The Principles of War Podcast
Battle of the Bismarck Sea
Bismarck SeaMilitary InnovationNew Guinea CampaignPodcast

46 – The Battle of the Bismarck Sea

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We start our Joint Professional Military Education campaigning with the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, a land battle, fought at sea and won in the air. 1st March 1943 a convoy left Rabaul.  This was the Japanese Operation 81.

Battle of the Bismarck Sea Centre of Gravity Analysis

We conduct a quick assessment of the Centres of Gravity for the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, but looking at the desired endstate for both the Japanese and the Allies.  Operation Mo, the invasion of Port Morseby was thwarted at the Battle of the Coral Sea, so the Japanese planned to land at Milne Bay and Buna.  We look at the Japanese convoy before Operation 81, the first attempt to reinforce the Japanese in an effort to take Wau, denying the Allies access to the airfield at Wau.  Moving troops to Lae in January, the first convoy got through with minimal casualties.  What changes in tactics did GEN Kenney instigate to deny the Japanese such an easy passage a second time?

We decide on the convoy being the CoG for the Japanese     We discuss the dilemma for the Japanese in planning their air superiority.  The Allied CoG is the USAAF 5th Air Force and the RAAF’s 9th Operational Group.

The RAAF 9 characteristics of Air Power

To better understand the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, we look at the 9 characteristics of air power:

  • Perspective – The greater field of view and extended horizon of the operational environment obtained by virtue of a platform’s operating altitude.
  • Speed – The ability to cover distance quickly and to create an effect with minimal delay
  • Reach – The ability to project military power over long distances, largely unconstrained by physical barriers.
  • Flexibility – The ability to create a variety of lethal and nonlethal effects across the full range of military and military-supported operations to achieve desired outcomes.
  • Precision – The ability to employ lethal or nonlethal force and achieve effects accurately, with discrimination and proportionality.
  • Dependency – The reliance on support to enable the generation, employment and sustainment of air power.
  • Fragility – The vulnerabilities inherent in the sophisticated materials of which air platforms and technologically advanced systems are composed.
  • Payload – The total weight and volume of passengers, cargo, sensors and weapons that an aircraft can carry.
  • Impermanence – The temporary nature of an air platform’s ability to maintain an influence or effect through its presence.

These are taken from AAP 1000-D The Air Power Manual, the RAAF capstone document.

We look at what was probably the most important 15 minutes in the entire New Guinea campaign – the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

Here are the PME Resources that we used in preparing our Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

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