CORAL SEA -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) transited the Coral Sea, the site of one of World War II's most famous naval battles, July 4. The Battle of the Coral Sea was fought between Japan and Allied forces from the United States and Australia, May 4-8, 1942.
It is now considered by many Australians as the battle that saved Australia, as the Imperial Japanese Navy was pressing to invade and occupy Port Moresby in New Guinea. The battle was also the first engagement in Naval history in which the participating ships never sighted or fired directly at each other. Instead, manned aircraft were used as offensive artillery.
The Battle of the Coral Sea arrested the Japanese advance and kept supply and communication lines open between the U.S. and Australia, which led to a strategic victory for the Allied forces by reducing the number of Imperial aircraft carriers and aircraft available for the Japanese invasion of Midway Island. For the first time in history an Imperial Japanese naval invasion force was turned away without completing its objective, greatly increasing morale among the Allies after six months of defeats by the Japanese in the Pacific Theater. For Lt. Nicholas Inns, Staff Judge Advocate for Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11, transiting the Coral Sea brought the opportunity to reflect on the past in a variety of ways. "This area and this ship remind me of the tradition of honor, excellence, and sacrifice that I am a part of," said Inns. "The name USS Bonhomme Richard has been an integral part of the U.S. Navy for more than two hundred years. To be aboard a ship so firmly rooted in naval history in an area where nearly every sea or island was the site of a past battle is an honor and a privilege." While Bonhomme Richard Sailors and Marines celebrated the nation's birthday with a Steel Beach picnic on the ship's flight deck, eight warships and two aircraft carriers, sunk during the Battle of Coral Sea, lay beneath them on the ocean floor. Now, more than 70 years later, the oral history of that battle, and many others that took place during World War II, is seldom spoken of any longer.
"It is easy to forget things that happened a long time ago," said Inns. "It is even easier to forget things that happened a long time ago in a distant place far-removed from the sight of average Americans. The Battle of the Coral Sea occurred in a place few Americans could place on a map and even fewer will ever travel to. We have the privilege to pass near that place, and we have a duty to remember and honor the sacrifice those Sailors made." The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group, with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is currently operating in the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility and reports to the Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.