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After scouts from USS Lexington located the Japanese carriers, she launched an attacking force of twelve torpedo planes, twenty-two bombers and nine fighters. USS Yorktown sent off nine torpedo planes, twenty-four bombers and eight fighters. The latter's aircraft found Shokaku in relatively open weather and attacked first, just before 11 AM. The torpedo planes made no hits, an early indication of serious problems with American aerial torpedos. However, the dive bombers connected twice, one bomb striking well aft and the second forward, starting a large fire.

Lexington's attack group was mis-directed to an incorrect location and had to search for their target. Only some of these planes found the enemy, also Shokaku, and hit her with another bomb. Once again, the torpedo planes did not score. With her flight deck so damaged as to preclude launching aircraft, though they could still land on board, the Japanese carrier was no longer combat effective. A few hours later, she was ordered to steam home for repairs.