Honour - CORAL SEA 1942

Date - 07-May
Type - Fleet or Squadron Actions
Conflict - World War 2; 1939-45

Description The action took place in the Coral Sea, south of the Soloman Islands.

Following early successes, in May-1942 the Japanese sent an amphibious invasion force to land and take Port Moresby in the south east of Papua.

The plan was for the  Port Moresby Invasion Group to go from Rabaul in New Britain, around the south east  tip of New Guinea through the Jomard Passage, and on to Port Moresby. Close support would be provided by a Covering Group with 1 carrier, Shoho  which would first cover landings on Tulagi on 03-May and then provide close support to the invasion group.

They would be screened by a Carrier Strike Force with 2 carriers, Zuikaku, and Shokaku, which would come from Truk and continue further south into the Coral Sea to counter any US Carriers in the area.

It was the first major carrier-against-carrier action.

They were opposed by Task Force 17, comprising 2 carriers, Lexington and Yorktown, and was formed on 01-May to operate in the Coral Sea.

On 06-May the Covering Group was located and bombed by B-17's from Australia. But no damage caused.

Next day the battle began in earnest, when first the oiler Neosho and escorting destroyer USS Sims were bombed  sunk in mid morning by aircraft. Shortly after Shoho was received multiple attacks by US bomb and torpedo armed aircraft and sank soon after 1135hrs. This caused the Invasion group to retire north until the American carriers had been dealt with.

Next day about 1100hrs the Shokaku was struck, damaged and ordered to retire to Truck.

However at 1118hrs a Japanese attack began on the US carriers which lasted 20 minutes. Lexington was hit and damaged by bombs and 2 torpedoes but it appeared that the damages were under control and she continued to recover her air group. At 1247hrs there was a huge internal explosion with another large explosion at 1445hrs. The resulting fires were soon out of control and at 1710hrs the order was given to abandon ship. The wreck was sunk at 2000hrs by 5 torpedoed fired from USS Phelps.

Although the battle resulted in a Japanese tactical victory it was a strategic victory for the Allied forces. The invasion force was turned back and damage to the Shokaku  and major losses to the Zuikaku air groups meant both carriers were unable to take part in the Battle for Midway where their presence could have been decisive.  


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This page last edited - 19 October, 2012.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.