After General Macarthur’s retreat and regrouping of forces in 1942 , the Japanese were held up in the battle of Bataan and Corregidor quelling the guerilla rebellion in the Philippines. The rebellion was put up by resistance fighters from both American and Filipino ranks of soldiers who refused to surrender to the Japanese when General Edward King and General John Wainright was forced to surrender Bataan and Corregidor to avoid the massacre of surviving American and Filipino soldiers In March and April 1942 .
It was during the surrender of Bataan and the march that followed by the surviving American and Filipino soldiers going to the various internment camp in Central Luzon from April 7 to 10, 1942 that thousands of the combined forces were literally butchered by Japanese soldiers – often by the end of the bayonets . The marching soldiers were weak if not wounded by months of resistance with meager food rations. This march came down in history as “The Bataan Death March” because of the thousands who died during the march.
By this time, the Japanese conquest of the Pacific was almost complete. Japan is now looking towards New Guinea, Fiji, New Caledonia and Samoa . The Japanese advance was finally halted at the Battle of the Coral Sea. Preparations were underway on April 18, 1942 . It lasted through May 8th when their invasion fleet was turned away after Allied naval forces and bomber planes clashed with the Japanese landing forces in Port Moresby . The American bombers launched from two American carriers namely the Enterprise and the Hornet were the same ones that bombed Tokyo.
At that time, the remaining naval battle ship that the Americans is still being repaired in an Australian port. Thus, the strategy to stop and halt the Japanese advance had to be done by air alone or else, the strategists thought that the campaign against the advancing Japanese forces would be too late . One thing that had put the Americans and the Allied forces ahead of the Japanese tacticians was the fact that they have broken the Japanese code and knew what the Japanese plans were at this time.
Hence, they were able to manipulate the strategies and anticipate the Japanese movements. Had the Japanese won this battle, the Allied forces would have left New Guinea open for attack and Australia [3 and 6] – where General MacArthur’s forces were regrouping – vulnerable and isolated from other Allied forces should they need reinforcements. The Battle of the Coral Sea was fought mainly by American bombers. The Japanese lost 43 planes while the Americans lost 33 planes.
The battle was seen as a victory for Americans although they also lost the carrier “Lexington” to Japanese bombers because it stopped the Japanese from isolating Australia . A month later, the Japanese invasion fleet lost a decisive battle losing 4 aircraft carriers while the US lost one carrier. Soon after, Japan was losing one battle after another. What they had gained between 1939 – 1942 they were now losing, one island after another in 1943 to 1944 . The next decisive battle that the Japanese lost was the Battle of Midway [3 and 7].
Right after the Battle of the Coral Sea and the event in Port Moresby, the US carriers “Enterprise” and “Hornet” were joined by the heavily damaged “Yorktown” for repairs in Pearl Harbor. Ironically, the Battle of Midway was situated in an island off Hawaii – as a gateway to the pacific theater . While the attack at Pearl Harbor started the war between the US and Japan, the US Naval Base and repair facility would prove to be one of the catalysts in defeating the Japanese naval fleet .
Towards the end of May (May 28th), Task Force 16 – the task force assigned to decimate the Japanese naval fleet, sailed from Pearl Harbor led by the “Enterprise” commanded by Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance. “Enterprise” was accompanied by six cruisers, nine destroyers and two tankers. Two days later, “Yorktown” also left to join the task force. At that time, the commander-in-chief for the Pacific was Admiral Nimitz . As in the Battle of the Coral Sea and Port Moresby, the Admiral had previous intelligence on his counterpart’s battle plan – General Yamamoto who commanded the combined fleet.