U.S. Forces Assemble for Action, 26 May - 3 June 1942



By mid-May 1942 U.S. Pacific Fleet codebreakers, directed by Lieutenant Commander Joseph J. Rochefort, were reporting that the Japanese planned to attack somewhere in the Hawaiian area, as well as in the Aleutians. The carrier Yorktown (CV-5), damaged earlier in the month at the Battle of Coral sea, was already on the way back to Pearl Harbor for repairs. Now, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the Pacific Fleet's commander, recalled his other operational carrier group, Vice Admiral William F. Halsey's Task Force 16 (TF-16), which had gone to the South Pacific after it launched the Doolittle raid on 18 April.

Halsey's two carriers, Enterprise (CV-6) and Hornet (CV-8)., arrived at Pearl Harbor on 26 May, by which time intelligence was certain that Midway was the Japanese target. Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance relieved the ailing Halsey in command, as TF-16 busily got ready to steam the thousand miles up to the Midway area. When it left port on 28 May, the damaged Yorktown was receiving urgent repairs. In a remarkable feat, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard workers had her ready in time to sail with Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher's Task Force 17 (TF-17) on the 30th. Yorktown received a new air group, formerly belonging to USS Saratoga (CV-3), though some elements of her previous air squadrons remained on board.

These late May departures beat the Japanese to the punch. They had planned to place submarines to watch for an American sortie from Pearl Harbor, but didn't expect that to happen so soon, and the Japanese subs were not yet on station. Admiral Nimitz, whose intelligence had given him the enemy's plans, took care to cover Midway and its approaches with a strong force of his own submarines.

After refueling at sea, TF-16 and TF-17 rendezvoused some three hundred miles northeast of Midway on 2 June and prepared to meet the Japanese. Search flights were sent out to guard against unexpected developments. Spruance and Fletcher planned to operate their forces separately, though never very far apart. Their presence unsuspected by the enemy, they were in position to make a surprise flank attack on the Japanese carrier force when it came into range two days later.


This page presents views of the U.S. Task Forces at Pearl Harbor, and provides links to images of their aircraft and of their passage to the Midway area.

Photographs of U.S. carrier planes at Hawaiian bases prior to departure for Midway, and of the carrier task forces while transiting to the battle zone:


Click photograph for larger image.

Photo #: 80-G-66132

USS Hornet (CV-8)


Enters Pearl Harbor, 26 May 1942. She left two days later to take part in the Battle of Midway.
Photographed from Ford Island Naval Air Station, with two aircraft towing tractors parked in the center foreground.

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

Online Image: 123KB; 740 x 615

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: 80-G-66129

USS Hornet (CV-8)


At Pearl Harbor, 26 May 1942, just after the Battle of Coral Sea, and just before the Battle of Midway.
Harbor tug Nokomis (YT-142) is underway alongside her.
Note paint chipped off Hornet's waterline area by wave action while at sea.

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

Online Image: 71KB; 740 x 620

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: 80-G-66128

USS Vincennes (CA-44)


At Pearl Harbor, circa 26-28 May 1942, prior to departing to take part in the Battle of Midway.
A Curtiss SOC floatplane is in the left foreground.

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

Online Image: 44KB; 740 x 595

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: 80-G-21931

USS Yorktown (CV-5)


Arrives at Pearl Harbor after the Battle of Coral Sea, 27 May 1942, with her crew paraded in whites on the flight deck. After repairs, she departed on 30 May to take part in the Battle of Midway.
The tug Hoga (YT-146) is in the center foreground. The mainmast of the sunken USS Arizona (BB-39) is visible in the distance, just right of Yorktown's stern.

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

Online Image: 53KB; 740 x 595

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: 80-G-66118

USS Astoria (CA-34)


Arriving at Pearl Harbor with Task Force 17, 27 May 1942, following the Battle of Coral Sea and shortly before the Battle of Midway.
Her crew is in whites, paraded at quarters on the forecastle, and a motor launch is being lowered by her port boat crane.
Photographed by Photographer 3rd Class T.E. Collins, USN.

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

Online Image: 145KB; 740 x 615

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: 80-G-13065

USS Yorktown (CV-5)


In Dry Dock # 1 at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, 29 May 1942, receiving urgent repairs for damage received in the Battle of Coral Sea. She left Pearl Harbor the next day to participate in the Battle of Midway.
USS West Virginia (BB-48), sunk in the 7 December 1941 Japanese air attack, is being salvaged in the left distance.

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

Online Image: 88KB; 740 x 620

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 


For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions





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