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The Battle of the Coral Sea – The First Major Clash Of Aircraft Carriers In Military History

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Aircraft carriers were a relatively new thing in World War II, and they had a major impact. Aircraft carriers changed the way war was fought, and the carriers made the bombing of Pearl Harbor possible. In a sense then, the aircraft carrier made World War II possible as it greatly increased the range nations had in attacking other nations.


It is inevitable too, that the aircraft carriers would eventually get into a scrape of some kind with each other. The first battle that involved a clash of aircraft carriers was held in the Coral Sea, in the Pacific theater of World War 2. The battle happened in May of 1942. It is also interesting that the people on the carriers did not see the other side’s carriers, and they did not fire on each other, but they were still going against each other.

The Japanese planned to invade Port Moresby in New Guinea, as well as Tulagi in the Solomon Islands. The Japanese felt that if they could capture the important port of Moresby, they could use it and New Guinea as a base. From there they could attack places like Australia, and it would give them a tremendous advantage. It would also give them a vantage point from which they could keep the United States out of the area.

The Japanese plan was called Operation Mo. Even then word traveled fast and the United States found out about the plan. Upon finding out about it, the Americans began planning a defense.

The battle began on May 3. Japan captured Tulagi. In response the U.S. sent bombers and damaged one Japanese destroyer and destroyed three minesweepers.

The Japanese forces actually entered the Coral Sea on May 5. At first things went well for the Japanese. They attacked and sank a destroyer. American planes in the air got confused about the identity of ships and were bombing their own.

The Japanese light carrier Shoho was it with 13 bombs and seven torpedoes and was sunk.

The tied turned against the Japanese when they sent planes to attack American ships at night. Bad weather caused a lot of problems, and only six of 27 planes returned.

The carriers continued to send planes against each other. One Japanese carrier was damaged, and from that point could land planes but could not launch them.

A U.S. carrier was heavily damaged to the point that the sailors had to abandon ship. The U.S. sank the destroyer as it burned, and no lives were lost.

The battle raged for several days, and the Japanese called off the invasion of New Guinea. The Japanese sunk more ships than the Americans did. Even so, it was the first time a Japanese invasion was turned back. The damage to Japan’s carriers also sidelined some of the ships and they could not take part in the Battle of Midway which happened not much later.

The battle itself didn’t change that much, but it did have a major impact on the war. From that point strategy was further developed to use aircraft carriers in war.