Friday, May 7, 2010

Battle of the Coral Sea As It Happened

USS Lexington CV-2

Again, taken from the Action Report, what follows is a direct account from the Officers aboard the ship. This report is recorded actions taken and the associated times during the battle on May 7th, 1942.
Report of Action 7-8 May, 1942, by Fighter Director.

7 May 1942

0700 Yorktown launched 12 (?) scouts to search 200 miles covering a sector of 120° median 315° (?). Cruiser launched SOCs for inner and intermediate patrol. The intermediate patrol was a source of constant worry as they did not stay on the screen and we were forced to investigate by vectoring fighters. Many of which turned out to be SOCs. We undoubtedly missed 1-2 Jap shadowers and wasted radio silence and gasoline on too many of our own people. In the future these patrols should never be used unless better organized as to their tactics and unless they have I.F.F. It would have been better if they had stayed down low and off the radar screen. They were finally recalled and the patrol secured.

0730 Lexington launched 9 VSB anti-torpedo patrol and 4 VF for combat patrol. During the period immediately following we were being shadowed by at least two Bogies which we were unable to intercept, one came in at the same time Yorktown scouts were returning from search on 270° distance 25 miles where he began circling, a combat section was vectored but recalled before contact could be made by order other than that of F.D.O. (Fighter Director Officer) when it was felt that planes were identified as friendly, (by circling). Later because the circling continued, fighters were re-vectored but after a heartbreaking chase were unable to intercept. The Jap apparently saw our fighters but they could not sight him. The section leader Lt. (jg) Clark later reported big black clouds in the area where he was searching. Another heartbreaking chase was made on bogey about 0900 when at one time we had three sections chasing the bogey, approaching him on different courses. This bogey withdrew to 45 miles where he went off the screen. Again the section leader Ens. Eder reported tall columns of puffy clouds which made excellent coverage for a plane wishing to escape. There is no doubt that our force was shadowed continuously for a considerable part of the day by Kawanishi and carrier based aircraft.

0835 VS-2 scout reported enemy position and we prepared to launch attack group. No doubt enemy shadowers observed our launching.

0925 Launched 4 VF Combat patrol and began launching Attack group of 9 VF, 28 VSB and 12 TBD. Two scouts had 500-lb. bombs and 18 bombers 1000-lb. bombs.

1010 Launching completed.

1040 Landed patrols. Yorktown completed launching her attack group consisting of 8 VF, 34 VSB and VTB. At this period we were passing through rain squalls and VS 42 scouts were returned from search. All scouts (all of our planes for that matter) must have I.F.F. as quickly as possible. Twice two sections of our fighters were vectored to orbit at stations to intercept doubtful bogeys. The fighters were placed on stations 10-15 miles from the fleet center and ordered not to lose sight of the force since it is very difficult to keep an accurate check on them when they are in that close and lots of other planes are cavorting around such as inner and anti-torpedo patrols. Our own fighters were not hard to follow as they had IFF.

1130 Lieut. Crommelin of VF 42 was vectored successfully and he shot down a Kawanishi at 025° distance 15 miles. There was no rain at the time but the weather seemed foggy.

1145 Lexington launched 4 VF landed 4 VF and 5 SBD.

1204 Yorktown launched 12 VSB anti-torpedo patrol 2 VF and landed 4 VF. The attack group was nearly at their objective. The bogeys were giving us a rest for a change. Our radar operators were doing an excellent job and were furnishing us with sufficient information to evaluate the situation within reach of our radar. Ensign Henslee, Asst. Fighter Director officer was especially useful and was proving himself to be extremely capable. He is a little older than the others, very quick, intelligent and resourceful. The other assistant fighter director officers do a swell job but Henslee has "it". Guymon ACMM did not have much chance to work until late in the day.

1240 Lt. Comdr. Dixon reported "Scratch one flat top". We remained in the vicinity of the Ryukaku and positively saw it sink. Ensign Tony Quigley reported one aileron shot away, unable to return to ship and that he would land on an island probably Rossell. Our returning aircraft appeared on the screen 50-60 miles away by aid of the IFF. Yorktown group returned about the same time. We should have designated some of our IFF planes to accompany Yorktown groups, like wise we should have paired Yorktown fighters up with our people in order to simplify the problem of identification. We tried to do this in the air on the 8th but don't believe the order was ever carried out.

1300 Carriers began recovering returning aircraft.

1304 Lex launched 6 VSB and 6 VF.

1312 Bogey 290/75 same @ 1316 290/82.
We had several plots from time to time on this bogey which was a large group which must have been the Japanese attack group looking for us. They were on a Southwesterly course.

