Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (17:21): I rise to speak about a very important event I attended on Sunday with the member for Taylor hosted by the Australian American Association—the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, which was a significant event in our history during World War II and essentially changed the tide of the war.
This battle raged from 4 May to 8 May 1942 and was a major naval battle between the Imperial Japanese Navy and the naval and air forces of the United States and Australia. It took place in the Pacific Ocean and it was the first action where aircraft carriers engaged each other and the first in which opposing ships neither sighted nor fired directly upon each other. These fleets were based about 130 kilometres apart and it was basically an air battle, each of their fleets of aircraft attacking the others' ships.
The Japanese decided to invade New Guinea at Port Moresby. The United States had learned of the plan through signal intelligence and the United States Navy sent two carrier task forces and a joint United States-Australian cruiser force. The US fleet suffered great losses in the battle, including one carrier destroyed, one damaged, one oiler and one destroyer sunk, 66 aircraft lost, and 543 men killed or wounded. The Japanese losses included one small carrier destroyed, one carrier severely damaged, one destroyer and three small naval ships sunk, 77 carrier aircraft lost, and 1,074 men killed or wounded.
The battle was significant for two main reasons: it was the first time in World War II that the Japanese experienced failure in a major operation and the battle stopped the Japanese seaborne invasion of Port Moresby. The Battle of the Coral Sea resulted in Australia being released from the immediate threat of invasion by the Japanese and prevented Australia from being isolated from its American allies. It also resulted in the Americans maintaining naval superiority of the Pacific region.
It was a significant battle and, even though there were major allied losses, it forced the Japanese fleet to withdraw and it forced them to rethink their attacks on both New Guinea and Australia and where they took up their ill-fated attacks across land up the Kokoda Track, which obviously failed for the Japanese. It was great to have the Governor, Her Excellency Frances Adamson, in attendance at this event, along with people from all the services.
I would like to note that my Uncle Les served on the HMS Shropshire, which became the HMAS Shropshire when it came over to the Australian Navy. He served on that ship with a neighbour of mine, Maurice Williams. He signed up when he was 16 and served in the Battle of the Coral Sea. He was also in attendance at the signing of the Japanese surrender at the end of the war.
It is interesting to note—and I learned this information only the other day, and I am very proud of my uncle's commitment—that not only did he fight in World War II in the Navy but he also joined the Army for the Korean War, and when he passed away the Navy took his ashes and had quite a ceremony and deployed them at sea off the Philippines in recognition of his service.
To all the service men and women, and especially to the memories of those who were lost at sea from both sides, I commend the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea and reflect on the changing point of the war at that time.