Battle of the Coral Sea 75th Memorial Dinner
Mr Speaker; guests, distinguished as are you all. May I particularly extend a very warm Queensland welcome to our American friends here tonight, including Mr Wiswell.
As I begin, I ask that we turn our minds to Second World War veterans, Americans and Australians alike, especially those who fought so bravely in the Coral Sea 75 years ago.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there are few to whom this country owes more thanks.
We are the nation girt by sea, more used to thinking of the ocean as our playground.
It jars us to think of the ocean as a battleground.
But so it was, 75 years ago, when only 880 kilometres from Townsville, our nation’s future hung in the balance.
Bombs had rained down on Darwin and Broome – and Horn Island just off the tip of mainland Queensland, and the Japanese Imperial Navy had completed five months of continuous victory unmatched in the history of modern warfare.
These were the dark times, and for Queenslanders, the war was terribly close.
But in those four days in May 1942, together American and Australian sailors and airmen halted the Japanese advance south toward Australia.
A battle turns on many things – on skill, strategy and superior force.
But a true friendship – a true alliance, turns on trust.
In the Battle of the Coral Sea, for the first time Australian ships were under the overall command of the United States Commander, Rear Admiral Frank Fletcher, and within Task Force 44 itself an Australian Rear Admiral, John Crace, commanded American ships.
Together, they helped turn the tide of the Pacific War.
75 years later, Australia remembers the loss of the USS Lexington, the USS Sims and the USS Neosho (pron. Knee-oh-show).
With grateful hearts, we salute the courage of the Australians and Americans who served and mourn the more than 600 who died in the Battle of the Coral Sea.
In the words engraved on the memorial at Cardwell in Far North Queensland to the crew of the USS Lexington who perished in the battle, we say “Light lie the sea upon thee”.
Rear Admiral Williams, it is a great honour for us you are here: on behalf of the people of Queensland, on whose behalf I am privileged to speak, I convey to you our gratitude and our fidelity to the memory of the Americans who fought in the Battle of the Coral Sea.
And we honour the men and women of both the Australian and American Defence Forces, and thank them for their courage, service and sacrifice.