Battle of Coral Sea at 75 still setting course for today

May 7, 2017

At approximately 0755 local time, December 7th, 1941 in Pearl Harbor Hawaii, the beginning of the end of conventional naval warfare arrived on the wings of the Japanese Imperial Navy. The folly of the thinking that air power could not overcome battleship might laid bare for all to see as one by one, the mighty battleships succumbed to the torpedoes and bombs dropping out of the sky at will.

Had the American aircraft carriers not been out to sea the devastation would have been complete and the entire course of the war forever changed.

Yet just five months later to the day, the end of that beginning would arrive off the North East coast of Australia in a remote part of the South West Pacific known as the Coral Sea.

It would be the first time in all the centuries of naval warfare that two opposing fleets would do battle without ever seeing the other side or firing a salvo ship to ship. The entire battle would be engaged by aircraft launched from opposing carriers.

With today’s advanced navigation and communications equipment such is routine operations for our navy of today, but seventy five years ago it was anything but routine. Radio transmissions were garbled, ships were misidentified, and course bearings were imprecise.

Far more things could go wrong then any few that could go right.

Yet just enough went right on the morning of May 7, 1942 and through the day of May 8th, that the Japanese plan to take Port Moresby, New Guinea was in shambles and supply lines to Australia remained open.

While the battle was a tactical victory for the Japanese (losing only one light carrier to the U.S. losing the fleet carrier Lexington and the Yorktown heavily damaged and limping back to Pearl) it was an American strategic victory with profound impact.

Australia had been saved and more importantly, the two newest Japanese carriers were so badly damaged that a month later, the Imperial Navy would go into the more decisive Battle of Midway without them, allowing the Americans to turn the tide of the entire Pacific theater.

The men involved in the Battle of Coral Sea that are still with us today are past 90 and on their way to 100 but at the time they were but teenagers. Teenagers that were thousands of miles from home and scared to death they’d never make it back but still, they were there. Not because they wanted to be, but because they knew they had to be.

They are members of what we have heard so many times before as part of the “greatest” generation; A term that as the time separating ours from theirs becomes longer it begins to shrink in the minds of some.  The immediate toils of today begin replacing remembrance of the struggles that were. That in today’s world of moral relativity, the challenges faced today are just as dire as any old “greatest” generation ever faced.

It is a shallow notion, a silly notion, a notion that I for one will never accept.

In just those two days in the South Pacific over 600 sailors and airmen never made it back. Their graves known only to the sea, their friends and families left to see them never more.

That we live free today, that our flag still stands, that our nation still exists, is not owed to bureaucrats and academics fretting over how best to shield teenagers of today from speech they find offensive or 26 year old snowflakes “fighting” for their “right” to stay on mommy and daddy’s health insurance.  Our lives today are owed to the men and women who since our founding have at every time answered every call, no matter the risk, no matter the odds.

Sorry professors, I don’t care how many degrees you have from how many universities, such fake outrage is not, has not, and will never be equivalent to the 18 year old kid from Georgia fighting just to breathe as his ship explodes underneath him.

Seventy five years ago on this very date, the men of Task Force 17 answered their call without whine or whimper.

You don’t have to call them “great” (that’s a right they already secured for you), but you damn sure should take a moment to thank them.

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