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Bismarck Sea, Battle of


BISMARCK SEA, BATTLE OF (2–4 March 1943). To reinforce the Japanese garrison at Lae, New Guinea, eight Japanese transports carrying seven thousand troops, escorted by eight destroyers, left Rabaul, New Britain, about midnight on 28 February 1943. Hidden initially by bad weather, the convoy was spotted in the Bismarck Sea by Allied patrol planes on 1 March. Heavy bombers struck the ships on 2 March, but the biggest attack came the following day as the convoy entered Huon Gulf. Brushing aside feeble Japanese air cover, at about 10 a.m. more than three hundred American and Australian bombers and fighters unleashed a devastating attack. Some of the medium bombers used a new "skip bombing" technique, coming in at very low levels, in the manner of torpedo planes, and dropping delay-fuse bombs that bounced from the water to explode against the sides of Japanese ships. These attacks on 3 and 4 March and a quick strike by American motor torpedo boats sank all eight transports as well as four destroyers, at a cost of only four Allied planes. More than half of the Japanese troops were killed, the rest being rescued by Japanese destroyers and submarines. The Japanese never again sent convoys to Lae; subsequent attempts at reinforcement were made only by individual high-speed ships or small coastal craft.


McAulay, Lex. Battle of the Bismarck Sea. New York: St. Martin's, 1991.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Vol. 6, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, 22 July 1942–1 May 1944. Boston: Little, Brown, 1962.

Null, Gary. The U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II: Weapon of Denial: Air Power and the Battle for New Guinea. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995.

Stanley L.Falk/a. r.

See alsoWorld War II, Air War against Japan .

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