Turning the Tide: The Battle of the Coral Sea

first published on May 8, 2018 by

A brief history of the Battle of the Coral Sea on the 76th anniversary of its conclusion. When America and the Allies turned the tide against the empire of Japan, ending their conquering deluge and forever changing the course of the Second World War.

Beginning on May 4th, 1942 a series of naval skirmishes fought off the northeast coast of Australia would become a crucial turning point in the onset of America’s involvement in the second World War. Named the “Battle of the Coral Sea” the important carrier action would mark the first time in history in which the opposing enemies never came within sight of each other.

After its sweeping victories across the pacific in the wake of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese imperial navy set its sights on choking Australia’s vital supply lines by capturing the strategic Salomon island’s and Port Moresby on the island of New Guinea. invading from the north, the Japanese navy successfully conducted landings capturing the island of Tulagi and initiating the battle. However, the amphibious landings were attacked by American aircraft from the USS Yorktown and resulted in several supporting ships being sunk or damaged.

Now alerted to the presence of the US carrier’s, the Japanese navy steamed ahead in search of the American flattop’s. Both sides aircraft eventually located the others fleet, desperately fighting it out in the tropical skies over May 7th and 8th.

USS Lexington (CV-2) Oct. 14, 1941. National Archives

Though the Japanese would sink more allied ships during the engagement they were ultimately turned back, and the US Navy would halt their advance and clinch its first major strategic victory. Even more crucially, the Japanese loss of a carrier and a second having been severely damaged would decidedly alter the outcome of the monumental Battle of Midway just a month later.

Both the Yorktown and Lexington would be severely damaged during the battle – The Lexington losing 216 of her crew in the ferocious fighting, she would later be scuttled by a friendly destroyer to keep her from falling into enemy hands. Remaining hidden beneath the waves until recently, She was found this past March by Microsoft co-founder turned billionaire adventurer Paul Allen. Amazing HD footage of the final resting place of “Lady Lex” filmed from a submersible can be viewed Here.

Video by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Garas of Naval History and Heritage Command.

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