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Hero Ships: USS Yorktown: Night Attack

Hero Ships: USS Yorktown: Night Attack



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USS Yorktown CV-10 at Patriots Point

USS Yorktown is a familiar name to many, but this is not the heroic Yorktown that was sunk in the Battle of Midway in June 1942. That was USS Yorktown CV-5¹, first of the Yorktown-class of carriers.

This is CV-10, one of the Essex-class carriers, whose keel had been laid at the end 1941 and was due to be named “USS Bon Homme Richard”². Instead it was decided to honour CV-5’s loss by naming her Yorktown.

CV-10 was commissioned in April 43 just 16 months after her keel was laid, and fought in several operations in the Pacific. She went on to fight in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. In 1968 she was the recovery ship for the Apollo 8 (around the moon & back) space mission. She appeared in two movies: Tora! Tora! Tora! (about the attack on Pearl Harbor) and The Philadelphia Experiment (sci-fi time travel). She was decommissioned in 1970 and towed to Patriots point in 1975.

USS Yorktown has a collection of older WW2 & Korean war aircraft protected from the elements on her hanger deck, while the Cold War jets and more modern aircraft are on her flight deck. Both spaces are enormous and you can spend a lot of time here. You can just visit under you own steam, using , or not, an audio guide system to tell you about the exhibits and spaces in the ship. The audio guides have over 3½ hours of technical descriptions and personal testaments from veterans on 100 points around the ship. There are also docent-led tours at certain times of the day.

Well there were a number of aircraft I don’t get to see that often, or at all, like the outlandish and ahead-of-its-time Grumman E-1 Tracer with its huge radome on top – the US Navy’s first Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft. Then there’s the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) aircraft: the Grumman S2 Tracker and its successor the S3 Viking. How many of these have I spotted in European aviation museums? None!

The fabulous Grumman E-1 Tracer (Swipe left or click arrow for more…)

F14-A Tomcat (Where’s Tom Cruise when you need him?)

The most up-to-date jet on the flight deck – an F-18 A Hornet

And who could not love the Grumman A6 Intruder – the unsung reliable all-weather hero of naval aviation in the Cold War era. Although the version I would love to have seen is the Electronic Warfare version, the EA6 Prowler. (Pretty rare, but there is a Prowler in next door North Carolina)

Down below in the hanger there are some more cool aircraft. The US Navy Corsair, Wildcat and Hellcat fighters were also flown by the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, so you can see examples of those over on this side of the Atlantic, but I can’t recall seeing a Douglas A1 Skyraider up close, nor a Douglas Dauntless dive bomber – the aircraft that had such a devastating impact on the Japanese carriers at Midway.

Hanger deck (Swipe left or click arrow for more…)

Douglas Dauntless dive bomber – the scourge of the Imperial Japanese Navy

AA Guns from sister-ship USS Franklin – the most heavily damaged US carrier to survive the war

Replica of John Glenn’s Friendship 7 space capsule. Yorktown was the recovery ship for the Apollo 8 capsule, of which there is also a replica on display

Other interesting parts of the ship included a quick visit to the pulleys, blocks and pistons of the hydraulic catapult system³, and the nuclear weapons store that used to be guarded by armed marines.

Squadron ‘Ready Room’ (Swipe left or click arrow for more…)

Yorktown’s hydraulic catapult gear

Marine guard detachment office

It turns out her grandfather was none other than Charles Rumney Samson (I didn’t know!), who, on 10th January 1912 became the first British pilot to take off from a ship, flying a Short Improved S.27 from a ramp mounted on the fore-deck of the battleship HMS Africa, while at anchor in the river Medway.

And yes, on 9 May the same year he became the first pilot to take off from a moving ship, using the same ramp and aircraft, now fitted to the battleship HMS Hibernia.

“So, in a way, we are all standing here, thanks, in part, to my grandad!” she pointed out.

Hat tip: Here’s to Frances’ grandad!


Edward Merritt Hughes was born on 28 January 1850 in Lockbourne, Ohio, the son of merchant Abram A. Hughes. He was appointed to the United States Naval Academy in 1866 and graduated on 7 June 1870. He passed through the grades of Ensign, Master, Lieutenant, Lieutenant Commander, and, on 3 March 1901, was commissioned Commander. [1]

After service on a number of ships and stations ashore, he reached the high point in his career during the Spanish–American War. He was Executive Officer of USS Petrel during the Battle of Manila Bay. Immediately after the action, he commanded a small boat which boarded and set fire to five Spanish ships lying in Cavite Harbor, despite reports that fuses had been set to their magazines and in the face of a large and excited armed force on shore nearby. He was advanced five numbers in rank for eminent and conspicuous conduct on this occasion. His commanding officer later wrote, "The action of Lieutenant Hughes in setting fire to the enemy's sunken ships in the face of a well armed superior, but demoralized force, was the one act of conspicuous gallantry which the battle that day afforded." [1]

Commander Hughes died in the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokohama, Japan on 28 September 1903. [2]

Hughes was laid down on 15 September 1937 by Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine launched on 17 June 1939 sponsored by Mrs. Edward M. Hughes, widow of Commander Hughes and commissioned at Boston Navy Yard, on 21 September 1939, Lieutenant Commander Donald J. Ramsey in command.

Interwar period Edit

Following shakedown in the Gulf of Mexico, Hughes joined the Atlantic Fleet. From July 1940 to December 1941, Hughes served in the Atlantic, first on patrol off Martinique to watch Vichy French Forces there and then on Neutrality patrol off Iceland. During this time, she became the first American destroyer to escort a British convoy all the way to England.

World War II Edit

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, warships were urgently needed in the Pacific and Hughes sailed from Norfolk, Virginia on 18 December 1941, arriving San Diego, California in company with Yorktown, on 30 December. She departed San Diego on 12 January 1942 as an escort for ships bringing reinforcements to Samoa. Hughes then sailed from Samoa as part of a carrier striking force built around carrier Yorktown. She screened the carrier in strikes on Jaluit, Makin, Mili, and Canton Islands, then supported the combined LexingtonYorktown Task Force 17 (TF17), as it attacked Japanese bases at Lae and Salamaua on 10 March 1942. Missing the Battle of the Coral Sea while escorting a tanker carrying fuel to Nouméa, Hughes reached Pearl Harbor in time to participate in the Battle of Midway.

Hughes, while protecting Yorktown during this action, shot down two torpedo planes and assisted in shooting down two others. After Yorktown was hit on 4 June, Hughes continued an all-night vigil to prevent her capture. When the carrier was torpedoed by a submarine on 6 June, Hughes helped damage the attacker with depth charges, and rescued the survivors when Yorktown sank the next day.

After a brief time as convoy escort, she joined American Forces at Guadalcanal, where she screened Hornet throughout the campaign. During the Battle of Santa Cruz. Hughes splashed one Japanese plane and assisted in downing two more. Despite her valiant efforts, Hornet was hit and sunk on 27 October 1942. Joining TF 16 on 10 November 1942, Hughes participated in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal by screening Enterprise. Hughes continued screening operations until the end of February 1943.

Following a refit and brief convoy duty, Hughes was detached from the South Pacific and sailed to Pearl Harbor, departing on 18 April for the Aleutian Islands and arrived on the 24. Bombardments of Kiska from 6–22 July were high points of her months in northern waters. After Kiska was occupied, Hughes departed the Aleutians for overhaul on 25 August in San Francisco, California.

Following overhaul, Hughes sailed for Pearl Harbor on 26 October to prepare for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. She sailed on 10 November as part of the screen for the escort carriers covering the invasion of Makin Atoll. When Liscome Bay was sunk on 24 November, Hughes rescued 152 of the survivors. She began screening the transport group on 27 November, and 2 days later departed for Pearl Harbor, and arrived there on 7 December 1943. On 13 January 1944, Hughes joined TF 53 for the invasion of the Marshall Islands. She joined in the preinvasion from 3–11 February 1944. The destroyer continued to support the escort carriers during the strikes against Palaus on 31 March.

Hughes took part in the invasion of Hollandia, New Guinea on 23 April, acting as a screen for the escort carrier group which provided air cover for the landings at Aitape and Tanahmerah Bay. Hughes remained off New Guinea as a convoy escort and fire-support ship of the 7th Fleet until 25 September, when she departed for the invasion of the Philippines. During this time, Hughes participated in the invasions of Biak, Noemfoor, Cape Sensapor, and Morotai, serving as flagship of Rear Admiral William M. Fechteler during the latter campaign.

During the invasion of Leyte, Hughes was the flagship of Rear Admiral Arthur Dewey Struble commanding the tiny task group detailed to capture the small islands of Dinigat and Homohon guarding the entrance to Leyte Gulf. Following the successful conclusion of this operation, Hughes screened Philippine bound convoys, making frequent trips to and from New Guinea until 6 December 1944, when she reembarked Admiral Struble and departed for the invasion of Ormoc Bay, Leyte. Following this operation, Hughes was serving as a picket destroyer off the southern tip of Leyte when she was hit by a G4M kamikaze on 10 December 1944. Her dead and wounded totalled twenty three. [3] Badly damaged with one engine room demolished and much of her other machinery destroyed, Hughes was towed to San Pedro Bay, Leyte, where, after temporary repairs, she departed for Humboldt Bay, New Guinea on 19 December en route to Pearl Harbor, where she arrived on 23 January 1945. Following more repairs, she sailed for San Francisco, arriving San Francisco Naval Shipyard on 2 February. Hughes remained there for the next 3 months undergoing extensive overhaul.

After a long testing period, Hughes was declared combat ready and departed for Adak Island in the Aleutians on 4 June 1945. Assigned to the Northern Pacific Force, she remained in the Aleutians until the end of the war, harassing enemy shipping and bombarding Japanese bases. Hughes then served as part of the patrol force off Northern Honshū until relieved on 20 October. She sailed for the United States 10 days later with Destroyer Squadron 2. She was decommissioned on 28 August 1946, and was used as a target ship in the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb test. Following the test she was towed to sea and sunk off Kwajalein on 16 October 1948, and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 26 November 1948.


USS Yorktown (CV-10)- Part 1

On May 30, 1942, after hasty repairs following the Battle of the Coral Sea, the USS Yorktown (CV-5) set sail from Pearl Harbor. Intelligence had indicated that there was an imminent threat to the Midway Atoll. The Yorktown was to join up with the carriers Enterprise and Hornet in an attempt to surprise the Japanese and, on June 3, patrols spotted the enemy fleet. Planes were launched from all three carriers, and a major dog-fight took place 20 miles from the Yorktown. Japanese planes eventually broke through and scored several direct hits, heavily damaging and disabling the Yorktown. By the end of the day, she was listing and the order was given to abandon ship. The following day, a large contingent returned to the Yorktown and began evaluating the damage. Pumps were started and all unnecessary items were pushed overboard. The crews worked all day and were in the process of beginning a tow back to Hawaii when a Japanese submarine slipped through the defenses and scored hits with two torpedos. Most of the crew onboard were saved, but on the following day, the Yorktown sank. By this time, the Battle of Midway was over and the US had scored what has been called one of the most decisive victories in naval history.

USS Yorktown (CV-5) on June 4, 1942

Launched in 1936, The USS Yorktown was one of the first carriers built from the keel up as an aircraft carrier. By the time of the battle of Midway, a new, larger class of carriers was under construction. One of these new Essex class carriers, the Bon Homme Richard, was partially completed and it was decided to re-name it the Yorktown, to honor the service of the ship and those lost at Midway. That second Yorktown, CV-10, served in the Navy from 1943 to 1970 and is now an aviation museum near Charleston, South Carolina.

The USS Yorktown is a part of Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum. The complex also has a destroyer, a submarine, and other items on display. This blog, however, will concentrate on the aviation museum aboard the Yorktown.

The museum is essentially divided into two parts: The carrier deck, which has Vietnam era aircraft on display, and the hangar deck, which centers on WW-II aircraft and exhibits. It is a large museum, with many aircraft, so we will cover it in two parts. Let’s start topside and visit the hangar deck next month.

There were 24 Essex class carriers built between 1941 and 1950, and most of them were decommissioned in the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. The Yorktown was decommissioned in 1970, just before my time in the Navy, but I have landings on two other Essex class carriers: the Lexington (in the T-28C and the TS-2A) and the Intrepid (in the C-1A). The Intrepid is now a museum in New York City and the Lexington is a museum in Corpus Christi, TX both are likely future blogs in this series.

Today, if you go aboard an aircraft carrier, you will see many F-18s and a few support planes, such as the E-2 Hawkeye. Interesting, of course, but limited in variety. During the Vietnam era there were many more types of aircraft aboard carriers, and most of those types are displayed on the deck of the Yorktown.

The Yorktown is classified as a CV, meaning carrier, fixed wing aircraft. There are several additional designations such as- CVN, for nuclear powered carrier (all active carriers today are CVNs), CVA for attack carrier, and CVS for anti-submarine carrier. The Yorktown was designated a CVA until September 1957, when she was reclassified as a CVS. The difference in classification mainly affected the Yorktown’s mission, and the types of squadron, and planes, that would deploy on a cruise.

