|UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET|
|A16-3/(010)||TASK UNIT SEVENTEEN TWO TWO||(mem)|
|U.S.S. ASTORIA, Flagship|
May 17, 1942.
From: The Commander Task Unit 17.2.2. To: The Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet. Via: The Commander Task Force 17. Subject: Action report. Reference: (A) Arts. 712 and 874 Navy Regulations 1920. Enclosures: (A) Report of Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Astoria (B) Report of Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Portland (C) Report of Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Chester
- In compliance with reference (a) the following report of action with Japanese aircraft which occurred in the Coral Sea, on May 8, 1942 is submitted herewith together with the reports of the Commanding Officers of the vessels under my command (Enclosures (A), (B) and (C)). This report is not being forwarded via Commander Task Group 17.2 (Rear Admiral T.C. Kincaid, U.S.N.) because of the delay which would be involved due to his separation from this Task Force on other duty.
- The chronological record of events leading up to the action is as follows:
G.C.T. L.C.T 2150 0850 Task Force Commander signaled "Two enemy aircraft carriers bearing 028° T, distance 175 miles". 2216 0916 Yorktown launched air attack group. 2228 0928 Lexington launched air attack group. 2244 0944 Task Force Commander signaled "Go to General Quarters." 2344 1044 Formed cruising disposition "Victor." 2352 1052 Many unidentified aircraft approaching bearing 020° T, distance 68 miles. 2359 1059 Torpedo plane alert. Large attack group 45 miles away, 020° T. 0010 1110 Enemy torpedo planes reported bearing 020° T, distance 22 miles by radar. 0012 1112 Fleet course changed to 125° T, speed 25 knots. 0015 1115 Enemy planes sighted on horizon bearing 042° T, estimated distance 10 miles. 12 planes in a loose formation flying at an estimated altitude of 3,000 - 4,000 feet.
G.C.T. L.C.T 0017 1117 Air attack commenced. All ships of Task Force opened fire as soon as planes were within range. 0031 1131 Attack ended, enemy planes retired to the northward after attacking with torpedoes, bombs and machine guns.
- During the period of the actual attack all ships of this unit maneuvered without signal, in general to parallel the Yorktown and specifically to unmask batteries and avoid bombs. There were no signals hoisted during the action.
- From my personal observation, and from available reports, the attack group consisted of at least 35 planes. Of these there appeared to be 12 - 16 type 99 torpedo planes and 18 - 21 dive bombers. No fighters were seen.
- At least seven and possibly thirteen planes were shot down during the action. Those observed by two or more persons to have been shot down, fell in the positions indicated:
2 close aboard Lexington.
3 within 1,000 yds. of stern of Astoria.
2 ahead of Astoria within 1,000 yds.
Others reported observed by at least one person on Flag Bridge of Astoria:
1 between Yorktown and Lexington.
1 between Yorktown and Astoria.
1 well astern of Lexington.
3 at distances of two to six thousand yards from Astoria.
- Two heavy explosions were noted on the port side of Lexington: One near bow, the other slightly forward of beam. At least twelve near misses were noted on starboard side of Yorktown by overs from dive bombers. Two planes in flames attempted to crash on flight deck of Lexington: One fell short, the other crashed into the port bow.
- The attack differed from those previously reported, in that the attack group broke up into single plane units instead of attack formations of three or more planes. This resulted in a general melee. The torpedo attack was poorly executed. Torpedoes were dropped while in a steep glide and from altitudes of at least 200 - 250 ft. Three torpedoes were
launched at Yorktown from the port quarter and were not again observed. It is possible that they failed to run due to steep glide and high altitude drop. The dive bombing attack was more efficiently executed. At least twelve near misses (over) were observed on starboard side of Yorktown. Dives were steep - 70° - 80° with about 15 seconds between planes. The attack was pressed home with determination. There was no horizontal bombing observed and but few attempts at strafing.
- The performance of the 5" A.A. batteries was uniformly poor. There was much wild shooting with no indication of control other than local. Bursts were in most cases short and ineffective. Other than noise effect on morale it may be assumed that this battery was useless for close range melee.The automatic weapons, 1.1 and 20 m.m. although extremely wild were more effective. At least 85% of the fire observed from these weapons was low and trailing. Failure to lead sufficiently and following the tangent of the tracer trajectory were all too apparent. The only solution is believed to be more practice firing from all angles at high speed towed sleeves. Pointers for 20 m.m. guns should be able-bodied, intelligent, marines, trained in "Duck Shooting."
- The calmness of personnel of the Astoria was admirable. There was no indication of nervousness or hysteria. Bridge and A.A. personnel in exposed stations seemed oblivious to the rain of fragments and bullets from both enemy aircraft and from the guns of our own formation. It seems miraculous that there were no casualties from these sources.
- The handling of Astoria, Portland and Chester was excellent throughout the engagement. At no time did any of these vessels vary appreciably from their assigned stations in the formation. The fact that the Yorktown received only one direct bomb and no torpedo hits is attributed in large measure to the brilliant maneuvering by her Commanding Officer.
- The only personnel casualty in this Task Unit was that reported by Chester, one man seriously injured by premature burst of 20 m.m. shell in hot gun.
- It is noted that the executive officer of Chester was stationed in the same vicinity as the commanding officer during the engagement. The executive officer should be well separated from the commanding officer, preferably in Battle II.
- Material performed satisfactorily throughout the engagement with the exception of the minor casualties reported. The present allowance of 8 magazines per 20 m.m. gun should be increased to 10 - 12 per gun. Control for 1.1 guns should be installed immediately. Those now available at Pearl Harbor for Lexington should be allotted to cruisers.
- The most effective protection from this form of attack, in so far as the stationing of ships is concerned, is an all around screen of cruisers and destroyers at 2,000 to 2,500 yds. Depending upon number of ships available this screen should be as dense as possible but not closer than 30° between ships. Additional destroyers available should form a screen on 4,000 yd. circle at 30° intervals evenly distributed relative to axis. The above stationing should provide maximum protection without restricting maneuvering of either the carrier or each other.
- Inboard batteries of cruiser 5" A.A. guns should by doctrine place fixed umbrella barrage over the carrier at 10-12,000 feet each ship taking that portion of the barrage corresponding to its assigned station. Destroyers on lee side of attack should augment this barrage when practicable.
- There was observed by me no outstanding performance of either officer or enlisted personnel. All hands acquitted themselves in conformance with the best traditions of the naval service.
- It is suggested that the classification of Portland and Astoria report be changed to confidential.
Original: CincPac (1 copy) Copy to: ComTaskFor 17. CO Astoria (Without enclosures) CO Portland (Without enclosures) CO Chester (Without enclosures) C.T.G. 17.2 (Rear Admiral Kincaid)
War diary (3) (Without enclosures)
Last updated: December 2, 2002Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation