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CV2/A16-3/(0100)                              U.S.S. LEXINGTON                          10-fd

 

                                                                                                May 15, 1942.

 

 

 

To        :                       The Commanding Officer, U.S.S. LEXINGTON.

                                    The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

 

Via       :                       (1)        Commander Task Force ELEVEN.

(2)               Commander Task Force SEVENTEEN.

 

Subject:                        Report of Action – The Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 and 8 May 1942.

 

Enclosure:                     (A) Approximate Track Chart of LEXINGTON 7 – 8 May, 1942.

(B)  Set of Photographs showing damage to LEXINGTON and various stages of the attack.

(C)  Sketch of torpedo hits made by VT-2 on RYUKAKU, May 7th.

(D)  Sketch of torpedo hits made by VT-2 on SHOKAKU, May 8th.

(E)   Sketch of tracks of Torpedo Squadron TWO on 7 May.

(F)   Sketch of Track of Torpedo Squadron TWO on 8 May.

(G)  Pictures of Enemy CV Attacked by LEX Gr. On 7 May.

 

1.         On the 7th of May 1942, the LEXINGTON was operating in the Coral Sea as part of Task Force SEVENTEEN, with Rear Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch on board as Commander Air.  The Air Task Group consisted of the LEXINGTON and YORKTOWN and accompanying destroyers.  Various actions took place during that day and the next, May 8th.  The following report is submitted:

 

NARRATIVE OF EVENTS, MAY 7th.

 

2.                  At early dawn May 7th the YORKTOWN launched 10 scout bombers to search a hundred and twenty degree arc to a distance of 250 miles, median 025 degrees true, for enemy forces.  At 0835 contact report was received from YORKTOWN of two enemy carriers, two cruisers and two destroyers in a position in the vicinity of Misima Island, the distance being about 170 miles from the ship.  So far as reported, the rest of the search was negative.  The scout in the eastern arc reported low visibility in that area and turned back at 150 miles, the rest of his arc not being searched.

 

3.                  The LEXINGTON attack group was launched for attack about 0925.  It consisted of 10 VF, 28 VSB, and 12 VTB.  Eight SBD’s were retained at the ship for anti-torpedo plane patrol.  After the group was well on its way, YORKTOWN reported

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S.S. LEXINGTON                                      10-fd

                                                                                                                 May 15, 1942.

 

Subject:            Report of Action- The Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 and 8 May 1942

 

 the scout making the contact had corrected his report when he returned to the ship to 2 CA and 2 CL.  This implied to me that there was no carrier present.  However, the group was allowed to continue.

 

4.                  About 11:30 the group made contact with a carrier of the RYUKAKU type and started their attack.  VS-2 consisting of 10 SBDs loaded with 1-500 and 2-100 lb bombs, attacked first and obtained 2 500lb bomb hits as follows:

 

1 on stern about 50 feet from ramp.

1 about 2/3 aft on flight deck, center.

 

These later were confirmed by independent observers, including Commander of Fighting Squadron Two.

 

 

5.                  VB-2 attacked at 1145 and obtained 5-1000 lb bomb hits as follows:

 

1 about 2/3 aft on sbtd side flight deck.

1 aft on flight deck amidships.

1 aft on port side flight deck.

1 amidships about ½ way aft.

1 near stbd side aft.

 

Sixteen pilots participated in that attack and it is not practicable to determine which ones definitely made direct hits.  However, the number of hits was confirmed not only by the participating pilots and the Squadron Commander, but also by the Commander of Fighting Two and others who were in excellent position to observe.  The ship was a mass of flames from bomb hits and covered by splashes from the later torpedo hits.

 

6.                  VT-2 attacked at 1145 and obtained 9 torpedo hits by planes as follows:

 

2-T-1, pilot, Lieut. Comdr. J.H. Brett, Jr., USN.

2-T-2, pilot, Lt. (jg) L.F. Steffenhagen, USNR.

2-T-4, pilot, Lieut. R.F. Farrington, USN.

