Monday, May 8, 2017

Coral Sea Concludes

FRI 8 MAY 1942
Pacific
Battle of the Coral Sea concludes as carrier Lexington (CV-2) SBD (VS 2) sights Japanese Carrier Strike Force (Vice Admiral Takagi Takeo) formed around carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku. As VB 5 pilots leave the ready room on board Yorktown (CV-5), Lieutenant John J. Powers exhorts his shipmates to "Remember the folks back home are counting on us. I am going to get a hit if I have to lay it [his bomb] on their flight deck."
SBDs from Lexington and Yorktown (CV-5) damage Shokaku and force her retirement; Lieutenant Powers scores a direct hit on Shokaku, pressing home his attack to a perilously low altitude of 200 feet; he is last seen attempting, unsuccessfully, to recover from his dive. For his heroism on this day (as well as on the previous day and on 4 May), Powers is awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously.
Zuikaku's air group suffers heavy losses. Damage to Shokaku, as well as to Zuikaku's air group, prevents the use of those two carriers for several months, thus making them unavailable for immediate operations.

At the same time, Japanese carrier bombers and attack planes attack TF 17. The comparatively few fighters on hand compels the continuation of the use of SBDs as anti-torpedo plane patrol. Lieutenant William E. Hall, USNR (VS 2), whose performance of duty the previous day had elicited favorable notice, distinguishes himself in attacking the Japanese planes pressing home their assault on carrier Lexington. Although Hall is badly wounded, he brings his damaged SBD back to his ship having participated in the destruction of at least three carrier attack planes, bravery and skill rewarded with the Medal of Honor. Japanese planes, however, manage to get through and damage carriers Lexington (bombs and torpedoes) and Yorktown (bombs) (14°35'S, 155°15'E). On board Yorktown, Lieutenant Milton E. Ricketts, in charge of an engineering repair party, is mortally wounded when a bomb passes through and explodes just beneath his compartment, killing, stunning or wounding all of his men. Ricketts, despite his wounds, opens the valve on a nearby fire plug, partially leads out the hose, and directs water into the burning compartment before he drops dead. For his extraordinary heroism, he is awarded the Medal of Honor (posthumously).
Lexington is further damaged when gasoline vapors are ignited, triggering massive explosions that lead to her abandonment. She is then scuttled by destroyer Phelps (DD-360), 15°12'S, 155°27'E.
The Battle of the Coral Sea is the first engagement in modern naval history in which opposing warships do not exchange a shot; all damage is inflicted by carrier aircraft. In halting the Japanese push southward and blunting the seaborne thrust toward Port Moresby, Coral Sea is a strategic U.S. victory.
Light cruiser Nashville (CL-43) is damaged when she runs aground at Midway Island; she must return to Pearl Harbor for repairs. Her raiding cruise to Kamchatka is postponed.

Submarine Grenadier (SS-210) attacks Japanese convoy about 120 miles southwest of Kyushu and torpedoes and sinks army transport Taiyo Maru, 30°40'N, 127°54'E; Grenadier survives persistent attacks by enemy antisubmarine forces the following day. Taiyo Maru carries to their deaths many technical experts bound for the East Indies to work on resuming oil production.

Submarine Porpoise (SS-172) is damaged by depth charges off Ceram, Moluccas, 03°50'N, 129°57'E, but remains on patrol.

Submarine Skipjack (SS-184) attacks Japanese convoy about 125 miles east of Cam Ranh Bay, French Indochina, and torpedoes and sinks army cargo ship Bujun Maru, 12°18'N, 111°13'E.

Gulf of Aden
Small reconnaissance seaplane from Japanese submarine I-30 reconnoiters Djibouti.

Atlantic
Unarmed U.S. freighter Ohioan is torpedoed by German submarine U-564 four and a half miles off the coast of Florida, 26°31'N, 79°58'W, and sinks so quickly that no lifeboats can be launched. Coast Guard craft rescue the 22 survivors from the 37-man crew.

U.S. freighter Greylock is torpedoed by German submarine U-588 off Halifax, Nova Scotia, 44°14'N, 63°33'W; there are, however, no casualties among the 41-man merchant crew or the 11-man Armed Guard and the ship reaches Halifax unaided.

Fishing boats Irene and May rescue last boatload of survivors from U.S. freighter Pipestone County, sunk by German submarine U-576 on 21 April. All hands (36-man merchant complement and 9-man Armed Guard) have come through the ordeal unhurt.

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