Bomb craters, with little space between, pockmarked the island. Dive bombing and strafing interrupted proceedings during daylight hours. Nuisance bombing by float planes kept the troops awake all night. We named a Kawanishi flying boat 'Washing Machine Charlie’. It arrived early in the night, dropped its bombs and departed out of earshot for an hour or so, only to return and drop another string of daisycutters and disappear again for a while. He kept it up all night.

Flying Officer Les Bell, 335 Radar Station RAAF. Learn more about this experience.


Arawe is an are on the south-western coast of New Britain, including the small island of Arawe. It's around 100km from Cape Gloucester.

Role in military operations

Arawe was a significant part of Operation Cartwheel. This was the Allied mission to retake New Britain.

On 15 December 1943, Allied forces successfully landed at Arawe as a diversionary tactic. This was intended to distract Japanese forces from a larger landing at Cape Gloucester.

The Japanese withdrawal

The Japanese unsuccessfully attempted to retake Arawe in late December. Japanese forces withdrew from Arawe in February 1944 as part of their retreat from western New Britain.

In November 1944, the Australian 5th Division began replacing the US Army 40th Infantry Division garrisons at Arawe and Cape Gloucester. The 5th Division then undertook an offensive campaign towards Rabaul.

Papua New Guinea
15 December 1943 to 24 February 1944
Image caption
US forces arriving at the beach via landing craft. By 18 December 1943, the Arawe Peninsula to Cape Merkus was in Allied hands.
Image attribution
Australian War Memorial. AWM 016333. Photo by Harold George Dick.

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