The Battle of the Coral Sea
The Battle of the Coral Sea involved armies from Japan against Allied navies and occurred between May 4th 1942 and May 8th of the same month. The battle occurred in Coral Sea in Australia. The battle occurred after the Japanese undertook an attack against the American army at the Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii. A month prior to this battle there was another attack in Delloite in Tokyo. This was among the most significant battles that occurred during the World War II. The four day skirmish also marked the first major Japanese setback of the World War II, and an end to the Japanese rapid expansion period across the Pacific.The battle was roughly a draw and an important turning point in the Pacific campaign. By April 1942, Japanese had formed a defensive perimeter which stretched from Kuriles, Marshall Islands, New Britain, Java, Sumatra, Andaman Islands and Burma. Their authority was unchallenged and they were impressed by the ease with which they had achieved their strategic goals, even so various power groups within the Japanese armed forces began to press for further expansion. Consequently, Naval General Staff decided to continue with the train Operation MO, the invasion of Port Moresby located in New Guinea and the southern Solomon’s. This was the first air-sea battle in history and where there was an attempt by the Japanese to control the Coral Sea by invading Port Moresby. This would ultimately force Australia and New Zealand out of the World War II if successful. The Allies, including U.S. and Australia, gathered a large fleet in the Coral Sea to intercept the invasion.
The Japanese Task Force Mo and Their Invasion plan
Task Force MO was made up of five separate groups. The main Striking Force, under the control of Vice Admiral Takeo Takagi, contained two modern carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku escorted by two heavy cruisers, six destroyers and a tanker to destroy any allied force attempting to interfere. The Covering Group, under the leadership of Rear-Admiral Nobuji Goto, contained the light carrierShoho, four heavy cruisers, one destroyer and a tanker. The Tulagi Invasion Group set up a seaplane base on Tulagi, just to the north of Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands. The Support Group, established its point of operation in the Louisiade Islands, in the Southern part of Guinea. This operation was to be commanded by Vice Admiral Shigeyoshi Inouye, commander of the Fourth Fleet based at Rabaul. The Japanese plan for Operation MO was very complex and its success depended on the successful coordination of the above five task forces even though its objective was very clear-to protect the invasion fleet headed for port Moresby.
The Allied Task Force and the American plan to Counteract the Japanese Planned Attack
The Allied fleet consisted of two American carrier task forces and a combined allied forces; 1.Task Force 17 were involved in patrolling the south Pacific and centred around the modern carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5), supported by three heavy cruisers the six destroyers, and the oil tanker Neosho (AO-23).Task force 11 was commanded by Rear Admiral Aubrey Fitch occupied older carrier Lexington (CV-2), supported by two heavy cruisers, five destroyers and oil tanker Tippecanoe (AO-21). A mixed US-Australian group of heavy cruisers and destroyers under the command of the Australian Rear Admiral John G. Crace. Following a discovery around April 1942 by Admiral Nimitz that the Japanese were moving south and possibly headed for Port Moresby, Admiral Jack Fletcher was ordered to attack ships and planes from opposing sides, cause injuries to the enemies, and prevent the occupation of Port Moresby by the Japanese.
The Japanese battle for the Coral Seaand American and allies’ task force interception
On May 3, the Japanese covering group occupied Tulagi. Admiral Fletcher learnt of the invasion and decided to head towards Tulagi and use his aircraft to attack the Japanese invasion force. The outcome was that; one destroyer, three minesweepers and four landing barges sank, two sea-planes were destroyed, and one patrol craft got damaged. Between May 5th and 6th the American carrier task forces reunited south of Guadalcana while the Japanese strike force entered the Coral Sea. May 7, Japanese reconnaissance aircraft saw an American oil tanker and a destroyer but reported it as a cruiser and a carrier. This was a grave mistake, though they sank the destroyer and damaged the tanker but it prevented Hara from conducting an attack on Admiral Fletchers’ carrier during daylight. Come 8th May and the battle came to a climax with the Japanese carrier and American carrier fighting directly and approximately 200 miles apart. The Americans launched 121 aircraft, while the Japanese 122. While the American had more bombers, the Japanese also had an advantage because of their experience and torpedo quality. The outcome of battle was that the Japanese lost one small carrier, one destroyer, a number of smaller craft and 21 aircrafts in the night attack on 7 May, 43 on 8 May. The Americans on the other hand lost the Lexington, (which was several times big than the Japanese carrier, carrying twice the number of aircraft) one destroyer, one oil tanker, 33 aircraft on 8 May.
The battle of the coral coast was the first major military engagement in the war in the Pacific that the Americans and their allies did not lose but rather draw.in a way; it slowed the Japanese attempt to pull out Australia from allied shipping after engaging in the carrier based aircraft naval battle.
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