U.S.S. LEXINGTON (CV2)
|CV2/A16-3/(0100)||May 15, 1942.|
From: The Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Lexington. To: The Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Via: (1) The Commander Task Force ELEVEN. (2) The Commander Task Force SEVENTEEN. Subject: Report of Action - The Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 and 8 May 1942. Enclosures: (A) Approximate Track Chart of Lexington 7 - 8 May, 1942. (B) Set of Photographs showing damage to Lexington and various stages of the attack. (C) Sketch of torpedo hits made by VT-2 on Ryukaku, May 7th. (D) Sketch of torpedo hits made by VT-2 on Shokaku, May 8th. (E) Sketch of tracks of Torpedo Squadron TWO on 7 May. (F) Sketch of tracks of Torpedo Squadron TWO on 8 May. (G) Picture of Enemy CV Attacked by LEX Gr. on 7 May.
The Executive Officer report was not listed as an Enclosure, but was included in this report.
Report of Executive Officer, dated May 14, 1942. The following Department Head reports were not Enclosures to this report. However, since they undoubtedly influenced the content of this report, they are included here.
(A) Report of Air Officer, dated May 20, 1942. (B) Supplementary Report of Air Officer, dated June 12, 1942. (C) Report of Air Operations Officer, dated May 13, 1942. (D) Report of Fighter Director, undated. (E) Report of Engineer Officer, dated May 26, 1942. (F) Report of Gunnery Officer, dated May 30, 1942. (G) Report of Medical Officer, dated May 23, 1942. (H) Casualty Report, undated. (I) Hospital Patients, undated. (J) Report of Senior Officer present C & R Dept., dated May 29, 1942. (K) Report of "R" Division Officer, dated May 30, 1942. (L) Report of Chaplain, dated May 12, 1942. (M) Report of Repair II Officer, undated.
- On the 7th of May 1942, the Lexington was operating in the Coral Sea as part of Task Force SEVENTEEN, with Rear Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch on board as Commander Air. The Air Task Group consisted of the Lexington and Yorktown and accompanying destroyers. Various actions took place during that day and the next, May 8th. The following report is submitted:
NARRATIVE OF EVENTS, MAY 7th.
- At early dawn May 7th the Yorktown launched 10 scout bombers to search a hundred and twenty degree arc to a distance of 250 miles, median 025° true, for enemy forces. At 0835 contact report was received from Yorktown of two enemy carriers, two cruisers and two destroyers in a position in the vicinity of Misima Island, the distance being about 170 miles from the ship. So far as reported, the rest of the search was negative. The scout in the eastern arc reported low visibility in that area and turned back at 150 miles, the rest of his arc not being searched.
- The Lexington attack group was launched for attack about 0925. It consisted of 10 VF, 28 VSB, and 12 VTB. Eight SBD's were retained at the ship for anti-torpedo plane patrol. After the group was well on its way, Yorktown reported
the scout making the contact had corrected his report when he returned to the ship to 2 CA and 2 CL. This implied to me that there was no carrier present. However, the group was allowed to continue.
- About 11:30 the group made contact with a carrier of the Ryukaku type and started their attack. VS-2 consisting of 10 SBDs loaded with 1-500 and 2-100 lb. bombs, attacked first and obtained 2 500 lb. bomb hits as follows:1 on stern about 50 feet from ramp.These later were confirmed by independent observers, including Commander of Fighting Squadron Two.
1 about 2/3 aft on flight deck, center.
- VB-2 attacked at 1145 and obtained 5-1000 lb. bomb hits as follows:1 about 2/3 aft on stbd. side flight deck.
1 aft on flight deck amidships.
1 aft on port side flight deck.
1 amidships about 1/2 way aft.
1 near stbd. side aft.
Sixteen pilots participated in that attack and it is not practicable to determine which ones definitely made direct hits. However, the number of hits was confirmed not only by the participating pilots and the Squadron Commander, but also by the Commander of Fighting Two and others who were in excellent position to observe. The ship was a mass of flames from bomb hits and covered by splashes from the later torpedo hits.
- VT-2 attacked at 1145 and obtained 9 torpedo hits by planes as follows:2-T-l, pilot, Lieut. Comdr. J.H. Brett, Jr., USN.
2-T-2, pilot, Lt(jg) L.F. Steffenhagen, USNR.
2-T-4, pilot, Lieut. R.F. Farrington, USN.
2-T-7, pilot, Lieut. E.W.Hurst, USN.
2-T-8, pilot, Ensign C. Hamilton, USN.
2-T-9, pilot, Gunner H.E. Talkington, USN.
2-T-l0, pilot, Lt.(jg) L.W. Thornhill, USN.
2-T-ll, pilot, Rad. Elect. J.E. Mattis, USN.
2-T-l2, pilot, C.A.P. M.H. Georgius, USN.
- Photographs were obtained during the latter phases of the attack, showing only the bow of the carrier with the rest of it completely enveloped in smoke, splashes, and flames. It is difficult to conceive any other result than complete destruction of this carrier and the personnel loss must have been close to 100%. From the bow silhouette in the photographs plus the cut away flight deck, the pilots descriptions, and radio intelligence it is believed that this carrier was the Ryukaku. These photographs were saved when the Lexington was abandoned.
- One of our planes was lost in this attack. Lieutenant ALLEN, executive officer of VS-2, was definitely seen to go into the water as the result of enemy fighter action. Another SBD, Lieut(jg) QUIGLEY, of VS-2, was damaged by AA fire, reporting his control wires shot away and his plane became unmanageable. He was directed by his Squadron Commander to bail out or land on Rossel Island in the Louisiades Archipelago. This was friendly territory and it is hoped he made a safe landing. Air Headquarters at Townsville was notified with the idea of his rescue, results so far unknown.
- The rest of the group returned and landed about 1345. A second attack on enemy ships in the De Boyne Island area was ready at 1450 but was not ordered by the Task Force Commander due to the possibility of other enemy carriers being in our vicinity and not yet located. Evidence existed that we were being shadowed by enemy planes and enemy radio was intercepted giving our approximate position and exact course and speed. The weather in our area was squally, with about 90% overcast, frequent rain squalls, in which ceiling and visibility were zero. Wind varied from 15 to 22 knots from southeast.
- About 1745, very close to sunset, radar contacts gave a group of enemy planes to the westward. Fighter control directed fighters in the air to intercept and additional fighters were launched. These planes intercepted a formation of nine enemy zero fighters and engaged them in combat. Results were as follows: Four zero Jap fighters shot down, two other zero fighters damaged as evidenced by smoke and gasoline leakage. Yorktown fighters claimed three which would account for the entire formation of nine, if there was no over-lapping.
Our losses: One VF, Lieut.(jg) P.C. Baker, pilot, failed to return. It is believed that he collided with a zero fighter, included in the above enemy losses.
- While landing the combat patrol, well after sunset and almost completely dark, strange planes appeared flying around our formation. They were challenged and I received one report that they answered correctly and it was presumed at first they were Yorktown planes approaching to land. One observer reported they were two-engine torpedo planes. Yorktown reported they were enemy planes. Some ships opened fire on them. Yorktown and Lexington planes were still circling to land. However, these strange planes made no hostile move, were burning running lights and eventually moved off thirty miles to the eastward, where radars showed them circling and apparently landing on an enemy carrier. They were definitely enemy planes and apparently mistook us for their own force. The indicated presence of enemy carriers only thirty miles east was reported to the Task Force Commander. It was estimated that these carriers were the Shokaku and the Zuikaku of Cardiv FIVE, which until that time had been unaccounted for.
- It is belived that this day's action resulted in the complete destruction of the enemy carrier Ryukaku with practically all personnel and ultimate loss of all her planes. In addition, during the day, the following enemy plane losses were inflicted:6 zero type VF at 1745.
4 "97" type VF at scene of enemy carrier.
1 VT near scene of enemy carrier.
Total 11 planes. This does not include planes shot down by Yorktown group.
Our losses during the day were: 2 SBD, 1 VF. The pilot and radioman of 1 SBD may be safe on Rossel Island.
SECOND DAY'S NARRATIVE
- The Task Force Commander's decision was to proceed during the night to southwestward and search for and attack the enemy carriers at dawn. The Lexington was directed to search 360°, 200 miles in the northern semicircle and 150 miles in the southern semicircle.
- Contact was made by Lexington scout 2-S-2, Lieut.(jg) Joseph Smith, about 0820, with a formation of two CV, 4 CA, and 3 DD 170 miles to the northeastward. Attack group consisting of 24 SBDs, 10 VF, and 12 VTB was launched
between 0900 and 0920, and proceeded immediately. At 0832 radio intercepted enemy transmission giving our position, course and speed and we knew definitely we had been located. I predicted enemy attack would come in about 1100. All preparations to receive it were made. Ship was at General Quarters; condition Zed was set; returning scouts were launched as anti-torpedo plane patrol; additional fighters not already in the air were launched at 1030 and 1100; and all stations were warned to be ready.
- The weather in our vicinity was clear, unlimited visibility and ceiling, few clouds, no rain squalls, wind about 15 knots, from southeast. Radar reported at 1100 many enemy aircraft approaching from northward, distance about 75 miles. First enemy planes were sighted from the ship at 1113. They were torpedo planes. They were at about 6-7000 feet altitude and split and came in from both bows. Ship's speed had been built up to 25 kts. at 1100 when the attack was expected and was immediately increased to 30 kts. when the hostile aircraft were sighted.
- Our combat patrol, under the Fighter Director, was patrolling at 10,000 feet. Exact altitude of the approaching enemy was not determined, but was known to be over 10,000 feet. The fighters made contact 20-30 miles out but the enemy bombers were at 17,000 feet and the performance of our fighters was not sufficient to gain enough altitude to attack them before they reached the "push-over" point. The bombers intercepted were accompanied by 18 protective fighters, which our fighters subsequently engaged in combat and shot down or damaged six. They were Me-109, 00, 96, and 0 types.
- The Anti-torpedo Plane patrol was on station at 2000 feet, but about 6000 yards out. This patrol always has a tendency to get too far out, probably due both to concern over AA fire from surface ships and an eagerness to intercept torpedo planes well out. From this position the enemy torpedo planes at high speed came in over them. Even so, the SBDs on the port side intercepted; shot down 4 VT with torpedoes, 4 without torpedoes, 1 VB and 2 accompanying VF. One SBD was shot down by enemy VF.
- Anti-aircraft fire from this force was opened generally about 1113. Torpedo planes made the first attack, the first approaching from port and others circling to come in from starboard bow. Most of these planes came in at about a 40 or 45° dive from 6-7000 feet, making high speed and dropping their torpedoes in the dive attitude from altitude of 300-500 feet, although some were seen to level off just above the water and make a normal drop. The range at the dropping point varied from 500 to 1200 yards. I turned to port with full rudder to bring the first torpedoes ahead. From then on
torpedoes were coming from both starboard and port and I maneuvered with full rudder both ways as I considered best to avoid torpedoes. Some from starboard crossed ahead; two others ran parallel to the ship, one on each side; some from port ran ahead; two ran under without hitting. At 1120, first torpedo hit ship and exploded just forward of port forward gun gallery; at 1121, one hit a little further aft about opposite the bridge. In the meantime, dive bombers were making their attack from about a 70° dive angle. They were pushing over from high altitude, 17,000 feet, and were not visible until they were in the final stages of their dive. One bomb estimated at 1000 lbs. hit the after end of the port forward gun gallery in the ready ammunition locker just outside the Admiral's cabin. Two other near misses hit close aboard aft on the port side and at first were mistaken for torpedo hits. Another bomb estimated 500 lbs. hit the gig boat pocket on the port side, and one 100 lb. hit the stacks and exploded inside. There were one or more near misses aft on the starboard side, fragments killing and injuring a number of men in the stack machine guns, sky aft, and the after signal station. I personally saw a flaming bomb, approaching the ship from port, and burning with a reddish colored flame. I am unable to say whether or not it hit.
- Apparently there were seven explosions against the Lexington, two of which are thought to have been torpedoes, 1 1000-lb. bomb hit, 2 1000-lb. bomb very near misses on the port side, and 2 smaller bombs. Fires were started in the main deck near the Admiral's Country, beneath the incinerator, near the gig boat pocket and one in the forward starboard marine compartment near the forward elevator. The ship was listing about 6° to port. Damage control reported they were shifting oil to correct the list and fire parties were fighting the fires. Main control reported all units in commission. Number 2, 4, and 6 fire rooms were partially flooded, but water was being controlled by the pumps. Steering gear was intact and the ship was making 25 kts. under good control. Both elevators at this time were reported out of commission, jammed in the up position, due to machinery casualties in the wells, probably from shock.
- At about 1300, Damage Control reported the ship on an even keel, that three fires were out and the other one in the Admiral's country under control. The ship was periodically turned into wind to land and reservice aircraft. The attack group returned and was landed, the torpedo planes about 1400.
- The attack group reported two 1000-lb. bomb hits on enemy carrier of the Shokaku class made by Commander W.B. Ault, USN,
Group Commander, and three other SBDs operating with him. 5 torpedo hits were made by VT-2 as follows:2-T-3, pilot, Ensign N.A. Sterrie, USNR
2-T-5, pilot, Ensign T.B. Bash, USNR
5-T-6, pilot, Ensign H.R. Mazza, USNR
2-T-7, pilot, Lieut. E.W. Hurst, USN
2-T-l2, pilot, C.A.P. B.C. Shearn, USN
They further reported when last seen she was on fire, settling and turning in a circle. It is believed that this ship was sunk. Radio intercepts later tended to confirm this belief. She was rapidly losing headway.
- In the meantime, Damage Control was gradually getting all damage checked and cleared up. At 1247 a heavy explosion shook the ship. It appeared to come from amidships well down in the bowels of the ship. Communication with Central Station was immediately lost, all telephones except the JV line went out including the ship's service phones, and a bad fire broke out from the main deck down to the vicinity of Central Station just forward of the main elevator. All pressure was lost in the fire main forward. Rudder indicators on the bridge went out, although steering control was working. By using the JV line to trick wheel to receive reports of the position of the rudder, steering was retained on the bridge. The forward gyro compass system was out, but after gyro compass and repeaters were satisfactory.
- This heavy explosion at 1247 was what caused the loss of the ship. Until that time everything was well under control. Full propulsive power was available, steering was O.K., the ship was on an even keel, and all fires were either out or under control. The cause of this explosion was uncertain. At first it was thought to be a "sleeper" dud 1000-lb bomb which went off in the bowels of the ship. However, further study indicates that small gasoline leaks from the heavy pounding the ship had received had caused accumulation of gasoline vapors in the lower regions and they were set off by spark of unknown origin. In any event, from this time on the ship was doomed.
- Hoses from the after section of the fire main were led out and every effort was made to combat the fire. The fire spread aft and additional communications were gradually being lost. The fire main pressure dropped to 30-40 lbs. Minor explosions were recurring at frequent intervals, increasing the fire. Whether these were from 5-inch ammunition going off or from further gasoline
vapors could not be determined. All lights forward were out and the main deck and below were full of smoke. It was a losing fight to control the fire. The JV line to trick wheel went dead and I steered for a while with the engines. Both Gyros and repeaters were out and we used the magnetic compass.
- At about 1600, the one remaining phone working to Main Control was getting very weak. Main Control had reported the forward bulkhead of Afirm unit was so hot the paint was peeling off in large blisters. I gave them permission to shift to the after spaces. Finally, about 1630, fearing I would lose all communication with them I ordered engineering personnel to secure the plane and get up on deck. The safeties were opened and the ship came to a stop. I ordered life rafts made ready and preparations made to abandon ship. Fire fighting efforts were still being made until the engineering plane was abandoned, when all water pressure was gone. At this time I asked Admiral FITCH for destroyers to come alongside and pass over fire hoses, thinking we might control the fire if we got water. The Admiral directed DDs to come alongside and also directed me to disembark excess personnel to the destroyers alongside. In response to this the USS Morris came alongside and passed two hoses over, which were put to work, and excess personnel went down lines to her deck. However, by this time the fire was beyond control. Additional explosions were occurring; it was reported the war heads on the hangar deck had been at a temperature of 140° F; ready bombs storage was in the vicinity of the fire and I considered there was danger of the ship blowing up at any minute. I had previously directed sick and wounded to be disembarked in our whale boats and excess squadron personnel had gone on lines to the destroyer alongside.
- At 1707 Admiral FITCH directed me to abandon ship. I issued the orders and orderly disenbarkation began. Boats from accompanying ships came alongside and assisted. Preference was given to lowering wounded and injured into the boats. Most of the men went hand over hand down lines over the side and into the water on life rafts. Most of the men were off by 1800. Admiral FITCH and myself were the last to leave the bridge. He disembarked forward where practically all had gone and I made a final inspection aft. I found a number of men aft on the starboard side and in the port after gun gallery where there seemed to be some difficulty; men in the water were having trouble getting away from the ship due to drift. I directed those men still on board to shift to the starboard side aft where getting away was easier. I made a final inspection and went aft where my executive officer, Commander SELIGMAN, reported to me all men were off the ship. At this time a tremendous explosion about the vicinity of the elevator shook the ship and we had to duck to
avoid falling debris. I directed Commander SELIGMAN to disembark. I saw him in the water swimming toward an approaching motor whale boat. Having assured myself there was no other living person on the ship, I went down a line hand over hand and dropped off into the water, to be picked up by a motor whale boat of the USS Minneapolis. This boat took me to the USS Minneapolis where I reported to Admiral FITCH.
- The picture of the burning and doomed ship was a magnificent but sad sight. The ship and crew had performed gloriously and it seemed too bad that she had to perish in her hour of victory. But she went to a glorious end, more fitting than the usual fate of the eventual scrap heap or succumbing to the perils of the sea. She went down in battle, after a glorious victory for our forces in which the Lexington and her air group played so conspicious a part.
- The Phelps was directed by the Task Force Commander to sink the Lexington by torpedoes. Five torpedoes were fired, at least three hit, and she finally went under on an even keel. As she went under a tremendous explosion occurred which rocked ships for miles around. It was the end of the Lexington. These circumstances were reported to me verbally by the Commanding Officer of the Phelps.
- The survivors were scattered among nearly all of the accompanying ships. Check-ups by signal disclosed a total of about 2735 survivors. There were no drownings in the water due to abandoning ship so far as known. All losses of personnel were due to air combat in the air group or to the bomb explosions and fire on the ship. The preliminary total of personnel losses subject to final check is 26 officers and 190 men out of a total complement of 295l. This in itself is considered to be a remarkable achievement.
- Air offense is definitely superior to the defense.
- Combat patrols must patrol at 20,000 feet to insure interception prior to attack of high-flying enemy dive bombers.
- Anti-torpedo Plane Patrols must keep in close to the torpedo release point, at about 3000 feet altitude, to insure interception of either high or low approach torpedo planes. This
employment of SBDs is a make-shift at best; the best defense would be to have sufficient fighters for both a high and low patrol. This condition will seldom be realized. In this particular attack, the Anti-torpedo Plane Patrol of SBDs was partially effective. They shot down nine torpedo planes, four with torpedoes aboard, four without, and one undetermined. They also shot down two fighters. One SBD was shot down by enemy fighters. The Anti-torpedo Plane Patrol on the port side of the formation made all the intercepts. It was in position 3000 yds. outside of screen at 2000 feet. If it had been at the designated altitude of 3000 feet, its position would have been more effective. It is considered that the Anti-torpedo Plane Patrol of SBDs is amply justified as better than nothing.
- Our personnel are superior in quality and skill to the Japanese.
- The ship was completely ready for the attack in every respect. A total of 11 fighters were in the air for defense against bombers, and 14 SBDs for defense against torpedo planes, in addition to planes in the air for defense from the Yorktown. All guns were manned and ready. Material condition Zed to meet the attack was completely set. Twenty-five to thirty knots speed was being made. All personnel were alert.
- This battle definitely represented the simple problem of carrier against carrier. Both air groups were attacking the other's carrier at about the same time. I predicted ahead of time that it was possible for both attacks to be successful and for both opposing carriers to be destroyed. That is what happened. But few of our attacking planes were destroyed in the attack itself, whereas many of the Japanese planes were destroyed by our fighters and AA fire in their attack on us. The Lexington remained afloat for over seven hours and rescued about 92% of her personnel, whereas the enemy carrier is believed to have sunk within the hour and to have lost a heavy percentage of its personnel.
- In this battle, the enemy had the advantage of weather. The Lexington was in a clear area, whereas the Japanese were in a rain squall area. Nevertheless, the major part of the Lexington air attack group was able to find its objective.
- Our own AA fire was, as usual, only partially
effective. The general tendency was still to use insufficient lead and to fire under the target.
- The loss of the ship was caused by an internal gasoline vapor explosion near Central Station below the armored deck in the vicinity of the forward torpedo shop. This explosion resulted from minor gasoline leaks gradually accumulating highly explosive vapor in the area. It was undetected, due to the complete sealing of the ship in Condition Zed. The adjacent gasoline control room had been flooded and sealed with CO2 as a preventive measure. For means of preventing see recommendation 31-8 below.
