Rolling thunder!

Strike on Rabaul,
2 November 1944

By Allyn Vannoy

Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney arrived in Australia in August 1942 to take charge of the Fifth Air Force (5AF). To face the Japanese, he had only a battle-worn collection of B-17s, various twin-engine medium bombers, P-40 Warhawks and P-39 Airacobras. After quickly assessing his command’s situation, Kenney informed Gen. Henry H. Arnold, commander of the US Army Air Force, that he needed many more, and much better, aircraft if he was to defend Port Moresby and assist Allied ground forces in the theater. As it was, however, the global situation placed little emphasis on providing scarce resources to help Kenney—things were much more immediately critical elsewhere.

Despite that, Arnold sent what he could. By late that same year, Kenney had received a handful of newer model B-17s, along with some B-24 Liberators, B-25 Mitchells, A-20 Havocs and P-38 Lightnings. Along with those planes came better-trained pilots and crews. Kenney began providing support to the US and Australian troops fighting on New Guinea. He and his deputy, Brig. Gen. Ennis Whitehead, did so by first concentrating on countering Japanese airpower and its logistical system.

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Baltic Offensive

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  • The Soviet Baltic Offensive After crushing Army Group Center, the Red Army cleared the north flank of the front during the late summer and fall of 1944. Along the Baltic, the Soviets regained Estonia and most of Latvia and Lithuania. Even so, German Army Group North—renamed Army Group Courland—remained a strategic thorn in the side of the Soviets until V-E Day, despite repeated Soviet attempts to eradicate it.
  • Strike on Rabaul The Allied air campaign against Rabaul was aimed at choking off the Japanese supply network and stopping matériel from reaching it and locales farther south in the Solomons. The campaign proved to be one if the longest of the war, lasting from 23 February 1942 until August 1945.
  • German Helicopter Development The Focke-Wulf Fw 61 is considered to have been the world’s first practical helicopter. Facing the war without aircraft carriers, the German Navy saw great potential in helicopters as observation platforms and anti-submarine weapon carriers that could be launched and recovered by small ships.
  • Hard Luck Division The US 36th Infantry Division would suffer nearly 20,000 casualties during its time in Europe, almost 50 per day for every one of its 400 days of combat. Other American divisions served in the line longer, and a few suffered more casualties; however, none faced a tougher series of battles and campaigns than the 36th Division in Italy.

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