Prominent on deck is this Douglas A-3 Skywarrior. Designed as a strategic nuclear bomber, the A-3 is the largest carrier-based aircraft ever built. Nicknamed the “Whale”, the A-3 first flew in 1952 and wasn’t retired until 1991. By the 1960s, Naval nuclear strategy was focused on submarines and the A-3 found new roles as an airborne tanker as well as for electronic reconnaissance capability. The version on display here is an EA-3B. In the electronic intelligence role the EA-3 carried a crew of seven and had a range of almost 3,000 miles. Douglas built almost 300 A-3s as well as almost 300 versions for the Air Force (the B-66 Destroyer). This particular EA-3 was previously displayed in front of the BOQ in Rota Spain, which is where I first saw it. It had served in Rota as part of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 2 (VQ-2).

The Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King first flew in 1959 and had a long and varied service history. Built for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), it served in that role until the Navy retired it in 2006 and many Sea Kings are still in service in navies around the world. A version of the Sea King, the VH-3D, has served as the presidential helicopter, Marine One. for many years. Very appropriately displayed on a carrier deck, the SH-3 was commonly used as a “plane guard” during carrier operations. With an H-3 airborne at all times, any plane, or pilot, that would wind up in the water would receive immediate assistance from the helo and its on-board divers. The SH-3G (BuNo 149934) on display served with HS-1 from 1980-1994.

The Vought F-8 Crusader served with active-duty squadrons from 1957 until 1987 and with reserve squadrons until 1991. The Crusader aboard the Yorktown is BuNo 146939, which was built as an F8U-2 and later converted to an F-8K. A very distinctive feature of the F-8 is its variable-incidence wing, which tilts up 7 degrees. This gave the F-8 a greater angle of attack on take-off and landing, without reducing forward visibility.

F-8 with its wing in the takeoff/ landing position aboard the USS Hancock c1972 . Photo by Pete Sakaris, U.S. Navy.

This photo was taken in 1972, before colorful squadron insignias were removed from all Navy planes, leaving the drab grey markings of today. The missile attached just below the wing is a sidewinder.

Similar in appearance to the F-8, the A-7 was designed by Vought using the F-8 as a starting point. Displayed in the colors of VA-46, this A-7E Corsair II (BuNo 159291) served with a number of Navy and Marine squadrons from 1978 until its retirement in 1991.

Three aircraft on the Yorktown flight deck, the S-3, the F-14, and the F-18, are from the post-Vietnam era, bringing the Navy inventory on display on the Yorktown up-to-date through the end of the 20th Century.

The Lockheed S-3 Viking was built as a replacement for the Grumman S-2 Tracker which served in the Anti-submarine (ASW) role for 30 years. Introduced in 1974, the Viking served as a carrier based ASW aircraft for over 40 years, being retired in 2016. Like the S-2, the S-3 had a crew of four: Pilot and Co-pilot/Tactical Coordinator (COTAC) up front and Tactical Coordinator (TACCO) and Sensor Operator (SENSO) in the back. The Viking on display here, BuNo 159731, was built as an S-3A and, like most S-3s, was later converted to an S-3B. The S-3B conversion in the mid 1980s added an airborne tanker role as well as anti-ship capability with Harpoon missiles. This S-3 last served with VS-41 in San Diego and was retired in 2006.

First flown in 1978, the supersonic McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet was designed to serve in a fighter or attack role (hence the F/A designation). The versatility of the Hornet is the reason there is only one major type on carriers today the F-18 can fill the role of most of the types on the deck of the Yorktown. One of the reasons for the great success of the Hornet is its General Electric F404 engines, which are reliable and easy to maintain, while delivering excellent performance. The Hornet is built in single-seat and two-seat versions, depending on the required role. The Hornet on display on the Yorktown, BuNo 162435, is a single seat A model that served with a number of squadrons from 1985 to 2007, ending its active service with the Marine Corps in VMFA-142.

Introduced in 1999, the Super Hornet is essentially a new plane that kept the F/A-18 designation (possibly to simplify the funding process). The Super Hornet also has a single seat (F/A-18E) and a two seat (F/A-18F) version. Although visually similar, the Super Hornet is four feet longer, with a four foot greater wing span, and a 14,000 pound higher maximum takeoff weight. Boeing purchased McDonnell Douglas in 1997, which makes the Super Hornet a Boeing F/A-18. After flying the Hornet for over 30 years, the Blue Angels recently transitioned to the Super Hornet.

After WW-II the Yorktown, like many ships, was placed in reserve status and in 1947 she was decommissioned. By 1952, the Yorktown underwent major renovation work and was returned to active duty in 1953. Like all carriers of WW-II, The Yorktown was originally built with a straight deck. The renovation in the early 1950s was undergone to support jet operations and included major strengthening of the deck and the addition of more powerful catapults. There were also many additions of armaments and other capabilities, increasing the ship’s displacement by 20%. After all the modifications, however, the Yorktown remained a straight-deck carrier. The Yorktown made several Pacific cruises until 1955, when she was once again put into reserve at Puget Sound Naval shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. During this time, she again underwent major modifications, most notably, the addition of an angled flight deck. Invented by Dennis Campbell of the Royal Navy, the angled carrier deck greatly increased the capability and safety of carrier operations and all subsequent carriers have been designed from the start with an angled deck.

The Yorktown continued Pacific operations throughout the 1960s and was involved in combat operations during the Vietnam War. We will look at other aspects of the Yorktown’s storied history in next month’s issue.

On June 27, 1970, Yorktown was decommissioned at Philadelphia, and placed in storage there for the next four years. In 1974, the Yorktown was approved to be donated to Patriot’s Point in South Carolina and was towed there in June, 1975. On October 13, 1975, the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Navy, the museum was formally dedicated.

The Yorktown has been maintained in excellent original condition from the 1960s and many interior areas of the ship are available for visitors to explore. On deck, most of the Yorktown’s Island is open to visitors. The Island houses the Bridge, Primary Flight Control (Pri-fly) and the Flag Bridge. Pri-fly is basically the control tower of the ship and is manned by the Air Boss. You can see Pri-fly on the rear of the Island and the Bridge on the front of the Island with the Flag Bridge below it.

As a Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) pilot, I only spent 90 minutes at a time on an aircraft carrier, so I asked my friend CJ, from high school, to give us an overview of the command structure of a carrier. In 1972, CJ made a Vietnam cruise on the Ticonderoga, a sister ship of the Yorktown, flying S-2s with VS-21. Following that, his squadron was the first to transition to the S-3A. Unusual for a West Coast squadron, VS-21 was selected for a Mediterranean Cruise on the Kennedy, so that the S-3 and its crews could get operational experience tracking Russian subs. CJ was on-board the JFK in late 1975 when the Guided Missile Cruiser Belknap (CG-26) collided with it, and he spent a long night helping fight the major fire on the Belknap. We may ask him about that experience in a later blog. Here’s CJ’s response about the command structure on carriers-

“The Captain of an aircraft carrier (who also holds the rank of captain) is always an experienced Naval Aviator, with extensive ship handling experience. The Captain has ultimate authority over all ship functions and personnel.

Carriers normally deploy for six to seven months, and around nine squadrons of aircraft will be assigned for the cruise. The person responsible for command of the deployed squadrons is the Carrier Air Group Commander (CAG). The CAG also holds the rank of captain and is responsible for the readiness of the Air Wing. The CAG does not fall directly under the command of the ship’s Captain, rather they are co-commanders who report to the Strike Group Commander. The Strike Group Commander is an Admiral who has responsibility for all ships in the Strike Group.

Each of the Squadron Commanders on board report directly to the CAG, and they will routinely assign personal to ship’s company departments to supplement manpower and gain knowledge and expertise in shipboard operations. This includes providing Landing Signal Officers (LSOs) to the Ops department, to assist with the safe and timely landing of all aircraft.

Most important to the Air Wing is the Air Boss (a commander). This is a ship’s company position and the Air Boss oversees all flight operations from Pri-fly.”

The spaces throughout the ship that are open to the public are all kept in the condition they were in when the Yorktown was operational. Here we see the navigation area, behind the Bridge. Many original artifacts are maintained in place, and most of the spaces are open to just wander through, the same areas that ship’s company personnel occupied for almost 30 years of the Yorktown’s operations.

All of the fittings on the Bridge remain as they were in 1970- you can even sit in the captain’s chair.

From the Bridge, you get a nice view of the two aircraft that are spotted roughly on catapults three and four: An E-1B and an F-4J.

The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II was produced from 1958 through 1981, with over 5,000 built. Flown by both the US Air Force and US Navy, the F-4 was also operated by numerous other countries, and several countries still operate the type today.

The Grumman E-1B Tracer was developed from the C-1, itself a derivative of the S-2. Better known as “Willie Fudd” (it was originally designated the WF-2) or the “Stoof with a Roof” (from the S-2F), the E-1 was the first carrier-based early warning aircraft. The actual catapult gear is not in place on the Yorktown (for safety reasons, I’m sure), but if the E-1 was ready for a cat shot, the nose wheel would be raised about eight inches, and the bridle would be attached behind the nose wheel.

At the same time that the bridle is attached to the forward part of the aircraft, a hold-back fitting is inserted in the rear. The purpose of the hold-back is to allow the catapult harness to be moved forward and tensioned (lifting the nose wheel), while keeping the aircraft from moving forward.

Hold-back fitting. Photo courtesy of Quora

Photo Courtesy of Pete Abiouness

When the catapult is fired, the hold-back snaps in two, releasing the aircraft. The upper half might fall out or stay on the aircraft. Above are a couple of fittings after cat shots. The fittings were saved by my good friend, and COD pilot, Pete Abiouness (better known a “Turkey Pete”).

Getting E-1 and C-1 aircraft positioned on the catapult can be tricky. The nose wheel on these aircraft is free-wheeling and when you approach the launch point, the nose wheel has to go over the top of the shuttle (where the harness attaches to the catapult), and then stop pretty quickly. It is difficult, but important, to keep the nose wheel straight so the plane is properly lined up. A slightly off center nose can lead to a weaving motion during the cat shot- not a comfortable feeling! If the plane is cocked too much after crossing the shuttle, the only remedy is to have a half dozen or so yellow shirts push the plane backwards over the shuttle, to try again- not a pretty sight! The problem does not happen on CVS carriers, with S-2s onboard- they have tow bars that help guide the nose-wheel.

Towards the aft of the flight deck is this S-2E Tracker (better known as a “Stoof”), BuNo 151627. S-2s were the main type of aircraft onboard the Yorktown from 1957-1970. Introduced to the fleet in 1954, the S-2 was the first aircraft to be built specifically for anti-submarine warfare. Over 1,200 S-2s were built and they served in the US Navy until 1976. They also served in the military of a number of countries, and many continue on today in various civilian roles, including firefighting. As a TS-2A, the Tracker served as an advanced multi-engine trainer for many years.

Three other aircraft round out the display on the deck of the Yorktown: An F-14, an A-4, and an A-6, each type having a long and successful Naval history.

This Grumman F-14 Tomcat, BuNo 159025, served in a number of Navy squadrons from 1974-1994.

Almost 3,000 Douglas A-4 Skyhawks were built between 1954 and 1979 and the A-4 played a key role for the Navy during the Vietnam War. A two seat version of the F-4, the TA-4F, was the Navy’s advanced jet trainer for many years. The A-4 on display, BuNo 149623, is a C model.

This Grumman A-6E Intruder, BuNo 152599, served with both Navy and Marine squadrons from 1972-1994.

Located near Charleston, a great city to visit, Patriot’s Point is an excellent destination for a family visit. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore all the exhibits, although it would be easy to spend an entire day on the Yorktown. Join us next month to learn about all the interesting aircraft on the Yorktown’s hangar deck and other areas below deck.

Many thanks to Lenore Taylor of the National Naval Aviation Museum and Captain Thom Ford of the USS Yorktown Foundation for their assistance with research for this blog.

Special note

During WW-II, the Navy used NAS Glenview, near Chicago, for numerous phases of training, including carrier qualifications. As a result, 130 aircraft were lost in Lake Michigan. Starting in the 1980s, an effort was undertaken to find and catalog these planes and, eventually, dozens of aircraft were recovered from the water. The Military Aviation Museum in Virginia has recently acquired one of these aircraft, a Douglas SBD Dauntless. They have placed it on display for the month of March, before it undergoes a full restoration to flying condition.

I have previously mentioned the excellent webinar series put on by the Military Aviation Museum and a special edition of that series, The Rescue of the Once Lost World War II Navy Aircraft from Lake Michigan, will be held on March 27th at 1PM. I’m sure it will be an excellent presentation. Click here to register (it is free, although donations are gratefully accepted)-

The process of a full restoration like this is a long one, but we will give regular updates along the way.


Why deadly wounds aren’t treated first in combat

Posted On May 13, 2020 07:22:14

Being in combat is one of the craziest experiences a person can have. Bullets are zipping by your melon and impacting the wall behind you, eyes wide and on the alert as the incoming rounds blanket your position. Sounds crazy. Because it is.

Well-trained military minds know, winning the battle is the most important aspect of winning the war. In combat, the rules are different than in any other situation you’ll probably find yourself. All available fingers need to be pulling triggers.

So if allied forces take a mass casualty, the guy who is hurt the worst isn’t necessarily the one who gets treated first.

Related: 6 things corpsmen should know before going to the ‘Greenside’

US Marine in Afghanistan returning fire (Source: Youtube/Screenshot)

In the civilian world, there are typically more assets and resources to treat just about everyone and every ailment or injury in the book.

