Chapter V
Battle of the Bismarck Sea

At Buna and on Guadalcanal the Allied forces had fought essentially defensive actions, but these actions were intended also to wrest the initiative from the enemy. They had been undertaken in accordance with plans calling for a two-way advance on Rabaul-up through the Solomons and along the coast of New Guinea. And now the time had come to bring these plans into line with the opportunities of a new year.

In General MacArthur's mind, the experience of recent months had lent new emphasis to the opportunity, through full exploitation of the potentialities of the air weapon, for an advance by successive stages along the New Guinea coast. As he explained to the War Department in January, he proposed to base his tactics upon the principle that air echelons should be moved forward progressively in such a way as to provide cover for the movement of "all surface elements" and to assure the isolation of each objective prior to its final assault.1 By 12 February 1943, General MacArthur had embodied his ideas in a basic strategic plan known as the ELKTON plan.2

The ELKTON and RENO Plans

The ELKTON plan, which underwent two revisions of detail during the spring of 1943,* followed the broad outlines of the JCS directive of 2 July 1942 but it assumed that the occupation of Guadalcanal represented the accomplishment of Task I. Seizure of the remainder of the Solomons was joined with projected operations in New Guinea under Task 2. The occupation of Rabaul remained as the climatic

* ELKTON II of 11 March and ELKTON III of 26 April.

† See above p. 20-21


Task 3. The general offensive would be developed under the supreme command of MacArthur. On the western axis this command would be immediate and full; in the Solomons the proposed authority would be exercised chiefly for the purpose of assuring effective coordination of the two efforts. Detailed plans for South Pacific operations would be left to COMSOPAC, but MacArthur would determine the timing of the several operations to be undertaken.

Lae, on the Huon Gulf of New Guinea, would be the first objective under Task 2. In a series of "shore to shore overwater" movements along the coast in small craft, supported by light naval vessels and protected by air cover, Salamaua would be by-passed. Simultaneously with the seizure of Lae would come an occupation by airborne forces of the Markham River valley, which extends northwestward from Lae toward the Ramu River. New airborne and shore-to-shore operations could next converge on Astrolabe Bay at Madang, 150 miles above Lac and over against New Britain. The occupation of New Georgia, placed first on the calendar of South Pacific operations, would await seizure of the Huon Peninsula in order that the Fifth Air Force might be in better position for neutralizing Japanese airfields at Rabaul, Kavieng, Buka, and Buin. Next would come the occupation of Bougainville, and simultaneously Southwest Pacific forces would land on Cape Gloucester and at Arawe in New Britain. A subsequent landing at Gasmata and probably another at Talasea would complete the preparations for Task 3, in which South Pacific forces were to seize Kavieng while MacArthur's own troops took Rabaul. Concurrent discussions of a timetable foresaw the completion of these operations during 1943.

Rabaul itself, of course, was no more than an intermediate objective, an obstacle blocking the way back to the Philippines. In February 1943, MacArthur's staff had also completed a preliminary plan for operations subsequent to the occupation of New Britain and New Ireland.3 This paper, described as the RENO plan, called for consolidated and augmented SWPA-SOPAC forces to move westward by successive stages along the northern coast of New Guinea and into islands lying west of New Guinea. The final jump northward into Mindanao, in the southern Philippines, would be covered by capture of the Palau Islands for protection of the right flank.

That there would be competing strategies had been evident since the mid-January meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff at Casablanca. With new assurances regarding the defenses of Australia and the


security of the South Pacific line of communications, the CCS at that time had reaffirmed their faith in a strategy giving first place to operations against Germany. The Pacific commitment entailed no more than the maintenance of constant pressure on the Japanese foe and retention of the initiative in operations designed to win positions from which a full-scale offensive might be launched immediately after the defeat of Germany. In the fulfillment of this plan, the reduction of Rabaul by South and Southwest Pacific forces seems to have been taken for granted, but the Combined Chiefs tentatively accepted proposals for ousting the Japanese from the Aleutian Islands, for a diversionary attack on the Malay barrier, perhaps at Timor, and for some direct advance across the Central Pacific toward Guam and Truk.4

Not only did this last proposal, sponsored chiefly by the U.S. Navy, challenge the assumptions on which RENO was based.* but the ELKTON plan for the reduction of Rabaul in itself presented complex questions of command. In March 1943 the Joint Chiefs of Staff called a conference in Washington of representatives of the Central, South, and Southwest Pacific commands. MacArthur, in testimony to his understanding of the importance of this conference, sent General Kenney, Maj. Gen. Richard K. Sutherland, GHQ's chief of staff, and Brig. Gen. Stephen J. Chamberlin, operations officer.5 Halsey was represented by his chief of staff, Capt. Miles R. Browning, and Rear Adm. Raymond A. Spruance came as Deputy CINCPAC to Nimitz. The Navy, through Rear Adm. C. M. Cooke, argued that the proposed arrangements for coordination of the moves against Rabaul would destroy the "unity of command indispensable to naval operations" in the South Pacific. Pointing out that the Navy had supported unity of command under the Army for the North African invasion and for the projected landing in Europe, he insisted that the Pacific was and would continue "to be a naval problem as a whole" and should be unified under a naval command.6

Sutherland saw in this a desire on the part of the Navy to control Army operations in the Southwest Pacific,7 and General Marshall countered with a proposal which he frankly admitted "skirted" the question of unity of command. COMSOPAC would retain direct control

*It seems doubtful that the original RENO plan was submitted to Washington, but it was well understood that MacArthur proposed to base the main effort against Japan on Australia, and it was evident enough that the Navy's proposals offered an alternative to that plan.


of operations in the Solomons, but his movements would be in accordance with general directives from MacArthur, and naval units of the Pacific Fleet attached as task forces in support of ELKTON operations would remain under the control of the Commander in Chief, Pacific.8 Admiral King, who recalled that the Joint Chiefs had from the first undertaken to prevent the development of situations in which differences of opinion between MacArthur and Nimitz might arise, obviously felt that in the event of such a clash Nimitz must be upheld.9The issue involved unity of command over operations of the fleet, but King was willing to go along with Marshall so long as it was understood that control of the fleet remained "in a fluid state." On this point the JCS directive was redrafted to read: "Units of Pacific Ocean Areas other than those assigned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to task forces, will remain under command of the Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas."10

The ELKTON plan served thus to provide no more than a generally agreed upon outline for more or less coordinated operations directed toward the conquest of Rabaul. An objection from King that Halsey's forces should not remain idle while Mac Arthur consolidated his position in New Guinea had brought a reply from Marshall that such problems could be worked out between the commanders concerned. MacArthur should be protected against diversions from the Southwest Pacific in support of large-scale operations by COMSOPAC, but this need not prevent Halsey from maintaining constant pressure on the enemy and taking advantage of any weakness discovered. General Sutherland, seeking an adjustment of plans to the means that would be available and feeling that the shortage of long-range aircraft would prove critical, proposed that Kiriwina and Woodlark Islands, lying north and northeast respectively of Goodenough Island, should be added to the list of objectives. Orders had already been issued in Australia for the development of Goodenough as a major air base, and airfields on the other two islands would bring within reach of medium bombers both New Britain and important areas of the Solomons.11 A less optimistic view of the time that would be required to take Rabaul than had been incorporated in the original ELKTON plan now prevailed. In addition to the occupation of Kiriwina and Woodlark, MacArthur during the remainder of 1943 would advance along the line Salamaua-Lae-Finschhafen-Madang and occupy western New Britain.


Halsey's operations would have as their major objective the seizure of Bougainville.

In determining upon these joint operations for the reduction of Rabaul, the JCS had left unsettled the question of what thereafter should be the main line of action. But the debate would soon be joined, and on proposals which threatened even to delay the accomplishment of objectives set forth in the ELKTON plan. When the Combined Chiefs at Casablanca had decided to implement plans for a large-scale bomber offensive against Germany, to follow the conquest of North Africa by the invasion of Sicily, and then to mount such other offensive operations as seemed best calculated to bring about the defeat of Germany, they had necessarily relegated the war against Japan to a position for the time being of secondary importance. Resources available, and this was particularly true of those at the disposal of Britain and the U.S. Army, would be concentrated in European theaters with a surplus left for the Pacific that could meet the demands of no more than decidedly limited offensive thrusts.

MacArthur's representatives at the Washington conference in March received a practical demonstration of the point when they were denied the full forces considered by them to be necessary for implementation of the ELKTON plan. However, the prospect that an invasion of western Europe would not be mounted until 1944, together with the impressive progress of production and training programs in the United States, made possible the promise of substantial reinforcements for both the South and Southwest Pacific." Moreover, the growing and potential power of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, especially in the category of carrier-borne aviation, and the build-up of the U.S. Marine Corps to unprecedented strength invited consideration of new possibilities for offensive action.

On 28 April 1943 the Joint Strategic Survey Committee (JSSC) issued an appreciation of the situation which was quite different from that set down by MacArthur's staff in RENO.12 Advancing the belief that a sustained air offensive against Japan itself would be required to bring about her defeat, with or without invasion, the JSSC directed attention to the need for a large number of air bases in China. The maintenance of full-scale air operations from Chinese bases would depend upon the opening of some such port as Hong Kong. For good

* See below, pp. 151-53, 207.


measure it would be well to reopen the Burma Road, but this could only reduce-not obviate-the dependence on some lodgment along the China coast and on a line of communications that might best be established by a direct drive across the Central Pacific from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines. The suggestion was prompted by the growing power of U.S. carrier-borne aviation. Rejecting the old maxim that carriers would operate at a disadvantage within the range of Japanese land-based aircraft, the committee argued that this concept at least would be subject to revision once massed carrier forces, taking advantage of a superior mobility, could bring to bear an overwhelming concentration of planes at any desired place and time. The proposed line of attack would dispose of Japanese defenses in the Central Pacific, promise an earlier severance of the enemy's line of communications with the Netherlands East Indies, offer the prospect of decisive fleet engagements, and would put U.S. forces in position for an earlier attack on the Japanese homeland in the event of an unexpected collapse of resistance. On the other hand, the New Guinea-Philippines approach would follow the long way in, lead through easily defended land masses, and leave untouched the threat to its right flank from Japanese bases in the Central Pacific. The committee actually recommended simultaneous advance along both approaches, but it argued that the main effort should be made through the Central Pacific.

At the TRIDENT conference of May 1943 the Combined Chiefs confirmed established policy in these words: "Upon defeat of the Axis in Europe, in cooperation with other Pacific powers, and, if possible with Russia, to direct the full resources of the United States and Great Britain to force the unconditional surrender of Japan." But they made this significant addition: "If, however, conditions develop which indicate that the war as a whole can be brought more quickly to a successful conclusion by the earlier mounting of a major offensive against Japan, the strategical concept set forth herein may be reversed."13 Although no agreement on over-all strategy in the Pacific was possible at this time, the CCS agreed that the opening of an Allied line of communication to the Celebes Sea should be the major strategic objective for 1943-44. They also indicated that this might be accomplished by use of more than one approach when, in addition to operations for expulsion of the Japanese from the Aleutians, Solomons, Bismarcks, and New Guinea, the Combined Chiefs specifically approved an undertaking to seize the Marshall and Caroline Islands in the Central Pacific.14


Late in June 1943 the JSSC recommended that an offensive against the Marshalls and Carolines--as the first steps in an advance across the Central Pacific--would be the most remunerative operation that could be undertaken against Japan during 1943. The proposal received the strong support of Navy members of the JCS, and the Joint Planning Staff (JPS), when called on for advice, recommended that Nimitz be directed to plan the invasion of selected islands in the Gilberts as a preliminary to entering the Marshalls and Carolines.15 For this purpose Nimitz would need the First Marine Division, which MacArthur planned to use against Rabaul, and the latter vigorously objected. Nevertheless, a directive for Nimitz, charging him to prepare for seizure of the Gilberts by 1 December 1943 and for additional operations in the Marshalls on or about 12 February 1944, went out on 20 July.16

This decision left room enough for later debate over the final strategy to be employed. Meantime, the enemy's pickets would be driven back, whether in the North, the Central, the South, or the Southwest Pacific. And for such delays as might be imposed on the Allied advance along any one of the chosen lines of attack, there would be compensating advantages elsewhere.

