Honour for select Coral Sea veterans

This article has photo gallery Published on SGT Dave Morley (author)

Location(s): New York City, USA

Topic(s): Ceremony and Traditions, Ships, Boats and Submarines, Historic, Events, 75th Anniversary

Imagery Scanned from Navy Historic Archive

HMAS Australia II after the
Imagery Scanned from Navy Historic Archive HMAS Australia II after the "Coral Sea" battle.

Surviving Australian veterans of the Battle of the Coral Sea will be flown to New York next month to commemorate the battle’s 75th anniversary.

Staff Officer Heritage Research at the Sea Power Centre Lieutenant Commander Desmond Woods said Australian veterans of the battle were being sponsored by the American Australia Association.

“The president of the Association, John Berry, is holding a dinner on board the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Intrepid for Australian and US veterans,” he said.

“The Seapower Centre responded to Mr Berry’s request by tracking down some veterans.”

Lieutenant Commander Woods said the battle was a turning point for Australia in the Second World War. 

He said Australians would rightly honour Australian troops who in August 1942, were making their heroic stand, fighting and dying, at Isurava and on the Kokoda Track battlefields.

“They were defending Port Moresby, the objective of the Japanese overland assault,” he said.

“This resolute fighting defence was one of Australia’s finest actions in Second World War, but we should also understand the New Guinea campaign began at sea, and was sustained from the sea.

“It was a maritime campaign which began with the Battle of the Coral Sea, fought in early May 1942.”

Lieutenant Commander Woods said the Japanese objective was to seize Port Moresby with a convoy of troops sent to transform it into a major military and air base, from which Japanese ships and aircraft could command Australia’s northern waters and skies.

“Once completed, the plan was to hold Port Moresby as part of the defence of the new territory taken in early 1942,” he said.

“The Japanese aim was to sever the connection between Australia and the US and thereby prevent the build-up of American forces able to strike back at the Japanese Empire.

“This plan was well known to the Allies from signal interception and decryption. It was critical that Port Moresby did not fall.

“To prevent it, Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Fleet, ordered his two available carrier groups, Rear Admiral Frank Fletcher’s Task Force 17, built around USS Yorktown and Rear Admiral Aubrey Fitch’s Task Force 11, centred on USS Lexington, into the Coral Sea.”

Lieutenant Commander Woods said both the Japanese and the Allies claimed the Battle of the Coral Sea as a victory.

“Whatever the statistics in ships and lives and aircraft lost, it proved an indispensable preliminary check to the Japanese Navy and it led on to victory in the South West Pacific, Australia’s front door step,” he said. 

“It was of immeasurable morale-boosting value to the hardpressed Allies.

"Strategically Coral Sea was an Allied victory of enduring significance.”