Battle of the Coral Sea, 7-8 May 1942
Preliminary Activities



Good communications intelligence allowed the U.S. Pacific Fleet to prepare to meet the planned Japanese offensive against Port Moresby, though available resources provided little margin for error. The freshly overhauled carrier Lexington (CV-2), rushed out from Pearl Harbor, joined USS Yorktown in the probable action area on 1 May, doubling Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher's carrier forces and bringing along another experienced flag officer, Rear Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch. These carriers and their consorts engaged in several days of refueling from the oilers Neosho (AO-23) and Tippecanoe (AO-21), while awaiting the arrival of two Australian cruisers to reinforce the six already on hand.

On 3 May a small Japanese naval force carried out a landing at Tulagi, on the northern side of the Coral Sea, where they quickly established a seaplane base to provide reconnaissance deeper into Allied waters. Leaving Lexington behind and detaching Neosho to join her, Rear Admiral Fletcher took Yorktown off to interfere with the landings. On the morning of the 4th, his planes hit the invasion force. Though results were modest, to some extent due to humid air fogging the dive bombers' sights, the destroyer Kikuzuki was fatally damaged and a few other ships and seaplanes were sunk.

Fletcher then turned back south, rejoining Fitch on the 5th to top off his fuel tanks. The Japanese were now advancing into the Coral Sea with the Port Moresby Invasion Force and the separate Covering Force and aircraft carrier Striking Force. Both the American and Japanese carrier commanders spent the 6th moving westward, unaware just how close they had come -- at one point they were but 70 miles apart!

This page features views of the Battle of the Coral Sea's preliminary activities, 1-6 May 1942.

For views of the salvaged Japanese destroyer Kikuzuki, sunk at Tulagi as a result of Yorktown's 4 May 1942 air attacks and later raised by the U.S. Navy, see: Kikuzuki (Japanese destroyer, 1926-1942).

Links to additional pictorial coverage Battle of the Coral Sea, 7-8 May 1942 - Overview and Special Image Selection.


Click photograph for larger image.

Photo #: 80-G-464653

USS Neosho (AO-23)


Refueling USS Yorktown (CV-5), 1 May 1942, shortly before the Battle of Coral Sea.
Note use of Yorktown's aircraft crane to support her end of the refueling rig.
Neosho was bombed by Japanese carrier planes on 7 May 1942 and scuttled on 11 May.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Online Image: 104KB; 740 x 610

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: 80-G-13106

USS Neosho (AO-23)


A wave breaks over her main deck, engulfing the hose crew, as she refuels USS Yorktown (CV-5) in early May 1942, shortly before the Battle of Coral Sea.
Neosho was lost in that battle.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Online Image: 152KB; 740 x 625

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: 80-G-16444

USS Neosho (AO-23)


Scene on her main deck in early May 1942, as she refueled USS Yorktown (CV-5) in heavy seas shortly before the Battle of Coral Sea.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, U.S. National Archives.

Online Image: 117KB; 740 x 615

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 


For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions





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