Remembering the Battle of the Coral Sea: And Building Towards the Future (Updated with the Ceremony in New York)

2017-05-06 Editor’s Note: Ed Timperlake published a story on April 29, 2017 in anticipation of the commemorative dinner to be held in New York City on May 5th, 2017 and that article is republished below.

But we wanted to update the context within which the article was written as the dinner commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea occurred on May 5, 2017.

At that dinner both the President and the Prime Minister spoke and made it very clear how each saw the importance of working with the other in dealing with 21st century challenges.

The Prime Minister both in his remarks in Australia and the United States remembering this historic event underscored how he saw the centrality of the relationship.

In New York he said: “And as we reflect on the Battle Coral Sea we are reminded of how the stability and prosperity of our region over so many decades has been secured and is secured today by the United States.

Prime Minister Turnbull at the 75th Commemorative Dinner remembering the 75th Anniversary of the Coral Sea, May 5, 2017. Getty Images: Brendan Smialowski.

“A commitment to the peace stability, the rule of law in our region renewed by President Trump for which we thank you sir.

“Each of our great nations defines its national identity, not by race or religion or ethnicity as so many others do, but by a commitment to shared political values, as timeless as they are inclusive – freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

“Shared values. A shared destiny.

“Fiercely competitive, we always want to win, but we know we are always more assured of winning when we are fighting together.”

(The PM’s remarks in both Australia and the US are reproduced at the end of this article).

And President Trump hammered home the centrality of the relationship in these words.

The ties between the US and Australia “were sealed with the blood of our fathers and grandfathers.”

“We forged iron bonds between our two countries.

“Few peoples in the world share ties in history, affection and culture like the Americans and the Australians – few, believe me.”

“With love for our two nations, with pride in our shared history and with faith in almighty God, we renew our old friendship and we pledge our lasting partnership in the search for prosperity and everlasting peace.

In his speech, the President went out of his way to praise the navy and contributions to the Navy of graduates from the Naval Academy.

He as well praised one particular veteran who died during the battle and was described by his Academy roommate as tough guy who followed his own path.

In the President’s words: “In other words, a New Yorker.”

He also noted that today US and Australian servicemen and women are fighting side by side against global threats like ISIS and underscored how important he saw that working relationship to the peace and stability of the two countries.

And one of the speakers was the well known actor John Travolta who delivered a simple and eloquent homage to the US-Australian relationship.

2017-04-29 By Ed Timperlake

Recently the Vice President visited Australia and opened the next phase of the long-unktanding relationship between Australia and the United States grounded in mutual meeting the tough global challenges of the 20th century and facing up to the ones of the day.

The past and the future are being brought together when President Trump will meet next week with the Australian Prime Minister and remember a very significant battle defending Australia against Japanese invasion and pushing the Japanese back from their forward assault on the Pacific.

Now we face a new Pacific threat, a North Korean leader who threatens the US and Australia with nuclear attack. He has not factored in that neither Australia or the United States having defeated the Empire of Japan is not about to roll over and give in to the demands of a nuclear gangster.

When one goes back and remembers the history of working together side-by-side or the very close working relationship between the US and Australian militaries (the Marines are currently in Darwin), the firmness of the resolve of these two democracies should not be doubted.

The hospitality and courage exemplified by Australian citizens in being a trusted ally of American forces is unyielding.

Remembering My Naval Academy “Supe”

As a Plebe at the US Naval Academy in 1965, a Navy Grad from the 19th Century, visited who served as an officer in the Great White Fleet.

He and the senior Officers running the Academy, all highly decorated WW II Officers, agreed that stopping in Australia for shore liberty was one of the most delightful and appreciated moments ever in their sea going career

Our Naval Academy “Supe” was Rear Admiral Draper Kauffman who argued that “Those who not create the future they want must endure the future they get”

Draper Kauffman was the father of Navy SEALs. And he embodied how working with allies and being a US servicemen blended over one into the other to shape a much more effective warfighter.

Admiral Kauffman was a living testimony to joint service in time of war.

Here is his bare bones history:

He was awarded two Navy Crosses for his wartime service which included participation in the invasions of SaipanTinianIwo Jima, and Okinawa. Draper Kauffman is well known as the US Navy’s Founding Frogman, Father of Navy Special Warfare’s UDT/SEAL.  However, less known but equally important is that he is also credited as a Founding Father of US Navy EOD.

