Coral Sea veterans mark 75 years

RAN and USN Veterans of the Battle of the Coral Sea with Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia, on USS Intrepid, New York.

Rear Row Left to Right: John Hancock, Roger Spooner, Derek Holyoake, Malcolm Turnbull, Andrew Robertson, Bill White
Front Row Left to Right: Gordon Johnson, Norm Tame, Wendell E. Thrasher.

Battle of the Coral Sea 75th anniversary retrospective

By LCDR Phillip Garrett

During the days and nights of 04-08 May 1942; a coalition Task Group of United States Navy and Royal Australian Navy ships battled against the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) for sea control of the Coral Sea to set conditions for the Imperial Japanese Army to seize Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.

Through denying the IJN control, the Allied fleet checked the advance of Japanese forces in the Pacific. This battle marked the high water in the Japanese advance through the Pacific Theatre before the tide was turned at the Battle of Midway.

75 years later on the evening of 04 May 2017, shipmates of USS Yorktown, John Hancock, Roger Spooner and Wendell E. Thresher joined HMAS Hobart’s Gordon Johnson, Bill White and Derek Holyoake as well as HMAS Australia’s Norm Tame and Andrew Robertson aboard the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid in New York City to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea.

The gala event held was organised by the American Australian Association and the guest list comprised the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump and The Prime Minister of Australia, The Honourable Malcolm Turnbull and a number of influential Australian and American luminaries totalling approximately 750 personnel. During the evening, the Veterans were welcomed by The President of the United States and honoured in speeches by a number of notable guests,.

The history of the battle was recounted and a series of personal accounts were retold by ADM Harry B. Harris Jr (son of a USS Lexington survivor), Greg Norman AO and John Travolta. Dinner with was overlayed with an entertainment program provided by Beccy Cole, Amber Lawrence and Kellie Pickler singing songs inspired by Mateship and the service and sacrifice of Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen of Australia and the United States.

Members of the ADF stationed in North America joined by US Military stationed in New York attended the dinner to renew and strengthen the bonds of Mateship and Valor forged by those who went before. “The Battle of Coral Sea was the turning point in the Pacific Theatre campaign, and the dawn of carrier aviation as a principal power projection tool in Naval Warfare. Meeting veterans of this battle was both humbling and inspiring.” said the Australian Naval Attaché to Washington, CDRE Peter Leavy.

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