15 May 1942
From: The Commanding Officer. To: The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. PACIFIC FLEET. Via: The Commander Cruisers, Pacific Fleet.
(Commander Task Force 17).
Subject: Report of Action, Coral Sea. Reference: (a) Art. 712, U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920. Enclosures: (A) Track Chart of U.S.S. Chester during Air Attack. (B) Executive Officer's Statement. (C) Photographs taken by the U.S.S. Chester during the Air Attaok.
- I have the honor to report that the Chester was in action, as a unit of Task Foroe SEVENTEEN, against the Japanese in the Coral Sea, approximate position - Latitude 14° 46' South, Longitude 155° 14' East, at 2212 on the morning of May 7, 1942, G.C.T.
- In the interest of lucidity local zone time will be used hereafter in this report.
This sequence as outlined is as it was received and recorded on various Chester battle stations.
0800 - Chester RADAR was secured and in stand-by status on orders of Officer in Tactical Command. 0810 - RADAR contact on airplanes at 350° True. 0816 - RADAR screen cleared. 0828 - Report from Yorktown that scouts had located 2 enemy carriers, 4 cruisers, and 3 destroyers. 0842 - Enemy was reported 120 miles distance. 0848 - Enemy force was reported to be on true bearing 028, distance 175 miles.
0850 - Carrier signaled that she was launching her entire striking force. 0900 - Planes began leaving the deck of the Yorktown. 0901 - Relative bearing of enemy was reported to be 225, distance 175 miles. 0928 - Carriers completed launching force of 80 planes consisting of 21 TBDs, 13 F4Fs, and 46 SPDs. Each carrier launched a force of 40 planes. The Yorktown launched 9 TBDs and 31 SPDs. The Lexington launched 13 F4Fs, 15 SPDs, and 12 TBDs.
Tactical command was transferred to the Lexington.
0933 - Aircraft were reported at 10° True, distance 39 miles. 0942 - Chester went to General Quarters (Torpedo Defense). 0952 - Aircraft reported at 215° Relative and 255° Relative. 1012 - 1 enemy aircraft shot down at 030° True. Reported at first to be a fighter but from the amount of smoke present it appeared to be a larger plane. 1031 - Aircraft reported at 122 Relative, distance 25 miles.
Aircraft reported at 125 Relative, distance 35 miles.
Aircraft reported at 080 True, distance 40 miles.
Our course - 080.
1036 - Aircraft reported 039 True, distance 25 miles. Our course - 080. 1056 - Many planes were reported 020 True, distance 39 miles. 1104 - Aircraft at 275 Relative, distance 25 miles. Our course 080. This group of planes were reported to be torpedo planes. 1106 - Chester RADAR in operation.
1112 - Carrier planes sighted enemy torpedo planes and proceeded to the attack. 1113
Torpedo attack. Plane crashed near Lexington at beginning of attack. Several torpedo planes attacked the Lexington. A second group of enemy torpedo planes attacked the Yorktown. Torpedoes were released, in some instances, from as high as 150 to 200 feet. The center plane of a formation of 3 attacking the Yorktown released its torpedo and suddenly the entire fuselage was enveloped in flames. The plane continued on its course for a hundred yards or so and then veered downward sharply, plunging into the water near the port bow of the Yorktown or ahead of it. A second torpedo plane, to the right and ahead of the one above, released its torpedo, began trailing smoke, proceeded several hundred yards, winged over to starboard and crashed on the port quarter of the Yorktown. A torpedo plane in the formation attacking the Lexington began to smoke violently and crashed ahead or slightly on the starboard bow of the Lexington. 1113
Chester opened fire on torpedo planes attacking Yorktown. Fire continued as targets presented themselves until the end of action at 1133. 1117 - Two torpedo planes attacking the Chester from the starboard side. One was shot down prior to release of its torpedo. The second torpedo plane was shot down just after releasing its torpedo and crashed just forward of the starboard beam. The torpedo passed 50 to 75 yards astern of the Chester. 1 torpedo plane passed ahead of the Chester on way to Yorktown and was shot down by Chester 20 millimeter and 1.1" fire. 1123 - Bomber shot down on starboard bow. 1124 - Torpedo plane shot down on Port beam. 1133 - End of attack.
1405 - 7 Lexington TBDs came in on starboard bow. 7 were reported by lookouts and identified. Yorktown and a destroyer on the Yorktown's port quarter opened fire on this formation. Plane formation broke up and circled to the right.
- ESTIMATE OF NUMBER AND TYPES OF PLANES IN ATTACKING GROUP.
Number Type Attacked on 31 Torpedo Type 97 2 waves of 6 and 1 of 5 on Lexington.
2 waves of 6 on Yorktown.
2 planes on Chester.
20 plus Dive Bombers, Type 99 and some Fighter Bombers similar to Army 97 Light Bombers. 3 attacks of 4 or 5 planes on Yorktown, plus the number that attacked Lexington. 15-20 Fighters, Type 99 or 97. Support attack and attempted strafing.
1 Twin-engine Bomber reported but not confirmed.
- OBSERVED ENEMY LOSSES - CONFIRMED.