His life is a tribute to service as a true American Hero, He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1933.  He was then denied commission as a “Regular” officer due to poor eyesight. But following his denied commission, Kauffman joined the United States Steamship Lines in an effort to assist, in what he felt, the inevitable war against Germany.

Then comes the work with the allies bit which bridged his way to the next phase of his career. On 10 May 1940 he volunteered as an ambulance driver for the French Army in a region of Alsace-Lorraine, just 10 miles from France’s “impenetrable” Maginot Line. On 22 June 1940, he was captured by the Germans with his ambulance co-drivers and became a WWII POW.  He was then repatriated several months later.  For his service in France he became a Holder of France’s Croix de Guerre.

Undaunted, in late 1940, he became a member of England’s Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and volunteered for the Royal Navy Unexploded Bomb Department. In that role, in December 1941, he was one of the first to defuse a Japanese UXO.  For this he was awarded his first Navy Cross.

Then in 1942 Jan 04 LT Kauffman returns to Washington D.C. and established the US Navy Bomb Disposal School. In1942 Jan 23 the first U.S. Navy Bomb Disposal class convened at Washington Navy Yard

In 1944, Kauffman withdrew from the ranks of the US EOD School to begin what would be the predecessor of UDT/SEAL, Naval Combat Demolition Unit

As commander of UDT 5, he participated in the invasion of Saipan, and received a second Navy Cross for leading his team in a daylight reconnaissance of fortified enemy beaches under heavy fire, and on 10 July 1944, leading a night reconnaissance of heavily defended beaches at Tinian island.

http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/battle-of-coral-sea

http://www.gunplot.net/main/content/hmas-hobart-attacked-vietnam-1968

http://www.zeropointusa.com/admiral-draper-kauffman

Working Together

There are many other historical examples, but I will highlight two of them here.

First, we can point to the Battle of the Coral Sea, the 75th Anniversary of which will be honored by the President and the Prime Minister next week, for a key milestone in that relationship.

In May 1942 the first air-sea battle in history played out, The Battle of the Coral Sea. This battle was the first air-sea battle in history. It was an engagement in which the lead role was played by aircraft launched from ships at sea. The strategic battle resulted from Japanese efforts to make an amphibious landing at Port Moresby in southeast New Guinea and then eventually on to Australia.

Unknown to the Japanese, Allied code breakers had learned enough about enemy communications to discern Japanese plans in time for Allied fleets to assemble in the Coral Sea. Rear Admiral Frank J. Fletcher commanded American task forces, including two large aircraft carriers and other ships, and a British-led cruiser force mounted surface opposition. The Japanese used many more ships but divided them into a number of widely separated groups, one of which contained a light carrier. The Japanese covering force also contained two large carriers.

When the main forces traded air strikes, the Americans lost the carrier Lexington, Yorktown was also damaged and later lost the following month at the defining US Sea Service strategic victory The Miracle at Midway. The Japanese suffered damage to the carrier Shokaku. Without air cover, however, the Japanese invasion force turned back, leaving the strategic victory to the Allies. 

http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/battle-of-coral-sea

This was the first air-sea battle in history but that is what the US and the allies face when dealing with contemporary threats and challenges.

And both countries are working hard on modernizing their forces and enhancing their ability to work together even in extreme situations.

The second is one lesson of the Vietnam War, namely the contribution of HMAS Hobart.

The combat firepower of the HMAS Hobart was significant as were many of the other contributions in the US Australian Joint force team.

But at a tragic moment there was a major breakdown in Intel and communications that rested with the American forces.

I was serving as a First Class Midshipman on the USS Great Sitkin, an ammo ship on the ‘Gun Line” off Vietnam in 1968, and we were present when HMAS Hobart took two Aim-7 Sparrow Missiles amidships.

HMAS Hobart, the first warship to carry the new Australian white ensign into action, came under fire nine times, fired 9204 rounds on 1050 targets and steamed 52,529 miles in her first deployment.

It was a nasty and un-necessary friendly fire incident because the two USAF F-4s thought they were shooting down “NVA helicopters.”

It turned out that Air America was running helos up and down the Vietnam coast without keeping the 7th Fleet informed.

But the deadly mistake did not stop the Royal Australian Navy from serving with great distinction.

The rest of the story as the first Assistant Secretary of Veterans affairs for Congressional and Public Affairs I had the honor of representing President Bush (41) and all Americans in Canberra for the dedication of the Australian Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

With a ‘Huey” UH-1 coming out of the mist, and the band playing Waltzing Matilda the dedication parade was led by family members of the fallen all carrying an Australian Flag. Australia was truly a nation that remembered their warrior’s ultimate sacrifice.

