sunnuntai 18. maaliskuuta 2018

Satoru Anabuki

Lieutenant Colonel Satoru Anabuki ( 穴吹 智 Anabuki Satoru , December 5, 1921 – June 2005, sometimes Satoshi ) was, depending on the source, the second or third  highest flying ace of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in World War II , with 39 victories (51 claimed). Strangely enough there are 53 claimed victories to be found in his autobiography Soku no Kawa (see below), where his first triple kill (nos. 10-12) was mis-counted as just one (next kill was noted as no. 11).

                Kuvahaun tulos haulle Ki-27

Born into a farming family in the Kagawa Prefecture,  he graduated high school to take the entrance examination for the Juvenile Flying Soldier School and entered the Tokyo Army Aviation School in April 1938, graduating in March 1941 in the 6th Juvenile Soldier Course and receiving a promotion to corporal in October. He was assigned to the 3rd Company of the 50th Air Squadron , stationed on Formosa in 1941. 

With the outbreak of the Pacific War , he fought in the conquest of the Philippines , where he claimed his first victory, a Curtiss P-40 , on December 22, 1941. 
On February 9, 1942, he shot down two more.
                Aiheeseen liittyvä kuva

                Kuvahaun tulos haulle Ki-43 "Hayabusa

Soon after, his unit returned to Japan to exchange their Nakajima Ki-27 "Nates" for more advanced Ki-43 "Hayabusa" (allied code name "Oscar"). The 50th Air Squadron was then sent to Burma in June 1942. He was promoted to sergeant in December. On 24 January 1943, he shot down his first heavily armed B-24 bomber. He claimed to have shot down three B-24s and one P-38 fighter escort in a single engagement on 8 October 1943, but this has been disputed. 

The third B-24 claimed was reported rammed by him causing great damage to his aircraft in which he crash landed on the shoreline to be rescued three days later. In recognition of this achievement he was awarded an individual citation - at that time unprecedented for a pilot who was still alive. 

               Aiheeseen liittyvä kuva

In 1944, he was reassigned to Japan to be a flight instructor at the Akeno Army Flying School . He flew in the defense of the home islands. In December 1944, he was promoted to sergeant major and returned to action over the Philippines, where he claimed at least four F6F Hellcats shot down flying the Ki-84 "Hayate" . Anabuki scored his last victory over Japan, a B-29.

When the Japan Self-Defense Forces were formed in the early 1950s, he enlisted and flew a helicopter for many years before retiring. 
After the war in 1950, he enlisted in the National Police Reserve. Via the Police Reserve Force, he served as a captain flying Northeast Ground Self-Defense Force helicopters. 
He retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1971, subsequently joining Japan Airlines and retiring in 1984.

Victory claims of Satoru Anubiki, data from 
Kill Date Flying Victim Comments
1 22/12/1941 Ki-27 P-40 Lingayen, Philippines
2 - Ki-27 unknown unknown
3 09/02/1942 Ki-27 P-40         Bataan, Philippines
4 25/10/1942 Ki-43 P-40         Chinskia , India
5 10/12/1942 Ki-43 Hurricane Chittagong, India
- 15/12/1942 Ki-43 Hurricane Chittagong, India (probable)
6 20/12/1942 Ki-43 Hurricane Magwe, Burma
7 20/12/1942 Ki-43 Blenheim Magwe, Burma (injured)
8 23/12/1942 Ki-43 unknown Fenny, Burma ?
9 23/12/1942 Ki-43 Blenheim Magwe, Burma (Night kill )
10-12 24/12/1942 Ki-43 3 Hurricanes Magwe, Burma
13 30/12/1942 Ki-43 Blenheim Meiktila, Burma
14 14/01/1943 Ki-43 Hurricane Inden, India ?
15 16/01/1943 Ki-43 P-40         Yunnan, China
16 17/01/1943 Ki-43 Hurricane Fenny, Burma ?
17-18 19/01/1943 Ki-43 2 Hurricanes Akyab, Burma
19 24/01/1943 Ki-43 Wellington Rangoon, Burma
20 26/01/1943 Ki-43 B-24 Mingaladon, Burma (first B-24 daylight kill)
21 30/01/1943 Ki-43 B-25 Toungoo , Burma
22 28/02/1943 Ki-43 Blenheim Akyab, Burma
23 28/02/1943 Ki-43 Hurricane Akyab, Burma
- 02/03/1943 Ki-43 Hurricane Fenny, Burma ? (probable)
24 24/03/1943 Ki-43 B-25         Meiktila, Burma
- 29/03/1943 Ki-43 Hurricane Mindon, Burma (probable)
25-26 30/03/1943 Ki-43 2 Hurricanes Mindon, Burma
27-29 31/03/1943 Ki-43 3 Hurricanes Patenga, India
30-31 04/04/1943 Ki-43 2 Hurricanes Dohazari, India
- 20/04/1943 Ki-43 Hurricane Imphal, India (probable)
32 20/04/1943 Ki-43 P-36         Imphal, India
33-34 21/04/1943 Ki-43 2 P-36s Imphal, India
35 28/04/1943 Ki-43 P-40         Kunming , China
36 04/05/1943 Ki-43 Hurricane Cox's Bazar, India
37-40 15/05/1943 Ki-43 4 P-40s Kunming, China
41-42 22/05/1943 Ki-43 2 Hurricanes Chittagong, India
43-44 29/05/1943 Ki-43 1 Hurricane 
1 Spitfire ? Chittagong, India 
Ki-43 "Fubuki" retired of service with 230 hours of flying
45-48 08/10/1943 Ki-43 1 P-38 , 3 B-24s Rangoon, Burma (heavily injured) 
flying Ki-43 "Kimikaze"
49-52 unknown Ki-84 4 Hellcats Philippines (In separated sorties)
53 unknown Ki-100 B-29          Honshu, Japan

tiistai 6. maaliskuuta 2018

FAF 100 years

Kuvahaun tulos haulle ilmavoimat 1918The Finnish Air Force (FAF or FiAF) (Finnish: Ilmavoimat = "Air Forces"), Swedish: Flygvapnet = "Air Arm") is one of the branches of the Finnish Defence Forces. Its peacetime tasks are airspace surveillance, identification flights, and production of readiness formations for wartime conditions. 

The Finnish Air Force was founded on 6 March 1918. 
Early Years of Finnish Air Force
The son of Eagle's starts to flying...  >>>

The first steps in the history of Finnish aviation were taken with Russian aircraft. The Russian military had a number of early designs stationed in the country, which until the Russian Revolution of 1917 had been part of the Russian Empire. Soon after the declaration of independence the Finnish Civil War erupted, in which the Soviets/Russians sided with the Reds – the leftist rebels. Finland's White Guard, the Whites, managed to seize a few aircraft from the Russians, but were forced to rely on foreign pilots and aircraft. Sweden refused to send men and material, but individual Swedish citizens came to the aid of the Whites. 

The insignia of the Finnish Air force 1918–1945

The editor of the Swedish daily magazine Aftonbladet, Waldemar Langlet, bought a N.A.B. Albatros aircraft from the Nordiska Aviatik A.B. factory with funds gathered by the Finlands vänner ("Friends of Finland") organization. This aircraft, the first to arrive from Sweden, was flown via Haparanda on 25 February 1918 by Swedish pilots John-Allan Hygerth (who on March 10 became the first commander of the Finnish Air Force) and Per Svanbäck. The aircraft made a stop at Kokkola and had to make a forced landing in Jakobstad when its engine broke down. It was later given the Finnish Air Force designation F.2 ("F" coming from the Swedish word "Flygmaskin", meaning "aircraft").

Swedish count Eric von Rosen gave the Finnish White government its second aircraft, a Thulin Typ D. Its pilot, Lieutenant Nils Kindberg, flew the aircraft to Vaasa on 6 March 1918, carrying von Rosen as a passenger. As this gift ran counter to the will of the Swedish government, and no flight permit had been given, it resulted in Kindberg receiving a fine of 100 Swedish crowns for leaving the country without permission. This aircraft is considered by some to be the first aircraft of the Finnish Air Force, since the Finnish Air Force did not officially exist during the Civil War, and it was only the Red side who flew a few aircraft with the help of some Russian pilots. The von Rosen aircraft was given the designation F.1. The Finnish Air Force is one of the oldest air forces of the world – the RAF was founded as the first independent branch on 1 April 1918 and the Swedish Flygvapnet in 1925.

Von Rosen had painted his personal good luck charm on the Thulin Typ D aircraft. This charm – a blue swastika, the ancient symbol of the sun and good luck – was adopted as the insignia of the Finnish Air Force. The white circular background was created when the Finns tried to paint over the advertisement from the Thulin air academy.[4] The swastika was officially taken into use after an order by Commander-in-Chief C. G. E. Mannerheim on 18 March 1918. The FAF changed its aircraft insignia after 1944, due to an Allied Control Commission decree prohibiting Fascist organizations and it resembling the 3rd Reich's swastika.
                    Kuvahaun tulos haulle HANSA BRANDENBURG

                    Kuvahaun tulos haulle ilmavoimat 1918

The F.1 aircraft was destroyed in an accident, killing its crew, not long after it had been handed over to the Finns. On 7 September 1920, two newly purchased Savoia flying boats crashed in the Swiss Alps en route to Finland, killing all on-board (three Finns and one Italian). This day has since been the memorial day for fallen pilots.

The Finnish Air Force assigns the matriculation numbers to its aircraft by assigning each type a two-letter code following by dash and an individual aircraft number. The two-letter code usually refers to the aircraft manufacturer or model, such as HN for F/A-18 Hornet, DK for Saab 35 Draken, VN for Valmet Vinka etc.
Finnish Air Force
Suomen Ilmavoimien tunnus.svg
Finnish Air Force emblem
Activefrom 6 March 1918
Country Finland
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Size3,100 active personnel, 38,000 reserve personnel
Motto(s)Qualitas Potentia Nostra
Quality is our Strength
EngagementsFinnish Civil War
Winter War
Continuation War
Lapland War
CommanderMajor General Sampo Eskelinen
RoundelRoundel of Finland.svg
Aviator badgeSuomen lentomerkki ohjaajalle.svg
The Finnish Civil War 1918
Most of the airbases that the Russians had left in Finland had been taken over by Whites after the Russian pilots had returned to Russia.

The Reds were in possession of a few airbases and a few Russian aircraft, mainly amphibious aircraft. They had 12 aircraft in all. The Reds did not have any pilots themselves, so they hired some of the Russian pilots that had stayed behind. On 24 February 1918 five aircraft arrived to Viipuri, and were quickly transferred to Riihimäki.

The Reds created air units in Helsinki, Tampere, Kouvola, and Viipuri. There were no overall headquarters, but the individual units served under the commander of the individual front line. A flight school was created in Helsinki, but no students were trained there before the fall of Helsinki.

Two of the aircraft, one reconnaissance aircraft (Nieuport 10) and one fighter aircraft (Nieuport 17) that had arrived to Riihimäki were sent to Tampere, and three to Kouvola. Four Russian pilots and six mechanics also arrived to Tampere. The first war sortie was flown on March 1, 1918 over

Two of the aircraft, one reconnaissance aircraft (Nieuport 10) and one fighter aircraft (Nieuport 17) that had arrived to Riihimäki were sent to Tampere, and three to Kouvola. Four Russian pilots and six mechanics also arrived to Tampere. The first war sortie was flown on March 1, 1918 over Naistenlahti.

It seems like the Reds also operated two aircraft over the Eastern front. The Reds mainly performed reconnaissance, bombing sorties, spreading of propaganda leaflets, and artillery spotting. The Reds' air activity wasn’t particularly successful. Their air operations suffered from bad leadership, worn-out aircraft, and the un-motivated Russian pilots. Some of the aircraft were captured by the Whites, while the rest were destroyed.