14 Torpedo Planes (4 by Chester). Losses in third attack on Lexington not observed. 6 Dive Bombers (1 by Chester). Losses in Lexington attack not observed. 3 Fighters (light bombers) (1 by Chester). 23 Total.
Total losses were undoubtedly considerably higher than those observed and reported.
- DAMAGE SUSTAINED.
- PERS0NNEL CASUALTIES.
T.J. BIANCHI, Pfc., U.S.M.C. received multiple wounds, moderately serious, about the eyes, face, and chest. These were caused by an explosion of a 2O-mm shell in hot gun.
Other minor injuries received were due to handling of own guns.
- ENEMY AERIAL TACTICS.
Torpedo planes dropped torpedoes from as high as 150 to 200 feet and at distances from 1700 to 700 yards.
Dive and glide bombers made attacks of three types:
- The typical Taroa 35° to 45° glide.
- A 45° to 50° glide ending with a short 65° to 70° turn over just prior to release and sharp pull out.
- About 70° dive from 10,000 feet. This was part of the last attack on the Yorktown.
Several dive bombers after completion of their attack employed diversion tactics of simulating attacks apparently to cause diversion of fire. At least two glide bombers were turned away by Chester anti-aircraft fire long before point of release on Yorktown.
- ENEMY PLANE CHARACTERISTICS.
The planes apparently were painted for land attacks as many were dark colored, easily visible while others were silvery. Most of them had long orange or gold bands down the entire side of the fuselage. Some had broad stripes on under side of wing from inboard forward to outboard aft. In some cases the rising sun on fuselage blended with the orange or gold stripe.
- RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS.
A carrier accompanied by three or more cruisers and a commensurate number of destroyers can be better protected from torpedo planes and dive bombers by disposing the cruisers equidistantly on a circle not more than 2,000 yards from the carrier with the destroyers similarly distributed on a 3,000 yard circle from the same center. In addition one or more destroyers could be advantageously placed on the bearing of the sun to provide early contact with attacking torpedo planes. It is quite evident that the torpedo plane is the greatest menace to carriers and maximum fire power must be concentrated to meet this danger.
If the Chester had been provided with 16 millimeter moving picture cameras an excellent pictorial record could have been obtained. Such pictures would prove valuable from a historical, intelligence and training angle. It is recommended that at least 2 cameras be provided each combatant vessel.
- CONDUCT OF PERSONNEL.
The conduct of officers and men of the Chester, in this action, was in the highest tradition. Having previously been under fire in the action of the MARSHALLS they showed their veteran spirit and ability. There was no confusion and needless excitement. The batteries functioned in such a manner, in this emergency, as to make anyone justly proud. Credit must be given the Engineers Force and others whose battle stations are below decks, for the excellent performance or their duties under great strain without the knowledge of the action being carried on by those in more exposed stations.
THOMAS M. SHOCK.
|ENCLOSURE (B) to CHESTER
Conf. ltr. Al6-3(032) of
May 15, 1942.
|May 14, 1942.|
From: Executive Officer. To: Commanding Officer. Subject: Battle report; submission of. Reference: (a) U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920, Art. 948.
- In accordance with reference (a) the following report of the action of May 8, 1942, fought in the Coral Sea, is submitted.
- During the action I was on the starboard wing of the navigating bridge. Details which I noted in relation to planes approaching, shot down and the like have been included in the chronological narrative prepared by the Commanding Officer and will not be repeated here.
- Of so brief, but fierce an action, it is difficult to give other than general impressions. I was chiefly impressed by the very excellent fire discipline, steadiness, and spirit of the ship's company. Many of them are youngsters, new to the Service, who were under fire for the first time. Stiffened by the older hands who did so well at Taroa on February 1, 1942, their spirit and performance of duty were excellent. I consider that the gunnery performance of the ship reflects great credit upon Lieutenant-Commander E. L. Schleif, U.S.N., Gunnery Officer, and his assistants.
- My own observation of individuals was too restricted to warrant singling out any for special commendation. All reports reaching me indicate that the performance of the ship's company throughout was in keeping with the best tradition of the Service and that they can be depended upon to meet any emergency cooly, calmly and efficiently.
- Although their part is not spectacular I should like to note the flawless performance of the Engineering Department. The ship has steamed almost 50,000 miles since December 7, 1941, and has not had a yard overhaul for almost two years. Despite all this her plant has met all demands and I consider that this reflects great credit upon her Engineering Personnel.
- As an aftermath to the action I should also like to note the excellent work of the First Lieutenant (Commander Dugan), Lieutenant (Jg) Kalen, and the deck force, in fueling destroyers
at night and especially to their action in delivering 60,000 gallons of fuel to one destroyer in one hour and thirteen minutes while at the same time transferring 468 survivors from the destroyer to the Chester via three breeches buoys at the rate of six a minute; this in the face of approaching darkness and a choppy sea. The work of the Supply and Medical Departments in caring for our own people and the survivors was also noteworthy.
- All in all the conduct and performance of duty of all hands during the week of action in the Coral Sea was uniformly excellent and deserving of high praise.
Last updated: January 30, 2003Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation