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"Battle of Coral Sea, Fight #6" Topic


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199 hits since 7 Oct 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP07 Oct 2019 5:26 a.m. PST

All,

1140
8 May 1942

Greetings, and welcome to my return to the Pacific! Both the US Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy are on the prowl in the southwestern Pacific; the Japanese have their eyes on Australia, or at least cutting off the lines of communication between the US and Australia, and the Americans are looking to not allow that to happen. On 3-4 May 1942, while fighting raged on New Guinea, the Japanese attempted secure their flank, sending an invasion fleet into the Solomon Islands to put troops ashore on Tulagi (across the channel from Guadalcanal), in order to conduct an amphibious assault on Port Moresby on 10 May.

But the Americans noted the Japanese invasion force in the Solomons, and the USS Yorktown launched strike aircraft that sunk or damaged several Japanese warships, though now the Japanese were aware the US carriers were in the vicinity, made doubly worse by the fact the Americans were shorthanded: they had only the Yorktown and the Lexington in the area because the Hornet and Enterprise had just returned to Pearl Harbor following the Doolittle Raid. These were faced by the Japanese fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku, and the light carrier Shoho. The two opposing forces marshalled their troops, refueled, consolidated, and began searching in earnest for each other.

This morning, Lt(jg) Casey led the fighter escort for the Lexington strike force which, combined with the Yorktown's strike force, managed to sink the Japanese light carrier Shoho. But the Killer Pelicans' escorts had a rough go: they downed three Zeros and damaged another, but they lost one Wildcat, had the other three damaged, and five of their six assigned dive bombers were shot down, the sixth returning to the Lexington, damaged. Lt Casey scored two more kills to become a Veteran (total of four kills), but he was shot down and badly wounded, which will cause him to miss the Battle of Midway.

Both sides carried out preparation for battle throughout the night, then launched scouts shortly after 0600 the next morning, to find the other side's carriers. The Americans got lucky first, sighting the Japanese carriers at 0820, though the Japanese were only two minutes behind. Both sides hurried to turn into the wind and launch their strike groups! The Japanese launched 18 fighters, 33 dive bombers, and 18 torpedo bombers, while the Yorktown and Lexington launched a combined 15 Wildcats, 39 Dauntlesses, and 21 Devastators, though the Lexington's contingent was about 10 minutes behind the Yorktown's.

At 1055 the Lexington's air search radar acquired the inbound Japanese strike group at a range of 68 nautical miles and vectored nine Wildcats to intercept; it was 1113 local time when Lt(jg) Fitzsimmons again led the Lexington CAP into battle. And this time he found the enemy, but it didn't work out very well for the Americans. Lt Fitzsimmons and Lt Allen saw their aircraft damaged, Ens Chipman had to disengage and retreat, but that wasn't the worst of it. Three Wildcats were shot down, with Ensign Camili being wounded, but Ensigns Gordon and Mann were killed in action, while no Japanese aircraft were shot down, and enemy torpedo bombers managed to put three torpedoes into the USS Lexington.

At 1123, radar contact acquired another Japanese strike group, comprised of Val dive bombers escorted by Zeros, and vectored the Lexington's Combat Air Patrol to intercept. The six Wildcats charged headlong into the Japanese formation, suffering two aircraft lost (and one pilot KIA) and one damaged in brutal action that saw Ensign Head awarded the Navy Cross for shooting down four enemy aircraft! Lt Allen added another two kills, and Ensign Chipman added one, with the rest of the Japanese aircraft breaking off the attack, so not a single Val dive bomber was able to press home the attack. However, the Lexington is still in trouble caused by the torpedo hits earlier.

At 1130, LtCmdr Case led a four-ship escort for "Scouting Two's" SBD Dauntless dive bombers to attack the Japanese carrier Shokaku. The Japanese CAP was successful, shooting down four of the SBDs and forcing the last two to return to base, damaged, though they lost four of their own (two to defensive fire from SBDs!), with LtCmdr Case and Ens Riggins both scoring kills.

It is now 1140, and LtCmdr Case has re-formed his flight, which is now escorting Bombing Two's SBD Dauntlesses as the Americans make a run on the Japanese carrier Zuikaku.

picture

The Japanese draw first blood.

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But the swarming Wildcats are more than able to hold their own.

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And the next thing you know, the Wildcats pull off high and right as the Dauntlesses form line astern and make their run on the Zuikaku…

To see how the fight went, please check the blog at:
link

As the Lexington's strike group forms up for the flight home, the Japanese strike groups that struck the Lady Lex and Yorktown are doing the same, though they suddenly realize they'll have to run a gauntlet of fire as the Lexington's CAP is between them and their carriers! That fight is next.

V/R,
Jack

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