By contrast, fighting an enemy in a third world country, Navy Corpsmen and medics only carry a small inventory of medical gear strapped onto their persons.

HM2 Lamonte Hammond and HM3 Simon Trujillo treat a Marine who was wounded during a firefight in the Nawa district of Helmand province, Afghanistan. (Photo by Cpl. Artur Shvartsberg)

Also Read: These simple sponges seal battle wounds in no time

During combat, the rules on who receives care first changes in a matter of moments. If a squad is under heavy attack and a few trigger pullers get hurt, then the unit is down a few bodies.

After the field medic takes care of their wounds, let’s say subject “A” sustained a “GSW” or gunshot wound to the chest, they are now out of the fight. If subject “B” took a bullet to their leg, they’re still considered in the fight because it’s not life-threatening.

So during wartime rules, subject “B” is supposed to be treated first to allow them the chance to get back on their weapon system and return to the fight. Hopefully subject “A” will be okay and pull through.

Articles

USS Yorktown (CV-5): How a Badly Damaged Carrier Turned the Tides at Midway

On May 8, 1942, the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) was badly damaged after helping to destroy the Japanese carrier Shoho at the Battle of the Coral Sea. With a gaping hole in her flight deck and her superheater boilers out of commission, Yorktown was expected to be out of action for months—but after just 72 hours of repairs, she was able to participate in the Battle of Midway, where it helped sink two IJN carriers while protecting the other American carriers from aerial counterattack.

In honor of Memorial Day, we’ll take a brief look at the remarkable circumstances around this storied carrier and the exceptional contributions of the heroes who made it happen.

The Yorktown: From Humble Beginnings to the Battle of the Coral Sea

Launched in 1936, Yorktown was the lead ship of the new Yorktown-class of carriers, designed to incorporate all the experience and lessons learned from the previous four carriers. She carried 90 aircraft—roughly equivalent to the larger Japanese carriers it would fight against at Midway—and a wartime complement of around 3,000 men.

Yorktown in 1937. Photo is from the National Archives, Image # 19-N-17424

Following training in Hampton Roads, Virginia, Yorktown conducted her shakedown cruise—or performance test—in the Caribbean. In 1939, she participated in Fleet Problem XX, the Navy’s 20th annual large-scale naval exercises, setting a new benchmark for carrier performance. After a brief period operating along the west coast, Yorktown set out for the Atlantic on April 20, 1941, to protect American interests from a new threat: the U-Boat. Following her neutrality patrols, she put into port at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia on December 2, 1941.

Little did her captain and crew know that in just five days’ time, Imperial Japan would attack Pearl Harbor, killing thousands of Americans and sending the US Navy’s surface fleet of destroyers, battleships and cruisers.

This left Yorktown and the six other carriers—Enterprise, Hornet, Lexington, Wasp, Ranger and Saratoga, none of which were at Pearl Harbor—as the backbone of the US Navy.

With America now at war, Yorktown was recalled to the Pacific and, on December 30, made flagship of Rear Admiral Fletcher’s newly-formed Task Force 17. It wouldn’t be long before she saw her first major action.

Working with superior intelligence, Admiral Chester Nimitz—now Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Fleet—knew that the Japanese Navy intended to attack Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, in the first week of May 1942 in an attempt to strengthen their defensive position in the South Pacific. He issued orders that sent four carriers towards the port to finally put an end to a series of USN defeats. Only Yorktown and USS Lexington (CV-2) would make it there in time.

The American fleet made contact with the numerically-superior IJN fleet—which consisted of fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku (both of which took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor), light carrier Shoho, and a number of support craft—and the two forces traded blows over the course of four days in what would come to be called the Battle of the Coral Sea. This was the first battle in history where two carriers battled toe-to-toe. Losses were heavy.

When the dust settled, both American carriers and all three Japanese carriers had sustained heavy damage or were depleted of aircraft. Lexington and Shoho were scuttled. Shokaku sustained heavy damage to the flight deck (courtesy of Yorktown’s dive bombers) and limped to safety. Zuikaku, her air arm slaughtered, did the same.

Bomb damage on Yorktown’s third and fourth decks, copied from the war damage report, 1942.

Damage to Yorktown was significant. Captain Elliott Buckmaster, skilled as he was in maneuvering, could do nothing when a Japanese “Val” dive bomber scored a direct hit. The 550-pound bomb penetrated the deck and exploded below, killing or seriously injuring 66 men and damaging her superheater boilers. The damage looked to be so severe that the Japanese thought she had been sunk. They would soon be proven terribly wrong.

Patchwork Repairs

Following the Battle of the Coral Sea, Yorktown was ordered back to Pearl Harbor ASAP for repairs. Some experts estimated that she would need at least three months of repairs. Admiral Nimitz, understanding the grave urgency of a new threat to a tiny atoll called Midway, gave shipyard workers just three days to get Yorktown back into fighting shape.

One of my favorite accounts of the shipwrights’ struggle comes from Reddit user Limonhed in this thread:

“My late father-in-law was one of the civilian shipwrights flown out to Yorktown after it was damaged at the Coral Sea. He said they worked 24/7 doing what they could, and fell asleep on the deck where they worked. The sailors had orders not to bother a sleeping shipwright unless it was an emergency. They ate sandwiches brought by the sailors while they continued to work. Cutting torch in one hand and sandwich in the other. Sometimes a sailor would stop by and stick a lit cigarette in his mouth while he continued to work. Much of the preparation work for the repairs were finished when they arrived at Pearl. They continued working 24/7 the entire time they were at Pearl and were still on the ship when it sailed. They were flown off only when the fleet got close enough to worry about Japanese attacks. Their efforts cut a week off the repairs and allowed Yorktown to get back in time for the next battle.”

Without the hard work and dedication shown by the yard workers, Yorktown would never have made it to Midway. Her unexpected presence confused the IJN and helped the United States Navy deliver a crushing defeat—and serious payback—to the Japanese fleet.

Yorktown at the Battle of Midway

Armed with knowledge of when and with what ships the enemy planned to ambush Midway (and the two aircraft carriers that constituted the IJN’s real targets), Adm. Nimitz moved the entire Pacific fleet to Midway to set an ambush of his own.

The Yorktown was a lynchpin in this regard. The already-outnumbered US Navy could not make up the difference in operational aircraft—not to mention that the Yorktown was the only carrier with experience launching a full strike.

Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown would face off against Soryu, Hiryu, Akagi and Kaga in a battle that turned the tide of war in the Pacific.

Japan began its initial attack on Midway Island at 4:30am on June 4, intent on destroying the land-based aircraft. It was repulsed thanks to stiff resistance from American forces. Neither navy had located the other until 5:34am, when a PBY seaplane from Midway Island finally spotted the Japanese fleet. Admiral Fletcher ordered the launch of aircraft from Enterprise and Hornet starting at 7:00am.

LCDR Max Leslie ditches in the ocean

The first wave was a disaster from the get-go. While Japan was able to launch 108 aircraft in just seven minutes, it took Enterprise and Hornet over an hour to launch 117 aircraft. It’s odd to think of the USA as underdogs in any capacity, let alone war, but that’s exactly the case.

And Japan’s advantage reached far beyond coordination and training. The American Navy was still using the TPD Devastator torpedo bomber, a woefully outmoded aircraft that was totally outclassed by Japan’s Zero fighters. Of the 41 Devastators that sortied during Midway, not a single one produced a torpedo hit, and only six returned. And even if one of the Devastators HAD registered a hit, there’s a good chance that the poorly-manufactured Mark 13 Torpedoes would not have detonated.

Yorktown’s pilots, who had been held back from the initial launch in case other Japanese carriers were found, were given a harrowing briefing: “If only three out of your 12-plane squadron survive the run-in to deliver your torpedoes, your mission will have been a success.” Yorktown’s aircraft launched at 9:08am.

But just when the future of the US Pacific fleet began to look grim, the battle turned on a dime.

It just so happened that three squadrons of Douglas SBD Scout Bombers (a fine aircraft, not to be confused with the TBD Devastator) were approaching the Japanese fleet. Two of the three were short on fuel, and none of them knew exactly where the fleet was.

It was then that Enterprise Air Group Commander C. Wade McClusky, dangerously low on fuel, made one of the most fortuitous decisions in the war. Instead of turning back, he kept looking for the enemy carriers, and he just so happened to locate a lone Japanese destroyer traveling at flank speed. Acting on a hunch, he followed it…all the way to the Japanese carriers, now short on defense.

The three squadrons descended on the carriers like a swarm of locusts. Yorktown’s VB-3, commanded by Max Leslie, went for Soryu, battering it with three direct hits.

Enterprise’s squadrons split into two and took on Akagi and Kaga, scoring multiple direct hits.

Within six minutes, Soryu and Kaga were totally engulfed stem to stern. Although Akagi was hit by just one bomb, it exploded in the hangar, causing massive devastation and leaving it dead in the water. Just like that, a good portion of Imperial Japan’s mighty Pacific fleet was reduced to burning husks, leaving just the Hiryu.

Crewmen repair a 12′ diameter bomb hole on Yorktown’s deck. At this point, this kind of damage was mundane. She would be back in action shortly.

But it wasn’t all good news. Japanese bombers from Hiryu followed the retreating American aircraft and attacked the first carrier they found…which just so happened to be Yorktown. Japanese pilots managed to score three hits, blowing a hole in the deck and snuffing out her boilers. But American damage control and ship survivability were far beyond that of the IJN, and within just one hour, she was patched up and ready to go again.

The second wave of Hiryu torpedo bombers arrived another hour later. The repair efforts were so effective that the Japanese pilots assumed Yorktown must be a different, undamaged carrier. Again, they battered her, this time with two torpedoes. Yorktown lost all power and began to list…but she still didn’t sink.

Yorktown lists badly after being abandoned. Official US Navy Photograph.

Captain Buckmaster, having heard the reports about how quickly the Japanese carriers sank, gave the order to abandon ship. The wounded were offloaded first, followed by the able-bodied sailors, all in good order. Captain Buckmaster even walked the ship one final time to make sure nobody remained onboard, and when he found none, lowered himself into the water by means of a knotted line over the stern.

But this was a day of retribution, and later in the afternoon, a scout aircraft from Yorktown found the Hiryu. 24 dive bombers from Enterprise and Yorktown descended on the Japanese carrier, peppering it with four bombs. She went up in flames just like the other Japanese carriers had earlier in the day. Lieutenant Commander Dick Best, who has the unique distinction of landing bombs on two different carriers, recalls the feeling:

“I felt myself to be lord of creation of the time. The feeling of success and the fulfillment of revenge was so sweet that I’ve never felt anything as intensely as that in all my life.”

All four of Japan’s carriers were now at the bottom of the Pacific. The US Navy delivered a decisive blow, and Japan was never able to replace its most-skilled pilots and best aircraft fast enough. The war was far from over, but the tide had turned.

Yorktown finally succumbs

Believe it or not, after six major detonations—one at Coral Sea and five at Midway—Yorktown was still afloat, and the salvage effort was going well…until a Japanese sub snuck past the American destroyer line and fired a torpedo that hit the USS Hamann, a destroyer acting as tow/escort ship. The Hamann essentially broke in half and sank quickly, killing the 81 men aboard and others from Yorktown who has been blown overboard. Understandably, the other tow ship cut the cable to Yorktown, and the battered carrier finally fell beneath the waves the following morning.

Yorktown sinking, June 7th 1942. Courtesy of the Naval History & Heritage Command NH #106011.

“That’s alright, fellas,” Captain Buckmaster told his men. “We’ll get another ship and come out again.”

By the time the first shots were fired at Midway, Yorktown was already nearly half a year overdue for a major refit. The emergency repairs performed at Pearl Harbor were intended to keep her seaworthy for two or three weeks. She had been nearly blown to bits over the course of two major battles. And still, she gave more: her last great contribution was soaking up a Japanese counterattack that could easily have been aimed at one of the healthy carriers.

The truth is, the Japanese had to sink her three times before it finally “took.”

Here’s to the Heroes Who Made Yorktown Great

Despite her toughness, resilience, and valiant contribution to the war In the Pacific, Yorktown was still just a ship. Yorktown only achieved greatness because of the heroes who made her great.

On this Memorial Day, we honor them all. First and foremost, to the 207 Yorktown crewmembers who died in the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway. And to her crew, who put our fires, patched her up, and carried on in the face of constant duress. And to the Devastator torpedo bomber pilots who knew they wouldn’t make it back. To the Dauntless scout bomber pilots who directly contributed to the sinking of three Japanese aircraft carriers. To the shipyard workers at Pearl Harbor, who did the impossible. And, of course, to the savvy leadership of Capt. Buckmaster, Admiral Spruance, Admiral Fletcher and Admiral Nimitz..

Today, we honor those brave men, as we honor so many others for their sacrifices in serving our great nation. I’d like to offer a heartfelt thank you to all those who serve and have served.