The air activity of the Whites
In January 1918 the Whites did not have a single aircraft, let alone pilots, so they asked the Swedes for help. Sweden was a neutral nation and thus could not send any official help. Sweden also forbade its pilots to aid Finland.

Despite this official stance, however, one Morane-Saulnier Parasol, and three N.A.B. Albatros arrived from Sweden by the end of February 1918. Two of the Albatross aircraft were gifts from private citizens supporting the White Finnish cause, while the third was bought. It was initially meant that the aircraft would be used to support the air operations of the Whites, but the aircraft ultimately proved unsuitable.

Along with aircraft shortages, the Whites also did not have any personnel, so all the pilots and mechanics also came from Sweden. One of the Finnish Jägers, Lieutenant Bertil Månsson, had been given pilot training in Imperial Germany, but he stayed behind in Germany, trying to secure further aircraft deals for Finland.

During the Civil War the White Finnish Air Force consisted of:
- 29 Swedes (16 pilots, two observers and 11 mechanics). Of the pilots, only 4 had 
  been given military training, and one of them was operating as an observer.
- 2 Danes (one pilot, one observer)
- 7 Russians (six pilots, one observer)
- 28 Finns (four pilots of whom two were military trained, six observers, two     engineers 
  and 16 mechanics).
 The air activity consisted mainly of reconnaissance sorties. The Germans brought 
 several of their own aircraft, but they did not contribute much to the overall outcome 
  of the war.

The first Air Force Base of independent Finland was founded on the shore near Kolho. The base could operate three aircraft. The first aircraft was brought by rail on March 7, 1918, and on March 17, 1918 took off from the base for the first time. In 1918, the Finns took over nine Russian Stetinin M-9 aircraft that had been left behind.

The first air operation of the Whites during the war was flown over Lyly. It was a reconnaissance gathering mission as the front line moved south. As the line neared Tampere, the AFB was moved first to Orivesi and then to Kaukajärvi near Tampere as well. The contribution of the White air force during the war was almost insignificant.

From March 10, 1918, the Finnish Air Force was led by the Swedish Lt. John-Allan Hygerth. He was however replaced on April 18, 1918, due to his unsuitability for the position and numerous accidents. His job was taken over by the German Captain Carl Seber, who commanded the air force from April 28, 1918 until December 13, 1918.

By the end of the Civil War, the Finnish Air Force had 40 aircraft, of which 20 had been captured from the Reds (the Reds did not operate this many aircraft, but some had been found abandoned on the Åland Islands). Five of the aircraft had been flown by the Allies from Russia, four had been gifts from Sweden and eight had been bought from Germany.
Intelligence machine to prepare for the trip. Bomb is placed under the wing.
Observer are camera in hand, and follow the event. Viiksjärvi 1942.03.25

                          Patrol fly begins...

                         Major Bremer and ace of hearts

                    Stark winter is coming, New skis under feet...

                             Fokker XXI

Kuhmo Sauna-Lake. 03/14/1940
Russian aircraft. Forced landing and destroyed when mortar grenade hits.
Grenade ammo hits the airplane wing

France donated 50 Morane saulnier machines to Finland when winter war began. Only 30 can be imported, because Germany controls all European seaports
One Danish volunteer pilot. Pyhäniemi 1940.03.13

Avro Anson, AN-101 Inquiry and Bombing Machine Tikkakoski 1940.03.07

Long-nose Blenheim, Bl-129 bombing machine for gasoline taking. Tikkakoski 1940.03.07

The Winter War began on 30 November 1939, when the Soviet Air Force bombed 21 Finnish cities and municipalities. The Soviet Union is estimated to have had about 5,000 aircraft in 1939, and of these, some 700 fighters and 800 medium bombers were brought to the Finnish front to support the Red Army's operations. As with most aerial bombardment of the early stages of WW2, the damage against the Finnish industry and railways was quite limited.

At the beginning of the Winter War, the Finnish Air Force was equipped with only 17 Bristol Blenheim bombers and 46 fighters(32 modern Fokker D.XXI and 14 obsolete Bristol Bulldog). There were also 58 liaison aircraft but 20 of these were only used for messengers. The most modern aircraft in the Finnish arsenal were the British-designed Bristol Blenheim bombers that had been built under license in Finland. The primary fighter aircraft was the Fokker D.XXI, a cheap but maneuverable design with fabric-covered fuselage and fixed landing gear. On paper, this force should have been no match for the attacking Soviet Red Air Force. However, the Finnish Air Force had already adopted the Finger-four formation in mid-30s, which was to be found to be much more effective formation than the Vic formation that many other countries were still using when World War II began.In order to prevent their aircraft from being destroyed on the ground, the Finns spread out their aircraft to many different airfields and hid them in the nearby forests. 

The Finns constructed many decoys and built shrapnel protection walls for the aircraft. Soviet air raids on Finnish airfields usually caused little or no damage as a result, and often resulted in interception of the attackers by the Finns as the bombers flew homeward.As the war progressed, the Finns tried desperately to purchase aircraft wherever there were any to be found. This policy resulted in a very diverse aircraft inventory, which was to cause some major logistical problems until the inventory became more standardized. 

The Finnish Air Force was to consist of numerous American, British, Czechoslovakian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Soviet and Swedish designs. Other countries, like South Africa and Denmark, sent aircraft to assist in the Finnish war effort. Many of these purchases and gifts did not arrive until the end of the hostilities, but were to see action later during the Continuation and Lapland wars.To make up for its weaknesses (few and obsolete fighters) the FiAF mainly focused on attacking enemy bombers from directions that were disadvantageous to the enemy. Soviet fighters were usually superior in firepower, speed and agility, and were to be avoided unless the enemy was in a disadvantageous position. 

