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Battle of the Bismarck Sea: a Ken Wright feature

Bombing While the fighting was taking place along the Kokoda Trail, on 25 August 1942 a Japanese naval convoy landed 2,700 troops supported by several tanks at Milne Bay.

Facing them were 8,824 Australian and American troops. This was the first time Australian militia, AIF and Americans fought together and after 11 days of heavy fighting, they had beaten a common enemy.

On 5 September, Japanese ships evacuated what remained of their troops. They had suffered their first defeat losing 311 personnel with 700 missing. The victory bolstered the confidence of the Allies who were beginning to think the Japanese were invincible.

Then, on 2 November, the Australian flag was hoisted above the Kokoda plateau but three more months of bloody fighting lay ahead before the Australians, joined at last by American troops, pushed on towards Buna and Gona.

The Japanese soldiers received their last reinforcements and supplies at Buna and knew this was their last stand. Surrender or evacuation was out of the question; they were to either be victorious or die.

Japanese High Command began planning a resupply Lae by a large convoy of ships. Allied intelligence became aware through intercepted and translated radio messages.

The convoy left Rabaul at night under strict radio silence and an umbrella of bad weather.

The Allies had been practising for an aerial attack but Australian Air Commodore WH ‘Bull’ Garing convinced the Americans of the need for a massive, coordinated air attack using large numbers of aircraft, striking the convoy from different altitudes and directions with precise timing.

So the Battle of the Bismarck Sea was conceived.

Download Ken Wright's graphic and detailed account of an event that proved crucial to the defence of Australia in ‘We sent the Japs to hell: the battle of the Bismarck Sea’’.


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