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ON THIS DAY

07 May 11. The 7th of May 2011, marks the 69th anniversary of the climax of the Battle of the Coral Sea. Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Russ Crane said many have called it the battle that saved Australia. Vice Admiral Crane said the battle was a remarkable and decisive encounter which for the first time in naval history saw two aircraft carrier groups fighting each other from over the horizon. He said there was also a significant contribution made by the Royal Australian Navy with one of the Task Forces being led by the Australian, Admiral John Crace and including HMAS Australia and Hobart.
“Whilst it was considered a tactical victory for the Japanese it was a strategic turning point for the Allies in the Pacific.”
“After the battle the Japanese were forced to reassess their New Guinea campaign and they were weakened prior to the Battle of Midway.”
Vice Admiral Crane said in the days following the battle it was readily apparent that the Australian people were reenergised and injected with new courage and vigour after what had been described as Australia’s ‘darkest hour’. “We continue to remember and honour their sacrifice today as a turning point in the war and in our relationship with the United States. As Australians, we remain grateful for the Americans who came to our aid and with whom we fought as one,” he said. “Our partnership has, since 1951, been formalised in the Australia-New Zealand-US (ANZUS) treaty. This year we mark its sixtieth anniversary. “This partnership has been a key feature of Australia and America’s approach to security: we have always defended our common interests in unison.”
Whilst we have fought alongside each other in every major conflict in the last century, the relationship we have today is built on the founding principles of ANZUS.”
The Battle of the Coral Sea, fought from 4–8 May 1942, was a major naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and Allied naval and air forces from the United States and Australia. The battle was the first fleet action in which aircraft carriers engaged each other. It was also the first naval battle in history in which neither side’s ships sighted or fired directly upon the 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. On 3–4 May, Japanese forces successfully invaded and occupied Tulagi, although several of their supporting warships were surprised and sunk or damaged by aircraft from the U.S. fleet carrier Yorktown. Now aware of the presence of U.S. carriers in the area, the Japanese fleet carriers entered the Coral Sea with the intention of finding and destroying the Allied naval forces.
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 Shoho, 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 Shokaku 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 re

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