Halfway Around the World
May 8, 2012 5 Comments
We started the day in Europe with VE Day. So it’s only fair to end it in the South Pacific. Sorry, but no hula dancers here we have business to take care of. You see 3 years before VE Day a naval battle was fought that blunted the edge of the Japanese thrust toward Australia. Even in the ’40s America was working on “Global Reach-Global Power”.
Anyway, this was the famous Battle of the Coral Sea. This was the first battle in which combatants’ ships never sighted each other.
In an attempt to strengthen their defensive positioning for their empire in the South Pacific, Imperial Japanese forces decided to invade and occupy Port Moresby in New Guinea and Tulagi in the southeastern Solomon Islands. The plan to accomplish this, called Operation MO, involved several major units of Japan’s Combined Fleet, including two fleet carriers and a light carrier to provide air cover for the invasion fleets, under the overall command of Shigeyoshi Inoue. The U.S. learned of the Japanese plan through signals intelligence and sent two United States Navy carrier task forces and a joint Australian-American cruiser force, under the overall command of American Admiral Frank J. Fletcher, to oppose the Japanese offensive.
Beginning on 7 May, the carrier forces from the two sides exchanged airstrikes over two consecutive days. The first day, the U.S. sank the Japanese light carrier Shōhō, while the Japanese sank a U.S. destroyer and heavily damaged a fleet oiler (which was later scuttled). The next day, the Japanese fleet carrier Shōkaku was heavily damaged, the U.S. fleet carrier Lexington was critically damaged (and was scuttled as a result), and the Yorktown was damaged. With both sides having suffered heavy losses in aircraft and carriers damaged or sunk, the two fleets disengaged and retired from the battle area. Because of the loss of carrier air cover, Inoue recalled the Port Moresby invasion fleet, intending to try again later.
Tactically, the IJN won but, and this is a big but, their invasion never happened, This was the high point of the Imperial Japanese and soon their fleet would be defeated at Midway, never to win another engagement with the Allied (mostly but not entirely American) fleet.
And here is the The Theme of the Fast Carriers from the television epic Victory at Sea.
- A MODERN HERO – Lt. Cmdr. Edward Henry O’Hare, U.S. Navy, WWII, Medal of Honor, (1914-1943) (hawaiireporter.com)
- WWII lessons valid 70 years later (hamptonroads.com)