2-T-7, pilot, Lieut. E.W. Hurst, USN.

2-T-8, pilot, Ensign C. Hamilton, USN.

2-T-9, pilot, Gunner H.E. Tulkington, USN.

2-T-10, pilot, Lt. (jg) L.W. Thornhill, USN.

2-T-11, pilot, Rad. Elect. J.E. Thornhill, USN.

2-T-12, pilot, C.A.P. M.H. Georgious, USN.

 

                                               

 

 

U.S.S. LEXINGTON                                      10-fd

                                                                                                                 May 15, 1942.

 

Subject:            Report of Action -  The Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 and 8 May 1942

 

7.                  Photographs were obtained during the latter phases of the attack, showing only the bow of the carrier with the rest of it completely enveloped in smoke, splashes, and flames.  It is difficult to conceive any other result than complete destruction of this carrier and the personnel loss must have been close to 100%.  From the bow silhouette in the photographs plus the cut away flight deck, the pilots descriptions, and radio intelligence it is believed that this carrier was the RYUKAKU.  These photographs were saved when the LEXINGTON was abandoned.

 

8.                  One of our planes was lost in this attack.  Lieutenant ALLEN, executive officer of VS-2, was definitely seen to go into the water as the result of enemy fighter action.  Another SBD, Lieut. (jg) QUIGLEY, of VS-2, was damaged by AA fire, reporting his control wires shot away and his plane became unmanageable.  He was directed by his Squadron Commander to bail out or land on Rossel Island in the Louisiades Archipelago.  This was friendly territory and it is hoped he made a safe landing.  Air Headquarters at Townsville was notified with the idea of his rescue, results so far unknown.

 

9.                  The rest of the group returned and landed about 1345.  A second attack on enemy ships in the De Boyne Island area was ready at 1450 but was not ordered by the Task Force Commander due to the possibility of other enemy carriers being in our vicinity and not yet located.  Evidence existed that we were being shadowed by enemy planes and enemy radio was intercepted giving our approximate position and exact course and speed.  The weather in our area was squally, with about 90% overcast, frequent rain squalls, in which ceiling and visibility were zero.  Wind varied from 15 to 22 knots from southeast.

 

10.              About 1745, very close to sunset, radar contacts gave a group of enemy planes to the westward.  Fighter Control directed fighters in the air to intercept and additional fighters were launched.  These planes intercepted a formation of nine enemy zero fighters and engated them in combat.  Results were as follows:  Four zero Jap fighters shot down, two other zero fighters damaged as evidenced by smoke and gasoline leakage.  Yorktown fighters claimed three which would account for the entire formation of nine, if there was no over-lapping.

 

Our losses:  One VF, Lieut. (jg) P.G. Baker, pilot, failed to return.  It is believed that he collided with a zero fighter, included in the above enemy losses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                    U.S.S. LEXINGTON                                      10-fd

                                                                                                     May 15, 1942.

 

Subject:            Report of Action – The Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 and 8 May 1942.

 

11.              While landing the combat patrol, well after sunset and almost completely dark, strange planes appeared flying around our formation.  They were challenged and I received one report that they answered correctly and it was presumed at first they were YORKTOWN planes approaching to land.  One observer reported they were two-engine torpedo planes.  YORKTOWN reported they were enemy planes.  Some ships opened fire on them.  YORKTOWN and LEXINGTON planes were still circling to land.  However, these strange planes made no hostile move, were turning running lights and eventually moved off thirty miles to the eastward, where radar showed them circling and apparently landing on an enemy carrier.  They were definitely enemy planes and apparently mistook us for their own force.  The indicated presence of enemy carriers only thirty miles east was reported to the Task Force Commander.  It was estimated that these carriers were the SHOKAKU and the ZUIKAKU of Cardiv FIVE, which until that time had been unaccounted for.

 

12.              It is believed that this day’s action resulted in the complete destruction of the enemy carrier RYUKAKU with practically all personnel and ultimate loss of all her planes.  In addition, during the day, the following enemy plane losses were inflicted:

 

6 zero type VF at 1745.

