This damn hole in my jaw is killing me – yeeoww! Didn’t take my usual patrol today, due to it.
This recent battle of the Coral Sea turned out fairly well for us. We sank two of their carriers and damaged a third. The first was sunk by the Yorktown torpedo group – they saw her go down. The second was badly damaged (blazing furiously from waterline to deck — forward) and was not to be found on the second attack, so they presumed, and felt sure, they had sunk her. The third was torpedoed and was later seen limping back to Japan with a bad list and a heavy escort.
Just heard that the Lex and Yorktown torpedo groups are arguing over who sank the first carrier.
Also just heard a first-hand account of the end of the Lexington. This kid was a fighter pilot and was one of the nine (!) planes detailed to protect the Lex while the rest of the outfit was off attacking the Jap carriers, 175 miles away. Soon they saw the Japs driving in – 18 bombers with a fighter protecting each one. Knowing they be useless, they flew aside, after telling the carrier what she was in for, and attacked the Japs as they pulled out of their bombing runs. Saw the bombs hit the deck and all around her. The one that did the damage hit port side forward — wrecked the gun and crew and carried on to light the gasoline storage tanks. The decks were littered with bodies and foamite. Landed on the carrier about noon. Deck smoking and more pouring out from below decks. Wandered around the ship in sort of a daze. Wardroom converted to hospital. Went down to the stateroom – all okay. Ignored money, valuables, orders, and pictures, but pick up a .45 automatic and went back up topside. Ship developing a list to port, bow down. Sat around in radio shack. Ordered to abandon ship around four in the afternoon. Cruisers and destroyers all around. Water black with people jumping in. Intermittent explosions from below forced both elevators above deck level — one 3 feet, one 6 feet. The Lex had been hit from 4 to 6 torpedoes before the fatal bombing attack, not fazed. The fire is so what did her in. Torpedo warheads too hot to touch in their storage pile on the hangar deck – result of a previously extinguished hangar deck fire. Smoke pouring from various shafts and hatches all over ship. Fire getting out of control. Failure of CO2 extinguishing system in gas tanks. Saw crowd struggling in water. Decided to wait till more of them had been picked up. Took a walk around the deck – in comparatively good shape. Finally went over side and swam toward New Orleans – she moved on. Swam toward a destroyer – she moved on. Inflated life jacket and waited; finally picked up and taken aboard Minneapolis.
Skipper of one of Lex’s squadrons went over the side. Swam until tired and found himself still close aboard so he grabbed the Jacob’s ladder and hoisted himself back aboard. Found the ships captain wondering about all alone on the flight deck in a dazet. Grabbed his arm and yelled at him, “Come on now, none of this going-down-with-the-ship shit. Let’s get off!” Hailed a passing lifeboat and pulled the captain off with him. Last two off ship. Shortly after, the torpedo warheads went off and wrecked the deck and blew planes and parts twice as high as the ships mast. Main magazine went off about the same time. Task force pulled away, leaving a destroyer to finish off the poor old Lex with a few torpedoes.
Yorktown group said they passed the Japs heading for their carrier, while they were on their way to the Jap carrier. Passed close enough to wave to each other. Also passed on return trip – no one in either group got out of line, as they were both running low on gas and were worried as to what condition their carrier was in.
One new ensign in the Yorktown group made a bad pass at the Jap carrier and didn’t launch his torpedo. Feeling very badly, and not wanting to return to the ship with the torpedo, and also not wishing to waste it by just dropping it, he took after a Jap cruiser and sunk it! Upon returning, he apologized to his skipper for not accomplishing his mission! The rest of the attacking planes saw the cruiser go down and wondered what it happened to it. (Someone stated that Messerschmitts were used by the Japs.)
Task force all pulled out again today. They’re expecting the Japs to make an attack on Midway any day now. They have definite dope on a Jap task force.
One officer was impolite enough to die at the officers bar this afternoon while I was there. Heart failure.