From: Commanding Officer. To: Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Via: Commander Task Force Seventeen. Subject: Report of Action in Coral Sea on May 8, 1942. Reference: (a) Articles 712(2), (3), and 874(6) U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920. Enclosures: (A) Chronological Account of the Attack with Comments and Recommendations. (B) Track Chart of the New Orleans during the attack. (C) Courses steered and speeds used by the New Orleans. (D) Report of the Executive Officer.
- In accordance with Reference (a), Enclosures (A), (B), (C), and (D) are submitted herewith.
Position of New Orleans in Cruising Disposition was 3140; axis was 305° True; circle spacing 1000 yards.
Zone: Minus 11.
0921 Went to general quarters. 0930 Adjusting position on Lexington - distance 3100 yards. 0930 Over warning net: "One aircraft 020, 39 miles" from Yorktown. 0944 Over warning net from Yorktown: "One aircraft 340; 34 miles." 1010 Over warning net: "Group of Jap bombers headed this way bearing 270° true." 1011 Over warning net from Yorktown: "One patrol sighted bearing 050 true. Zero type fighters bear 025 reported by our fighters, contact." 1013 Over warning net: "Zero type fighters bear 025 contact." 1021 Over warning net from Lexington: "Unidentified aircraft as follows on screen: bearing 335, distance 82; bearing 335, distance 27; bearing 000, distance 26; bearing 110, distance 44." 1032 Over warning net from Lexington: "Have following unidentified aircraft on screen: bearing 140, distance 15; bearing 035, distance 27; bearing 310, distance 20; bearing 310, distance 83." 1032 From Lexington: "Disregard bogey bearing 035, distance 27; indentified as friendly." 1049 From Lexington: "One aircraft bearing 135, distance 45 miles." 1050 Sighted large cloud of grey smoke bearing 010° True. 1054 From Yorktown: "Many aircraft bearing 020, distance 65 miles." 1056 From Yorktown: "Large group of torpedo planes bearing 020, distance now 35 miles." 1106 From Lexington: "Torpedo planes now 22 miles, coming straight in."
1108 From Lexington: "Torpedo planes now 15 miles." Also, "Our planes have sighted enemy and are going after them." 1110 From Lexington: "Enemy bombers coming in protected by nine enemy fighters."
From Yorktown: "Aircraft bearing 130, distance 25."
1113 Changed course to 070. 1113 Speed 25 knots. 1114 Jap torpedo planes commenced attack on Lexington. Opened fire on these planes with after 20 mm guns. From this time on firing was almost continuous. 1118 Commenced turning to right to follow movements of the carrier. Port 5" battery opened fire on single torpedo plane moving out of formation. 1118 Steadied on course to enable starboard 5" battery and automatic weapons to continue to bear on enemy plane on starboard bow which was moving out of formation. 1119 Resumed turn to the right with full rudder and increased speed to 28 knots to close carrier which by this time was considerably further around than this vessel, the distance having increased to 4300 yards. 1120 Port 5" battery opened fire on plane going into formation very low and about 10° forward of port beam. 1121 Noticed dive bombers attacking Lexington. 1122 Noted hit on port side of flight deck forward of Lexington. 1124 Six Jap planes passed over the New Orleans, making gliding attack on the Lexington. Took these planes under fire. 1128 Fired on plane moving out of formation on starboard side. 1129 Took under fire plane approaching formation, which DD astern and the Lexington had been firing on. Plane pan-caked in water approximately 25° on the starboard bow of this vessel. Plane was identified as U.S. just prior to striking water. The plane being on the same
side of the ship made identification very difficult. 1134 Ceased firing. Steadied on course 125° True, speed 20 knots. NOTE:- The above mentioned are all of the definitely identified firings. Considerable additional firing was done by all batteries in local control at individual turrets. The conduct of officers and crew under fire was excellent. COMMENTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
- With circle spacing of 1000 yards, cruisers should be placed on circle 2 instead of 3. The New Orleans was generally ahead of the carrier during this engagement. Although, in approximate position just prior to the attack, due to the carrier slowing down to launch planes with inadequate notice and then turning to avoid torpedoes without signal shortly after the attack, this vessel found herself approximately 4300 yards away from the carrier at the time the dive bombers commenced their attack. This was too far away to render effective assistance with anti-aircraft fire.
- During the engagement at least six splashes which appeared to be made by 5" shells fell from 50 to 150 yards from this vessel. In addition, 2 shells burst a short distance ahead and one so near the starboard side that the toppinglift wire on the starboard crane was partially severed by it.
