Introduction to the Battle of the Coral Sea
In the first seven months after Pearl Harbor the Japanese, at a surprisingly low cost, had gained control over a huge area extending from Burma to the Gilbert Islands and from the Aleutians to the Solomons.
While the Japanese enjoyed the advantage of interior lines of communication, they had somewhat overextended themselves. Once the Allies became strong enough to threaten their perimeter from several directions, the advantage would be lost, since Japan did not have and could not produce enough planes and ships to defend in force at all points.
In view of this danger, the Japanese prepared plans for an attack against the still weak Allied line of communications from the continental United States and Hawaii to Australia and for further expansion in the South Pacific. In May 1942 they launched a new offensive, moving to Tulagi from the northern Solomons, after which they began building an airstrip at Lunga Point on Guadalcanal.
From there they hoped to disrupt the Allied line to Australia by seizing New Caledonia, the Fijis, and Samoa. At the same time, to give added protection to Rabaul, they moved into western New Britain and northeastern New Guinea. (Orders for invasions of New Caledonia, the Fijis, and Samoa were cancelled on July 11, 1942.)
The Japanese suffered their first major setback when they attempted an invasion by sea of Port Moresby on the southeastern coast of New Guinea. Allied naval units intercepted the invading Japanese naval force in the Coral Sea on May 7-8, 1942. This was a clash between carrier task forces in which the surface ships did not exchange a shot. Most serious of the losses were the U.S. carrier Lexington and the Japanese carrier Shoho, while both sides suffered heavy losses in planes. After two days of fighting, the Japanese task force broke off the engagement and withdrew northward.
Together with the Battle of Midway, the Coral Sea marked an important turning point in the war in the Pacific.
Battle of the Coral Sea: Features
See also: Pacific Theatre | European Theatre
Pearl Harbor | Bataan and Corregidor | Battle of the Coral Sea | Battle of Midway
Papua | The Solomons | Guadalcanal | New Georgia | Bougainville | New Guinea
Admiralties | Aleutians | Burma | China | Leyte | Luzon | Iwo Jima | Okinawa