Battle of the Coral Sea

The War in the Pacific

Australasia 1942.0508

Battle of the Coral Sea

Australia, New Zealand and World War II in the South Pacific (8 May 1942)

Historical Map of Australia, New Zealand & the Southwest Pacific

After conquering the East Indies, Japan shifted its focus to cutting Australia's supply line to America. In May, it attempted to send an invasion fleet to occupy Port Moresby, but ran into an American carrier force in the Coral Sea. The ensuing battle was dominated by aircraft carriers, with neither side's ships sighting each other.

Main Events

Battle of the Java Sea

The Allied navies of the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM) engage the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Java Sea in an effort to prevent the Japanese Eastern Invasion Force from reaching Java, the main island in the Dutch East Indies. After a two-hour battle, the Allies are repulsed by the superior Japanese firepower, losing 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers, and 2,300 sailors - including the ABDACOM Strike Force commander, Dutch Rear-Admiral Karel Doorman - to a Japanese loss of only 36 sailors.

Allied surrender in Java

At 09:00, with the Japanese invasion forces advancing rapidly across Java, Hein ter Poorten, the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied forces in the Dutch East Indies, announces the surrender of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army in Java. The Dutch Governor, Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer, and Lieutenant-General Ter Poorten meet the Japanese Commander-in-Chief, Lieutenant-General Hitoshi Imamura, at Kalidjati that afternoon and agree to the capitulation of all the troops.

Invasion of Salamaua–Lae

Japanese forces - supported by 4 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, and 8 destroyers - land at Lae and Salamaua, in the Australian Territory of New Guinea. A small detachment of New Guinea Volunteer Rifles and radio staff at Salamaua do not contest the invasion, opting to withdraw into the hills towards Mubo.

US occupation of New Caledonia

Forces of the United States of America land on the Free French controlled colony of New Caledonia. Nouméa, the capital, is made the headquarters of the United States Navy and Army in the South Pacific and will be used as the base for the US fleet during the Battle of the Coral Sea in May. Eventually there will be as many as 50,000 American troops on the island, the equivalent of the contemporary population.

Doolittle Raid

Sixteen US Army Air Force B-25B Mitchell medium bombers are launched beyond fighter escort range from the US Navy's aircraft carrier USS Hornet in the western Pacific Ocean, flying on to bomb the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on the island of Honshu. Fifteen of the bombers carry on to land in China - landing a medium bomber on an aircraft carrier being impossible - with the 16th landing in Vladivostok, Soviet Union. The success of the mission demonstrates the vulnerability of Japan and is a major morale boost for the US.

Battle of the Coral Sea

In preparation for Operation MO - the intended Japanese landing at Port Moresby, New Guinea - a Japanese naval force, including two fleet carriers and one light carrier, advances into the Coral Sea to hunt down US carriers known to be operating there. Over the next few days, they fight the first naval engagement in which neither side's ships sight each other, with Japan losing the light carrier Shōhō and taking damage to the fleet carrier Shōkaku, and the US losing the fleet carrier Lexington and taking damage to the fleet carrier Yorktown. Although the US losses are worse, Japan is forced to abandon Operation MO.

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