An of this strategy was the surprise attack on the Immola air base in late February 1940 by some 40 Soviet fighters. The Finns were surprised during take off and lost seven planes, one Fokker D.XXI and six Gloster Gladiators.As a result of these tactics, the Finnish Air Force managed to shoot down 218 Soviet aircraft during the Winter War while losing only 47 to enemy fire. The Finnish anti-aircraft also had 314 confirmed downed enemy planes. 30 Soviet planes were captured – these were "kills" that landed more or less intact within Finland and were quickly repaired.
Fighter Pilots and BreWster. Hirvas 1942.06.27

Ripon sub-marine intelligence plane starts. Santahamina 1942.07.23

Fiat G-50 plane returned home, behind one Mig-3 and one I-153, Rautu 15.08.1942

The war booty PE-2 dive bomber. Mikkeli-Joensuu line, in air 1942.09.04

Westland-Lysander start-up. Hirvas 1942.10.23

Morane's victory smile, has dropped the Lagg-3 machine, Tiiksjärvi 08.06.1943

The Finnish Air Force was better prepared for the Continuation War. It had been considerably strengthened and consisted of some 550 aircraft, though many were considered second-rate and thus "exportable" by their countries of origin. Finland purchased a large number of aircraft during the Winter War, but few of those reached service during the short conflict. Politics also played a factor, since Hitler did not wish to antagonize the Soviet Union by allowing aircraft exports through German-controlled territory during the conflict. 

In addition to Fokker fighters and Bristol Blenheim bombers built under license, new aircraft types were in place by the time hostilities with Soviet Union resumed in 1941. Small numbers of Hawker Hurricanes arrived from the United Kingdom, Morane-Saulnier M.S.406s from France, Fiat G.50s from Italy, and one liaison aircraft. Numerous Brewster B239s from the neutral USA strengthened the FiAF. A few dozen Curtiss Hawk 75s were captured by the Germans in France and Norway then sold to Finland when Germany began warming up its ties with Finland; Tupolev SB, Ilyushin DB-3 and Polikarpov I-153 were reconditioned for service.

The FiAF proved capable of holding its own in the upcoming battles with the Red Air Force: Older models, like the Fokker D.XXI and Gloster Gladiator, had been replaced with new aircraft in front-line combat units.

The FiAF's main mission was to achieve air superiority over Finland and prevent Soviet air power from reinforcing their front lines. The fighter squadrons were very successful in the Finnish offensive of 1941. A stripped-down, more maneuverable, and significantly lightened version of the American Brewster B239 "Buffalo" was the FiAF's main fighter until 1943. Results with this fighter were very good, even though the type was considered to be a failure in the US Navy and with British Far East forces. 

In Finnish use, the Brewster had a victory rate of 32:1 – 459 kills to 15 losses. German Bf 109s replaced the Brewster as the primary front-line fighter of the FiAF in 1943, though the Buffalos continued in secondary roles until the end of the wars. Other types, especially the Italian Fiat G.50 and Curtiss Hawk 75 also proved capable in the hands of well-trained Finnish pilots. Various Russian designs also saw action when lightly damaged "kills" were repaired and made airworthy.

Dornier Do 17s (received as a gift from Hermann Göring in 1942) and Junkers Ju 88s improved the bombing capability of the Finnish Air Force. The bomber force was also strengthened with a number of captured Soviet bombers, which had been taken in large numbers by the Germans during Operation Barbarossa. The bomber units flew assorted missions with varying results, but a large part of their time was spent in training, waiting to use their aircraft until the time required it. Thus the bomber squadrons of Flying Regiment 4 were ready for the summer battles of 1944, which included for example the Battle of Tali-Ihantala.

While the FiAF was successful in its mission, the conditions were not easy. Spare parts for the FiAF planes were scarce — parts from the US (Buffalo & Hawk), Britain (Hurricanes), and Italy (G.50) were unavailable for much of the war. Repairs took often a long time, and the State Aircraft Factory was burdened with restoration/repair of Soviet war booty planes, foreign aircraft with many hours of flight time, and the development of indigenous Finnish fighter types. Also, one damaged bomber took up workshop space equalling three fighters.

Finland was required to expel or intern remaining German forces as part of its peace agreement with the Soviets in mid-1944. As a result, the final air battles were against retreating Luftwaffe units.

The Finnish Air Force did not bomb any civilian targets during either war. Curiously, overflying Soviet towns and bases was also forbidden, as to avoid any unneeded provocations and to spare equipment.

According to Kalevi Keskinen's and Kari Stenman's book Aerial Victories 1–2", the Finnish Air Force shot down 1,621 Soviet aircraft while losing 210 of its own aircraft during the Continuation War.

Short nose Blenheim's preparing for advanced photography for boarding behind the lines, Värtsilä area 1943.10.06.                   

                        Focke-Wulf 189 light scout plane.

      Arado 64/66 airplane Helsinki Malmi airport 29 January 1944
           night bomber harassment and night fight bombing

Continuation war booty, soviet Tubolev DB-3f 

Plane departing for the Marine Intelligence Flight.
Malmi Airport 1944.01.07

Winter War booty, Tupolev SB-2 gets a wreath: 1000 submarine pesticide flight, this time continue war, and plane served very well new owner.
The end of World War II, and the Paris peace talks of 1947 brought with it some limitations to the FiAF. Among these were that the Finnish Air Force were to have:

No more than 60 combat aircraft
No aircraft with internal bomb bays
No guided missiles or atomic weapons
No weaponry of German construction or using German parts
A maximum strength of 3,000 persons
No offensive weapons
These revisions followed Soviet demands closely. When Britain tried to add some of their own (fearing that the provisions were there only to augment the Soviet air-defences) they were opposed by the Soviets. The revisions were again revised in 1963 and Finland was allowed to buy guided missiles and a few bombers that were used as target-tugs.

The FAF also used a loop-hole to strengthen its capabilities by purchasing large numbers of two-seater aircraft, which counted as trainer aircraft and were not included in the revisions. These aircraft could have secondary roles.

During the Cold War years, Finland tried to balance its purchases between east, west and domestic producers. This led to a diverse inventory of Soviet, British, Swedish, French and Finnish aircraft. After leading Finnish politicians held unofficial talks with their Swedish counterparts, Sweden began storing surplus Saab 35 Drakens, which were to be transferred to Finland in the event of a war with the Soviet Union. These were kept until the 1980s.

