The By-Pass Strategy Arrives-- Vella Lavella
As Halsey saw it, the second phase of the climb up the Solomons had opened with the occupation of the Russells. By doing so, the Allies gained a toehold that much closer to the enemy's base at Munda, on New Georgia. Munda blocked the path to Bougainville in the Northern Solomons. Bougainville blocked the way to Rabaul. Munda was now in Allied hands.
Rabaul sat on a magnificant natural harbor-- Simpson Harbor, ten miles across--at the north end of New Britain, at the entrance to the Solomon Sea. Japan had overwhelmed its small Australian garrison only seven weeks after Pearl Harbor. Tokyo began immediately to develop the town into its major South Pacific base, second only to Truk. It built five airfields, fortified the steep surrounding hills, and poured in troops and supplies. The great Japanese South Pacific naval base of Truk in the Carolines was yet another 700 miles to the north. Truk could be contained. If Rabaul could be either captured or neutralized, the Allies would have opened a gap in Japan's defenses through which they could reach northwest for the Philippines and beyond.
When in Kula Gulf on July 5, DD Strong was torpedoed, and she left survivors. One of them was a Lieutenant Hugh B. Miller, hurt but