• Josh Frydenburg and Ambassador John Berry

    Josh Frydenburg and Ambassador John Berry

  • Ambassador John Berry with Australian American Association President Alicia Doherty

    Ambassador John Berry with Australian American Association President Alicia Doherty

  • Ambassaor John Berry with veterans Derek Holyoake and Gordon Johnson

    Ambassaor John Berry with veterans Derek Holyoake and Gordon Johnson

  • St Thomas More Primary School students throw their poppies in to the moat

    St Thomas More Primary School students throw their poppies in to the moat

  • St Thomas More Primary School students Grace Moore and Henry Nguyen place their qreath at the memorial

    St Thomas More Primary School students Grace Moore and Henry Nguyen place their qreath at the memorial

  • Coral Sea Battle veterans Derek Holyoake and Gordon Johnson pause after placing their wreath at the memorial

    Coral Sea Battle veterans Derek Holyoake and Gordon Johnson pause after placing their wreath at the memorial

  • Commodore Andrew Gough

    Commodore Andrew Gough

  • Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin

    Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin

  • Royal Australian Navy guests at the commemoration

    Royal Australian Navy guests at the commemoration

  • Australian American Association president Alicia Doherty with the Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin

    Australian American Association president Alicia Doherty with the Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin

  • David Evans, Dennis Richardson, Secretary Department of Defence, Josh Frydenburg and Gai Brodtmann

    David Evans, Dennis Richardson, Secretary Department of Defence, Josh Frydenburg and Gai Brodtmann

  • Alica Doherty delivers the Prologue

    Alica Doherty delivers the Prologue

Battle of the Coral Sea Commemoration

7 May 2015

The ‘Battle of the Coral Sea’ is said to have saved Australia in 1942. It was for Japan a tactical victory but for Australia and the United States a strategic one as students of history and the turbulent times in that theatre see it as a pivotal point in stopping the advance of the Japanese to Australia.

The commemoration of that battle is held each year in May with to start a service at the Australian-American Memorial, the soaring column with an eagle atop that dominates the sky among the cold grey offices that make up the complex of defence headquarters at Russell. And yes the much disparaged memorial is for Canberrans the subject of name calling. But we paid for it – the Queen opened it in 1954 -  to say thank you to the USA for their support during the war in the Pacific, but I guess it’s the Australian way of dispensing with formalities and coming up with a disarming way of showing a kind of affection for the bunny.

With a recent facelift to spruce it up the memorial is looking spiffing and for this icy cold afternoon of formalities the symbolism was not lost on the guests which included school children from St Thomas More’s Primary School who laid a wreath and tossed poppies into the moat, Ambassador of the USA John Berry reading a message from President Obama and Josh Frydenburg reading a message on behalf of PM Tony Abbott.

There was gift giving of another symbolic kind when Ambassador Berry presented flags that have flown at the embassy in Canberra to two veterans of the Battle of the Coral Sea, Derek Holyoake and Gordon Johnson, at the commemoration. Age may have wearied them but their memories are our lessons explaining the reason for this bunny’s significant place in Canberra.