Facing 21st Century Threats

And now the two countries are facing 21st century Pacific threats.

Some threats are more immediate than others, but clearly there is an intensifying set of challenges in the Pacific underway and they are not going away anytime soon.

A new and lethal challenge is evident, with the rapid modernization of the PLA, a catch all for Peoples Liberation Army, Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), the Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and their 2nd Artillery Rocket forces.

The new Chinese Aircraft Carrier.

However small there is a probability this PLAAN Aircraft Carrier and with Air, surface and sub-surface combatants eventually will have the potential to follow the Imperial Japanese Navy Attack Plan.

But right now today, there is much greater danger in the Pacific. There is an immediate nasty strategic threat against Australia by the Dear Leader of North Korea. Diplomatically the Australian Defense Minister hit a pitch perfect note:

North Korea’s nuclear weapons program poses a “serious threat” to Australia unless the international community stops it, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has warned.

FOREIGN Minister Julie Bishop has spoken of the “grave” threat Australia faces from a nuclear-armed North Korea, as Australia hit back at the latest incendiary comments from the reclusive state.

After North Korea accused Australia of “blindly and zealously toeing the U.S .line” and threatened a nuclear strike on one of America’s closest allies in the Pacific region, Ms. Bishop said the country’s military ambitions could not continue to go unchecked.

Vice President Pence meets with Foreign Minister Bishop during a visit to Australia, April 2017,

And make no mistake about it, Australia is serious about modernizing its capabilities and punching above its weight. It is not just about adding new platforms to the force and enhancing the integration of the force (remember that fratricide caused the damage to the Hobart and its crew) and interoperability with Australia’s allies, it is about shaping cutting edge thinking about that force and its development.

The forward leaning thinking in the Australian Defence Force is about their embracing training tactics and technology to create perhaps the most modern fighting force in the world for their size.

America because of significant contributions to military R&D has the most cutting-edge weapons in the world, from platforms (Carriers, B-2) , munitions and C&C links.

America is the number one military force in the world.

But this does not mean America has an intellectual monopoly of visionary thinking.

The evolving consortium of 21st century military strategists transcends nationalities and makes the current alliance of military forces, country agnostic on understanding the trends of combat forces empowered with 21st Century technology and the ability to fight and win around the globe.

An adversary will cross these 21st century warriors at that nations or terror organization’s peril.

Providing Cutting Edge Intellectual Leadership

The Aussies are not just buying new equipment; they are rethinking how to integrated that force and make a more effective and lethal combat capability.

There are two recent publications that illustrate this rethinking effort.

The first is by the current chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett (“The Navy and The Nation; Australia’s Maritime Power in the 21st Century”) and the second is the publication of the new RAAF strategy (“Air Force Strategy 2017-2027” Royal Australian Air Force).

Australia’s Vice Admiral Tim Barrett has written a brilliant book about maritime power. It is what is known as a “good read” because it is written with great insights presented in easily understandable prose. He shows the reader why “The Navy and the Nation” is a sacred bond.

This passage is one of the most powerful ever written about the role of a Navy and the connection with their citizens:

“Most People think the Navy is something else.

“They know it exists, the may even have a rough idea of what it is for, but they don’t think it’s got much to do with them.

“They’re wrong.

“The Navy is a national enterprise in which everyone is involved and which everyone is involved and which delivers peace and security to everyone in the country.

“This enterprise is a two-way street, and must be a two-way street.

“Going one way, the Navy offers peace and security. Going the other, the people offer support and contribution. Only when the street is a properly mutual two-way exchange between the Navy and the citizens can this bargain, this contract, deliver what it needs to.”

https://www.amazon.com/Navy-Nation-Australias-Maritime-Century-ebook/dp/B01NA069QS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493413420&sr=8-1&keywords=tim+barrett+navy

The Royal Australian Air Force strategy is less personal than the Navy book.

It is a forceful statement of an achievable vision.

It builds on today’s headlines about the RAAF in combat to focus on how to build a fifth generation combat force.

The focus for the RAAF is upon shaping a 21st network of warriors and building trust with the other services.

The strategy underscored the following:

Air Force’s future success depends on being a valued and effective part of a much more joint ADF, and of ‘One Defence’ more broadly. For this reason, the strategy explains how Air Force will contribute to the larger Defence change journey.