- The material performance was in general excellent. No gun stoppages or material failures were reported by the planes. The damage control features of the design of the Lexington speak for themselves; she remained afloat for over seven hours after sustaining two torpedo hits, three bomb hits and two near misses and had to be finally sunk by additional torpedo hits.
- The performance of all personnel was magnificent. I cannot say too much in praise of the conduct of the personnel, of the officers and men of the Lexington and her squadrons. The finest traditions of the Naval service were upheld in every respect. Many cases of individual heroism occurred, and they are too numerous to mention in this report. In accordance with Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet instructions, separate letter is being submitted with recommendations for suitable awards in these cases. However, I wish to emphasize that every last officer and man performed his duty with the greatest credit to himself, his family and his country. The country can well be proud of their performance.
- Our present methods of training and tactics are sound, as proven by this engagement. Our attacks were successful and except for the gasoline vapor explosion the ship would have been saved.
- That a new carrier, the first available, be re-named the Lexington to carry on the traditions of that great ship.
- That the officers and men survivors of the Lexington and her air group be retained together as a unit, to man the new Lexington. This will be of the utmost value for morale, not only to these men but for the country as a whole, and will best utilize
this group of well-trained, seasoned, and tested officers and men.
- That all carriers be immediately filled to their allowance of 27 fighters.
- That combat patrols patrol at 20,000 feet when enemy dive bombing attack is expected.
- That Anti-torpedo Plane patrols be stationed at not more that 3000 yds. from the carrier at 3000 feet altitude for protection against both high and low level torpedo planes. Fighters should be used for this if available.
- That fighters and torpedo planes of greater performance be provided to carriers as soon as possible.
- That every effort be made to strengthen the air defense of carriers without sacrificing their offensive strength.
- That damage control instructions to all ships contain the rollowing:
Whenever structural damage occurs in the general vicinity of gasoline tanks, possibility of accumulation in confined spaces or dangerous concentrations of gasoline vapors exists. The following immediate steps must be taken to prevent destructive explosions:
- Pump all gasoline tanks in the vicinity overboard or to tanks in an undamaged area and keep them flushed with salt water.
- Take all steps practicable to prevent sparks anywhere near the damaged area.
- Ventilate the damaged area thoroughly by all practicable means, including bilge pumps, even though it involves partially breaking material condition Zed in that area.
- That additional fire fighting apparatus be installed on carriers, prererably separated units of diesel powered fire pumps and hoses, so that entire reliance is not placed on the fire mains.
- That more rescue breathing or oxygen smoke helmets be provided. Several hundred should be the minimum and all men trained in their use.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
- Enemy Damage May 7th.
By Lexington Air Group:1 carrier (Ryukaku) sunk. In addition probably all her planes were lost and practically all personnel.Total:
4 zero enemy fighters (type zero) shot down at 1745.
2 probable enemy zero destroyed at 1745.
1 type 97 VF at scene of carrier attack (VB-2).
1 type 97 VF at scene of carrier attack (VB-2).
1 3-place seaplane probable, near scene of carrier attack (VF-2).
2 VF type 97 by VF-2 at scene of attack on enemy carrier.1 CV, (presumably 80 planes); 11 planes additional in combat (part of 80). These losses do not include planes shot down by Yorktown planes.Our losses, May 7th:1 SBD shot down by enemy fighters at scene of attack.Total:
1 SBD damaged at scene of attack, force-landing on Rossel Island. Pilot and gunner may be safe.
1 VF shot down by zero fighters at 1745.3 planes, crew of one of which may be safe.
- Enemy Losses, May 8th:1 carrier (Shokaku) probably sunk with all planes and heavy loss of personnel.By VF-2: Certain:
4 VT shot down in vicinity of Lexington (by AA).
1 VT shot down in vicinity of Lexington (VB-2).2 VS at enemy carrier.
1 VF, type 00, at enemy carrier.
1 VF, Me-109, over Lexington.
1 VF, 00, over Lexington.
1 VF 0, over Lexington.
Probable:2 VF, type 00, at enemy carrier.By VS-2:
1 VF, Me-109, over Lexington.
1 VF, 96, over Lexington.
1 VF, over Lexington.4 VT with torpedoes near Lexington.Total:
4 VT without torpedoes near Lexington.
1 VT or VB without bombs or torpedoes near Lexington.
2 VF near Lexington.
2 VF, type 97, shot down by VT-2 on return from attack.1 CV, (presumably 80 planes) probably sunk; 29 planes additional in combat (part of 80). These losses do not include planes shot down by Yorktown planes ( or AA fire in vicinity of Yorktown.)Our Losses, May 8:1 carrier (Lexington) sunk, but with 92% personnel and 18 planes saved (planes landed on Yorktown).Total:
7 VP shot down at scene of attack on enemy.
1 VT lost, out of gas returning; personnel may be safe.
3 SBD lost, out of gas returning; personnel may be safe.
1 SBD lost, shot down as Anti-torpedo Plane Patrol at Lexington.12 planes, personnel of 4 of which may be safe.
- It is believed the above figures speak for themselves and that on the 7th and 8th of May, the Lexington and her air group achieved two great victories in our country's cause and that her performance will go down in the annals of the Navy as an outstanding example of devotion to duty and successful accomplishment of a mission.
- This report of these actions is as accurate as I can determine at this time. I have obtained written statements from key personnel and can elaborate on any points if further details are desired, especially on material matters. If my recommendation to keep the officers and crew together is approved, it will facilitate supplemental reports.
- The question of whether or not the Shokaku is sunk may be controversial at this writing. No report of any sighting of the Shokaku since the attack has been received. All information in my possession points to the probability of the only carrier proceeding away from the area being the damaged Zuikaku, which has been reported from radio intelligence. From the reports of pilots at the scene, stating she was settling, on fire, circling but rapidly losing all way, unless positive information otherwise exists, I believe the Shokaku sank shortly after the attack.
FREDERICK C. SHERMAN.
Copies herewith for:CominchBy separate registered mail:
ComTaskFor 17ComTaskFor 11Buaer.
|A16-3/CV-2||May 14, 1942.|
From: Executive Officer. To: Commanding Officer. Subject: Action in the Coral Sea, May 8, 1942 - report of. Reference: (a) Article 948, U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920. Enclosure: (A) Recommendation for Awards.
- It is improbable that I can add any facts with which the Commanding Officer is not already conversant relative to the subject action up to the completion of the Japanese aerial attack. Accordingly this report will be confined to events which came under my observation, or those of which I was cognizant subsequent to the attack and regarding which the Commanding Officer may require further information.
- Shortly after 1120 a bomb, of at least five hundred - or perhaps one thousand - pounds detonated just abaft number six gun on the forward port five inch battery. This hit rendered the battery ineffective, killing the entire crew of gun number six, and killing or wounding thirteen men on guns number two and four. Several were also killed and wounded inboard in the passageway on the main deck. At the same time I believe that part of the preset five inch ammunition in the "Ready" locker in the Cabin detonated which added to the destruction. Fire started on the gun platforms and swept through the Admiral's Cabin and surrounding area.
- I left the bridge shortly after the explosion and proceeded to the vicinity of that fire. The repair party functioned efficiently and the fire was rapidly brought under control.
- ANDYKO was used with good effect from the flight deck and fires in the battery were extinguished quickly. The men engaged in fire fighting completely disregarded the extreme danger to which they were exposed from exploding five inch ammunition.
- The same was true of the rescue parties who cared for those injured most efficiently.
- Commander W.W. Gilmore, (SC), U.S. Navy, and Commander W.C. Trojakowski, (DC), U.S. Navy, were probably killed in the passageway by the blast of the first bomb, or possibly by exploding five inch ammunition.
- It was evident some personnel in the coding room on the starboard side suffered severely from the effects of this blast, but the number of casualties is not known.
- I had been advised that there was another fire in the forward starboard Marine compartment, and one near the incinerator, in the same vicinity, and I proceeded there as soon as possible. The fire in the Marine compartment had been localized and was not dangerous and no signs of fire was then observed near the incinerator.
- A bomb had struck near the Gig boat pocket on the port side with severe effects on personnel. The fire was, however, quickly and effectively handled.
- As soon as the fires appeared to be in hand I conferred with the First Lieutenant, Lieutenant Commander Healy, in Central Station. He advised me regarding the damage sustained and the general situation as follows:
- Fires and bomb hits already mentioned, all under control.
- One or perhaps two torpedo hits on the port side, at about frame eighty-six, which had caused considerable damage in number four fireroom and some small flooding in numbers two and six. Situation under control.
- Possibly an additional bomb or torpedo hit forward on the port side, but no signs of interior damage had been discovered. All other torpedoes had apparently been dodged by skillful handling of the ship.
- Unengaged repair party personnel were making a careful inspection and checking on watertight integrity.
- No signs were evident of any damage to the gasoline system. This system was controlled by the Air Department and preventive measures were taken as indicated below.
- The Damage Control organization was functioning smoothly and effectively and there was no apparent cause for concern although inspection of all critical points was in progress. I reported this situation briefly and again proceeded below decks with the idea in mind of reassuring myself as regards the removal of those wounded. The latter were rapidly being evacuated to dressing stations and to the Sick Bay. The work of rescue personnel cannot be too highly commended.
- After reassuring myself as to the fires I determined to visit the dressing stations and the Sick Bay to obtain an idea the number and condition of casualties. I had just entered the hatch leading to the Sick Bay forward when a terrific blast occurred (apparently aft and below me). The force of this blast was sufficient to blow me through the scuttle. I am told that this happened at 1247 although I had been completely unaware of the passing of time. As I was not injured I proceeded aft on the second deck to endevour to locate the source of the explosion. A severe fire was burning in the C.P.O. passageway and at other points in the office area. It was especially severe near the Gunnery Office, but there was no indication of fire below the second deck at this time.
- The forward fire hoses had no pressure, but hoses were soon led from aft and an effort made to control the fire in the area. Communications were severed except one ship's service phone to the bridge, and Central Station could not be contacted. None of those present realized for some time that the original blast had occurred below the armored deck, but it soon became evident that such was the case and that the fires above were more or less incidental, but none the less most severe and spreading rapidly.
- The initial explosion was soon followed by another somewhat less severe, but by this time heat, smoke, and gas conditions were so bad as to make it impossible for men not equipped with rescue breathers to enter the area. The small supply of rescue breathers and oxygen bottles available in the ship's allowance was soon exhausted, but the men and officers of the repair parties, augmented by men from the Air Department, and deck divisions, continued to enter the smoke, flame, and gas filled compartments only with gas masks. The latter were
inadequate. Carbon Monoxide was undoubtedly present and gas masks were totally ineffective. During this period there were successive minor explosions, some apparently from five inch ammunition in the C.P.O. country. Others from the vicinity of the original blast.
- The lack of water from the forward hoses was an almost insurmountable handicap, but it is believed that the original fire on the second deck might have been controlled if it had not been for the new fires started by frequent subsequent explosions. Meanwhile it had been discovered that the initial blast had probably occurred somewhere in the vicinity of Central Station and that the additional detonations in that area had started fires below the armored deck.
- At this time Lt-Cdr. O'Donnell, the Gunnery Officer, had procured two additional hoses from aft. These hoses were led into the scuttles of the five inch ammunition hoists to starboard, and the last available hose was led into the dumb waiter of the food distribution room in an attempt to flood the C.P.O. country. Good pressure was maintained on these hoses for a short time and it was hoped that sufficient water could be gotten below to flood the area on fire forward of the quarterdeck and check the spread of the blaze. Under existing conditions it was impossible to combat it otherwise.
- Lt-Cdr. O'Donnell, after inspection, advised me the Machine Shop area was partially flooded, and there were no fires in that vicinity, which was encouraging.
- Lt(jg) R.O. Dietzer, the V-1 Division Officer, who was in charge of the gasoline system, had determined shortly after the completion of the attack that the system on the starboard side was functioning satisfactorily. The gas system on the port side had been secured just subsequent to the attack as a precautionary measure. Well before the terrific blast at 1445 he had ordered that the gas control room on the port side be flooded with water and smothered with CO2. No gasoline was in the system on this side above the armored deck and it was completely secured.
- At this time it appeared that the situation, while it was extremely grave, might not be hopeless if sufficient water could be obtained. I proceeded to the flight deck for some air as I had been considerably weakened by the effects of smoke.
- Shortly after I reached the deck, and was standing on the forward elevator, another explosion occurred. It was apparently from the starboard side just forward of the elevator well. The elevator was jammed up, but sheets of flame could be seen below through the cracks at the edges.
- A hose from aft was obtained and led to the top of the elevator. This water seemed to have some effect on the fire in the well.
- I asked Carpenter Nowak to insure that all hangar deck sprinklers were turned on, and Lt-Cdr. O'Donnell saw that the "Ready" torpedo war heads on the mezzanine were sprinkled.
- The hangar deck was very hot by this time and the fire was slowly spreading aft although the hose forward appeared to have assisted in the elevator well as steam was evident. Explosions in the vicinity of the elevator well recurred every few minutes.
- It soon became necessary to evacuate the hangar deck aft due to heat and smoke and many wounded were brought from the fuselage deck to the top side.
- Lt. Roach, (MC), U.S. Navy, was in charge of about twenty or twenty five wounded men at this station. Lts. Roach, Hirsch, Air Department, and rescue personnel evacuated all with utter disregard for their own safety.
- Lt. Roach and his party could see a violent fire in the elevator well and deck plates were cherry red forward prior to removal to the topside. The water supply to the hoses leading to the top of the elevator now failed. Pressure on the hoses forward, leading into the ammunition hoists, had also failed. Explosions continued with increasing frequency in various sections. The main deck forward was completely impassable. The situation became momentarily more desperate.
- The forward part of the ship was ablaze, both above and below the armored deck with absolutely no means left to fight the fire which was now spreading aft on the hangar deck. It was inevitable that the twenty odd torpedo war heads on the mezzanine of the hangar deck must eventually detonate.
- I therefore instructed Ensign Dowling to cast loose the life rafts and be prepared to distribute them forward and aft.
- One sound power phone to main control was still functioning, but communication was not good and it appeared that the heat might ground it out at any moment. Accordingly I sent word to the Chief Engineer that it might become necessary to abandon ship. And ordered that the life rafts be placed in the nettings and unoccupied personnel distributed forward and aft on the starboard side as the ship was listing about seven degrees to port.
- I then proceeded to the bridge and reported the situation to the Commanding Officer, and recommended securing the Engineering plant as I was fearful that all means of escape would soon be cut off. The Commanding Officer immediately ordered that the Engineering Department be secured and personnel evacuated to the flight deck.
- This was done most efficiently and as far as can be determined all of the personnel who were alive escaped.
- As the majority of the ship's company was aft on the flight deck, I proceeded to that area and with the assistance of the other officers made the best possible distribution for disembarkation.
- Meanwhile the U.S.S. Morris was evacuating the wounded forward on the starboard side. Other wounded had been placed in the ship's motor whaleboats. The behavior of all hands cannot be too highly commended. It was a magnificent display of coolness and courage in the face of imminent destruction.
- Mr. Stanley Johnston, representative of the Chicago Tribune, behaved with conspicuous courage throughout the action and during the subsequent trying period. He rescued at least one seriously burned and blinded man from a smoke and flame filled compartment. He was observed everywhere lending aid to the wounded, procuring life jackets, chatting cheerfully with the men on deck and otherwise assisting with great efficiency. He was among the last to leave the ship
after which he spent a considerable time in a boat assisting in the rescue of personnel in the water.
- Squadron personnel had taken pneumatic life rafts from aircraft, lines were rigged over both sides and all was in readiness to abandon ship when orders should be received. Besides life rafts, all available matresses were provided to serve as additional floatation for personnel.
- At approximately 1707 the Captain gave the order to abandon ship. It was a sad end for all of us.
- Later events proved, however, that the decision was wise and was reached in time to disembark the crew during daylight and prior to the extremely violent explosions which took place later.
- Again I must comment on the heroism of personnel. It was an inspiration. The first thought of all was for the wounded.
- Repeated inspections were made by officers and men to assure that none were left behind. Many men and officers were reluctant to leave and had to be ordered to go over the side. Just prior to sunset all but half a dozen men were off the ship. The Commanding Officer had come aft once, but had made several trips forward to see that all hands were clear. I observed about twenty or twenty five men on life rafts or in the water under the port counter. Boats had attempted to pick them up but for some reason were not successful.
- A Destroyer came up on the port quarter and shot over a twenty-one thread manila line with loops in the end. I leaned over the nets and dropped this line in the vicinity of the rafts and when the men took it I went forward on the port side to look for stragglers.
- Following this I looked about for the Commanding Officer who had gone well forward and saw him approaching Lt. Hawes and two or three others at the after gun mount on the starboard side. They would not leave the ship until ordered to do so.
- Lt-Cdr. Paul H. Ramsey was in a small boat astern and I waved to him from the ramp hoping that he would spot the Captain and myself who were now alone on board. All others who were alive had left the ship.
- The Commanding Officer directed me to leave as soon as he came aft. As I was doing so there was a tremendous roar, sheets of flame came out of the starboard side above and below the after 1.1 mount. Debris flew high in the air, and in all directions.
- I slid down the line and dropped about ten feet into the water where Lt-Cdr. Ramsey picked me up.
- A few minutes later the same boat picked up the Captain and took us to the U.S.S. Minneapolis.
- It may not be inappropriate for me to take this occasion to mention the efforts made in our behalf by the entire ship's company of that vessel. The wonderful treatment received at the hands of officers and men will long be remembered by those of us who reached her and remained on board until our arrival at NOUMEA.
- Approximately twenty seven hundred officers and men abandoned ship in an incredably short period. It is not believed that any man was lost due to drowning after going overboard.
- Boat crews from other ships were untiring in their efforts to rescue all.
- All records having been destroyed, and at this writing the exact number of losses can only be estimated, but it is believed that the total will not be more than twenty five officers and one hundred ninety men.
- It is my opinion, based on reports of personnel in the vicinity, that the effects of the extremely heavy explosion at 1247 caused the loss of our ship.
Those present in the Central Station area have described the occurence in a manner that can lead to but one conclusion on my part.
I believe that the torpedo which struck the port side at about frame 63 ruptured some of the gasoline tanks and the fresh water tanks surrounding them.
The mining effect damaged the inboard bulkhead slightly. Behind this were the I. C. Motor Generator room and the gas control room.
Gasoline spread through the fresh water tanks, thence seeped through small leaks in the inboard bulkhead into the I. C. Motor Generator room and the gas control room. The gasoline vaporized upon reaching the air and the vapor concentration built up very slowly.
I do not know how long the dilution by CO2 can be expected to last. The tendency of the gasoline vapor to sink to the lowest level may have prevented its discovery prior to the time the concentration reached the point where a highly explosive mixture was produced.
It is believed, however, that the I. C. Motor Generator room and the gas control room gradually became, to all intents and purposes, a huge bomb which was probably detonated by commutator sparks.
This detonation blew flames and vapor through the gas vent pipes which led into the C.P.O. country and started the fires there. At least one of the pipes was badly ruptured. It also completely demolished the I.C. room and badly damaged Central Station and adjacent compartments. Further, it severed all communications to Central Station, rendered the ship's service phone system almost inoperative and caused complete loss of water forward.
Damage Control personnel were placed under a terrific handicap.
Subsequent explosions, probably caused by additional seepage, and lack of means of combatting the fires resulting from these and other detonations on the second and hangar decks doomed the ship.
I must reiterate that the above conclusion is not based on my personal observation on the spot. It was arrived at after several days discussion and investigation.
- All known precautions were taken both before and after the attack to prevent the development of such a situation. It is possible if communications and the forward water supply had not been destroyed at the first blast at 1247 that the ship might have been saved.
- The heroic efforts made by men of the repair parties, and those assisting them who came from other departments, cannot be forgotten. They faced death from many sources and entered areas where the frequency of explosions created fresh hazards each moment.
- All of the individual cases of heroism and devotion to duty will probably never be revealed. I am, however, submitting herewith an enclosure recommending special awards in cases that have come to my attention to date. Others will undoubtedly come to light and appropriate recommendations will be made in the premises when this occurs.
- That the best interests of the Nation will be served by retaining the ship's company of the Lexington intact to man the first available new carrier. That the latter should be renamed "Lexington".
- I am proud and happy to have served under your command and to have had as shipmates officers and men who so gallantly upheld our American and Naval Traditions. Our sadness at the loss of the Lexington, and that of our shipmates who gave their lives for their country is inexpressible. I believe, however, that the victories to which the ship under your command contributed to such a great degree compensates us in some measure for our losses.
Comdr., U.S. NAVY.
FIRST ENDORSEMENT to:
Executive Officer, U.S.S. Lexington
Secret Ltr. A16-3/CV2 dated
From: The Commanding Officer. To: The Secretary of the Navy. Via: (1) Commander Task Force Eleven. (2) Commander Task Force Seventeeen. (3) The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Subject: Action in the Coral Sea, May 8, 1942 - report of.
- Forwarded in accordance with Article 2029, U.S. Navy Regulations. Enclosure was retained by the Commanding Officer.