Just one more note…I’ve never served, and as hard as I have tried to get my terminology correct and not be disrespectful, I admit that I may have made a misstep. Please feel free to correct me. – Thanks

  • It’s unfortunate that by focusing on Yorktown, the contributions of Enterprise and Hornet, and of the ground forces on Midway, are implicitly minimized. This is not the case. The USS Hornet launched the Doolittle Raid and participated in both Guadalcanal and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, USS Enterprise ended the war as the Navy’s most decorated ship, and the Marines stationed on Midway Island put up a hell of a fight and never flinched.
  • You can’t talk about the Navy’s intelligence operations without mentioning Joseph Rochefort. Rochefort not only helped to break Japanese code JN25, but was the only cryptanalyst to correctly surmise that “AF” was Japan’s code for Midway (others thought it was code for the Aleutian Islands or even the West Coast). In order to convince his superiors, he devised a plan: the garrison commander on Midway would radio an emergency request for water in “plain language.” Japan took the bait, transmitting a message that “AF” was out of water.
  • I tried my best to avoid the historical controversy around what happened when the three American bomber squadrons converged over the Japanese carriers. Much of our prior understanding of that event came from the writings of Japanese pilot Mitsuo Fuchida, who characterized the timing as something of a miracle. Parshall and Tully’s “Shattered Sword,” along with official Japanese publication of the war history, refuted many of Fuchida’s claims.“Shattered Sword” is excellent and I would recommend it to everyone interested in the subject.
  • If that Japanese submarine hadn’t snuck through the defensive perimeter and attacked the USS Hamann, there’s a very good chance Yorktown would’ve made it back to Pearl Harbor. Very generally speaking, American design favored survivability, while Japanese design favored speed and hitting power. For a navy that couldn’t replace pilots and materiel fast enough, this was a fatal decision.
  • Interestingly, of the 17 ships lost or damaged in the Attack On Pearl Harbor, 14 were repaired and returned to service. Additionally, Japan made a huge mistake by not targeting Pearl Harbor’s fuel storage and dry dock facilities.
  • As Lexington slowly sank after Coral Sea, her crew abandoned ship—but not before breaking into the freezer and eating all the ice cream. Sailors dipper their helmets into the ice cream and licked them clean before leaving.

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46 Responses to &ldquoUSS Yorktown (CV-5): How a Badly Damaged Carrier Turned the Tides at Midway&rdquo

Robt W Bennett

Thank you for including this today. Great story & well-written.

Bryan

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

Susan leerhoff

My Father was on the USS Yorktown c-v5 He was the chief petty officer that got back on her to ready her to tow her back when she got hit again.

William biggerstaff

I enjoyed reading this, Thank you for posting. My grandfather was on this ship at Midway. I remember him telling me stories about this. He passed away about 22 years ago, due to cancer. He was a great and Godly man. I’d like to thank all of the past American hero’s that have gave it there all. You where truly America’s greatest generation.

Ken Parlatore

Thank you! As a Navy veteran of the Vietnam war, I’m thankful and grateful that someone such as yourself took the time to let the next generation of Americans know about a war from our past that produced such great American heroes….Thank you again, and may God bless our great country!

Bryan

Thanks for your comment, Ken. I appreciate all kinds of positive feedback, but it’s especially rewarding when it comes from those who have served.

John McClain

This was perhaps the single most uplifting pair of battles that assured America we weren’t going to fall to a long preparing, determined Axis.
One of the most important decisions made in those first days, was assigning Admiral Nimitz to command the Pacific Fleet.
When he arrived by plane, at Pearl Harbor, he had “All Hands” gather, after he’d done a thorough reconnoitering of the whole of the Island of Oahu.
Standing before a somewhat demoralized Fleet of Navy and Marines, he checked off four things the Japanese did which ensured their attack was a complete failure. Up to then, every assessment had been negative, but Admiral Nimitz stood before those who would go on to these two battles, and stated, “the Japanese didn’t even bother to consider our culture and practices, and in attacking on Sunday, at 0700, ten percent of crews were aboard their ships, with the vast majority in Chapel, so while great, the loss of personnel, was not by any means incapacitating, but have made us determined. Secondly, the two dry docks, here at Pearl, were scheduled to be filled and closed, but we will put these ships back together, because we have the capability right here and now, the ships in the Harbor will sail again. Third, the Japanese expected our carriers to be here, and they weren’t, so their main target was missing, and a great disappointment. Lastly, all the Pacific Fleet’s fuel oil is stored in those tanks you see up on the hills, and not one of them was struck, had they targeted them specifically, they could have picked us off at their leisure, in the following weeks, but they didn’t have the intelligence.
We could have been set back six months to a year, and forced to capitulate, but instead, we will be back at sea in days, and at full strength in weeks, God was watching over us and we must live up to this miracle which has saved us from what could have been completely devastating to our whole pacific fleet.”
That’s not exactly a quote, but a fair representation of Admiral Nimitz’ comments that spurred the heroes into action, and truly turned the whole of “Pearl Harbor, the attack” completely around, and made way for the extraordinary return we got, establishing how the Pacific war would go, from then on. Despondency left that morning, and was replaced by hard edged resolve and a determined people.
Semper Fidelis,
John McClain
GySgt, USMC, ret.
Vanceboro, NC

Bryan

Great comment! Thanks for taking the time to read and leave a reply, John. I appreciate it.

I only gained respect for Admiral Nimitz the deeper I got into my research. He made good call after good call, starting with his uniquely positive outlook on Pearl Harbor. If I recall correctly, Adm. Nimitz also retained Adm. Kimmel’s staff after Kimmel was removed from command following the attack. This decision energized his staff and inspired the sailors.

Not sure if the details are 100%, but regardless, this was a great man.

William messbarger

This is why we stand . Thanks to all the vets . thanks for serving.

John Sullivan

The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) intended to seize Port Moresby, New Guinea. If they had succeeded, Australia and shipping lanes between the USA would have been seriously emperiled. MacArthur was still marshaling Commonwealth and US offensive resources in Australia and the USN’s victory at Midway afforded the Commander (MacArthur) of the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) the opportunity to mount a coordinated offensive with the USN which eventually evolved into the successful island-hopping campaign.

Justin Ansel

May God bless their Sacrifices !

Mr. TerryLee Shepherd, Naval Airman, Vet!

I served in 1969! In The CPO, Quarters!

Ron R

The Greatest Generation was surely THE GREATEST!
I hope all the Sportsman’s folk read about this heroic sacrifice and pass it along!s

Excellent article. Thank you. More history, especially military history, would be very useful to educate the public. Too few appreciate that with out the military we could not enjoy the wonderful privileges we so often take for granted. To barrow and paraphrase Winston Churchill “American democracy is the worst form of government, except for every other form” We should value and appreciate what we have

Steve Rogan

Thank you for including this today. My grandfather was on three different carriers in the Pacific, with the Yorktown being his first. He was at Coral Sea and Midway. He rarely talked about the war, but he loved that ship.

Bryan

I’ve heard and read many stories like your grandfather’s. Yorktown was special, and she seemed to inspire a special kind of adoration in people.

Frank Muller

Thanks for showing the bravery and patriotism of Americans during a time of war. The bravery of our soldiers is what made the USA the great country that it is today.
Thanks for posting this.

Jerry Morris

For more info concerning another great carrier that served in the Pacific Theater check out http://www.cv6.org .This site has the history of the USS Enterprise (CV-6), Yorktowns sister ship. Be sure to check out the de-classified after action reports to fully understand the demanding efforts of carrier ops during WWII.

Joseph Burke

As the great nephew of Admiral Arleigh Burke this article makes me PROUD TO BE AND AMERICAN and the descendant of such fine American fighting men. – Joe Burke

Bryan

Well this is quite the honor! Your great uncle was a great man whose name won’t be forgotten.

Were you able to see or tour the USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51), by chance?

Alan Glimpse

Joe Burke, I worked with a man named Jimmy Burke when I was stationed on the Kitty Hawk in the early 80’s. This was up in Bremerton, Wa. I worked with him at various times before the ship was sent back to San Diego. He told us about being related to ADM Burke on the same day he was to have lunch with the Commanding Officer of the Kitty Hawk. The biggest reason I still remember Jimmy after all these years, is he was one of the nicest people I met up there.

Larry manuel

I served on the Valley Forge (lph 8) during VietNam. We had a helio crash on the flight deck and burn

a large hole in the deck. I can’t imagine what the men on the Yorktown endured.

James Dyer

I was on the Valley Forge when that happened Larry. Was in V-4 division working in av-fuels repair when that helo blew up. Shook the whole ship. Was on the hanger deck when this occurred.

Bruce Clark

During WW 2 my dad fought in both the battles of Midway and Coral Sea while in the Navy. He was stationed on a Destroyer Escort.

Mike Yerby

The bravery of our sailors and fighting men and women have never ceased to amaze me in all my 64 years. We all owe an unpayable debt to these fine men and women! I enjoy reading over and over about the history of our Great Nation, The United States of America!

Gerald Ross

I served in Viet Nam era. There are over 56 thousand names on a wall in DC Memorial Plaza. These great men served and gave the ultimate and as we remember all those who served least we not forget them. God Bless America.

Dale wells

I can only think of the sacaravices the people on the home front made to defeat enemys on both shores but none grater than our grand fathers,fathers and yes our grand mothers and mothers.aunts .uncles ,brothers and sisters and to some it all of the GRATIST GENERATION . GOD BLESS THEM ALL,Dale Wells

Jim Morrell

A great story. My close uncle was a Gunnersmate aboard the USS Langley, CVL 27 for its entire tour of the Pacific War. I have always been interested in the Naval war in the Pacific. This is one of the more interesting stories. The Langley, followiing the war, was “loaned to France, and later returned to the US and cut up for scrp.

Hopper Eldridge

Vet here too, but as another story about the “Greatest Generation” and the fantastic carriers of WWII that they fought, and died on, is the story of the USS Franklin, CV-13. It’s another of our carriers that refused to die though beaten to pieces and all but sinking yet still made it back to the West Coast for repairs.

Look her up and read about her story, really make one proud of the US and her fighting forces.

David eide

Thanks for remembering the ‘Franklin-CV-13’. My dad was a pilot on that fateful day,
his airplane was ready for takeoff that morning and was placed on the last row extreme aft,
starboard side. One of the bombs landed a few rows in front of his running plane. He has told me of watching some pilots in front of his plane,exiting their aircraft and running,only to be hit buy running propellors.of other aircraft.He has quite a story of survival that day and I have made it my life’s mission to tell anyone who will listen his remarkable story of survival. May God bless all who have served,are serving in any and all branches.Thank-You for doing a great and sometimes forgotten job.. WE ARE FREE and will remain so!
CT!1 Dave Eide (disabled ret.)

Terry Grant

Thank you for this important reminder of history. Our sailors of “The Greatest Generation” showed us what “Guts” means. They fought under conditions that would overwhelm todays young people. God Bless those heroes, we owe them the freedom and prosperity we enjoy today.

William Lindewirth

My Friend G. Laughery was a PBY PPILOT looking for Enemy Carriers. Far out and low on fuel He was one of the PBY PILOTS that reported whst they thought was the Main Japanses Garrier Group. Without these unarmed Recon Planes we may have lost mire. Thanks Gene. I remember.

ANTHONY FRANK TENCZA ABH_3

Serving on the USS Midway (CVA-41) 󈨅-󈨆 and USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) 󈨆-󈨇 I can relate to the problems the earlier carriers had. I worked on the flight deck in Fly 1 which which is from the island to the bow. I seen accidents and crashes there so I can relate to what happened during WWII. The carriers that I was on were rebuilt and updated WWII carriers, wooden decks and all. My heart goes out to all the servicemen that were lost during WWII. My father was on the USS Nevada (BB-) during WWII.He would tell me stories about being attacked. I’m glad he made it home.

John Palen

Two minor points for you, Port Moresby is in Papua New Guinea, not New Zealand. And the last bullet in the notes section said that the crew of the Lex broke into the ships freezers and finishing off the ice cream, …”Soldiers dipped their helmets…”. Having served in both the Army and the Navy, I believe that you meant to say that the Sailors dipped their helmets into the ice cream, not soldiers, (but if there had been any on board, I’d bet they’d be right there also). Like I said, very minor points, and in no way does it detract from the story. Thanks for writing it.

John Palen
Formerly Sgt, US Army Infantry (11B)
Formerly MM1(SS) US Navy

Bryan

Ha, I knew I’d slip up somewhere! Fixing it now.

Thanks for reading (and editing)!

James Stark

Thanks for this great atricle, very imformative. I forwarded the web addy to some Navy vets, I know. They also enjoyed it.

My father served in the Navy on Midway, the last 2 yrs of WW2. He said, he worked on sea going tugs and mine sweepers.

My self I served 3 yrs Army. 2 tours in ‘Nam. It was a joint service special ops’ duty, with MACV-SOG. As many others, I also have brothers in arms to remember.

JACK PRIEST

THIS DEAR FRIEND IS ONE OF THE MILLIONS OF OUR WONDERFUL MILITARY. HE WAS ON THE USS YORKTOWN, CV-5, WHEN IT WAS SUNK DURING THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY IN WWII IN JUNE 1942. HE WAS A RETIRED CAPTAIN IN THE UNITED STATES NAVY.
dignitymemorial.com
William Lee Howard Obituary – HUNTSVILLE, AL
Celebrate the life of William Lee Howard, leave a kind word or memory…

Jeff Schanbacher

My father was on the Yorktown starting on the East Coast, July 1941. He was with it until it sunk at Midway. He was originally assigned to Squadron 5 as a gunner, but, fortunately, they found he was good at typing and moved him to staff. If he had remained a dive bomber, I would probably not be here today.
I still have the original insignia from the squadron and the fighter list for June 4 and I hope to pass those along to some military museum or collector at some point.
Interestingly, they did not notify the public of the loss of the Yorktown until September. Couldn’t do that now.
Oh, and when they brought the Yorktown to the Pacific in late 1941, they changed the numbers on the ship while it went through the Panama Canal to confuse the enemy.
Thanks for the article (video is no longer available apparently).