4 “97” type VF at scene of enemy carrier.

1 VT near scene of enemy carrier.

 

Total 11 planes.  This does not include planes shot down by YORKTOWN group.

 

Our losses during the day were:  2 SBD, 1 VF.  The pilot and radioman of 1 SBD may be safe on Rossel Island.

 

                        SECOND DAY’s NARRATIVE

 

13.              The Task Force Commander’s decision was to proceed during the night to southwestward and search for and attack the enemy carriers at dawn.  The LEXINGTON was directed to search 360 degrees, 200 miles in the northern semicircle and 150 miles in the southern semicircle.

 

14.              Contact was made by LEXINGTON scout 2-S-2, Lieut. (jg) Joseph Smith, about 0820, with a formation of two CV, 4 CA, and 3 DD 170 miles to the northeastward.  Attack group consisting of 24 SBDs, 10 VF, and 12 VTB was launched

 

 

 

 

U.S.S LEXINGTON                                       10-fd

                                                                                                                 May 15, 1942.

 

            Subject:            Report of Action – The Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 and 8 May 1942.

 

between 0900 and 0920, and proceeded immediately.  At 0832 radio intercepted enemy transmission giving our position, course, and speed and we knew definitely we had been located.  I predicted enemy attack would come in about 1100.  All preparations to receive it were made.  Ship was at General Quarters; condition Zed was set; returning scouts were launched as anti-torpedo plane patrol; additional fighters not already in the air were launched at 1030 and 1100; and all stations were warned to be ready.

 

15.              The weather in our vicinity was clear, unlimited visibility and ceiling, few clouds, no rain squalls, wind about 15 knots, from southeast.  Radar reported at 1100 many enemy aircraft approaching from northward, distance about 75 miles.  First enemy planes were sighted from the ship at 1113.  They were torpedo planes.  They were at about 6-700 feet altitude and split and came in from both bows.  Ship’s speed had been built up to 25 kts. at 1100 when the attack was expected and was immediately increased to 30 kts. when the hostile aircraft were sighted.

 

16.              Our combat patrol, under the Fighter Director, was patrolling at 10,000 feet.  Exact altitude of the approaching enemy was not determined, but was known to be over 10,000 feet.  The fighters made contact 20-30 miles out but the enemy bombers were at 17,000 feet and the performance of our fighters was not sufficient to gain enough altitude to attack them before they reached the “push-over” point.  The bombers intercepted were accompanied by 18 protective fighters, which our fighters subsequently engaged in combat and show down or damaged six.  They were Me-109, 00, 96, and 0 types.

 

17.              The Anti-torpedo Plane Patrol was on station at 2000 feet, but about 6000 yards out.  This patrol always has a tendency to get too far out, probably due to both concern over AA fire from surface ships and an eagerness to intercept torpedo planes well out.  From this position the enemy torpedo planes at high speed came in over them.  Even so, the SBD’s on the port side intercepted; shot down 4 VT with torpedoes, 4 without torpedoes, 1 VB and 2 accompanying VF.  One SBD was shot down by enemy VF.

 

18.              Anti-aircraft fire from this force was opened generally about 1113.  Torpedo planes made the first attack, the first approaching from port and others circling to come in from starboard bow.  Most of these planes came in at about a 40 or 45 degree dive from 6-7000 feet, making high speed and dropping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                U.S.S. LEXINGTON                                      10-fd

                                                                                                                 May 15, 1942.

