80th Anniversary of The Battle of the Coral Sea Commemorative Dinner
Speaker of the House, the Honourable Curtis Pitt; Members of Parliament; Consul-General United States of America, Ms Christine Elder, Coral Sea Commemorative Association President Mr Barry Thiess; Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the lands around Brisbane, the Turrbal and Jagera people, and extend respectful greetings to Elders, past, present, and emerging.
I am honoured to have been invited to attend this dinner and I’m so pleased to know that representatives of the veterans and survivors are here tonight. I would especially like to welcome Rear Admiral Robert Clark, Deputy Commander of the US Seventh Fleet. As many of you know, the Seventh Fleet was formed here in Brisbane in March 1943; and so with that in mind – Welcome home, Admiral.
While my studies were considerable to qualify as a Doctor of Medicine, I can’t recall ever learning anything about Naval Strategy or Military History as part of the course. So, you will be pleased to know that I am not going to discuss in any depth the Battle. But I will indeed remark on its significance.
But isn’t it interesting that like many Australians, the Battle of the Coral Sea and the land, sea and air battles that followed in 1942 and on to the end of the war, are well known to me. They are very much a part of our collective national memory. Not just the zeitgeist of the 1940’s but an enduring spirit that continues to define Australia and, significantly, continues to secure that bond of friendship between Australia and the United States of America – a defining spirit that is timeless.
The Battle of the Coral Sea was undoubtedly a strategic victory, it destroyed the aura of invincibility that surrounded the Japanese Imperial Navy and was a turning point for Australia; particularly as it denied the Japanese the chance of a seaborne invasion of Port Moresby and the opportunity to use that, as a staging point for an invasion of mainland Australia.
For its part, the US Navy quickly regrouped and while the Japanese commanders considered the loss of the Lexington and damage to the Yorktown as severely weakening the American Fleet, little did they imagine that the repairs to the Yorktown would take only 48 hours and she went on to play a significant role in the resounding victory at Battle of Midway only a month after Coral Sea. While this part of the great conflict is quite rightly known as the ‘War in the Pacific’, in those dark days of the early 1940’s it was then and remains for us: the ‘Battle for Australia’.
Perhaps as we sit in these significant surroundings in the Parliamentary Annex; we should reflect on our freedom and how it was so hard won. As Europe is again convulsed in conflict and tensions throughout the world seem to be increasing; it is perhaps appropriate that we consider the courage and sacrifice so many servicemen and women make to secure this freedom.
I look forward to spending this evening of reflection with you all, as we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. Thank you.