Battle of the Bismarck Sea

03 Mar 1943

The Battle of the Bismarck Sea, took place on Australia’s doorstep from 2 to 4 March 1943. It was a defining battle that thwarted Japan’s attempt to secure a permanent foothold in Australia’s nearest neighbour, which was then the Australian territory of Papua and territory protectorate of New Guinea. While action in the battle occurred at sea, it was Allied air power that was the deciding factor. The success of air power was only made possible through a series of carefully planned and orchestrated operations, which today would be collectively termed a joint operation.

Alerted by signals intelligence in February 1943 that the Japanese were preparing to ship reinforcements to the north coast of New Guinea, the Allies began planning to prevent the enemy troops from reaching their destination. Air attacks were launched. However bad weather had hampered the effort and reconnaissance on 28 February revealed that only one ship of the sixteen ship convoy had been sunk.

On 3 March 1943, the convoy was located in the Huon Gulf, heading towards Lae in bright sunlight. RAAF Beaufighters of No 30 Squadron led an attack, followed by a mix of US bombers and other strike aircraft, including A-20 Bostons of the RAAF’s No 22 Squadron. The remaining transports were sunk, along with half the convoy escort.

The event became known as the Battle of the Bismarck Sea and was identified as one of the most awesome displays of air power in the Pacific during WWII.

To learn more download the article Battle of the Bismarck Sea by Ms Rosalind Turner.