08 May 1942
Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-564 torpedoed and sank US freighter Ohioan 10 kilometers north of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States, killing 15 of 37 aboard. On the same day, German submarine U-136 sank Canadian sailing ship Mildred Pauline with the deck gun off Nova Scotia, Canada
German submarine U-507 torpedoed and sank Norwegian cargo ship Torny in the Gulf of Mexico.
Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS Olympus departed Malta ferrying crews of sunken submarines HMS Pandora, HMS P36, and HMS P39, sailing for Gibraltar; HMS Olympus struck a mine off Valetta harbour and sank later on this date; 89 were killed, 9 survived.
Abigail class Royal Navy fast minelayer HMS Welshman, disguised as a French destroyer, departed Gibraltar with RAF personnel and 240 tons of supplies for Malta.
London , UK : The War Cabinet ordered a new Libyan offensive to capture Derna airfields so Malta convoys can be covered from air which General Claude Auchinleck Middle Eastt Commander in Chief despite his numerical superiorty rejected it , displaying confidence for defending Gazala and Tobruk on Gazala line but not an offensive into Cyreneica
Rostock , Germany : 193 British bombers (98 Wellington, 27 Stirling, 21 Lancaster, 19 Halifax, 19 Hampden, 9 Manchester) from RAF Bomber Command attacked Warnemünde, Rostock, Germany; the primary target was the nearby Heinkel aircraft factory; 19 British bombers were shot down by German anti aircraft guns or Luftwaffe night fighters during this attack.
Norwich , UK : During night Luftwaffe bombers attacked Norwich, England, United Kingdom
Crimea , Ukraine : The German 11th Army under command of General Erich Manstein began a huge Crimean offensive (code named Operation Bustard) to drive Soviet 51st Army out of Kerch Peninsula before initiating final offensive to capture Sevastapol next month.
Soviet light cruiser Voroshilov bombarded German troop positions near Tash-Alchin, Russia.
Madagascar , Indian Ocean : Vichy French submarine Monge attacked Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable off Diego-Suárez, Madagascar at 0756 hours; all torpedoes missed. Royal Navy destroyers HMS Active and HMS Panther counterattacked and sank Monge with depth charges.
Italian cargo ships Duca Degli Abruzzi and Somalia were scuttled by their crews in Diego Suarez harbour to avoid capture
On Madagascar , Vichy garrison continued to retreat to south and east of the island.
Burma : Japanese 15th Army troops captured Myitkyina, Burma.
Cocos Island , Indian Ocean : Thirty soldiers of the Ceylon Garrison Artillery based on the Cocos Islands, an Indian Ocean territory of Australia, mutinied, intending to hand the islands over to the Japanese. The mutiny was put down by the Ceylon Light Infantry and ultimately fifteen rebels faced courts martial with three of the leading mutineers later executed.
South China Sea : American submarine USS Skipjack attacked a small Japanese convoy, torpedoed and sinking Japanese transport ship Bujun Maru and damaging transport ship Taiyu Maru in the South China Sea 140 miles northeast of Cam Rahn Bay, French Indochina; six torpedoes were expended in this attack, three of which found their targets.
Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Grenadier torpedoed and sank Japanese troop transport Taiyo Maru 140 miles southwest of Japan. 660 passangers and 160 crew members were killed in sinking. Taiyo Maru was carrying geologists and oil experts to the Dutch East Indies to survey sites for oil production.
Coral Sea , South West Pacific : Japanese and US carrier fleets at Coral Sea discovered each other in the morning with accurate search reports from their respective recon flights this time , each closing in to attack. At 09:15, the Japanese carriers under command of Admiral Takagi launched a combined strike of 18 fighters, 33 dive bombers, and 18 torpedo planes. The U.S. carriers each launched a separate strike. USS Yorktown 's group consisted of six fighters, 24 dive bombers, and nine torpedo planes and was on its way by 09:15. USS Lexington 's group of nine fighters, 15 dive bombers, and 12 torpedo planes was off at 09:25. Both the U.S. and Japanese carrier warship forces turned to head directly for each other’s location at high speed in order to shorten the distance their aircraft would have to fly on their return legs
Yorktown 's dive bombers, led by William O. Burch, reached the Japanese carriers at 10:32, and paused to allow the slower torpedo squadron to arrive so that they could conduct a simultaneous attack. At this time, Japanese aircraft carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku were about 10,000 yd (9,100 m) apart, with Zuikaku hidden under a rain squall of low-hanging clouds. The two carriers were protected by 16 CAP (Combat Air Patrol) Zero fighters for air defence. The Yorktown dive bombers commenced their attacks at 10:57 on Shōkaku and hit the radically maneuvering Japanese carrier with two 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs, tearing open the forecastle and causing heavy damage to the carrier’s flight and hangar decks. The Yorktown TBD Devestator torpedo planes missed with all of their ordnance. Two U.S. Dauntless dive bombers and two CAP Zeros were shot down during the attack. Lexington 's aircraft arrived the scene and attacked at 11:30. Two SBD Dauntless dive bombers attacked Shōkaku , hitting Japanese carrier with one more 1,000 lb (450 kg) bomb, causing further damage. Two other dive bombers dove on Zuikaku , missing with their bombs. The rest of Lexington’s dive bombers were unable to find the Japanese carriers in the heavy clouds. Lexington 's TBD Devestator torpedo bombers missed Shōkaku with all 11 of their torpedoes. The 13 Japanese CAP Zero fighters defending Japanese carrier group on patrol at this time shot down three US Wildcat fighters
Japanese carrier Shokaku was damaged by three bombs at between 1030 and 1057 hours (223 casualties), One bomb hit tore open the port bow and started a fire in the forecastle. The second bomb struck the end of the flight deck to starboard. The third hit the starboard side of the rear of the island, damaging gun tubs and the mainmast. Large fires broke out. She was able to evade all torpedoes successfully. Escorted by Japanese destroyers Ushio and Yugure, she was detached and was able to evacuate the battle area at full speed. 108 officers and men were killed by the fires and explosions, and another 40 wounded. With her flight deck heavily damaged and 223 of her crew killed or wounded, having also suffered explosions in her gasoline storage tanks and an engine repair workshop destroyed, Shōkaku was unable to conduct further aircraft operations. Her captain, Takatsugu Jōjima, requested permission from Takagi and Hara to withdraw from the battle, to which Takagi agreed. At 12:10, Shōkaku, accompanied by two destroyers, retired to the northeast.
