|The USS Lexington CV-2 off the coast of San Diego in October, 1941|
May 4th, 1942 the Battle of the Coral Sea begins, which results in the world's first major carrier battle. The USS Lexington and Task Force 11 sailed out of Pearl Harbor on May 1st, joining with the USS Yorktown and Task Force 17 which was tasked with patrolling the Coral Sea. Prior to leaving port, the Lexington had her 8" turrets removed and replaced with quad 28mm anti-aircraft guns in response to a February raid by Japanese forces from which the 'Lady Lex' escaped without serious damage. The Lexington and Yorktown had previously launched a successful surprise attack on the two shipping ports of Salamaua and Lae on March 10th. Now together again, the Lexington and Yorktown were charged with preventing the Japanese invasion of Port Moresby on New Guinea's southern coast.
The Japanese had successfully invaded and occupied the island of Tulagi, west of New Guinea, on May 3rd and 4th. During their invasion, several ships and planes were destroyed by a surprise attack from flight groups originating from the Yorktown. The Japanese, now aware of the presence of a US carrier, sailed into the Coral Sea with an Invasion Force intended for Port Moresby from the north, a separate Covering Force from the northwest and an aircraft carrier Striking Force from the east. The Yorktown's TF 17, sailed southeast to join the USS Lexington sailing in from Pearl Harbor. Both sides, now aware of the enemy presence are preparing for a major battle, not realizing their close proximity to each each other. So close were the Allies and Japanese that at one point they sailed within 70 miles of each other between Rennell and San Cristobal Islands sometime between May 4th and May 5th.
The Lexington and TF 11, just arriving from Pearl Harbor, joined with TF 44, an Australian cruiser-destroyer force, mustering in the eastern Coral Sea to the south of the Solomon Islands. After completing her attack on the Tulagi sea plane base to the north, the Yorktown's TF 17 joined the Lexington's TF 11 and Australian TF 44 where, operating on good communications intelligence, the entire allied force sailed west into the Coral Sea in an attempt to destroy the Japanese invasion force bearing down upon Port Moresby. Within 48 hours they would all be taking part in one of the most historic naval battles of all time.
Over the next few days I will be highlighting some of the major actions during the Battle of the Coral sea, as well as retelling some of my grandfather's stories. I hope you will find it enlightening and entertaining.
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