 

            Subject:            Report of Action – The Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 and 8 May 1942

 

their torpedoes in the dive attitude from altitude of 300-500 feet, although some were seen to level off just above the water and make a normal drop.  The range at the dropping point varied from 500 to 1200 yards.  I turned to port with full rudder to bring the first torpedoes ahead.  From then on torpedoes were coming from both starboard and port and I maneuvered with full rudder both ways as I considered best to avoid torpedoes.  Some from starboard crossed ahead; two others ran parallel to the ship, one on each side; some from port ran ahead; two ran under without hitting.  At 1120, first torpedo hit ship and exploded just forward of port forward gun gallery; at 1121, one hit a little further aft about opposite the bridge.  In the meantime, dive bombers were making their attack from about a 70 degree dive angle.  They were pushing over from high altitude, 17,000 feet, and were not visible until they were in the final stages of their dive.  One bomb estimated at 1000 lbs hit the after end of the port forward gun gallery in the ready ammunition locker just outside the Admiral’s cabin.  Two other near misses hit close aboard aft on the port side and at first were mistaken for torpedo hits.  Another bomb estimated 500 lbs hit the gig boat pocket on the port side, and one 100 lb hit the stacks and exploded inside.  There were one or more near misses aft on the starboard side, fragments killing and injuring a number of men in the stack machine guys, sky aft, and the after signal station.  I personally saw a flaming bomb, approaching the ship from port, and burning with a reddish colored flame.  I am unable to say whether or not it hit.

 

19.              Apparently there were seven explosions against the LEXINGTON, two of which are thought to have been torpedoes, 1 1000-lb bomb hit, 2 1000-lb bomb very near misses on the port side, and 2 smaller bombs.  Fires were started in the main deck near the Admiral’s country, beneath the incinerator, near the gig boat pocket, and one in the forward starboard marine compartment near the forward elevator.  The ship was listing about 6 degrees to port.  Damage control reported they were shifting oil to correct the list and fire parties reported they were fighting the fires.  Main Control reported all units in commission.  Number 2, 4, and 6 fire rooms were partially flooded, but water was being controlled by the pumps.  Steering gear was intact and the ship was making 25 kts under good control.  Both elevators at this time were reported out of commission, jammed in the up position, due to machinery casualties in the wells, probably from shock.

 

20.              At about 1300, Damage Control reported the ship on an even keel, that three fires

were out and the other one in the Admiral’s country under control.  The ship was periodically

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                    U.S.S. LEXINGTON                                      10-fd

                                                                                                     May 15, 1942.

 

            Subject:            Report of Action – The Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 and 8 May 1942.

 

turned into the wind to land and reservice aircraft.  The attack group returned and was landed, the torpedo planes about 1400.

 

21.              The attack group reported two 1000-lb bomb hits on enemy carrier of the SHOKAKU class made by Commander J.B. Ault, U.S.N., Group Commander, and three other SBD’s operating with him.  5 torpedo hits were made by VT-2 as follows:

2-T-3, pilot, Ensign N.A. Sterrie, USNR.

2-T-5, pilot, Ensign T.B. Bash, USNR.

2-T-6, pilot, Ensign H.R. Mazza, USNR.

2-T-7, pilot, Lieut. E.W. Hurst, USN.

2-T-12, pilot, C.A.P. B.C. Shearon, USN.

 

They further reported when last seen she was on fire, settling and turning in a circle.  It is believed that this ship was sunk.  Radio intercepts later tended to confirm this belief.  She was rapidly loosing headway.

 

22.              In the meantime, Damage Control was gradually getting all damage checked and cleared up.  At 1247 a heavy explosion shook the ship.  It appeared to come from amidships well down in the bowels of the ship.  Communication with Central Station was immediately lost, all telephones except the JV line went out including the ship’s service phones, and a bad fire broke out from the main deck down to the vicinity of Central Station just forward of the main elevator.  All pressure was lost in the fire main forward.  Rudder indicators on the bridge went out, although steering control was working.  By using the JV line to trick wheel to receive reports of the position of the rudder, steering was retained on the bridge.  The forward gyro compass system was out, but after gyro compass and repeaters were satisfactory.

