May 4th 1942 was the beginning of the Battle of Coral Sea. The world’s first naval engagement where surface forces of both sides never saw one another.
The engagement happened as a Japanese invasion force covered by headed towards Port Moresby covered by two large Imperial Japanese Combined Fleet aircraft carriers, Zuikaku and Shokaku, and the light carrier Shoho.
American code breaking tipped off the US Fleet in time to dispatch the two fleet carriers USS Lexington and USS Yorktown under Admiral Fletcher to counter the invasion.
In the course of the 4 – 8 May battle the Japanese lost the light carrier Shoho, and over 100 carrier planes with 66 highly skilled and irreplaceable air crews lost in aerial combat.
The American fleet lost the carrier Lexington with the carrier Yorktown being heavily damaged plus the sinking of the fleet oiler USS Neosho.
The Battle of Coral Sea was a tactical victory for the Imperial Japanese fleet…but a strategic win for the Allies as the invasion of Port Moresby was checked.
However, the tactical victory the Japanese won at Coral Sea would echo in the Guadalcanal campaign months later. In 1942-43 the USS Neosho was a hugely important strategic logistical asset whose loss would later play a large part in Adm Fletcher’s controversial decision to withdraw carrier coverage early during the invasion of Guadalcanal, and contributed heavily to the Imperial Japanese victory at the First Battle of Savo Island.
For those looking for a really good article on this battle, see Peter Dunn’s “Oz At War” website article at this link —
BATTLE OF THE CORAL SEA
FOUGHT OFF THE FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND COAST,
4 – 8 MAY 1942
It is the most complete article you will find on the web showing the entire Battle of Coral Sea, including the air units participating and losing planes from Australia and New Guinea based RAAF and USAAF squadrons, Ultra intelligence reports, damage reports, maps and appendixes listing the names, planes (with serial numbers!) and ships lost in the 4 – 8 May 1942 battle.