Author(s): Reg Newell
In late January 1944 a force of New Zealand soldiers and Allied specialists undertook a daring, behind the lines reconnaissance of the Japanese-held Green Islands of Papua New Guinea. The Japanese contested the invasion with air power and inflicted heavy damage on the American cruiser USS St. Louis. After a successful landing, the New Zealanders pushed inland and encountered fanatical Japanese defenders entrenched in thick jungle.After the island was secured, Allied engineers - including the famed Seabees - built airfields, roads and shipping facilities. The seizure of the Green Islands completed the encirclement of the main Japanese base in the South Pacific at Rabaul. A memorable but overlooked action of the Pacific War, ""Operation Squarepeg"" involved a diverse force of Allied sailors, soldiers and airmen that included Charles Lindbergh and future president of the United States Richard Milhouse Nixon.
Signed copy, first edition
Operation Squarepeg (The Allied Invasion of the Green Islands, February 1944) by Reg Newell
McFarland and Company, Inc: Jefferson, North Carolina 2017
Through his book, Operation Squarepeg, Reg Newell uses his extensive knowledge and research to carry the reader back to the events that occurred in and around the Solomon Islands area of the South Pacific in 1944 and relive them with him. Calling upon the War Diaries, notes and quotes of those that were involved, he brings history to life, allowing his passion for the subject to bleed out through the writing.
The book provides a comprehensive account of the Allied amphibious invasion of the Green Islands, from the thinking and justification of the decision makers, through planning and preparation, to the main battle itself and on to the consequences and after effects. With New Zealand Forces heartily and heavily involved in the incidents, rather than being staid and dry in its subject the author has created a piece that is enticing, relevant and able to resonate with a Kiwi audience. He parallels background and detail with the real thoughts and words of those that were present and intersperses the text with a germane photographic record of events to reinforce palpable emotions.
The reader rolls from academia and military study to engaging story telling within the length of a page, recognising the complexities of decision making whilst bearing witness to remarkable feats of bravery and incredible strokes of luck. In one instance, in a well-placed Japanese ambush, machine gun fire is so heavy that it literally brings down the bough of a large tree which, falling on top of a war correspondent travelling with the recce party, subsequently becomes the very shield that saves his life.
Not least the book considers the cultural ramifications for the Islanders and looks at how the Japanese managed to alienate the locals whose support to the Allies was pivotal to success. It also examines decisions that were made and risks that were taken to protect the locals as a consequence. An early example of a hearts and mind campaign before the idea came into vogue and one which enables the reader to ponder moral and ethical questions and balance them against those of a strategic and operational nature.
In Operation Squarepeg, whilst the font size is small, the content is huge and the book manages to traverse across reading boundaries, meeting the needs of serious military students, enthusiasts and story chasers alike.
The 15th of February 2018 will see the largely unrecognised 75th anniversary of this remarkable event and with some very strong and significant New Zealand military history attached, provides the perfect opportunity to pick up this book now.
Maj (Retd) M.A.Bateman
Reg Newell has a doctoral degree from Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand (dissertation on New Zealand's Third Division in the Pacific) and continues researching the Pacific War. He lives in Upper Hutt, New Zealand.