- Wright, Ken
- WWII operations, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 2009 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
A total of eight transports and four destroyers had been sunk. With regard to Japanese army and navy personnel and aircraft losses, the final score has to be recorded as ‘flexible’.
Historian Lex McAulay: ‘The Japanese army stated that 4,357 men set out, and 1,760 were listed as returned to Rabaul. However, it is known that a lot of soldiers were put aboard at the last minute and not listed in the official operational orders, and some of these were lost. The navy lost a lot as well, ships’ crews and navy unit people aboard Nojima, including all 240 of one navy unit. Then there are the merchant ship crews and some ships lost many, but records were destroyed in the bombing of Japan. A reasonable figure would be 3,000 lost. Aircraft losses are very flexible. Japanese army aircraft losses are not known with certainty though several dozen is reasonable; navy aircraft losses would be a couple of dozen but again records are lacking. US and Japanese historians have tried but cannot find definite figures. Any quoted would be an estimate rather than based on documentary fact.’
Allied losses were minimal – four aircraft shot down and two crash-landed, fourteen dead and twelve wounded.
The Japanese military were stunned by the disaster and would never again regain the initiative they had previously enjoyed. Their military ambitions from this point began to slowly unravel for the remainder of the war. Commodore Yasumi Doi, a member of the Japanese staff of the South Pacific Area Fleet at Rabaul stated that after the battle of the Bismarck Sea it was realised that control of the air was lost and, consequently, supplies to New Guinea were to be shipped by destroyer and submarine only. Without bulk shipping, the Japanese were unable to get large amounts of supplies to their armies and air forces. Consequently, their air power decreased as fuel was in short supply which in turn gave the Allies air superiority. In a macabre footnote about two weeks after their disastrous loss, Japanese High Command issued orders that all their soldiers were to be taught to swim.
From the Allies’ point of view, they could in retrospect state, ‘we sent the Japs to hell and there they learnt to swim.’