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Coral Sea An Important Battle

1086 words - 5 pages

In the spring of 1942, Japan's leaders faced a dilemma. Their conquest had progressed faster than expected; the problem was what to do next.Some military leaders suggested that Japan strike the wartorn British Empire in India and the Middle East, then link up with German forces in Southern Russia and North Africa. Take Australia, counseled the Japanese Navy, this was the obvious starting point for an Allied counterattack.The Army opposed both ideas. Japan's ground troops were already stretched thin. Either campaign would weaken them even more. In early March, a less grandiose plan was accepted. Japan would extend its empire southeast, cutting the sea lanes between Australia and America by ...view middle of the document...

But on the morning of May 7, an excited Japanese search pilot reported a U.S. carrier and cruiser. Dozens of bombers were launched from the carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku, only to find two small U.S. ships, the destroyer Sims and the oiler Neosho. Disappointed Japanese pilots flew off to find the main U.S. force. When that quest failed, they returned to bomb the two small ships. The Sims went down in less than a minute; the Neosho was left burning and helplessly adrift.Thirty minutes later, 200 miles to the northeast, Lieutenant Commander W. L. Hamilton from the Lexington was flying at 15,000 feet when he spotted "a number of thin white hairs on the blue sea." Following the wakes with his field glasses, he sighted the carrier Shoho with its escort of cruisers and destroyers, 30 miles away.Air Group Commander William Ault led his bombers down first. Numerous bombs and torpedoes ripped into the small carrier. Flames seared the flight deck. Half an hour into the attack, the Shoho's power died, the water pumps failed, and fires spread out of control. The order was given: abandon ship. Four minutes later, nothing remained but an oily black stain on the emerald waters. For the first time in history, a Japanese carrier had been sunk.Back on the U.S. carricrs, sailors and air crews crowded around radios for news of the atrack. Snatches of pilot conversations conveyed more transmission static than information until Lt. Commander Robert Dixon's voice suddenly burst through loud and clear. "Scratch one flattop." The men roared i n triumph.Rain clouds temporarily halted the hostilities, but planes from both fleets took off early the next morning in search of the enemy. By noon, both sides scored. Thirry-nine planes from the Yorktown descended on the Japanese carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku. But the American pilots, making their first attack on a well-defended carrier, fared poorly. Dive-bombers waited for torpedo planes to get into position, which gave the Shokaku time to launch several Zeroes...

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