Australian Navy amphibious ship, HMAS Choules became the focus for commemorative activities for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea as she positioned herself in the waters of the conflict off Townsville on 1 May.
The ship's company and embarked forces took a break from exercising off the Queensland coast for a solemn commemoration of the Second World War battle, that claimed the lives of more than 1,500 men and numerous ships.
Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, hosted an international delegation of dignitaries on board for a service on the flight deck of the 16,000 tonne warship.
The battle occurred between 4–8 May 1942, and is often referred to as ‘The Battle for Australia’, not only because it set the scene for the Allied naval victory at the Battle of Midway late in June that year, but more importantly saw the defeat of the amphibious force that was destined to capture Port Moresby.
As a result, Japanese forces commenced their land campaign across the rugged Owen Stanley ranges which later became famous, as the Kokoda track campaign.
Highlighting that importance, the at-sea ceremony was attended by civilian and military dignitaries including the Governor General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK, MC, and Lady Cosgrove, Minister for Defence, The Hon Marise Payne, Mr Tadayuki Miyashita, representing the Ambassador of Japan to Australia, and the Hon Amanda Rishworth MP, representing the Leader of the Opposition.
Chief of Defence, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin spoke of the dark period in which Australians found themselves from late 1941 and recounted the scale of loss to a generation.
Approximately 300 men and women stood silently as wreaths were cast into the deep to mark the loss of life suffered by all sides.
Representing the United States Navy was Commander of the US Pacific Fleet Admiral Scott Swift, who spoke of the enduring ties forged in the waters surrounding Choules.
"Our shared experiences in the Battle of the Coral Sea brought together our nations and our navies in ways that are still as relevant and resounding as then," Admiral Swift said.
Vice Admiral Barrett said marking the sacrifices made was a poignant reminder of how close the war in the Pacific came to the shores of Australia.
“This was a significant battle not only strategically for Australia but also for modern naval warfare as neither surface fleet actually sighted each other and the engagement was conducted with aircraft organic to each task group,” Vice Admiral Barrett said.
“It set the stage for over 40 US and Australian amphibious operations as part of the Pacific campaign and became the basis for our current joint and combined operational doctrine that we use today.”
The Navy Band supported the activity with the sombre notes of the Last Post drifting out over the waves as Japanese, Australian and Americans saluted.
Lest We Forget.