Sins of Omission

“Scratch One Flattop”

It was America’s first naval battle of World War II, Japan’s first loss at sea in the war, the battle that saved Australia from a Japanese invasion, the greatest naval battle in Australian waters, the first carrier battle, and the first battle in which the opposing fleets never came within sight of each other or fired at each other, ship to ship.  Rarely mentioned in American textbooks today and unknown to most students, the Battle of the Coral Sea not only was one of the war’s most important battles but marked the opening of a new age in naval warfare and demonstrated that American sailors and naval aviators were more than a match for their Japanese counterparts.

Lying off Australia’s northeast coast, the Coral Sea is a stunningly beautiful body of water.  Its bright sunshine, clean air, and translucent water, which varies from the deepest to the lightest blues and greens, made the Coral Sea an ironic site for the deadly game of war.

Early in May 1942, Japan launched Operation Mo, designed to capture Port Moresby, on New Guinea’s southeast coast.  Control of Port Moresby would give Japan a base that would make the Coral Sea a Japanese lake and a base that could be used as a staging area for an invasion of Australia.  The latter idea was not far-fetched.  Japan had three times as many men in her army and navy as Australia had people.  In March 1942, Japan’s...

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