The Bismarck Sea Action

Already MacArthur's forces had taken the first steps toward ousting the Japanese from their positions on the Huon Gulf, the way having been made easier as the result of one of the more brilliant and historic actions of the Fifth Air Force. The Battle of the Bismarck Sea had been fought during the first days of March in fulfillment of an obligation falling to General Kenney's air forces in the last days of the fight for Buna. When late in December the enemy had given up efforts to reinforce his troops around Buna, it had been anticipated that he would attempt the build-up of his garrisons at Lae and Salamaua. Consequently, the isolation of that area had become a primary and continuing responsibility of the Allied Air Forces.

The first major action came early in January. B-24's, B-17's, and Catalinas on regular patrol kept watch over Rabaul and the sea lanes leading down into the Huon Gulf. F-4's from Kenney's lone photographic squadron repeatedly mapped the Lae area, where it was suspected that supplies were being regularly run in by submarine. On 30 December, shipping concentrations at Rabaul were the largest


theretofore sighted-ninety-one vessels, including twenty-one warships and an estimated 300,000 tons of merchant shipping, were counted. Float planes sighted in the vicinity of Lae, usually an indication of antisubmarine patrol in advance of ship movements, offered a clue as to the direction a new convoy might take, as did also the activity on Japanese airfields.17

On 6 January, reconnaissance reported a convoy consisting of two light cruisers, four destroyers, and four medium transports off the south-central coast of New Britain heading west-southwest. For the next two days, all types of Allied bombers, protected by fighters, pierced the enemy's fighter escort and bombed through low and broken clouds, but on 8 January the convoy, now reported as consisting of one light cruiser, three destroyers, and three transports, had reached Lae, where it unloaded. Early on the following morning, the enemy ships withdrew to the east, leaving one beached transport behind.18 As is usual with convoy action, exact assessment of damage is difficult. The Japanese had succeeded in their effort to reinforce Lae; Headquarters, Allied Land Forces estimated that better than 4,000 troops had reached shore. But at least two transports, and perhaps more, had been sunk, and American fighters had enjoyed a field day. The P-40's of the veteran 49th Group claimed twenty-eight enemy planes shot down in addition to their contribution as dive bombers with 300-pound bombs in attacks on the transports. Lt. Richard I. Bong of the same group, flying a P-38, claimed three planes, while other P-38's accounted for at least thirteen of the enemy craft. The total claims ran well over fifty, against a loss of ten Allied planes.19

These were reassuring figures for the fighter command, but the convoy had gotten through and that meant extra work for the air forces. With reinforcements at Lae, the Japanese moved promptly against the small Australian force based inland at Wau, troops who for a year now had been kept alive almost entirely by air transport and who, after the fighting ended at Buna, represented the only Allied ground forces in contact with the enemy on New Guinea. Troop carrier pilots had become accustomed to the 3,000-foot runway at Wau with its 12 per cent grade heading directly at Kainde Mountain, and they had learned to maneuver the clumsy C-47's as though they were fighters, "dodging a peak here and a cloud there."20 Now it would be necessary


to operate on an emergency schedule for assistance of the some zoo Australian defenders of Wau.*

On 29 January the Australians repulsed a sharp patrol attack in the immediate neighborhood of the airfield only to find the enemy back, employing tactics of infiltration, within a few hours. A call for reinforcements brought the C-47's onto the line back at Port Moresby. Heavy thunderstorms over the mountains threatened a fatal delay, but fortunately the weather shifted and the transports took off with reinforcements and supplies in the first flights of a movement that would carry over 2,000 troops into Wau within the two days following. A full-scale battle for possession of the airfield on which the movement depended already had been joined: the Japanese had reached one end of the strip itself, which had been brought under fire from mortars, and some of the Australians literally came out of the planes with their guns firing. In some instances, it was necessary for the troop carriers to circle the field until the Aussies below had "grenaded" the Japanese far enough back into the jungle to permit a landing. But by noon of 30 January, the enemy had been driven back with a loss of some 250 killed.21 The airfield at Wau would remain in Allied hands and its rein- forced garrison, supplied by stepped-up transport operations, would continue its harassing tactics until it joined in the final assault on Lae.

Although the enemy had an estimated 50 bombers and 50 to 150 fighters regularly based in the New Britain-New Ireland area,22 he chose not to commit any part of this strength to operations against Wau until almost a week after the crisis had passed. On 6 February, eight P-39's, covering a routine cargo flight of C-47's, engaged an enemy force of twenty-four planes with resulting claims of eleven Zekes and one Sally shot down. Simultaneously, another flight of eight P-40's discovered that planes erroneously identified as Australian Beauforts were bombing the airfield. Roaring down into this formation, the P-40's found themselves engaging twelve Lily bombers and an equal number of escorting Zekes and Hamps. The Americans were subsequently credited with seven of the enemy. And the final score would be still higher--a score achieved without loss-for General Whitehead

* Fortunately, badly needed reinforcements reached Australia with the air echelon of the 317th Troop Carrier Group, which in January flew fifty-two new C-47's from California. The new planes were promptly transferred to the veteran 374th Group, and the 317th took over the assorted C-47's, C-49's, C-60's, LB-30's, and B-17's heretofore serving as the troop carrier equipment.


had answered a call for help by sending out from Port Moresby three more squadrons, which covered the hundred miles to Wau in time to claim five more planes.23

If there was cause in this action for assurance that the Allied Air Forces could maintain a necessary control of the air over New Guinea, there existed also new reasons for concern. The long and bitter fighting on Guadalcanal was reaching its end, and as the enemy surrendered the lower Solomons, it had to be recognized that henceforth he might focus his attention on Allied positions in New Guinea. Not only did the attack on Wau suggest this possibility but intelligence brought word of growing activity by Japanese engineers in the development of airfields as far as Babo, near the westernmost tip of Netherlands New Guinea, and eastward to Lae. On Wake Island they were building a 1,400-yard strip, another of 1,300 yards inland from Hollandia Bay, a major airdrome already possessing seventy-seven dispersal bays at Wewak, and in addition, they were at work on roads at Madang and Alexishafen and activity had been noticed on Cape Gloucester.24

 It would be necessary to keep a close watch on all this activity, and the turn of fortune that had come on Guadalcanal could be expected to reduce only partly the responsibility for coordinated effort with South Pacific forces in keeping under surveillance Japanese positions in the upper Solomons and in the Bismarcks. The heavies based on Henderson Field could be expected now to carry the main burden in covering the Solomons, but Rabaul would continue for many months yet as a responsibility of the Fifth Air Force. Even Buin and Buka remained within easier reach of Southwest Pacific bases.

Throughout January the Fifth Air Force had kept up small but sharp attacks on Rabaul at regular intervals. Making their bomb runs at both medium (5,000- to 9,000-foot) and low (250-foot) altitudes, the heavies hit the town, the airfields, and shipping in the harbor. Most of the attacks were made at night, when darkness or the glare of searchlights prevented accurate observation. Many of the reports by returning crews read simply: "Bombs in target area causing large fires." An exception had come on 5 January in a daylight mission which took the life, among others, of Brig. Gen. Kenneth Walker of the V Bomber Command, Forty 500-pound demolition bombs and 24 x 1,000-pound bombs were dropped from 8,500 feet. The official report indicated that nine vessels of an estimated total tonnage of over 50,000, including one destroyer tender hit with destroyer alongside, had hen sunk or left


burning. Antiaircraft fire was heavy and fighter attack by apparently inexperienced pilots continuous. Two B-17's, including Walker's, were shot down. A total of thirteen attacks had been made during the month, none of them by a force larger than twelve planes.25

For some time yet, General Kenney would be forced to husband carefully his heavy bomber strength. At the close of the Buna campaign, the veteran 43d Bombardment Group had seen six months of hard service. Of its fifty-five B-17E's and F's, approximately twenty were usually in depot for overhaul. Perhaps 50 per cent of the remainder could be kept in daily combat commission, and a quarter of these were regularly required for reconnaissance, which left twelve to fourteen planes available for strikes. The 90th Bombardment Group (H), a late arrival with its B-24 equipment, began taking over a major share of heavy operations only in January. Maintenance of the new plane presented special difficulties, and important modifications to the plane itself were undertaken." Of the sixty B-24's on hand, no more than fifteen could be counted upon at any one time for a striking force.26

Fortunately, the strain of bomber operations had been somewhat reduced by the fact that it was now possible to base some of the heavies at Port Moresby and Milne Bay in the forward area. Airfield development over the preceding six months had shown great progress. Six of the seven fields lying within thirty miles of Port Moresby were in constant use, with extensive taxiways and dispersal areas. More frequent complaints were heard of rough and muddy landing strips at Milne Bay, but there were three fields and two of them handled steady traffic.27 The development of Dobodura into a major operating base had been begun. Along with the development of installations had come progress in the organization of more effective air defenses. An American aircraft warning unit had reached Moresby in the preceding September to supplement "the poor man's radar"--Australian coast watchers and spotters located in the mountains with binoculars and radio. Coast watchers above Milne Bay and on outlying islands as far to the northeast as Kiriwina continued their invaluable services, but radar equipment had been installed at Milne Bay, at Tufi Point 125 miles to the northwest, and on Normanby and Goodenough Islands.28 The antiaircraft protection had been increased, and since autumn the V Fighter Command had greatly improved its defensive organization.

* See below, p. 154.


The command had three veteran fighter groups, each with almost a year's experience in the theater. All nine squadrons were now operating from New Guinea bases, though some, and especially the malaria-ridden group at Milne Bay, would soon have to be sent back for rest and recuperation. Of the command's 330 fighters, 80 P-38's represented the chief strength. The other planes included 74 worn P-4OO's.29 Destructive raids on Allied bases had become the exception rather than the rule, partly because of a more effective defense and partly because of the enemy's concern with other targets. The most serious of recent attacks had occurred at Milne Bay on the afternoon of 17 January 1943, when more than twenty escorted bombers destroyed with fragmentation bombs two B-17's, one B-24, two P-39's, and one RAAF Hudson, and for good measure, six vehicles and half a dozen fuel dumps. There had been other raids, enough to keep the men "nervous and jumpy," but the success of this one was exceptional.30

It was at Moresby that Kenney based the bulk of his medium and light bombardment. He had six squadrons of medium bombers, of which the two squadrons of the 38th Group equipped with B-25's were virtually up to strength. The four squadrons of the 22d Group, having suffered heavily over a long period of operations, had been withdrawn with their B-26's to Australia for recuperation. The 13th and 90th Squadrons of the 3d Bombardment Group (L) were equipped with B-25's; the 8th and 89th Squadrons fought with A-20's, but they had suffered such attrition that they now operated in effect as a single squadron. Indeed, so heavy had been the burden on the air forces through the fall and into January that General Kenney could meet his varied obligations only by care in the disposal of his limited strength.* He was working out a policy of rotating his squadrons in such a way that one-third would be assigned for rest and training, one-third held on alert, and the other on combat assignment. Thus it would be possible to marshal at least two-thirds of his available units for an emergency.

