March 7, 2013
Commemoration of the Battle of the Bismark Sea
More than 200 attendees have marked the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bismarck Sea at a service at RAAF Base Richmond today.
The Battle of the Bismarck Sea ran from 2-4 March 1943 and was critical to Allied success in the New Guinea campaign of the Second World War. As troops battled along the Kokoda Trail, the Japanese attempted to reinforce its positions in New Guinea by sailing eight troop ships carrying 6,900 troops from Rabaul to Lae.
Following close reconnaissance of the fleet, the Royal Australian Air Force and United States Army Air Force sent 90 aircraft to destroy the convoy, helping influence the outcome of the campaign in New Guinea. Shortly after World War II, United States Army General Douglas MacArthur described it as 'the decisive aerial engagement' of the war in the South West Pacific.
Joining past and present Air Force personnel at RAAF Base Richmond for the memorial service today was Air Force's current Air Commander Australia Air Vice-Marshal Mel Hupfeld.
"The Battle of the Bismarck Sea is often referred to as 'a land battle, fought at sea, and won by the air',"Air Vice-Marshal Hupfeld said. "Its lessons continue to be studied, and are still as relevant today as they were 70 years ago."
Dr Alan Stephens, who delivered the key-note speech during the commemoration service, said that the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, "finally eliminated any likelihood that the Japanese might be able to regain the initiative in New Guinea, and subsequently invade Australia."