 

23.              This heavy explosion at 1247 was what caused the loss of the ship.  Until that time everything was well under control.  Full propulsive power was available, steering was O.K., the ship was on an even keel, and all fires were either out or under control.  The cause of this explosion was uncertain.  At first it was thought to be a “sleeper” dud 1000-lb bomb which went off in the bowels of the ship.  However, further study indicates that small gasoline leaks from the heavy pounding the ship had received had caused accumulation of gasoline vapors in the lower regions and they were set off by a spark of unknown origin.  In any event, from this time on the ship was doomed.

 

24.              Hoses from the after section of the fire main were led out and every effort was made to combat this fire.  The fire spread aft and additional communications were gradually being

 

 

 

U.S.S. LEXINGTON                                      10-fd

                                                                                                                 May 15, 1942.

 

            Subject:            Report of Action – The Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 and 8 May 1942.

 

lost.  The fire main pressure dropped to 30-40 lbs.  Minor explosions were recurring at frequent intervals, increasing the fire.  Whether these were from 5-inch ammunition going off or from further gasoline vapors could not be determined.  All lights forward were out and the main deck and below were full of smoke.  It was a losing fight to control the fire.  The JV line to trick wheel went dead and I steered for a while with the engines.  Both gyros and repeaters were out and we used the magnetic compass.

 

25.              At about 1600, the one remaining phone working to Main Control was getting very weak.  Main Control had reported the forward bulkhead of Afirm unit was so hot the paint was peeling off in large blisters.  I gave them permission to shift to the after spaces.  Finally, about 1630, fearing I would lose all communication with them I ordered engineering personnel to secure the plant and get up on deck.  The safeties were opened and the ship came to a stop.  I ordered life rafts made ready and preparations made to abandon ship.  Fire fighting efforts were still being made until the engineering plant was abandoned, when all water pressure was gone.  At this time I asked Admiral FITCH for destroyers to come alongside and pass over fire hoses, thinking we might control the fire if we got water.  The Admiral directed DD’s to come alongside and also directed me to disembark excess personnel to the destroyers alongside.  In response to this the USS MORRIS came alongside and passed two hoses over, which were put to work, and excess personnel went down lines to her deck.  However, by this time the fire was beyond control.  Additional explosions were occurring; it was reported the war heads on the hangar deck had been at a temperature of 140 degrees F; ready bombs storage was in the vicinity of the fire and I considered there was danger of the ship blowing up at any minute.  I had previously directed sick and wounded to be disembarked in our whale boats and excess squadron personnel had gone on lines to the destroyer alongside.

 

26.              At 1707 Admiral FITCH directed me to abandon ship.  I issued the orders and orderly disembarkation began.  Boats from accompanying ships came alongside and assisted.  Preference was given to lowering wounded and injured into the boats.  Most of the men went hand over hand down lines over the side and into the water on life rafts.  Most of the men were off by 1800.  Admiral FITCH and myself were the last to leave the bridge.  He disembarked forward where practically all had gone and I made a final inspection aft.  I found a number of men aft on the starboard side and in the port after gun gallery where there seemed to be some difficulty; men in the water were having trouble getting away from the ship due to drift.  I

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S.S. LEXINGTON                                      10-fd

                                                                                                                 May 15, 1942.

 

            Subject:            Report of Action – The Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 and 8 May 1942.

 

made a final inspection and went aft where my executive officer, Commander SELIGMAN, reported to me all men were off the ship.  At this time a tremendous explosion about the vicinity of the elevator shook the ship and we had to duck to avoid falling debris.  I directed Commander SELIGMAN to disembark.  I saw him in the water swimming toward an approaching motor whale boat.  Having assured myself there was no other living person on the ship, I went down a line hand over hand and dropped off into the water, to be picked up by a motor whale boat of the USS MINNEAPOLIS.  This boat took me to the USS MINNEAPOLIS where I reported to Admiral FITCH.

 

27.              The picture of the burning and doomed ship was a magnificent but sad sight.  The ship and crew had performed gloriously and it seemed too bad that she had to perish in the hour of her victory.  But she went to a glorious end, more fitting than the usual fate of the eventual scrap heap or succumbing to the perils of the sea.  She went down in battle, after a glorious victory for our forces in which the LEXINGTON and her air group played so conspicious a part.

