May 16, 1942.
From: Commanding Officer.
To: Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Via: (1) Commander Task Unit 17.2.2
  (2) Commander Task Force 17
Subject: Action Report, Coral Sea 8 May 1942.
References: (a) Art. 712 U.S. Navy Regu1ations.
  (b) Art. 762 U.S. Navy Regulations.
  (c) CinCpac despatch 260012, of April 1942.
Enclosures: (A) Track Chart of U.S.S. Astoria during engagment, 8 May 1942.
  (B) Executive Officer's Report.

  1. In accordance with references the following report of participation by Astoria as a unit of Task Force 17 in action against enemy aircraft is herewith submitted:

    1. L0CATION:

      Approximate latitude 14-42 South; Longitude 155-14 East.

    2. WEATHER:

      Visibility - maximum; clear; 2% clouds; wind - 20 knots, 110° true; sun bearing about 033° true.


      See Track Chart, enclosure (A). Fleet course 105° true, fleet axis 305° true, speed 20 knots, zig zag plan No. 7.


      0940 - General Quarters.

      0944 - Ship in condition of readiness ONE; Material condition ZED.

      l0ll - Enemy patrol plane reported bearing 050° true.

      l012 - Smoke on horizon, enemy patrol plane shot down by fighter patrol unit. Carriers launching aircraft.

      1036 - Received report enemy aircraft bearing 050° true, ten miles distant.
      Astoria speed 15 kts., course 028° true.


      1037 - Radar warning - many planes 305° true, 86 miles.

      1039 - Radar warning - enemy aircraft 130° true, 47 miles.

      1043 - Force took disposition "VICTOR" to repel air attack.

      1050 - Course 100° true, speed 16 knots.

      1051 - Radar warning - enemy aircraft 135° true, 40 to 47 miles.

      1052 - Course changed to 030° true, speed 16 knots.

      1059 - Changed course to 100° true, speed 15 knots.
      Lexington launching aircraft.

      1101 - Yorktown launching aircraft.

      1102 - Radar - large enemy attack force reported 45 miles.

      1104 - 8" guns loaded - anticipating their use against low flying torpedo attack planes.

      1107 - Yorktown reported enemy torpedo planes coming in, bearing 020° true distant 15 miles.

      1108 - Changed course to 033° true - speed 15 knots.

      1109 - Speed 17 knots.

      1111 - Radar warning - enemy planes 040° distant 10 miles.
      Changed course to 125° true - speed 20 knots.

      1112 - Enemy torpedo planes sighted on port beam deploying for attack; estimated 18 planes.

      1113 - Commenced firing 5" and automatic weapons.
      5" using 4.5 second fuze to place barrage over and beyond Yorktown.

      1115 - Speed 30 knots; maneuvering radically conforming to movements of Yorktown maintaining protective position assigned.
      Commenced firing starboard 5" and automatic weapons on enemy aircraft attempting to escape.
      One torpedo plane shot down port quarter by direct hit, by 5" burst. Plane disintegrated in flames.


      1116 - Shot down one escaping torpedo plane 400 yards on port quarter.
      One torpedo plane, taken under fire on port bow, was forced to drop torpedo from an estimated altitude of about 500 feet. This torpedo ran ahead of Astoria causing destroyer on starboard bow to maneuver radically. One enemy plane, with after section of fuselage afire, observed on port bow in slow gliding left turn apparently attempting to crash on Astoria, but crashed in water about 300 yds. on our port bow.

      1117 - Lull in action. Speed 30 knots; maintained station on Yorktown.

      Combination enemy dive bombers and torpedo planes commenced simultaneous attack. Commenced firing all guns except 8".
      Enemy planes escaping after attack as well as those making attack were taken under fire.
      Astoria straddled by four bombs, two forward abreast frame 30, two aft abreast frame 110. No damages.
      One plane shot down on port bow.
      Damaged second plane on port bow.
      Lexington observed to have been hit by at least two torpedoes and one large bomb.
      Many near misses observed on Yorktown and one bomb hit Yorktown amidships seen. Fire observed on Yorktown.

      1132 - Ceased firing. Speed 25 knots. Yorktown radar reported out of commission.

      Maneuvering with Yorktown, maintaining assigned station. Crew in condition of readiness ONE, material condition ZED set throughout this period.

