The Battle of the Coral Sea


Japan started the war in Asia and in the Pacific to establish and protect a "New Ordern
in Ask2 In "Phase I" of the war, the "operational objective" of the Imperial Fleet, in the
words of Combined Fleet Secret Order Number One, issued on 1 November 1941, was
expressed as follows: ". . . by ejecting British and American strength from the Netherlands
Indies and the Philippines, to establish a policy of autonomous self-sufficiency and
economic independen~e."W~ illmott, in the same vein, asserts that

. . .of all the major combatants Japsn alone did not aspire to a final victory.. . . Japan's goal was
to secure a negotiated peace by limiting and winning the contlict she began . . . in 1941. She
aimed to force her enemies to come to terms with the gains she intended to make in the opening
months of the war.'

Asia was defied by those Japanese who shared this vision of the immediate future as
including India and Indonesia, as well as China, Manchuria, and all of Southeast Asia,
including the Philippines. Australia was on the periphery of Asia, in danger of being
swept into its definition at the next favorable turn of events.

Phase I of the Japanese master plan for the conquest of this vast area actually ended in
the central and western Pacific in March 1942, with the unexpectedly quick and easy
defeat of Australian, British, Dutch, and American forces and the fall of Java. Heroic
American naval, ground, and air forces on Corregidor did not capitulate until 6 May 1942.
The fall of Java, however, marked the end of effective naval resistance in the entire region
from Singapore to New Guinea.


Flush with their uninterrupted string of victories, Japanese army and navy planners

agreed, probably in late December 1941 or early January 1942, that the United States and

Great Britain must be prevented from developing Australia as a base from which to launch

a counteroffensive. How this ambitious goal was to be accomplished became a matter of

contention, however, and a controversy developed between the army and navy over the

"propriety* of actually invading Australia and India. The navy reasoned that, to keep the

U.S. and Great Britain on the defensive, all Japanese military arms should be constantly

on the offensive. Amrdingly, naval strategists recommended a far-reaching but vastly

unpopular menu of joint armylnavy amphibious offensives throughout the central and

western Pacific and in the I n d i i Ocean to be accomplished in the fist six months of 1942.

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