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It was 76 years ago today, March 4, 1943, that the combined forces of the American Fifth Airforce and the Australian Royal Airforce, destroyed a Japanese troop convoy sailing for Lae, New Guinea. Though the air battle began on March 2nd, by March 4th, all eight Japanese troop transports, 4 Japanese destroyers, and close to 3,000 Japanese soldiers, sailors and marines lay at the bottom of the Bismarck Sea in the South Pacific.
The battle began as a result of the Japanese need to reinforce the island of New Guinea with troops from their main base of Rabaul, on the island of New Britain. Before the war had begun, allied codebreakers had managed to intercept Japanese messages. The knowledge that the Japanese were intending to sail some 6,900 troops on the open water where the United States had gained air superiority was too much of an opportunity to pass up. Over the next few days, American and Australian planes attacked and harassed the Japanese convoy. Though over a thousand Japanese troops managed to make it to Lae, and a few thousand more would be picked up by other ships in the days to come, the fact that the Japanese had been dealt a serious blow was not missed on either side. American and Australian casualties were very low, with only 6 planes shot down, and one of the Australian Beaufighters that accidentally crashed. It was 76 years ago today that allied forces dealt a serious blow to the forces of the Empire of Japan.