In the spring of 1942, according to the strategic plans of the United States and Japan, the coral sea became the main combat area in the Pacific Ocean.
Coral Sea is a sea area in the southwest of the Pacific Ocean.
It is located to the east of Australia and New Guinea, to the west of New Caledonia and New Hebrides, and to the south of Solomon Islands.
If the Japanese army controls this area, it can have a solid naval and air force base, which will threaten Australia, the main counter attack base of the allies.
The Japanese Navy ministry plans that the main objective of the first phase of the second phase is to capture the port of Moresby.
Port Moresby is located in the Australian sea and air force base in the southeast of New Guinea.
It is an important strategic base in the northern waters of Australia.
The Japanese army’s attempt to capture Port Moresby is that occupying the base can not only protect their own military strongholds in Rabaul and New Guinea, but also disable the Allied aviation base in northern Australia.
In this way, when the Japanese army attacked New Caledonia, Fiji Islands and Samoa Islands, the wing side was guaranteed.
At the beginning of 1942, the Japanese army tried to capture Moresby in the first stage of operation, but failed.
At that time, the Japanese base camp issued a battle order to occupy the important place, stipulating that the army and Navy should cooperate to occupy Laicheng and salamawa in Eastern New Guinea, and then occupy Moresby.
At the same time, the navy can seize the opportunity to occupy tulaji island to cut off the Guadalcanal waterway in the south of Solomon Islands, and establish an aviation base to cover the flank of morzby operation and provide support for the subsequent advance to the southeast.
The purpose of the campaign was to capture the important places in the east of British New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, cut off the connection between Australia and these important places, and control the northern waters of Australia.
On March 8, the Japanese army landed and occupied Laicheng and salamawa.
However, due to the main force of Japanese Navy aircraft carrier turning to the Indian Ocean, the Japanese army did not grasp the sea power in the southwest Pacific in time.
Two days later, a Japanese convoy was heavily bombed by US aircraft carrier aircraft, losing half of its ships.
Japan then suspended its attack on Port Moresby.
It was not until April that the main force of the Japanese Navy returned to the Pacific battlefield to prepare for the second stage of offensive war that Japan decided to occupy Port Moresby again around May 10.
The fourth fleet under the command of Japanese admiral seimi Inoue took over the task.
The 5000 troops deployed by the landing force for the Nanyang force of the army are under the command of major general totaro horui, the infantry commander of the 55th division.
The force has 100 vehicles and 1000 horses.
The naval forces participating in the war are the main force of the fourth fleet, including the sixth, fifth, eighteenth and nineteenth corps, the sixth mine corps and the first Marine Corps, as well as the fifth air raid force of the naval shore based aviation force.
In order to compete with the US aircraft carrier forces entering the southwest Pacific, Japan specially sent the heavy aircraft carriers “Xianghe” and “Ruihe” of the fifth aircraft carrier team, as well as the light aircraft carrier “Xiangfeng” of the joint fleet to strengthen the fourth fleet.
The fleet has 3 aircraft carriers, 11 cruisers, 15 destroyers, and more than 60 gunships, submarine destroyers, minesweepers and transport ships.
In addition, there are more than 70 shore based aircraft and 137 shipborne aircraft to provide air cover for the campaign.
On April 23, 1942, the fourth fleet issued a battle order, regulations: “In early May, the army and Navy forces worked together to capture and ensure Moresby.
the Navy forces captured and ensured turaji island and important places in southeast New Guinea.
established aviation bases in the above-mentioned areas and islands and strengthened air operations against Australia.
After the above-mentioned operations were completed, they continued to attack Nauru and ocean Islands in the Gilbert Islands with one force to ensure phosphate resources.
” The order stipulates that the order of battle time is: the capture of tulaji on May 3, the capture of morzby on May 10, the capture of samaray island in the southeast corner of New Guinea on May 12, and the capture of Nauru Island and ocean island in the Gilbert Islands on May 15.
The first to support the landing of the first 20000 ton aircraft fleet is the “base ship of morziang”, and the first to support the landing of the first 20000 ton aircraft fleet is the “base ship of morziang”.
The latter is scheduled to depart from Rabaul, bypass the eastern end of the island of New Guinea via the yomad waterway and sail to Port Moresby.
In addition to the direct cover of the landing war organizations in the above two places, the Japanese army also formed a mobile assault force with the aircraft carriers “Xianghe” and “Ruihe” as the main force, and went south from Truk to intercept any forces of the US Army trying to prevent landing.
The operation code is “Mo”, and all participating forces are collectively referred to as “Mo” special task force.
By deciphering the Japanese Navy’s code, the United States has obtained detailed and reliable information about the Japanese army’s operational intention.
In early April, the Intelligence Department of the US Pacific Fleet reported to the Navy Department that the Japanese combat mission in the Indian Ocean had ended and the fleet was returning to its domestic base.
The Japanese army had no intention of attacking Australia.
The Japanese army will soon launch a battle to capture Eastern New Guinea.
Then the Japanese army will launch more large-scale operations in the Pacific region and use most of the troops of the joint fleet.
In mid April, new intelligence showed that the Japanese transport fleet would soon enter the Coral Sea under the support of light aircraft carrier “Xiangfeng” and heavy aircraft carrier “Ruihe” and “Xianghe”.
Based on this, Admiral Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, judged that the Japanese army would first take the small island tulaji in the north of Guadalcanal island as the base of maritime early warning aircraft, and the battle might start on May 3.
The US military attaches great importance to the attempt of the Japanese army to launch the battle of Moresby.
The Allied forces’ adherence to the port of Moresby is not only crucial to Australia’s security, but also indispensable as a springboard for future counter offensive.
Nimitz and believe that if the Japanese attempt succeeds, not only Australia’s defense will become difficult, but also the maritime traffic in the South Pacific will face a great threat.
Moreover, MacArthur, commander-in-chief of the southwest Pacific theater, has planned to take the mountainous front line in southeastern New Guinea as the strategic front line to defend Australia and counter attack in the future.
Therefore, the two commanders in chief agreed that the Japanese attack must be stopped.
However, it is not easy to gather enough troops to deal with the Japanese threat to morzby.
The US sub fleet in the southwest Pacific has only destroyers and cruisers.
The aircraft carrier Saratoga was damaged by torpedoes in January,Repairs are still being carried out on the west coast of Puget, near Seattle.
The “enterprise” and “hornet” aircraft carriers have not returned to Pearl Harbor before April 25 after air strikes on Tokyo.
Although the two warships are returning as soon as possible, it is difficult to reach the Coral Sea as scheduled.
Although the army aviation force has about 200 aircraft of various types distributed in Moresby and northeast Australia, these aircraft must deal with the attacks of the Japanese shore based aviation force, and do not have the ability to support maritime operations.
In mid April, Nimitz ordered: the 17th task force, which is on mission in the southwest Pacific Ocean, to quickly replenish oil and soldiers and return to the Coral Sea before the end of April to prepare for battle.
The 11th task force in Pearl Harbor immediately moved to the southwest Pacific and joined the 17th task force in the Coral Sea on May 1.
Both aircraft carrier formations are under the unified command of rear admiral Fletcher, commander of the 17th task force.
Meanwhile, an Australian cruiser sub fleet in the coral sea was also ordered to accept Fletcher’s command.
In this way, the US Navy has two aircraft carriers, seven heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, 13 destroyers and a total of 30 other types of ships and 143 carrier based aircraft in the coral sea battle zone.
It is divided into assault brigade, support brigade and aircraft carrier brigade.
In order to further strengthen the military strength in the southwest Pacific region, Nimitz ordered the aircraft carriers enterprise and hornet, which had just returned to Pearl Harbor, to leave for the southwest Pacific immediately at the end of April.