 

28.              The PHELPS was directed by the Task Force Commander to sink the LEXINGTON by torpedoes.  Five torpedoes were fired, at least three hit, and she finally went under on an even keel.  As she went under a tremendous explosion occurred which rocked ships for miles around.  It was the end of the LEXINGTON.  These circumstances were reported to me verbally by the Commanding Officer of the PHELPS.

 

29.              The survivors were scattered among nearly all of the accompanying ships.  Check-ups by signal disclosed a total of about 2735 survivors.  There were no drownings in the water due to abandoning ship so far as known.  All losses of personnel were due to air combat in the air group or to the bomb explosions and fire on the ship.  The preliminary total of personnel losses subject to final check is 26 officers and 190 men out of a total complement of 2951.  This is itself considered to be a remarkable achievement.

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

30-1.       Air offense is definitely superior to the defense.

 

30-2.       Combat patrols must patrol at 20,000 feet to insure interception prior to attack of high-flying enemy dive bombers.

 

30-3.       Anti-torpedo Plane Patrols must keep in close to the torpedo release point, at about 3000 feet altitude, to insure interception of either high or low approach torpedo planes.

 

 

 

U.S.S. LEXINGTON                                      10-fd

                                                                                                                 May 15, 1942.

 

            Subject:            Report of Action – The Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 and 8 May 1942.

 

Employment of SBD’s is a make-shift at best; the best defense would be to have sufficient fighters for both a high and low patrol.  This condition will seldom be realized.  In this particular attack, the Anti-torpedo Plane Patrol of SBD’s was partially effective.  They shot down nine torpedo planes, four with torpedoes aboard, four without, and one undetermined.  They also shot down two fighters.  One SBD was shot down by enemy fighters.  The Anti-torpedo Plane Patrol on the port side of the formation made all the intercepts.  It was in position 3000 yds outside of screen at 2000 feet.  If it had been at the designated altitude of 3000 feet, it’s position would have been more effective.  It is considered that the Anti-torpedo Plane Patrol of SBD’s is amply justified as better than nothing.

 

30-4.       Our personnel are superior in quality and skill to the Japanese.

 

30-5.       The ship was completely ready for the attack in every respect.  A total of 11 fighters were in the air for defense against bombers, and 14 SBD’s for defense against torpedo planes, in addition to planes in the air for defense from the YORKTOWN.  All guns were manned and ready.  Material condition Zed to meet the attack was completely set.  Twenty-five to thirty knots speed was being made.  All personnel were alert.

 

30-6.       This battle definitely represented the simple problem of carrier against carrier.  Both air groups were attacking the other’s carrier at about the same time.   I predicted ahead of time that it was possible for both attacks to be successful and for both opposing carriers to be destroyed.  That is what happened.  But few of our attacking planes were destroyed in the attack itself, whereas many of the Japanese planes were destroyed by our fighters and AA fire in their attack on us.  The LEXINGTON remained afloat for over seven hours and rescued about 92% of her personnel, whereas the enemy carrier is believed to have sunk within the hour and to have lost a heavy percentage of its personnel.

 

30-7.       In this battle, the enemy had the advantage of weather.  The LEXINGTON was in a clear area, whereas the Japanese were in a rain squall area.  Nevertheless, the major part of the LEXINGTON air attack group was able to find its objective.

 

30-8.       Our own AA fire was, as usual, only partially

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                               

 

 

 

U.S.S. LEXINGTON                                      10-fd

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              May 15, 1942

 

            Subject:            Report of Action – The Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 and 8 May 1942.

 

effective.  The general tendency was still to use insufficient lead and to fire under the target.

 

30-9.       The loss of the ship was caused by an internal gasoline vapor explosion near Central Station below the armored deck in the vicinity of the forward torpedo hit.  This explosion resulted from minor gasoline leaks gradually accumulating highly explosive vapor in the area.  It was undetected, due to the complete sealing of the ship in Condition Zed.  The adjacent gasoline control room had been flooded and sealed with CO2 as a preventive measure.  For means of preventing see recommendation 31-2 below.