On 22 September 1990, a week before the unification of Germany, Finland declared that the limiting treaties were no longer active and that all the provisions of the Paris Peace Treaties were nullified. The signatory states abstained from diplomatic notes regarding the declaration, which thus confirmed the nullification.

In the 1990s, with the Cold War over, the Finnish Air Force ended its policy of purchasing Soviet/Russian aircraft and replaced the Saab Draken and MiG-21s in its fighter wing with US F/A-18C/D Hornets.

Today, the FAF is organized into three Air Commands, each assigned to one of the three air defence areas into which Finland is divided. The main Wing bases are at Rovaniemi, Tampere and Kuopio-Rissala, each with a front-line squadron. Pilot training is undertaken at the Air Force Academy in Tikkakoski, with advanced conversion performed at squadron level

sunnuntai 4. maaliskuuta 2018

Battle of the Bismarck Sea

The Battle of the Bismarck Sea (2–4 March 1943) took place in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) during World War II when aircraft of the U.S. Fifth Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) attacked a Japanese convoy carrying troops to Lae, New Guinea. Most of the Japanese task force was destroyed, and Japanese troop losses were heavy.

The Japanese convoy was a result of a Japanese Imperial General Headquarters decision in December 1942 to reinforce their position in the South West Pacific. A plan was devised to move some 6,900 troops from Rabaul directly to Lae. The plan was understood to be risky, because Allied air power in the area was strong, but it was decided to proceed because otherwise the troops would have to be landed a considerable distance away and march through inhospitable swamp, mountain and jungle terrain without roads before reaching their destination. On 28 February 1943, the convoy – comprising eight destroyers and eight troop transports with an escort of approximately 100 fighters – set out from Simpson Harbour in Rabaul.
The Allies had detected preparations for the convoy, and naval codebreakers in Melbourne (FRUMEL) and Washington, D.C., had decrypted and translated messages indicating the convoy’s intended destination and date of arrival. The Allied Air Forces had developed new techniques they hoped would improve the chances of successful air attack on ships. They detected and shadowed the convoy, which came under sustained air attack on 2–3 March 1943. Follow-up attacks by PT boats and aircraft were made on 4 March. All eight transports and four of the escorting destroyers were sunk. Out of 6,900 troops who were badly needed in New Guinea, only about 1,200 made it to Lae. Another 2,700 were rescued by destroyers and submarines and returned to Rabaul. The Japanese made no further attempts to reinforce Lae by ship, greatly hindering their ultimately unsuccessful efforts to stop Allied offensives in New Guinea.

Battle of the Bismarck Sea
Part of World War IIPacific War
A ship viewed from far above. There are a dozen splashes in the water around it.
Japanese transport under aerial attack in the Bismarck Sea, 3 March 1943
Date2–4 March 1943
LocationBismarck Sea, in the vicinity of Lae
ResultAllied victory
 United States
Commanders and leaders
United States Ennis Whitehead
Australia Joe Hewitt
Empire of Japan Gunichi Mikawa
Empire of Japan Masatomi Kimura
39 heavy bombers;
41 medium bombers;
34 light bombers;
54 fighters
10 torpedo boats
8 destroyers,
8 troop transports,
100 aircraft
Casualties and losses
2 bombers,
4 fighters destroyed
13 killed[1]
8 transports,
4 destroyers sunk
20 fighters destroyed,
2,890+ dead
Six months after Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the United States won a strategic victory at the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Seizing the strategic initiative, the United States and its Allies landed on Guadalcanal in the southern Solomon Islands in August 1942, beginning the Solomon Islands Campaign. The battle for Guadalcanal ended in victory for the Allies with the withdrawal of Japanese forces from the island in early February 1943. At the same time, Australian and American forces in New Guinea repulsed the Japanese land offensive along the Kokoda Track. Going on the offensive, the Allied forces captured Buna–Gona, destroying Japanese forces in that area.

The ultimate goal of the Allied counter-offensives in New Guinea and the Solomons was to capture the main Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain, later codified as Operation Cartwheel, and clear the way for the eventual reconquest of the Philippines. Recognising the threat, the Japanese continued to send land, naval, and aerial reinforcements to the area in an attempt to check the Allied advances.

Reviewing the progress of the Battle of Guadalcanal and the Battle of Buna–Gona in December 1942, the Japanese faced the prospect that neither could be held. Accordingly, Imperial General Headquarters decided to take steps to strengthen the Japanese position in the South West Pacific by sending Lieutenant General Jusei Aoki’s 20th Division from Korea to Guadalcanal and Lieutenant General Heisuke Abe’s 41st Division from China to Rabaul. Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura, the commander of the Japanese Eighth Area Army at Rabaul, ordered Lieutenant General Hatazō Adachi’s XVIII Army to secure Madang, Wewak and Tuluvu in New Guinea. 

On 29 December, Adachi ordered the 102nd Infantry Regiment and other units under the command of Major General Toru Okabe, the commander of the infantry group of the 51st Division, to move from Rabaul to Lae and advance inland to capture Wau. Following the decision to evacuate Guadalcanal on 4 January, the Japanese switched priorities from the Solomon Islands to New Guinea, and it was decided to send the 20th and 41st Divisions to Wewak.
On 5 January 1943, the convoy, which consisted of five destroyers and five troop transports carrying Okabe’s force, set out for Lae from Rabaul. Forewarned by Ultra, United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft spotted, shadowed and attacked the convoy, which was shielded by low clouds and Japanese fighters.

The Allies claimed to have shot down 69 Japanese aircraft for the loss of 10 of their own. An RAAF Consolidated PBY Catalina sank the transport Nichiryu Maru. Although destroyers rescued 739 of the 1,100 troops on board, the ship took with it all of Okabe’s medical supplies. Another transport, Myoko Maru, was so badly damaged at Lae by USAAF North American B-25 Mitchells that it had to be beached. Nonetheless, the convoy succeeded in reaching Lae on 7 January and landing its troops, but Okabe was defeated in the Battle of Wau.

