Contents - Hirohito's War
20 Battle of the Bismarck Sea: Tipping Point of US Air Supremacy
[January 1943–March 1943]
[Drawing: 20.1] [Maps: 20.2, 20.3, 20.4, 20.5, 20.6, 20.7]
MacArthur Ousts US Air Force Lieutenant-General George Brett (p 569) General George Kenney (p 571) New Aircraft and New Tactics (p 572) Gunn’s Gunships (p 575) MacArthur and Sugiyama Reorganize after Guadalcanal (p 577) Maneuvering for Control of the Gulf of Huon (p 579) Bomber Tactics and the Shooting Down of Brigadier-General Walker (p 580) The Battle of Wau (p 581) The Battle of the Bismarck Sea (p 583) The Murder of Japanese Survivors (p 586) Hirohito and a Change in Strategy (p 587) The Collapse of Japanese Air Power in the South Pacific (p 588) Transformation of the Ground War (p 590) America Moves to the Offense (p 592) Envelopment of Salamaua (p 594) The Bombing of Wewak (p 598) Adachi’s Eighteenth Army Escapes the Net: Allied Occupation of Lae and Nadzab (p 602)
At the beginning of 1943, as the Japanese campaign on Guadalcanal was winding down to defeat and withdrawal, Japanese attention, and more importantly their resources, were switched to New Guinea. Here, after the defeat at the Battles of Kokoda and the Battles of Buna-Gona-Sanananda, Japan faced a new threat to their control of the southeast corner of New Guinea. They anticipated that MacArthur would advance northwards in a move that would threaten both Rabaul and the northern New Guinea corridor toward the Philippines. In Rabaul, Lieutenant-General Harukichi Hyakutake, commander of the Seventeenth Army in Rabaul, planned to reinforce Lieutenant-General Hatazo Adachii’s Eighteenth Army and fight for the control of the areas due north of Port Moresby on the east coast of New Guinea’s Gulf of Huon. However, unbeknownst to Hyakutake and Adachii, in the latter half of 1942, new US Army Air Force commanders were undertaking a transformation of their forces that would, in combination with Australian forces on the ground, render their attempts to sustain Japanese control of the Gulf of Huon untenable. In the first fifteen months of the war, after a disastrous beginning the US Army Air Force, along with the air arms of the Navy and the Marines had achieved a parity with the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force in the South Pacific. This was about to change; arguably from its initial role as the minor service in the Pacific War, the US air arms were about to leap forward to take center stage in the war.
MacArthur Ousts US Air Force Lieutenant-General George Brett: Lieutenant-General George Brett had enjoyed a lively entrée to war. Starting as Chief of the Air Corps in May 1941, he found himself effectively replaced a month later by General ‘Hap’ Arnold when General George Marshall’s reorganization of the Army moved Arnold to the post of head of the US Army Air Force (USAA F). From Washington, Brett moved to London to advise on the requirements of the Lend-Lease agreement with Winston Churchill. He fell out with British authorities not only in London but also in Egypt where he criticized the military arrangements. From here he was moved to Rangoon and negotiated co-operation agreements for the US with General Sir Archibald Wavell, Britain’s Commander in Chief in India, and Chiang Kai-shek. Subsequently Brett became Wavell’s deputy at the short-lived America-British-Dutch-Australia (ABDA) Command. He departed Java on 23 February 1942 and washed up in Australia where he took up command of all US Army Forces based there.