 

30-10.   The material performance was in general excellent.  No gun stoppages or material failures were reported by the planes.  The damage control features of the design of the LEXINGTON speak for themselves; she remained afloat for over seven hours after sustaining two torpedo hits, three bomb hits, and two near misses and had to be finally sunk by additional torpedo hits.

 

30-11.   The performance of all personnel was magnificent.  I cannot say too much in praise of the conduct of the personnel, of the officers and men of the LEXINGTON and her squadrons.  The finest traditions of the Naval service were upheld in every respect.  Many cases of individual heroism occurred, and they are too numerous to mention in this report.  In accordance with Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet Instructions, separate letter is being submitted with recommendations for suitable awards in these cases.  However, I wish to emphasize that every last officer and man performed his duty with the greatest credit to himself, his family, and his country.  The country can well be proud of their performance.

 

30-12.   Our present methods of training and tactics are sound, as proven by this engagement.  Our attacks were successful and except for the gasoline vapor explosion the ship would have been saved.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

31-1.       That a new carrier, the first available, be re-named the LEXINGTON to carry on the traditions of that great ship.

 

31-2.       That the officers and men survivors of the LEXINGTON and her air group be retained together as a unit, to man the new LEXINGTON.  This will be of the utmost value for morale, not only of these men but for the country as a whole, and will best utilize

 

 

 

 

U.S.S. LEXINGTON                                      10-fd

                                                                 May 15, 1942.

 

            Subject:            Report of Action – The Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 and 8 May 1942.

 

            this group of well-trained, seasoned, and tested officers and men.

 

31-3.       That all carriers be immediately filled to their allowance of 27 fighters.

 

31-4.       That combat patrols patrol at 20,000 feet when enemy dive bombing attack is expected.

 

31-5.       That Anti-torpedo Plane patrols be stationed at not more than 3000 yds from the carrier at 3000 feet altitude for protection against both high and low level torpedo planes.  Fighters should be used for this if available.

 

31-6.       That fighters and torpedo planes of greater performance be provided to carriers as soon as possible.

 

31-7.       That every effort be made to strengthen the air defense of carriers without sacrificing their offensive strength.

 

31-8.       That damage control instructions to all ships contain the following:

 

Whenever structural damage occurs in the general vicinity of gasoline tanks, possibility of accumulation in confined spaces of dangerous concentrations of gasoline vapors exists.  The following immediate steps must be taken to prevent destructive explosions:

 

1.                  Pump all gasoline tanks in the vicinity overboard or to tanks in an undamaged area and keep them flushed with salt water.

2.                  Take all steps practicable to prevent sparks anywhere near the damaged area.

3.                  Ventilate the damaged area thoroughly by all practicable means, including bilge pumps, even though it involves partially breaking condition Zed in that area.

 

31-9.       That additional fire fighting apparatus be installed on carriers, preferably separated units of diesel powered fire pumps and hoses, so that entire reli-ance is not placed on the fire mains.

 

31-10.   That more rescue breathing or oxygen smoke helmets be provided.  Several hundred should be the minimum and all men trained in their use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                U.S.S. LEXINGTON                                      10-fd

                                                                                                                 May 15, 1942.

 

            Subject:            Report of Action – The Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 and 8 May 1942.

 

                                                SUMMARY OF RESULTS

 

32.              Enemy Damage May 7th:

 

1 carrier (RYUKAKU) sunk.  In addition probably all her planes were lost and practically all her personnel.

4 zero enemy fighters (type zero) shot down at 1745.

2 probable enemy zero destroyed at 1745.

1 type 97 VF at scene of carrier attack (VB-2).

1 type 97 VF at scene of carrier attack (VB-2).

1 3-place seaplane probably, near scene of carrier attack (VF-2).

