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Remembering the largest naval battle fought near Australia

Australia remembers one of the most significant battles in our history, the Battle of the Coral Sea, which ended the attempts by the Japanese to capture Port Moresby by a seaward invasion.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the Battle of the Coral Sea was a naval engagement between Australia and the United States against the Japanese and was fought to the north-east of Australia from 4 to 8 May in 1942.

“With the intention of cutting off Australia’s supply lines from America, the Japanese dispatched an invasion fleet from Rabaul, New Britain to take Port Moresby, Papua,” Mr Chester said.

“In response, three Task Forces under the command of Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, Rear Admiral Aubrey B. Fitch and Rear Admiral John G. Crace, RN, were mobilised to stop the attack.”

Task Force 17 was built around USS Yorkton and included three heavy cruisers, six destroyers and one escorting oil tanker. Task Force 11 comprised USS Lexington, two heavy cruisers and seven destroyers. Task Force 44 included HMAS Australia and HMAS Hobart.

“Ultimately the Task Forces halted the Japanese during their advance southwards in the Pacific in what was the largest naval battle ever fought so close to Australia and was fought entirely by aircraft attacking ships,” Mr Chester said.

“Although no Australians were killed during the Battle of Coral Sea, tragically more than 650 Americans died and the United States aircraft carrier, USS Lexington, was sunk.

“Those who fought during the Battle of the Coral Sea will always be remembered and we should all take a moment to reflect on this significant battle, fought close to our shores and action which ended the Japanese threat to Australia.”

On 15 August 2020 we mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and Victory in the Pacific. We will remember the almost one million men and women who served in this war, of which some 39,000 died fighting to protect Australia.