Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Battle for the Pacific

Japanese strategy in the Pacific was initially successful, and a shortlived ABDA (American-British-Dutch-Australian) Command collapsed before the Japanese advance. But although the Japanese won the battle of the Java Sea in February and hammered the British Admiral Somerville's Far Eastern Fleet on a raid into the Indian Ocean in April, they lost a carrier in the Coral Sea in May. The following month they lost four large carriers at Midway, and with them the prospect of maintaining the initiative in the central Pacific.

Above, the cruisers
HMS Dorsetshire and Cornwall under air attack, April 5 — both were sunk. So great was the superiority shown by Japanese aircraft on the Indian Ocean raid that Somerville sent his elderly battleships to safety in the East African port of Mombasa.

The Battle of the Coral Sea was the first major naval action in which opposing warships did not sight one another. American aircraft sank the light carrier Shoho, but the USS Lexington — “Lady Lex” — was hit by bombs and torpedoes and sank after a huge internal explosion. Here members of her crew can be seen
jumping from the stricken vessel.

In May the Japanese attacked the island of Midway, then America's most westerly outpost, having first diverted part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet to the north. On June 4, Japanese aircraft attacked Midway, doing widespread damage and killing these servicemen (above).

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