The assumption is that if the Japanese attack is delayed, the US military will participate in the battle with the superior strength of four aircraft carriers.
At the end of April 1942, the Japanese army began operations targeting tulaji Island, Moresby, Nauru Island and ocean island in the Gilbert Islands.
First attack tulaji island to ensure the main force’s attack on morzby.
On 28 and 29 April, the advance guard force that captured tulaji set out from Rabaul base.
On April 30, the main force of the 19th corps of the fourth fleet, carrying the Marines of four battalions and the personnel and materials of the base, set out from Rabaul.
On April 30 and May 1, the sixth corps of the fourth fleet, which served as maritime support mission, and the Fifth Corps, which served as the main force of the “Mo” force, successively set out from the Truk base in the Caroline Islands and went south to join the 19th corps to seize the predetermined target.
After learning about the trend and attempt of the Japanese army, the 17th and 11th aircraft carrier formations of the US Army assembled in the southeast sea area of the Coral Sea on May 1, and stepped up aerial reconnaissance in this sea area.
On May 1, the US reconnaissance plane discovered the maritime operation of the Japanese fleet and informed tulaji of the situation.
The garrison of the island was weak, with only 50 Australian soldiers stationed, which was difficult to defend, so they evacuated after blowing up the facilities on the island on the 2nd.
The Japanese Marines began landing in the early morning of May 3 and occupied tulaji island without resistance.
Before 8 p.m., they completed the setting of the island’s water reconnaissance aircraft base.
General Fletcher learned that the Japanese had landed in tulaji, so he left the aircraft carrier formation Lexington to replenish fuel and led the aircraft carrier formation York City northward.
At 7 a.m. on May 4, the formation secretly arrived at the sea about 100 nautical miles southwest of Guadalcanal island while maintaining radio silence.
Before that, at 0630 hours, torpedo planes and dive bombers on the “York City” flew to tulaji island and began a long-term bombing of the island.
By noon, the US military sank one Japanese destroyer, one transport ship and two minesweepers at the cost of losing three aircraft, and injured one cruiser, one destroyer and one transport ship respectively.
Then the US ship returned to the south.
Knowing that tulaji island was attacked by a US carrier aircraft, the sixth Japanese regiment hurried south to support and arrived near New Georgia Island in Solomon Islands at 12 p.m. on the 4th.
At this time, the US ship had already withdrawn from the battle, and the sixth Corps reversed its direction and headed north, preparing to search the US fleet in the southwest sea of tulaji island with the attack aircraft of aircraft carrier “Xiangfeng” on the morning of the 5th.
Later, the plan was cancelled due to bad weather and difficult return of the plane.
At the same time, the Japanese mobile forces also went south along the east of Solomon Islands to search for American ships.
They found nothing, so they bypassed the southern end of Solomon Islands and entered the southern sea of tulaji island on the morning of the 6th.
So far, the battle on tulaji island was over.
Although the Japanese troops on tulaji Island were attacked by US carrier aircraft, the commander of the “Mo” special task force, seimi Inoue, still ordered at 11:00 on May 4 that the troops should turn to the attack on the second target, morzby, after 14:00 on the same day.
Since morzby is the primary target of the “Mo” fleet, all the main forces participating in the “Mo” operation will be involved in the operation of morzby, except for the ships damaged in the battle of turaji and some ships that are ready to be transferred to the operations of Nauru and ocean island.
The Japanese troops are divided into two routes: one is the morzby combat force, which is composed of the sixth mine team responsible for direct attack and the sixth and eighteenth teams responsible for maritime support and cover.
The other is the mobile assault force – the Fifth Corps and the fifth aircraft carrier corps, which guard the US aircraft carrier task force in the Coral Sea.
A total of 46 ships participated in the war.
On May 4, the Japanese attack fleet and cover fleet were ordered to assemble from Rabaul and tulaji to the Louisiana islands in the southeast corner of New Guinea, and were scheduled to enter the Coral Sea at dusk on the 7th.