      1905 - Secured from material condition ZED. Set condition of readiness TW0.


        No. Type Objective
      1st Attack 9 Torpedo Lexington
        9 Torpedo Yorktown

      2nd Attack 6 Torpedo Lexington
        5 Torpedo Yorktown


        No. Type Objective
      2nd Attack 1 Torpedo Astoria
        12 Dive Bombers Lexington
        12 Dive Bombers Yorktown
        2 Dive Bombers Astoria

      Totals 30 Torpedo  
        26 Dive Bombers  
        12 Fighters  

      Grand Total 68 planes (estimated)


        5 Torpedo planes (2 by Astoria)
        5 Type VSB (1 by Astoria)

      Total 10 confirmed by two or more officer observers.




      One case of slight flash burn on face, not severe. Two cases of fractured toes and one case of bruised toe caused by dropping 5" shells.


      1. Ammunition hoist number 4 failed due to a solenoid sticking. Auxiliary hoist (hook and line) functioned satisfactorily.

      2. Missfires. Five were claimed. Two were probably due to faulty ammunition, the other three were due to gun being trained on an unsafe bearing and the foot-firing cut-out lever sticking when the gun was again trained to a safe bearing.


      1. The enemy planes came in on the course as given by radar information. This course was slightly forward of the Yorktown's port beam, about 290° relative.


        Course of Yorktown and this ship at this point was approximately 080°. The Japanese torpedo planes came in at considerable altitude and made very steep glides before releasing their torpedoes. Several were seen to release torpedoes from as high as 500 feet. AA fire, although not particularly effective in destroying individual planes, was nevertheless effective in making the enemy drop their torpedoes from high altitudes. The great number of AA bursts in the sky also made it practically impossible to pick out individual planes for target purposes. The target presented by these planes was a most difficult one because of the deflection problem involved. All enemy planes after delivery of their attack flew very close to the water during retirement, and did not attempt to gain altitude until they were well clear of the formation.

      1. The dive bombing attack came from up-sun and up-wind and from a very high altitude. It was most difficult to see these planes until just prior to their bomb release point due to the great number of AA bursts in the air. Although the enemy dive bombers apparently took the carrier as their objective, many of them were undoubtedly diverted and attempted to attack other ships of the formation. The bomb release point appeared to be between 2 and 3000 feet altitude. The majority of the dive bombers retired to the-northward and away from this vessel. AA fire was ineffective in bringing down these planes but definitely made all of their planes hurry their drops. The planes attacked singly coming down the same line of dive.


      1. Although 5-inch AA fire was not satisfactorily effective in bringing down planes, it apparently was effective in making enemy planes hurry their attack and consequently miss.

      2. The 20 MM and 1.1 guns are most effective at short ranges. The necessity for remote control and power drive for the 1.1 mounts was definitely apparent. Present installation is unsatisfactory in that it is too slow in train either to "get on" or to "stay on". This will be rectified with new gearing for the training mechanism authorized. Both the 20 MM and 1.1 battery personnel need more practice in firing at high speed moving targets. They definitely


        tended to lag their targets by considerable amounts. It is recommended that all aviation officers on board and not engaged in flying be assigned a battle station on the 20 MM guns.

      1. Each 5-inch gun should have a battery officer. The Astoria has an officer for each pair or group. This is insufficient. The necessity for an officer is to promote coordination between the gun pointer and trainer due to the latters restricted field of vision if a shift is made to "Local Control".

      2. Life jackets on guns' crews are a hindrance. They should be stowed nearby but not worn during action despite the additional protection afforded.

      3. All 5-inch handling room decks became very slippery due to perspiration from the men stationed in them. A non-skid deck covering appears necessary.

      4. The gun captain of a 5-inch gun should stand on the gun platform and not behind the gun as is the present procedure.

      5. Astoria "home-made" open sights are inadequate. Vision is too limited and wires do not stand out clearly. This sight is copied from instructions sent out by the Utah. A new and better open sight should be developed.

      6. An analysis of radar information times indicates a lag or "dead time" of approximately 5 to 7 minutes from the radar plot on the radar guard ship to receipt by Sky Control, although all radar information received was very accurate and was transmitted promptly. The lag or "dead time", must be taken into account by the Sky Control officer. A "FC" radar will offset this error.

      7. 5" AA fire should be opened on radar information as soon as an attack is imminent and not held until planes are seen. Suggested procedure:- Open up on radar bearing and place burst beyond attacking planes' expected objective (carrier if present). Keep barrage between planes and their objective.

      8. Main Battery fire can be used only in special circumstances. It appears impracticable but should not be abandoned. Ships should be ready to fire these guns


      1. At the present state of development of ship's armament, munitions, and aircraft air offense is superior to air defense. This is especially so in dive bombing attacks. More effective AA gun fire must be developed.

      2. Close support of carrier by cruisers is tactically sound, is effective, and is essential.


      The conduct of the officers and men in Astoria during this action was excellent. They performed their duties resolutely and efficiently without fear or undue excitement. All departments functioned quietly, efficient1y and without confusion.





May 17, 1942.
From: Executive Officer.
To: Commanding Officer.
Subject: Battle Report - Action with Japanese Aircraft, Coral Sea, 8 May, 1942.
Reference: (a) Art. 948 U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920.

  1. In accordance with reference (a), the following report of action with Japanese aircraft forces on May 8, 1942, in the Coral Sea, is herewith submitted.

  2. Throughout the action I was in Battle Two, Secondary Ship Control, located in mainmast structure. The visibility from this station is restricted by bridge and crane structures but the "stand-by" status of the personnel permits ample time for observation and a reasonable freedom of movement. The chronological data regarding the action as received over the telephones and as reported by the various men, were turned over for inclusion in the ship's report and will not be repeated here. Twenty-one pictures taken of the action failed in development due to inexperience of seaman photographer, overage films, and improper aperture settings.

  3. The action was short and was accompanied by intense anti-aircraft fire against a determined enemy. The attack seemed to be in two phases; the first being an attack by eighteen to twenty enemy torpedo planes and the second, after but a brief lull of a minute or two, a simultaneous attack by about twelve torpedo planes and approximately twenty dive bombers. As the attack progressed the formation split into two distinct groups; the Lexington with Minneapolis, New Orleans, and destroyers diverging to the northward and the Yorktown with Chester, Portland, Astoria and destroyers maneuvering to the southward. The two groups were about six to eight miles apart at the end of the action. As a consequence of this divergence, I did not observe the Lexington after the initial attack until the firing ceased, although I constantly received reports concerning her.

  4. During the time the Lexington was under my observation in the initial or first phase of the action, I saw about six enemy torpedo planes deliver an attack on her from her port quarter. One of these attacks must have been successful for I saw a large geyser of water shoot up alongside the Lexington's stern. These six planes were taken under


    a heavy fire during this attack and the Astoria assisted. As the Astoria continued to swing to the right the starboard battery was unmasked and opened fire immediately. Meanwhile, I observed four fighter aircraft engaged in combat at about 6,000 feet altitude on the port bow. One of these crashed into the sea, never coming out of a steep dive. Another fled with black smoke trailing. The remaining two fighters then appeared to climb and turn towards our formation. I believe these latter to be our planes. During the last minutes of this first phase, I noticed that the Yorktown Group was maneuvering radically and that our anti-aircraft batteries were engaged in rapid and continuous fire in her direction.

  1. During the second phase of the action I observed the Yorktown under constant and rapid attacks by approximately eighteen dive bombers and six to nine torpedo planes. One bomb hit was noticed on the Yorktown, and a great many near misses threw up large gysers of water all around her. About four torpedo tracks were observed astern of the formation between Astoria and Yorktown. Throughout this second phase it was particularly noticed that our guns kept up a rapid, heavy, fire over Yorktown, and that our disengaged batteries as well as those astern fired on retiring planes. Two such planes I personally saw hit and crash. The attack seemed to end as suddenly as it had started. At no time during the action did I observe any planes attacking from the southward.

  2. Those officers and men whom I observed and those whom I was in constant touch with over our communicating systems, and this included the engineering force, repair parties, topside gun crews, gun control and flag bridge personnel, anticipated the action with deliberate calmness and alertness. During the action they functioned smartly and with an enthusiasm which at times actually verged on enjoyment. They cheered at every enemy plane crash. The remarks and discussions throughout the action clearly indicated an understanding of the Astoria's primary mission, protection to the carriers, for always, they were solicitous of the carriers welfare.



A16-3/(034) of 5-16-42.



Last updated: February 1, 2003

Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation