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US President recalls sea battle

US Consul General Niels Marquardt and Commodore Geoff Geraghty lay wreaths commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea.
US Consul General Niels Marquardt and Commodore Geoff Geraghty lay wreaths commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. Doug Eaton

AS US Consul General Niels Marquardt stood before the crowd at Cenotaph Park in Ballina, he commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of The Coral Sea by reading a letter from President Barack Obama.

The letter reinforced long-term military and cultural ties between Australia and America.

"On May 7 and 8, 1942, against overwhelming odds, American and Australian forces stood united in The Coral Sea, delivering a victory that buoyed the spirits of free nations and marked an important mile- stone in the enduring friendship between the United States and Australia," the letter said.

"On this occasion we reaffirm the strong bond between our nations and honour the selfless devotion of the American and Australian service members who bravely fought in that battle 70 years ago."

After addressing the crowd on Saturday, Mr Marquardt laid a wreath at the base of the cenotaph in the park.

Federal MP Janelle Saffin, NSW MP Don Page, Ballina Shire Council Mayor Phillip Silver, armed forces personnel and ex-veterans and their families also attended the ceremony.

Gloria Lee of Alstonville was there because her father served on the HMAS Hobart during the Battle of The Coral Sea.

"It (HMAS Hobart) was hit by a torpedo but it didn't sink," Ms Lee recalled.

"My father and his mates had to pick up the remains of other people.

"Eventually he was discharged from the navy with severe back injuries and war nervosas, which is what we now call post traumatic stress disorder. And even though he had it until he died, he was so proud to be in the navy."

The Battle of the Coral Sea has often been referred to as the battle which stopped Japanese forces breaching Australian borders, Ms Lee claimed.

"It's good to have this service because it's a part of our history and the battle of the Coral Sea may have been more important than Gallipoli, yet it doesn't seem to get the recognition of Gallipoli."

Topics:  barack obama, niels marquardt



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