FREDERICK C. SHERMAN.
|A16-3/FB2-1||UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET
Flagship of COMMANDER CARRIER DIVISION ONE
|May 19, 1942.|
2nd Endorsement to:
Executive Officer, U.S.S. Lexington
Secret Ltr. A16-3/CV2 dated
From: The Commander Task Force ELEVEN.
(Commander Carrier Division ONE)
To: The Secretary of the Navy. (1) Commander Task Force Seventeeen. (2) The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
AUBREY W. FITCH.
Approximate Track Charts of Lexington 7 - 8 May, 1942.
7 - 8 May
Photographs of Damage
#2 gun gallery after bomb hit and fire extinguished.
About 1500. Group all landed on board and deck spotted.
Looking forward after big explosion which stopped ship at 1525.
#2 gun gallery after bomb hit. Fire extinguished.
Port side looking aft. Torpedo hit near forward boat pocket.
Flight deck splintered by bomb hit at after part of forward port gun gallery, just forward of the forward elevator.
#2 gun gallery looking aft. Fire extinguished following bomb hit.
Landing attack group after raid. 1400 - 1430. Showing #2 gun gallery looking aft.
#2 gun gallery after gun mount. Gun covered with foamite used to extinguish fire following bomb hit.
Port side looking aft. Torpedo hit near forward boat pocket.
May 20, 1942.
From: Air Officer. To: Commanding Officer, U.S.S. LEXINGTON. Subject: Report on the Air Engagement and subsequent sinking of the Lexington, 8 May 1942.
- Upon commencing to write this report the day after the action, I discovered that my mind was filled with a confused group of events which were difficult to arrange in their proper order. The details of the events were perfectly clear but their arrangement in proper order was impossible until I consulted the rough log and the war diary which had most fortunately been saved. Where exact times are given below they have been taken from those logs.
- The day (8 May) commenced with the usual 45 minute flight quarters and launching of the morning search. The search was a 12 single plane sections search to 200 miles in a 210° sector, median north, and a 6 single plane section search to 100 miles in a 150° sector, median south. VS-2 had only 12 planes available for search, and they took the longer sector. VB-2 the shorter one. In addition, 4 VF were launched for Combat Patrol. Completed launching about 0635. After this brought up 12 VT-2 planes from hangar deck armed with torpedoes.
0820: Received contact report from a plane by voice "2 CV, 4 CA bearing 006°, distance 120, speed 15". Garble and interference prevented hearing plane's call. This prevented the checking of the reported bearing relative to Point Zed since we did not know the sector of the contacting plane, (Point Zed 14°00' S - 156°00' E) nor was the message authenticated which is understandable since the method prescribed was too complicated for use in an airplane. The contact report was then repeated on key by 2-S-2 and received satisfactorily. Could not get 2-S-2 after this to check authenticator. 2-S-3 then repeated the message by voice and we checked him by name for authenticity. Everything looked all right, so we launched Attack Group at 0907 - completed about 0925, the Yorktown starting a little ahead of us. 11 VB, 4 VS, 12 VT, 9 VF plus 4 VF relief Combat Patrol were launched by Lexington. Since the distance to the enemy was so great (180 miles) I personally told Lieutenant GAYLOR (C.O. of Air Group Fighters) to make the trip if gasoline permitted and that his presence over the enemy carrier would be of considerable value even if he did not do much fighting. I also told him that if they encountered the enemy Air Group on the way, to break off and attack,
returning to the Lexington with them. At this time (pilots were manning planes) Lieutenant Commander HAMILT0N called my attention to the fact that his planes had only 220 gallons of gasoline and said that he would like to have 250 gallons (full). I told him that we were trying to get both groups off as nearly together as possible and there was no time to give him any additional gasoline. Since the planes carried 1000 pound bombs, a full fuel tank required extra wind for the overload condition. There was sufficient surface wind that morning and we could have launched in this heavy condition. I forgot that the planes were gassed to 220 gallons until it was too late to fill them. However, 220 gallons was more than enough fuel to permit them to travel the distances involved. 0928: Commenced landing Combat Patrol and 6 VB who had returned from search. Continued landings as Yorktown was into wind until 10 SBDs were on board. 1012: Launched 6 VB and 4 VS Anti-Torpedo Plane Patrol, and must have landed some more VS-2 (5). 1030: Landed 1 TBD with engine trouble. 1057: Fighter Director reported group of planes 020°, 52 miles. 1106: Completed launching 5 VF and 5 VS as Anti-Torpedo Plane Patrol (2-F-3 was put into commission giving us 19 VF in the air). 1116: Enemy VT were observed diving to attack on our port bow. Captain started turning to right to comb the torpedo tracks astern. 1120: One torpedo struck port side just under #2 5" gun gallery. 1120½: One torpedo struck port side just at the forward elevator. Several torpedoes were observed at this time approaching on the port quarter. The ship had stopped swinging right and was started left. I called to the Captain to go back to the right, because there were more torpedoes coming. This he did. Two of the approaching torpedoes broached about 100 yards out - one resumed its depth and struck the ship at the stem - the other continued on the surface and passed clear. Two others passed about 100 to 200 feet ahead. These last four torpedoes listed, approached the ship from broad on the port quarter. Two others appeared running deep from
just abaft the beam and passed under the ship between the forward elevator and #2 gun gallery. Another torpedo appeared from broad on the port beam and struck a little aft of the forward elevator.
The first three or four torpedoes were dropped from about 1000 yards, but after that the drops were outside of 3000 yards. I believe that the effectiveness of our AA fire was responsible for this as I saw about three of the first torpedo planes shot down. Also the volume of 5" bursts was so great that it obscured the approaching planes. Several of the torpedo planes were noticed streaming gasoline as they flew past, indicating they had been hit. One burst into flames heading directly at the ship, executed a double snap roll and crashed into the water just under the flare of the port bow at #2 1.1 battery.
The dive bombers appeared just as the torpedo planes were finishing. One of the first bombs hit just aft of the port beam about 50 yards out. It was about 2 second delayed action and only threw up spray about 50 feet high. Most of the bombs went over. One 1000 pound near miss was received close aboard just under 20 mm. guns in gig boat pocket. Another was close aboard well aft under the port quarter. One of the last bombs released struck the side of the ship at the after end of the #2 gun gallery. I thought it was delayed action AP for the resulting hole was small. I was watching all releases and ducked behind my splinter shield on this one. The explosion raised the flight deck about 6" in the vicinity of the jagged hole. The bomb had hit the fire outlet on the gun gallery, so we ran hoses across the flight deck. The amdyco didn't seem to help much, although there was no flame appearing on the flight deck. I believe the marines put the fire out with below deck hoses.
1132: The log shows the attack was completed. One of our SBDs tried to approach the ship and apparently was shot down by cruiser and destroyer fire. At least he landed in the water apparently under partial control while they were firing. The signal "Easy Cast Hypo" was hoisted, but no one could stop the fire in time. 1134: Another SBD tried to land aboard through surface ship firing. We were about 120° out of the wind and turning hard right with about 20 knots. Signal Officer waved him off but to no avail. He struck the deck in a wild diving turn, caught and broke #2 wire and finally went over the side just aft of the barrier taking an arresting gear oper-
ator with him. Two people were observed in the water and a DD was signalled to the rescue. I believe he reported a successful recovery later.
1145: Bomb hit hole was no longer smoking, so we washed down the flight deck in vicinity to clear amdyco mess.
Shortly after the enemy planes had withdrawn, both elevators were reported to be permanantly out of commission because of torpedo damage to the bottle wells located below the forward elevator well. About the same time I sent aft for Lieut.(jg) DEITZER and asked him for a report on the gasoline system. He reported the port side out of commission. He stated that he had personally made the inspection.
We were turning into the wind from a northerly heading when the SBD went over the side. Very shortly thereafter we landed on board 4 VF Combat Patrol and 9 SBDs. Three of these (2-S-l, 2-S-2 and 2-S-19) were from the morning search, the rest from the Anti-Torpedo Plane Patrol. While these planes were being respotted for take-off, I reported to the Captain the condition of the gasoline system and that I was not refueling until I was certain all fires were out. We planned to delay until just before the Attack Group returned. I also reported the condition of the elevators and explained that we would have to throw some planes over the side to make room for the rest. Two of the SBDs on deck were badly shot up so the propellors and loose equipment were removed for spares and the planes pushed over the ramp.
The log shows a report of all topside fires out at 1142 and a further report of all fires out at 1233.
About 1230 we commenced refueling the planes on deck. The fighters were completed first and were launched about 1243. Just after the last fighter had been launched, a terrific explosion occurred below decks forward that vented to the flight deck through the bomb elevator. After a little delay the fueling of the SBDs was completed and their launching finished at 1259. From then on we continued landing operations until we had taken on board 11 VB, 1 VS and 1 VF of the Attack Group at 1328. The gasoline system had been secured just after the explosion at 1247 and was never again reopened.
At 1400 we started into the wind to land the torpedo planes which were fired upon by the Yorktown during their approach to the disposition. At 1413 completed landing 10
VT and 1 VF. Sometime before this, Air Plot had reported 1 VT and 2 VF landing in the water about 30 miles short of the ship because of lack of fuel. The Captain requested Admiral FITCH to send a destroyer back for them which I believe he did. CLAG and 3 VS were still missing and Air Plot reported they could not find the ship. Radios were out of commission in Radio IV for some time after the Japanese attack. Commander AULT reported by radio that he had obtained a 1000 pound bomb hit and that he was wounded in the left arm and leg. When our radio and Radar went out of commission again, as result of the internal explosions, the Yorktown was requested to try and bring the lost planes in. She was not successful as these planes are missing.
After the first internal explosion at 1247, there were numerous small explosions until at 1442 a large explosion occurred in the forward elevator well. This explosion raised the elevator about six inches, and flames came out around the edges. Communication with the hangar deck had been intermittent for some time due to the large quantities of smoke. After some delay I learned from Lieutenant HIRSCH that the hangar deck sprinkling system was on and that the fire was confined to the forward elevator well. Fire hoses on the flight deck were able to put a little water down the elevator and succeeded in reducing the fire somewhat for a short time. Later this fire increased when all water pressure was lost on the flight deck. This fire slowly spread aft during the afternoon and finally reached and exploded the torpedoes on the hangar deck mezzanine after all hands had abandoned ship. Shortly after four o'clock the destroyer Morris came alongside and gave us two fire hoses which were put down the elevator but to no avail. Since the ship was slowly going down by the head we moved all planes aft to shift this much weight. This was accomplished about 1500.
All squadron personnel were assembled aft on the flight deck and were ordered to embark on the destroyers that were standing by. This word was given some time before 1700. These personnel plus wounded were removed by the Morris and another DD astern.
The word to formally abandon ship was given by the Captain at 1707 upon the advice of Admiral FITCH. All preparations had been completed some time before this. The disembarkation was conducted in a very orderly manner into life rafts thrown over the bow and stern.
About 1750, the Captain, the Navigator and myself left
the bridge, all hands forward being in the water and only a few remaining on deck aft. When we arrived on the flight deck, we discovered some 12 or 15 wounded men being disembarked alongside of the bridge and stack structure. These men had been brought forward from the after stations too late to be placed on the Morris. The three of us assisted by Ensign KNOX put four wounded men over the side into a whale boat thus assisting two small parties headed by Lieut.(jg) LAIRD and a boatswain's mate. When this was completed, the Navigator and myself lowered ourselves into life rafts as the destroyer Hammann came alongside.
By this time the fire had spread to the flight deck and the internal explosions were occurring every two or three minutes, making the Hammann's position very dangerous. After rescuing a large portion of the men in the water, she backed clear attempting to drag clear the remaining rafts with tow lines. As she backed clear, some 1.1 ammunition at batteries 3, 4, 5 and 6 exploded. Had the Hammann remained alongside, her bridge would have been stripped. The Hammann's whale boat was sent back to pick up the remaining people in life rafts.
The Hammann then put her bow under the stern of the Lexington picking up men and attempted to pull clear the life rafts that were being held alongside by the drift of the ship. Two violent explosions on the flight deck covered the DD with debris and on my advice of the danger of torpedo explosions in the hangar deck the Hammann again backed clear. The Hammann's whale boat was again despatched in and finally succeeded in dragging clear the remaining four or five life rafts.
I learned later that shortly after the Hammann backed clear of the starboard side, a violent explosion blew out the quarterdeck door and killed four men in a life raft near by. Had the Hammann remained alongside, this explosion would have blown her bow off together with some one hundred men assisting in rescue work.
I wish to take this opportunity to call attention to the outstanding perfornance of the Hammann, her Captain and her crew. His seamanship was superb; their courage without equal. With total disregard for their own safety, the Captain twice placed his ship close aboard the burning Lexington withdrawing only on the advice of Lexington Officers when they felt that further risk of the ship was not warranted. Also to the Hammann's whale boat which time after time returned to the side of the Lexington
removing the final survivors. The story is told in the total survivors on board - 478 officers and men.
- I heartily concur with the Chief Engineer's recommendation that a separate medal and ribbon be awarded to all participants in the battle of the Coral Sea, 7 & 8 May 1942. All men and officers performed their duties in a most satisfactory manner, fully living up to the finest traditions of the Navy.
H. S. DUCKWORTH,
Commander, U.S. Navy.
June 12, 1942
From: Air Officer. To: Commanding Officer, U.S.S. LEXINGTON. Subject: Supplementary Report on the Air Action in the Coral Sea on 8 May 1942.
- The following supplementary report is submitted after consultation with the various officers and men of the Air Department and other departments of the Lexington.
- The following torpedo hits were observed by the Assistant Air Officer and myself and confirmed by members of the flight deck crews.
- Hit frame #10
- Hit frame #48
- Hit frame #64
- Hit frame #86
Later I talked to Ensign THOMAS, battery officer of "cast" 20 mm. battery (Gig boat pocket) who stated that there were two torpedoes running close together which struck at frame #86 practically simultaneously. This raises the total torpedo hits to five and also accounts for the damage in vicinity of fire rooms #2, 4 and 6.
- The following bomb hits and near misses were similarly determined:
- One 1000 lb. instantaneous near miss about frame #200, port.
- One A.P.bomb ½ second delay 50 yard near miss opposite frame #100 port side.
- One 1000 lb. instantaneous near miss at frame #88 port side (Gig boat pocket)
- One 250 lb. instantaneous hit in stack, setting off the siren.
- One 500 lb. instantaneous hit just aft of #6 5" gun frame #50.
(NOTE) The weights given above are not definitely accurate, but are an estimate based upon the relative power of the several explosions.
- The following facts have been determined concerning the gasoline system:
- The system was secured during the action, all lines above the armored deck being drained and all pressure removed.
- Shortly after the action the starboard side of the system was tested under pressure, found satisfactory and again secured.
- That refueling of planes was commenced from the starboard system forward of frame 90 about 1230 after word was received that all fires were out.
- That when the explosion occurred at 1247, planes were being refueled.
- That the starboard system was then shut down, inspected and no leaks sighted. Electrical failure prevented draining the lines.
- That immediately after the attack the port system was thoroughly inspected for breaks in lines in CPO quarters, and found secure and intact.
- That both starboard and port salt water expansion tanks were found to be full of salt water at 1230. This indicates that no large leaks existed in tanks or lines on either side at that time.
- That both E valves on the quarterdeck were closed, thus making it impossible for gasoline to be pumped from the starboard side to the port side.
- That the port gasoline control room was entered and inspected after the action and no damage found, but in view of the outboard piping being damaged this side was secured.
- That the port gasoline control room was flooded with CO2 and salt water from the fire mains at about 1200 using the quarterdeck controls.
- That the starboard control room was not flooded.
- That there was no fire or dense smoke on the quarterdeck immediately after the explosion at 1247 or at 1255.
- That all operators left the quarterdeck at about 1248 and it was again visited by Lieutenant (jg) DEITZER of the gasoline detail at 1255. At this time there was no fire in the compartment although an instantaneous flash occurred under the overhead accompanied by explosions in the adjacent forward compartment.
- That Machinist DAVIDSON was on the quarterdeck at the 1247 explosion and reports heavy concussion effect but no evidence of flame or fire in that compartment. He places the explosion as being under the CPO mess room.
- After the completion of the attack, the hangar deck was in the following condition.
- One bomb fragment entered the hangar deck at about frame 200 from a near miss.
- Smoke from the bomb hit on the flight deck frame #50 filled the hangar deck entering elevator well via main deck openings, but was cleared by the exhaust blowers.
- About 75% of the lights were out in the forward bay.
- There was no fire.
- The explosion at 1247 came from forward of the elevator well. The blast knocked some of the men down and broke a compressed air line in the elevator well. Upon learning of the casualties in Central Station, the hangar deck crew assisted in their removal. The forward end of the hangar deck was used as an emergency dressing station for some 25 casualties until the smoke and fumes drove them aft to the fuselage deck. Each succeeding blast filled the hangar deck with more smoke and fumes. The heat was so intense that the casualties were moved from the fuselage deck to the main deck and torpedo work shop. There was no fire on the hangar deck during this period.
- At 1442 there was a violent explosion in the forward elevator well. All lights were extinguished by this blast. The heat of the blast was intense but no flame was observed aft of the after elevator. The forward elevator well was afire as result of this blast and burned continuously thereafter. The heat, fire and smoke were so intense in the forward end of the hangar deck, that personnel were unable to enter the areas to fight the fire. The hangar deck water curtains were turned on about 1500, and delivered a small ineffectual quantity of water. Foamite was not used on the hangar deck at any time. Prior to the 1442 explosion there was no fire in the vicinity and thereafter there was so much fire that the area could not be entered.
H. S. DUCKWORTH,
Commander, U.S. Navy.
|CV2/A4-3/A16||May 13, 1942.|
From: Air Operations Officer. To: Commanding Officer. Subject: Air Operations of LEXINGTON, 7-8 May, 1942 - Report of.
- Account of Action, morning of May 7th.
- During the afternoon of May 6, 1942, orders were received from ComTaskForce SEVENTEEN to prepare for air attack upon enemy (Orange) forces reported to be concentrated in the vicinity of MISIMA ISLAND in the LOUISIADE Archipelago, southeast of the PAPUAN Peninsula, NEW GUINEA.
- At 0926 (Zone 11) May 7, search planes from Yorktown reported contact with an Orange combatant force consisting of 2 aircraft carrier, 4 cruisers and ________ destroyers, approximate bearing from TF-17 325°(T), distance about 180 miles. At about 0953 the Lexington launched an attack group. The attack group consisted of the Lexington Air Group Commander and two additional SBD, 12 TBD-1 of VT-2, 16 SBD-2 of VB-2, 11 SBD-3 of VS-2 and 10 F4F-3 of VF-2 to act as fighter escort. The TBDs were loaded with one torpedo each, the SBD-2s with one 1000-lb. bomb each (1 sec. fuse setting), the SBD-3s with one 500-lb. (1/3 sec. fuse setting) and two 116-lb. bombs each and the Group Commander section same as VS-2. The F4F-3s carried a full load of caliber .50 machine gun ammunition, belt loading being approximately 2 A.P., 1 tracer, 1 incendiary cartridges. All aircraft carried full gasoline, 180 gallons for the TBDs, 147 gallons for the F4F-3s and 250 gallons for the SBDs. All gasoline was 100 octane, aviation. 8 F4F were retained as combat patrol over the ship, 2 SBD of VB-2 and 6 SBD of VS-2 remained as anti-torpedo defense patrol. The Air Group departed, followed about 15 minutes later by the Yorktown Air Group. The Lexington attack group radios were set on 6645 kcs., the combat patrol on 6540 kcs. and the anti-torpedo patrol on 3265 kcs. YE was turned on all during the attack.
- After the Attack Group departed the Force steamed on a westerly course, point option having been given to the Attack Group as 290° (T), speed 15 kts. During the absence of the Group one KAWANISHI 4-engine patrol plane was intercepted by a F4F of the Yorktown combat patrol and shot down in flames.
The weather at the time of the launch was good, with wind 17 knots from 110 degrees true, sea choppy, visibility excellent, scattered clouds with rain squalls to the westward.
After the launch the Force moved into an area of heavy rain squalls with occasional small patches of clear weather.
- The Group attacked and returned at 1309.
- Damage to Enemy.
- All attacks made by the Lexington group, except for one 116-lb. bomb dropped upon a heavy cruiser by a VS-2 pilot, were upon one aircraft carrier. This was the only carrier encountered. It was escorted by a force estimated to comprise four heavy cruisers and four destroyers.
- Results of the attack were reported by Group pilots as follows: VS-2 attacked first with eleven 500-lb. bombs. The results of drops were not observed by the pilots but a conservative estimate by them gave at least three direct hits, with more probable. VB-2 and VT-2 made a simultaneous dive bombing and torpedo attack which resulted in six certain 1000-lb. bomb hits, two more probable, two unobserved and six misses out of sixteen bombs; VT-2 scored 9 torpedo hits out of 12 released. VF-2 shot down in flames 2 type zero fighters and damaged one single-float biplane seaplane when three planes attempted to intercept; the seaplane made a force landing on the water. An SBD of VS-2 shot down with fixed guns one type zero fighter which was pursuing a second SBD, while the free gunner in one of the VS-2 planes shot down an intercepting type zero fighter. Group command section scored one 500-lb. bomb hit on CV.