The training program during the winter of 1942-43 had its focus in an effort to perfect the techniques of low-level antishipping strikes. Especially significant were the experiments of the 90th Squadron of

* It should be noted that the Allied Air Forces, relying chiefly on Australian Hudsons, the Dutch B-25's, and the 90th"s B-24's, covered in continuous operations the Timor-Amboina-southern Celebes areas of the Netherlands East Indies and that long-range planes reconnoitered the upper New Guinea coast as far west as Wewak.


the 3d Bombardment Group with its newly received B-25C1. This was the plane that the "gadgeteers" of the service command, with Kenney's encouragement and the advice of Major Gunn and Jack Fox, representative in Australia of the North American Aviation company, had modified for strafing. They had taken off the lower turret and the tail gun of the standard model and had added forward-firing guns until four bristled from the nose and four more from blisters attached on either side. In addition to these eight forward-firing guns, an upper turret carried two .50-cal. machine guns. For its low-level work, the plane's bomb racks could carry sixty small fragmentation bombs together with six 100-pound demolition The crew of three included a co-pilot instead of the bombardier, standard in the B-25 crew. It was somewhat slower and less maneuverable than the A-20, but in attacks at 150 feet of altitude maneuverability counted for little and the longer range, heavier bomb load, and greater firepower of the modified B-25 promised real dividends.33 The experimental model had passed the tests in December, and by April some thirty of the B-2sC's had been accordingly modified.

Meanwhile, crews of the 90th Squadron practiced for weeks on an old wreck lying off Port Moresby. Experiments with skip bombing were soon abandoned for direct attack on the target, a reference point on the nose of the plane serving as a bombsight. The bombs were armed with modified delayed-action fuzes, and the practice acquired more than a touch of realism when two planes sustained damage from flying debris and another was lost by collision with the wrecked vessel's mast. The planes went out twice during February against real targets, but each time failed to locate the reported vessels.34 By the end of February, however, they had engaged in coordinated rehearsals with A-20's and Australian Beaufighters and were thus ready to participate in the celebrated action of early March which frustrated an enemy attempt once more to reinforce Lae.

As early as 19 February, Allied intelligence, which already had built a reputation for accuracy in its predictions of enemy movements, had issued a warning of "further troop movements to the Lae area." By 28 February, G-2 talked in terms of a landing to be attempted at Lae on 5 March and at Madang on or about 12 March.35 Accordingly, V Bomber Command prepared three different operational plans. The first assumed that the convoy would head for Lae, in which case it would come within reach of virtually the full striking power of the


Allied Air Forces. A second plan was based on the assumption that the convoy might be divided north of the Dampier Strait. Should that occur, the heavies were to concentrate upon that portion of the convoy heading toward Madang, while light and medium bombers intercepted the remainder of the vessels if and when they came within range. Since it was recognized that the entire convoy might follow a course toward Madang, out of range of all but heavy air units, the third plan was drafted accordingly.36

The enemy had determined to reinforce his troops in the Lae area at all costs. His plans, as subsequent examination has shown, were carefully drawn.37 Reinforcements would consist principally of the 5 1st Infantry Division, which would be transported in a convoy of seven merchant vessels and eight destroyers. The ships would load at Rabaul between 23 and 27 February on a schedule calling for departure at 2300 on the following night. Air cover was to be furnished by some forty naval and sixty army planes operating on a definite schedule. The plan called for the convoy to reach Lae on 3 March and to arrive back at Rabaul five days later. At first the weather, which was generally stormy between 27 February and 1 March, conspired with the enemy. The first contact was reported on 1 March. Two B-24's patrolling the sea lanes off New Britain that morning reported a break in the weather, and a third B-24 dispatched on patrol at 1130 sighted fourteen ships under Zero escort on a westerly course some forty miles northwest of Ubili at approximately 1500 hours. Another B-24 sent out two hours later to shadow the convoy found the weather closing in, and eight B-17's on a late afternoon mission failed to locate the target.38

By now the Fifth Air Force Advanced Echelon (ADVON) at Port Moresby had been fully alerted, although another day would pass before the convoy came within reach of anything but the heavies.* There would be some work meantime for the other planes, such as the

* Of the units assigned to ADVON and prepared to participate in a convoy attack, the following aircraft were read for action: 43 P-40's and 18 P-38's of the 49th Fighter Group; 17 P-38's of the 35th Fighter Group; 17 P-40's of the RAAF 75 Squadron; 6 B-25C‘s and D's of the 13th Squadron, 11 B-25C1's of the 90th Squadron, and 15 A-20's of the 89th Squadron, all of the 3d Bombardment Group; 11 B-25C's and D's of the 38th Group; 28 B-17's of the 43d Group; 9 B-24's of the 90th Group; and 6 Bostons, 13 Beaufighters, and 13 Beauforts of the RAAF 9 Operational Group. In the Allied Air Forces as a whole on 1 March, there was a total of 154 fighters, 34 light bombers, 41 medium bombers, and 39 heavy bombers ready for combat. Totals exclude planes on reconnaissance or escort duty.


Above: Direct Hit by B-24 -- Below: A-20 at Mast Height

Above: Wounded Destroyer -- Below: Low-Level Attack on Freighter

Above: First Pass -- Below: On the Mark


effort inaugurated by six RAAF Bostons on the afternoon of 1 March to put the enemy's airfield at Lae out of operation, but for the moment the critical responsibility fell to long-range reconnaissance. The weather was still unfavorable on the 2d, and not until midmorning did a B-24 send back the convoy's location. Eight B-17's promptly took off for attack, to be followed shortly by twenty more bombers. The P-38 fighter cover failed to make its rendezvous with the first flight, but the heavies dropped 1,000-pound demolition bombs from an altitude of 6,500 feet with apparently good effect. Two merchant vessels were claimed sunk, one being described as breaking in half and sinking in two minutes.* The second flight, again without its fighter protection, was over the convoy (variously described by the bomber crews as containing fourteen or fifteen vessels) within the hour. Though claiming only two hits and four near misses, the returning crews reported, no doubt with some duplication, a 6,000-ton transport "burning and exploding," a 5,000-ton ship "burning," a large cargo vessel "smoking and burning amidships," a 6,000- to 7,000-ton vessel "seen to explode," and a somewhat larger one "in a sinking condition."

A B-17 clung to the contact until nightfall, reporting that two unidentified vessels had joined the convoy between 1530 and 1630 and later, at 1730, that "two possible CL's left convoy." And as night drew on, eleven B-17's made the final attack of the day at the entrance to Vitiaz Strait. Enemy fighters, though not very persistent, were numerous and one was shot down. A total of forty-three bombs were dropped with claims registered for two hits. One vessel "was left sinking." There had been, according to report, sixteen vessels at the beginning of the attack. An RAAF PBY kept contact through the night, turning over the job to a B-17 at 0545 on the following morning.

The convoy, now off the Huon Peninsula, had come within a range inviting the coordinated attack so carefully rehearsed during recent weeks at Port Moresby. Torpedo-carrying Beauforts of the RAAF made the first attack on the morning of 3 March without success, but by 0930 the planes for a coordinated effort had assembled over Cape Ward Hunt. Within half an hour thirteen Beaufighters, each armed with four cannons in the nose and six machine guns in the wings,

* At this time the convoy was reported as including one light cruiser, five destroyers, and eight merchant vessels. Actually there were no cruisers in the convoy. Sightings frequently mistook large destroyers for cruisers.

† Not U.S. Navy planes as suggested by Capt. Walter Karig et al. in Battle Report: The End of an Empire, p. 26.


"went into the target with flights in line astern." Flying at 500 feet when they came within the reach of antiaircraft fire, they "then lost height rapidly and using rated power attacked in line abreast at a speed of 220 knots.39 Thirteen B-17's had come into position above to drop their bombs just as the Beaufighters began their sweep. Thirteen B-25's followed the Beaufighters in for a standard bombing attack from medium altitude. And then came twelve of the 90th's B-25C1's in probably the most successful attack of all. Coming down to 500 feet above the now widely dispersed and rapidly maneuvering vessels, the new strafers broke formation as each pilot sought his own targets. The forward-firing .50's beat down opposing AA, and 500-pound bombs struck ship after ship. Out of the thirty-seven bombs dropped, seventeen were claimed as direct hits.

The returning pilots of the 90th Squadron reported one transport "badly damaged," one left "burning violently," and another "sinking," that a cargo vessel "burst into flames and sank," that another "stopped and began to settle," that a third "appeared sinking," and that a fourth had been left smoking and a fifth burning. One destroyer had been left smoking, while another "rolled on its side and sank."* The B-17's claimed five direct hits, the sinking of one vessel, and the probable sinking of another. Twelve US. A-20's had joined the attack to claim eleven direct hits, and six more B-25's coming in toward the end reported four additional hits.

The cost had been four Allied aircraft shot down-three P-38's out of the twenty-eight providing cover and one B-17. Enemy interception, which had been fierce, tended to concentrate on the B-17's. Lt. Woodrow W. Moore's plane received hits in a wing and the radio compartment. He pulled out of formation and salvoed his bombs, but the plane went into a dive. Seven of the crew who bailed out were strafed on the way down and lost in the confusion of battle below. The plane disintegrated before plummeting into the sea. But the bombers claimed five enemy planes, and returning P-38 pilots turned in a score of fifteen.

* Form 34 summaries credit the 90th Squadron with hits on eleven ships, resulting in one cruiser and one transport sunk, two destroyers damaged, and seven transport and cargo ships damaged. (Cf. ADVON Rpt.)

† Perhaps it should be said that ADVON credited them thus, because Form 34 for the squadrons represented (the 64th, 65th, and 403d) carries only the following reports: "Hits on AK & DD seen sinking." "Ships left burning--exact number of hits unknown--at least 4 near misses observed." "Due to interception results were not observed."


After these morning assaults, the surviving Japanese ships received no more than a brief respite. New strike orders went out to the air units shortly after noon, and almost immediately the planes were roaring off the Moresby dromes and heading for Lae. The afternoon strikes did not go entirely according to plan. The weather had turned bad over the ranges: none of the Beaufighters crossed the mountains, twelve A-20's "could not climb above or find [a] hole in the weather," and of the twenty-nine B-25's that set out, six failed to find the target. Partly no doubt because of interference by the weather, there was some confusion in the timing of attacks.

The first attack, by B-17's, occurred at 1512, one of the planes claiming two direct hits on a large destroyer which "stopped and burned." Then eight B-25C1's of the 90th Squadron struck in a low-level sweep. Within five minutes they had left a destroyer "definitely sinking" after four direct hits, another "probably sinking" after an equal number of hits, and two merchant vessels badly damaged.* In the next ten minutes, fifteen additional B-25's, some attacking from zoo feet but most of them from medium altitude, had completed their runs with claims of at least ten direct hits. Almost simultaneously with this attack, five RAAF Bostons concentrated on a destroyer, while B-17's bombed from medium height through both the B-25's and the Bostons. The Bostons claimed at least two direct hits and numerous near misses, and they were credited with still another sinking.

These afternoon missions represented the last coordinated attacks, for the victory had been won and back at Port Moresby there was already a feeling of festivity. It remained only to clean up the job. During the remaining daylight hours, planes sent on reconnaissance swept over the scene of action, strafing survivors and seeking assurance that none of the burning hulks were in condition to get away; in the night of 3/4 March five motor torpedo boats of the Seventh Fleet from their base at Tufi undertook a search which resulted in the dispatch of one crippled vessel. Allied bombers on the next morning sank a badly damaged destroyer. And that ended it, except that Beaufighters, A-20's, and B-25's continued for several days to search the general area and to strafe surviving enemy personnel, some of whom were picked up as far to the east as Goodenough, Kiriwina, and even Guadalcanal.

