The Battle of the Coral Sea was the first naval battle in history fought between fleets that never sighted each other. Waves of carrier based bombers exchanged salvos instead of the ship’s guns.
After the jump, a look at the main US weapon from this early carrier battle.
In May of 1942 Japanese expansion had run mostly unchecked for six months. The last allied outpost on the large island of New Guinea was Australian held Port Moresby. If the Japanese could take it, it would put much of Northern Australia within range of their bombers, as well as opening up the possibility of invasion for that nation.
The terrain of New Guinea is formidable in the extreme, so a naval operation against the Australian port seemed the obvious way to go. A combined US and Australian fleet was the defense. Several outstanding books have been written on this, but again, I think the definitive authority is John Lundstrom’s “The First Team”.
The bottom line is; the main units involved were the American carriers Lexington and Yorktown, against the Japanese carriers Shokaku, Zuikaku and Shoho. The battle is considered a Japanese tactical victory because they only lost the light carrier Shoho and suffered damage to the Shokaku. While the US lost the Lexington and suffered damage to the Yorktown. That was trading a 10000 ton carrier for a 40000 ton carrier. And the Japanese had more carriers to start with.
BUT, for the first time in the war, the battle is considered a strategic victory for the allies; because the damaged Japanese fleet withdrew and canceled their invasion plans.
Many tactical lessons were learned by the US carrier force as a result of this battle. As is so often true, the loser learns more than the victor. And the Japanese thought they had won even bigger than they did (assuming the Yorktown had also been sunk). American fighter direction, or combat air patrol, would eventually become a great strength, and the groundwork was laid here. One curiosity of Coral Sea, is that Dauntless dive bombers were put out on low altitude anti-torpedo bomber patrol. The crews felt they were up to the task due to the type’s good maneuverability and relatively heavy firepower (two .50s in the nose). No surprise, it was found the Dauntless was too slow to be of much help in a role it was never designed for.
But several pilots found success, or at least claims of success (hmmm, I see an essay on claims vs reality in WWII somewhere in my future!). This particular aircraft was flown by John Lepla, with John Leska as his gunner. In two days of battle Lepla claimed four kills in this SBD. That, in addition to his more traditional role carrying bombs against the Japanese fleet. There was much war time propaganda made from the exploits of this team in this plane, and John Lepla would eventually make the ultimate sacrifice after transferring to fighters.
This is the Accurate Miniatures kit. As is expected from this brand, it is an accurate and complicated kit, surprisingly so for a smallish aircraft. But engineering and fit are good, and its a fun build.
Up Next: General Motors 2.5 ton Fuel Truck