1345 Lex completed landing 27 VSB - 12 TBD - 14 VF.
Our losses 1 VSB, the pilot, Quigley, probably alive on Rossell Island. Yorktown lost one bomber. Yorktown apparently attacked the same carrier our people did which was in a sinking condition when they arrived. They could have looked for the other carrier or gotten the cruisers and destroyers. At this time it was difficult to see Yorktown because of a rain squall.

1550 Launched 8 VF wind 19 kts, sea slight swells, weather unsuitable for SOCs, sky overcast.

1555 Msg. received from Neosho "Sinking".

1600 From: Neosho - position @ 2300 16-38 S., 158-28 E.

1615 Landed 4 VF.

1648 Bogey 275°/72 miles is believed to have been same bogeys sighted earlier at 1312 which were undoubtedly an enemy attack group looking for TF17.

1700 We changed zone time to -11.

1715 Yorktown reported a bogey 354°/24 miles which we could not find on our screen.

1737 The radar screen was clear.

1747 A large group possibly two groups of bogeys appeared on the radar screen 144°/48 miles apparently flying toward our ship at high speed at about 1500 feet in altitude. We checked gas of combat pilots in air, most of them had about 60 gallons. We vectored the Agnes division of 4 planes and two sections of Yorktown fighters Brown and Orange who did not get very far before they reported instrument conditions so because of their low supply of gasoline and because they were harder to track having no IFF, they were recalled. In the meantime Lt. Comdr. Ramsey was about to intercept the Japs who had turned left about 25 miles away to a course of about 275° T., later 260° T.

1755 Lex launched additional fighters followed by Yorktown. The Lex fighters were kept standing by and Yorktown were vectored to assist Ramsey. Lt. Comdr. Flatley with six fighters were ordered to buster. He arrived shortly after Lt. Comdr. Ramsey had made his attack shooting down four Japs, one Jap had holes in his gas tank and was probably lost. Lt. Comdr. Flatley and his group intercepted but we could not tell whether they were getting any Japs or not. Lt. Comdr. Ramsey reported seeing nine Jap fighters. We recalled Lt. Comdr. Ramsey at once for he was forty miles away and low on gasoline. He just had enough to get back and land aboard.

1825 Lex recovering planes.

1852 Yorktown completed recovery of planes. During this period, three fighters were lost, one Lex and one Yorktown, both named Baker, another from Yorktown named Knox. We had thought all of our people were back safe because Baker's wing man had answered up "Agnes White on station" which was Baker's call. Later when we could check and found Baker missing we looked for him on the radar screen and thought we had a plane with I.F.F. about 10 miles away. We could not get any answer to our calls so called him by name where upon Purple 2 from Yorktown answered up "This is Baker". It took several minutes for us to straighten out this confusing coincidence. At times Purple 2 was very close to our force.

1906 Aircraft for which we could not account were observed approaching the fleet. They appeared to want to land. They flashed on their running lights and when challenged replied with either George Fox or "Slant" (- . . - .). Some ships including the Minneapolis opened fire. Yorktown was landing planes and a Yorktown pilot was heard to cry "What are you shooting at me for, what have I done now?", or words similar. Baker or Purple 2 had reported that he was over the formation at 2500 feet, he wanted instructions, we told him to "pancake" about the time firing started but apparently he was wrong, anyhow, he did not show on the screen. Yorktown tried to bring him in but communications were not good among other things and they finally told him to fly about 320° T/120 miles if he wanted to and that with a 25 knot tail wind at low altitude he might reach land.

2000 Position 13°12" S., 154°40" E., Sea moderate, sky broken clouds, no moon, very dark. Cus. 125°T Axis 270°T Speed 15.

2205 Fleet course 150°T; 20 knots. Estimated Jap losses were 1 CV (Ryukaku), 1 CA, 1 CL damaged 3-96 VF, 3 VP, 6 Kawanishi VP (From Minneapolis log) and 2 VF seaplanes. Our losses were 1 Lex scout, Ens. Tony Quigley believed to have landed on Rossell Island, 1 Yorktown bomber who were with the attack group. In the evening engagement Lex fighters shot down four possibly five Jap fighters and lost Lt. (jg) P. G. Baker who was either shot down by or collided with a Jap fighter. Yorktown lost two fighter pilots, Baker and Knox. The number of planes shot down is not known.

2400 Cus 120°T/20 knots. Axis 270°.

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