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On the Offensive Beyond Guadalcanal 

March–December 1943 

Munda-Vila Bombardment

Ships of Task Force 18 shelling Japanese facilities on Kolombangara and New Georgia on 13 May 1943 as seen from USS Nicholas (DD-449). Note her number 3 5-inch/38-caliber gun mount at left and her wake at center right (80-G-K-2751).

Cover of World War II ONI Combat Narrative: Bougainville Operations and the Battle of Cape St. George, 3-25 November 1943

Click to download free 508-compliant PDF (5.8 MB) 


Following the Guadalcanal campaign, U.S.—and Allied—strategy in the southwestern Pacific focused on the encirclement and eventual capture of the major Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain. As a consequence, Operation Cartwheel was adopted. Cartwheel was based on early 1943 planning initiatives by the staff of General Douglas McArthur, supreme Allied commander, South West Pacific Area, who also directed the overall operation. The two primary elements of Cartwheel were the Allied capture of northeastern New Guinea and a concurrent advance up the central and northern Solomon Islands to New Britain by Admiral William F. Halsey Jr.’s predominantly naval forces.

At the 17–24 August 1943 Allied Quadrant Conference in Quebec, the decision was made to isolate and bypass Rabaul rather than capturing it. However, Cartwheel had a significant impact on Japanese forward defenses, logistics, and communications. It also set the stage for the Allied advance beyond New Guinea toward the Philippines, and the U.S. operations against the Japanese-occupied island groups in the central Pacific.

The following major subordinate operations of the multipronged Cartwheel were executed by the end of 1943.

As a continuation of the Solomons campaign:

As a continuation of the New Guinea campaign:

  • U.S. Army landings on Woodlark Island and Kiriwina (Operation Chronicle), 30 June 1943
  • U.S. Army (airborne assault) and Australian capture of Lae, New Guinea (Operation Postern), 5 September 1943
  • Landing of New Zealand forces on the Treasury Islands (Operation Goodtime), 27 October 1943
  • 1st Marine Division landing at Cape Gloucester, New Britain (Operation Backhander), 26 December 1943


Robert J. Cressman, The Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II. Annapolis, MD/Washington, DC: Naval Institute Press/Naval Historical Center, 1999.

Samuel Eliot Morison, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Vol. VI—Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, 22 July 1942–1 May 1944; and Vol. VII—Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls, June 1942–April 1944. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1950 and 1951. 

Imagery and Combat Art

Follow a 6 March 1943 night surface action on unique radarscope photographs 

Operations in the Central and Northern Solomons 

Bougainville Landings

On to New Britain: The Cape Gloucester Landings 

Air Strikes on Rabaul 

Period combat art by Kerr Eby covering operations on Bougainville, New Britain, and elsewhere in the south and central Pacific

QUA.2013-11.06.01 Captured Japanese airfield
Captured Japanese equipment on Munda airfield, New Georgia, after the fall of the Japanese base on 6 August 1943. Shown is the wreckage of a Japanese Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" medium bomber (QUA.2013-11.06.01).

Photo #: USMC 68267 Bougainville Campaign, 1943-44
Transports unloading in Empress Augusta Bay, off the Bougainville beachhead, 20 November 1943 (USMC 68267).

Cape Gloucester Invasion, December 1943
Cape Gloucester, New Britain, 26 December 1943: Marines wade ashore from a Coast Guard–manned LST. Note nickname "The Ace in the Hole" on shield of 105-mm gun being towed ashore by a bulldozer (80-G-44428).
Published: Thu Jan 05 15:15:35 EST 2023