Bryan

The dive bomber squadrons, as you well know, fared poorly at Midway, and it’s very fortunate that your grandfather didn’t have to be a part of it. Those TBD Devastators were sitting ducks.

Thanks for the anecdote about the Panama Canal. There’s still so much to be learned! The US and her allies did an excellent job with subterfuge and misinformation during the war.

And thanks for the heads-up about the video.

Carol Ramsey

Thank you for this article. My father was an 18 year old aerographer on USS Yorktown during the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway. He was always my hero, even though he didn’t speak much about his time in the service.

Mark Taylor

Thank You for the great post, my father Robert Taylor ( from Jacksonville, FL) he is 94 and was on the Yorktown at Midway. Although Dad’s hearing has been depleted, he was on one of the port bow 5″ anti aircraft guns, I still get moved by his memories and stories from his time at sea and what those brave sailors in those incredible battles.

Alan Brown

I consider it an honor to have served on the Midway other carriers.Both my father and grandfather couldn’t serve do to health problems.My great grandfather had the honor to serve with T.Rosevelt in Cuba.It is there where he was shot in the leg.

John Reinking

Fantastic job…. my time was spent on the Coral Sea during Vietnam. In fact, we launch the first air strikes against the North.

Gerald Suber

Great article well written thanks for including it. I’m a retired navy chief of 24 years stationed on 2 aircraft carriers and understand well the importance of these vessels. Also had a grangfather a great uncle who served in WW2 navy 3 great uncle’s army one still living and will be 100 in December and you are correct this was men of the greatest generation the best men I’ve ever known. They sacrificed more than today’s generation can fathom and it’s refreshing to see a young man such as yourself honor these true heroes. Thanks

Ronald Dennis

Joseph mcnamara

The psychological effect on the IJN seeing the Yorktown back in action is undeniable. The shipwright’s efforts were simply put, amazing.

The American planes “happening” upon the IJN fleet was a thesis I completed on the ethics of leadership & decision making during war.


Contents

Yorktown was laid down on 21 May 1934 at Newport News, Virginia, by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. launched on 4 April 1936 sponsored by Eleanor Roosevelt and commissioned at the Naval Station Norfolk (NS Norfolk), Norfolk, Virginia, on 30 September 1937, Captain Ernest D. McWhorter in command.

After fitting out, the aircraft carrier trained in Hampton Roads, Virginia and in the southern drill grounds off the Virginia capes into January 1938, conducting carrier qualifications for her newly embarked air group.

Yorktown sailed for the Caribbean on 8 January 1938 and arrived at Culebra, Puerto Rico, on 13 January. Over the ensuing month, the carrier conducted her shakedown, touching at Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands Gonaïves, Haiti Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Cristóbal, Panama Canal Zone. Departing Colon Bay, Cristobal, on 1 March, Yorktown sailed for Hampton Roads, arrived on 6 March, and put into the Norfolk Navy Yard the next day for post-shakedown availability.

After undergoing repairs through the early autumn of 1938, Yorktown moved station from the navy yard to NS Norfolk on 17 October 1938 and soon headed for the Southern Drill Grounds for training.

Yorktown operated off the eastern seaboard, ranging from Chesapeake Bay to Guantanamo Bay, into 1939. As flagship for Carrier Division 2, she participated in her first war game—Fleet Problem XX—along with her sister-ship Enterprise in February 1939. The scenario for the exercise called for one fleet to control the sea lanes in the Caribbean against the incursion of a foreign European power while maintaining sufficient naval strength to protect vital American interests in the Pacific. The maneuvers were witnessed, in part, by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, embarked in the heavy cruiser Houston.

The critique of the operation revealed that carrier operations—a part of the scenarios for the annual exercises since the entry of Langley into the war games in 1925—had achieved a new peak of efficiency. Despite the inexperience of Yorktown and Enterprise—comparative newcomers to the Fleet—both carriers made significant contributions to the success of the problem. The planners had studied the employment of carriers and their embarked air groups in connection with convoy escort, antisubmarine defense, and various attack measures against surface ships and shore installations. In short, they worked to develop the tactics that would be used when war actually came. [4]

Following Fleet Problem XX, Yorktown returned briefly to Hampton Roads before sailing for the Pacific on 20 April 1939. Transiting the Panama Canal a week later, Yorktown soon commenced a regular routine of operations with the Pacific Fleet. The Second World War started on 1 September 1939, but the USA was not yet involved. Operating out of San Diego into 1940, the carrier participated in Fleet Problem XXI that April. Yorktown was one of six ships to receive the new RCA CXAM radar in 1940. [1] At the same time her signal bridge atop the tripod foremast was enclosed, and several 50 caliber machine guns were fitted in galleries along the edges of the flight deck.

Fleet Problem XXI—a two-part exercise—included some of the operations that would characterize future warfare in the Pacific. The first part of the exercise was devoted to training in making plans and estimates in screening and scouting in coordination of combatant units and in employing fleet and standard dispositions. The second phase included training in convoy protection, the seizure of advanced bases, and, ultimately, the decisive engagement between the opposing fleets. The last pre-war exercise of its type, Fleet Problem XXI contained two exercises (comparatively minor at the time) where air operations played a major role. Fleet Joint Air Exercise 114A prophetically pointed out the need to coordinate Army and Navy defense plans for the Hawaiian Islands, and Fleet Exercise 114 proved that aircraft could be used for high altitude tracking of surface forces—a significant role for planes that would be fully realized in the war to come.

With the retention of the Fleet in Hawaiian waters after the conclusion of Fleet Problem XXI, Yorktown operated in the Pacific off the west coast of the United States and in Hawaiian waters until the following spring, when the success of German U-boats preying upon British shipping in the Atlantic required a shift of American naval strength. Thus, to reinforce the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, the Navy transferred a substantial force from the Pacific including Yorktown, Battleship Division Three (the New Mexico-class battleships), three light cruisers, and 12 accompanying destroyers. [4]

Yorktown departed Pearl Harbor on 20 April 1941 in company with destroyers Warrington, Somers, and Jouett headed southeast, transited the Panama Canal on the night of 6–7 May, and arrived at Bermuda on 12 May. From that time until the United States entered the war, Yorktown conducted four patrols in the Atlantic, ranging from Newfoundland to Bermuda and logging 17,642 miles (28,392 km) steamed while enforcing American neutrality.

Although Adolf Hitler had forbidden his submarines to attack American ships, the men who manned the American naval vessels were not aware of this policy and operated on a wartime footing in the Atlantic.

On 28 October, while Yorktown, the battleship New Mexico, and other American warships were screening a convoy, a destroyer picked up a submarine contact and dropped depth charges while the convoy itself made an emergency starboard turn, the first of the convoy's three emergency changes of course. Late that afternoon, engine repairs to one of the ships in the convoy, Empire Pintail, reduced the convoy's speed to 11 knots (13 mph 20 km/h).

During the night, the American ships intercepted strong German radio signals, indicating submarines probably in the vicinity reporting the group. Rear Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, commanding the escort force, sent a destroyer to sweep astern of the convoy to destroy the U-boat or at least to drive him under.

The next day, while cruiser scout planes patrolled overhead, Yorktown and the cruiser Savannah fueled their escorting destroyers, finishing the task as dusk fell. On 30 October, Yorktown was preparing to fuel three destroyers when other escorts made sound contacts. The convoy subsequently made 10 emergency turns while the destroyers Morris and Anderson dropped depth charges, with Hughes assisted in developing the contact. Anderson later made two more depth charge attacks, noticing "considerable oil with slick spreading but no wreckage".

The short-of-war period was becoming more like the real thing as each day went on. Elsewhere on 30 October, U-552 torpedoed the destroyer Reuben James, sinking her with a heavy loss of life, the first loss of an American warship in World War II. After another Neutrality Patrol stint in November, Yorktown put into Norfolk on 2 December. [4]

On the early morning of 7 December 1941, Japanese warplanes attacked the U.S. base at Pearl Harbor without warning, damaging or sinking 16 U.S. warships. With the battle line crippled, the undamaged American carriers assumed great importance. There were, on 7 December, only three in the Pacific: Enterprise, Lexington, and Saratoga. Yorktown, Ranger, Wasp, and the recently commissioned Hornet were in the Atlantic. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor resulted in massive outrage across the United States and led to the country's formal entry into World War II the next day. Yorktown departed Norfolk on 16 December for the Pacific, her secondary gun galleries studded with new Oerlikon 20 mm guns. (The ship's Gunnery Officer retained the Browning M2 .50 caliber machine guns the Oerlikons replaced, and acquired a supply of M1919A4 .30 caliber machine guns as well. The crew discovered the pintle mounts of the .30 calibers fitted neatly into cut swab handles, and the swab handles themselves fit neatly into the hollow pipes used for the ship's safety lines. Dozens of sailors went into the unofficial antiaircraft gun business, and according to one report, "Yorktown bristled with more guns than a Mexican revolution movie." [5] ) She reached San Diego 30 December 1941 and soon became flagship for Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher's newly formed Task Force 17 (TF 17).

The carrier's first mission in her new theater was to escort a convoy carrying Marine reinforcements to American Samoa. Departing San Diego on 6 January 1942, Yorktown and her consorts covered the movement of Marines to Pago Pago in Tutuila to augment the garrison already there.

Having safely covered that troop movement, Yorktown, in company with sister ship Enterprise, departed Samoan waters on 25 January. Six days later, Task Force 8 (built around Enterprise), and TF 17 (around Yorktown) parted company. The former headed for the Marshall Islands, the latter for the Gilberts, each to take part in some of the first American offensives of the war, the Marshalls-Gilberts raids.

Yorktown was being screened by two cruisers, Louisville and St. Louis and four destroyers. At 05:17, Yorktown launched 11 Douglas TBD-1 Devastators and 17 Douglas SBD-3 Dauntlesses, under the command of Commander Curtis W. Smiley. Those planes hit what Japanese shore installations and shipping they could find at Jaluit, but severe thunderstorms hampered the mission, and seven planes were lost. Other Yorktown planes attacked Japanese installations and ships at Makin and Mili Atolls.

The attack on the Gilberts by Task Force 17 had apparently been a surprise since the American force encountered no enemy surface ships. A single Japanese Kawanishi H6K "Mavis" flying boat attempted to attack American destroyers sent astern in hope of recovering the crews of planes overdue from the Jaluit mission. Antiaircraft fire from the destroyers drove off the intruder before it could cause any damage.

Later, another Mavis, or possibly the same one, came out of low clouds 15,000 yards (14,000 m) distant from Yorktown. The carrier withheld her antiaircraft fire in order not to interfere with the combat air patrol (CAP) fighters. Presently, the Mavis, pursued by two Grumman F4F Wildcats, disappeared behind a cloud. Within five minutes, the enemy patrol plane fell out of the clouds and crashed in the water.

Although TF 17 was slated to make a second attack on Jaluit, it was canceled because of heavy rainstorms and the approach of darkness. Therefore, the Yorktown force retired from the area.

Admiral Chester Nimitz later called the Marshalls-Gilberts raids "well conceived, well planned, and brilliantly executed." The results obtained by Task Forces 8 and 17 were noteworthy, Nimitz continued in his subsequent report, because the task forces had been obliged to make their attacks somewhat blindly, due to lack of hard intelligence data on the Japanese-held islands.

Yorktown subsequently put in at Pearl Harbor for replenishment before she put to sea on 14 February, bound for the Coral Sea. On 6 March, she rendezvoused with TF 11 which had been formed around Lexington and under the command of Vice Admiral Wilson Brown. Together they headed towards Rabaul and Gasmata to attack Japanese shipping there in an effort to check the Japanese advance and to cover the landing of Allied troops at Nouméa, New Caledonia. The two carriers were screened by eight heavy cruisers (including the Australian warships HMAS Australia and HMAS Canberra) and 14 destroyers. As they steamed toward New Guinea, the Japanese continued their advance toward Australia with a landing on 7 March at the Huon Gulf, in the Salamaua-Lae area on the eastern end of New Guinea.

Word of the Japanese operation prompted Admiral Brown to change the objective of TF 11's strike from Rabaul to the Salamaua-Lae sector. On the morning of 10 March 1942, American carriers launched aircraft from the Gulf of Papua. Lexington flew off her air group commencing at 07:49 and, 21 minutes later, Yorktown followed suit. The choice of the gulf as the launch point for the strike meant the planes would have to fly some 125 miles (200 km) across the Owen Stanley mountains, which provided security for the task force and ensured surprise, at the cost of poor flying conditions.