- The carrier, believed to be the Zuikaku class, was observed by all pilots to burn fiercely in a manner obviously beyond control. Several severe explosions, other than those resulting from bomb or torpedo hits, were observed, and before the attack was completed the ship was almost entirely hidden by smoke and flame. The smoke cleared before all the Lexington planes left the area and the ship had disappeared. Photographs taken at close range by attacking torpedo planes showed planes still in their attack dives and torpedo approaches when the ship was burning throughout its length.
- Damage or Injury to Own Forces.
- One SBD-3 of VS-2, 2-S-10, piloted by Lieut. E.H. Allen, USN, ROUSE, ARM2c, radioman, was attacked by one or more enemy defense planes after the bomb had been released at the objective. The plane was observed to crash into the water. It did not burn.
- One SBD-3 of VS-2, 2-S-9, piloted by Ensign Anthony J. Quigley, USNR, WHEELHOUSE, ARM3c, radioman, had its ailerons jammed, cause not known to the writer. Ensign Quigley announced by radio that he would fly to ROSSELL ISLAND.
He was apparently uninjured, but it is not known whether he attempted to land the plane or parachuted, or whether he reached ROSSELL ISLAND. Apparently the engine was undamaged.
- One SBD-3 of VS-2, piloted by Lieut. (jg) HALL, USNR, was attacked by enemy defense aircraft. One bullet entered the plane from ahead through the side panel of the windshield and penetrated the left shoulder of the radioman, PHILLIPS, C.C., RM3c. The self-sealing gasoline tanks of this plane did not leak after being penetrated by three bullets, caliber unknown.
- One SBD-3 of VS-2, piloted by Ensign LEPPLA, USNR, was attacked by enemy defense aircraft but returned safely. The pilot suffered many superficial wounds, left arm and hand, apparently from fragments of an explosive shell. A rifle caliber projectile was found resting on the pilot's parachute seat-pack upon his return to the ship. This pilot is the one mentioned in paragraph (b)(2), who shot down with fixed guns a type zero fighter.
- Ensign A.J. Shultz, USNR, suffered superficial shrapnel wounds in right arm and right thigh. He was piloting an SBD of VS-2.
- Enemy Tactics.
- From observations of the Air Group Commander it is known that the enemy carrier occupied a position at the center of her supporting forces. There were light or heavy cruisers, type not known, and four destroyers. The cruisers occupied positions at the corners of a square, one at each bow of the carrier and one at each quarter, distance from carrier to cruiser about four miles. The destroyers also appeared to be about four miles from the carrier and they occupied the spaces between the cruisers. Pilots said that the resultant formation seemed wide open and that they found no difficulty in avoiding surface AA fire during approach or retirement.
- The maneuvers to avoid our air attack suggested that they were based upon a predetermined plan because all turns of the carrier were 90 degrees.
- Enemy Air Protection.
- Enemy aircraft were in the air and climbing and intercepted the first dive bombers before they attacked. All enemy attention seemed directed on our first bombers (VS-2), and it was the planes of this group which met the most opposition. VB-2, following in later from an altitude of 18,000 feet,
and VT-2, which approached at the same time from 10 miles out at 100 feet, were practically unmolested by enemy aircraft. There was no evidence to indicate that the enemy had had early knowledge of the approach of our aircraft.
- Account of Action, afternoon of May 7th.
- After recovery of the morning attack group Task Force SEVENTEEN continued on a westerly course at speed 15 knots. Combat and anti-torpedo defense patrols were kept in the air or in Condition One on deck.
- Late in the afternoon, at about 1735, radar indications were received of an unidentified force approaching from the west. These planes were headed directly toward the Force. The weather was overcast and squally, with occasional rain and many low clouds.
- Fighter Director was in the Lexington. Combat patrols from both carriers were directed to intercept. At about twenty or twenty five miles west of Lexington our combat patrol intercepted nine enemy fighters, type zero, proceeding eastward. These planes were flying in a group with five planes in Vee formation and two two-plane sections following astern. Our patrol attacked from astern and above, apparently unobserved. The first section leader attacked the two rear-most enemy and shot them down in flames. His wingman did not shoot. These planes retired. The following combat section attacked the second rear enemy section, downing one in flames and holing the gas tanks in the second. At this time the five leading enemy planes became aware of the attack and broke their formation in a "scatter" fashion. An explosion and fire seen at this time by our retiring patrol was believed to be a collision between an enemy fighter and the section leader of our second combat section, who was pressing home his first attack. This pilot, Lieut. (jg) P.G. Baker, USN, was not heard on the radio during the engagement and did not return to the ship. Repeated attempts to contact him by radio failed.
- Combat patrol planes returned to their ships after the interception. At 1825 our planes commenced landing aboard the Lexington. The sun set at 1829. Vessels of the screen reported visual contact with unidentified aircraft in their vicinity. These planes appeared to be enemy torpedo or bombing type, flying very low. Yorktown aircraft circling to land were readily identified as own fighters and not the strange planes. The unidentified planes flashed
the code letter "F" which was interpreted by our signal force as "Friendly" in accordance with instructions in PAC 70, Pacific Fleet Communications Doctrine. The one-letter reply for the hour was therefore made by Lexington, whereupon 8 or 9 aircraft turned on their running lights and assumed a position approximately in the landing circle. Vessels of the Force which were close to the strange aircraft opened fire upon them. The planes extinguished their lights and flew away. These were undoubtedly part of an enemy attack group returning to the parent ship, which in the darkness they confused with our own.
- All but one of our fighters (2-F-14, Lt. (jg) P.G.Baker, USN) returned aboard at _____.
- Damage to Enemy.
- Three enemy fighters were shot down and seen to crash in the water, burning. One fighter was seen to be streaming gasoline and was a possible loss. It is believed that another fighter collided with one of our own and was lost. The final damage therefore was three fighters shot down, one probably destroyed by collision, one possibly forced down.
- Damage to Lexington Force.
- One fighter lost probably by collision with enemy fighter.
- Account of Action, May 8th.
- At 0625 Lexington launched a search group as follows: 12 SBD of VS-2 and 6 SBD of VB-2 to cover 360° about the force. The northern search, 14 single-plane sections, covered an arc of 210 degrees to 200 miles, geographic, median of the search 000 degrees, true. The southern sector, 150 degrees, was covered to 100 miles geographic by 4 single-plane scouts, median of search 180 degrees, true. A combat patrol of 4 VF was also launched at this time.
- At 0828 a Japanese aircraft contact report was intercepted. This report gave position and disposition of our force.
- At 0835 a Lexington scout contacted and reported an enemy force of 2 CV, 4 CA and many destroyers, position 175 miles bearing 020 degrees true from Lexington.
- At 0907 commenced launching attack group, 13 F4F-3 of VF-2, 12 TBD-1 of VT-2, 11 SBD-2 of VB-2, 4 SBD-3 of VS-2 and the Air Group Commander in an SBD-3, as described in paragraph (a)(2), except that the 11 planes of VB-2 were gassed to 220 gallons and radio frequencies were set up. The weather was very good, with a wind of 15 knots from 125°(T), visibility and ceiling unlimited, about four tenths cloud cover, slight sea running from southeast. After the launch our course was maintained into the wind until returning search planes were landed and combat patrols in the air were relieved on station and landed. 10 SBDs from the morning search were launched as anti-torpedo patrol at 1013.
- An emeny four-engine KAWANISHI patrol plane shadowing the Force was shot down in flames at 1016 by a Yorktown combat patrol plane; the fire was visible from the Lexington.
- At 1028 1 TBD of the Attack Group and 5 of the morning Search Group were landed. The TBD had experienced engine trouble.
- At 1050 the last of the morning Search Group were landed.
- Radar indications showed an unidentified force bearing 58 miles bearing 020°(T), on course toward TF-17 at 1057. Our course was changed into the wind; launching of 5 F4F and 5 SBD defense patrol was completed at 1106 and course 028 degrees, true, was resumed.
- Enemy aircraft appeared and were taken under fire by Lexington gunfire at 1116. Operations of own defense aircraft were not observed. Fire ceased at 1133.
- At 1133 2-B-13, Ensign F.R. McDonald, USNR, pilot, and HAMILTON, C.H.O., ARM3c, radioman, fell over the port side during an attempted landing on deck. The pilot had been wounded in the right shoulder by enemy gunfire and lost control of his plane during the landing. Both pilot and passenger were recovered by U.S.S. Morris. Ensign McDonald's right upper arm was broken in two places in the plane crash.
- Several F4Fs and SBDs of the defense patrols landed aboard at 1135.
- At 1243 were launched 5 F4F, 7 SBDs of VS-2 and 2 SBDs of VB-2. During this launch several aircraft were landed.
- At 1322 were landed 11 VB, 1 VS and 1 VF.
- At 1407 were landed 10 TBD, one having landed on the water out of fuel aout 20 miles bearing about 295°, true, from the Lexington at about 1355. One F4F was also landed at 1407. During the approach to the landing circle these planes were fired upon by friendly vessels. Because of low fuel they had approached without making the usual identification procedure maneuvers. A warning was sent out on the warning net that the approaching planes were friendly. All these planes landed aboard safely and were the last planes operated from the Lexington. Lexington planes patrolling (5 VF, 7 VS, 2 VB) were later landed aboard Yorktown.
- Damage to Enemy.
- From information based upon the incomplete pilot reports available it appears that the enemy suffered damage from two 500-lb. bombs dropped on the flight deck, and from at least two, probably three, torpedo hits. The carrier was the only ship attacked by Lexington aircraft. 11 TBDs of VT-2 attacked, as did 3 or 4 SBDs of VS-2 in the Group Command section. After the launch our course was maintained into the wind until returning search planes were landed and combat patrols in the air were relieved on station and landed. 10 SBDs from the morning search were launched as anti-torpedo patrol at 1013. The weather in the vicinity of the target was bad. At 55 miles from the Lexington the torpedo planes encountered a 1300 foot ceiling which forced them below it. VB-2, flying at 16,000 feet, could occasionally see VT-2 through open areas among the heavy cumulus clouds. VB-2 descended to search for the enemy but had not yet discovered him when shortage of fuel forced them to jettison their bombs and return to the Lexington. The VT Squadron joined up after the attack and proceeded as a unit, flying at about 50 feet above the water. They encountered a group of enemy aircraft apparently returning from their attack upon our Force. Fighters accompanying this group made ineffectual attacks upon our planes and appeared reluctant to closely approach the formation. They made several half-hearted single plane attacks and started a small fire in some rags in one plane. The fire was extinguished without damage. One plane of VT-2 was forced down by fuel exhaustion. It was piloted by Lt. (jg) Thornhill, USNR and it is probable that the personnel were recovered by a destroyer which was dispatched to pick them up. When our attack planes left the enemy carrier it was burning and smoking and appeared too damaged to operate aircraft. It was still underway.
- Damage or Injury to Our Forces (Aircraft).
- Of 13 VF which accompanied the Attack Group only 6 are known to have returned to Lexington. Some may have landed aboard Yorktown.
- Of 4 VS in the Group Command section only one returned to Lexington, Ensign Haschke. Commander Lexington Air Group was in voice contact with Lexington until our radio went out. He was lost and unable to use his special homing equipment, apparently because his radioman, previously reported as wounded, was unable to turn it on for him. The controls for the equipment are in the radioman's cockpit. No radar trace indentifiable as that of the Group Commander appeared on the radar plot. He climbed in response to instructions but did not appear. When Lexington radar and radio went out Yorktown was instructed by visual signal to work the Group Commander on 6645 kcs, the Lexington search and attack frequency. Unless Yorktown contacted him immediately after this signal was made it is questionable that the plane contained enough fuel to enable him to return to the ship. The Group Commander had reported earlier that he was wounded.
THE BATTLE OF THE CORAL SEA.
Report of Action 7-8 May, 1942, by Fighter Director.
7 May 1942
0700 Yorktown launched 12 (?) scouts to search 200 miles covering a sector of 120° median 315° (?). Cruiser launched SOCs for inner and intermediate patrol. The intermediate patrol was a source of constant worry as they did not stay on the screen and we were forced to investigate by vectoring fighters. Many of which turned out to be SOCs. We undoubtedly missed 1-2 Jap shadowers and wasted radio silence and gasoline on too many of our own people. In the future these patrols should never be used unless better organized as to their tactics and unless they have I.F.F. It would have been better if they had stayed down low and off the radar screen. They were finally recalled and the patrol secured. 0730 Lexington launched 9 VSB anti-torpedo patrol and 4 VF for combat patrol. During the period immediately following we were being shadowed by at least two Bogies which we were unable to intercept, one came in at the same time Yorktown scouts were returning from search on 270° distance 25 miles where he began circling, a combat section was vectored but recalled before contact could be made by order other than that of F.D.O. (Fighter Director Officer) when it was felt that planes were identified as friendly, (by circling). Later because the
circling continued, fighters were re-vectored but after a heartbreaking chase were unable to intercept. The Jap apparently saw our fighters but they could not sight him. The section leader Lt. (jg) Clark later reported big black clouds in the area where he was searching. Another heartbreaking chase was made on bogey about 0900 when at one time we had three sections chasing the bogey, approaching him on different courses. This bogey withdrew to 45 miles where he went off the screen. Again the section leader Ens. Eder reported tall columns of puffy clouds which made excellent coverage for a plane wishing to escape. There is no doubt that our force was shadowed continuously for a considerable part of the day by Kawanishi and carrier based aircraft. 0835 VS-2 scout reported enemy position and we prepared to launch attack group. No doubt enemy shadowers observed our launching. 0925 Launched 4 VF Combat patrol and began launching Attack group of 9 VF, 28 VSB and 12 TBD. Two scouts had 500-lb. bombs and 18 bombers 1000-lb. bombs. 1010 Launching completed. 1040 Landed patrols. Yorktown completed launching her attack group consisting of 8 VF, 34 VSB and VTB.
At this period we were passing through rain squalls and VS 42 scouts were returned from search. All scouts (all of our planes for that matter) must have I.F.F. as quickly as possible. Twice two sections of our fighters were vectored to orbit at stations to intercept doubtful bogeys. The fighters were placed on stations 10-15 miles from the fleet center and ordered not to lose sight of the force since it is very difficult to keep an accurate check on them when they are in that close and lots of other planes are cavorting around such as inner and anti-torpedo patrols. Our own fighters were not hard to follow as they had IFF. 1130 Lieut. Crommelin of VF 42 was vectored successfully and he shot down a Kawanishi at 025° distance 15 miles. There was no rain at the time but the weather seemed foggy. 1145 Lexington launched 4 VF landed 4 VF and 5 SBD. 1204 Yorktown launched 12 VSB anti-torpedo patrol 2 VF and landed 4 VF. The attack group was nearly at their objective. The bogeys were giving us a rest for a change. Our radar operators were doing an excellent job and were furnishing us with sufficient information to evaluate the situation within reach of our radar. Ensign Henslee, Asst. Fighter Director officer was especially useful and was proving himself to be extremely capable. He is a little older than the others, very quick, intelligent and resourceful.
The other assistant fighter director officers do a swell job but Henslee has "it". Guymon ACMM did not have much chance to work until late in the day. 1240 Lt. Comdr. Dixon reported "Scratch one flat top". We remained in the vicinity of the Ryukaku and positively saw it sink. Ensign Tony Quigley reported one aileron shot away, unable to return to ship and that he would land on an island probably Rossell. Our returning aircraft appeared on the screen 50-60 miles away by aid of the IFF. Yorktown group returned about the same time. We should have designated some of our IFF planes to accompany Yorktown groups, like wise we should have paired Yorktown fighters up with our people in order to simplify the problem of identification. We tried to do this in the air on the 8th but don't believe the order was ever carried out. 1300 Carriers began recovering returning aircraft. 1304 Lex launched 6 VSB and 6 VF. 1312 Bogey 290/75 same @ 1316 290/82.
We had several plots from time to time on this bogey which was a large group which must have been the Japanese attack group looking for us. They were on a Southwesterly course.
1345 Lex completed landing 27 VSB - 12 TBD - 14 VF.
Our losses 1 VSB, the pilot, Quigley, probably alive on
Rossell Island. Yorktown lost one bomber. Yorktown apparently attacked the same carrier our people did which was in a sinking condition when they arrived. They could have looked for the other carrier or gotten the cruisers and destroyers. At this time it was difficult to see Yorktown because of a rain squall. 1550 Launched 8 VF wind 19 kts, sea slight swells, weather unsuitable for SOCs, sky overcast. 1555 Msg. received from Neosho "Sinking". 1600 From: Neosho - position @ 2300 16-38 S., 158-28 E. 1615 Landed 4 VF. 1648 Bogey 275°/72 miles is believed to have been same bogeys sighted earlier at 1312 which were undoubtedly an enemy attack group looking for TF17. 1700 We changed zone time to -11. 1715 Yorktown reported a bogey 354°/24 miles which we could not find on our screen. 1737 The radar screen was clear. 1747 A large group possibly two groups of bogeys appeared on the radar screen 144°/48 miles apparently flying toward our ship at high speed at about 1500 feet in altitude. We checked gas of combat pilots in air, most of them had about 60 gallons. We vectored the Agnes division of 4 planes and two sections of Yorktown fighters Brown and Orange who did not get very far before they reported instrument conditions so because of their low supply of gasoline and because they were harder to
track having no IFF, they were recalled. In the meantime Lt. Comdr. Ramsey was about to intercept the Japs who had turned left about 25 miles away to a course of about 275° T., later 260° T. 1755 Lex launched additional fighters followed by Yorktown. The Lex fighters were kept standing by and Yorktown were vectored to assist Ramsey. Lt. Comdr. Flatley with six fighters were ordered to buster. He arrived shortly after Lt. Comdr. Ramsey had made his attack shooting down four Japs, one Jap had holes in his gas tank and was probably lost. Lt. Comdr. Flatley and his group intercepted but we could not tell whether they were getting any Japs or not. Lt. Comdr. Ramsey reported seeing nine Jap fighters. We recalled Lt. Comdr. Ramsey at once for he was forty miles away and low on gasoline. He just had enough to get back and land aboard. 1825 Lex recovering planes. 1852 Yorktown completed recovery of planes. During this period, three fighters were lost, one Lex and one Yorktown, both named Baker, another from Yorktown named Knox. We had thought all of our people were back safe because Baker's wing man had answered up "Agnes White on station" which was Baker's call. Later when we could check and found Baker missing we looked for him on the radar screen and thought we had a plane with I.F.F. about 10 miles away. We could not get any answer to our calls so called him by name where upon Purple 2 from Yorktown answered up "This is Baker". It took
several minutes for us to straighten out this confusing coincidence. At times Purple 2 was very close to our force. 1906 Aircraft for which we could not account were observed approaching the fleet. They appeared to want to land. They flashed on their running lights and when challenged replied with either George Fox or "Slant" (- . . - .). Some ships including the Minneapolis opened fire. Yorktown was landing planes and a Yorktown pilot was heard to cry "What are you shooting at me for, what have I done now?", or words similar. Baker or Purple 2 had reported that he was over the formation at 2500 feet, he wanted instructions, we told him to "pancake" about the time firing started but apparently he was wrong, anyhow, he did not show on the screen. Yorktown tried to bring him in but communications were not good among other things and they finally told him to fly about 320° T/120 miles if he wanted to and that with a 25 knot tail wind at low altitude he might reach land. 2000 Position 13°12" S., 154°40" E., Sea moderate, sky broken clouds, no moon, very dark. Cus. 125°T Axis 270°T Speed 15. 2205 Fleet course 150°T; 20 knots. Estimated Jap losses were 1 CV (Ryukaku), 1 CA, 1 CL damaged 3-96 VF, 3 VP, 6 Kawanishi VP (From Minneapolis log) and 2 VF seaplanes. Our losses were 1 Lex scout, Ens. Tony Quigley believed to have landed on Rossell Island, 1 Yorktown bomber who were with the
attack group. In the evening engagement Lex fighters shot down four possibly five Jap fighters and lost Lt. (jg) P. G. Baker who was either shot down by or collided with a Jap fighter. Yorktown lost two fighter pilots, Baker and Knox. The number of planes shot down is not known. 2400 Cus 120°T/20 knots. Axis 270°.
8 May 1942
0645 Lexington launched 4 VF combat patrol, 12 VSB scouts to search 200 miles from 260° to 080°, searching singly and 6 VSB bombers to search 100 miles 080° to 260°, searching singly. One bomber went 200 miles because of a mistake in navigation. 0657 Course 125°T. 0730 Yorktown launched 4 VF combat patrol and 8 VSB anti-torpedo patrol. 0800 Position 14° 24" S., 154° 30" E. 0807 The first bogey appeared 330°/22 miles on a course of about 240° T high speed, down fairly low. Fighters were vectored to intercept but were unsuccessful. This bogey did not falter in his course or speed but as we would have been perfectly silhouetted for him, he undoubtedly had a good look at us. He was on the screen about 9 minutes and then disappeared at 0816.
