On May 7, 1942, Rear Admiral Frank Fletcher stood on the bridge of his flagship, and looked at the radiogram the combat information center had just handed him. Wainwright had surrendered, the Philippines were held by the Japanese.
Fletcher had to think these were grim days. His task force consisted of just two carriers, the USS Lexington and the USS Yorktown. He could be facing many more, and certainly a larger number of escorting vessels. The superiority of the Japanese naval aircraft was becoming well known, and he knew his wildcat fighters were not up to dogfighting with the enemy’s Mitsubishi type 00.
But intelligence revealed a move towards Port Moresby on the southern coast of New Guinea, where MacArthur’s Australians were holding out against thrusts from Kokombona. If New Guinea, and by extension Australia itself, were to hold, then Port Moresby had to hold.
Against this force the Japanese had three carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers. The IJN Shokaku, IJN Zuikaku, and the IJN Shoho were detached from the First Air Fleet for the operation.