The Coral Sea 1942: The First Carrier Battle, Mark Stille

The Coral Sea 1942: The First Carrier Battle, Mark Stille

Campaign 214

The battle of the Coral Sea was the first naval battle fought between two fleets based around aircraft carriers, and was one of the first major setbacks suffered by the Japanese after months of non-stop victories. Despite suffering the loss of the Lexington, the Americans were able to force the Japanese to abandon their planned landing at Port Moresby on the southern coast of New Guinea, and force them to begin a costly overland campaign that would also end in failure.

Stille starts with a brief look at the early events of the Pacific War. He then moves on to compare the American and Japanese commanders and their fleets. This section also examines the Japanese plan for the invasion of Port Moresby, and the American reaction to it. This section shows how the early Japanese victories caused a dangerous level of overconfidence (known as 'victory fever'), and how that overconfidence was reflected in the poor quality of Japanese planning, which tended to assume that Allied resistance wouldn't become any more effective than in the early days of the war.

He does a good job of explaining the differences between the American and Japanese carriers, their aircraft, and the different way they operated their air groups, with the Japanese seeing each group of carriers as a single entity, while at this early stage in the war each American carrier operated alone.

One particularly effective feature of this book are the '3D' diagrams used to explain the progress of the aerial attacks on the Japanese and American carriers. These show the starting position, altitude and movements of each aircraft group, as well as the movements of the ships under attack, and give a good idea of the complexity of even these relatively small scale carrier battles.

Stille has produced a useful, well illustrated, account of the battle of the Coral Sea, and the events that led up to it, with a good balance between essential background information and a clear account of the battle itself.

Origins of the Campaign
Opposing Commanders
Opposing Fleets
The Battle of the Coral Sea
The Aftermath

Author: Mark Stille
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 96
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2009

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