May 10, 1942.
From: The Commander Task Force ELEVEN. To: The Commander Task Force SIXTEEN. Subject: Recommendations based on Coral Sea Action 7 - 8 May. Enclosures: (A) Recommendations of Lexington Fighter Director Officer. (B) Recommendations of Commanding Officer, Fighting Squadron TWO. (C) Recommendations of Squadron Commander, Bombing Squadron TWO. (D) Recommendations of Squadron Commander, Torpedo Squadron TWO.
- The following information and data are being hastily compiled prior to transfer of the Lexington survivors from the ships of Task Force ELEVEN to the ships of Task Force SEVENTEEN. Points covered are those considered essential and worthy of consideration for operation against the enemy in the Coral Sea area.
- In addition to the opinions presented by the enclosures I strongly recommend the following:
- That a cruiser raiding force should normally not be detached for a separate daylight mission without air coverage. Admiral Kinkaid concurs with me in this opinion. The experiences of the Australian Squadron on 7 May (Task Force FORTY-FOUR) strongly bears out this point.
- That cruiser intermediate patrol is not sufficiently important to be maintained when action is expected; at this time it greatly handicaps the evaluation of Radar information, thereby reducing its value. At this time the only patrol that I recommend for cruiser aircraft is inner patrol, and cruiser aviators must be warned not to exceed the five (5) mile limitation of this patrol. Cruiser pilots are prone to exceed this limitation.
cc: ComCruDiv 6 (with enclosures)
AUBREY W. FITCH.
From: The Fighter Director Officer, Task Group 17.5. To: The Commander Task Group 17.5. Subject: Comments as a result of actions of 7 - 8 May 1942.
- It is essential that the rigid restrictions of radio silence be removed from the F.D.O. whenever combat patrols are in the air.
- There should never be more than two CXAM type Radars operating in the same force simultaneously. At one time with four CXAM Radars operating in the force spread out widely it was impossible to determine the presence of aircraft beyond 90,000 yards because when the scale was shifted the screen was filled solid with other Radars and ships.
- All aircraft should have I.F.F. of the type used by Yorktown planes. These worked fine but Yorktown's I.F.F. did not register on our screen. If only a limited number are available they should not be given 100% to fighters as they always work in pairs. It is most important to have I.F.F. in every scouting section. Enemy scouts appear most often right at the time when own search is returning and it is highly necessary to be able to tell them apart. It might be best to have our own people stay off the screen as long as possible by staying below Radar horizon.
- Intermediate patrols flown by cruiser planes are a nuisance, especially when close to the enemy. Other intermediate patrols serve to keep submarines down but are ineffective in intercepting enemy snoopers, attacks by dive bombers or torpedo planes. Planes used for these patrols should use I.F.F.
- Inner air patrols must never go beyond one half mile from the outer limits of the force screen; they should be constantly in sight from the fleet guide.
- Combat patrols, with present equipment, should be launched as often as possible. They must patrol at 20,000 feet if they are to be successful in stopping dive bombing attacks. A secondary combat patrol at lower altitudes for interception of shadowers, scouts, and torpedo planes should also be maintained if practicable. The attack on TF 17 came from 18,000 feet. The Jap bombers first appeared 68 miles away traveling at high speed. They flew out of the big null
before they were Radar visible. It was impracticable to know whether they were in or outside the null and hence determine their altitude.
- Anti-torpedo patrols should be of two types, one low and practically inside the formation and the other higher, 5,000 - 6,000 feet, out of gun range 5 - 10 miles from the fleet center. Our torpedo patrols did not see Jap torpedo planes until late. They shot down two, probably after release.
NOTES FOR FIGHTER SQUADRON COMMANDERS OF SQUADRONS WHICH MIGHT ENGAGE JAPS.
Based on experiences of VF-2 pilots 7 - 8 May 1942.
Types Jap VF encountered: Zero, double Zero, 97, and ME 109. All these are very maneuverable. The ME 109 is very fast - faster than F4F-3 above 18000 ft. Rate of climb of all Jap VF better than ours. Fire power of 4 - 50s excellent and if you get on really shoots them down.
Jap pilots are tenacious and dogged and in no way showed any disinclination to fight.
The ME 109s were painted glossy colored yellow and khaki with large red circles on wings, red band around fuselage.
The Japs will not normally attack a close formation of aircraft except at extreme ranges.
The Zero fighter bursts into flame quickly when hit with incendiaries.
The ME 109 must have good armor as they do not explode or burn like the Zero or double Zero. They can be surprised so can our own pilots - two of ours shot down due surprise attack out of sun. (8 of our pilots missing to date).
Expect Japs to patrol at all altitudes from sea level to 20000 ft.
The Jap fighter escort for VB or VS always flies above, to rear, and in close formation, which is not broken unless attacked.
After attack group has launched its attack all their planes retire at high speed at low altitude. Every indication that Japs also have radar. They seemed to pick us up 30 to 40 miles away from their disposition.
For escort work, our fighters should be concentrated - not dispersed. Superior rate-of-climb of Jap VF enables them to take favorable attack positions almost at will.
Jap VF gunnery poor - can sit on you for quite a while and miss. Avoid at all costs being separated in action - you never can get together again.
Paul H. Ramsey,
Lieut. Comdr., U.S.N.,
From: Commander, Bombing Two. To: The Commander Task Group 17.5. Subject: Air Operations - Comments as Result of Actions of 7 - 8 May 1942.