Most of the 20th Division was landed at Wewak from naval high speed transports on 19 January 1943. The bulk of the 41st Division followed on 12 February.[6] Imamura and Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa, the commander of the South East Area Fleet, developed a plan to move the command post of the headquarters of the Japanese XVIII Army and the main body of the 51st Division from Rabaul to Lae on 3 March, followed by moving the remainder of the 20th Division to Madang on 10 March.
This plan was acknowledged to be risky because Allied air power in the area was strong. 

The XVIII Army staff held war games that predicted losses of four out of ten transports, and between 30 and 40 aircraft. They gave the operation only a 50–50 chance of success. On the other hand, if the troops were landed at Madang, they faced a march of more than 230 km over inhospitable swamp, mountain and jungle terrain without roads. To augment the three naval and two army fighter groups in the area assigned to protect the convoy, the Imperial Japanese Navy temporarily detached 18 fighters from the aircraft carrier Zuihō’s fighter group from Truk to Kavieng.

The Allies soon began detecting signs of preparations for a new convoy. A Japanese floatplane of the type normally used for anti-submarine patrols in advance of convoys was sighted on 7 February 1943. The Allied Air Forces South West Pacific Area commander – Lieutenant General George Kenney – ordered an increase in reconnaissance patrols over Rabaul. On 14 February, aerial photographs were taken that showed 79 vessels in port, including 45 merchant ships and six transports. It was clear that another convoy was being prepared, but its destination was unknown. 

On 16 February, naval codebreakers in Melbourne (FRUMEL) and Washington, D.C. finished decrypting and translating a coded message revealing the Japanese intention to land convoys at Wewak, Madang and Lae. Subsequently, codebreakers decrypted a message from the Japanese 11th Air Fleet to the effect that destroyers and six transports would reach Lae about 5 March. Another report indicated that they would reach Lae by 12 March. On 22 February, reconnaissance aircraft reported 59 merchant vessels in the harbour at Rabaul.

Kenney read this Ultra intelligence in the office of the Supreme Allied Commander, South West Pacific Area – General Douglas MacArthur – on 25 February. The prospect of an additional 6,900 Japanese troops in the Lae area greatly disturbed MacArthur, as they might seriously affect his plans to capture and develop the area. Kenney wrote out orders, which were sent by courier, for Brigadier General Ennis Whitehead, the deputy commander of the Fifth Air Force, and the commander of its Advance Echelon (ADVON) in New Guinea. Under the Fifth Air Force’s unusual command arrangements, Whitehead controlled the Allied Air Forces units of all types in New Guinea. This included the RAAF units there, which were grouped as No. 9 Operational Group RAAF, under the command of Air Commodore Joe Hewitt.

Kenney informed Whitehead of the proposed convoy date, and warned him about the usual Japanese pre-convoy air attack. He also urged that flying hours be cut back so as to allow for a large strike on the convoy, and instructed him to move forward as many aircraft as possible so that they could be close to the nearby captured airfields around Dobodura, where they would not be subject to the vagaries of weather over the Owen Stanley Range. Kenney flew up to Port Moresby on 26 February, where he met with Whitehead. The two generals inspected fighter and bomber units in the area, and agreed to attack the Japanese convoy in the Vitiaz Strait. Kenney returned to Brisbane on 28 February.
The Japanese convoy – comprising eight destroyers and eight troop transports with an escort of approximately 100 fighters – assembled and departed from Simpson Harbour in Rabaul on 28 February. During the January operation, a course was followed that hugged the south coast of New Britain. This had made it easy to provide air cover, but being close to the airfields also made it possible for the Allied Air Forces to attack both the convoy and the airfields at the same time. This time, a route was chosen along the north coast, in the hope that the Allies would be deceived into thinking that the convoy’s objective was Madang. Allied air attacks on the convoy at this point would have to fly over New Britain, allowing interdiction from Japanese air bases there, but the final leg of the voyage would be particularly dangerous, because the convoy would have to negotiate the restricted waters of the Vitiaz Strait. 
The Japanese named the convoy "Operation 81."

The destroyers carried 958 troops while the transports took 5,954. All the ships were combat loaded to expedite unloading at Lae. The commander of the Japanese XVIII Army – Lieutenant General Hatazō Adachi – travelled on the destroyer Tokitsukaze, while that of the 51st Division – Lieutenant General Hidemitsu Nakano – was on board the destroyer Yukikaze. The escort commander – Rear Admiral Masatomi Kimura of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla – flew his flag from the destroyer Shirayuki. 

The other five destroyers were Arashio, Asashio, Asagumo, Shikinami and Uranami. They escorted seven Army transports: Aiyo Maru (2,716 gross register tons), Kembu Maru (950 tons), Kyokusei Maru (5,493 tons), Oigawa Maru (6,494 tons), Sin-ai Maru (3,793 tons), Taimei Maru (2,883 tons) and Teiyo Maru (6,870 tons). Rounding out the force was the lone Navy transport Nojima Maru (8,125 tons). All the ships carried troops, equipment and ammunition, except for the Kembu Maru, which carried 1,000 drums of avgas and 650 drums of other fuel.

The convoy, moving at 13 km/h, was not detected for some time, because of two tropical storms that struck the Solomon and Bismarck Seas between 27 February and 1 March, but at about 15:00 on 1 March, the crew of a patrolling B-24 Liberator heavy bomber spotted the convoy. Eight B-17 Flying Fortresses were sent to the location but failed to locate the ships. 

At dawn on 2 March, a force of six RAAF A-20 Bostons attacked Lae to reduce its ability to provide support. At about 10:00, another Liberator found the convoy. Eight B-17s took off to attack the ships, followed an hour later by another 20. They found the convoy and attacked with 450 kg bombs from 1,500 m. They claimed to have sunk up to three merchant ships. Kyokusei Maru had sunk carrying 1,200 army troops, and two other transports, Teiyo Maru and Nojima, were damaged. Eight Japanese fighters were destroyed and 13 damaged in the day’s action.