0829 Lt. (jg) Joe Smith made contact with enemy, including 2 CV, 4 CA and 3 DD. They were 006°/120 miles from point Zed. Point Zed was 13° S/153° E (this should be checked as we are not positive, also Lt. (jg) Well says he went 300 not 200 miles on the search). 0855 We intercepted a Jap message reporting 2 CV on course 028°. 0901 Yorktown began launching their attack group; 6 VF, 14 TBD, 12 VF (these last are doubtful). 0908 ComAir assumes command of fleet (Signal). 0910 Lexington attack group launched, Comdr. Ault with 4 scouts, 1000 lb. bombs, Lt. Comdr. Hamilton with 12 bombers, 1000 lb. bombs and Lt. Comdr. Brett with 12 Torpedo planes and torpedoes. 0920 Attack group departed. 0930 Lex landed 6 VSB and 2 VF.
Lt. Comdr. Dixon gave new position on enemy CVs.
0950 Lex landed 4 VSB and 2 VF. 1005 Two bogeys appeared on the screen one bearing about 030°, one was a returning torpedo plane which had to turn back because of engine trouble. Two sections of fighters were vectored to intercept and at 1014 a Yorktown fighter shot down a Kawanishi, four engined flying boat. Some ship reported seeing a Zero fighter but he was not seen by anyone else. Meanwhile our fighters had been unsuccessful in intercepting another bogey which was on and off the screen for about twenty minutes.
1030 Lex landed 6 VSB. 1048 Lex landed 2 VSB, the last of our search group. Shortly thereafter, at 1055, a large group of bogeys appeared on the screen bearing 020° distance 68 miles; minimum altitude 10,000 feet. They came straight in to intercept us never disappearing from the screen indicating that they flew out of the big null of our radar which would place them up around 18,000 feet. They were traveling at a high rate of speed. 1100 Lexington launched 5 VF and 5 VSB. Yorktown launched 4 VF, combat patrols in the air did not have enough gasoline to intercept at high speed and fight very long. The freshly launched fighters were vectored. (to intercept). 1113 They intercepted between 20-30 miles out but were unable to get close enough to shoot. Lt. Comdr. Ramsey reported 18 dive bombers and 18 fighters. Lt. Comdr. Flatley and the Yorktown fighters did not intercept and were told to return as quickly as possible to protect the force. About this time a report came through from our attack group that they had made contact with the enemy. Jap torpedo planes had previously been reported. Comdr. Ault reported that he and his four planes had made hits with two 1000 lb. bombs. Later reported that he and his radioman were wounded, the radioman badly. We never had Comdr. Ault on the screen and were unable to help him to return.
1115 TF17 opened fire on Jap torpedo planes and bombers. 1121 Lex attacked by torpedo planes and bomb hit received on port gun gallery. Japanese torpedo planes came in at 3000 feet pushed over out of gun range, came in fast and launched torpedoes from 50-200 feet. By this time fighter direction was past control by the Fighter Director. 1123 Yorktown was hit. The radar went out of control and our Fighter transmitter was out but we were able to get back on the air in about twenty minutes. Fighter direction was not shifted to the Yorktown. The Japanese appeared to be returning to the north. 1135 Lexington began recovering aircraft. 1142 Ens. McDonald cracked up coming on board, went into the water; he and his radioman were picked up by a destroyer. 1145 Radar indicated a large friendly group returning to the ship bearing 040°/15 miles. 1210 Lexington stacks cleared, was smoking badly after first hits. 1218 Radar reported friendly planes bearing 348° T. 1223 Lex making 25 knots without trouble. 1241 Friendly torpedo planes bearing 280°/distance 36 miles were reported. These planes were reported friendly from the time they appeared on the screen but in spite of that they were fired upon when they came within gun range.
1245 Lex launching and recovering planes. 1330 One Lex torpedo plane landed in the water out of gasoline bearing 290° distance 24 miles. A destroyer was sent back to pick up Lt. Thornhill but was unsuccessful. It was later learned that the destroyer sighted a plane life raft but saw no signs of any personnel. 1340 Minneapolis fired on friendly aircraft. 1404 A friendly group approaching Yorktown were fired upon because they approached from 300° T. 1414 Last of Lexington group were landed on board. Comdr. Ault was still in the air but we were unable to communicate well with him. He was not on the screen. 1452 Flames on Lexington are not under control. We are unable to service aircraft on the deck. Our radar was temporarily out when the power went off the gyro control; we were ready to function when the big explosion came at 1525 cutting off all power. Fighter direction had been shifted to Yorktown. All men in air plot and those in the radar shack stuck to their posts until ordered to leave after it became apparent that we would not be able to function any more. Lieut. Rering; Amey, R.D., Y3c, Wood, V.J., Sea; and Epstein, S.H., Sea2c, stood by in air plot until forced to evacuate by smoke. Ensign Henslee manned the radar shack with his men until ordered away. The following named men manned radar shack during the attack:
Howard, W.H., Sea1c; Duke, E.E., Sea1c; and Shonkwiler, GM3c. 1521 Yorktown launching scouts. 1525 Big explosion on Lex. Lots of smoke. 1600 Lex at standstill. 1605 Getting ready to abandon ship. 1642 Destroyers picking up survivors. 1737 Another big explosion on Lex. 1800 Lex continuing to blow up. 1830 All men have abandoned ship. Captain Sherman Was the last to leave. 1845 Lex burning furiously.
Minneapolis and New Orleans and several destroyers stopped around Lex recovering survivors.
1900 Underway on Cus 220-225/19. Are to join up with Yorktown group. 1915 Phelps fired torpedoes (5) into Lex. Lex still burning. 1940 Lex still burning. 1952 Lex turned over and sank. 1954 Phelps reported stern blown off in error when a last terrific explosion occurred on Lex after she had sunk which lifted the Phelps stern out of water.
F. F. GILL,
Lieutenant, U. S. Navy,
May 26, 1942
From: Engineer Officer, U.S.S. LEXINGTON. To: Commanding Officer. Subject: Report of action in Coral Sea, May 8, 1942 - Engineering Department.
- This report covers events occuring in the Engineering Department, which came under my observation, and events reported to me by the officers and men of the Engineering Department, during the action and subsequent thereto in the U.S.S. Lexington in the Coral Sea on May 8, 1942.
- At about 0930 went to general quarters and set condition "Zed". The machinery set up was four units and sixteen boilers on the line. Power was available for maximum speed. The forward dynamo flat was separately exciting the forward auxiliary bus and supplying power to the forward distribution board. The after dynamo flat was separately exciting the after auxiliary bus and supplying power to the after distribution board. The main steam line, the auxiliary exhaust, the high pressure drains, and the fuel oil service were split between the two engine rooms at frame 104. The boiler feed water system was split on the center line. The firemain was split on the center line; the forward fire and bilge pumps feeding the port fire main, and the after fire and bilge pumps feeding the starboard fire main.
- Fuel oil and reserve feed water tanks and bottoms were filled as follows. Forward of frame 75, all fuel oil tanks and bottoms were full and the fuel oil system secured. Between frames 75 and 133; on the port side the sluice tanks were empty and all other tanks full, on the starboard side the sluice tanks and reserve feed water tanks were empty and all other tanks full, and all bottoms were full except the starboard reserve feed water bottoms which were partially filled. Aft of frame 133; tanks were filled with fuel so that there was one liquid layer around the stern of the ship, and fuel oil bottoms were practically full, fuel oil suction having been shifted to these bottoms the evening of the 7th of May.
- At about 1100 word was received that many enemy planes had been picked up about 65 miles away. Starting at about 1120 the guns opened fire and enemy bomb hits, near misses, and torpedo hits were felt in Main Control. Numerous jars and shocks were felt estimated between 12 and 15, three of these being very strong, shaking the ship violently.
- At about 1135 word was received that the attack was over. All stations reported that their machinery was in good condition except for a few minor casualities which were being repaired. Boiler rooms #2, #4, and #6 reported oil and water coming in and were ordered to secure. Reports were received that fireroom #2 had 18 inches of water and oil, fireroom #4 had 12 feet, and fireroom #6 had 5 feet. Orders were given to secure the firemain in these firerooms, for it was suspected that these firerooms were flooding from ruptured firemains, fuel, and feed water lines, which proved to be the case. A bilge suction was taken on these firerooms and within about an hour they were pumped dry. These firerooms all had minor leaks along the seams of the outboard bulkheads, and the bulkheads of the trunks leading to the firerooms were distorted and stove in, especially in #4 fireroom. Baker unit throttle tripped out during the attack but was reset without difficulty. No fires were reported in the engineering spaces except the oil on the surface of the water in #4 boiler was burning but later on was extinguished.
- Ship took a list to about seven degrees maximum which was removed in about one and a half hours by pumping fuel oil aft of frame 104 from port to starboard. Wing Tank Control reported that fuel oil tanks forward of frame 104 on the port side were contaminated with water.
- About 1200 word was received from Central Station that all fires were out or under control and word was received to open fittings necessary for ventilation. I left Main Control at this time to inspect boiler rooms #2, #4, #6, leaving the Senior Assistant Engineering Officer in charge.
- I went forward along the port boiler passageway, stopping by Wing Tank Control. At this time they reported having control. The ship had stopped listing and commenced returning to an even keel. In #2 and #4 boiler passageway a seepage of oil was coming up through the third deck seams, but not enough that it could not be handled by bailing it out with buckets, and later by installing a submersible pump. Lieutenant Hawes in charge of Repair IV made the following reports to me:
- That storeroom B-308-A was slowly flooding, and that B-326-A had a hole in it above the water line.
- That both elevators were out of commission.
- That the hatch going from the forward elevator well down into the port bottle well had been blown open
during the attack and from the fumes escaping that apparently the hydraulic lines and high pressure air lines in this well were ruptured.
- That this hatch had been closed again.
- At about 1245, immediately following a heavy explosion forward, Lt. (jg) H.E. Williamson from the forward distribution board reported to me in #2 boiler passageway that hydrogen gas in the forward storage battery had blown up and that there were many injured in Central Station, Interior Communication Room, and the Forward Board. Main Control reported communication lost with Central Station, Interior Communication Room, Forward Board, and Repair II. Some smoke in Main Control accompanied by a sweet smelling gas. Burner control telegraph, "Walker Log", Rudder angle indicator, engine order telegraph, and ship's service telephone put out of operation in Main Control. Used sound powered telephone circuits for control. Put electric fire and bilge pumps on main drain and gradually shifted all steam fire and bilge pumps to the starboard fire main. Fire main pressure maintained at l00# until about 1500 when it fell to 40#. It is believed that this explosion was caused by gasoline fumes leaking into the IC. Motor Generator compartment, and being set off probably from brush sparking of one of the I.C. motor generators or some other electrical sparking. Main Control reported that this explosion was felt in Main Control as severely as any previous explosions. There were no gasoline fumes in the forward elevator well at this time.
- Ordered Repair IV under Lieutenant Hawes to the scene of the explosion, and requested the Engineering Battle Dressing Station doctor and crew to report to the hangar deck. Called Main Control and reported the explosion. Assistance under C.M.M. Lynch also arrived from Repair V. At this time I personally checked the forward storage battery supply vent in #2 boiler intake. A heavy brown oil smoke was coning from this intake which suggested that there was an oil fire in the vicinty of the battery locker or the acid resisting paint in the battery locker was smoldering. At the forward elevator well the injured were being removed from the I.C. Room, Central Station and Forward Board to the forward end of the hangar deck. This rescue work was carried on under most difficult conditions, all compartments being blanketed in smoke. About twenty-five (25) injured were removed from these compartments to the hangar deck. Remaining personnel were reported either dead or could not be found in the debris. No fires were reported in these compartments. About six inches of water was reported over the I.C. compartment deck. During this period that wounded personnel were being removed, explosions of less violence were occuring intermittently forward of
these stations at periods of about every 20 minutes. White smoke was seen being emitted around the side of the Band Room doors indicating gasoline explosions.
- The dense brown fuel oil smoke finally became so bad that the repair parties had to abandon these compartments. All doors and hatches were closed before abandoning. Dead and wounded on the hangar deck were moved aft. Hangar deck was filling rapidly with a dense brown smoke. Although exhaust blowers on hangar deck were running, they were not of sufficient capacity to exclude all the smoke. This smoke was being discharged through the hangar deck exhaust blowers on the port side to the boat pockets where it was drawn back into the engineering spaces by the intake blowers of the engineering spaces which are located in the same boat pockets. Thus the engineering spaces were filling with smoke so intake blowers were shut down. This caused the spaces to become unbearably hot.
- When all hands abandoned the hangar deck on account of smoke I returned to Main Control and was informed that I was to take over the duties of damage control and for Main Control to take over the duties of Central Station if the First Lieutenant could not be found. There being no J.A. outlet in Main Control, the extent of the damage forward of the quarterdeck was not known. At this time telephone communication was still maintained with Repair Parties I, III, IV, and V, over the JZ phones. Through Repair I information was obtained that the Executive Officer and Ensign Dowling were in charge of fighting the fire forward. All spare men and rescue breathers available in Repairs III, IV and V were sent forward. I ordered Lieutenant Hawes with Repair IV to take over the duties of Repair II and to fight the fire aft but not to open up closed compartments, especially the machine shop, hoping that the fire might burn itself out.
- Explosions forward continued after the first explosion at 1245 at intervals of 20 to 30 minutes. A heavy explosion occured in the forward elevator well at about 1500. After this, lights and power failed forward and circuit breakers on the forward flat were opened caused by grounds from the forward circuits. Lieutenant Hawes witnessed this explosion from the port side of the hangar deck and states that the forward elevator well up to the underside of the elevator, which was in the up position, was in a mass of flames.
- After the above explosion, orders were received by Repair III from the Gunnery Officer to sprinkle the after magazines and war head locker and to turn on the sprinkler system on the hangar deck. These orders were carried out. Water from
the hangar deck sprinkler system began leaking around the loading hatch between the hangar deck and the forward reserve plane stowage. This caused considerable anxiety for there was danger of flooding the main motors.
- The heat in the forward machinery space was becoming intense and the forward bulkhead very hot, with paint peeling, indicating a fire in the evaporator spaces. Gasoline was reported leaking out of one of the pneumercator lines in Wing Tank Control from one of the forward tanks. At about 1530, requested permission from Bridge to abandon the forward machinery space due to intense smoke and heat. All machinery and boilers forward of frame 104 were secured and abandoned. The intense heat from the fire could be felt in all compartments below deck. A heavy explosion occurred above #8 fireroom at about 1530. Ordered watch to secure boiler and abandon fireroom. The watch in the forward machinery space are to be commended for their devotion to duty having remained at their stations operating Affirm and Baker units for a period of about one hour after all electric light and power had been lost. No blowers were operating during this period and the smoke and heat became unbearable. A great percentage of this watch were so exhausted that they required assistance of others in leaving this space.
- At about 1600 communication with Bridge became very weak. Repair V was ordered to rig portable sound powered phone to top side from steering engine room. Soon after, the last word was received over the J.V. phone in Main Control and this was to "secure all machinery and all engineering personnel lay up on the flight deck". This word was relayed to all stations and all hands secured their machinery and went to the flight deck. The fireroom, engineroom, Repair IV, and Repair V personnel escaped through the boiler intakes direct to the main deck. Main Control, Ice Machine, Motor Room, and #1 and #2 Torpedo Air Compressor personnel escaped through the ladders on the starboard side leading up past the refrigerator spaces. Members of Repair III, thrust block rooms, and steering engine escaped through the scuttle in the after reserve plane stowage to the hangar deck, then aft through the carpenter shop, or up through the torpedo workshop.
- In the Engineering Department no personnel of the Boiler and Main Engine divisions were lost. The following personnel of the Electrical Division are unaccounted for:
NAME RATE BATTLE STATION 1. BARRY, M.F. Warrant Electrician I.C. Room 2. McLAIN, R.L. C.E.M. I.C. Room 3. OHLER, W.G. C.E.M. I.C. Room 4. KING, J.M. E.M.lc I.C. Room 5. ALTO, E.J. E.M.lc I.C. Room 6. ORR, M.S. E.M.2c I.C. Room 7. DUPREE, W.J. E.M.3c I.C. Room 8. SMITH, V.C. E.M.2c I.C. Room
It is believed that these men were killed at their battle stations when the first explosion occurred in the I.C. Room at about 1245.
The following personnel of the Auxiliary division are unaccounted for:
NAME RATE BATTLE STATION 1. DAVIS, J.O. M.M.lc Fwd "A" Div. Reserves. (Machine Shop) 2. DUNN, J.J. F.2c Torpedo Air Compressor #3 3. FLATT, G.E. M.M.2c Steering Gear. 4. GARREN, "J". "B". F.lc Repair II. 5. HALL, E.L. M.M.2c Ammunition train (B-025-T). 6. KRAUSE, J.H. M.M.2c After "A" Div. Reserves. 7. LEWANDOWSKI, A.A. Mldr.2c Repair II. 8. THAU, W.A. M.M.lc Torpedo Air Compressor #3.
It is believed that Davis, Garren, Hall, and Lewandowski were killed by explosions while fighting fires in the forward part of the ship.
It is believed that Dunn, Flatt, Krause, and Thau were trapped on the hangar deck in trying to escape after word had been passed for the Engineering Department to lay up on the flight deck, or lost in the water during abandon ship.
- I believe that the above narrative speaks for itself, in commenting on the state of training, devotion to duty, bravery, courage, and self sacrifice displayed by the members of the Engineering Department on May 8, 1942. Each man did everything possible to save his shipmates and to save his ship. All hands did their duty and were in there fighting till the last ray of hope was lost. The high standards displayed by all personnel makes it difficult to bring to your attention individual cases of
men who were outstanding. A separate letter is being forwarded of recommendations submitted by officers of the Engineering Department of particular cases of exceptional courage and devotion to duty which came to their attention during the day. I myself wish to commend all officers for their excellent work and the fine leadership they displayed under the most trying conditions, and also all hands in my department for a job well done.
- I wish to call to the Commanding 0fficer's attention the excellent work of the U.S.S. Hammann in rescuing personnel from the U.S.S. Lexington. The fine seamanship displayed by the Commanding Officer (Commander A.E. True, U.S. Navy) and his crew is to be commended. This destroyer remained as near to the burning vessel as it was safe to do so, until the last man was rescued from the water. Final count showed that they picked up 454 men and 24 officers. The thoughtfulness, kindness and assistance that was given the Lexington personnel by the crew of the U.S.S. Hammann and later by the crew of the U.S.S. Chester will long be remembered by those who were on board.
- It is my opinion that the torpedo hits received by the U.S.S. Lexington on the port side forward, opened the inboard and top seams of the fuel oil and gasoline tanks, and water pressure forced petroleum fumes into surrounding compartments. When sufficient gas had accumulated to form an explosive mixture this was ignited from sparks from electrical equipment in the vicinity. The first explosion covered such a large area and started large fires in so many compartments at one time that it was practically hopeless to combat this fire with the equipment that was available. Continued explosions ruptured bulkheads more seriously and fed more fuel to this inferno. Why this fire did not burn itself out from lack of air still remains a mystery as the ship still had condition "Zed" set.
- Recommendations : -
- That gloves be worn by all hands at general quarters to protect their hands from burns. Burns about the hands render one helpless.
- That portable sound powered telephone sets with connecting cord be made a part of each repair party equipment in order that new lines of communication may be established quickly.
- That the Bureau of Ships be requested to continue the study of the prevention of fires from petroleum fumes. Would steam in compartments surrounding gas storage be of any benefit? Is there some chemical that would act as an absorbent for the fumes, that could be spread on the deck of a compartment where fumes are prevalent?
- In order that all hands down to the lowest seaman may be commended for their actions on May 8, 1942, it is recommended that a medal be issued for the Battle of the Coral Sea bearing on the face a print of a carrier, the color of the ribbon to be green and white, the Lexington colors.
- That men be given lectures in conservation of energy under battle conditions and also in relaxation.
- That men be taught the best method of swimming with life belts on.
- That exercises on board ship include rope climbing.
- The present type of portable drainage pump is unsatisfactory. The suction clogs too easily, it is cumbersome to handle and it does not have sufficient lift. The old fashion pump used by city sewer departments appears more serviceable. In order that it may be transported more conveniently, consideration should be given to having separate units; pump and a driving unit that could be quickly coupled together.
- It is questionable in my mind whether a single fire-main system is the most practicable. Would not many individual systems, cross-connected if considered desirable, but each system complete in itself with firemains, pump, etc.
- All electrical equipment operating the gasoline system and gasoline tanks and the equipment in the adjoining area should be gas tight.
- Consideration should be given to having portable fire fighting equipment. The fact must be kept in mind that at the damaged area, the fire fighting equipment here is also generally damaged.
- Present type rescue breathers are unsatisfactory, for repair parties in passing through scuttles or manholes, and for work that required bending over. It is recommended that the oxygen bag be placed on the shoulders or the back.
