Seventy-five years ago, although they did not realize it, the American and Australian forces had won the Battle of the Coral Sea. The battle which ultimately saved Australia from Japanese invasion has been largely forgotten in the US. That is a pity. Just six months from the Pearl Harbor debacle, the US Navy won a strategic victory that largely shaped the outcome of the battle of Midway, the turning point in the Pacific War.
Admiral Yamamoto, commander of the Japanese Navy, launched an invasion force to take Port Moresby on the south side of the huge island of New Guinea. Once New Guinea was taken Australia was next. Admiral Shigeyoshi Inoue, in command of the Japanese of the Fourth Fleet would command this venture.
Allied intelligence learned of this plan, and Admiral Nimitz, Naval Supreme Commander in the Pacific, sent all four of his fleet carriers to intercept the Japanese force.
A deadly game of blind’s man bluff ensued, with naval aviators searching for enemy ships, before their opposite numbers found their carriers. The Japanese succeeded in sinking the Lexington, and heavily damaging the Yorktown. The US succeeded in sinking a light carrier, and damaging the fleet carriers Zuikako and Shokaku. The US lost 69 planes to 92 for the Japanese. Each side lost one destroyer. The Japanese commander decided to retreat to friendly seas and the invasion of Port Moresby did not occur. New Guinea would ultimately be liberated by the Allies and Australia was safe from invasion for the remainder of the War.
Due to their damage the Japanese carriers missed the decisive battle of Midway fought in June. The Yorktown was present due to a heroic night and day seventy-two hour repair operation performed by sailors and civilian workers at Pearl Harbor. Go here to read about it.