By Larry and Joan Dolinski
Continued from update #43
Many of the Odyssey riders came to Sydney expressing little or no enthusiasm for the Olympic Games. The ambiance of this great pageant became seductive and most of these "non enthusiasts" wound up experiencing a mood change and loving it.
We attended the U.S. vs. Cuba baseball game at the Olympic Village, located a number of miles and a 30-40 minute train ride out of Sydney. The stadium was phenomenal with excellent sight lines from all seats. We sat in the upper deck just to the 3rd base side of home plate. What we saw was an outstanding and professional looking Cuban team dominate an inferior and insecure looking American team. The final score was 6-1 in Cuba's favor.
Besides baseball there were half a dozen or more other venues in close proximity, each filled to capacity with people. When it came time to leave the Olympic Village, the sea of people (the largest crowd we have ever been part of) moved at glacial speed toward the train terminal at the edge of the park where people were batched aboard the rail cars in small groups. Even though it took us about one and a half hours to move the few hundred meters from the baseball stadium to the train, we have to admit that the Aussies got it right. They handled the immense crowd well and politely and were very reassuring.
[Northward toward the Tropics]
Our Odyssey group traveled north by air to Townsville, and from there along the coast of the Coral Sea by bike. The end of our first cycling day found us in Cardwell where an historic event of some importance is commemorated. Naval historians refer to that event as the Battle of the Coral Sea. It took place in May 1942 about 500 miles east of Cardwell (well beyond the Great Barrier Reef). At that time and place the Japanese Navy, which had moved aggressively and in unimpeded fashion throughout great reaches of the Pacific Ocean, was headed for Port Moresby, New Guinea (just across a narrow strait from the Australian mainland). Its purpose was to capture Port Moresby, and make it a staging area for the invasion of Australia. The U.S. Navy, led by the aircraft carriers Lexington and Yorktown in conjunction with Australian naval units engaged the Japanese fleet in "un-classic" naval battle. This battle represents the first time in naval history that opposing fleets fought each other without the capital ships of either side sighting the other. The essence of the battle was conducted by naval aircraft.
The Japanese attempt to capture Port Moresby was thwarted at great cost to both sides. The aircraft carrier Lexington was so severely damaged that its crew scuttled its charred remains. Curiously, the Lexington's battle flag (or remnants thereof) is on permanent exhibit at the Cary Library in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Naval historians are of the opinion that the battle was a tactical victory for the Japanese, but a strategic victory for the U.S. and Australia, and that it was a turning point in the Pacific War. With much gratitude, Australians credit the Americans with saving their nation.
In any case, the two of us happened to meet a couple who are members of a commission which erected a monument commemorating each allied ship sunk in that battle (there were several). We learned that have been attempting to obtain financial participation from some appropriate forum or other in the United States to partner with their Australian financial sources, to create a wall of honor on which will be inscribed the name of every allied serviceman who gave his life in the battle. They have written letters to some potential sources and have never received a response. They asked us for some ideas and we suggested the following:
o Contact the Director of the Carey Library in Lexington. Because they display the USS Lexington's battle flag they might have some special interest, contacts, or ideas.
Continued on Update #45
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