2 VF type 97 by VF-2 at scene of attack on enemy carrier.

 

            Total:

 

1 CV, (presumably 80 planes); 11 planes additional in combat (part of 80).        These losses do not include planes shot down by YORKTOWN planes.

 

 Our Losses, May 7th:

 

   1 SBD shot down by enemy fighters at scene of attack.

1 SBD damaged at scene          of attack, force-landed on Rossel Island.  Pilot and gunner may be safe.

1 VF shot down by zero fighters at 1745.

 

            Total:

3 planes, crew of one which may be safe.

 

33.              Enemy Losses, May 8th:

 

1 carrier (SHOKAKU) probably sunk with all planes and heavy loss of personnel.

4 VT shot down in vicinity of LEXINGTON (by AA).

1 VT shot down in vicinity of LEXINGTON (VB-2).

 

            By VF-2:          Certain:

 

2 VS at enemy carrier.

1 VF, type 00, at enemy carrier.

1 VF, Me-109, over LEXINGTON.

1 VF, 00, over LEXINGTON.

1 VF, 0,over LEXINGTON.

 

 

           

                                                U.S.S. LEXINGTON                                      10-fd

                                                                                                                 May 15, 1942.

 

            Subject:            Report of Action – The Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 and 8 May 1942.

 

                                    Probable:

 

                        2 VF, type 00, at enemy carrier.

                        1 VF, Me-109, over LEXINGTON.   

                        1 VF, 96, over LEXINGTON.

                        1 VT, over LEXINGTON.

 

            By VS-2:

 

                        4 VT with torpedoes near LEXINGTON.

                        4 VT without torpedoes near LEXINGTON.

                        1 VT or VB without bombs or torpedoes near LEXINGTON.

                        2 VF near LEXINGTON.

 

                        2 VF, type 97, shot down by VT-2 on return from attack.

 

            Total:

1 CV, (presumably 80 planes) probably sunk; 29 planes additional in combat (part of 80).  These losses do not include planes shot down by YORKTOWN planes (or AA fire in vicinity of YORKTOWN).

 

                                    Our Losses, May 8th:

 

1 carrier (LEXINGTON) sunk, but with 92% personnel and 18 planes saved (planes landed on YORKTOWN).

7 VF shot down at scene of attack on enemy.

1 VT lost, out of gas returning; personnel may be safe.

3 SBD lost, out of gas returning; personnel may be safe.

1 SBD lost, shot down as Anti-torpedo Plane Patrol at LEXINGTON.

 

            Total:

                        12 planes, personnel of 4 of which may be safe.

 

34.              It is believed the above figures speak for themselves and that on the 7th and 8th of May, the LEXINGTON and her air group achieved two great victories in our country’s cause and that her performance will go down in the annals of the Navy as an outstanding example of devotion to duty and successful accomplishment of a mission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                U.S.S. LEXINGTON                                      10-fd

                                                                                                                 May 15, 1942.

 

            Subject:            Report of Action – The Battle of the Coral Sea,  7 and 8 May 1942.

 

35.              This report of these actions is as accurate as I can determine at this time.  I have obtained written statements from key personnel and can elaborate on any points if further details are desired, especially on material matters.  If my recommendation to keep the officers and crew together is approved, it will facilitate supplemental reports.

 

36.              The question of whether or not the SHOKAKU is sunk may be controversial at this writing.  No report of any sighting of the SHOKAKU since the attack has been received.  All information in my possession points to the probability of the only carrier proceeding away from the area being the damaged ZUIKAKU, which has been reported from radio intelligence.  From the reports of the pilots at the scene, stating she was settling, on fire, circling, but rapidly loosing all way, unless positive information otherwise exists, I believe the SHOKAKU sank shortly after the attack.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                    FREDERICK C. SHERMAN.

 

 

Copies herewith for:

            Cominch

            OpNav

            ComTaskFor 17

By separate registered mail:

            ComTaskFor 11

            ComCarPacFlt

            CO YORKTOWN

            Buaer.