A. F. Junker.
U.S.S.LEXINGTON UNIT EMBARKED
May 30, 1942.
From: The Gunnery Officer, U.S.S. LEXINGTON. To: Commanding Officer, U.S.S. LEXINGTON. Subject: Action Fought in the Coral Sea with the Japanese Navy, 7 - 8 May 1942.
- All Gunnery Department activity except for plane arming and re-arming took place on 8 May.
- The ship went to General Quarters immediately after the attack group was launched about 0930.
- Many reports of aircraft were received from Air Plot. An enemy aircraft was seen shot down on the port beam. It caused a great column of smoke on the horizon. I believe this was a scout.
- Shortly before the attack the Gunnery Radar reported planes somewhat forward of the port beam. These planes could not be seen. There were clouds and some haze along the port bow to the port beam. This information was sent to all stations and the director and all port five inch guns were trained on the reported bearing. Very shortly thereafter, Air Plot reported, "Enemy Bombers with Fighter Protection, coming in". The five inch guns were trained to this bearing which was up on the port bow. The guns had barely reached the bearing when the first enemy torpedo plane was sighted on the port beam. Estimated range - 5000 yards. The enemy was in a glide of about 10 - 15 degrees. Short range weapons opened fire almost simultaneously with our sighting him from Sky Forward. He seemed to be making higher speed than our torpedo planes are accustomed to make. Although the automatic weapon fire against him did not look very effective, he kept veering away from it, to his left. He dropped, at about 1500 yards, in such a way that his torpedo was not released until after he had started his turn away; as a consequence his torpedo ran well ahead of the ship, which had commenced its swing to the right. The torpedo plane attack developed from abaft the port beam as the ship swung right.
- About 45 - 60 seconds after the torpedo plane attack had started, the first dive bomber was sighted on the port bow. The dive bombers were picked up immediately by the automatic weapons. This attack was dispersed considerably in bearing. From then on, I cannot be certain of the order or attack. It seemed that we were engaged continuously until cease firing was given.
- From my station in Sky Forward, I was unable to see much of the torpedo plane action which was carried out well aft on the port quarter. The glide bombing attack on the port bow was carried out at angles of glide from 40 to 45 degrees. Dropping altitude was estimated to be 2500 feet. Most of the bombs were over. Five inch battery Two was hit in the vicinity of gun no. six. This caused debris and smoke to rise well above Sky Forward. The battery was out of action.
- A bomb hit the lip of the stack; this was seen to cause small fires about the machine gun platform and great clouds of smoke or soot from the stack. It also jammed the siren. I sent word to Main Control via the smoke watch to shut off the steam to the whistle and siren. This was obviously a small bomb or a low order detonation since only three or four guns were put out of action.
- My attention was called to two torpedoes running on a slightly converging course with the ship. I believe that one of these torpedoes hit and that one missed the port bow.
- It is believed that three torpedo hits were felt.
- One dive bomber caught fire rather spectacularly on the port bow. It was believed that it would hit the flight deck. I climbed down into the battle look-out station so I could report where it hit. It had disappeared when I got there. It is believed that one other dive bomber and two torpedo planes were seen by me to be shot down on the port side. I saw two dive bombers pass over the ship streaming gasoline from their wings near the fuselage. I did not see the attacks on the starboard side. It was reported that there were but one or two torpedo planes on the starboard bow and three dive bombers on the starboard quarter. None of these planes made hits.
- After the first few seconds of attack, local control was ordered all around. Subsequently, certain of' the five inch group control officers attempted to designate fuze settings to be used (the five inch ammunition was all pre-set to either 5.2 seconds, 3 seconds, or 2.2 seconds). It is considered that they erred in so doing. The surviving five inch were used against torpedo planes. They were not mobile enough against the shallow glides and dispersed bearing of the dive bombers.
- The fire discipline and distribution of the automatic weapons was splendid. No enemy plane was seen to attack without being fired upon. The accuracy of the fire was fairly good, as nearly as could be judged.
- After the action, the report from five inch battery Two indicated that about half the personnel were wounded or killed; that guns four and six could not be repaired quickly; that gun no. two would soon be ready for action. Five inch battery Four reported several personnel casualties and two minor material casualties. This battery had been strafed and had had several near misses by bombs. They were soon ready for action.
- The 1.1" mounts had little to report. A gun on Mount No. 3 had a burst muzzle. No personnel casualties resulted. Mount No. 8 had a jammed training rack. The material functioning of the guns was beyond expectations.
- 20 mm Group Cast (Gig Boat Pocket) had its gun platform blown back by the blast of a near miss. All four guns were out of commission. About half the crew were casualties. No other 20 mm stations suffered casualty. The material functioning of the 20 mm guns was generally excellent.
- The stack .50 calibre machine gun groups suffered casualties from a bomb hit as noted above. Otherwise all .50 calibre machine guns functioned without important casualty. The gunner of group four was struck, Ensign Sullivan took his gun and continued it in action. After the action, the stack machine gun groups were reorganized by Ensign Gavigan who had taken charge after the bomb had wounded Ensign Stupin.
- The personnel of the department were kept informed of the very encouraging news from Central about improving list and speed.
- Full replenishment of ammunition was ordered at all stations. This was progressing expeditiously.
- The fire at battery Two and on the Main Deck was reported out. About one hour after the action an explosion comparable to the torpedo explosions was felt. We could not reach Central or I.C. by phone. However, we still had power to our directors. When it occurred, efforts were made to communicate with Gunner Whitham, who had charge of the ammunition supply. He could not be reached by any of the battle telephones. The Bridge passed the word for him. About this time, the last of the bogies had been identified as "friendly".
- I asked and received permission to turn over control to Lieutenant Moore and to check on the magazines.
- The forward five inch batteries were visited. It was noted that smoke was coming up the ammunition hoist tubes. It was ordered that hoses be lead down all hoists on both batteries. This was done. It was noted that the crew of gun No. six were burned beyond recognition.
- Concern was felt for the safety of the forward magazines and for the bombs in the servicing stations, particularly the machine shop. I went into the ship and met the Commander at the hatch on the Main Deck, just aft of Admiral's country. He told me that they were getting people out of Central Station. About that time the members of the repair party reported that it was no longer possible to get down to Central. It was further reported that heavy fires were known to be in the office spaces. It was suggested that hoses be led down the food conveyer which has its outlet near the Executive Officer's Office. This was done. Someone mentioned that the machine shop was flooded. In an emergency that required abandonment of the machine shop, the last man away from flood control was to flood magazines. However, no one could be found who had actually witnessed magazine flooding. It was decided to check the auxiliary flood controls in the after CPO bunk room.
When the hatch in Warrant officers' country, above Sick Bay, was reached, a member of the repair party reported that it was very smoky along the CPO passageway and that a mask and strong light were required. It was realized that I was not familiar enough with the location and operation of the auxiliary flood controls to find them and work them in the dark. I returned topside and found two gunner's mates, who had stood integrity watches for some time. We got lights and put on masks and started down the Sick Bay hatch. At that instant there occurred an explosion which blew us back up the hatch. We ran aft along the Warrant officers' country passage. On the next hatch aft, a man was sitting on the scuttle against a pressure which had built up below. I believe one of the gunner's mates helped him secure that scuttle.
- It was decided to try the machine shop from aft. It was believed that the forward magazines must have been flooded because of the heat and explosions that had occurred about them without their exploding. In the machine shop, there was a full rearm of bombs.
- I reported to the Commander what I had observed and what I considered to be the situation. Then I went to the after end of the Hangar Deck. The torpedo mezzanine was visited. CTM Blanton reported that he had twenty-seven torpedoes with war heads on the mezzanine. He was ordered to get them as far aft as possible and to commence sprinkling them. It was impossible to dispose of them because the torpedo elevator was jammed in the up position. The after end of the Hangar Deck was rather smoky and it was beginning to get rather warm. Two young seaman were met coming aft on the Hangar Deck. They reported that it was very hot and smoky forward. I asked about the machine shop. They answered that they had tried the door and that there was water leaking out of the shop and that they did not attempt to get in. I asked them to show me the door. We had masks and hand lanterns. It was impossible to see in the forward end of the hangar. I held on to one of these men as the other lead the way. Unfortunately, the man whom I was holding on to, got a little too far to the right so that he and I walked off the hangar deck into the elevator well. In falling I lost my mask, but I did not get hurt. However, it was difficult to breath and impossible to see because of the smoke. The man with the light checked the door which was still leaking much water. He then led us back along the Hangar Deck. The fact that the Machine Shop was flooded was shortly thereafter substantiated by the repair party. This was reported to the Commander.
It had been noted that there seemed to be an increase in the temperature in the after end of the Hangar Deck. The war head magazines had been flooded. Permission was received to sprinkle the after magazines. Through the afternoon, the temperature increased in the Hangar Deck. Permission was received to flood the after magazines. The after flood control group was ordered to abandon their posts after flooding. Concern was felt for the safety of personnel assembled on the flight deck because of the war heads on the mezzanine deck.
- Five inch battery personnel reported that ready ammunition was getting very hot. I ordered all ready five inch ammunition thrown over the side. It was reported that some of it was so hot that it could not be handled with bare hands.
- About this time the order was given to abandon ship. The Gunnery divisions were ordered to abandon. The Marine Guard, assembled on the port after gun gallery, was the last division to leave the ship.
- An effort was made to assemble available information concerning the explosion which occurred at 1247. Gunner Sawula and ACOM Turlington were on the office deck (first deck) on their way to the Machine Shop when the explosion occurred. Gunner Sawula reported that prior to the explosion, this area was in good condition. When the explosion occurred it was almost immediately transformed into an inferno. The offices were ablaze; the bulkheads and decks were blistering hot, and the area was filled with heavy smoke. The two men escaped by opening one of the after doors and going out to the band room where they noted that the 100 lb. bombs were intact. The bomb elevator was broken down. They climbed up the well and out along the Main Deck. They reported that no doors were blown off and that the area directly above the quarterdeck was relatively cool.
- The men in the forward five inch ammunition train stationed in the CPO passageway, generally report that the doors were blown down, that the compartments became very hot and smoky and soon started to burn. There was ammunition in the print shop to be sent up to battery One. An attempt was made to communicate with the men stationed in the lower handling rooms. The attempt was unsuccessful. All the men there were lost.
- It is reported that Gunner Whitham had just warned members of the ammunition party and the Sick Bay personnel about smoking because he had noted gas fumes. This was substantiated by survivors of the explosion.
- It is considered that the practical criterion of effectiveness of gunfire is the protectton of the ship, therefore, the gunfire was not sufficiently effective. From careful survey of reports at hand it is quite certain that three torpedo planes and two dive bombers were destroyed on the port side; that one torpedo plane was destroyed on the starboard side. It is quite probable that one additional torpedo plane was destroyed on the port side and one other plane destroyed on the starboard side. Two dive bombers were seen passing over the ship trailing gasoline; it is not believed that they could reach their carriers.
- Lieutenant (junior grade) E.M. Price, U.S. Navy; Ensign C.H. Ziehr, U.S. Navy; and Gunner J.E. Whitham, U.S. Navy were killed in action, or died from injuries received during the action or just after.
- Thirty enlisted men of the Gunnery Department are known to be dead or are missing. Of these, twenty-one were marines.
- All group and battery officers highly praised the conduct of their men. The high standards of courage and leadership set by officers and petty officers was most gratifying. The conduct of Captain Ralph L. Houser, U.S. Marine Corps; Ensign W.J. Gavigan, U.S. Naval Reserve; and Gunner J.E. Whitham, U.S. Navy, will be the subject of separate letters.
May 23, 1942
From: The Medical Officer. To: Commanding Officer. Subject: Report of Activities of Medical Department, U.S.S. LEXINGTON, May 7 - 8, 1942.
- The organization of the Medical Department at the beginning of the battle on May 7, 1942 was as follows:
MAIN BATTLE DRESSING STATION (Sick Bay), Compartment A-207-L.
Medical Officer: Comdr. A.J. WHITE, (MC), U.S. Navy. Chaplain: Lt.Comdr. G.L. MARKLE, (ChC), U.S. Navy. Assistants: R.A. FLEMING, CPhM, U.S.N. R.C. SUMMY, PhM1c, U.S.N. P.G. KIBBY, PhM2c, U.S.N. M.E. GILLIES, PhM3c, U.S.N.R. Y.W. CAUSEY, PhM3c, U.S.N.R. G.E. WOGAN, PhM3c, U.S.N. B.G. JOHNSON, Sea2c, U.S.N. J.T. MILAM, Sea2c, U.S.N. R.L. McCOY, Sea2c, U.S.N. Repair Party II (Machine Shop): H.D. WESTCOT, PhM3c, U.S.N.
AVIATION BATTLE DRESSING STATION (Main Deck, Starboard Side, Frame 120.)
Medical Officer: Lieut. L.H. BARBER, (MC), U.S. Navy. Fw'd Collecting Station: Comdr. W.C. TROJAKOWSKI, (DC), U.S.N. After Collecting Station: Lieut. A.T. SMITH, (DC), U.S.N. Assistants: S.J. BUCKO, PhM1c, U.S.N. C.L. BELL, PhM1c, U.S.N. E.C. RUSSELL, PhM1c, U.S.N. Flight Deck Fw'd Bridge: L.G. CADY, PhM2c, U.S.N. Flight Deck Amidships: A.L. KOZLOWSKI, PhM1c, U.S.N. Flight Deck Aft: F.L. GIBBENS, PhM1c, U.S.N. V.L. WEEKS, PhM2c, U.S.N. Ass't. Fw'd Collecting Station: P.R. BURGNER, PhM3c, U.S.N. Ass't. After Collecting Station: S.L. HUFF, PhM3c, U.S.N.
AFTER DRESSING STATION, (After Reserve Plane Stowage).
Medical Officer: Lieut. E.E. KEETON, (MC), U.S. Navy. Assistants: L."L" KEMP, CPhM, U.S.N.R. E.F. RICH, PhM1c, U.S.N. O.J. MILLER, PhM1c, U.S.N. M. BOOK, PhM1c, U.S.N. C.M. WADE, PhM3c, U.S.N. Repair Party No. III: R.B. McNELEY, PhMc3 U.S.N. Repair Party No. V: J.A. MECARTEA, PhM3c, U.S.N.
ENGINEER'S BATTLE DRESSING STATION, (Amidships, Port Side, Engineer's Passageway).
Medical Officer: Lieut. J.F. ROACH, (MC), U.S. Navy. Assistants: C. GILBERT, PhM1c, U.S.N. J.D. FULLER, PhM3c, U.S.N.R. E.J. CAMPBELL, PhM3c, U.S.N. Repair Party No. IV: W.St.C. COCHRAN, PhM3c, U.S.N.
- On the afternoon of May 7, 1942, following the return of the attack group, three casuals were treated in the Main Battle Dressing Station. D.C. Phillips, ARM3c, U.S.N. received a small caliber gun shot wound of the soft tissues of left shoulder. There was no bone injury. Ensign J.A. Lepla, U.S.N.R., several small fragments of shrapnel removed from left thumb and forearm. Ensign A.J. Shultz, U.S.N.R., sustained superficial shrapnel wounds of right forearm and thigh.
- Main Batle Dressing Station, (Second Day of Battle). During the attack, no damage was sustained in Main Battle Dressing Station. There were twelve patients in the ward, one of which was considered a stretcher case - Appendectomy in his 3rd post operative day, in good condition.
Immediately following the attack inspection by a repair party showed that the sick bay country and storeroom on the deck below were undamaged. Casuals began to arrive very soon after the cessation of firing as follows:
- Lacerated wound anterior surface right ankle, Sulfathiazole powder used, wound sutured and returned to ward.
- Extensive 2nd degree burn of face and body. Clothing blown off by blast. Morphine, tannic acid jelly and spray, blood plasma, and to bed.
- Extensive 2nd degree burn of face and hands, some trunk and leg involvement. Morphine, tannic acid jelly and spray, blood plasma 250 cc, to bed.
A report from the main deck, forward collecting station revealed heavy damage in that vicinity, with the death of Comdr. W. C. Trojakowski, (DC), U.S.N. Two Corpsmen and needed fresh supplies were despatched from main battle dressing station, and a new station was established in the Captain's Cabin which functioned in an excellent manner. It was learned that the battle dressing locker at this station had been demolished with the blast from the ammunition lockers. Aviation Battle Dressing Station reported at this time that many casuals were arriving, with injuries consisting of burns of varying degrees and shrapnel wounds of varying type. Supplies were plentiful and work was progressing satisfactorily.
After Battle Dressing Station reported a few casuals by telephone. Work was progressing satisfactorily and the station was undamaged.
Engineer's Battle Dressing Station could not be contacted. A later report revealed no damge and no casuals at that station.
At about 1247, a terrific blast was sustained in the Main Sick Bay country, followed by much smoke and gas, but no fire. As a result of the blast the Medical Officer sustained fracture of right shoulder, contusion with laceration of left ankle and contusion of right ankle. Whether the injury to ankles was due to explosion below the deck is not known, but he was carried thru the air for a distance of ten to fifteen feet and landed in a sitting position. Other personnel in the sick bay country were carried varying short distances by the same blast but sustained no injuries.
After a quick survey of all spaces and assurance that thcre were no new injured personnel, it was advisable to evacuate to the upper deck. Communication circuits were dead, so no report was made. All patients and personnel were ordered to put on gas masks because of smoke and fumes, and all were able to make their way to the main deck to the Captain's cabin where a first aid station had already been established. The transfer was accomplished very effectively by the corpsmen and the physicians under the supervision of Chief Pharmacist's Mate R.A. Fleming, U.S.N. All personnel carried on in a splendid manner. Excellent assistance was rendered by Chief Carpenter Novak and his repair party. Casuals in the vicinity of the C.P.O. quarters, which were badly damaged by the blast, were brought to the main deck station. Supplies were also brought up from the operating room by this repair party. Blood plasma, tannic acid jelly and morphine were available in ample quantity. Plasma was given to the severely burned and seemed to aid in combating shock. Drinking water was available, thanks to the good old water breakers, and thermos jugs which had been kept filled for many months as stand-by supply. Lemons and oranges made available from messes supplemented the limited water supply, and due to the watchful care of Chaplain Markle, no one suffered from lack of water or fruit juice. In this group severe burns predominated, the cases numbering about twenty (20). One case showed severe injury to left leg, probably a fracture of the femur. Two cases showed severe head injury along with extensive burns. All severely injured were placed on mattresses on the deck and covered. Two cases showed delerium, one of which had a laceration of scalp with possible basal fracture. Work was progressing satisfactorily at this station until the spreading of fires below deck began to fill the cabin with smoke. Efforts were made to check it by closing doors into the passageways and cutting off the dampers in the ventilating trunk. All efforts failed and it soon became necessary to move all patients to the five inch gun gallery, starboard side, and very soon from there to the flight deck.
The risks entailed were numerous, with lack of clothing, covering of any type, mostly sheets, chair covers and spreads were used. All did their utmost to help themselves and finally all were assembled on the starboard side of the flight deck preparatory to transfer to the ships boats or destroyers, which was later accomplished. It is to be regretted that injured personnel had to be moved so frequently, but succeeding events each time proved the necessity for such action. Due to succeeding explosions in the vicinity of sick bay country, there was no opportunity for the salvaging of health records or other files.
- Report of Activities at the Aviation Battle Dressing Station, May 8, 1942. There were two direct routes for evacuation of injured to this dressing station; one from the flight deck down a ladder directly into the dressing station and one passageway from the main deck.
This station was well stocked with medical supplies and instruments for performing nearly any surgery. Lighting and sterilizer units functioned well until one hour before we received the order to abandon ship. Water was available from a fifty gallon reserve tank and a thirty gallon hot water heater.
Four Stokes stretchers and two Army type canvas litters were distributed fore and aft on the flight deck and from the super structure, lowering those injured by a line attached to the zipper stretcher.
For considerable time before our ship was attacked by the Japanese air force, Aviation Battle Dressing Station was manned and in condition of readiness one (I). Shortly after the onset of the attack casuals arrived. Their injures consisted of first and second degree burns, shrapnel wounds, contusions and lacerated wounds, blast injuries and simple and compound fractures. A number of injured had received first aid at outlying stations, consisting of application of tourniqets where indicated, tannic acid jelly to burns and morphine where indicated. The injured arrived in such great numbers that the dressing station became congested, so flash clothing, dungarees and skivies were cut off and a quick survey of the extent of the injuries was made. Those men who did not show critical injury were carried or walked into the division sleeping spaces immediately outboard of the dressing station where they were bunked and received further medical attention as time would allow. One PhM1c was detailed to these spaces and carried out such orders given by the medical officer, reapplication of tourniqets on patients with arterial bleeding every twenty minutes, dressing burns that covered large areas of the body with sterile gauze for protection, and general nursing care. First and second degree burned patients became chilled very easily
and asked for great quantities of water to drink. Blankets were plentiful and were used on every patient, as nearly all showed some degree of shock.
Contact was made by ship's service phone with the Main Station, Sick Bay. A report of conditions in the Aviation Battle Dressing Station was made. Supplies were plentiful and requests for dressings, morphine, and tannic acid jelly for first aid men on the flight deck and main deck were filled.
Zipper stretchers were sent with a party of men to lower injured from sky aft and machine gun mounts on the stack where a small bomb had hit. These injured were lowered to the flight deck by a line tied to the zipper stretcher. Several men had multiple shrapnel wounds and where fragments were easily accessible were removed and sulfanilamide powder was inserted into the wound. All wounds were dressed in this manner and the patient put to bed.
Patients, who had extensive burns and those with considerable blood loss from shrapnel wounds, were given a unit of blood plasma. An estimate of nine patients died, all of whom were in a moribund condition on arrival at the dressing station. Causes of death in six cases were large shrapnel wounds of the abdomen and chest. Two patients apparently died as a result of a blast. An examination showed no external wounds except for superficial powder burns of the face. Both were unconscious, pulse thready and respirations very shallow and irregular.
One pilot returned to the ship with his radioman, who had received a shell wound of the genitals and perineum. Examination showed that he had been dead for some time.
An estimate of fifty officers and men were treated and turned into bunks adjacent to the battle dressing station, and an estimate of forty more officers and men were treated for more minor injuries and were sent back to duty.
Many officers and men of other divisions ably assisted the Medical Officer and Hospital Corpsmen throughout the battle and for several hours after. These officers and men assisted transporting patients to the dressing station and rendered nursing service where instructed. When the opportune time came, the dressing station was cleared of all clothing and the deck was swabbed as there was a large amount of blood and debris which had to be cleared away before any imperative surgery could be performed.
Patients were then placed on the operating table where shrapnel could be removed and bleeding vessels tied off. Shortly after this work was begun we received an order from the Executive Officer to bring all patients to the flight deck for abandoning ship. The critically and seriously injured were lowered over the starboard side in Stokes' Stretchers and on an improvised plank platform into motor whale boats and launches from other ships. Other less injured patients were lowered by a line tied around their trunk to a destroyer which had pulled along side.
One Pharmacist's Mate Second Class V.L. Weeks, U.S.N. was killed while he was standing in a life raft, when an explosion blew the quarter deck gangway door off and a metal fragrment penetrated his skull. He died almost instantly.
A search was made throughout the adjacent area of the Aviation Battle dressing station and the compartments used for hospitalization and no living personnel were found. This search was made after the order to abandon ship was given. The dead had been evacuated to the crew's washroom. All patients were evacuated to cruisers and destroyers of the Task Force.
The Medical Officer in charge of the Aviation Battle Dressing Station wishes to commend the Pharmacist's Mates and Musician stretcher bearers of this station for carrying out their duties in a highly efficient, resourceful, and tireless manner.
- Report of Activities at Engineer's Battle Dressing Station, during and immediately following action with enemy on 8 May 1942 by Lieut. J.F. Roach, (MC), U.S. Navy.
During the battle, I was at my General Quarters Station which was Engineer's Battle Dressing Station located on the 3rd deck, port side frame 104. While the action was going on, no casualties were brought to the station nor were any calls for aid received.
About one hour after the last hit was felt, I received word from Repair IV that help was needed on the hangar deck. Taking one corpsman with me I proceeded to the hangar deck and there found the first two or three men who were brought out from the vicinity of central station and adjacent spaces. In all, approximately 25 men were brought out and laid on the forward end of the hangar deck just aft of the forward elevator. These men were all unconscious. Some were breathing and some were not. All had been burned on the exposed parts of the body. Treatment given, consisted of artificial respiration, morphine sulfate, and tannic acid jelly to the burned areas. Of these 25 men (estimated), two were either dead on arrival or died within a very few minutes.
Within the space of ten or fifteen minutes, the amount of smoke in the forward end of the hangar deck had become so great that it was necessary to wear gas masks. The dead and wounded were then carried to the after end of the hangar deck where the air was better and treatment could be continued. A careful search of the hangar deck was made in order to assure that no one was left behind.
During the next ten or fifteen minutes, four more men died. These along with the two brought from the forward end of the hangar deck, were laid under the wing of a plane and were covered with blankets.
It soon became apparent that the smoke and heat were becoming so intense that further evacuation was necessary. Three (3) Stokes stretchers were obtained and the process of raising the wounded to the main deck, through the hatch in the overhead of the fuselage deck, was begun.
After six or seven patients had been removed in this way, there was a series of heavy explosions in the vicinity of the forward elevator well. These were accompanied by very dense smoke and intense heat. Although it was impossible to see more than two or three feet even with the aid of a flashlight, a cherry red glow could be seen at the forward end of the hangar deck.
It was then necessary to abandon the process of hoisting the wounded to the main deck because it was feared that the torpedo war heads might explode. The remaining wounded, were then carried, without stretchers, up the ladder to the torpedo gallery, through the ship fitters shop thence up to the main deck. They were later removed to the starboard side of the stack and placed aboard a destroyer.
I should like to emphasize that the hospital corpsmen who were with me did an excellent job. We were greatly aided by hangar deck personnel under the direction of Lieut. Hirsch without whose aid, our efforts would have been of little avail.
- Report of activities at the after Battle Dressing Station on May 8, 1942.
This battle station was adequately supplied and manned.
Shortly after the attack began the ship vibrated heavily, and the battle dressing light which was securely bolted to the overhead was put out. The exact cause was not investigated as there were three other large electric lights in that area also, but the light bulb was large and it is assumed that vibration broke the wires in it.
A few minutes later one patient reported to this station because he had torn the nail of his left index finger approximately half off while handling 5 inch ammunition. The nail was removed, finger bandaged, and patient returned to duty.
About fifteen minutes after the attack was over, one ambulatory patient suffering from heat exhaustion was brought to this station from the nearby after Stearing Gear Room. He was treated, observed, and returned to duty in about one half hour.
Drinking water originally provided for personnel in this area was inadequate. The temperature and humidity were high as all ventilation had ben off for nearly four hours. Water jugs were empty and many men came to this station asking for a drink. To avoid all possible heat exhaustion several water jugs were filled and much drinking water dispensed as needed from our large reserve supply (l2 gallons in wooden kegs and 30 gallons in an overhead emergency steel tank).
A short time after the first explosion occurred, the hospital corpsman from this station with Repair V returned for several tubes of tannic acid jelly. He reported he had treated several cases of burns at the forward end of the hangar deck, that these had ben evacuated to main deck and that no help was needed.
Later we learned that we had no communication with Central Station over the JZ phone but could contact the bridge indirectly over it. Then we heard that the ship could be steered manually from the after Steering Gear Room but that the compasses had been broken so that orders to steer had to come from the bridge. Several other explosions occurred and the Reserve Plane Stowage compartment in which we were located became filled with smoke, we put on our gas masks, lost indirect communication with the bridge, and were told to abandon ship. There were no casualties in our area and all personnel departed, going to flight deck through the fuselage deck where there was much smoke, much dripping hot water from the sprinkler system and poor visibility with only three (3) electric lIghts on, but there were three ways of leaving that area and everyone should have gotten to the flight deck, as did all the personnel manning the after Battle Dressing Station.
The first destroyer was pulling along side when we arrived on the after end of the flight deck. All wounded there were ambulatory. There was a large crowd forward and I was told that the seriously wounded were there, that there was plenty of help and that we should remain on after flight deck. We abandoned ship as directed, most of us getting on the destroyer Hammann.
- Report of Activities at After Aviation Collecting Station, (Main deck frame 165), by Lieut. A.T. SMITH, (DC), U.S. Navy.
A few minutes after the action had started, a marine sergeant was the first wounded man to enter the compartment from Battery IV. He had multiple gunshot wounds from a strafing plane. The wounds seemed to be made from small caliber bullets. A few sconds later two more marines entered with bullet wounds. One patient had a wound of the lower leg and the other patient a bullet wound in the back of the shoulder over the area of the scapula. All patients were laid on the deck and made comfortable. The wounds of each patient were bandaged by the hospital corpsman and myself; the hemorrhage arrested and morphine given. Patients were covered with blankets.
A short time later the action had ceased, I was called into the adjoining compartment to look at a marine who had been brought in. This man was dead with a bullet wound in the region of the heart. This was the only death we had at this first aid station during the day.
Shortly after the action three more patients arrived with multiple bullet wounds. These were taken care of and treated in the same manner as the above patients. Two of the patients had bones in the forearm splintered. These were bandaged and splinted. A short while later two more men arrived with burns on the arms. Tannic acid jelly was applied. Total of eight patients received treatment.
Later in the afternoon four severely burned patients (who had been in Central Station when a blast occurred), were raised by a Stokes Stretcher from the fuselage deck to the main deck through the hatch in the next compartment. Dr. Roach was below directing this operation. Several blasts occurred from the region of the hangar deck and this operation ceased. After an interval to allow the escape of the men the hatch was closed and secured again. Due to the smoke in the compartment, the patients were moved outside to the after ends of batteries III and IV. A short while later all the wounded aft, approximately 12, were hoisted to the flight deck and carried forward to be evacuated from the ship.
- Personnel: All members of the medical department assisted by Chaplain G.L. Markle and the bandsmen did their work in a splendid manner. The cooperation of all men of the ship's company when needed was commendable. Repair parties were very helpful in the removal of patients from difficult parts of the ship under very tryring conditions of smoke and darkness. They were of material aid in salvaging medical supplies from the Sick Bay after we were forced to evacuate and move to the Captain's Cabin.
The senior dental officer, Commander W.C. Trojokowski, was killed in the blast from a bomb hit while carrying on his duties in a splendid manner on the main deck. Weeks, V.L., Pharmacist's Mate second class, after doing excellent work and removing the last of the patients to be transferred was killed on a raft by a piece of flying metal from the ship following one of the later explosions.
It was more than gratifying to the senior medical officer to note that the organization as worked out functioned so smoothly, showing elasticity, mobility when necessary, and coordination.
The following points as brought out in the Pearl Harbor attack and stressed by the Fleet Medical Officer were again evidenced.
- Disbursement of medical supplies in ample quantities is essential.
- Provision for reserve drinking water containers, as our ship's supply failed due to damage early in the attack.
- Careful distribution of medical department personnel to allow for damage to one or more groups.
Finally: All that was accomplished in action and later the removal of so many of the ship's personnel was made feasible only through the splendid leadership and timely decisions of Captain Sherman aided by the many observations and reports from various inspections throughout the ship made by Commander Seligman, the Executive Officer. Suitable recognition is due these officers.
The Commanding Officer and the entire personnel of the U.S.S. Morris and the U.S.S. Portland deserve commendations for their excellent help in caring for injured personnel from the Lexington. This should apply to all other ships who at great risks and under hazardous conditions transferred and cared for injured personnel. The two named were observed by me personally.
- I wish to recommend all men under me in the medical department for a letter of commendation for: Having accomplished their work in an excellent manner during and after the battle under exceptionally difficult conditions.
- I wish to subscribe to Commander Junkers suggestion that a suitable medal be made available for all hands including all ships of the Task Force.
From: The Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Lexington. To: The Chief of the Bureau of Naval Personnel. Subject: Casualities, Report of, Coral Sea Action May 7 and 8, 1942. Enclosures: (A) Report of Casualties, Officers. (B) Report of Casualties, enlisted men, including U.S.S.Lexington, ComCarDiv ONE Flag Allowance, VS-2, VF-2, and VT-2. (C) Report of Casualties, Marine Detachment.
- Enclosures (A), (B) and (C) are forwarded herewith for the information of the Bureau.
- The remains of personnel killed in action were not recovered.
- The next of kin have not been notified.
FREDERICK C. SHERMAN.
REPORT OF CASUALTIES
- The following officers were killed in action on May 8, 1942, except as noted:
NAME RANK BARRY, M.F. Electrician, U.S.N. GILMORE, W.W. Commander, (SC), U.S.N. HEALY, H.R. Lieut.Comdr., U.S.N. JOHNS, P.R. Ensign, U.S.N.R. PRICE, E.M. Lieut. (jg) U.S.N. TROJAKOWSKI, W.C. Commander,(DC), U.S.N. WHITHAM J.E. Gunner, U.S.N. ZIEHR C.H. Ensign, U.S.N. ZWIERCHKE, Ensign, (SC), U.S.N.R.
- The following officers are missing since May 8, 1942, except as noted;
NAME RANK AULT, W.B. Command, U.S.N. CLAG a ALLEN, E.H. Lieutenant U.S.N. VS-2 a BAKER, P.G. Lieut. (jg), U.S.N. VF-2 BULL, R.S., Jr. Lieutenant U.S.N. VF-2 CLARK, H.F. Lieut. (jg), U.S.N. VF-3 HALE, R.O., Jr. Lieut. (jg), U.S.N. VF-2 MASON, N.H. Ensign, U.S.N.R. VF-3 PETERSON, D.W. Ensign, U.S.N.R. VF-3 ROWELL R.M. Ensign, U.S.N.R. VF-3 RINEHART, C.F. Lieut. (jg), U.S.N. VF-2 a b QUIGLEY, A.J. Ensign, U.S.N.R. VS-2 THORNHILL, L.W. Lieut. (jg), U.S.N. VT-2 WINGFIELD, J.D. Ensign, U.S.N.R. VS-2 b WOOD, H. Ensign, U.S.N.R. VS-2
a --- Missing since May 7, 1942.
b --- Reported Rescued.
REPORT OF CASUALTIES
- The following men were killed in action on May 8, 1942, except as noted:
NAME SERVICE NO. RATE   ALTO, Eino J. 328 46 27 EM1c ARCHIBALD, Edmund W. 368 68 88 Sea2c BLINCOE, Michael V. 382 55 37 Sea2c BOHLANDER, Frank W., Jr. 356 63 55 Sea2c BOHNER, Theodore R. 376 31 07 Sea2c   BROWN, Eddie L. Jr. 272 25 06 Sea3c BROWN, Robert Van B. 342 17 06 SK3c BULT, Thomas K. 368 25 62 QM1c CARLSON, Albert E. 311 42 21 CM3c CARLSON, John B. 316 47 44 SK2c   COLEMAN, Donald E. 342 43 83 Sea2c DAVIS, Jess O. 320 72 03 MM1c DIAMOND, Theodore L. 337 33 55 Sea2c DULL, Burl W. 300 11 79 CM3c DUNN, John J. 266 19 97 F3c   DUPREE, William J. 360 34 76 F3c DURANT, Howard E. Jr. 413 55 43 Sea2c EDWARDS, Kenneth O. 337 40 18 SF3c ELY, Robert C. 385 83 33 Sea1c FLATT, Garfield H. 368 42 72 MM2c   FORTNER, Roscoe L. 287 45 55 SK3c FRASURE, Hershell D. 287 53 40 Sea2c FURMAN, Burton J. 680 00 40 SK3c GARREN, "J" "B" 295 74 05 F1c GIBBS, Nathaniel 262 95 92 Matt3c GOULD, Howard S. 662 06 35 SK3c HALL, Elby L. 346 76 80 MM2c HART, Thomas H. 268 79 12 Sea2c HENRY, Joel Q. 295 74 16 Sea2c HOFSTRA, George J. 382 44 20 Sea2c HOWARD, James E. 346 83 43 SK3c JAQUES, Ray L. 337 48 14 Y3c JEMISON, Eugene 272 71 37 Matt2c JOHNSON, Ralph E. 272 38 49 SC3c JONES, Edgar 342 39 20 AMM3c
NAME SERVICE NO. RATE KANE, William J. 414 41 42 SK3c KIDD, James W. 291 60 78 SC3c KING, John M. 356 92 13 EM1c KING, Kenneth R. 356 63 36 Sea2c KRAUSE, John H. 404 93 66 F1c   LETTOW, Charles A. 321 37 85 Cox LEWANDOWSKI, Arthur A. 328 60 06 Mldr2c LIBBY, Robert L. 223 45 24 SF2c LITTLE, James L. 295 32 75 SF2c LOCKARD, Joseph R. 382 48 98 Sea2c   LYNN, Estus L. 337 07 97 SF3c MAC DOUGALL, Eugene R. 299 99 90 Y2c MARTIN, Earl W. 300 19 74 SK3c MC LAIN, Robert M. 393 05 38 CEM(AA) MENDIOLA, Francisco N. 421 07 50 Matt2c   MILLER, Richard C. 616 02 32 Y3c MILLER, Stephen J. 299 77 57 SF2c NOFTSGER, Ernest H. 342 00 93 GM2c NUNES, William W. 662 04 63 Sea2c O'DELL, Charles H. 316 78 35 Sea2c   O'NEAL, Willie (n) 346 73 87 Matt1c OHLER, William G. 375 55 75 CEM(AA) ORR, Manley S. 262 46 81 EM3c PAGE, Warren W. 393 49 15 Sea1c PENNYBACKER, Frank H. 295 75 41 SF3c   RAMSDEN, Marvin L. 389 97 04 Cox RASBERRY, Mahlon E. 360 43 46 Sea2c ROSE, Joseph E. 311 39 44 GM3C RUPERT, Dale E. 368 58 56 SF3c RELERFORD, Nathaneail L. 346 83 52 Matt2c   a SCHAMP, Delbert D. 316 75 20 Sea2c SCHNEIDER, Albert J. 360 07 92 F1c SMITH, Carlyle G. 238 69 32 Ptr3c SMITH, Vernon C. 372 15 51 EM3c SNYDER, Glenn L. 337 04 10 Sea1c   STASKO, John, Jr. 238 69 05 SF3c
a - Died of wounds 5-15-42
NAME SERVICE NO. RATE STRAUB, David "H", Jr. 624 03 42 SK2c THAU, Willard A. 375 78 49 MM1c VASS, Frank I., Jr. 382 29 28 Sea2c WHITE, Eugene A. 266 39 14 Sea2c WHITE, Lester J. 381 21 53 GM3c WHITELEY, Robert L. 372 19 82 Bkr3c WILKERSON, Claude M. 360 18 78 SK3c WILLIAMS, Alter L. 287 31 13 Matt1c WILLSON, Charles E. 201 78 18 SC3c YOUNG, Carl C. 295 75 37 Sea1c ZEIGLER, Harry D. 243 77 14 Y3c ZILINEK, Victor J. 223 87 70 GM3c COM CAR DIV ONE PARKER, Richard E. 632 10 66 Matt3c Scouting Squadron TWO b BUTLER, William T. 223 24 91 ARM1c b DAVIS, William P. 283 93 69 AOM3c EDWARDS John O. 212 52 95 ARM2c c HUVAR, Cyril F., Jr. 360 27 79 RM3c b LACKEY, John D. 316 61 47 ARM2c b ROUSER, Charles W., Jr. 328 69 41 ARM2c c WHEELHOUSE, Robert E. 300 07 93 ARM3c
b - Missing since 5-8-42.
c - Reported rescued from Rossel Island.
NAME SERVICE NO. RATE FIGHTING SQUADRON TWO HOLCOMB, Allen D. 386 03 75 Sea2c WEEKS, Virgil L. 265 85 24 PhM2c HUDSON, Norman, Jr. 279 -- -- OC3c TORPEDO SQUADRON TWO b GLOVER, Wilmer T. 262 27 70 AOM2c b HELDOORN, Johannas C. 401 36 53 AMM1c
b - Missing since 5-8-42.
Report of Casualties
- The following men were killed in action on May 8, 1942 except as noted. Separate report has been submitted by the Commanding Officer, Marine Detachment.
NAME RANK ANDERSON, Richard T. Pfc CARSON, Arthur W. Pfc CORBIN, James J. Pvt HARSHBARGER, John R. Cpl HERZOG, Robert A. Cpl HULSE, Ellis M. Pvt JUSZKOWSKI, Edward J. Pfc LANDWHER, M.L. Pvt KAYFIELD, Leonard S. Pvt b McCARTY, Wallace E. Pfc MILLER, Raymond L. Pvt a NICHELSON, Oliver D. Cpl NORDSTROM, Layne Pfc PREINER, Gerald P. Pfc a SIBLER, Donald J. Pfc SCHUESSEL, Marvin B. Pfc SHERWOOD, Gail M. Pvt SMITH, Elwin E. FM Cpl STULE, James M. Pvt WOODS, Francis M. Pfc ZEMOLA, Henry Pfc
a - Died of wounds on U.S.S. New Orleans 5-8-42. Buried at sea 5-9-42.
b - Died on U.S.S. Solace 5-16-42.
From: The Commanding Officer. To: The Chief of the Bureau of Naval Personnel. Subject: Hospital patients, officers and enlisted men, attached to U.S.S. Lexington. Enclosures: (A) Report of patients transferred to Naval Hospital San Diego, California. (B) Report of patients transferred to U.S.S. Solace
- Enclosures (A) and (B) are forwarded herewith for the information of the Bureau.
Personnel Officer 11th Naval District
Report of Patients Transferred
U.S. Naval Hospital, San Diego, California.