In the attacks that followed, Lexington ' s Douglas SBD Dauntlesses from Scouting Squadron 2 (VS-2) dive-bombed Japanese ships at Lae at 09:22. The carrier's torpedo and bomber squadrons (VT-2 and VB-2) attacked shipping at Salamaua at 09:38. Her fighters (VF-2) split up into four-plane attack groups: one strafed Lae and the other, Salamaua. Yorktown ' s planes followed on the heels of those from Lexington. VB-5 and VT-5 attacked Japanese ships in the Salamaua area at 09:50, while VS-5 went after auxiliaries moored close in shore at Lae. The fighters of VF-42 flew CAP over Salamaua until they determined there was no air opposition, then strafed surface objectives and small boats in the harbor.

After carrying out their missions, the American planes returned to their carriers and 103 planes of the 104 launched were back safely on board by noon. One SBD-2 Dauntless had been downed by Japanese antiaircraft fire. The raid on Salamaua and Lae was the first attack by many pilots, and, if accuracy was below that achieved in later actions, the fliers gained invaluable experience which helped in the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway.

Task Force 11 retired at 20 knots (37 km/h 23 mph) on a southeasterly course until dark, when the ships steered eastward at 15 knots (28 km/h 17 mph) and made rendezvous with Task Group 11.7 (TG11.7), three heavy cruisers (USS Chicago, HMAS Australia, and HMAS Canberra) and four destroyers under the Royal Australian Navy Rear Admiral John Crace, which provided cover for the carriers on their approach to New Guinea.

Yorktown resumed her patrols in the Coral Sea area, remaining at sea into April, out of reach of Japanese land-based aircraft and ready to carry out offensive operations whenever the opportunity presented itself. After the Lae-Salamaua raid, the situation in the South Pacific seemed temporarily stabilized, and Yorktown and her consorts in TF 17 put into the undeveloped harbor at Tongatabu, in the Tonga Islands, for needed upkeep, having been at sea continuously since departing from Pearl Harbor on 14 February.

However, the enemy was soon on the move. To Admiral Nimitz, there seemed to be "excellent indications that the Japanese intended to make a seaborne attack on Port Moresby the first week in May". Yorktown accordingly departed Tongatapu on 27 April, bound once more for the Coral Sea. TF 11—now commanded by Rear Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch, who had relieved Brown in Lexington—departed Pearl Harbor to join Fletcher's TF 17 and arrived in the vicinity of Yorktown ' s group, southwest of the New Hebrides Islands, on 1 May. [4]

Battle of the Coral Sea Edit

At 15:17 the next afternoon, two SBD Dauntlesses from VS-5 sighted a Japanese submarine running on the surface. Three TBD Devastators from Yorktown succeeded only in driving the submarine under.

On the morning of 3 May, TF 11 and TF 17 were some 100 miles (161 km) apart, engaged in fueling operations. Shortly before midnight, Fletcher received word from Australian-based aircraft that Japanese transports were disembarking troops and equipment at Tulagi in the Solomon Islands. Arriving soon after the Australians had evacuated the place, the Japanese landed to commence construction of a seaplane base there to support their southward thrust.

Yorktown accordingly set course northward at 27 knots (50 km/h 31 mph). By daybreak on 4 May, she was within striking distance of the newly established Japanese beachhead and launched her first strike at 07:01―18 F4F-3 Wildcats of VF-42, 12 TBD Devastators of VT-5, and 28 SBD Dauntlesses from VS and BY-5. Yorktown ' s air group made three consecutive attacks on enemy ships and shore installations at Tulagi and Gavutu on the south coast of Florida Island in the Solomons. Expending 22 torpedoes and 76 1,000-pound (450 kg) bombs in the three attacks, Yorktown ' s planes sank the destroyer Kikuzuki, three minesweepers and four barges. In addition, Air Group 5 destroyed five enemy seaplanes but lost two F4F Wildcats (the pilots were recovered) and one TBD Devastator (whose crew was lost).

Meanwhile, that same day, TF 44, a cruiser-destroyer force under Rear Admiral Crace (RN), joined Lexington ' s TF 11, thus completing the composition of the Allied force on the eve of the crucial Battle of the Coral Sea.

Elsewhere, to the northward, eleven troop-laden transports—escorted by destroyers and covered by the light carrier Shōhō, four heavy cruisers, and a destroyer—steamed toward Port Moresby. In addition, another Japanese task force—formed around the two Pearl Harbor veterans, carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku, and screened by two heavy cruisers and six destroyers—provided additional air cover.

On the morning of 6 May, Fletcher gathered all Allied forces under his tactical command as TF 17. At daybreak on 7 May, he dispatched Crace, with the cruisers and destroyers under his command, toward the Louisiade archipelago to intercept any enemy attempt to move toward Port Moresby.

While Fletcher moved north with his two flattops and their screens in search of the enemy, Japanese search planes located the oil tanker Neosho and her escorting destroyer, Sims and misidentified the former as a carrier. Two waves of Japanese planes—first high-level bombers and then dive bombers—attacked the two ships. Sims, her antiaircraft battery crippled by gun failures, took three direct hits and sank quickly with a heavy loss of life. Neosho was more fortunate in that, even after seven direct hits and eight near-misses, she remained afloat until, on 11 May, her survivors were picked up by Henley and her hulk sunk by the rescuing destroyer.

Neosho and Sims had performed a valuable service, drawing off the planes that might otherwise have hit Fletcher's carriers. Meanwhile, Yorktown and Lexington ' s planes found Shōhō and sank her. One of Lexington ' s pilots reported this victory with the radio message, "Scratch one flattop".

That afternoon, Shōkaku and Zuikaku, still not located by Fletcher's forces, launched 27 bombers and torpedo planes to search for the American ships. Their flight proved uneventful until they ran into fighters from Yorktown and Lexington, which proceeded to down nine enemy planes in the ensuing dogfight.

Near twilight, three Japanese planes incredibly mistook Yorktown for their own carrier and attempted to land. The ship's gunfire, though, drove them off, and the enemy planes crossed Yorktown ' s bow and turned away out of range. Twenty minutes later, when three more enemy pilots made the mistake of trying to get into Yorktown ' s landing circle, the carrier's gunners splashed one of the trio.

However, the battle was far from over. The next morning, 8 May, a Lexington search plane spotted Admiral Takeo Takagi's carrier striking force—including Zuikaku and Shōkaku. Yorktown planes scored two bomb hits on Shōkaku, damaging her flight deck and preventing her from launching aircraft. In addition, the bombs set off explosions in gasoline storage tanks and destroyed an engine repair workshop. Lexington ' s Dauntlesses added another hit. Between the two American air groups, the hits killed 108 Japanese sailors and wounded 40 more.

While the American aircraft were attacking the Japanese flattops, Yorktown and Lexington had been alerted by an intercepted message that indicated that the Japanese knew of their whereabouts and prepared to fight off a retaliatory strike, which came shortly after 11:00.

American Combat Air Patrol F4F Wildcats downed 17 aircraft, although some still got through the defenses. Nakajima B5N "Kates" launched torpedoes from both sides of Lexington ' s bow, achieving two hits on the port side while Aichi D3A "Val" dive bombers managed three bomb hits. Lexington began to list from three partially flooded engineering spaces. Several fires raged below decks, and the carrier's elevators were put out of commission.

Meanwhile, Yorktown was having problems of her own. Skillfully maneuvered by her commanding officer, Captain Elliott Buckmaster, the carrier dodged eight torpedoes. Attacked by "Val" dive-bombers, the ship managed to evade all but one bomb. At 11:27, 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 seriously wounding 66 men, as well as damaging the superheater boilers which rendered them inoperable. Up to 12 near misses damaged Yorktown ' s hull below the waterline.

Lexington ' s damage control parties brought the fires under control, and the ship was still able to continue flight operations despite the damage. The air battle itself ended shortly before noon on the 8th within an hour, the carrier was on an even keel, although slightly down by the bow. However, an explosion caused by the ignition of gasoline vapors later caused a fire and tore apart her interior. Lexington was abandoned at 17:07, and later sunk by the destroyer Phelps.

The Japanese had won a tactical victory, inflicting comparatively heavier losses on the Allied force, but the Allies, in stemming the tide of Japan's conquests in the South and Southwest Pacific, had achieved a strategic victory. Yorktown had not achieved her part in the victory without cost, and had suffered enough damage to cause experts to estimate that at least three months in a yard would be required to put her back in fighting trim. However, there was little time for repairs, because U.S. naval intelligence had gained enough information from decoded Japanese naval messages to estimate that the Japanese were on the threshold of a major operation aimed at the northwestern tip of the Hawaiian chain. These were two islets in a low coral atoll known as Midway Island. [4]

Battle of Midway Edit

Armed with this intelligence, Admiral Nimitz began methodically planning Midway's defense, rushing all possible reinforcement in the way of men, planes and guns to Midway. In addition, he began gathering his comparatively meager naval forces to meet the enemy at sea. As part of those preparations, he recalled TF 16, Enterprise and Hornet to Pearl Harbor for a quick replenishment.

Yorktown, too, received orders to return to Hawaii she arrived at Pearl Harbor on 27 May, entering dry dock the following day. The damage the ship had sustained after Coral Sea was considerable, and led to the Navy Yard inspectors estimating that she would need at least two weeks of repairs. However, Admiral Nimitz ordered that she be made ready to sail alongside TF 16. Further inspections showed that Yorktown ' s flight elevators had not been damaged, and the damage to her flight deck and hull could be patched easily. Yard workers at Pearl Harbor, laboring around the clock, made enough repairs to enable the ship to put to sea again in 48 hours. [6] The repairs were made in such a short time that the Japanese Naval Air Commanders would mistake Yorktown for another carrier as they thought she had been sunk during the previous battle. However, one critical repair to her power plant was not made: her damaged superheater boilers were not touched, limiting her top speed. [5] Her air group was augmented by planes and crews from Saratoga which was then headed for Pearl Harbor after her refit on the West Coast. Yorktown sailed as the core of TF 17 on 30 May.

Northeast of Midway, Yorktown, flying Vice Admiral Fletcher's flag, rendezvoused with TF 16 under Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance and maintained a position 10 miles (16 km) to the northward of him.

Patrols, both from Midway and the carriers, were flown during early June. At dawn on 4 June Yorktown launched a 10-plane group of Dauntlesses from VB-5 which searched a northern semicircle for a distance of 100 miles (160 km) out but found nothing.

Meanwhile, PBYs flying from Midway had sighted the approaching Japanese and broadcast the alarm for the American forces defending the key atoll. Admiral Fletcher, in tactical command, ordered Admiral Spruance's TF 16 to locate and strike the enemy carrier force.

Yorktown ' s search group returned at 08:30, landing soon after the last of the six-plane CAP had left the deck. When the last of the Dauntlesses were recovered, the deck was hastily respotted for the launch of the ship's attack group: 17 Dauntlesses from VB-3, 12 Devastators from VT-3, and six Wildcats from "Fighting Three". Enterprise and Hornet, meanwhile, launched their attack groups.

The torpedo planes from the three American carriers located the Japanese striking force, but met disaster. Of the 41 planes from VT-8, VT-6, and VT-3, only six returned to Enterprise and Yorktown none made it back to Hornet.

As a reaction to the torpedo attack the Japanese CAP had broken off their high-altitude cover for their carriers and had concentrated on the Devastators, flying "on the deck", allowing Dauntlesses from Yorktown and Enterprise to arrive unopposed. [4]

Virtually unopposed, Yorktown ' s dive-bombers attacked Sōryū, making three lethal hits with 1,000 pounds (450 kg) bombs and setting her on fire. [7] Enterprise ' s planes, meanwhile, hit Akagi and Kaga, effectively destroying them. The bombs from the Dauntlesses caught all of the Japanese carriers in the midst of refueling and rearming operations, causing devastating fires and explosions.

Three of the four Japanese carriers had been destroyed. The fourth, Hiryū, separated from her sisters, launched a striking force of 18 "Vals" and soon located Yorktown.

As soon as the attackers had been picked up on Yorktown ' s radar at about 13:29, she discontinued fueling her CAP fighters on deck and swiftly cleared for action. Her returning dive bombers were moved from the landing circle to open the area for antiaircraft fire. The Dauntlesses were ordered aloft to form a CAP. An auxiliary 800-US-gallon (3,000 l) gasoline tank was pushed over the carrier's fantail, eliminating one fire hazard. The crew drained fuel lines and closed and secured all compartments. [4]

All of Yorktown ' s fighters were vectored out to intercept the oncoming Japanese aircraft, and did so some 15 to 20 miles (24 to 32 km) out. The Wildcats attacked vigorously, breaking up what appeared to be an organized attack by some 18 "Vals" and 6 "Zeroes". [8] "Planes were flying in every direction", wrote Captain Buckmaster after the action, "and many were falling in flames." [4] The leader of the "Vals", Lieutenant Michio Kobayashi, was probably shot down by the VF-3's commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander John S. Thach. Lieutenant William W. Barnes also pressed home the first attack, possibly taking out the lead bomber and damaging at least two others. [ citation needed ]

Despite an intensive barrage and evasive maneuvering, three "Vals" scored hits. Two of them were shot down soon after releasing their bomb loads the third went out of control just as his bomb left the rack. It tumbled in flight and hit just abaft the number two elevator on the starboard side, exploding on contact and blasting a hole about 10 feet (3 m) square in the flight deck. Splinters from the exploding bomb killed most of the crews of the two 1.1-inch (28 mm) gun mounts aft of the island and on the flight deck below. Fragments piercing the flight deck hit three planes on the hangar deck, starting fires. One of the aircraft, a Yorktown Dauntless, was fully fueled and carrying a 1,000 pounds (450 kg) bomb. Prompt action by LT A. C. Emerson, the hangar deck officer, prevented a serious fire by activating the sprinkler system and quickly extinguishing the fire.