The victory thus won would be described by General MacArthur,

* Form 34 lists four hits on a destroyer, four on a cruiser, and one each on two transports, "all left in sinking condition."

after the Japanese surrender in 1945, as "the decisive aerial engagement" in his theater of the war,40 and certainly the enemy had suffered a smashing setback to his plans for holding New Guinea. General Kenney's flyers had accomplished as much in three days as had been possible in similar operations extending through the entire Papuan campaign, for only toward the end had Buna been blocked off from incoming shipping. But now enemy troops in the Lae-Salamaua area were left dependent for supply and reinforcement on the provision that could be made by submarines, air transport, and barges cutting across Vitiaz Strait from Cape Gloucester or clinging to the coast on the way down from Madang or Wewak. Never again did the Japanese accept the risk of running large vessels into Lae; an effective if not absolutely tight air That this blockade could have been maintained in the face of persistent attempt to challenge it may be open to debate. Kenney had concentrated virtually all available air strength against this one convoy; it might have been difficult to repeat the performance immediately, but the job had been done well enough to obviate any such necessity. The victory had been a triumph of coordinated effort-of an accurate evaluation of intelligence, of daring technical developments, and of meticulous training.41 During the two-week period ending with 14 March, Allied aircraft catalogued 400 sorties connected with the Bismarck Sea action, of which number 76 per cent reached the objective. The planes engaged dropped 571 bombs for a total of 426,000 pounds. Bombers and escorting fighters reported more than 350 enemy aircraft encountered, of which 50 to 60 were claimed as destroyed. The losses were one B-25 in a landing accident and one B-17 and three P-38's shot down in combat.42 But the statistics of air warfare serve chiefly to emphasize the magnitude of the effort put forth. In their very nature they cannot be exact on such items as claims against the enemy force, and the central fact of an operation often stands independent of any of the statistician's tables, however helpful those tables may be to an assessment of the effort.

It is unfortunate, therefore, that attention should have been diverted from the brilliant achievement of the Allied Air Forces in the Bismarck Sea action by a controversy over the exact number of enemy vessels destroyed. The fact that counts is that a major effort to reinforce Lae was turned back with mass destruction inflicted upon an enemy who

never thereafter dared renew the effort. All other points, whatever their inherent interest and significance, must assume a position of secondary importance.

Secondary though it may be, the question demands some attempt here to arrive at a conclusive settlement. The official GHQ communiqué of 7 March 1943 put the size and composition of the enemy convoy at twelve transports, three cruisers, and seven destroyers, and advanced a claim to their total destruction.* These figures apparently depended in the first instance upon an evaluation of reports by returning crews. Their reports had indicated a total of fourteen ships sighted during missions flown on the morning of 2 March and that perhaps as many as two of these vessels had been sunk. Reports of the afternoon missions on that same day showed a total of perhaps fifteen or even sixteen vessels in the convoy at that time.43 These and other differences in sightings reported during the course of a running battle extending over a large area and through two days led to a natural conclusion that additional units had probably joined the original convoy.44 Up at ADVON, the evidence seemed to support the view expressed in its final report on 6 April 1943 that "an additional seven merchant vessels" had" moved into the immediate area" of combat.45 The final figure of twenty-two ships rested then upon the assumption that other vessels had joined the convoy after the action began, an assumption which seemed to find at least partial support in certain enemy documents captured with some of the survivors immediately after the battle. Since no ship was seen to escape, it was assumed that all. had been sunk. The evidence at best was tenuous, but good enough for a preliminary assessment.

At AAF Headquarters in Washington the Historical Office undertook in the summer of 1943 a study of all records of the action forwarded from the theater, including the captured enemy documents. These documents offered conclusive proof of the presence of no more than sixteen ships in the original convoy and failed to establish the

* Official theater publications, however, are consistent only as to the total number of vessels. Allied Air Forces Intelligence Summary 83 of 6 March 1943 and ADVON's official report, dated 6 April 1943, both describe the convoy as comprising eight warships and fourteen merchant vessels.

† One of these, a Supplement to Operational Order 57, listed three vessels not carried in Operational Order 157 for the Lae convoy. Aside from the similarity in number and the fact that the two papers were captured at the same time, there is no definite connection with the Lae convoy established. (See SWPA Allied Translator and Interpreter Sec. Rpt. 7, Pt. 1, p. 73A.)


assumption that additional vessels had later joined them. The negative conclusion thus arrived at received support from the fact that photo intelligence had provided positive identification for only three destroyers and six merchant vessels, with five other units listed as possible destroyers for a total of fourteen. Moreover, ADVON's report, published a month after the action, had declared that "only 12 or 13 ships were actually sighted sinking or in obviously desperate condition."46 But GHQ SWPA, on being apprised of the conclusions of this study in Washington, elected to stand on the original figures; indeed, one message forwarded over MacArthur's signature even contained the remarkable suggestion that some action might be taken against those responsible for calling the claim into question.47 And General MacArthur renewed the claim in a postwar news release.48

There would seem to be some advantage, therefore, in an attempt to piece together the story of the action from the enemy's point of view as revealed by interrogation of key Japanese personnel after the close of hostilities and by study of additional documentary records.49 That story follows. Shortly after midnight on 1 March 1943 a convoy of sixteen vessels--eight destroyers, seven transports, and the special service vessel Nojima--left Rabaul for Lae. In the early morning of 2 March the convoy took its first bombing, by B-17's, which scored on two of the transports and sank the Army transport Kyokusei Maw. Approximately 850 men rescued from the sinking transport were then put aboard two destroyers, which headed for Lae under forced draft. Having delivered these troops at Lae during the night, the destroyers rejoined the convoy on the morning of 3 March, in time for the heavy and coordinated attacks previously described.*

The morning attacks of 3 March were just as destructive as the returning crews at Port Moresby claimed. The destroyer Arashio received three direct hits, which threw it out of control and caused it to collide with the already damaged special service vessel Nojima. The Nojima sank; the Arashio, though mortally hit, managed to stay afloat for several hours. Within a few minutes after this collision, the flagship Shirayuki was strafed and bombed with a resultant explosion aboard ship that caused its abandonment and the transfer of the flag to the destroyer Shikinami. Meanwhile, the destroyer Tokitsukaze had taken severe hits from which it sank sometime later, and the six remaining

* See above, pp. 143-45.


transports, as the bombers withdrew, had been sunk or left in a sinking condition. The convoy, in short, had been broken up and in large part destroyed or doomed to destruction during the morning of 3 March.

As the planes returned in the afternoon, the five surviving destroyers--the Asashio, the Uranami, the Shikinami, the Yukikaze, and the Asagumo--were engaged in attempts begun during the morning attacks to rescue as many as possible of the troops from the water and an undetermined number of crippled transports. The Asashio took hits and went down, but the other four destroyers survived to continue rescue operations that were on the whole remarkably successful. A rendezvous with the destroyer Hatsuyuki, sent out from Kavieng, permitted refueling and the transfer of 1,400 men to the Hatsuyuki and the Uranami for return to Rabaul. The other three destroyers turned back toward Lae to pick up additional survivors, and having rescued about 200 more men, they reached Kavieng early in the morning of 4 March. Submarines are credited with rescuing another 275. It is impossible to reconcile all of the figures given, but the Japanese admit an over-all loss of some 3,000 men and claim that just under 6,000 survived.

Nor is it possible to fit together as neat and detailed a picture of the action as is desirable. This much, however, would seem to be clear from the evidence presently available: the convoy at no time included more than the original sixteen vessels and of this total, all of the transports, the Nojima, and four of the destroyers were lost, one of the vessels receiving its final dispatch by torpedo boat during the night of 3/4 March. The full destruction thus could not have exceeded twelve vessels;* the four surviving destroyers are all accounted for, three of them having been destroyed in combat during 1944 and the Yukikaze having run aground in July 1945.50 The rendezvous on 3 March with the Hatsuyuki may help to account for the belief on the Allied side that additional vessels had joined the original convoy, although the confused and scattered nature of the action, together with a natural tendency for claims to be duplicated, would seem to offer sufficient explanation for conflicting reports as to the number of vessels engaged. The Japanese rescued a substantial part of their troops, but few if any more than the

* This figure does not include a small transport claimed sunk in Wide Bay on New Britain by a reconnaissance plane or a small cargo vessel claimed by Allied fighters in an attack on Lae airfield and harbor. (See George C. Kenney, General Kenney Reports [New York, 19491, pp. 203-5.) General Kenney states his own conviction that additional vessels joined the convoy on 2 March and concludes that the total destruction was nineteen to twenty-two ships, depending upon the number of merchantmen in the convoy and including the two claims at Wide Bay and Lae.


850 men carried into Lae during the night of 2 March reached their original destination. The downward revision of claims counts for little beside the fact that land-based air forces had effectively demonstrated their power to impose an interdiction on seaborne forces seeking the reinforcement of a critically important coastal base. That fact was not only of vital significance for the further development of the New Guinea campaign but it demands the respectful attention of all students of warfare itself.

Problems of Men and Materiel

The victory in the Bismarck Sea action provided, among other advantages, a much-needed boost to the morale of air force personnel. In general, the fighting spirit of the Fifth Air Force under General Kenney's leadership, as one competent observer reported, had been "tops," but there were a number of problems which still threatened to become serious. One of the most pressing was the question of replacements. Although the weary veterans of the 19th Bombardment Group had been sent home during the fall, there remained many Fifth Air Force flyers who had records almost as long for continuous combat and who were variously described by flight surgeons as "irritable, short-tempered and lackadaisical." Back-breaking labor, frequently continuing from twelve to eighteen hours a day, had also worn down ground crews and other service personnel.51 In the absence of a definite policy of rotation, there seemed little prospect of relief.

Responsible officers still struggled with the problem of providing a satisfactory diet for troops in the advanced area. Units stationed near the larger Australian cities generally enjoyed good rations, but the in- adequacy of shipping, refrigeration, and air transport limited the quantity and variety of food supplies that could be provided in New Guinea. There the troops for the most part ate out of cans. The food, although it satisfied medical requirements, was almost invariably of Australian manufacture and the men found that even American canned food soon lost its flavor. One squadron had recorded its surprise and satisfaction over a Christmas dinner in these simple yet eloquent words: "Ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, several vegetables, three kinds of dessert, three kinds of beverages, nothing was dehydrated."52

No less important was the closely related question of health. Troops stationed in New Guinea could expect a loss of fifteen to twenty pounds in weight, and the peculiarities of a tropical climate contributed


to a general lowering of resistance to disease. At Milne Bay it was almost a foregone conclusion that everyone sooner or later would be afflicted with malaria. At Port Moresby the men suffered a smaller percentage of malarial cases but were plagued by diarrhea, which seemed to be endemic to the locality.53 The individual soldier himself contributed to his own difficulties, for he was as yet not mentally prepared to meet all the hazards of tropical warfare.54 While in "malarious areas" he was supposed to wear slacks and long-sleeved shirts, to sleep under mosquito bars, to use repellents, and to take quinine or atabrine regularly, but his cooperation could not always be secured and unless each individual gave wholehearted support to preventive measures, satisfactory results could not be achieved.

