The Top End remembers the Battle of the Coral Sea

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Des Paroz (author), LSIS James Whittle (photographer)

Location(s): Darwin, Northern Territory

Commander of the 1st Brigade, Brigadier Ben James, AM, DSM, Deputy Commander Northern Command Colonel Brian Bailey, CSC, Commanding Officer HMAS Coonawarra, Commander John Navin, ADC, RAN, Commanding Officer 13 Squadron, RAAF Base Darwin, Wing Commander Wesley Perrett, and Lieutenant Colonel Steven Sutey, Commanding Officer of the Marine Rotational force - Darwin, attend a memorial ceremony for the Battle of the Coral Sea in conjunction with United States Marines from the Marine Rotational Force - Darwin, 2016. (photo: LSIS James Whittle)
Commander of the 1st Brigade, Brigadier Ben James, AM, DSM, Deputy Commander Northern Command Colonel Brian Bailey, CSC, Commanding Officer HMAS Coonawarra, Commander John Navin, ADC, RAN, Commanding Officer 13 Squadron, RAAF Base Darwin, Wing Commander Wesley Perrett, and Lieutenant Colonel Steven Sutey, Commanding Officer of the Marine Rotational force - Darwin, attend a memorial ceremony for the Battle of the Coral Sea in conjunction with United States Marines from the Marine Rotational Force - Darwin, 2016.

A commemorative service organised by the American Association was held in Darwin on 13 May for the 74th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea – a major turning point of the Second World War.

Following defeat at Pearl Harbour, the United States looked to Australia as a site for a forward base for the War in the Pacific, a move which the Imperial Japanese Navy sought to block by waging direct war against the Australian mainland and nearby territories.

Master of Ceremonies at the Commemorative Service in Darwin was highly regarded naval historian Dr Tom Lewis, a former officer in the Royal Australian Navy.

“After taking Pearl Harbor, the Philippines and Singapore, the Imperial Japanese forces came sweeping down towards Australia, with the Bombing of Darwin marking not only the first point of conflict on Australian soil, but also the first time and place that Australian and American forces fought side by side,” Dr Lewis said.

“The Battle of the Coral Sea was key in the efforts by the Imperial Japanese to prevent American forces from coming to Australia in large numbers, and it was a key turning point in the War in the Pacific.

“It also marked the first time in history where the opposing forces could not see each other – all the ‘sighting and fighting’ was done by aircraft launched from aircraft carriers on each side.”

The first battle between aircraft carrier task groups in the Pacific, the Battle of the Coral Sea was also as a turning point that ultimately led to the Allied Forces' victory in the Pacific.

The Commanding Officer of HMAS Coonawarra, Commander John Navin noted the heavy loss of life that occurred during the Battle, and the lasting Australian-American alliance that was forged in the fires of war.

“The battle extracted a tragic toll on both sides – the Japanese had lost 966 men and the Allies lost 656,” he said.

“The enduring strategic alliance and firm friendship between Australia and the United States of America has its roots in the Battle of the Coral Sea and the subsequent battles in the Pacific theatre.

“On this solemn occasion we re-affirm this strong and enduring friendship and alliance forged in war and strengthened over many decades since through a common pursuit of peace,” Commander Navin said.

Australian Defence Force members from Coonawarra, Headquarters Northern Command, the Army’s 1st Brigade and RAAF Base Darwin, joined with US Marines from the Marine Rotational Force – Darwin and members of the American-Australian Association and dignitaries from the Commonwealth, Territory and City governments at the Commemorative Service.