This transparency is important for building and strengthening mutually beneficial relationships with Defence’s other Groups and Services, Government, industry partners and international allies.

The Air Force Strategy will place significant emphasis on people during its implementation. This is deliberate because our people are just as important to our warfighting effectiveness as are our technical capabilities.

Our success in developing our technical capabilities has not always been matched by how well we have developed our workforce. Air Force must place greater emphasis on ensuring our people are able to exploit the full potential of our future platforms and systems. This requirement will extend to our leaders becoming adept practitioners of operational art in the Information Age.

air-force-strategy-2017-2027

The end of USS Lexington during the Battle of the Coral Sea. Left; rocked by an internal explosion and right; destroyers in attendance before the carrier was sunk

And the new generation of warriors is growing up in close working relationship with their fellow warriors flying and maintaining theire F-35s, P-8s, Aegis systems, the Tritons and cross learning in shaping a way to defeat the forces which want to destroy the liberal democracies.

It is not just about buying similar platforms; it is about moving out with ways to shape more lethal, survivable and effective alliance combat forces.

In short, the bonding in combat between Australia and America, which was forged by the Australian and American heroes in their strategic victory during the Battle of the Coral Sea, is moving forward in the 21st century.

The best way to remember the contributions of the past is to build upon those bonds and recreate them in a new and dynamic situation facing both our countries.

The meeting next week is not just ceremonial symbolism – it is about shared risks, capabilities and responses to direct threats to our two countries.

Editor’s Note: On the Australian Navy’s web page there is a very interesting overview on the Battle of the Coral Sea which concludes with an interesting comment about working together:

The Royal Australian Navy’s overall contribution to the Battle of the Coral Sea may not have been as spectacular as that of the American carriers, but the work done by the coast watchers, intelligence staff, the cruisers and other support ships and personnel all contributed to the final result, not just at the Coral Sea but throughout the Pacific War.

Whilst Australians today may scoff at the fears of a Japanese invasion during 1942 the fact is that for many Australians during the 1940s that fear was real.                                      

Address at the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea Commemorative Dinner

5th May 2017

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much. Thank you.

And thank you Mr President and Mrs Trump for your warm family welcome to New York.  Lucy and I are honoured to be here. It is always wonderful to be back in this city and it is wonderful to meet your family, to be here with our son and our son-in-law, it has been a great evening and thank you so much.

And well done, congratulations – it is always good to win a vote in the Congress, or the Parliament as we call it.

And I’ve got to say, it is always reasonably satisfying to win a vote when people predict you’re not going to win it too. So keep at it. It is great. Well done Mr President.

There are so many distinguished guests here tonight – I want to thank you all so much for joining us and in such a great cause.

But there none more distinguished than the Veterans of the Battle of the Coral Sea. From the Royal Australian Navy Rear Admiral Andrew Robertson, Norm Tame, Gordon Johnson, Bill White, Derek Holyoake and from the US Navy John Hancock, Wendell Thrasher and Roger Spooner.

Gentlemen we salute you and we thank you. And I have to say you’re all in great shape. You’re all in great shape!

Earlier this week in Townsville we thanked and welcomed Cecil Wizwell, 93 years young, who served on the USS Lexington as a 17-year-old.

Now, 75 years ago the Japanese advance seemed unstoppable.

Their infamous surprise attack on Pearl Harbour had sunk or disabled much of the United States Pacific Fleet – with the notable exception of the carriers.

The impregnable fortress of Singapore had fallen.

The Royal Navy’s battle ship Prince of Wales and the battle cruiser Repulse had been sunk by Japanese bombers off the coast of Malaya. HMAS Perth and USS Houston had been sunk off Java as had the carrier USS Langley.

Most of Australia’s army was either fighting in the Middle East or were prisoners of the Japanese.

Darwin, as Andrew reminded us, had been bombed. Indonesia, then the Dutch East Indies was taken, as was the north coast of New Guinea and the great naval base of Rabaul.

And Japan’s next inexorable advance was to seize Port Moresby in New Guinea, from which it would isolate Australia, take us out of the war, to be invaded as and when it suited the convenience of the new masters of the Pacific.

And in so doing deprive the United States of the forward base from which to mount its counter attack.

These were dark days indeed.

But then, as so often today, it was signals intelligence that cut through the darkness. From Melbourne, American and Australian code breakers revealed the Japanese plans to the Pacific Commander Admiral Nimitz.