The medical organization of the Fifth Air Force under Col. Bascom L. Wilson faced thus a heavy responsibility, as did those who administered the hospitals and medical depots, which operated under control of the Army's Services of Supply. Three hospitals had been established at Port Moresby with a total of more than 2,000 beds by the close of 1942, and two more with 350 beds at Milne Bay. Portable hospitals had followed the troops across the Owen Stanley range; the ever-busy air transports made possible a quick return for hospitalization to Port Moresby.55 The arrangements that could be made in the more advanced areas naturally continued to be primitive, but at Moresby the efforts of medical officers combined with the ingenuity of the men themselves to provide mess halls, living quarters, incinerators, and latrines comparing favorably with facilities at some of the encampments in the United States.56 In the absence of adequate replacements, Kenney rotated his units between Australia and New Guinea as frequently as possible. While in Australia, the men were provided with an abundance of fresh eggs, meat, milk, and vegetables. Kenney also encouraged the granting of regular leaves for trips to Sydney, Brisbane, and other Australian Cities.57

With a keen sense of the strain under which his men worked, General Kenney, while in Washington during March for the conference on Pacific strategy,* pressed for increased allocations to his force. It had been estimated that the ELKTON plan would require for its implementation an immediate increase of the Fifth Air Force by two heavy, two medium, and two and one-half light bombardment groups together with three fighter, one observation, and two troop carrier

* See above, p. 131.


groups, For the New Britain phase of the operation it was estimated that an additional fighter, one medium, two heavy, and three troop carrier groups would be required.58 Instead, General Kenney got the promise of receiving by September one additional heavy group, one medium, one light, one observation, and two fighter groups and of such further increases of strength as are indicated in the following table:

Unit Present or
en Route
Planned Initial Equipment Strength
8 Mar. 1943 30 June 1943 30 Sept. 1943 31 Dec. 1943
  Units A/C Units A/C Units A/C Units A/C
Bomb Gp (H) (4 Sq Each) 2 102 2 96 3 144 3 144
Bomb Gp (M) 82 2 114 3 171 3 171
Bomb Gp (L) 1 28 1 57 2 114 3 171
Ftr Gp (3 Sq Each) 3 353 3 225 5 375 6 450
Ftr Sq Nite
T/C Gp (4 Sq Each) 2 100 182 234 234
Obsn Gp (4 Sq Each) 53 50 1 131 1 128
Photo Gp ¼ 16 ¼ 13 1 51 1 51

Although less than Kenney had requested, this was more than the Joint Planners, who argued the necessity of implementing to the full the bomber offensive against Germany, had initially considered possible. There is some reason to believe that the President may have influenced the final decision.59

A subject of hardly less concern to General Kenney than that of reinforcements was the question of replacements. In March, as during each of the preceding five months, the total of aircraft lost exceeded the number received.60 At the close of the month, to take one example, five of the twenty-five P-40's assigned to the 8th Fighter Squadron were credited with 400 or more flight hours, seven with 300 or more, and the rest with totals in excess of 200 hours.61 An entire medium bombardment group and one light bombardment squadron were forced to remain out of combat from March through May because of the shortage of planes. One of the heavy squadrons never had more than five aircraft on hand during the same period, and a medium squadron having seven B-25's on hand at the close of March and April could report no more than three at the end of May.62 Thus, the official tabulation of one light, two medium, and two heavy bombardment groups and three fighter groups hardly gave a true picture of Fifth Air Force strength. Actually, combat strength through May was much more accurately


represented as one light, three medium, and seven heavy bombardment squadrons and nine fighter squadrons.

It had been decided while Kenney was in Washington for the March conference that steps should be taken to maintain a 25 per cent depot reserve in the theater, a flow of 20 per cent of the initial equipment per month as attrition aircraft for combat units, and a plane-for-plane replacement of losses in transport aircraft.63 There remained some uncertainty as to the type of aircraft to be supplied. It was understood that B-24's and B-25's would be sent for the heavy and medium groups in accordance with already established policy, but Kenney's desire for A-20G's to equip his light bomber units ran into difficulty. Production was slow; moreover, Twelfth Air Force held priority of claim, and a project for the conversion of A-20's into P-70 night fighters had caused further delays. Kenney showed no enthusiasm for proposals that he might use A-36's and A-25's. Arnold suggested "some sort of swap" between Spaatz and Kenney, but the final comment at AAF Headquarters on 5 May simply stated that any A-20G's not needed by Spaatz would go to Kenney.64

Already the Fifth Air Force had lost out temporarily to the Twelfth in the competition for P-38's. After having received eight P-38's under a replacement schedule of fifteen per month initiated in January, Kenney had word in February that because of the critical situation in North Africa he could expect no more until summer.65 For the new groups promised to him in March, he wanted P-38's and next he preferred the P-47. He entered vigorous objections in April to suggestions that he might get P-40's instead, winning assurances early in the next month from Marshall. The 348th Group, originally scheduled for Europe, would be ready for shipment with P-47's by 12 June. Authorization was also given to activate in the theater the 475th Fighter Group, for which P-38's would also be available in June.66 This was encouraging, but meantime reinforcements during April and May had been limited to one night fighter squadron with six P-70's' help first requested the preceding October. And the service command had to work over the P-70 to increase its speed, ceiling, and maneuverability before it would be equal to the demands made upon it.67

Failure to receive the desired replacements and reinforcements found some compensation in the steadily improving work of the service command. A general maintenance policy established early in 1943 provided for the repair of fighters in New Guinea, with all bombers


which could be flown sent back to Australia. In Australia not only had provision been made for heavy maintenance but, with substantial help from Australian industry, it was now possible to provide many items of supply. Kenney had reported in January that it would soon be possible to manufacture in Australia 1,200 belly tanks per month, enough for all his fighter aircraft. In April, he indicated that all engine overhaul could be taken care of locally, and by July it would be possible similarly to handle all propeller overhaul and the replacement of blades.68 At Townsville the 4th Air Depot Group had added, with some assistance from Australian labor, sixteen new warehouses and seven repair hangars. But the group's varied duties required work around the clock through seven-day weeks, and not until midyear did the arrival of two new depot groups relieve the pressure.69

A part of the burden arose from the necessity to de-winterize many of the combat aircraft arriving from the United States for operations in the tropics. De-icing and engine-winterization equipment was standard on the C-47's, B-25's, and B-24's, as on other AAF planes, and before they could be used in tropical zones, the equipment had to be removed either in the United States or in the theater. Kenney evidently had preferred at first to do the job himself rather than run the risk of delay in deliveries, but in May he got the promise that in the future winterization items would be deleted from his aircraft.70

Modification of incoming planes continued also to claim the time of service agencies. The B-24's with which the 90th Group had been equipped lacked forward firing power. A solution worked out at Archerfield during the winter added a Consolidated tail turret to the Liberator's nose. Kenney had asked in January for thirty-five of the turrets and had requested that the Hawaiian Air Depot* be instructed to make the installation on all future deliveries. Shipped by water, the turrets arrived late in March, and in May, Kenney asked for thirty-six more to equip recently received planes.71 By this time he had also decided to substitute manually operated twin .50's for the ball turret. Proposals that the plane be sent out with this modification presented to AAF Headquarters an awkward problem involving some of the limitations inherent in mass production, for it appeared that other theaters desired that the turret be kept. Not until September was it agreed that planes for SWPA should differ in this particular from the standard.72

* See below, pp. 288-90.


Preparations for Another Forward Move The development of Dobodura as a major air base during the spring and early summer of 1943 promised a more efficient employment of the aircraft available for support of the next advance. The field there had played a vital part in winning the victory at Buna, and though it would be May before a road had been opened from Oro Bay to Dobodura, plans for the field's development were implemented in every way possible. Wharves were built on Oro Bay for receipt of supplies moved in by small boat, the supplies reaching Dobodura by jeep and native carrier moving along improved tracks. Troop carrier planes continued to pour men and materials onto the airstrips. During a six-week period in March and April, the average daily lift was 600,000 to 678,000 pounds a day.73

The first complete service group was flown in during March to join quartermaster, service, and communications detachments previously active there. American aircraft warning units had reached Oro Bay in February. At least one Australian radar set had operated--not too satisfactorily--in the area since December, but by March reporting platoons operated at Tufi, McLaren Harbor, and Ionanda as well as Oro Bay.74 Ground crews of the 49th Fighter Group had been stationed at Dobodura in February to make it possible for the unit's planes to fly in each morning for a day-long alert; in the evening they returned to Port Moresby. The advantages gained by this northward extension of fighter cover were such that two of the unit's squadrons were stationed there in mid-March, a third squadron joining them in April.75 This movement into a new forward area brought with it the usual difficulties. Refueling facilities were unsatisfactory; supply dumps were inaccessible, in part because of the lack of transportation equipment; and even more than at Port Moresby, spare parts were at a premium. Shortly after arriving at Dobodura, one of the fighter squadrons reported that P-38's out of commission were "being stripped to keep 16 for the daily alert.'' There were the usual complaints from combat personnel who had to build their own camp sites where equipment was scarce and insects many. The incidence of malaria was high. Until the latter part of June, when improved sanitation measures began to take effect, from 15 to 20 per cent of the 46th Service Group were regularly incapacitated from malaria and dengue fever.76

By the time the camp site with tents, mess halls, latrines, and garbage


disposal facilities had been established, living conditions were probably no worse than in the Port Moresby area. Some, in fact, preferred the new camp site. Adjacent to some of the camps were swift little streams which solved the water problem both for bathing and, when properly treated, for drinking. The Special Services section arranged for movies, a baseball league, a lending library, an orchestra, post office facilities, regular cable service, and a new canteen "chock full of supplies'' in a corner of one of the mess halls. Visiting shows occasionally reached Dobodura. On 21 March a US0 unit, consisting of an accordion player, a violinist, a juggler, and "several boys that sang old songs which were popular when our Moms and Pops were young," was well received. So was Joe E. Brown, who arrived two weeks later.77

One of the principal operational disadvantages at Dobodura was the lack of reliable communications with ADVON Fifth Air Force at Port Moresby. The peculiar conditions caused by towering mountains and tropical weather frequently interrupted radio reception, and hence a plan to string a telephone line across the 150 miles from Port Moresby was conceived. To those acquainted with the razorback ridges, the gorges, and the jungle, this must have seemed a next-to-impossible job; yet by May the project was under way. It took 250 natives and 100 American and an equal number of Australian signal troops, supplied principally by aerial dropping, a little more than a month to complete the task.78

Communications problems were not fully solved by the Herculean job of stringing a telephone line across the Owen Stanley range. The constant dampness in New Guinea rotted poles and corroded wires, and frequent storms grounded newly strung lines. Moreover, it was understood that the move to Dobodura was only the first of a series of forward jumps that would take combat, service, and troop carrier units hundreds of miles ahead of previously established bases. General Kenney's Fifth Air Force headquarters had to be retained in Brisbane where it could coordinate its activities with GHQ. Port Moresby remained the most desirable location for ADVON. Yet, if authorization had to be obtained from Port Moresby or Brisbane for every strike by aircraft based on the north side of the Owen Stanleys, operations would be disastrously delayed. A new headquarters was thus considered necessary for operational control over the units at Dobodura.

Accordingly, General Kenney in March 1943 created the First Air Task Force or, as it was originally known, the Buna Air Task Force.


