Quiet French Backwater, for now
80 Years Ago Today: Royal Australian Navy Bathurst-class corvette, HMAS Mildura (J-207) steams around the harbor at Noumea, New Caledonia, on 17 June 1942. Note her camouflage design.
As noted by James D. Hornfischer in his epic work, Neptune’s Inferno, chronicling the U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal, the defeat of the Japanese at Midway in early June 1942 spoiled a planned expansion (Operation FS) of the Empire’s war gains to include not only Fiji and Samoa but the sparsely defended (only a single armed ship, the converted banana freighter Cap des Palmes, was on station) French territory of New Caledonia, which had declared in favor of De Gaulle and the Allies rather than the Vichy government.
As it was, just after getting the word from a British coastwatcher in Guadalcanal that the Japanese were building an airstrip on the largest island in the Solomon chain in July, VADM Robert L. Ghormley would move his headquarters from Pearl Harbor to New Caledonia to oversee Operation Watchtower, the Guadalcanal campaign.