On 4 May 1942, the pivotal four-day Battle of the Coral Sea commenced, seeing US and Australian allies defeat the advancing Japanese Empire, dramatically changing the direction of WWII in the Pacific.
This strategic Allied victory thwarted Japan's Pacific aspirations. By failing to take Port Moresby by sea – and isolate Australia from America – Japan turned its efforts to capturing the city via an overland PNG route, triggering the four-month Kokoda Campaign later that year.
Like the Siege of Tobruk a year before, where German imperialists first met their match against dug-in Aussie and other “Rats of Tobruk”, the Battle of the Coral Sea was the first major defeat the Japanese military machine suffered in the Pacific. Losing in the Coral Sea punctured Japan's aura of invincibility and reversed momentum and confidence. The Allies went on to smash the Japanese in the Battle of Midway one month later, from which they never recovered.
Commemorate the Battle of the Coral Sea by:
- if you’re in Far North Queensland, checking out this battle’s fine monument (overlooking the beach) at Cardwell, between Townsville and Cairns
- if you’re in the Canberra area, visiting the Australian War Memorial there and absorbing the fuller context of this and other key battles in WWII
- watching these clips on the battle and its significance
- reading further about the context of the battle and its impacts on Australia
- recalling some of the other key WWII battles and events that Australia was involved in – for example, Tobruk, Crete, Bombing of Darwin, Kokoda Track, Cowra break-out, victory day (Pacific) and the war’s official end
- looking out over any large body of water and reflecting on the grave risks and uncertainties these defence force men and women faced, on and over the high seas, when protecting Australia from the advance of the then Japanese Empire across the Pacific
- having a meal and/or a drink down at your local Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) Club and paying respects to our men and women who have served our country and are doing so now
- following the Royal Australian Army, Air Force and/or Navy on Facebook to show your support for our own land, air and sea defences, and/or
- sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, veterans, fellow patriotic Aussies and those prepared to respect, maintain and defend our exceptional way of life.
The aircraft carrier Japan lost in the Coral Sea deprived them of vital air-power they needed to seize the strategic Midway Atoll air-base from the Americans. While both sides lost an aircraft carrier and destroyer each, the Japanese lost a third more aircraft and a half more men than the Allies, despite having more ships and similar numbers of aircraft.
Australian involvement in the battle included the two cruisers HMAS Australia (heavy) and Hobart (light), our signal decoders in Melbourne that picked up the early intel on the Japanese assault, and reconnaissance aircraft from our bases in Townsville and Cooktown.
The Battle of the Coral Sea was unique in two other respects. It was the first air-sea battle in history – where aircraft launched from ships at sea played the lead role, with the chief targets being the aircraft carriers themselves. It was also the first sea battle where the opposing ships neither saw nor fired on each other.
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