This new organization consisted of a headquarters and such units as might be attached for an indefinite period, or for a particular operation only, to the organization. When a fighter or bomber unit was thus attached, the appropriate command (V Fighter or V Bomber) retained administrative control, but operational control went to the task force. Theoretically, General Whitehead, as commander of ADVON, directed the operations of all combat units in northeastern New Guinea. Actually, however, the commander of the task force could assume, when necessary, the responsibility for dispatching his own units on combat mission.79 The plan met with some resistance in Washington, where it was felt that the Southwest Pacific had requested too many headquarters personnel in higher grades. General Kenney insisted that the three headquarters for the Fifth Air Force, exclusive of the commands, were necessary, and wrote that "G-3 has no idea of the details of the problem out here."80 The task force, however, was never officially authorized by the War Department, and personnel for task force headquarters had to be taken from other organizations. For example, Col. Frederic H. Smith, Jr., appointed task force commander, continued to be listed on official rosters as deputy chief of staff of the Fifth Air Force.81 For some time the organization consisted principally of the one fighter group, but by the end of June, in addition to service units, it had a total of seven squadrons-one P-38, two P-40, one Beaufighter, one A-20, one B-25C1, and one unmodified B-25.82

Of less immediate importance was the organization of a troop carrier wing as a headquarters intended for operation on the same echelon as the fighter and bomber commands. The War Department authorized the wing, in response to a request from General MacArthur, "to insure proper coordination of increased air transport activities," and it had been constituted as early as 26 February.83 But the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, activated on 13 March, consisted at first of only one officer and one enlisted man with no more to do than keep a morning report. On 3 May the organization was moved from Brisbane to Port Moresby, "less personnel and equipment," where, on 20 May, eight officers under the command of Col. Paul H. Prentiss, former commander of the 374th Troop Carrier Group, were assigned to it. For the next three months the wing had only one group, the 374th, assigned to it, and Colonel Prentiss' entire staff, with one or two exceptions, was taken from that group. Thus the organization functioned for


the time being merely "as an added channel, in A-3, for operational orders from Fifth Air Force."84

Kenney had been promised a total of three and a half troop carrier groups, and he foresaw a rapidly increasing burden of work for them. Of first importance was the supplying of Dobodura, where Japanese air attacks were creating "a constantly decreasing enthusiasm on the part of the shipping people and the Navy about running supplies even as far north as Oro Bay."85 The transport planes still carried a heavy responsibility for the supply also of the Australian troops in the Wau area; a road had been under construction since February to connect the Lakekamu River with Wau, but it would not be complete until late.86 And these current activities, in Kenney's opinion, were little more than preliminary to a major role to be played by the troop carriers in the planned seizure of Lae.

In plans for the reduction of Lae and the expulsion of the enemy from other positions on the Huon Gulf, the Kanga Force at Wau had its own vital part to play. From its inland base, it would infiltrate enemy positions around Mubo and keep the Japanese sufficiently engaged to prevent their withdrawal of forces to oppose amphibious attacks along the coast.87 The task thus assigned of keeping the enemy busy was already a familiar one, and in the continuing contest some of the Australians had reached a village within five miles of Salamaua by 5 May. In this grubbing advance, the Diggers depended heavily upon air drops for supply and upon air support in lieu of artillery. An air support party maintained headquarters near that of the Australian 17 Brigade, where operational plans could be agreed upon. Requests for air attacks were dispatched to Port Moresby, where General Whitehead either sent out the desired mission or relayed the request to the First Air Task Force. Targets were located by smoke shells or by use of a grid system based on aerial photographs.88

Already, too, preliminary advances had been made along the coast. In mid-March a battalion of the 162d Combat Team of the 41st Infantry Division had moved from the Buna-Gona area toward the mouth of the Mambare River in accordance with a plan to deny the use of that area to the Japanese.89 It had little more than reached this point when intelligence was received which indicated that the enemy had withdrawn to points north of Morobe, some seventy-five miles farther up the coast. This Japanese withdrawal invited a further Allied advance into the harbor at Morobe itself and to the airstrip at Dona, a few


miles to the south and suitable for emergency landings and for regular use by liaison planes. Accordingly, the MacKechnie Force, consisting principally of the 1st Battalion of the 162d Regiment, was activated on 28 March and specifically directed to secure these points. It began its move on 31 March, landed at the mouth of the Waria River and at Dona, and on 3 April other elements splashed ashore in Morobe harbor. Three days later Col. Archibald R. MacKechnie, the commander from whom the force received its designation, reported that his men were in control of the harbor, that he was preparing to maintain the Dona air-strip as an emergency landing field, and that patrols had found no signs of the enemy south of Mai Ama, ten miles northwest of Morobe harbor.90

Although this important advance, which brought American forces within seventy-five miles of Salamaua, had been accomplished against little or no enemy opposition, the increasing number of air attacks on advanced Allied bases demonstrated the growing concern of the Japanese. A series of heavy Japanese raids began on 9 March, when Wau was hit with little effect by approximately twenty-six bombers and twenty-one fighters. Two days later an equally heavy force bombed Horanda airdrome at Dobodura, killing two enlisted men and destroying three aircraft on the ground. Allied interceptors claimed at least nine of the enemy planes, with the loss of one American P-40. Again at Oro Bay, fifteen more bombers damaged installations during the night of the 14th. Three days later eighteen bombers escorted by thirty-two fighters bombed Porlock Harbor. But the most destructive raid of the month occurred on the 28th, when some forty bombers escorted by a large formation of fighters once more struck at Oro Bay. The local fighter sector picked up a large enemy plot and sounded the red alert at 1113. Thirty-one American fighters took off and destroyed six Hamps, five Zekes, and two Vals. One P-40 and its pilot were lost, and enemy bombs crashed into a new wharf, sank two small ships, and killed several men."91

There followed a brief lull in enemy activity over New Guinea as the Japanese directed their attention to the Solomons. But intelligence, pointing to the greatest air strength ever assembled by the enemy in the Southwest Pacific, warned of new attacks.92 Some of this strength, it was soon made evident, was intended for use against Guadalcanal, but on 11 April "45 enemy dive bombers and fighters" were intercepted off Oro Bay by fifty P-40's and P-38's. Seventeen of the enemy planes


were shot down, but the bombers had scored two direct hits on a 2,000-ton Allied merchant vessel and other hits on a corvette and a small supply ship.93 On the next day an even larger enemy force raided Port Moresby. There was adequate warning from the fighter sector, and our planes claimed fifteen enemy bombers and nine or ten fighters at a cost of two American fighters, but the Japanese in Port Moresby's 106th air raid scored heavily on ground targets. Parked aircraft, inadequately protected by revetments, suffered severely. One Beaufighter and three B-25's were destroyed and fifteen other aircraft were damaged, some of them badly. Bombs hit runways on Wards, Berry, and Schwimmer airdromes, and set fire to a fuel dump at Kila. Australian and American personnel working at the dump were burned to death, their screams a nerve-shattering experience for those who squatted within earshot in rain-filled slit trenches.94

After one more heavy but ineffective raid against Milne Bay, this series of attacks came to an end. Allied intelligence, after assessing enemy strength in the entire northeastern area, reported a decline from 611 on 7 April to 466 on 4 May and cautiously hazarded the prophecy that this indicated a diminished threat of aerial attacks.95 Certainly the tempo of Japanese attack for a time diminished. Fighter squadrons became almost bored in performing routine patrol duty, ground alert, and transport and bomber escort missions. At Dobodura, bingo parties were introduced and a loudspeaker system was rigged up so that enlisted men of the 49th Fighter Group could have "musical programs dished up with their chow." Farewell parties were held for the first large group of "49ers" to be returned to the United States after a year of combat. Early in May, 100 bags of Christmas cards and packages arrived just in time to help enliven a program put on by the enlisted men to commemorate Mother's Day. Storms proved more disturbing than Japanese raids. Tropical winds and rain rotted the tents, soaked beds, blew down trees, and seemingly stimulated the activity of tropical insects. At Moresby, too, there was a period of relative quiet in which the 35th Fighter Group celebrated "Over the Hump" week in honor of its first year of combat service in New Guinea.96

But on 13 May a new series of attacks began with ineffective night raids. On the following day more than twenty bombers and twenty-five fighters hit Dobodura and destroyed a bitumen dump and a gasoline barge. Forty-three American fighters shot down at least seven bombers and nine fighters. One P-38 was lost, and its pilot was last seen


swimming about twenty miles offshore in shark-infested waters. Meanwhile other enemy formations attacked Wau four times a week. Sallys and Bettys, generally protected by Zekes or Hamps, swept in over the mountains at such low altitudes that Allied signal units had little chance to give warning; at the same time Japanese pilots sabotaged the efforts of Allied controllers by maintaining a constant chatter on fighter radio frequencies. The heaviest raid occurred on 17 May, when twenty-five or more Bettys destroyed the headquarters, signal office, and operations office of the Australian 17 Brigade. The Japanese returned on the following day, and again three days later. In this last raid "they paid their own way." Twelve Moresby-based P-3 8's had taken off to escort a flight of C-47's toward Wau, but the controller immediately after the take-off switched their mission to a scramble over Salamaua. There they intercepted more than fifteen Oscars, Zekes, and Hamps. Seven of the Japanese fighters were shot down. No American planes were lost.97

General Kenney's air forces lacked the strength to develop an all-out assault against the bases from which the enemy mounted these offensive efforts. Much of the heavy bomber strength had to be used to fly long, lonely reconnaissance flights. One squadron of B-24's based on Darwin provided much intelligence of enemy activity in the Netherlands East Indies. The heavies from Port Moresby, frequently "topping off" at Dobodura, patrolled the sea lanes in the Bismarck Sea; Moresby-based F-4's, P-38's converted for photography, continued to photograph New Guinea as far to the northwest as Wewak and most of New Britain, including Rabaul; and in May the longer-range F-5 began to reach Kavieng. B-25's also flew their share of noncombat missions. Indeed with a few notable exceptions, three medium bombardment squadrons were engaged entirely in short reconnaissance missions, anti-submarine patrol, and convoy escort during March, April, and May. This meant that the majority of combat missions had to be carried out by the one squadron equipped with the modified B-25, by an A-20 squadron, and by such heavy bombers as could be spared from reconnaissance. In addition, General Kenney could fall back upon the RAAF A-20, Beaufighter, and Beaufort squadrons.98

Heavy bombers struck occasionally and in some force against Rabaul, more frequently and in the company of mediums against Gasmata and Cape Gloucester. The sea lanes were scoured for Japanese convoys, but few ventured within range of a concentrated bombing


force. Heavy bombers had some success, however, in attacking shipping at anchor.99 The most sensational claims were made for a series of attacks against a convoy of some thirteen ships that had been tracked into the harbor of Kavieng in New Ireland. In a period of four days beginning on 1 April, twenty-one B-17's and nine B-24's harassed the ships at anchor, attacking from medium and low altitude. The greatest damage was claimed by B-17's skip-bombing from 75 to 250 feet. Hits were recorded on a merchant vessel, several destroyers, and two "probable" cruisers. The cruisers, in fact, were listed as sunk. A later evaluation, however, indicates that only a 5,854-ton passenger-cargo vessel actually went to the bottom without hope of salvage.100

By the end of May, the groundwork for a major offensive had been laid. American troops of the 162d Regiment were securely ensconced on the coast at Morobe. Australian patrols with air support were gradually eliminating Japanese pockets of resistance between Wau and Salamaua. The air forces were maintaining the blockade of the coast from Finschhafen south and were keeping some pressure on Japanese bases. Best of all, from the AAF point of view, was the promise of early reinforcement.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (4) * Next Chapter (6)

Notes to Chapter 5:

1. CM-IN-4574 (I-10-43), Brisbane to WAR, C82, 10 Jan. 1943.

2. A copy, dated 28Feb. 1943, is in files of Air Historical Div.

3. GHQSWPA, Estimate of the Situation and Rough Draft, RENO Plan, 25 Feb. 1943.

4. CCS 155/1 (19 Jan.), 168 (22 Jan.), 170/2 (23 Jan. 1943); Minutes, CCS 56th Mtg., 1.4 Jan. 1943.

5. Minutes of Pacific Military Conference.

6. Memos for General Handy from Adm. C. M. Cooke, 22 and 23 Mar. 1943.

7. CM-OUT-9499 (3-25-43), Sutherland to MacArthur, 2232, 25 Mar. 1943.

8. CS 238/4, 27 Mar. 1943; Minutes, JCS 70th Mtg., 28 Mar. 1943. General Marshall had proposed substantially this same arrangement as early as 8 January 1943. (See memo for COMINCH from C/S, 8 Jan. 1943.)

