A history of the battle for the island of New Guinea during World War II.
Duffy (The Sinking of the Laconia and the U-Boat War: Disaster in the Mid-Atlantic, 2013, etc.) sets out to tell the “forgotten” story of Allied Commander in Chief Douglas MacArthur’s battle against the Imperial Japanese Army for the seemingly inconsequential island of New Guinea. It’s a bit misleading to classify this story as forgotten, given the breadth of war scholarship available, and little about Duffy’s account of the events that transpired to beat back Japanese encroachment throughout the South Pacific appears new or revelatory. Nevertheless, the author ably reconstructs the chronology of battles that were pivotal to staving off the Japanese and their ambitious yet foolhardy goal of limitless military expansion. The empire sought the island of New Guinea as an offensive against Australia and ultimately against Allied forces taking strategic positions in the South Pacific. The American-led coalition focused their efforts on the strategic New Guinea city of Port Moresby on the southern side of the island as well as the port of Rabaul, located on the nearby island of New Britain. MacArthur’s strategy of isolating groups of Japanese troops across the island to cut them off from supply chains forced them to either surrender, starve, or die of disease, which was rampant in the tropical jungles of the region. Duffy expertly unwinds the many disparate threads that make up wartime planning and communication, contrasting strategy with outcome and showing how the chain of command truly takes control in an otherwise chaotic situation. For all his careful reconstructing, Duffy is often exhaustively detailed, but his thoroughness pays off. The events of the war are elegantly retold, and while they may not be forgotten, they are certainly overlooked. This book could change that.
Duffy’s portrait of the South Pacific is an entertaining and well-researched war history that will satisfy intrigued novices and devoted students alike.