- On two occasions when attacks seemed probable, the planes of this vessel were in the air and would soon have been out of gas. It was necessary to stop and recover these planes. They would have been of little value in an air attack, certainly not commensurate with the additional risks involved in carrying gasoline aboard. If the carriers are at all able to carry out the anti-submarine patrols it is believed that cruisers might well leave their planes ashore when accompanying carriers in a task force. If air spotting becomes necessary it seems reasonable to assume that the major air attacks will have been launched and carrier planes will be available to spot cruiser gunfire. Unless control of the air is assured I do not believe that SOCs can remain on spotting station.
- Communication with sound powered telephones was extremely difficult. These phones picked up most of the noise incident to firing.
- A strong and dangerous tendency was noticed on the part of topside personnel to try and see and evaluate everything at once instead of concentrating on a particular sector or duty. This tendency produced an extremely erratic gunfire.
- The firing of the 5" battery at widely spaced dive bombers, attacking other than own ships, was ineffectual. The 5"/25 battery, as now constituted, is entirely too slow in train and elevation to effectively keep on fast moving dive bombers or gliding torpedo planes. Firing at these types of targets, while maneuvering at high speeds, presents a deflection problem too great for this battery to cope with.
- The extreme difficulty of differentiating between own and enemy planes during action is recognized but no positive solution to the problem is immediately available. At present the best indication of character seems to be the "attitude" of the plane. The assistance of a qualified aviator, if one is available, to determine this "attitude", and to verify types, is of great assistance.
- The need for remote control of 1.1" and 20 mm mounts is more apparent than ever.
- The lack of an adequate supply of 1.1" and 20 mm ammunition and of proper types of targets for training gunners was apparent in their somewhat erratic and ineffective fire. Of all 20 mm ammunition expended, the greater portion passed either below or behind the target. This was caused by the use of insufficient lead and poor estimation of ranges.
- The present battle order visuals are inadequate for this type of work. They should be replaced immediately with a larger set. This is considered as urgent and vital.
- The tendency for fuse setter operators to look everywhere but at their dials persists in spite of constant drills. The fuse setters should be partially enclosed (by light sheet metal, well secured) so that his field of vision will be physically restricted to the instrument dials.
- An "Evershed" or some similar means of target designation from Bridge, Sky Control, Group Control and Lookout Stations should be installed at first opportunity.
- Additional 20 mm ammunition for target practice must be provided and opportunity afforded for extensive practice firing.
- The speed with which the 5"/25 battery may be trained and elevated must be increased 100% if this battery is to be depended upon to afford protection to other than own ship in an air attack.
- The 5"/25 ammunition, despite all precautions taken to preserve it, again proved less than 60% effective. A weather proof mechanical fuze must be developed.
- Raise 1.1"/75 guns on fantail at least 4 feet. In the event that the cranes should be replaced with a center line crane, the relocation of these 1.1"/75 guns on the boat deck is strongly recommended. During high speed maneuvering, these guns are continuously wet from spray and occasional green seas. At one period in the engagement gun number 4 was completely submerged and the loss of several men overboard was averted only by their presence of mind in clinging to the aviation depth charge racks installed on the fantail abaft these guns. At this time a quantity of ammunition was lost overboard, and one man had his nose badly injured. These guns are wet even in a moderate sea and their upkeep is a serious problem.
- The cranes and catapults at times seriously blanketed both the 5"/25 and 20 mm batteries.
COURSES AND SPEEDS - U.S.S. New Orleans
TIME CHANGED TO
115 20 0948
120 25 0950
115 20 1006
Zig-zagging ahead of the formation 1027
028 15 1042
015 17 1048
155 15 1052
120 15 1106
100 18 1110
TIME CHANGED TO
From: Executive Officer. To: Commanding Officer. Subject: Action Report. Reference: (a) Art. 712(1) U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920. (b) CinCPac Mailgram 260012 of April. Enclosure: (A) List of Recommendations.
- In accordance with reference (a) the following is submitted covering the action with the enemy on 8 May 1942.
- At the time of the engagement this ship was at General Quarters, all hands were at their battle stations and the ship was in Material condition of readiness Zed.
- All fuel oil ballast tanks were filled with sea water to the external water line.
- A-504-F and all overflow tanks were empty.
- All other fuel oil tanks were filled with fuel oil.
- The paint and oil storeroom, the paint mixing room and the gasoline stowage compartment were filled with "Inert Gas" and the pyrotechnic locker was sprinkled with water before going into action.
- The only damage received was a partially severed strand on the topping lift of the starboard boat and airplane crane boom. This was apparently caused by stray shrapnel.
- The conduct of the officers and men was excellent.
- We appeared to be too far from the carrier to give her very much protection.
- There was considerable danger to us from the fire of other friendly vessels.
- Long hours at General Quarters showed the necessity of improved ventilation as well as the relaxing of condition Zed in certain parts of the ship.
- The 5"/25 battery, as now controlled, is seriously affected by radical maneuvering at high speeds.
- The 1.1/75 guns now located on the fantail are entirely too low. During high speed maneuvering, these guns are continually wet from spray and occasional green seas. At one period in the attack (the sea was smooth) gun number 4 was completely submerged and the loss of several men overboard was averted only by their presence of mind in clinging to the aviation depth charge racks installed on the fantail abaft the guns. At this time a quantity of ammunition was lost overboard and one man had his nose badly smashed. These guns are wet even in a moderate sea and their upkeep is a serious problem.
- The cranes and catapults at times seriously blanketed both the 5"/25 and 20 M.M. batteries. Due to our cranes and catapults it is impossible to use the 5"/25 guns aft.
- A list of recommendations is attached.
Commander, U.S. Navy.
ENCLOSURE "A" TO ENCLOSURE "D" OF
CO USS NEW ORLEANS CA32/A9-3/(036)
DATED MAY 25, 1942.
Recommendations Submitted by Executive Officer.
- General Quarters and Material Condition of readiness Zed is best for Material Security but poorest for personnel endurance. If we are to be at General Quarters for any great length of time, a compromise in Material Condition of Readiness Zed must be effected. It is recommended that the problem be thoroughly and honestly reviewed with a view to finding the best practical solution. When an enemy attack was probable we went to General Quarters and set Material Condition of Readiness Zed and remained for six hours. Needless to say the personnel below could not stand it and we had to open up somewhat.
- The 1.1 guns on the fantail must be raised.
- The cranes and catapults should be changed. Their present location blankets the fire aft of the 5" guns. In order to open fire on a trailing destroyer, it is necessary to turn the ship through about 30°.
- During action the gasoline in the planes is a very serious fire hazard. It is recommended that the airplane situation aboard cruisers be reviewed with the idea of cutting down to, at the most, two to a cruiser and putting the catapult on top of #3 turret.
- While this has no direct connection with the action of May 8th, I feel that it vitally affects the stability of the ship as well as the draft and speed. There is no question about it - the ship is top heavy and overweight. I seriously doubt if we could take a torpedo hit and still remain upright. We must get rid of topside weight. A good way to quickly reduce the topside weight would be to do away with both cranes and catapults and foundations; cut down the hangar; put a catapult on top of #3 turret; install centerline cranes; bring the forward 1.1 guns down two levels to the old signal bridge; do away with the present 5" directors (they are not satisfactory as they are).
- We must get the paint off the inside of the ship, preferably by sand blasting. We must apply a fire-proof preservative paint (one coat only). Also we must get off linoleum, cork and other inflammables.
- We must do something about our boats during action. Had we thrown our boats overboard during action, then we would have been handicapped in our later rescue work and transfer of survivors. We cannot abandon our boats unless definite arrangements are made for sufficient boats at bases.
- Satisfactory communications must be established. It might be advisable to put a loud speaker system in at each gun. The present system of talkers is not satisfactory. It is too slow and unreliable.
- We must hold more target practices at realistic targets. Most of our men were recruits who were inexperienced in firing guns of any kind.
- There must be more stress laid upon the intelligent leadership of gun captains. There must be more importance attached to local control. When the attack develops, the resulting noise and confusion makes it almost impossible for remote control of the guns by means of talkers etc. The attack comes too fast and is over before the talker can get the word through.
- Fire discipline must be developed. This ship was more seriously "under fire" from our own ships than from the enemy.
- The air compressor situation on this ship should be changed as soon as possible. One hit in #2 fireroom and both of our compressors are out; and with the compressors out, our main and secondary battery would soon become inoperative.
CRUISERS, PACIFIC FLEET
May 29, 1942.
FIRST ENDORSEMENT to
CO N.O. ltr. CA32/A9-3/
(036) of May 25, 1942.
From: Commander Cruisers, Pacific Fleet.
(Commander Task Force SEVENTEEN).
To: Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Subject: Report of Action in Coral Sea on May 8, 1942.
FRANK JACK FLETCHER.
Last updated: January 30, 2003Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation