proclamations. Those issued by the Japanese to the local people.
Appendix 5 - Abbreviations and Terminology. 
Appendix 6 - Aircraft. Technical information on allied and Japanese aircraft.
Appendix 7 - Commonwealth Marine Salvage Board. 
Appendix 8 - The Cast. Further details on individuals who played a role in Rabaul.
References and Bibliography. Includes a full listing of references used in the text, and other reading material. 
The Author.
Index. Four-part comprehensive index on General Subject matter, Military Units, Ships and Personnel.
ISBN 0 646 24124 9
Large format - A4 size (297mm x 210mm). Hardcover - Full colour 130 gsm Gloss Art cover jacket over gold-blocked front and spine of case. 592 pages plus endpaper (Japanese map of Rabaul region). Quality 115 gsm Gloss Art Paper. 561 photographs. 24 maps and diagrams. Fully produced and printed in Australia.

Published by Oceans Enterprises, 303 Commercial Road, Yarram, Vic 3971, Australia.
Phone: (03) 5182 5108. Fax: (03) 5182 5823.
email: peter@oceans.com.au

Peter John Stone was born during World War 2 and hence regards his life as being fortunate in that he did not have to experience the trauma of war, being too young to remember Korea, and too old to fight in Vietnam. He has visited Rabaul many times over the past ten years and has a genuine appreciation and understanding of the subject matter presented. Based now in the rural Gippsland region of eastern Victoria, the author is a photographer and writer, publisher, and book dealer. For the past twenty years he has, as a photographer and writer, contributed hundreds of articles, with photographs, to travel magazines, airline magazines, general magazines, and specialist sporting magazines. 

It is important to stress the dedication of the author in researching the subject and preparing the final manuscript. Although much of the war material is of public record, and accessible through the official war histories and unofficial war related texts, the majority of the material is based on primary research through personal interviews, personal documents and narratives, and archival material not previously published. The response from authorities in their specific field has been most encouraging, including members of the 2/22nd Battalion, private citizens, and salvage operators. Some material has also been received from authorities in Japan. Over one hundred persons, including those involved with libraries, research institutes, and archives, have assisted with the preparation of the book. Nearly three hundred specific references are tabled in the book, with an extensive cross-reference to the source of most of the original material.

Further details, as proprietor of Oceans Enterprises.

Mufti (review by Fred Field, Captain (Ret). 2/22nd Battalion). Peter Stone, the author and publisher of this excellent 590 page book must be congratulated not only for his easy wtiting style but for his great perception of a most important period of the ASustralian and her allies participation, particularly with the Japanese in New Britain during the 1941-45 period of the war. His extensive research backed with some 560 photographs and maps covers such a wealth of information all presented with such understanding makes fascinating reading, and covers so much detail of this period of hostilities of which so little has ben told, and is a great contribution to the history of the period. Being an ex-member of the 2/22nd Battalion, I am amazed at the detail that has gone into every chapter, and just relive again the period on reading the personal experiences and narratives from some of our members, records that would have been lost to posterity, and to know at last that truth has been recorded in history. It is a story that should be read by all.

The Australian (review by James Murray, 25/4/96). (After an extensive feature detailing the events in Rabaul as per the book). Hostages to Freedom is an exhaustive work of impressive research.

Vetaffairs (review by Don Hook, March 1996). Peter Stone's Hostages to Freedom is not the first book about the fall of Rabaul but it certainly is the most comprehensive. As Stone says, it is not a pleasant story. Nor is it complimentary to the japanese military or the politicians in Canberra. The well-illustrated book - there are more than 300 photographs many of which have never been published - relies greatly on personal narrative. (Actually 561 photographs and many maps).

Una Voce Newsletter - Editorial Comment (Doug Parrish, Editor). It is an extraordinary book.... he has chronicled the inexcuseable blunders of the Australian government in not evacuating non-indigenous residents (including Chinese), not fortifying Rabaul..., and making no provision for the safe withdrawal of the pitifully few Australian troops pitted against the Japanese hordes. He has told delicately and with empathy the sufferings of the races imprisoned by the Japanese, the bravery of the Tolai in assisting Australian coastwatchers and the quiet dignity of missionaries who risked their lives daily to help the sick and the frightened. This is a book to be savoured, page by page.... it is a must.

The Journal of the Royal Artllery, London. (Review by Alf Baker, British ex-POW Rabaul) (Describes the book, its wide range of subjects, mensions a few spelling errors, then comments:). I am very pleased to have a copy which will be a very important part of my Far East Prisoner of War library. For me it has been a very good buy. 

Greg Knight, Co-author of Milne Bay 1942. Step-father was in Rabaul Fortress Signals. I have just finished reading your book Hostages to Freedom. I found it to be the most interesting and comprehensive work on any papua and/or New Guinea Campaign yet written. Fantastic. Congratulations, an excellent historical record. I am very aware of what it must have taken to produce such a first-class record of a little known part of our history.

Doug Aplin, 2/22nd Battalion. Author of "Rabaul 1942". I too enjoyd every bit of it and am amazed at the depth of your research. 

Jack Riddell, RAAF Flight Engineer, author of 'Catalina Squadrons'. Congratulations on your book! It will at last give some overdue publicity to the people who were placed in jeopardy in defence of Rabaul by a Government who seemed to have no idea of what to do..... you have provided answers to many of the questions that have been unanswered over the years. My best wishes for the success of your very fine publication.
Alf Baker, British POW in Rabaul, author of 'What Price Bushido'. I want to congratulate you on what you have achieved, it reads very well. The presentation of the book is excellent. So very well done, and I do hope you have a great success with it. it deserves a very wide readership. It gives a lesson that politicians and military leaders ignore at their peril. 

Joseph P. Nason, Attorney at law, USA. Ex US pilot, POW in Rabaul. Author of "Horio! You Next Die" The book, which I consider the definitive history of the Rabaul area during WW2, is superb. I congratulate you on a job well done and as a writer myself, I have some small appreciation of the immense amount of work which was entailed in such a big project. Congratulations. I hope you reap some rewards for your valiant efforts on behalf of those who spent so many hellish days in New Britain. The best of luck, and keep in touch. 

Dr. Peter Cahill, University of Queensland. The book is fantastic! Very very impressed with the finished product. I feel privileged to have been associated with it. I am pushing it here in the History Department as essential reading in the South Pacific History and Foreign Relations courses. Congratulations on a magnificent effort - you must be very proud.

Lt-Colonel (ret) Ken Shave, Sydney. On HMS Glory at the surrender. I must write to you and say what a magnificent publication it is. The detail and coverage is quite remaarkable - I cannot think of any other war history which ccomes near it as far as detail is concerned. It is a truly splendid effort and a work of great dedication. Congratulations on a really first class job.

Sister Berenice, O.L.S.H., Sydney, last surviving member of the Vunapope and Ramale camps. What can I say! Firstly, congratulations on a most remarkable book. I can't put it down - so much that I want to read of the wonderful people I know, and am amazed at he detail that has gone into every chapter. What research you have achieved throughout the whole book. You have, in an easy to read (manner) of experiences and personal narratives, exposed the human courage and endurance of so many of our men which would have gone down into oblivion but for your efforts. All your labour has been richly rewarded and the truth at last has been recorded in history. I am really proud of you Mr Stone and am so happy to have been of a "wee help" to you. I can't keep the Sisters away from reading it and you should have heard all the exclamations when I opened it. "Oh, what a beautiful cover. Look at the design, the paper, the layout, maps, photos.." and the remarks went on and on. 

Ern Smith, Staff Sergeant, 101 Brigade Workshops, Rabaul. Absolutely fascinating. A magnificent job. A reference work in itself. Most beautifully turned out. Everybody here has thoroughly enjoyed the book and all have commented on the range of material that has been included. A job well done.You can get rid of the other books. This is "the bible".

John Holland, son of Frank Holland, 'Z' Force. Wow!!! An incredible job. It has made my family proud.

Ken White, K.White (Military) Books, Canberra. A superb publication. Excellent.

Fred Field, Captain, 2/22nd Battalion. President 2/22nd Battalion Lark Force Association. I must congratulate you for the most attractive presentation and wide coverage of this part of our history.

Arch Taylor, 2/22nd Battalion, 17th Anti-tank Battalion. Great work. Never seen a better presentation. The book is marvellous. And don't take any notice of those pricks who knock the book because they are not mentioned in it.

Guy Black, 'M' and 'Z' Force. A very impressive book. 

Dave Morgan, son of Ray Morgan, 2/22nd Battalion. (At book launch). This books pays great tribute to my father and the men of Lark Force. Congratulations on an excellent effort. 

C.O. 'Bill' Harry, Treasurer, RSL Melbourne. 2/22nd Battalion. Quite a production. Incredible. So much material.

Bill McGrath, Pacific Book House. Really fantastic. A wonderful effort. 

Bill Tomasini, unofficial photographer with 16th Battalion, 5th Division. A fine work of historical value.

John Maconochie, Sgt. 2/14th Battalion. Congratulations on such a terrific production. The amount of work you must have put in to amass all the stories, photos, orders and maps etc I just cannot imagine. I wish you every success. You certainly deserve it.

Lex Fraser, 1st Independent Company. The book is very interesting as many of the people mentioned were my friends. Congratulations.

David Hancox, (Marine Captain) son of Captain Dalgleigh Hancox, salvage master. Very impressive.

