top of page
75th Anniversary of the Battle of Coral Sea

April 14, 2017 By Dianne Smith

75th Battle of the Coral sea Memorial.jpg

The 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea will be marked by a special commemoration in Cardwell over the weekend of 29-30 April 2017. The feature will be a march and commemorative service to be held on Sunday 30 April at 10.00am at the Coral Sea Memorial Park in Cardwell. The evening prior (29 April) a cocktail party will be held in a style reminiscent of a social event during war time with the community coming together to enjoy a night of celebration and dance.   Coral Sea Memorial Park – google maps location 

The Battle of the Coral Sea is commemorated annually in Cardwell and remembers an air and naval battle fought between the Japanese Imperial Navy and U.S. and Australian Naval Forces at a critical stage of the Second World War, from 4 – 8 May 1942. When the Japanese entered the war in December 1941 they were looking for supremacy in South East Asia, the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies. Singapore fell in February 1942 and Japan’s advance seemed unstoppable. The residents of the East Coast of Australia feared there could be an invasion at any time and took strategic actions. A bridge on Kirrama Range Road had explosives placed under it to be blown up to stop a Japanese force using the road to get to the inland. There were a number of plane crashes in the area. The Battle of the Coral Sea was the first time the Japanese had been stopped from achieving their objective, which was to invade Port Moresby, and therefore an historic joint military action between Australia & the United States which helped change the course of the war in the Pacific.

The story of the Battle of the Coral Sea Memorial Park…….

In 1981 Bill Phillips envisaged a living memorial to the men and women connected with the Battle of the Coral Sea. As owner of the Banfield Caravan Park and former Cardwell Shire Councillor, Bill approached the Cardwell Shire Council to set aside 16 acres (6 hectares) of crown land for a memorial park.

The Governor of Queensland, the Late Sir James Ramsay dedicated the park as a living memorial to the Battle of the Coral Sea on April 29th, 1984. In 1992 Australia celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea with various commemorative services, and Cardwell continues with the tradition, staging the largest of these commemorations early in May each year.

The location, a beachfront park, represents the largest Coral Sea Battle memorial in Australia and bears the unique distinction of being the closest geographically, to the site of the actual 1942 battle, even though the ships sunk during this dramatic conflict lie on the sea bed about 800 kilometres east of Cardwell. Visitors can stroll in the shade of the park’s natural trees, inspect the wall of plaques, or pause for reflection and a snack at one of the table settings. All plaques or memorial features are dedicated to a person or group of people who took part in the Pacific War, both on and off shore.

In 1993, memorials were dedicated to the sailors of the HMAS Australia, USS Chicago and the Naval Association. In 2008 a plaque with the names of all who perished on the aircraft carrier USS Lexington was unveiled. This was followed by specific memorials to the oiler Neosho in 2011 and the destroyer USS Sims in 2012. The USS Yorktown also suffered damage and we are having difficulty compiling an accurate and complete list of those who were killed. We hope to raise funds for future plaque honouring the men of USS Yorktown, and display a full list of those who died.

On 7th May 2012 the declaration of the USS Lexington, USS Sims and USS Neosho as protected historic shipwrecks under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 was announced in Canberra. A group of Lexington veterans who attended the Cardwell Commemoration ceremony also travelled to Canberra for that landmark ceremony. The final resting places of these ships were found by joint US and Australian survey teams.

Over the years Cardwell has had visits from the US 7th Fleet Band. A moving and entertaining concert is usually held in the park and enjoyed by the visiting and local dignitaries and the public.

During foreshore restoration after cyclone Yasi in February 2011, Cardwell’s beachfront pathway was extended through to Coral Sea Park at the northern end of town, with images of ships and planes etched in the pathway. New signs were also erected adjacent to the path recounting details  and stories from the historic 1942 battle.

Today any deceased ex-service man or woman who served in any allied force may have a plaque placed in the park in their memory.

Cardwell’s Coral Sea Memorial Park is a pleasantly natural and living shrine that reminds both Australian and foreign tourists, of the esteem in which which the gallant men and women who fought so courageously to protect Australia’s shores in the middle of last century, are forever held.

bottom of page