Nimitz sent two carrier task forces led by USS Lexington and the USS Yorktown into the Coral Sea. They were joined by another Task Force led by the Australian cruisers HMAS Australia, HMAS Hobart and the United States ship Chicago.

For the first time, Australian ships were under the overall command of the United States Commander, Rear Admiral Fletcher, and within Task Force 44 itself, Australian Rear Admiral John Crace commanded American ships.

Unity of purpose, unity of command, shared and collaborative signals intelligence – the Battle of the Coral Sea took to the water and the sky, the mateship that had fought and won the Battle of Hamel 99 years ago.

The victory in the Coral Sea was the first setback to the Japanese in the Pacific War, the Moresby invasion force was turned back and by sinking one and damaging two Japanese carriers, it laid the foundation for the decisive victory at Midway a month later.

Churchill called this time the ‘hinge of fate’ and he was so right. The ‘hinge of fate’ turned to victory for America, Australia and our allies.

But it had a high price. The aircraft carrier USS Lexington was lost, as was the destroyer USS Sims and the tanker USS Neosho – over 600 American and Australian sailors and airmen died to secure that victory.

Our nations’ freedom was secured by the bravery of the men on those ships and the pilots who flew through everything the enemy and the weather could throw in their way.

Now this evening, President Trump and I have discussed the bond our great nations forged in freedom’s cause – from the battlefield of Hamel nearly one hundred years ago to our forces fighting side-by-side in the Middle East at this very moment.

And as we reflect on the Battle Coral Sea we are reminded of how the stability and prosperity of our region over so many decades has been secured and is secured today by the United States. A commitment to the peace stability, the rule of law in our region renewed by President Trump for which we thank you sir.

Each of our great nations defines its national identity, not by race or religion or ethnicity as so many others do, but by a commitment to shared political values, as timeless as they are inclusive – freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

Shared values. A shared destiny.

Fiercely competitive, we always want to win, but we know we are always more assured of winning when we are fighting together.

We are confident and we trust each other – that is why the United States is the largest foreign investor in Australia and the United States is our largest overseas investment destination.  And as we have heard from Anthony about to become even larger.

And this relationship is built on the work of millions of Australians and Americans – many of whom here with us tonight – creating thousands of jobs in the USA and in Australia.

Today together we condemn and resist North Korea’s reckless provocation. We fight together in Iraq and Afghanistan to defeat and destroy the terrorists who threaten our way of life.

From the mud of Hamel to the waters of the Coral Sea to the sands of the Middle East today, Australians and Americans stand shoulder to shoulder defending our freedoms.

Recently, I travelled to Baghdad and Kabul to visit our troops and to commemorate Anzac Day.

I brought with me the gratitude of our nation.

And the certain knowledge that we best honour the service and sacrifice of generations past by supporting the servicemen and women, the veterans and their families of today.

I commend the board of the Australian American Association – Chairman Jennifer Nason and President John Berry – for their initiative in launching a new Veterans Fellowship Fund tonight and I thank you all for being so generous.

The proceeds from this evening’s dinner will enable a new generation of Australian and American veterans to be recognised for their service, and rewarded with the experience of earning a degree in either Australia or the United States.

We thank all those Australians and Americans who served— and remember the more than 600 who died—in the Battle of the Coral Sea.

And to all those who serve in the United States and Australian defence forces, we honour you, we thank you, you and your families – with your courage and your service, you keep us free.

Thank you.

Remarks by Prime Minister Turnbull on the Occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea

01 May 2017

Townsville, Queensland

Your Excellencies; Premier, Air Chief Marshal Binskin, Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral Barrett, Senator Brandis, Amanda Rishworth, shadow minister for Defence Personnel and Senator McDonald. Mrs Valerie Fowler, the US Consul General, and Chargé D’Affaires James Carouso, Minister Miyashita from the Japanese Embassy, Admiral Scott Smith, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, Mayor Jenny Hill and Mr Williams, President of the Townsville and District Naval Association.

75 years ago the Japanese seemed unstoppable.

The pride of the US Navy had been sunk in a surprise attack at Pearl Harbour.

The great imperial garrison of Singapore had fallen – the worst defeat in British military history, as Churchill described it.

The Royal Navy’s battle ship Prince of Wales and the battle cruiser Repulse had been sunk by Japanese bombers.

As Admiral Barrett just reminded us, the Australian Navy had lost eight ships.