- It is vitally important for the success of coordination of VB and VT attacks, that the weather be included in contact reports - initial contact reports - otherwise, the bombers, by climbing to altitude, may miss coordination if bad weather is encountered at the objective. This occurred on 8 May; VB2 climbed to 15,000 ft., the weather was clear 7/8 of the distance to the objective - a descent was then necessary, to 1000' - VB was seen by VT as it entered the large area of squalls - VT happened upon the objective while, as a last resort, flying a "box." VB, though in the immediate vicinity, could not make contact -
Result: One CV not attacked. It was necessary to jettison the eleven 1000 lb bombs in order to enable the squadron to return to own CV.
If the weather conditions had been known to be bad at the objective, VB would have remained low, and in visual contact with VT.
- Use 1000 lb bombs whenever other variables permit. They start violent fires - are so destructive that direct hits insure the destruction of the objective.
- If one carrier group bombs an objective and damages it to the extent that its sinking is virtually assured, the next group to attack should, in my opinion, endeavor to destroy the next important combatant vessels in the enemy disposition. On 7 May, the carrier was so badly damaged by the Lexington group that the Yorktown attack was superfluous and represented, in my opinion, a waste of striking power and torpedoes.
- From the viewpoint of high altitude dive bombers, AA fire is ineffective. The protecting cruisers and DD's scatter, and concentrate their efforts upon the VT attacks and upon the retiring bombers. Only a small amount of 3" or 5" AA fire was observed on 7 May; and this was sporadic.
- Fighters attacked VB at pushover point. VB came in from 16,500 ft., distance 10 miles from the sun. There was no serious fighter opposition, as the enemy VF had concentrated its efforts on the VS, which had attacked first.
- No attempt should be made to rendezvous following the attack, especially if VF are known to be in the area.
- SBD's should always carry 250 gals of fuel, other conditions permitting. If VB had been fueled to capacity on 8 May, it is highly probable that the second CV would have been located and attacked.
- The enemy CV on 7 May employed no evasive measure other than to circle left. The approach of the last VB plane happened to coincide with the positioning of the CV directly up and down wind - enabling the first 1000 lb. bomb to be a direct hit.
- Weather should be included in initial contact reports.
- 1000 lb bombs exclusively against enemy objectives at sea, other conditions permitting.
- Duplication of effort should be avoided by groups and squadrons, and a shift of targets directed at the proper time.
- AA fire is ineffective at high alts.
- VF follow down in dives, leave at pullout.
- Do not rendezvous after completion of attack.
- Always fuel to 250 (SBD's) if possible.
From: The Commanding Officer, Torpedo Squadron TWO. To: The Commander Task Force ELEVEN. Subject: Notes of Lessons Learned in the Attacks of VT-2 Upon Enemy CV's on May 7 & 8, 1942.
- Use anvil attack regardless of direction of approach. The CV's enter a turn and maintain it. Therefore, the initial direction of approach is somewhat immaterial and allows all planes to get a good shot. With the CV in a tight turn it can be hit easily from an "inside of the turn" quarter shot.
- Enemy surface ships were in a wide open formation with the CV as the center of the disposition and usually three CA's disposed on the 8,000 yard circle; one at 8,045, one at 8,180 and one at 8,315. This results in the largest opening through the screen being on each beam of the CV. Therefore, if a head on attack is to be made, the break-up point for the squadron is quite a distance from the CV. Usually 15 - 20 miles. This wide open formation allows our torpedo planes to enter the screen abeam of the CV and in the least dangerous area as far as A.A. fire is concerned.
- In the second attack, clouds were effectively used as a screen to pass over the CA's without drawing their A.A. fire because they could not see the squadron. The attack being launched from 5,000 feet altitude from over the CV, descending in a power glide spiral. The Torpedo planes were nearly to the dropping point before fire was opened on the surface ships. Make use of clouds, they are of tremendous value in delivering the attack without drawing enemy fire.
- Watch the enemy surface vessels and when they, or she, opens fire, take evasive action by altering course about 10 degrees and altitude up about 200 feet. After the burst has exploded, drop back down to original altitude and course. Repeat at next flash but not in the same direction.
- The high level attack is the only one to use even on days of high visibility because it allows the planes to be glided in at about 180 kts, slowing for the drop at the last possible minute.
- Always give the surface ships a high rate of change of bearing, they are weak on keeping up. They are very good on fuse settings.
6a. There was no evidence of Radar in the enemy ships.
- Do not hesitate to approach close enough for an accurate drop. Maintain a rate of change of bearing in to about 1,000 yds. and then straighten out for the drop.
- On retirement, all planes should scatter and rendezvous about 20 miles from the CV in the direction of Point Option. While within 50 miles of enemy CV, fly at very low altitude in order to prevent fighters from seeing the squadron and also to eliminate the underneath runs.
- When attacked by enemy fighters, this command used a staggered line:
Plan Side V
T T T T T T T T T
This gave us a very compact formation and mutual support from the rear and sides. This is protection against simultaneous fighter approaches from either side. In this case the runs made on us were high side "S" turn rear approach. This squadron shot down two enemy T-97 fighters out of the squadron of about 12 planes and the remainder withdrew immediately.
- Where opposition is expected and there is no surprise element, the maximum distance that TBD-1 airplanes should be sent out is 160 miles out and back. This is deemed to be the very maximum, if it is desired to recover our planes.
- Drop torpedoes at 110 kts. from 75 feet altitude and there will be no erratic runs.
J.H. BRETT, Jr.
Last updated: November 26, 2002
Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation