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    Simpson Harbor East New Britain Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)

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AWM c1915

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USAAF June 17, 1943

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USAAF Nov 2, 1943

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RNZAF Sept 1945

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AWM October 5, 1945

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Justin Taylan 2005

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Yoji Sakaida 2007

Location
Simpson Harbor is the flooded caldera of an ancient volcano that forms the eastern tip New Britain. Simpson Harbor borders Rabaul and Sulphur Creek to the north and Matupit Island to the southeast. Toboi wharf, Komaki Maru (Wreck Wharf) and others smaller docks and wharfs provide access and Rabaul. Inside Simpson Harbor to the west are the Dawapia Rocks "The Beehives". Simpson Harbor borders to the south to Karavia Bay and Blanche Bay.

Wartime History
On January 23, 1942 after midnight, the Japanese Army 144th Infantry Regiment 'South Seas Detachment' landed at several locations around Rabaul including Raluana Point and to the west of Kokopo and Kerawun and north of Vulcan. Also Malaguna, west of Praed Point and Nordup. By morning, Japanese forces occupied Rabaul.

Immediately, the Japanese developed Simpson Harbor into their principal anchorage in the South Pacific, and used Simpson Harbor as a seaplane operating area with servicing areas at Sulpher Creek and Matupit Island.

During the war, Rabaul and Simpson Harbor were subjected to Allied aerial attacks starting in February 1942 until the Japanese surrender in September 1945. Allied missions included high altitude bombing raids, medium bombing raids and low level strafing and aerial mining missions.

Allied missions against Simpson Harbor
February 3, 1942 - 1945

On February 19, 1944 the last Japanese ship to enter Simpson Harbor was the Kokai Maru that unloaded barges, ammunition and food, then departed on February 25, 1944. Afterwards, only submarines managed to deliver small quantities of essential cargo to Rabaul.

On the September 6, 1945, the Japanese surrendered all remaining Japanese Forces in New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomon Islands. The ceremony took place aboard HMS Glory. Representing the Japanese were General H. Imamura, Commander 8th Army Area, Admiral J. Kusaka, Commander South East Area Fleet.

Today
Reportedly 54 ships were sunk into Simpson Harbor and the surrounding area, but only 10 are accessible or known to SCUBA divers. At least two former submersible barges abandoned after the war survived, and were used as tankers around East New Britain and Duke of York Islands well into the 1990s. But, they remained strictly on the surface after the war, by expatriate Pat Roberts who ran an inter-island shipping business from Rabaul.

Brian Bennett recalls:
"Pat Roberts (his place was known just as Pat's wharf and is situated at the end of Dawapia Road. Also known as Rabaul Shipping. Pat and his wife from Buka are long gone now. After the war a chap named Pat Roberts who ran a fuel and fresh water provider business for many years for visiting ships acquired several of these vessels and at least one was still in use at the time of the eruption in 1994. Pat also did metal salvage and his place was always a delight to search for old brass fuse and stuff. I remember that after he died his house became a bit run down and out in the front yard he had the glass reflector dish out of the biggest of the Japanese Naval search lights."

Don Robinson adds:
"From 1952 to 1962, I operated a transport in Rabaul and transported all of the scrap out of Rabaul, including hundreds of Japanese planes cut up for scrap. They were sold back to Japan to make cars. It was so common, I took no photos."

Dawapia Rocks "The Beehives"
Pair of volcanic rock outcroppings in Simpson Harbor, that look like a pair of beehives. Located in roughly the center of the harbor, west of Matupi Island and east of Malaguna.

Komaki Maru (Wreck Wharf)
First Japanese ship confirmed sunk by Allied aircraft in Simpson Harbor

Keifuku Maru
Sunk January 5, 1943

Hakkai Maru
Sunk by B-25s on January 17, 1943. Covered by the 1994 volcano eruption

Kanshin Maru
Sunk on January 17, 1944 covered by the 1994 volcano eruption

Kisargel Maru
Salvaged post war

Manko Maru
Sunk near the present day wharf area

Italy Maru
Largest ship sunk in the harbor

Suzunami
Sunk on November 11, 1943. Hit by air attack, exploded loading torpedoes

Yamamoto Maru
Sunk April 18, 1943

TBF-1 Avenger Bureau Number 24264
Pilot Boyden crashed February 14, 1943 near the present day Yaght Club

Oogata Unkato No. 1 (Large Type Cargo Transporting Tube)
Japanese submersible fuel barges survived the war and was in use until the early 1980s

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Last Updated
April 16, 2014

 

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