The second bomb to hit the ship came from the port side, pierced the flight deck, and exploded in the lower part of the funnel, in effect a classic "down the stack shot." It ruptured the uptakes for three boilers, disabled two boilers, and extinguished the fires in five boilers. Smoke and gases began filling the firerooms of six boilers. The men at Number One boiler remained at their post and kept it alight, maintaining enough steam pressure to allow the auxiliary steam systems to function.

A third bomb hit the carrier from the starboard side, pierced the side of number one elevator and exploded on the fourth deck, starting a persistent fire in the rag storage space, adjacent to the forward gasoline stowage and the magazines. The prior precaution of smothering the gasoline system with carbon dioxide undoubtedly prevented the gasoline from igniting.

While the ship recovered from the damage inflicted by the dive-bombing attack, her speed dropped to 6 knots (11 km/h 6.9 mph) and then at 14:40, about 20 minutes after the bomb hit that had shut down most of the boilers, Yorktown slowed to a stop, dead in the water.

At about 15:40, Yorktown prepared to get underway and, at 15:50, thanks to the black gang in No. 1 Fireroom having kept the auxiliaries operating to clear the stack gas from the other firerooms and bleeding steam from No. 1 to the other boilers to jump-start them, Chief Engineer Delaney reported to Captain Buckmaster that the ship's engineers were ready to make 20 knots (37 km/h 23 mph) or better. Damage control parties were able to temporarily patch the flight deck and restore power to several boilers within an hour, giving her a speed of 19 knots (35 km/h 22 mph) and enabling her to resume air operations. Yorktown yanked down her yellow breakdown flag and up went a new hoist-"My speed 5." [9] Captain Buckmaster had his signalmen hoist a huge new (10 feet wide and 15 feet long) American flag from the foremast. Sailors, including Ensign John d'Arc Lorenz called it an incalculable inspiration: "For the first time I realized what the flag meant: all of us — a million faces — all our effort — a whisper of encouragement." [10]

Simultaneously, with the fires controlled sufficiently to warrant the resumption of fueling, Yorktown began refueling the fighters then on deck just then the ship's radar picked up an incoming air group at a distance of 33 miles (53 km). While the ship prepared for battle, again smothering gasoline systems and stopping the fueling of the planes on her flight deck, she vectored four of the six fighters of the CAP in the air to intercept the raiders. Of the 10 fighters on board, eight had as little as 23 US gallons (87 l) of fuel in their tanks. They were launched as the remaining pair of fighters of the CAP headed out to intercept the Japanese planes.

At 16:00, maneuvering Yorktown churned forward, making 20 knots. The fighters she had launched and vectored out to intercept had meanwhile made contact with the enemy. Yorktown received reports that the planes were "Kates". The Wildcats shot down at least three, but the rest began their approach while the carrier and her escorts mounted a heavy antiaircraft barrage.

Yorktown maneuvered radically, avoiding at least two torpedoes before another two struck the port side within minutes of each other, the first at 16:20. The carrier had been mortally wounded she lost power and went dead in the water with a jammed rudder and an increasing list to port.

As the ship's list progressed, Commander Clarence E. Aldrich, the damage control officer, reported from central station that, without power, controlling the flooding looked impossible. The Chief Engineer, Lieutenant Commander John F. Delaney, soon reported that all boiler fires were out, all power was lost, and that it was impossible to correct the list. Buckmaster ordered Aldrich, Delaney, and their men to secure the fire and engine rooms and lay up to the weather decks to put on life jackets.

The list, meanwhile, continued to increase. When it reached 26 degrees, Buckmaster and Aldrich agreed that capsizing was imminent. "In order to save as many of the ship's company as possible", the captain wrote later, he "ordered the ship to be abandoned".

Over the next few minutes the crew lowered the wounded into life rafts and struck out for the nearby destroyers and cruisers to be picked up by their boats, abandoning ship in good order. After the evacuation of all wounded, the executive officer, Commander Irving D. Wiltsie, left the ship down a line on the starboard side. Buckmaster, meanwhile, toured the ship one last time, to see if any men remained. After finding no "live personnel", Buckmaster lowered himself into the water by means of a line over the stern, by which time water was lapping the port side of the hangar deck. [4]

Salvage and sinking Edit

After being picked up by the destroyer USS Hammann, Buckmaster transferred to the cruiser Astoria and reported to Vice Admiral Fletcher, who had shifted his flag to the heavy cruiser after the first dive-bombing attack. The two men agreed that a salvage party should attempt to save the ship, since she had stubbornly remained afloat despite the heavy list and imminent danger of capsizing.

While efforts to save Yorktown had been proceeding apace, her planes were still in action, joining those from Enterprise in striking the last Japanese carrier—Hiryū—late that afternoon. Taking four direct hits, the Japanese carrier was soon helpless. She was abandoned by her crew and left to drift out of control.

Yorktown, as it turned out, floated throughout the night. Two men were still alive on board her one attracted attention by firing a machine gun, heard by the sole attending destroyer, Hughes. The escort picked up the men, one of whom later died. Buckmaster selected 29 officers and 141 men to return to the ship in an attempt to save her. Five destroyers formed an antisubmarine screen while the salvage party boarded the listing carrier on the morning of 6 June. The fleet tug USS Vireo, summoned from Pearl and Hermes Reef, commenced towing the ship, although progress was painfully slow.

Yorktown ' s repair party went on board with a carefully predetermined plan of action to be carried out by men from each department—damage control, gunnery air engineering, navigation, communication, supply and medical. To assist in the work, Lieutenant Commander Arnold E. True brought Hammann alongside to starboard, aft, furnishing pumps and electric power.

By mid-afternoon, the process of reducing topside weight was proceeding well one 5-inch (127 mm) gun had been dropped over the side and a second was ready to be cast loose, planes had been pushed over the side, and a large quantity of water had been pumped out of engineering spaces. These efforts reduced the list about two degrees.

Unknown to Yorktown and the six nearby destroyers, however, Japanese submarine I-168 had discovered the disabled carrier and achieved a favorable firing position. The I-boat eluded detection—possibly due to the large amount of debris and wreckage in the water—until 15:36, when lookouts spotted a salvo of four torpedoes approaching the ship from the starboard beam.

Hammann went to general quarters, with a 20-millimeter gun going into action in an attempt to explode the torpedoes in the water as she tried to get underway. One torpedo hit Hammann directly amidships and broke her back. The destroyer jackknifed and went down rapidly. Two torpedoes struck Yorktown just below the turn of the bilge at the after end of the island structure. The fourth torpedo passed astern of the carrier.

About a minute after Hammann sank there was an underwater explosion, possibly caused by the destroyer's depth charges going off. The concussion killed many of Hammann ' s and a few of Yorktown ' s men who had been thrown into the water, battered the damaged carrier's hull, dislodged Yorktown ' s auxiliary generator and numerous fixtures from the hangar deck, sheared rivets in the starboard leg of the foremast, and injured several onboard crew members. [ citation needed ]

The remaining destroyers initiated a search for the enemy submarine (which escaped), and commenced rescue operations for Hammann survivors and the Yorktown salvage crew. Vireo cut the tow and doubled back to assist in rescue efforts.

Throughout the night of 6 June and into the morning of 7 June, Yorktown remained afloat but by 05:30 on 7 June, observers noted that her list was rapidly increasing to port. Shortly afterwards, the ship turned over onto her port side, and lay that way, revealing the torpedo hole in her starboard bilge- the result of the submarine attack. Captain Buckmaster's American flag was still flying. [11] All ships half-mastered their colors in salute all hands who were topside with heads uncovered and came to attention, with tears in their eyes. Two patrolling PBYs appeared overhead and dipped their wings in a final salute. [12] At 07:01, the ship rolled upside-down, and slowly sank, stern first, in 3,000 fathoms (5,500 m) of water with her battle flags flying. [4] To most who witnessed the sinking, the Yorktown went quietly and with enormous dignity- "like the great lady she was," as one of them put it. [13] In all, Yorktown ' s sinking on 7 June 1942 claimed the lives of 141 of her officers and crewmen. [ citation needed ]

On 19 May 1998, the wreck of Yorktown was found and photographed by oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard, discoverer of the wrecks of the RMS Titanic and the German battleship Bismarck. The wreck of Yorktown, 3 miles (5 km) beneath the surface, was sitting upright on the bottom in excellent condition. Despite spending 56 years on the deep-sea floor, much paint and equipment were still visible. [14] As of 13 July 2019, there have not been any follow-up expeditions to the Yorktown ' s wreck.

Yorktown (CV-5) earned three battle stars for her World War II service, two of them for the significant part she had played in stopping Japanese expansion and turning the tide of the war at Coral Sea and at Midway. [4] CV-10, the second vessel of the Essex-class of aircraft carriers, was renamed from USS Bonhomme Richard to Yorktown in honor of her loss at Midway, and was preserved after decommissioning in 1970 to become a museum ship in 1975.


USS Yorktown CV-5 History

U.S.S. Yorktown (CV-5) was laid down on May 21, 1934 at the Newport News Shipbuilding company in Newport News, Virginia. Just under two years later she was launched on April 4th of 1936, sponsored by Eleanor Roosevelt.

Over the next two years she was fitted out and trained in Hampton Roads, Virginia, and proceeded on her shakedown cruise in the Caribbean in early 1938. She remained on the eastern seaboard and participated in war games and fleet problems for the next year, until transferring to the Pacific in April of 1939. Once there she operated out of San Diego and continued to participate in fleet problems that helped develop carrier doctrine that was still in its infancy. In 1940 she was fitted with an RCA CXAM radar, one of the first ships to carry this new technology.

In April of 1941, as a show of U.S. naval force, Yorktown and a supporting force of cruisers and destroyers was transferred back to the Atlantic. The rising toll of the German u-boat campaign against the British caused great concern on the East Coast, and the Navy needed to be able to show it could protect American interests, even though the United States was still neutral in the conflict. American warships began escorting American flagged merchant ships, and all cruises were done on a wartime-footing, even though the Germans had strict orders not to attack American vessels. Yorktown and her escorts completed several such cruises, until she returned to Norfolk for overhaul on December 2nd, 1941.

With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Yorktown immediately returned to the Pacific to reinforce the damaged fleet. She began her wartime career by escorting Marine reinforcements to American Samoa. Her charges safely delivered, U.S.S. Yorktown met up with her sister ship U.S.S. Enterprise and the two undertook one of the first offensive operations in the Pacific: The Marshalls-Gilberts Raids. Yorktown’s air group attacked targets at Jaluit, Makin and Mili. Damage was slight, both because of the air crews’ inexperience, and the fact that there was little of military importance at the locations. During the operation a Japanese “Mavis” flying boat that shadowed the task force was shot down by Yorktown’s Combat Air Patrol, the ship’s first enemy “kill”.

Following these raids, Yorktown put into Pearl briefly for replenishment and then on February 14th, 1942, headed for the Coral Sea. There she met up with the carrier U.S.S. Lexington and her escorts to patrol the South Pacific. March 10th saw a joint strike from the two carrier’s air groups against Lae and Salamaua. Again, military targets were attacked and damaged, but nothing of significance. One result of this raid, however, was to give the air crews more practice at dive bombing and torpedo runs experience that would be invaluable in the coming months.

Lexington returned to Pearl Harbor for a refit and Yorktown stayed in the Coral Sea for extended patrols. She continued to do so with only a minor visit to Tongatabu in the Tonga Islands, until the Lexington returned. Once rejoined the two carriers headed back to the Coral Sea. There they joined in battle with the Japanese in The Battle of the Coral Sea, May 4th through 8th, 1942. The battle, a result of an attempt by the Japanese to invade Port Moresby, New Guinea and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands, saw the Japanese invasion turned back in the first ever carrier battle, and the first naval battle in history where the opposing ships never sighted one another. The Japanese lost the light carrier Shoho, while the Americans lost the heavy carrier Lexington. Yorktown also sustained damage that many said would take months of shipyard work to repair.

Those months in the shipyard would not come, however, as Yorktown returned immediately to Pearl Harbor to prepare for another battle. U.S. Naval Intelligence had broken a top Japanese code and knew that the enemy’s next move would be to invade Midway Island, at the very northwestern tip of the Hawaiian island chain.

Yorktown entered Pearl Harbor on May 27th, and just three days later, patched up from a hurried dry dock visit, got underway towards Midway. Her repairs were nowhere near sufficient, but they would have to do. Yorktown rendezvoused with her sisters Enterprise and Hornet at Point Luck, northeast of Midway, and lay in wait for the Japanese.