9. See especially App. C, Incl. B, JCS 238/4, 27 Mar. 1943.

10. JCS 70th Mtg., 28 Mar. 1943; CM-OUT-11091 (3-29-431, JCS to MacArthur, 2407, 29 Mar. 1943.

11. CS 70th Mtg., 28Mar. 1943; GHQ Operations Instruction 31, 11 Mar. 1943; CM-OUT-9499 (3-25-431, Sutherland to MacArthur, 2232, 24Mar. 1943.

12. JPS 67/4, 28 Apr. 1943.

13. Memo from the JCS, 14 May 1943, circulated as CCS 220 on 19 May and approved by the CCS in its 90th Mtg. on 20 May as the basis for study and elaboration of future plans.

14. Ibid.; Minutes, CCS 92d Mtg., 21 May 1941; CCS 239/1 (23 May), 242/6 (25 May 1943).

15. JCS 386, 28 June 1943; Minutes, JCS 94th Mtg., 29June 1943.

16. CINCSWPA to Marshall, C-3302, 20 June 1943; Minutes, JCS 97th Mtg., July 1943; msg., JCS to CINCPOA, 202204 July 1943.

17. Hq. Allied AF, SWA Intel. Sums. 5 Jan. 1943.

18. CM-IN-2986 (1-7-43), Australia to WAR, C58, 7 Jan. 1943; CM-IN-3448 (1-8-43), Port Moresby to WAR, C67,8; CM-IN-4711 (1-11-43), Brisbane to WAR, C71, 9 Jan. 1943.

19. Allied Land Forces, SWPA, The History of the Lae-Salamaua Garrison; Histories, 35th and 49th Ftr. A general summary of the action claims that 69 aircraft were destroyed, 28 probably destroyed, and 40 damaged. (Intel. Sum. 68, 12 Jan. 1943.) Nichiryu and the 4,103-ton Myoko were sunk. (See JANAC.)

20. Interview with Maj. De Forest Van Slyck, 26 Mar. 1943.

21. ALF, The History of the Lae-Salamaua Garrison; Van Slyck interview; Histories, 374th and 317th TC Gps. and 40th TC Sq.; CM-IN-61 (2-1-431, Brisbane to WAR, C297, 31 Jan. 1943; CM-IN-14236 (1-30-43), Brisbane to WAR, C291, 30 Jan. 1943.

22. See enemy order of battle reports in the intelligence summaries for January 1943.

23. Histories, 35th and 49th Fighter Gps.; Form 34, 7th and 9th Sqs. of 49th Gp., the 39th, 40th, and 41st Sqs. of 35th Gp., 31 Jan.-6 Feb. 1943; Intel. Sum., 76m 9 Feb. 1943; CM-IN-4375 (2-9-43), Brisbane to WAR, C371, 7 Feb. 1943.

24. Intel. Sums. 74 (2 Feb.), 76 (9 Feb.), 77 (12 Feb.), 78 (16 Feb.), 81 (27 Feb. 1943); ltr Kenney to Arnold, 23 Jan. 1943.

25. Operations reports from cables and Intel. Sums.; Histories, 43d and 90th Bomb. Gps. See especially CM-IN-2554 (1-5-43), Brisbane to WAR, C50, 6 Jan. 1943; 63d Sq. Combat Diary. JANAC reports that three Japanese vessels were sunk during January in the SWPA, two at Rabaul, one of the latter, the 5,833-ton Keifuku Maru, on 5 January.

26. Ltr., Kenney to Arnold, 23 Jan. 1943. See also station lists and unit histories.

27. Van Slyck interview; Form 34 for January.

28. Col. James C. Van Ingen, Communications in New Guinea. in AAFSAT Intel. Rpt. 16 (Oct. 1943); Lt. R.J. Wood, Radar in New Guinea, ibid., 22 (Feb. 1944); History, 565th Signal AW Bn.; Van Slyck interview.

29. See unit histories of 8th, 35th, and 49th Fighter Gps.; CM-IN-12053 (1-26- 43), Brisbane to WAR, 128, 25 Jan. 1943; ltr Kenney to Arnold, 23 Jan. 1943.

30. There is not complete agreement on the number of planes destroyed in the above raid. The figures are taken from the official operations report. (CM-IN-8329 [1-19-43], Brisbane to WAR, C169, 18 Jan. 1943. See also Form 34, 403d Sq.; History, 80th Fighter Sq.) Some experiments were made a P-38 into a night fighter. (Histories, 80th Fighter and 8th Fighter Control Sqs.

31. AAF Historical Study 17, Air Action in the Papuan Campaign, App. 4; ltr., Kenney to Arnold, 23 Jan. 1943; histories of units mentioned.

32. Air Action in the Papuan Campaign, p. 64; History, 30th Service Sq.; ltr., Jack Fox to North American Aviation, 15 Dec. 1942; CM-IN-5273 (4-9-43), Brisbane to ASCPFO, XA3193, 9 Apr. 1943.

33. Ltr., Jack Fox to North American Aviation, 15 Mar. 1943; Fox to Field Service Dept., North American Aviation, 4 Mar. 1943.

34. Advance Echelon Report, Incl. VI, par. 3, quoted in AFSHO special study, The Bismarck Sea Action, p. 300, and 9 Operational Gp. Opns. Order, also quoted, p. 158; Masthead Attacks against Shipping, in AFGIB 13 (July 1943), pp. 20-24; CM-IN-11103 (2-21-43), Brisbane to WAR, C516, 21 Feb. 1943; CM-IN-14093 (2-27-43), Brisbane to WAR, Q3272, 27 Feb. 1943.

35. G-2 Estimate of the Enemy Situation 333 (18/19 Feb.), 337 (22/23 Feb.), 338 (23/24 Feb.), 341 (26/27 Feb.), 342 (27/28 Feb.), 343 (28 Feb./1 Mar. 1943, in GHQ G-3 Journal; The Bismarck Sea Action, pp. 101-2.

36. The Bismarck Sea Action, pp. 101-2. Much credit for the success of the Bismarck Sea action should undoubtedly go to Col. Kenneth Hobson, chief of staff of the V Bomber Command.

37. Detailed operational orders and other documents were captured on Goodenough Island with the shipmaster of the Teiyo Maru, sunk in the engagement. The Allied Translator and Interpreter Section, SWPA published them as "Bismarck Sea Operations" in Enemy Publications No. 7, Pts. 1 and 2. These documents are analyzed in detail in The Bismarck Sea Action, pp. 59ff. See also US. Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific), The Campaigns of the Pacific War, pp. 174-75, and Interrogations of Japanese Officials, II, 498; USSBS Intrs. 65 (Capt. Y. Watanabe, 15 Oct. 1945), 388 (Lt. Col. Koji Tanaka, 20 Nov. 1945), 479 (Capt. Mirioru Genda, 28-29 Nov. 1945).

38. The following narrative of the attacks on the Bismarck Sea convoy is a synthesis of information taken from many documents. The principal sources used were the daily cable operations reports sent from General MacArthur's head- quarters to the War Department; intelligence summaries; Form 34; A-2, V Bomber Command, Tactical Reports of Attacks on Bismarck Sea Convoy (V BC Bismarck Tac. Rpts.); Advance Echelon Hq., Fifth AF, Report on Destruction of Japanese Convoy in Bismarck Sea, 6 Apr. 1943 (ADVON Bismarck Rpt.); Histories, 35th and 49th Ftr. Gps., 3d, 38th, 43d, and 90th Bomb. Gps.; 63d Sq. Combat Diary. The Bismarck Sea Action (AFSHO study) contains a careful mission by mission account of the attacks on the convoy in more detail than the present summary.

39. V BC Bismarck Tac. Rpts.; ADVON Bismarck Rpt.

40. See interview with General MacArthur as reported in the Washington Post, 4 Sept. 1945, p. 2.

41. CM-IN-4398 (3-9-43), Brisbane to WAR, C789, 9 Mar. 1943; CM-IN-5702 (3-11-43). Brisbane to WAR, C818, 11 Mar. 1943.

42. See Charts 50, 51, 52, and discussion of the statistics used in The Bismarck Sea Action, pp. 262 ff.

43. CM-IN-1403 (3-3-43), Brisbane to WAR, C628, 3 Mar. 1943.

44. Ibid.

45. For a more complete analysis of this, see The Bismarck Sea Action, pp. 275 ff.

46. ADVON Bismarck Rpt.

47. CM-IN-5415 (9-7-43), Brisbane to WAR, CA20, 7 .Sept. 1943.

48. See Washington Post, 4 Sept. 1945, p. 2.

49. The account is based on full notes taken by an AAF historical officer from a report prepared in Japan in September 1945 by a Colonel Scott, and Col. E. L. McCranie, AC/S A-2, 13th AF, with the assistance of Maj. John W. Weems, Capt. W. N. Davis, 1st Lt. Davis, and M/Sgt. Roper, all of the Thirteenth Air Force. No copy of this report was available for transmission to the AAF Historical Office and subsequent attempts to locate the document have been unsuccessful, but the notes were taken by a professional historian of proved competence and it is believed that they represent highly dependable documentation. Many of the details, except for the precise hours of attack, are confirmed by mission reports, USSBS interviews, and the findings of JANAC.

50. See USSBS Memo Nav. XI.

51. History, 4th Air Depot Gp.; Maj, Bernard M. Donnelly, Flight Surgeon's Report of Medical Activities in the SWPA, 27Feb. 1943, and Maj. Jon T. Klausner, 22d Gp. Flight Surgeon, Report for History of Medical Department, 23 Jan. 1943, in AAG Reports of the Surgeon General; ltr., Col. Bascom L. Wilson, 5th AF Surgeon to the AAF Air Surgeon, 1 Mar. 1943; Form 34, 8th Ftr. Sq., 17-23 Jan. 1943; History, 1156th QA4 Co. (Avn.)

52. Ltr., Col. Bascom L. Wilson to the AAF Air Surgeon, 1 Mar. 1943; Form 34, 8th Ftr. Sq., 17-23 Jan. 1943; Histories, Hq. and Hq. Sq., 27th Air Depot Gp., 35th Ftr. Control Sq., 80th Ftr. Sq.

53. Histories, 8th Ftr. Gp. and 80th Ftr. Sq.; ltr., Wilson to the Air Surgeon, 1 Mar. 1943.

54. Osmar White in his thoughtful book, Green Armour, stresses the unpreparedness of the American soldier for jungle warfare.

55. Ltr., Wilson to the Air Surgeon, 1 March 1943.

56. Report by 38th Bomb. Gp. Surgeon to Chief Air Surgeon, 5th AF, 15 Mar. 1943; Report by 3d Bomb. Gp. Surgeon to the Surgeon, V BC., 23 Mar. 1943; Report by 43d Bomb. Gp. Surgeon to Surgeon, 5th AF, 30 Mar. 1943; Report by 90th Bomb. Gp. Surgeon to Surgeon, V BC., 30 Mar. 1943; Maj. Edward F. Hoover, A-3 in the SWPA, in AAFSAT Intel. Rpt. 17 (Oct. 1943).

57. Ltr., Wilson to the Air Surgeon, 1 Mar. 1943; The Marauder: A Book about the 22d Bomb. Gp.; History, 80th Ftr. Sq.; ltr., Kenney to Arnold, 23 Jan. 1943. See also AAFRH-13, The Fifth Air Force in the Huon Peninsula Campaign, January to October 1943, p. 15.

58. This totaled 1,816 additional aircraft, and MacArthur believed that he also needed five additional infantry divisions. (See USSBS, Employment of Forces under the Southwest Pacific Command.) The air units desired for the Huon Peninsula campaign had already been requested by General Kenney. (Ltr., Kenney to Arnold, 23 Jan. 1943.)