The destroyers Yukikaze and Asagumo plucked 950 survivors of Kyokusei Maru from the water. These two destroyers, being faster than the convoy since its speed was dictated by the slower transports, broke away from the group to disembark the survivors at Lae. The destroyers resumed their escort duties the next day. The convoy – without the troop transport and two destroyers – was attacked again on the evening of 2 March by 11 B-17s, with minor damage to one transport. During the night, PBY Catalina flying boats from No. 11 Squadron RAAF took over the task of shadowing the convoy.
By 3 March, the convoy was within range of the air base at Milne Bay, and eight Bristol Beaufort torpedo bombers from No. 100 Squadron RAAF took off from there. Because of bad weather only two found the convoy, and neither scored any hits, but the weather cleared after they rounded the Huon Peninsula. A force of 90 Allied aircraft took off from Port Moresby, and headed for Cape Ward Hunt, while 22 A-20 Bostons of No. 22 Squadron RAAF attacked the Japanese fighter base at Lae, reducing the convoy’s air cover. Attacks on the base continued throughout the day.

At 10:00, 13 B-17s reached the convoy and bombed from medium altitude of 7,000 feet, causing the ships to maneuver, which dispersed the convoy formation and reduced their concentrated anti-aircraft firepower. The B-17s attracted a number of Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters, which were in turn attacked by the P-38 Lightning escorts. A B-17 broke up in the air, and its crew was forced to take to their parachutes. Japanese fighter pilots machine-gunned some of the B-17 crew members as they descended and attacked others in the water after they landed.

Five of the Japanese fighters strafing the B-17 aircrew were promptly engaged and shot down by three Lightnings, which were also lost. The Allied fighter pilots claimed 15 Zeros destroyed, while the B-17 crews claimed five more. In his autobiography, Japanese ace Saburo Sakai denies that any strafing of parachuting men occurred. He claims to be the only plane in the area and he only employed his camera. Actual Japanese fighter losses for the day were seven destroyed and three damaged. B-25s arrived shortly afterward and released their 500-pound bombs between 3,000 and 6,000 feet, reportedly causing two Japanese vessels to collide. The result of the B-17 and B-25 sorties scored few hits but left the convoy ships separated making them vulnerable to strafers and masthead bombers, and with the Japanese anti-aircraft fire being focused on the medium-altitude bombers this left an opening for minimum altitude attacks.

The 13 Beaufighters from No. 30 Squadron RAAF approached the convoy at low level to give the impression they were Beauforts making a torpedo attack. The ships turned to face them, the standard procedure to present a smaller target to torpedo bombers, allowing the Beaufighters to maximise the damage they inflicted on the ships’ anti-aircraft guns, bridges and crews in strafing runs with their four 20 mm  nose cannons and six wing-mounted 7.7 mm machine guns. On board one of the Beaufighters was cameraman Damien Parer, who shot dramatic footage of the battle. Immediately afterward, seven B-25s of the 38th Bombardment Group’s 71st Bombardment Squadron bombed from about 750 m, while six from the 405th Bombardment Squadron attacked at mast height.

They went in and hit this troop ship. What I saw looked like little sticks, maybe a foot long or something like that, or splinters flying up off the deck of ship; they’d fly all around ... and twist crazily in the air and fall out in the water. Then I realized what I was watching were human beings. I was watching hundreds of those Japanese just blown off the deck by those machine guns. They just splintered around the air like sticks in a whirlwind and they’d fall in the water.

Shirayuki was the first ship to be hit, by a combination of strafing and bombing attacks. Almost all the men on the bridge became casualties, including Kimura, who was wounded. One bomb hit started a magazine explosion that caused the stern to break off, and the ship to sink. Her crew was transferred to Shikinami, and Shirayuki was scuttled. The destroyer Tokitsukaze was also hit and fatally damaged. Its crew was taken off by Yukikaze. The destroyer Arashio was hit, and collided with the transport Nojima, disabling her. Both the destroyer and the transport were abandoned, and Nojima was later sunk by an air attack.

Fourteen B-25s returned that afternoon, reportedly claiming 17 hits or near misses. By this time, a third of the transports were sunk or sinking. As the Beaufighters and B-25s had expended their munitions, some USAAF A-20 Havocs of the 3rd Attack Group joined in. Another five hits were claimed by B-17s of the 43rd Bombardment Group from higher altitudes. During the afternoon, further attacks from USAAF B-25s and Bostons of No. 22 Squadron RAAF followed.

All seven of the transports were hit and most were burning or sinking about 100 km south east of Finschhafen, along with the destroyers Shirayuki, Tokitsukaze and Arashio. Four of the destroyers – Shikinami, Yukikaze, Uranami and Asagumo – picked up as many survivors as possible and then retired to Rabaul, accompanied by the destroyer Hatsuyuki, which had come from Rabaul to assist. That night, a force of ten U.S. Navy PT boats – under the command of Lieutenant Commander Barry Atkins – set out to attack the convoy. 

Two boats struck submerged debris and were forced to return. The other eight arrived off Lae in the early hours of 4 March. Atkins spotted a fire that turned out to be the transport Oigawa Maru. PT-143 and PT-150 fired torpedoes at it, sinking the crippled vessel. In the morning, a fourth destroyer – Asashio – was sunk when a B-17 hit her with a 230 kg bomb while she was picking up survivors from Arashio. Only one destroyer, Yukikaze, was undamaged among the four surviving destroyers.

Some 2,700 survivors were taken to Rabaul by the destroyers. On 4 March, another 1,000 or so survivors were adrift on rafts. On the evenings of 3–5 March, PT boats and planes attacked Japanese rescue vessels, as well as the survivors from the sunken vessels on life rafts and swimming or floating in the sea. This was later justified on the grounds that rescued servicemen would have been rapidly landed at their military destination and promptly returned to active service, as well as being retaliation for the Japanese fighter planes attacking survivors of the downed B-17 bomber. 