Search planes from Midway detected the Japanese invasion force and the separate Japanese carrier battle group early on June 4th. Yorktown had the search duty that day, and stayed on station to recover her search aircraft while Enterprise and Hornet raced west to launch their strikes. Once Yorktown had recovered her aircraft, she followed and launched her own strike. This separated the two task forces, and would have dramatic consequences for Yorktown. Due to errors in plotting and aircraft getting lost, Enterprise and Yorktown’s dive bombers arrived over the Japanese carriers at the same time (all three carriers torpedo plane squadrons had been turned back with atrocious losses already, and Hornet’s dive bombers got lost and missed the action entirely). Within the space of minutes, the SBD Dauntless aircraft had turned three Japanese carriers into burning wrecks.

Of the Japanese carriers, only the fourth, Hiryu, had escaped the initial inferno. She subsequently launched a strike of 18 Val dive bombers and 6 Zero fighters, which found Yorktown just after 1400 hours. Three bombs struck Yorktown and knocked out all power. It took over an hour for the engineers to get the engines and boilers back online and functioning. With power restored, Yorktown began making headway again, just as another attack appeared on the radar screen at 15:50.

Yorktown immediately began to churn up to her now top speed of 20 knots, and launched what few fighters she had aboard, some with so little fuel in them that they were prepared to fight and ditch in the water. The Japanese strike, also from the sole surviving Hiryu, of Kate torpedo planes, pressed their attack and Yorktown, unable to dodge them due to her reduced speed and damaged state, took two torpedoes in her port side.

The ship took on an immediate list and lost all power. Captain Buckmaster passed the order to abandon ship once the list passed 26 degrees. With all of the crew off and the battle proceeding on without her (aircraft from the Enterprise, including many Yorktown orphans, found and destroyed the Hiryu), the Yorktown clung to life. After a full night of refusing to sink, a salvage party was assembled and returned to the carrier. Salvage and towing was well underway when, on June 6th, the Japanese submarine I-168 slipped through the escorting destroyer screen and fired a spread of torpedoes at Yorktown. The destroyer Hammann, tied alongside Yorktown to provide power, was struck by one torpedo and split in half, sinking in a matter of minutes. Two other torpedoes struck Yorktown. The carrier was again abandoned, and the hope was to board her and continue the salvage the next day, but dawn of June 7th saw Yorktown slowly settling and rolling over. Shortly after 0700 hours U.S.S. Yorktown rolled onto her port side, capsized, and sank.


Hero Ships Season 1 Episodes

Remembering the USS Arizona, whose crew perished during the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941. Included: a reunion of survivors and the entombing of the ashes of a deceased survivor.

USS Enterprise

The USS Enterprise, the famed carrier of World War II that got a second life with a nuclear-powered namesake in 1960, is the subject.

LST-325

Recalling USS LST-325, the amphibious landing ship tank that first saw action in World War II and was an unsung hero of many invasions.

USS Constitution

Exploring the USS Constitution, known as "Old Ironsides," which was launched in 1797 and the oldest commissioned ship in the world still afloat.

USS Nautilus

A tribute to the USS Nautilus examines vessels that have carried the name, beginning with the surface ships of the 19th century. Included: the submarines that took the name from World War I onward.

USS Hornet

A tribute to the USS Hornet, a World War II aircraft carrier that saw action during the Doolittle Raid and the Battle of Midway.

USS Texas

Recalling the USS Texas, which saw action in a number of brutal battles during the 20th century, such as D-Day, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

USS New Jersey

A tribute to the USS New Jersey, the world's most decorated battleship, which is now a museum in Camden, N.J. Included: a reunion of two shipmates who served aboard the USS New Jersey during the Vietnam War.

USS New York

The construction of the USS New York, which was forged from the steel of the World Trade Center, is examined. Also: the history of the battleship USS New York, which served in both World Wars.

USS Laffey

Honoring the USS Laffey, which was the name of two destroyers. The first was sunk during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942 and the second also served in World War II, earning the nickname "The Ship That Would Not Die" because of the heavy bombardment it endured.

USS Samuel B. Roberts

USS Samuel B. Roberts is remembered. The first ship to bear the name sank in 1944 during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. A second ship took the name in 1946 and a third was commissioned in 1986 and sent to the Persian Gulf in 1988.

USS Yorktown

The USS Yorktown is honored as the histories of the two carriers that bore the name are recalled. The first was lost during the Battle of Midway in 1942, and the second was launched in 1943.

SS Jeremiah O'Brien

The SS Jeremiah O'Brien, a World War II Liberty ship that survived D-Day, is honored.


Hero Ships: USS Yorktown: Night Attack - HISTORY

(CV-5: dp. 19,800 1. 809'6" b. 83'1" dr. 28'0", s.32.5 k. cpl. 2,919 a. 8 5", 22 .60-car. mg., dct 81-85cl. Yorktown)

The third Yorktown (CV-5) was laid down on 21 May 1934 at Newport News,Va., by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. Launched on 4 April 1936, sponsored by Mrs. FrankIin D. Roosevelt, and commissioned at the Naval Operating Base (NOB), Norfolk, Va., on 30 September 1937, Capt. Ernest D.McWhorter in command.

After fitting out the aircraft carrier trained in Hampton Roads and inthe southern drill grounds off the Virginia capes into January of 1938,conducting carrier qualifications for her newly embarked air group.

Yorktown sailed for the Caribbean on 8 January 1938 and arrived at Culebra,Puerto Rico, on 13 January. Over the ensuing month, the carrier conducted her shakedown, touching at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas Virgin IslandsGonaives, Haiti, Guantanamo Bay Cuba and Cristobal, Panama Canal Zone.Departing Colon Bay, Cristobal, on 1 March, Yorktown sailed for Hampton Roads and arrived there on the 6th and shifted to the Norfolk Navy Yardthe next day for post-shakedown availability.

After undergoing repairs through the early autumn of 1938, Yorktown shifted from the navy yard to NOB Norfolk on 17 October and soon headed for theSouthern Drill Grounds for training.

Yorktown operated off the eastern seaboard, ranging from Chesapeake Bayto Guantanamo Bay, into 1939. As flagship for Carrier Division (CarDiv)2 she participated in her first war game-Fleet Problem XX- along with hersistership Enterprise (CV-6) in February 1939. The scenario for the exercisecalled for one fleet to control the sea lanes in the Caribbean against theincursion of a foreign European power while maintaining sufficient naval strength to protect vital American interests in the Pacific. The maneuvers were witnessed, in part, by President Roosevelt, embarked in the heavy cruiser Houston (CA-30).

The critique of the operation revealed that carrier operations-a partof the scenarios for the annual exercises since the entry of Langley (CV-1)into the war games in 1925-had achieved a new peak of efficiency. Despitethe inexperience of Yorktown and Enterprise- comparative newcomers to theFleet-both carriers made significant contributions to the success of theproblem. The planners had studied the employment of carriers and their embarked air groups in connection with convoy escort, antisubmarine defense, andvarious attack measures against surface ships and shore installations. In short, they worked to develop the tactics that would be used when war actuallycame.

Following Fleet Problem XX, Yorktown returned briefly to Hampton Roadsbefore sailing for the Pacific on 20 April. Transiting the Panama Canala week later Yorktown soon commenced a regular routine of operations withthe Pacific Fleet. Operating out of San Diego into 1940, the carrier participatedin Fleet Problem XXI that April.

Fleet Problem XXI-a two-part exercise-included some of the operationsthat would characterize future warfare in the Pacific. The first part ofthe exercise was devoted to training in making plans and estimates in screeningand scouting, in coordination of combatant units, and in employing fleetand standard dispositions. The second phase included training in convoy protection, the seizure of advanced bases, and, ultimately, the decisive engagement between the opposing fleets. The last pre-war exercise of itstype, Fleet Problem XXI, contained two exercises (comparatively minor atthe time) where air operations played a major role. Fleet Joint Air Exercise114A prophetically pointed out the need to coordinate Army and Navy defenseplans for the Hawaiian Islands, and Fleet Exercise 114 proved that aircraftcould be used for high altitude tracking of surface forces-a significantrole for planes that would be fully realized in the war to come.

With the retention of the Fleet in Hawaiian waters after the conclusionof Fleet Problem XXI, Yorktown operated in the Pacific off the west coastof the United States and in Hawaiian waters until the following spring,when the success of German U-boats preying upon British shipping in the Atlantic required a shift of American naval strength. Thus, to reinforcethe Atlantic Fleet, the Navy transferred a substantial force from the Pacificincluding Yorktown, a battleship division, and accompanying cruisers anddestroyers.

Yorktown departed Pearl Harbor on 20 April 1941 in company with Warrington(DD-383), Somers (DD381), and Jouett (DD-396), headed southeast, transitedthe Panama Canal on the night of 6 and 7 May and arrived at Bermuda onthe 12th. From that time to the entry of the United States into the war,Yorktown conducted four patrols in the Atlantic, ranging from Newfoundlandto Bermuda and logging 17,642 miles steamed while enforcing American neutrality.

Although Adolph Hitler had forbidden his submarines to attack American ships, the men who manned the American naval vessels were not aware of this policy and operated on a wartime footing in the Atlantic.

On 28 October, while Yorktown, battleship New Mexico (BB-41), and otherAmerican warships were screening a convoy, a destroyer picked up a submarine contact and dropped depth charges while the convoy itself made an emergency starboard turn, the first of the convoy's three emergency changes of course.Late that afternoon, engine repairs to one of the ships in the convoy, Empire Pintail, reduced the convoy's speed to 11 knots.

During the night, the American ships intercepted strong German radio signals, indicating submarines probably in the vicinity reporting the group.Rear Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, commanding the escort force sent a destroyerto sweep astern of the convoy to destroy the U-boat or at least to drivehim under.

The next day, while cruiser scoutplanes patrolled overhead, Yorktown and Savannah (CL-42) fueled their escorting destroyers, finishing the task just at dusk. On the 30th, Yorktown was preparing to fuel three destroyers when other escorts made sound contacts. The convoy subsequently made 10emergency turns while Morris (DD-417) and Anderson (DD-411) dropped depthcharges, and Hughes (DD-410) assisted in developing the contact. Anderson later made two more depth charge attacks, noticing "considerable oilwith slick spreading but no wreckage."

The short-of-war period was becoming more like the real thing as eachday went on. Elsewhere on 30 October and more than a month before Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, U-562 torpedoed the destroyer Reuben James(DD-245), sinking her with a heavy loss of life-the first loss of an American warship in World War II.

After another Neutrality Patrol stint in November, Yorktown put into Norfolk on 2 December and was there five days later when American fightingmen in Hawaii were rudely awakened to find their country at war.

The early news from the Pacific was bleak: the Pacific Fleet had takena beating. With the battle line crippled, the unhurt American carriers assumedgreat importance. There were, on 7 December, only three in the Pacific:Enterprise, Lexington (CV-2), and Saratoga (CV-3). While Ranger (CV-4),Wasp (CV-7), and the recently commissioned Hornet (CV-8) remained in theAtlantic, Yorktown departed Norfolk on 16 December 1941 and sailed for thePacific, her secondary gun galleries studded with new 20-millimeter Oerlikon machine guns. She reached San Diego, Calif., on 30 December 1941 and soon became flagship for Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher's newly formed TaskForce (TF) 17.

The carrier's first mission in her new theater was to escort a convoycarrying Marine reinforcements to American Samoa. Departing San Diego on6 January 1942, Yorktown and her consorts covered the movement of marinesto Tutuila and Pago Pago to augment the garrison already there.

Having safely covered that troop movement, Yorktown, in company with sistership Enterprise, departed Samoan waters on 25 January. Six days later,TF 8, built around Enterprise, and TF 17, built around Yorktown, partedcompany. The former headed for the Marshall Islands, the latter for the Gilberts-each bound to take part in the first American offensive of thewar the Marshalls-Gilberts raids.

At 05i7, Yorktown-screened by Louisville (CA-28) and St. Louis (CL-49)and four destroyers-launched 11 torpedo planes (Douglas TBD-1 Devastators)and 17 scout bombers (Douglas SBD-3 Dauntlesses) under the command of Comdr.Curtis W. Smiley. Those planes hit what Japanese shore installations andshipping they could find at Jaluit, but adverse weather conditions hamperedthe mission in which six planes were lost. Other Yorktown planes attackedJapanese installations and ships at Makin and Mili Atolls.

The attack by TF 17 on the Gilberts had apparently been a complete surprisesince the American force encountered no enemy surface ships. A single, fourengined, Kamasaki E7K "Mavis," patrol-bomber seaplane attemptedto attack American destroyers that had been sent astern in hope of recoveringplanes overdue from the Jaluit mission. Antiaircraft fire from the destroyers drove off the intruder before he could cause any damage.

Later, another "Mavis"-or possibly the same one that had attackedthe destroyers-came out of low clouds 15,000 yards from Yorktown. The carrierwithheld her antiaircraft fire in order not to interfere with the combat air patrol (CAP) fighters. Presently, the "Mavis," pursued by two Wildcats, disappeared behind a cloud. Within five minutes, the enemy patrol plane fell out of the clouds and crashed in the water.

Although TF 17 was slated to make a second attack on Jaluit, it was canceled because of heavy rainstorms and the approach of darkness. Therefore, the Yorktown force retired from the area.

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz later called the Marshalls-Gilberts raids "well conceived, well planned, and brilliantly executed." The results obtainedby TF's 8 and 17 were noteworthy, Nimitz continued in his subsequent report,because the task forces had been obliged to make their attacks somewhat blindly, due to lack of hard intelligence data on the Japanese-mandated islands.


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