OFFICERS NAME RANK HALL,W.H. Lieut.(jg) U.S.N.R. VS-2 HUNT, J.E. Marine Gunner, USMCR McDONALD, Frank R. Ensign, U.S.N. VB-2 NIXON, T.J. III Lieutenant, U.S.N. PRESTON, C.W. Ensign, U.S.N.R. CCD-1 a SELIGMAN, Morton T. Commander, U.S.N. STUPIN, P. J. Ensign, U.S.N.R. TERRY, Winthrop Lt. Comdr., U.S.N. WHITE, Arthur J. Commander, (MC), U.S.N.
a - Admitted June 10, 1942.
ENLISTED MEN NAME SERVICE NO. RATE ALLRED, Edwin Francis 308 349 Pfc USMC CAMPBELL, Harold Robert 300 05 78 FC2c GERMANY, Thurman D. Pfc USMC HORTON, Dana Norris 204 45 60 ACOM KRICKORIAN, John Levon 382 48 76 Sea1c VT-2 MASSEY, Harold Ambrose 360 30 78 AOM3c VF-2 MAXWELL, Jack Andrew AMM1c VF-2 METTS, Robert "D" 268 54 15 EM3c MIRON, Allen Maurice 382 42 46 Sea2c MONROE, William (n) Pvt USMC ROYAL, John B. 382 50 22 Sea2c RUIZ, John (n) 376 14 57 Sea2c THOMPSON, Norley M. 262 69 07 Sea1c WILLINGHAM, "R" "D" 355 92 66 Cox
The above transfers were made June 2, 1942, except as noted.
Report of Patients Transferred to U.S.S. Solace
|ALBRIGTSON, Donald LeR.||385 47 07||CY(PA)|
|AUGUSTINE, Max P.||372 34 83||Sea2c|
|FRAZIER, James E.||287 57 53||Matt2c|
|HARMON, Willard S.||320 43 44||CEM(PA)|
|JOHNSTON, Julian K.||268 54 03||F1c|
|MISSELDINE, Hark "L"||368 58 47||Sea2c|
|MOSS, Ruffice R.||376 14 79||Sea1c|
|MULLINS, Wayne E.||295 74 18||F1c|
|SELDON, Leland P.||265 74 16||Matt1c|
|STABLER, Kenneth R.||316 44 02||GM1c|
|TONDRE, Clement O.||359 98 18||SF2c|
|THRASHER, Eddie Jr.||268 50 46||Matt2c|
|SKINNER, John W.||Pvt|
|WEBSTER, William P.||Pfc|
NOTE: The above transfers were made May 15, 1942.
May 29, 1942.
From: Ensign C. E. DOWLING. (Senior Officer Present C & R Department.) To: Commanding Officer, U.S.S. LEXINGTON. Via: Executive Officer. Subject: Report of Action of May 8, 1942.
My General Quarters station was Repair I located in No. one (1) Winch Room, forward end of the stack structure.
This Repair Party was responsible for fire fighting, repair of damage and rescue work on the Main Deck, Flight Deck, the Island and Stack Structures.
From my battle station I observed the approach of enemy planes from the Port Side of the Ship and notified the Damage Control Officer in Central Station. The planes dived out of the Sun and launched a torpedo and Bombing Attack. I saw several planes drop torpedoes and felt at least three hit the Ship. About this time a Bomb hit No. two (2) Port Gun Gallery in the vicinity of No. six (6) Gun. After notifying the Damage Control Officer at Central Station I sent two sections of the Repair Party to the scene of the Bomb hit and they immediately went into action fighting fire in and around the Admiral Quarters, and on No. two (2) Gun Gallery. I then received orders to investigate and fight fire in the Port Marine Compartment, the other two sections of Repair I were sent.
Shortly after I received word from the section leader of the first party sent out, that the fire from the Bomb hit was under control, the dead and wounded were being removed to Battle Dressing Stations, and Members of Repair I with HUTCHENS, D. W., CSF, in charge, was inspecting for damage and fires in all rooms and spaces adjacent to the Gun Gallery.
The section leader of the Second Party reported back to Repair Headquarters that the fire was out in the Marine Compartment and shortly after the Chief Petty Officer of the Repair Party reported to Headquarters that all fires were out on the Main deck. He also reported the Extent of Damage as follows:
"The Bomb had hit near No. six (6) Gun and the Ready Locker and exploded. Flight deck was torn up along the edge but the Bomb had not penetrated below the Main Deck but that it had made quite a deep indentation at one point.
Quite a number of men were killed, wounded and burnt on battery two, and several men were knocked down by the blast in the paasageway on the Main Deck. The Damage Control Officer in Central Station was notified of the Extent of damage and that all fires were under control.
In the meantime Repair I was ordered to send Corpsmen with stretchers and assistance to the Machine Gun Station around the top of the stack. One (1) section was sent and they lowered several wounded and dead men to the flight deck and transferred them to the Battle dressing station.
Repair I received several orders in quick succession to investigate fires, assist with wounded in different localities; one being the Coding Room, others the Executive Officers stateroom, Sky Forward, Sky Aft, Gig Boat Pocket and the Wardroom.
After all inspections were made and wounded taken care of the Damage Control Officer in Central was notified.
Central Station then reported to all Repair Parties that the ship was on an even keel and making about 25 knots and that all damage was under control.
I was then ordered by the Damage Control Officer to take a look over the port side of the Ship and try and locate the frame numbers where the torpedoes had entered. I had located one torpedo hit at about frame 90 in wake of the Gig Boat Pocket. The Blister at that point was torn loose, the 20 MM Guns had been thrown back into the Pocket and all life nets in the vicinity were torn loose and hanging. I had started forward but before any further inspections could be made there was a very heavy explosion from below, which I later learned was in the vicinity of the I. C. Room and Central Station. I immediately returned to Repair Party Headquarters and upon arrival there was informed by the J. Z. talker that he could not get Central Station or Repair II Station. I told the talker it may be his phones and to shift to a new set, in the meantime I tried to get in touch with Central Station by Ship Service Phone, also tried to reach Repair II. After failing to get in touch with Repair II or Central I notified Main Control, Repair Parties III, IV, and V, over the J. Z. Phone. Repair I was sent below to assist Repair II and investigate the Explosion.
I was informed by Main Control that all Infornation would be sent to Main Control and all orders issued from there as they were taking over Damage Control.
About 10 minutes later a messenger from Repair I returned to Party Headquarters with the information that Repair I was assisting Repair II to fight fires in and around the C.P.O. Quarters, and in the vicinity of the executive officers office and gunnery office. I was asked to try and get some Rescue Breathers to the scene of the fire and some more men to assist in removing men from the Sick Bay. Rescue Breathers were sent from Repair III and men were sent from the Air Department to Assist in Removing wounded.
Several explosions occurred at irregular intervals and I was informed that the fire main pressure was off. I inspected the Pressure Gauge on the flight deck and found we had about 20 lbs. Repair I notified Main Control and was informed that they had three (3) pumps on the Fire Main. The Repair Party then commenced to shift hoses to different fire plugs. The Risers forward were cut out and all hose connected up aft, as far back as frame 170.
Repair Parties continued to fight fire assisted by other members of the Ships Company but soon all means of fire fighting was exhausted. All the C02 used up and water supply cut off.
We tried unsuccessfully to get the fire under control from the time of the first explosion at about l235 to around 1545.
About 1600, I received orders from the Executive Officer to lower life rafts from the stowage position on the stack and distribute them forward and aft, where they could be launched if necessary. Men were detailed from the third division to prepare rafts on the port side of the ship for lowering, and men from the first and fourth divisions were detailed to lower boats.
Shortly after a destroyer came alongside the starbosrd side and 2, 1½" hoses were led out from her to the flight deck, water was turned on and the hoses turned down into the elevator well. The fire had gotten out of hand by that time and we were ordered to transfer all wounded men to the destroyer and then the Captain gave orders to Abandon Ship.
In conclusion, I would like to state that the old type "B" Rescue Breathers were inadequate for fighting a fire where intense heat prevailed. The rubber lung collapsed and stuck together after a very short time.
Gas masks protected the eyes but men could only stay in smoke filled compartments a short time.
It is hard to pick out any individual men for praise as all hands performed their duty efficiently and cooly but I would like to mention the inspiring leadership, coolness and assistance of the Executive Officer, Commander M.T. Seligman, the attention to duty of the following:
Lieut. (jg) LAIRD - First Division Officer. KARAS, Frank - CBM Repair I Section Leader. HUTCHENS, D.W. - CSF Repair I Section Leader. WITHROW, V.N. - BM2c Repair I WILKERSON, J.L. - SF1c Repair I GINTER, R.E. - SF3c Repair V CHILDERS, W.H. - WT2c Repair I Talker STACY, W.L. - Sea1c Repair II KIRKPATRICK, C.H. - Cox. Repair I DEAN, J.D. - Cox. Repair I
Edwards, K. 0., SF3/c and Miller, S. J., SF2/c were in the forward drainage pump room and remained at their station. They were trapped later by fire and are reported missing.
Ensign, U.S. Navy,
Assistant to 1st Lt.
May 30, 1942.
From: Ensign Gordon Ansell Harrison, D(V)G, USNR. To: Commanding Officer, U.S.S. LEXINGTON. Subject: Report of Action on May 8, 1942.
- My duty in connection with action on May 8, 1942 was Repair III Officer. The repair party station was located in the After Reserve Plane Stowage, therefore the observation of my people and myself were less extensive as that of the Repair Parties located forward.
- During the actual attack upon our ship, there was only one noticeable jar in our sector. I believe that this was the torpedo hit which caused sea water to penetrate into #4 fireroom. There was also heard at least three close bomb misses which were on the port side of the ship aft.
- Immediately after the attack, Central Station ordered Repair III to make a complete inspection of our part of the ship for damage, and that soundings be taken in all voids. The damage was limited to approximately ten shrapnel holes in the hull of the ship on port side, within the Musicians Compartment on the upper half deck. All soundings were found to be normal. Various reports of fires in the after part of the ship were reported from Central Station, but inspections indicated the negative. Central Station ordered that we send support to Repair I in fighting fires at Number TWO 5 inch Battery and in the Marine Compartment on the port side. I sent two sections (20 men) in compliance and they offered valuable support in taking control of those fires.
- After some time there was a report from Central Station that all fires were under control and that the ship was on an even keel. Shortly after this report there was an explosion forward and communications with Central Station and Repair II was lost both on the 2JZ circuit and the ship's service phone. In several minutes Repair IV reported that there was an explosion in Central Station and the Machine Shop. From this time Main Control took charge of damage control operations.
- As a result of explosions forward there raged a fire of considerable intensity in C.P.O. country, and I sent two sections with all available rescue breathers to aid in fighting same. There was no success in bringing that fire under control and all rescue breathers had completely drained all available oxygen. I ordered an inspection of the hanger deck and there was found smoke circulating aft in huge quantities and vision was cut to ten feet with gas mask and flash light. There were no fires in the after part of the ship. I was ordered to have after steering station to take steering control and that station steered the ship for quite a while, with rudder orders forwarded from the Bridge. Smoke commenced to enter the station via ventilation ducts and it was necessary to use gas masks. About this time the ship had lost all steering control and speed. We were soon ordered to top side by Main Control and all of my people reached that destination safely.
"R" Division Officer.
12 May, 1942.
From: Lieutenant Commander G.L. MARKLE (Ch.C) U.S. Navy. To: Commanding Officer, U.S.S. LEXINGTON. Subject: My personal experience in the U.S.S. Lexington, during the battle in the Coral Sea on Friday, May 8, 1942.
- When General Quarters sounded I was on the bridge. Because I was below decks at my Battle Station on all previous engagements with the enemy, I requested permission from the Executive Officer to remain on the bridge to witness this engagement. Permission was granted provided I found a steel helmet to wear. I was unable to locate one, so I went at once to my battle station in the Sick Bay and reported to Commander A. J. White, (MC).
- After four heavy shocks which seemed to raise the ship up as if going over a hump, I realized that I was without my gas mask and with Dr. White's permission I started for my room on the main deck No. 0211 to get it. (Approximately frame 25).
- When I arrived on the main deck I found dust and smoke drifting through the passageways coming from aft. Having reached my room and getting my gas mask, flash light and pen knife, I ran at once to the passageway amidships where I found four men who were nearly naked yelling for help, having been horribly burned. One Filipino cook (or steward) was there in the passageway just aft of the officers head about frame 20 on the main deck, and he helped me get the men on the cots in the passageway and take off the remainder of their clothes and give them a drink of water and a morphine injection.
- I then ran back to my room to call Dr. White and report the conditions I found on the main deck. Dr. White advised me to remain on the main deck and assist the wounded, which I did.
- When I returned to the wounded, (main deck, frame 25), I found a hospital corpsman there administering tannic acid jelly to the patients and generally caring for the wounded, largely cases with severe burns covering large areas of the body. These men kept coming in from the 5" gun galleries on the port bow, sometimes alone and others with the help of a shipmate.
- I believe we had about 12 men on the cots in the passageway when a brief lull came and I went out to the port gun gallery, #2, to see where the wounded men were coming from and what the cause was. There I saw several charred bodies (about four) by #6 gun. They seemed to have been frozen or charred into grotesque statues. Captain Houser, U.S.M.C., was there with a few marines manning #2 gun, which was still able to function.
- I then returned to the wounded on the main deck and found two corpsmen and other helpers busy with the injured, but everyone was then cared for as well as possible under the circumstances.
- I then took a turn through the officers country and met Commander Seligman in the passageway by the Admiral's Cabin. He pointed to an officer in the Admiral's pantry and asked me to look after him while he, Commander Seligman, went on forward. The officer in the pantry proved to be Commander W.W. Gilmore, (SC), USN. With some help I got him out to the passageway and administered first aid (artificial respiration) but to no avail. He apparently was dead when we found him. We covered him with a door curtain and left him beside two other bodies in the main deck passageway by the entrance to the coding office. Then it was, that one of the pharmacists mates reported that he had found Commander Trojakowski, (DC), USN, dead in the same vicinity a few minutes before.
- I was called to help with a man at the foot of the double ladder just aft of the Wardroom on the upper half deck. We turned him over and finding him badly burned, I gave him a hypodermic of morphine and helped to carry him up to the main deck and forward out of the smoke.
- By this time there had been other explosions below and Dr. White and his patients from the sick bay came up to the main deck at about frame 25.
- The main deck passageway was rapidly filling with smoke from below and it was evident that we would have to move the wounded to avoid suffocation. We moved them all to the Captains Cabin where we had the entire deck of all three rooms covered with injured.
- Then, Gunner Whitham was reported to be badly injured down by the gunnery office. Two men volunteered to go down and I insisted on them wearing gas masks. As they reached the ladder leading from the main deck to the forward door of the Wardroom, Gunner Whitham came up the ladder slowly under his own
power, but badly burned and in a state of shock. We helped him to the Captain's Cabin, where we gave him water, a hypodermic, and applied tannic acid jelly to his badly burned body. He appeared to be stunned.
- I then went aft along the starboard side of the main deck from the Executive Officers cabin to the Aviation dressing room, speaking a word of encouragement and assurance to some 40 injured men in bunks along each side of that narrow living compartment aft of the Radio Repair Shop. Although many were badly burned and wounded they were all quite calm. They seemed to know me and appreciate a word of interest and encouragement. I found four in this group who were dead. Dr. Barber and at least one pharmacists mate were working rapidly but quietly in the dressing room.
- I went back to the Captain's Cabin where I helped with the injured, assisting Dr. White, Chief Pharmacists Mate FLEMING and several corpsmen. Eventually we had to move all patients out to the gun gallery on the starboard side when the Captain's Cabin filled with heavy smoke from below. I asked Dr. White if he thought all patients were out and he was uncertain because there were so many and the move was made so rapidly. By that time the Captain's Cabin was filled with a dense smoke and we were unable to see inside. Dr. White and I each put on a gas mask and went in and felt our way around the cabin but neither of us could locate anyone. We then felt certain that all were clear.
- About 15 minutes later we decided to get all of our patients up on the flight deck to clear the gun gallery so that the guns could be effectively fired if another attack was made. To protect the patients from the wind and have them near the boats, I suggested they be transferred again to a spot on the starboard side forward of the stack. This was done with the help of the men on the flight deck.
- After Dr. Barber made a hurried examination of Dr. White, I learned that he had probably sustained a broken collar bone and a badly lacerated ankle when an early explosion knocked him off his feet before leaving the sick bay. I suggested that he get in one of the boats when the injured were taken off and Dr. Barber agreed. This he was unwilling to do, until Dr. Barber and I went to the Captain on the Bridge and got his permission to send Dr. White in a boat with the injured.
- The Captain then ordered all hands to abandon ship. I went to the injured back of the stack to see if I could help and to give the injured water, and found Lt.(jg) Laird and two pharmacists mates who said they were taking charge of loading of the injured. There were plenty of men to assist.
- I then followed instructions from the bridge to go forward and prepare to abandon ship with all others. When only a half dozen men were left on the bow and more than that many lines were available I suggested to Dr. Roach that he go down a line and I followed him off the port bow. There were no boats or rafts available at the time, so I slid down a line and after some difficulty in getting away from the ship I swam about half the distance to the nearest destroyer and then got hold of a raft which was drifting faster than I could swim. Soon a boat came and picked up all of those on that raft and took us to the U.S.S. New Orleans, where I climbed up a cargo net with some helping hands and made the deck. Lieutenant J.T. Bollinger, U.S.N., was with me in the water, on the raft, and in the boat which landed us on the U.S.S. New Orleans.
- I personally know of 20 dead and 65 severely injured officers and men. Minor injuries not estimated.
From: Harry F. Nowack, Carpenter, U.S.N. To: The Commanding Officer, U.S.S. LEXINGTON. Subject: Action, report of 8 May 1942.
- On Station with Repair II in General Machine Shop.
- First underwater explosion (hit) took place and was judged to be aft port side of Repair II (Machine Shop).
- Sent one section to investigate.
- Immediately afterwards I took one man and went to investigate.
- Arrived on the quarter-deck, met Machinist Davidson who stated that he had just flooded the port Gasoline Control Room (Water and C02) because the seams of the outboard bulkhead were leaking. At this time another underwater explosion occurred just forward of the quarter-deck, port side. No damage at quarter-deck area.
- Man from Elevator Control room asked me for permission to secure his station as the forward elevator was out of commission. Told him to secure his station.
- Went up to lower half deck just above quarter-deck - smoke present - no fire in this area. Proceeded forward and met the Outlying section of Repair II, section leader said there was a fire above and it was impossible to fight it as they only had gas masks and the smoke was too heavy. Found one oxygen rescue breather at the outlying station, put same on and proceeded to middle half deck which was heavy laden with smoke - no fire present. Went up to main deck - had fire in Admiral's Cabin extinguished. Assisted in removal of wounded from this area.
- Went down to middle half deck, met my Repair party; they stated that they had inspected all decks and area around damage and that all fires were out.
- Had the high pressure air to the port forward battery cut off.
- Reported to central station that all fires were out and that the Repair party was going to make another thorough inspection of all deck spaces forward.
- Detailed Repair Party men to each deck level and also to take soundings.
- Remained by the after door of J.O. Mess with JV phone talker awaiting the reports of inspection of deck spaces by repair party men.
FIRST INTERNAL EXPLOSION
- About two minutes after detailing the repair party for inspection of deck spaces forward - a large roar and explosion took place, flames of fire covered the office area followed by heavy smoke. The flames of fire looked as if they came from the gunnery office. I had just started to put on my gas mask when the explosion took place, my gas mask was knocked out of my hands, and I had to retreat to the W.O. Mess area. Had fire hose run into this fire area by two repair party men, no water pressure on fire main risers forward. Removed fire hose and closed door at the forward end of J.O. Mess.
Went up to main deck to get another gas mask and a breath of fresh air. Doctor White needed some equipment from the Sick Bay area on 2nd deck. Fleming, Chief Pharmacist's Mate and myself went down and procured same. No fire in Sick Bay Area.
- Fire hose from after fire main risers were run down 5" ammunition scuttles on forward Stbd. gun gallery.
- Ran hoses from after fire main risers to passageway aft of Wardroom and down to Office spaces where fire had gained headway, unable to get down to C.P.O. passageway where fire was also raging. Small explosions were taking place mingling with the explosion of 5" ammunition. Entire Wardroom deck was raised about six inches by first internal explosion.
- Unable to put fire out in office area as each explosion seemed to give the fire more headway. As water pressure dropped the explosions became heavier. Had repair party men leave hoses in compartment for flooding of same.
- All repair party men, Commander Seligman and myself retreated to flight deck.
- Opened battle port on middle half deck, stbd. side of elevator well, entire elevator well was ablaze.
- Recommended to Commander Seligman that Hangar Deck sprinklers be turned on to prevent the fire from spreading aft to the torpedo stowage on the mezzanine deck. Permission was granted. All sprinklers were turned on from the main deck.
- Commander Seligman detailed me to inspect the forward part of the main deck to note the progress of the fire. Entered from door on Starboard forward gun gallery, unable to go into compartment because of the heavy smoke which was hot and similar to steam. Closed door and returned to the flight deck.
H.F. NOWACK, U.S.N.
Repair II Officer.