May 3

The Battle of the Coral Sea

Monday, May 3, 2010 1:00 AM


Death of the Shoho, by Robert Benney, Oil on masonite, 1942, Navy Art Collection # 88-159-AI

 The week marks the anniversary of the Battle of Coral Sea, the first major naval engagement in history fought without surface ships exchanging a shot. On 7 May 1942, aircraft from USS LEXINGTON and USS YORKTOWN were sent out in search of Japanese aircraft carriers. They found Japanese aircraft carrier SHOHO, along with 4 heavy cruisers. As seen in this painting, aflame from stem to quarter, SHOHO fell victim to the lethal combat tactics of Navy dive and torpedo bombers: the ship sank within a period of minutes. The overall battle may have been a lost for the US Navy, but it stopped the Japanese invasion force headed to Port Moresby. 


Artist Biography: Born in New York in 1904, Robert Benney studied at some of the city’s most prominent art schools, such as the Cooper Union, the National Academy of Design, and the Art Students League. At the age of nineteen, he opened his own studio and from there began his carrier as an illustrator for magazines and newspapers in the New York area, later moving on to commissions for major industries and companies. In 1943 Abbott Laboratories hired him to work on paintings depicting the Naval Aviation Department’s role in the major battles of the Pacific. In 1944, Abbott turned to him again, this time to document the Army Medical Department in the South Pacific. While there, he covered the invasions of Saipan and the Marianas. In 1954, the Society of Illustrators volunteered its services to the U.S. Air Force. With this project, Benney traveled to North Africa to illustrate the work that was going on there. In 1968, he again offered his services as a war correspondent and served with the Marines in Vietnam. His artworks are now held by all branches of the Armed Services. Between his stints as a war correspondent, Benney worked on illustrations for major American companies and industrial associations, such as the sugar industry. He taught at the Pratt Institute from 1949 to 1952, and was Associate Professor of Fine and Commercial art at the Dutchess County College from 1964 to 1973. He died in 2001.