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Bombing Attack on Japanese Aircraft Carrier Shokaku 8 may 1942
Bombing Attack on Japanese Aircraft Carrier Shokaku 8 may 1942

Japanese Losses at Coral Sea

The Battle of the Coral Sea once again delayed the Japanese' planned operation against Port Moresby, and the key port still remained in allied hands. It had not been an equal trade, in terms of ship losses, the light carrier Shoho for the fleet carrier USS Lexington (CV -2), the oiler USS Neosho (AO-23) and the destroyer USS Sims (DD 409) , but the efforts of Yorktown's and Lexington's airmen had cost the Japanese the services of two fleet carriers, Shokaku and Zuikaku, and valuable planes and pilots when they could least afford to lose them. Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, however, was confident that he had the tools necessary to tackle the next task at hand-his Midway-bound armada formed around the veterans of the 1st Air Fleet, Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu.

On May 27, 1942 the Japanese striking force, arrogantly confident, stood out of the Inland Sea, bound for the central Pacific. Appropriately for the enemy, May 27 was "Navy Day," a date upon which Japanese sailors toasted the glory of Imperial Japan. Navy Day, 1942, was the occassion to hail Japan's new world position and to rededicate the nation's naval heroes of today who have brought the nation even greater glory than in the past.

The Japanese were confident in their ability to defeat the Allied forces despite the great losses at Coral Sea. The Japanese had suffered the most losses on May 4 when four gunboats, one cargo ship or transport, two destroyers were all destroyed. Also damaged on May 4 was one aircraft tender. Japan also suffered other losses on May 8 that included the carrier Shoho and one light cruiser. The carrier Shokaku was also damaged. The aircraft that was destroyed included 33 fighters, 3 four-engined patrol bombers, five floatplanes, 16 dive bombers, 17 torpedo planes, and 30 planes on board Shoho. The United States also suffered losses to include the Lexington, Neosho, and Sims. It was also estimated that the Untied States lost 543 personnel losses; whereas the Japanese suffered between 2,000 to more than 5,000 lossess.

Despite these losses on both sides, the Japanese lost no time in glorying over what they thought was a "smashing victory," indeed, "one of the greatest naval battles of all time." On May 9, Japanese newspapers claimed victory at Coral Sea. They claimed that Imperial Japanese naval forces, sunk two enemy aircraft carriers, and a battleship and another enemy battleship and an A-class cruiser were severely damaged" in the Coral Sea. "Two American carriers, USS Saratoga (CV-3) and Yorktown sunk," a headline proclaimed; "Japan wins again," declared Japan Times.

Japanese naval commentators scored American tactics as "idiotic," and predicted that the battle spelled the doom of the U.S. Navy. Over the ensuing days, articles and editorials continued to call the battle a stunning victory for Japan, and chided the Americans and their Allies for hiding the truth from their people.

So confident were the Japanese in the belief that they had rendered the U.S. Navy powerless to stop them in the Pacific, that on May 12, Yamamoto issued the operations orders directing the seizure of the Midway Islands.

 

Courtesy of the Naval Historical Center; Robert Cressman - "That Gallant Ship - USS Yorktown (CV-5)"

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