Voyage of the Great White Fleet (December 16, 1907). In pre-World War I days, the Navy carried out its role as a diplomatic arm of the government. On December 16, 1907, the Great White Fleet left Hampton Roads, Virginia, for a round-the-world cruise to show the flag and demonstrate the strength of the U.S. Navy to the world
Battle of Coral Sea (May 7-8, 1942). Thanks to the breaking of the Japanese Navy code, the U.S. was alerted to a large Japanese force moving into the Coral Sea to seize Port Moresby on the southwest coast of New Guinea. It was to be the first step of a planned invasion of Australia. The Japanese operation centered around three aircraft carriers and dozens of troop transports, but the Americans met them with two carriers of their own. On May 7, the Japanese planes sank two minor Allied ships, while U.S. planes sank an isolated enemy carrier. The next day, both sides launched all their planes against the other. The aircraft passed each other unseen in the clouds, in the world's first carrier verses carrier battle. One Japanese carrier was damaged. The U.S. carrier Lexington was sunk, and the carrier Yorktown was damaged. After this action, both sides withdrew. Although a tactical victory, the Battle of Coral Sea was a strategic setback for the Japanese who never again threatened Australia.
Battle of Midway (June 3-5, 1942). Midway was the turning point of the Pacific war. The U.S. breaking of the Japanese naval code was again the key element as it had been at the Battle of Coral Sea a month earlier. A huge Japanese armada of 160 warships was involved, but Commander-in-chief Admiral Yamamoto split his force, sending some ships north to the Aleutian Islands in a diversionary attack. The Japanese retained superior numbers approaching Midway which included 4 aircraft carriers and 11 battleships. At Midway, the U.S. had 3 carriers and no battleships. The Americans knew what was coming because of the broken codes, and Admiral Nimitz positioned his 3 carriers (the Hornet, Enterprise, and Yorktown) out of Japanese reconnaissance range. As the Japanese carriers launched their planes to assault the Midway defenses, the U.S. planes headed for the enemy carriers. It took many attacks, but finally the U.S. crews got through and sank 3 Japanese carriers. The next day the fourth carrier was sunk. Japanese planes sank the Yorktown. In one day, Japan lost its bid for control of the Pacific.
Battle of Normandy (June 6, 1944). The Navy's most notable Atlantic action may have been its part in the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy—the largest amphibious operation in history. The greatest armada ever assembled carried out minesweeping, shore-bombardment, amphibious operations, and transported supplies and troops. These operations enabled the Allies to complete D-Day landings successfully and eventually push into Germany.