On the evening of May 6, the US military alert aircraft found the Japanese fleet gathering near the Louisiana islands.
After receiving the report, the US aircraft carrier task force entered the position of 14 ° 3 south latitude and 156 ° 25 east longitude at 2:00 on the 7th, about 310 nautical miles away from the Japanese fleet in the northwest.
After that, he moved to the northwest overnight, ready to attack.
At the same time, the Japanese mobile fleet failed to search for the US ship.
It went south at 1:15 on the 7th and arrived at 13 ° 20 south latitude and 158 ° east longitude at 6 a.m. on the 7th.
In the early morning of May 7, the Japanese morzby assault fleet near the Louisiana islands and the mobile fleet about 400 nautical miles to the southeast sent reconnaissance aircraft to search for the US fleet.
At 7:53 and 8:20, the Japanese mobile fleet received two enemy reports: a US fleet including an aircraft carrier was found in the South and West.
Major general yuan Zhongyi, commander of the mobile fleet, judged that the US military has two aircraft carrier fleets.
He decided to attack the fleet to the South and then turn to the West.
The Japanese carrier plane made a mistake while searching the southWith the distance between the two ships, the warning ship is also divided into two, and the warning ability is weakened.
The Japanese aircraft quickly approached the aircraft carrier Lexington, threw torpedoes on its port and starboard sides and carried out a double attack.
Two of the torpedoes hit the port side of the ship and three boiler compartments were flooded.
Lexington tried to evade, but it was attacked by two bombs because of its large tonnage and poor mobility.
However, the main engine of the ship is undamaged, the speed can reach 24 knots, and it can still be used.
By noon, the spark from a generator of the Lexington ignited the oil seeping from the bottom oil tank damaged by the torpedo, causing an explosion.
At 22 p.m., general Fletcher ordered the destroyer to sink the heavily damaged aircraft carrier Lexington.
The aircraft carrier York City, which followed up after Lexington, also received the attention of the Japanese aircraft.
However, the ship was small and had a flexible rudder.
It successfully avoided the torpedo launched by the Japanese aircraft.
It was only hit by one bomb, and its combat effectiveness was not greatly weakened.
When the US military began to recover the returning aircraft, although the two aircraft carriers were damaged, they could all be used.
The Japanese aircraft carrier “Xianghe” has lost its combat effectiveness, and “Ruihe” can’t accommodate the aircraft of the two ships, so it has to throw many aircraft into the sea.
The Japanese army has only 9 aircraft that can be used in combat, while the US Army has 37 attack aircraft and 12 fighter planes that can be used in combat.
However, due to the explosion of the aircraft carrier Lexington, the US military did not launch another attack.
It was ordered to withdraw from the battle and go south at night.
In the afternoon, seimei Inoue, commander of the “Mo” fleet, received a war situation report: two US aircraft carriers were fatally hit, “Lexington” has indeed sunk, “York City” is likely to sink.
Almost all Japanese planes were shot and the second air attack was suspended.
Accordingly, seimei Inoue believed that the Japanese army did not control the sea and air, agreed to stop the fleet’s combat operations, ordered the indefinite postponement of the attack on Moresby, and ordered all relevant forces to make arrangements to attack and occupy Nauru and the two islands of the ocean.
The Japanese joint fleet and the headquarters of the Navy did not agree to the cessation of operations on Inoue and the postponement of the capture of Moresby.
As a result, Yamamoto 56 sent a telegram to the fourth fleet that “we should continue to pursue and annihilate the remaining enemy”.
In accordance with the order of the joint fleet, the “Mo” fleet went south again to pursue the US fleet, but the US ship had already disappeared.
On the afternoon of the 9th, seeing that the fighter plane had been lost, the joint fleet had to order to postpone the operation of morzby until the third phase of the second phase in July.