59. JCS 238/1,18 Mar. 1943; CM-OUT- 6327 (3-17-43), Sutherland to MacArthur, 3058, 17 Mar. 1943. See also Kenney, General Kenney Reports, pp. 215-16.

60. In March, 13 B-25's, 8 B-24's, 1 C-47, 8 P-38's, and 4 F-5A's reached Australia. Over against these figures, 7 P-38's, 2 B-17's, 1 B-25, 1 P-400, and 1 A-20 were lost or reported missing to enemy action, while 11 fighters, 7 bombers, 9 transports, and 1 F-4 were the victims of accident. (See CM-IN-16225 [3-30-43], Brisbane to WAR, A521, 30 Mar. 1943.)

61. Form 34, 8th Ftr. Sq., 21 Mar. 1943; unit history.

62. Form 34, 22d Bomb. Gp., 403d Bomb. Sq., 8th Bomb. Sq., and 13th Bomb.

63. CM-OUT-8736 (3-23-43), JCS to Brisbane, 23 Mar. 1943. See also ltr., Arnold to Kenney, 30 Mar. 1943, which somewhat modified the original decision.

64. R&R, Allocation Sec., A-3 Div. to Dir. of War Orgn. and Movement, 5 Jan. 1943; CM-IN-5762 (1-13-431, Brisbane to WAR, C109, 12 Jan. 1943; CM-OUT- 2619 (2-8-43), Hq. ASC to CINCSWPA, 995, 7 Feb. 1943; R&Rs: Allocations Br. to Theater Br., AC/AS OC&R, 1 Apr. 1943; Stratemeyer to Dir. of Mil. Requirements, 25 Mar. 1943; Arnold to Stratemeyer, 23 Mar. 1943; AC/AS A-3 to Air Support, 26 Mar. 1943; DC/AS to Allocations and Programs Div., AC/AS OC&R, 4 May 1943; Allocations and Programs Div., AC/AS OC&R to DC/AS, 5 May 1943.

65. CA4-OUT-5665 (1-16-43), AFROM to CINCSWPA, 390, 16 Jan. 1943; CM-SWPA, 239, 10 Jan. 1943; CM-IN-7226 (1-16-43), Brisbane to WAR, A79, 15 Jan. 1943; CM-OUT-6395 (1-19-43), AFROM to CGSWPA, 435, 19 Jan. 1943; 1st ind. (ltr. missing), Hq. AAF, sgd. Stratemeyer to CG 5th AF, 2 Mar. 1943.

66. Ltr., Kenney to Col. William L. Ritchie, 14 Apr. 1943; CM-IN-3457 (5-6- 43), Brisbane to WAR, A809; CM-OUT- 2358 (5-6-43), Sec. WDGS (from Marshall) to CINCSWPA, 3488; CM-OUT-3102 (5-7-43), AC/AS OC&R to CINC-SWPA, 3535.

67. Report by V Fighter Command, 1 August. 1943; History, 27th Depot Repair Sq.

68. CM-IN-12485 (1-27-43), Brisbane to ASCPFO, XA861, 26 Jan. 1941; CM-IN-2261 (4-4-43), Brisbane to WAR, Q7694, 3 Apr. 1943; CM-IN-6131 (7-9- 43), Brisbane to CGAAF, XA6243, 8 July 1943.

69. History, 4th Air Depot Gp.

70. CM-IN-5004 (5-8-43). Brisbane to ASCPFO, XA4052, 8 May 1943; CM-OUT-6211 (5-14-43), .AC/AS OC&R to CINCSWPA, 3749, 14 May 1943; CAI- IN-1307, Brisbane to ASCPFO, XA6019, 2 July 1943; CM-IN-508 (9-1-43), Brisbane to ASCPFO, XA7i91, 1 Aug. 1943; to CINCSWPA, 6784, 12 Aug. 1943. CM-IN-4587 (7-7-43), ASCPFO to Brisbane, 056, 7 July 1943. Between January and October 1943, the 30th Service Squadron alone dewinterized at least 22 C-47's, 107 B-25's, 43 B-24's. (History, 30th Service Sq.)

71. Materiel Div. Memo Report 217, 20 Apr. 1943; CM-IN-5328 (2-11-43), Brisbane to ASCPFO, XA1323, 10 Feb. 1943; CM-OUT-7528 (2-21-43), AFRDB to CINCSWPA, 1382, 20 Feb. 1943; CM-IN- 12760 (2-25-43), Brisbane to CGAAF, (Q2914, 24 Feb. 1943; CM-OUT-2413 (3-16-43); CGASC to CGSWPA, ASC 097 16 Mar. 1943; CM-IN-685 (5-2-43), Brisbane to ASCPFO, XA3840, 1 May 1943.

72. CM-IN-3504 (5-6-43), Brisbane to CGAAF, A814, 6 May 1943; CM-OUT-CM-OUT-4918 (8-13-43), AC/AS OC&R Sq.) CM-OUT-7528 to 16-43), 6421 (7-21-43), AC/AS OC&R to CINC- SWPA, 5960, 20 July 1943; CM-IN-19780 (8-26-43), Brisbane to CGAAF, XA8163, 26 Aug. 1943; CM-IN-8470 (9-1 1-43), Brisbane to CGAAF, XA8771, 10 Sept. (from Arnold) to CINCSWPA, 7986; to CINCSWPA, 8011, 14 Sept. 1943.

73. Unrecorded interview with Maj. John Trotter, 26 May 1944; Off. of the Chief Engineer, SWPA, Engineer Construction in the Southwest Pacific Area, 1 Mar. 1944; interview with Col. Frederic Smith, 11 May 1943.

74. Lt. R. J. Wood, Radar in New Guinea, in AAFSAT Intel. Rpt. 22 (Feb. 1944); Histories, 1158th QM Co., 440th Signal Bn., 565th Aircraft Warning Bn., and 46th Service Gp.; History, V AFSC in New Guinea.

75. History, V AFSC in New Guinea; History, 49th Ftr. Gp.; Form 34, 7th, 8th, 9th Ftr. Sqs.

76. Form 34, 9th Ftr. Sq., 22-30 Mar. 1943; Histories, 46th Service Gp. and 49th Ftr. Gp. 1943; CM-OUT-6743 (9-14-43), C/AS CM-OUT-7173 (9-15-43), AC/AS OC&R.

77. History, 49th Ftr. Gp.

78. Col. James C. Van Ingen, Communications in New Guinea, in AAF-SAT Intel. Rpt. 16 (Oct. 1943); History, 440th Signal Bn.

79. Unrecorded interview with Lt. Col. W. F. Coleman, 17 May 1945; Mai. Herbert O. Johansen, "Our Air Task Force," in Air Force, XXVII (Dec. 1944), p. 7.

80. Ltr., Kenney to Col. William L. Ritchie, 14 Apr. 1943.

81. Kenney had decided earlier that "the theory of an Air Support Command does not fit the picture in this theater." Trained air support officers were therefore assigned to the various ground units as air liaison officers usually with a direct channel to the operations (A-3) section of the air force, at Port Moresby if the missions in question were the responsibility of ADVON, or at Dobodura if that of the First Air Task Force. (CM-OUT-Feb. 1943; CM-IN-269 [3-1-43], Brisbane to WAR, C640, 1 Mar. 1943; ltrs., Kenney to Arnold, 28 Feb. and Arnold to Kenney, 16 Mar. 1943; History, 5th Tactical Air Communications Sq.)

82. Form 34, 8th, 13th, 89th, 90th Bomb. Sqs.; Frederic Smith interview; Histories, 8th Bomb. Sq. and 3d Bomb. Gp.; Coleman interview.

83. CM-IN-9326 (1-31-431, Brisbane to WAR, C188, 30 Jan. 1943; CM-OUT-1313, 18 Feb. 1943; CM-OUT-9393 (2-26-43), TAG Opns. Br., to CINCSWPA, 1524, 26 Feb. 1943.

84. History, 54th TC Wing.

85. Ltr., Kenney to Ritchie, 14 Apr. 1943.

86. Engineer Construction in the Southwest Pacific Area.

87. See Australian Army Dir. of Public Relations, Battle of the Ridges (Sydney, 1944)

88. History, 5th Tac. Air Com. Sq.

89. FO 1, 2, 3, 5, dtd. 20 Feb., 25 Feb., 8 Mar., and 24 Mar. 1943, in 162d Regt. War Journal.

90. Hq. MacKechnie Force GO 1, 28 Mar. 1943, and Hq. MacKechnie Force FO 1 and 2, 30 Mar. and 6 Apr. 1943, all in 162d Rgt. War Journal.

91. Histories, V FC and 49th Ftr. Gp.; CM-IN-4930 (3-10-43), Brisbane to WAR, C800, 10 Mar. 1943; CM-IN-6277 (3-12-43), Brisbane to WAR, C850, 12 Mar. 1943; CM-IN-8642 (3-17-43), Brisbane to C/S, C935. 16 Mar. 1943; CM-IN-10677 (3-20-43), Brisbane to WAR, C1045, 20 Mar. 1943; Intel. Sums. 85 and 90, 13 and 31 Mar. 1943. The Operations Report puts the last raid on 27 March rather than the 28th. (CM-IN-15965 [3-30-43], Brisbane to WAR, 1272, 29 Mar. 1943.)

92. See SWPA Intel. Sums. 91 and 92, 3 and 7 Apr. 1943.

93. SWPA Intel. Sum. 93, 10 Apr. 1943; CM-IN-7286 (4-13-43), Brisbane to WAR, C1640, 12 Apr. 1943; History, 49th Ftr.

94. Histories, 49th Ftr. Gp., 80th Ftr. Sq., and 35th Ftr. Control Sq.; CM-IN-7659 (4-13-43), Brisbane to WAR, C1668, 13 Apr. 1943; Form 34, 9th, 39th, 40th, and 41st Ftr. Sqs., 11 to 17 Apr. 1943; ltr., Off.. of the Engineer, ADVON to CG 5th AF, 22 Apr. 1943.

95. SWPA Intel. Sums.95, 97, and 100, dtd. 17 and 24 Apr. and 5 May 1943.

96. Histories, 49th and 35th Ftr. Gps.

97. Histories, 49th Ftr. Gp., 80th Ftr. Sq., 5th Tac. Air Com. Sq.; Form 34, 35th Ftr. Sq., 16 to 22 May 1943; SWPA Intel. Sum. 104, 19 May 1943.

98. The analysis of types of mission performed was taken from Form 34 for the Fifth Air Force squadrons during March, April, and May. See also History, 8th Photo Sq.

99. Claims for these shipping attacks were somewhat exaggerated, but it seems clear from studying the reports that considerable damage was done by hits and near misses. Form 34 gives the most satisfactory accounts for the statistician. These should be supplemented by the Narrative Mission Reports of individual pilots and squadrons. The operations reports in the cables are also of some value, although they must be used with considerable caution. The following ships were definitely sunk: On 13 March the 3,103-ton Momoyama Maru at Wewak; on 14 April the 5,872-ton India Maru at Wewak and the 4,150-ton Sydney Maru at Hansa Bay; on 20 April the 864-ton Kosei Maru at Wewak; and on 8 May the 970-ton Tomoika Maru and the 546-ton Sumida Maru at Madang. (See JANAC.) As a commentary on this list, General Kenney suggests the following additions: Kaijo Maru (3,270 tons), sunk by B-24 just south of the Celebes on 10 March 1943; the Okuyo Maru (2,904 tons), sunk by B-24's at Ambon; and the Gisho Maru (543 tons), "sunk by B-24 at 4°30'S/150°30'E (about half-way between Kavieng and Rabaul)." (Kenney interview.)

100. JANAC lists the only vessel sunk as the Florida Maru.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Anson Raymond for the HyperWar Foundation