Mark Stille is a retired Navy Commander with 30 years experience. This experience includes five years of carrier duty, US Intelligence work, Naval War College and Joint Staff. He is also the author of seven other Osprey titles concerning Naval activities in the Pacific War. The coverage of this book is excellent and well balanced. Each chapter receives their appropriate attention.
In early 1942 the US started to go on the offensive. In Feb and March, the Marshalls, Gilberts, Wake Island, Marcus and New Guinea saw carrier strikes by either Lexington, Yorktown or Hornet. In mid April, Doolittle struck Tokyo. In early May we have the Coral Sea Battle which will have a major impact on Yamamoto's attack on Midway. In early August, the US lands on Guadalcanal. Even with these attacks, the Japanese were not deterred. Their plans for taking over New Guinea and the Solomons continued and even had tentative plans for New Caledonia and Fiji in order to isolate Australia and block communications with the US.
The author provides a nice chronology to help the reader envision the coming action. It covers from Dec 7th, 1941 to May 8th, 1942. The last few days are time sequenced by the hour which was great.
The Opposing Commanders are covered well. Yamamoto, Inoue, Takagi, Hara and Goto are covered while on the US side, Admirals King, Nimitz, Fletcher, Fitch along with Captains Buckmaster and Sherman are discussed.
Opposing Fleets is next and the author devotes 20 pages to this chapter. He describes the different carrier classes including specifications and a brief history of each. Air Defense standards and air groups are then covered. Toward the end the carrier planes are mentioned, stating strengths and weaknesses. Four planes for the Japanese and three for the US (Wildcat, Dauntless, Devastator) are mentioned. The author also squeezes in intelligence operations for the US and the improvements in code breaking that were achieved in 1942. There is much that could be said about this field; I wished the author had more space to develop it more fully. A detailed Order of Battle closes out the chapter.
Opposing Plans is also interesting. The Japanese were still in their expansion phase and were working hard on securing New Guinea, the Solomons. Their appetites even included Australia for the future. After the successful Doolittle run, the Japanese added the invasion plans for Midway with the hope of destroying the US carrier fleet. The author provides excellent coverage of what the Japanese were trying to achieve.
With the help of Ultra, the US had a good estimate of what the Japanese were up to in regards to Midway and the Coral Sea area and the usual cautious Nimitz quickly put together an aggressive plan to stop the Japanese.
The Battle for the Coral Sea starts on page 46 and begins coverage of the opening moves starting in late April and the author deliberately makes his way through May 8th with the sinking of the Lexington and Fletcher retiring to the south. The author ends the battle action by describing Lexington's demise and tallies the wins and loses of the immediate engagement for both sides. The Japanese stopped their carrier invasion plans of New Guinea which was probably the biggest near term benefit to the Allies. In Aftermath the author describes the long term repercussions of the battle. The US lost the Lexington while only sinking the smaller Shoho but strategically it effected Yamamoto's performance at Midway the following month. The Japanese also decided to stop their conquest, at least for the immediate future, to Tugali and Guadalcanal.
There were five 2-D maps and all of them were very good. The first map contains the sphere of Japanese control in May 1942. The next map zooms in on just the Coral Sea area that includes eastern New Guinea, Solomons, New Caledonia and the northern tip of Austrailia. The last three maps shows the ship movements of both sides during the week of May, during the actual battle. There are also three 3-D maps which I haven't seen before in an Osprey book. The US attack of the Shoho, the US attack on the MO Task Force on May 8th and the last concerns the Japanese attack on the Lexington and Yorktown on May 8th. The 8 maps cover the action very well. Most people will probably like these new 3-D maps but I didn't.
The three battle illustrations were also very good. They depict the US attack of the Shoho, the US attack on the Shokaku and the Japanese attack on the Lexington. They were all very good. There are also many fine photos of carriers, other ships and planes. (The photos alone are worth the cover price.) Mr Stille also provides a Reading list and Index.
The author has done an excellent job of describing the Pacific war environment of 1942, the actual battle in the Coral Sea and some of its after effects. If you have an interest in knowing how we lost the Lexington, or the points of victory of the US in this battle or what the Pacific war was like in early 1942 or if you like ships you should consider getting this book.