Most of Australia’s army was either fighting in the Middle East or prisoners of the Japanese.

Darwin was bombed. The Dutch East Indies was taken, as was the north coast of New Guinea and the naval base of Rabaul.

And Japan’s next inexorable advance was to seize Port Moresby, from which it would isolate Australia and take us out of the War to be invaded at the convenience of the new masters of the Pacific.

These were dark times indeed.

The Japanese plans were discovered by American and Australian code-breakers at the Fleet Radio Unit in Melbourne, coast watchers on the Solomons and surveillance flights from Queensland and Port Moresby.

Over four critical days in May 1942, the fate of our island continent hung in the balance.

Australians and Americans fighting side by side, just as they had for the first time 99 years ago at the Battle of Hamel.

Admiral Nimitz sent two carrier task forces led by the Lexington and the Yorktown into the Coral Sea. They were joined by a third task force 44 led by the cruisers HMAS Australia, HMAS Hobart and USS Chicago and commanded by the Australian Rear Admiral John Crace.

The Japanese were turned back, but not without a heavy price.

The mighty aircraft carrier USS Lexington was lost, as was the destroyer USS Sims and the tanker USS Neosho.

The US Navy’s commitment of two of its precious carriers into this battle, showed a total commitment to the defence of Australia.

And it showed a total unity of purpose. For the first time, Australian ships were under the overall command of the United States Commander, Rear Admiral Frank Fletcher, and within Task Force 44 itself an Australian Rear Admiral John Crace commanded American ships.

For the first time a naval battle was fought entirely from the air. Neither of the fleets saw each other or exchanged shell fire.

The Moresby invasion force was turned back in large part because of Admiral Fletcher’s decision to deploy Crace’s Task Force 44 to block the Jomard Passage and Crace was able and the Captain Farncomb of the Australia were able with superb seamanship and without air cover to dodge the Japanese bombs and torpedoes and avoid the fate of the Prince of Wales and Repulse.

By sinking the light carrier, the Shoho and damaging the two fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku the Japanese navy was materially diminished in advance of the coming Battle of Midway, another aerial sea battle which saw the loss of four Japanese fleet carriers and irreversible damage to their naval forces only a few months later.

The Battle of the Coral Sea was the first setback to the Japanese in the Pacific War, it laid the foundation for the victory at Midway- it was a turning point in the war.

Our freedoms were secured by the bravery of the fighting men on those ships and the pilots who flew through everything the enemy and the weather could throw in their way.

We will never know the grim anxiety of the ships’ companies scanning the skies for incoming enemy bombers, but also hoping and praying to see their own pilots returning safely from raids and reconnaissance missions.

We will never know what it was like to be trapped above deck as enemy aircraft strafed the ship, or to be caught below deck as engines caught fire and explosions shut off escape from the flooding sea.

We will never know the courage of the pilots who spent the last of their fuel in battle, knowing they would never make it back to their ship.

We will never know the anguish of those sailors listening intently to radio communications who heard the heartfelt farewells from these brave men as they prepared to meet their death.

It is a great honour to welcome today the families of the USS Lexington’s crew who have travelled here to pay their respects. I reserve an especially warm welcome for 93 year-old Cecil Wiswell who proudly served on board the Lexington as a 17 year old, Seaman Second Class.

Today, the ashes of his friend and fellow Lexington crew member, Harry Frey and Harry’s wife will be scattered in the Coral Sea.

Today, Australia and the United States continue to work with our allies to address new security threats around the world.

Together, we are taking a strong message to North Korea that we will not tolerate reckless, dangerous threats to the peace and stability of our region, and we are united in our efforts to defeat the terrorists in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

We must be forever grateful to those who have put their lives on the line, and those who do so today, so that we might have a free and peaceful world.

I thanked our servicemen and women in the Middle East for their service only last week, serving like the ships’ companies of Australia and Hobartdid 75 years ago with our American allies in freedom’s cause.

It’s a message I repeat today as we pay tribute to the Australians and Americans who served and the more than 600 who died in the Battle of the Coral Sea.

To each of you, I offer the thanks of the grateful generations which came after you.

And to all men and women who have served in our defence forces—and who serve us today— and the families that support them – we thank you and we honour your courage, your service and your sacrifice.

Lest we forget.

The complete set of speeches and presentations at the dinner can be found below:

75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea from SldInfo.com on Vimeo.

 

"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking."

—General George Patton Jr.

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