Meanwhile At 10:55, USS Lexington’s CXAM-1 radar detected the inbound Japanese aircraft at a range of 68 nmi (78 mi; 126 km) and vectored nine Wildcat fighters to intercept. Expecting the Japanese torpedo bombers to be at a much lower altitude than they actually were, six of the Wildcats were stationed too low, and thus missed the Japanese aircraft as they passed by overhead. Because of the heavy losses in aircraft suffered the night before, the Japanese could not execute a full torpedo attack on both carriers. Lieutenant Commander Shigekazu Shimazaki, commanding the Japanese torpedo planes, sent 14 Kate torpedo bombers to attack USS Lexington and four to attack USS Yorktown. An US Wildcat fighter on CAP patrol shot down one and patrolling SBD Dauntless dive bombers (eight from Yorktown, 15 from Lexington) destroyed three more as the Japanese torpedo planes descended to take attack position. In return, escorting Japanese Zero fighters shot down four Yorktown SBD Dauntless dive bombers.
The Japanese attack began at 11:13 as US carriers, stationed 3,000 yd (2,700 m) apart, and their escorts opened fire with anti-aircraft guns. The four torpedo planes which attacked USS Yorktown all missed. The remaining torpedo planes successfully employed a pincer attack on USS Lexington, which had a much larger turning radius than USS Yorktown, and, at 11:20, hit her with two Type 91 torpedoes. The first torpedo buckled the port aviation gasoline stowage tanks. Undetected, gasoline vapors spread into surrounding compartments. The second torpedo ruptured the port water main, reducing water pressure to the three forward firerooms and forcing the associated boilers to be shut down. The ship could still make 24 kn (28 mph; 44 km/h) with her remaining boilers. Four of the Japanese torpedo planes were shot down by US anti-aircraft fire.
The 33 Japanese dive bombers circled to attack from upwind, and thus did not begin their dives from 14,000 ft (4,300 m) until three to four minutes after the torpedo planes began their attacks. The 19 Shōkaku dive bombers, under Takahashi, lined up on USS Lexington while the remaining 14, directed by Tamotsu Ema, targeted USS Yorktown. Escorting Zeros shielded Takahashi’s aircraft from four Lexington CAP Wildcat fighters which attempted to intervene, but two Wildcats circling above USS Yorktown were able to disrupt Ema’s formation. Takahashi’s bombers damaged USS Lexington with two bomb hits and several near misses, causing fires which were contained by 12:33. At 11:27, USS Yorktown was hit in the centre of her flight deck by a single 250 kg (550 lb), semi-armour-piercing bomb which penetrated four decks before exploding, causing severe structural damage to an aviation storage room and killing or fatally wounding 66 men, as well as damaging the superheater boilers which rendered them inoperable. Up to 12 near misses damaged USS Yorktown’s hull below the waterline. Two of the Japanese dive bombers were shot down by US Wildcat fighters during the attack.
As the Japanese aircraft completed their attacks and began to withdraw, believing that they inflicted fatal damage to both carriers, they ran a gauntlet of CAP Wildcats and SBDs. In the ensuing aerial duels, three SBDs and three Wildcats for the U.S., and three torpedo bombers, one dive bomber, and one Zero for the Japanese were downed. By 12:00, the U.S. and Japanese strike groups were on their way back to their respective carriers.
American carrier USS Lexington was hit by two bombs and two air launched torpedos at 1120 hours (191 killed; would soon be lost) and American carrier USS Yorktown was hit by a bomb (66 casualties). At 1247 hours while USS Lexington already damaged by bombs and torpedos at ninety minutes ago was drifting but salvagable , the leaking gasoline fumes inside the vessel was detonated by fire, causing a huge explosion killing a further 25. At 1707 hours, the 2,735 survivors abandoned ship, and the carrier was scuttled by 5 torpedoes from destroyer USS Phelps at 1915 hours.
During afternoon off Port Moresby, Australian cruiser force Task Force 44 under command of Rear Admiral Crace was itself attacked by 20 land-based US Army Airforce B-26 bombers but survived from this friendly attack without any damage as it blocked the Japanese invasion fleet for Port Moresby, New Guinea.
During afternoon as Task Force 17 recovered its aircraft, Admiral Fletcher assessed the situation. The returning aviators reported they heavily damaged one carrier, but that another had escaped damage. Fletcher noted that both his carriers were heavily damaged (USS Lexington fatally as it later revealed) and that his air groups had suffered high fighter losses. Fuel was also a concern due to the loss of Neosho. Believing that he faced overwhelming Japanese carrier superiority, Fletcher elected to withdraw Task Force 17 from the battle. Around 14:30, Admiral Takagi informed Admiral Inoue that only 24 Zeros, eight dive bombers, and four torpedo planes from the carriers were currently operational. Takagi was worried about his ships’ fuel levels; his cruisers were at 50% and some of his destroyers were as low as 20%. At 15:00, Takagi notified Inoue his fliers had sunk two U.S. carriers – Yorktown and a “Saratoga-class” – but heavy losses in aircraft meant he could not continue to provide air cover for the invasion. Inoue, whose reconnaissance aircraft sighted Crace’s ships from Task Force 44 earlier that day, recalled the invasion convoy to Rabaul, postponed MO to 3 Jul. Zuikaku and her escorts turned towards Rabaul while critically damaged Shōkaku headed for Japan for repairs.
As both sides withdrew due to damage and losses, the Japanese scored a tactical victory, but lost strategic momentum as the invasion plan of Port Moresby must now be delayed. Two days later Admiral Yamamato angered by hesistancy of Admiral Inouye , ordered Japanese carrier group (only carrier Zuikaku) to return to Coral Sea and sweep the remants of enemy fleet but Task Force 17 was already on its way back to Hawaii and Admiral Crace’s Task Force 44 cruiser group retreated back to Australia so on 12th May Admiral Tagaki had to return back to Truk empty handed to replace casaulties of Zuikaku (which suffered heavy air crew losses that would take months to replace) Badly damaged USS Yorktown returned back to Pearl Harbour on 26 May and put into damage repair immediately that would last three days and night so she could participate Midway operation.
At the other side of the hill , severely damaged Japanese carrier Shōkaku reached Kure, Japan, on 17 May, almost capsizing en route during a storm due to her battle damage. Zuikaku arrived at Kure on 21 May, having made a brief stop at Truk on 15 May. Acting on signals intelligence, the U.S. placed eight submarines along the projected route of the carriers’ return paths to Japan, but the submarines were not able to make any attacks. Japan’s Naval General Staff estimated that it would take two to three months to repair Shōkaku and replenish the both carriers’ air groups. Thus, both carriers would be unable to participate in Yamamoto’s upcoming Midway operation
Both sides publicly claimed victory after the battle. In terms of ships lost, the Japanese won a tactical victory by sinking a U.S. fleet carrier, an oiler, and a destroyer – 41,826 long tons (42,497 t) – versus a light carrier, a destroyer, and several smaller warships – 19,000 long tons (19,000 t) – sunk by the U.S. side. A total of 564 US Navy personnel were lost while Japanese manpower losses were 1.077. And US Navy lost 66 aircraft , Japanese Navy and Japanese Army Air Force in total lost 77 aircraft. Japan was forced as a result of her losses in the air battle, particularly of highly trained and experienced pilots, to call a halt to her southward expansion. At the other hand the loss of USS Lexington represented, at that time, 25% of U.S. carrier strength in the Pacific. The Japanese public was informed of the victory with overstatement of the U.S. damage and understatement of their own.
From a strategic perspective, however, the battle was an Allied victory as it averted the seaborne invasion of Port Moresby, lessening the threat to the supply lines between the U.S. and Australia. Although the withdrawal of Yorktown from the Coral Sea conceded the field, the Japanese were forced to abandon the operation that had initiated the Battle of the Coral Sea in the first place. For the Japanese, who focused on the tactical results, the battle was seen as merely a temporary setback. The results of the battle confirmed the low opinion held by the Japanese of U.S. fighting capability and supported their overconfident belief that future carrier operations against the U.S. were assured of success (which would hamper them in incoming Midway and Gudalcanal Campaigns)
The battle marked the first time that a Japanese invasion force was turned back without achieving its objective, which greatly lifted the morale of the Allies after a series of defeats by the Japanese during the initial six months of the Pacific Theatre. Port Moresby was vital to Allied strategy and its garrison could well have been overwhelmed by the experienced Japanese invasion troops.
Samoa Islands , South West Pacific : The US 3rd Marine Brigade convoy arrived off Apia, American Samoa; its commander assumed military control of Western Samoa.
Pearl Harbour , Hawaii : Joseph Rochefort’s cryptanalytic team in Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii detected hints that Japanese Navy fleet carriers and battleships were being attached, suggesting a large operation was being planned.