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World War II was a global military conflict that lasted from 1939 to 1945, that involved two sides, the Axis and the Allies. The Allies leaders were the “Big Three”, the British Empire, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the United States of America, and also consisted of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, and China (“World War II”). The Axis were the opposing side to the Allies, this coalition consisted of Germany, Italy, and Japan (“World War II”). WWII had many monumental battles including the Battle of Midway, the Battle of Stalingrad, Battle of Iwo Jima, and the Battle of Okinawa, just to name a few, but the battle of the Coral Sea played an important role in the war as well (“Worldâ€¦”). The Battle of Carol Sea was a significant battle of World War II, as it possessed many first time events for the United States and ultimately paved the way for the inevitable defeat of the Japanese.
The Battle of the Coral Sea, fought in the waters southwest of the Solomon Islands and eastward from New Guinea, began on May 4, 1942 and lasted till May 8, 1942, only six months after Pearl Harbor (DeLoach). Even though preparation for the battle actually began on May 1, 1942, the warfare didn’t begin till May 8, 1942, when the aircrafts finally discovered the opposing aircraft carriers (Leu). This battle was a major battle that was fought in the Pacific Area of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Allied naval and air forces from the United States, Australia, and Great Britain. As Mark Stille states “Anticipation for the battle was heart-racing, as the Allied Nations had yet to slow down the advancements of the imperial Japanese Navy” (46).
During this time the Japanese main goal was to invade Southeast Asia and Indonesia, securing their oil fields and other precious natural resources, then turn towards the southwest in Burma and India (Lue). This would pose a threat to the Allied Nations, as Japan wanted control of all these precise natural resources that would advance the already overpowering naval fleet they already possessed. So with Americans desperately in need of morale, Lt. Doolittle loaded sixteen B-25 bombers onto the carrier USS Hornet and dashed towards Japan (Lue). Within 650 miles of Japan, the planes took off and bombed Tokyo and other key cities then flew on to China, while the USS Hornet the headed back to Pearl Harbor (Lue).
Lt. Doolittle’s air raid brought much morale back to the Americans, and even though it inflicted a small amount of damage, it was a stunning and humiliating blow to Japan (“Battle of the Coral Sea). Mark Stille tells of how Americans were celebrating Lt. Doolittle’s air raid on Japan with billboards with his picture on them and catchy slogans about free air miles to Tokyo (49). But as ever action has a counter-reaction, this American attack would change the aims and goals of the Japanese and push them into battle mode.
The Japanese, fueled off the humiliating attack of Lt. Doolittle and the string of victories over the Allied Nations, planned to seize control of the Coral Sea by establishing air bases at Port Moresby in southeastern New Guinea and at Tulagi in the southern Solomons (“Battle of the Coral Sea”). By securing the Southern coast of New Guinea, the Japanese planned to bomb northern Australia at will and, by continuing to thrust southward through the Solomons, cut off Australia and New Zealand from supplies, possibly forcing the two countries out of the war (Lue). If the Japanese was to successfully carry out their plans then they would have taken away the much needed help of Australia and New Zealand from the Allies in WWII. Also this would further expand their perimeter in the South and Central Pacific and help act as a buffer around Japan (Lue).
Luckily for the Allied Nations good communication intelligence learned of the Japanese plan to seize Port Moresby and alerted all available sea and air power (“Battle of the Coral Sea). This good communication intelligence gave the U.S. Pacific fleet time to prepare to meet and hopefully stop the Japanese planned invasion of Port Moresby. The freshly overhauled carrier Lexington (CV-2), rushed out from Pearl Harbor, joined USS Yorktown in the probable action area on 1 May, doubling Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher’s carrier forces and bringing along another experienced flag officer, Rear Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch (DeLoach).
On May 3 a small Japanese naval force landed at Tulagi, where they quickly established a seaplane base to provide reconnaissance deeper into Allied waters (DeLoach). In response Rear Admiral Fletcher took Yorktown off to interfere with the landings, and on the morning of the 4th, his planes hit the invasion force (“Battleâ€¦”). The results of this attack were the destroyer Kikuzuki being fatally damaged and a few other ships and seaplane were sunk (DeLoach). Then Fletcher would return back to the Allied fleet and the search would begin for the Japanese and American carriers to find each other.
The Japanese would be the ones to make the next move, as on May 7,1942, the Japanese would order 62 planes to sink what they thought was a carrier and a an escorting cruiser. But in actuality they attacked and badly damaged escorting destroyer, USS Sims (Lue). Meanwhile, at the same time hundreds of miles away, Fletcher’s planes found and sunk the Japanese light carrier Shoho and a cruiser (“Battleâ€¦”).
On the morning of May 8, both sides finally found the opposing carrier fleets and the major attacks of the battle began. Japan flying under clear skies, found and sunk the large aircraft carrier, USS Lexington and seriously damaged the USS Yorktown (Lue). The skies were less clear for the American fleet but they managed to cripple the large carrier Shokaku, enough to retire it after this battle, and badly deplete Zuikaku’s air groups (DeLoach). Stille describes the battle as a pure airshow as there were planes getting shoot down and blown up all throughout the sky, saying, “It was like fireworks going off simultaneously” (78).With both sides wounded badly, the Americans retreated back to Pearl Harbor and with so many Japanese planes lost, the Port Moresby invasion force turned back to Rabaul (“Battleâ€¦”).
All though this battle would be considered a tactical win for the Japanese, it had much significance for the Allied forces of the Pacific fleet. Strategically the Allied forces won, as this was the first time that United States Pacific fleet had pushed back the Japanese from conquest and expansion in the Pacific Theatre (DeLoach). In addition, the severe damages done to Shokaku and the depleted air power of Zuikaku caused these two carriers to be unable to participate in the Battle of Midway, happening exactly one month later (Leu). In the end, the Battle of the Coral Sea signified a new attitude for the Allied forces, as it was the first retreat of the Japanese and began a chain of victories for the Allies in WWII.
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