Kemp Hewett, Wing Commander (Ret), one of the Wirraway pilots at Rabaul. The scope of its contents should be a must for anyone who was involved or who might have an interest in the period of our history that it covers. Shirley joins me in wishing you success - it certainly has been a mammoth task. 

Bob Scott, Salvage operator. I am very very pleased and very very proud of the job you have done with Hostages to Freedom. You have no idea of the thrill I had and the anticipations upon opening. I have read many wartime volumes over my life and have kept a few in mind as outstanding greats. Hostages to Freedom takes the cake in content and dedication by the author. Top marks.

Major (Ret) Frank Lehman, Canberra. A fantastic book - great detail, thorough and yet easy to read. Congratulations.

Lt. Col (US Ret) K.S. Yamashita, California, USA. A lovely surprise to open the box and now of course the fun of perusing it. It looks interesting and is certainly a great indication of the days and months and years you devoted to writing the book.

Ken Scully, Lark Force. Author 'Every Man For Himself' (written under the psuedenum of John Dawes). May I congratulate you on the production of 'Hostages'. It is truly a magnificent book.(And later - You have done a colossol job - a task I could not even contemplate with the mountain of research required). 

Ken MacGowan, son of Bill MacGowan, Medical Unit, NGVR, escapee from Rabaul. An incredible book. I have had nothing but absolutely fabulous reports - not just good but absolutely fabulous. 

Jim Kemsley, ex ships's captain, patrol officer, New Britain. You have done a magnificent job. ... it is a worthwhile contributiion to the history of events in New Britain.

D.O. 'Mick' Smith, ex 2/22nd Battalion. Peter, you have covered the story of Rabaul, its history, the first Jap landing etc etc very well indeed. I'm sure my family will treasure your book in the years to come.

Paul Leahy, grandson of H.J.Webster, survivor of Tol Massacre. I have had the opportunity to have a look at the book and consider it to be an informative and comprehensive piece of work. I would like to pass on my family's thanks for your time and effort. It is both appreciated and precious. Thankyou.

Connie Gault, Cottesloe, Perth, WA . It will made a wonderful gift for my cousin Richard Gault who was in Rabaul. Thankyou for doing it.

Joan Best, wife of Lt. E.W.Best, 2/22nd Battalion, POW Japan. It is a truly wonderful book - so much research has gone into writing it and you are to be congratulated on the really full ob you have done in putting it together. I intend to give each of my daughters a copy of the book for Christmas. 

Harry Brutnall, salvage operator, Rabaul. I thought your book a marvellous achievement, a lot of reading and a lot of history that the average Australian knows nothiung about. 

Captain Donald Hopper (Marine pilot, ret). I thought the book was excellent .... I like the way Peter writes. Much more interesting than the Official Histories! 

Stuart Lovell, Bowen Regional Development Bureau. What a marvellous historical record, and of immense vlaue to not only my family on a personal note, but to others who may learn from the events surrounding the Fall of Rabaul.

Detective Chief Inspector Graeme Sprague, son of Sydney Sprague, 2/22nd Battalion . The written account of these times has helped me partly understand what my father went through during the war. I see your book as providing lasting images for myself and generations to come. 

Canon John May, 2/22nd Battalion, Rabaul. Am enormously impressed by the sheer amount of work that has gone into (Hostages to Freedom). You are to be congratulated on such a huge undertaking. Thankyou for telling the Rabaul story.

Dr. M.W.Dingle, ex 13 Brigade, 28 Infantry Battalion, New Britain. Congratulations on your magnum opus!

Mick Malone, Imprimatur Books, Perth. An excellent book ... an extremely valuable addition to our war history.

Len Smith, Rabaul Resident 1950-1959. Your book is marvellous. It rekindled many memories of my time in Rabaul over the ffifties, many names of people who were disappearing from my memory. Your book could be classed as a definitive history of the Rabaul that was.

Paul Metzler, RAAF Flight Lieutenant, 20 Squadron, Catalinas. Spotted the invasion fleet sailing toward Rabaul and shot down, captured, POW. Wonderful jacket cover, and a great title itself... high quality and interest. Wishing you all success. (And later:) I have picked up the book and despite its weight have not put it down. It is a fascinating story. It covers very many aspects and gives great detail, but it is neverl dull. Your research is amazing. Appendicies and indicies are the best I have ever seen. On top of all this you are your own publisher. I have never seen a literary effort to equal it. 

Jacqueline Collins, wife of Tol Massacre survivor Bill Collins. God bless you. You are like a son to us.

Captain John H. Iarrobino, USN (Ret). Santa Fe, California, USA., who flew on missions over Rabaul. Congratulations on such an outstanding book. History is much richer because of you.


Oceans Enterprises, 303 Commercial Road, Yarram, Vic 3971, Australia.