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Jim’s Australiana Spot – 2UE - May 8, 2016

THE MOST CONFUSED BATTLE IN WORLD HISTORY

On this day 74 years ago - there occurred the 2nd day of ' the most confused battle ..in world history' The Battle of the Coral Sea. It was a farcical sea and air battle that neither side won - so WHY was it so important? Today we find out.

US military historian Admiral Duckworth commented in 1972 after reading official Japanese reports of the time, ‘Without a doubt, May 7 1942, vicinity of Coral Sea, was the most confused battle area in world history.’ He may have been right.

Questions  
1 How did the Battle of the Coral Sea lead to the battle of Kokoda Track?
  The Japanese invasion fleet heading for Moresby turned back and the Japanese had to come overland
2 How did the Battle of the Coral Sea affect the Battle of Midway?
  The Japanese couldn't repair their ships in time and the USA could - and won by weight of numbers and that won the war in the Pacific
3 How did Midway Island get its name?
  Midway between Asia and America.

Background:

On 8 March 1942 Japanese invasion forces established garrisons at Lae and Salamaua on Australian territory on the north coast of New Guinea. The only territory north of Australia left unoccupied by the Japanese was the eastern end of Papua New Guinea, where Port Moresby, on the southern coast, was the last strategically important bastion of Allied resistance. To the east the Japanese needed to gain control of the Solomon Island chain and then they intended to occupy Fiji and Samoa.

The facts:

            A US fleet, called TF17, centred around USS Yorktown, was already heading towards the Coral Sea, TF11, under Rear Admiral Fitch, centred around USS Lexington, was between Fiji and New Caledonia. These two forces, which joined north of New Caledonia, comprised 27 ships (two carriers, nine cruisers, thirteen destroyers and three support vessels) and 128 aircraft. Although the Coral Sea was under the control of General MacArthur, the naval commanders were answerably to Nimitz, who was based at Pearl Harbor.
            A joint US-Australian force of three cruisers (HMAS Hobart and Australia and USS Chicago) and three destroyers under the command of Australian Rear Admiral John Crace was due east of Cape York, southeast of the tip of New Guinea on 5 May.
            The Japanese fleet supporting the invasion was in several groups. Some warships accompanied the troop ships from Rabaul while most of the Japanese warships left the island of Truk, northeast of Bougainville. Some Japanese warships entered the Coral Sea from south of Bougainville to support the invasion fleet sailing from Rabaul. The main Japanese strike force proceeded down the eastern side of the Solomon Islands. The main carrier fleet entered the Coral Sea from south of San Christobal Island (now Makira), at the bottom of the Solomon Islands.
            The Japanese had mistakenly assumed that only one US carrier was in the area. They also assumed that the Allied ships were to the east, when they were actually inside the Japanese area of operations, to the west.

What happened next was 3 days of farce, errors, good luck and bad.

Remember the Waltzing
Jim Haynes


She was Tilly, the funny old lady,
She lived at the end of our street –
And I’d always stop
When I went to the shop
And she’d give me a smile and a treat.

One day we sat in her kitchen,
I asked why she lived alone.
That was when she
Showed his photo to me,
And read me his last letter home.

‘Remember the Waltzing Matilda?
Remember the old one-two-three?
A Barndance and then a Varso Vienna,
Remember your arms around me?

Remember the Waltzing Matilda?
And if this war ever should end,
The very first chance,
The first Town Hall Dance,
I’ll waltz my Matilda again.’

He never returned from Kokoda
To dance in our little Town Hall.
She never went there,
She couldn’t bear
To see his name up on the wall.

Tilly, the funny old lady,
She lived a lifetime alone –
Reading the page,
Watching them fade,
The words of his last letter home.

‘Remember the Waltzing Matilda?
Remember the old one-two-three?
A Barndance and then a Varso Vienna,
Remember your arms around me?

Remember the Waltzing Matilda?
And if this war ever should end,
The very first chance,
The first Town Hall Dance,
I’ll waltz my Matilda again.’

 

 

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