Friday, 1 March 2013                                                                                                                         VA016



The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, has called on all Australians to remember the efforts of the men who served for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, as tomorrow commemorates the 70th anniversary of the battle.


“The Battle of the Bismarck Sea was a crucial Allied attack which prevented thousands of Japanese reinforcements arriving in New Guinea. The courage, skill and tenacity shown by members of the RAAF during this important Allied victory will forever be remembered.


“Working in coordination with the United States Army Air Forces, RAAF aircrew fought tirelessly in poor weather conditions, demonstrating excellent planning and coordination to deliver a devastating blow to the Japanese,” Mr Snowdon said.


On 2 March 1943, the Battle of the Bismarck Sea erupted as Allied forces attacked enemy transport ships making their way to New Guinea to reinforce their troops after recent defeats at Milne Bay, the Kokoda track, the Beachheads and Wau.


Thick cloud cover originally shielded the Japanese ships making their way to New Guinea but, as skies cleared, a formation of B17 Flying Fortresses attacked the convoy. These attacks continued throughout the day in relays, with several ships being damaged and at least one transport sunk. It was however the following day, 3 March, when Allied forces were most successful as skies were clear.


On the morning of 3 March, RAAF Beaufort torpedo bombers attacked the convoy followed closely by 13 RAAF Beaufighters from Milne Bay that inflicted damage to the convoy. Following further attacks by the United States Army Air Forces, the final aerial attacks resulted in the sinking of all eight enemy transport ships, four escorting destroyers and damage to a further four destroyers.


Japanese forces suffered horrendous losses with more then 2,800 killed, while the battle cost the Allies 13 lives and eight wounded.


“Records show that few Allied aircraft were lost during this Battle, however we should remember the mental and physical strain placed on pilots and crew during such battles. Forced to fly long hours, with little rest in harsh environments, these Australians did our country proud.


“They didn’t take a backwards step and asked for nothing in return. It is only right that we remember their efforts today, on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bismarck Sea,”  Mr Snowdon said.


Media inquiries:      Minister Snowdon: Marcus Butler 0417 917 796

Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203