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#3-538 Editorial Note on the Battle of the Bismark Sea and the Extension of the Mediterranean Campaign March 1943 “Please give General Kenney and his fliers our warmest congratulations on their splendid performance of the past few days," General Marshall radioed to General MacArthur on March 3, 1943. "Japanese morale must deteriorate as they come to realize that this is but a foretaste of the rapid growth of United States air power in skill and daring even more than in constantly increasing numbers." (Marshall to MacArthur, March 3, 1943, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) The air-sea engagements collectively known as the battle of the Bismarck Sea, fought March 2–5, 1943, contributed significantly to Allied victory in the New Guinea campaign. Allied Air Forces Southwest Pacific, commanded by Lieutenant General George C. Kenney and comprising elements of the United States and Australian air forces, defeated the Japanese attempt to reinforce and supply their forces in the Salamaua-Lae sector on Papua via destroyer-escorted transports. (Samuel Eliot Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, 22 July 19421 May 1944, a volume in the History of United States Naval Operations in World War II [Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1950], pp. 54–60, 64–65.) For information about the coordinated Allied air effort, see Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., The Pacific: Guadalcanal to Saipan, August 1942 to July 1944, a volume in The Army Air Forces in World War II (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1950) , pp. 141, 145; George C. Kenney, General Kenney Reports: A Personal History of the Pacific War (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1949), pp. 201, 203. Kenney claimed the destruction of twenty-two Japanese aircraft and two additional probables, with an Allied loss of three P-38s and one B-17. The destruction of the Japanese transport force was most significant. The sinking of seven transports, four destroyers, and one auxiliary ship eliminating 3,500 men of the Japanese Fifty-first Division from participation in the Papua campaign demonstrated to the Japanese the impossibility of supplying isolated garrisons with large vessels during daylight hours. It was a persuasive show of Allied air superiority. (Kenney, General Kenney Reports, p. 204; Maurice Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943–1944, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1959], p. 92.) Meanwhile General Marshall was occupied with other worldwide problems. However heartening the victory in the Bismarck Sea, he also had to direct his attention to other areas, such as China and continental Europe, and to operational planning for HUSKY, the Allied invasion of Sicily. The decision to invade the island of Sicily was made at the Casablanca Conference held in January 1943. General Marshall was in principle opposed to extending the war in the Mediterranean past the conclusion of the TORCH campaign. He believed that extended Allied commitments in the Mediterranean theater would divert American resources from the Allied buildup in England devoted to a cross-Channel invasion. The British planning staff was opposed to a 1943 cross-Channel invasion until German military forces were seriously weakened through a continuation of the strategic bombing offensive and by a successful Mediterranean campaign designed to eliminate Italy from the war. Marshall conceded, and the participants agreed to launch an invasion of Sicily in July 1943. The extension of the Mediterranean campaign was designed to secure Allied communications in the Mediterranean, divert German attention from the Russian front, and assist in driving Italy from the war. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was named Allied supreme commander, with General Sir Harold Alexander placed in command of the actual HUSKY operation. Alexander was given responsibility for planning the invasion of Sicily with two armies, the British Eighth Army commanded by General Sir Bernard Montgomery and the United States Seventh Army commanded by Major General George S. Patton. (Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943–1944, pp. 18–26, 149.) Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981– ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 573–574.