While many of the Allied aircrew accepted these attacks as being necessary, others were sickened. On 6 March, the Japanese submarines I-17 and I-26 picked up 170 survivors. Two days later, I-26 found another 54 and put them ashore at Lae. Hundreds made their way to various islands. One band of 18 survivors landed on Kiriwina, where they were captured by PT-114. Another made its way to Guadalcanal, only to be killed by an American patrol.

On 4 March the Japanese mounted a retaliatory raid on the Buna airfield, the site of a base that the Allies had captured back in January, though the fighters did little damage. Kenney wrote in his memoir that the Japanese reprisal occurred "after the horse had been stolen from the barn. It was a good thing that the Nip air commander was stupid. Those hundred airplanes would have made our job awfully hard if they had taken part in the big fight over the convoy on March 3rd."

On Goodenough Island, between 8 and 14 March 1943, Australian patrols from the 47th Infantry Battalion found and killed 72 Japanese, captured 42 and found another nine dead on a raft. One patrol killed eight Japanese who had landed in two flat-bottomed boats, in which were found some documents in sealed tins. On translation by the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section, one document turned out to be a copy of the Japanese Army List, with the names and postings of every officer in the Japanese Army. It therefore provided a complete order of battle of the Japanese Army, including many units that had never before been reported. A mention of any Japanese officer could now be correlated with his unit. Copies were made available to intelligence units in every theatre of war against Japan.
The battle was a disaster for the Japanese. Out of 6,900 troops who were badly needed in New Guinea, only about 1,200 made it to Lae. Another 2,700 were saved by destroyers and submarines and returned to Rabaul. About 2,890 Japanese soldiers and sailors were killed. The Allies lost 13 aircrew, 10 of whom were lost in combat while three others died in an accident. There were also eight wounded. Aircraft losses were one B-17 and three P-38s in combat, and one B-25 and one Beaufighter in accidents. 

MacArthur issued a communiqué on 7 March claiming that 22 ships, including 12 transports, three cruisers and seven destroyers, had been sunk along with 12,792 troops. Army Air Force Headquarters in Washington, D.C. looked into the matter in mid-1943 and concluded that there were only 16 ships involved, but GHQ SWPA elected to stick to its original story. After the war, Kenney would repeat the claim.

The Allied Air Forces had used 233,847 rounds of ammunition, and dropped 261 500-pound and 253 thousand-pound bombs. They claimed 19 hits and 42 near misses with the former, and 59 hits and 39 near misses from the latter. Of the 137 bombs dropped in low level attacks, 48, or 35 percent, were claimed to have hit, but only 29, or 7.5 percent, of the 387 bombs dropped from medium altitude. This compared favourably with efforts in August and September 1942 when only 3 percent of bombs dropped were claimed to have scored hits. It was noted that the high and medium altitude attacks scored few hits but dispersed the convoy, while the strafing runs from the Beaufighters had knocked out many of the ships' anti-aircraft defences.

 Aircraft attacking from multiple directions had confused and overwhelmed the Japanese defences, resulting in lower casualties and more accurate bombing. The results therefore vindicated not just the tactics of mast height attack, but of mounting coordinated attacks from multiple directions. The Japanese estimated that at least 29 bombs had hit a ship during the battle. This was a big improvement over the Battle of Wau back in January, when Allied aircraft attacked a Japanese convoy consisting of five destroyers and five troop transports travelling from Rabaul to Lae, but managed to sink just one transport and beach another.
There was no doubt that the Japanese had suffered a major defeat. Imamura's chief of staff flew to Imperial General Headquarters to report on the disaster. It was decided that there would be no more attempts to land troops at Lae. The losses incurred in the Bismarck Sea caused grave concern for the security of Lae and Rabaul. This resulted in a change of strategy. On 25 March a joint Army-Navy Central Agreement on South West Area Operations gave operations in New Guinea priority over those in the Solomon Islands campaign. 

The XVIII Army was allocated additional shipping, ordnance and anti-aircraft units, which were sent to Wewak or Hansa Bay. Of the defeat, Rabaul staff officer Masatake Okumiya said, "Our losses for this single battle were fantastic. Not during the entire savage fighting at Guadalcanal did we suffer a single comparable blow. We knew we could no longer run cargo ships or even fast destroyer transports to any front on the north coast of New Guinea, east of Wewak."

The planned movement of the 20th Division to Madang was revised in the light of events in the Bismarck Sea. The operation was postponed for two days, and the destination was altered from Madang to Hansa Bay further west. To reduce the Allied air threat, the Allied airfield at Wau was bombed on 9 March, and that at Dobodura on 11 March. Three Allied aircraft were destroyed on the ground, and one P-40 was lost in the air, but the Allied fighters claimed to have shot down nine Japanese planes. The transports reached Hansa Bay unscathed on 12 March, and the troops made their way down to Madang on foot or in barges. The 20th Division then became involved in an attempt to construct a road from Madang to Lae through the Ramu and Markham Valleys. It toiled on the road for the next few months, but its efforts were ultimately frustrated by New Guinea's weather and the rugged terrain of the Finisterre Range.

Some submarines were made available for supply runs to Lae, but they did not have the capacity to support the troops there by themselves. An operation was carried out on 29 March in which four destroyers successfully delivered 800 troops to Finschhafen, but the growing threat from Allied aircraft led to the development of routes along the coast of New Guinea from Madang to Finschhafen, and along both the north and south coasts of New Britain to Finschhafen, and thence to Lae using Army landing craft. It was by this means that the remainder of the 51st Division finally made the trip to Lae in May. 

The necessity of delivering troops and supplies to the front in this manner caused immense difficulties for the Japanese in their attempts to halt further Allied advances. After the war, Japanese officers at Rabaul estimated that around 20,000 troops were lost in transit to New Guinea from Rabaul, a significant factor in Japan's ultimate defeat in the New Guinea campaign.

In April, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto used the additional air resources allocated to Rabaul in Operation I-Go, an air offensive designed to redress the situation by destroying Allied ships and aircraft in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The operation was indecisive, and Yamamoto himself became a casualty of Allied intelligence and air power in the Solomon Islands later that year.