GB-59 1/48 SBD-3 Dauntless, USS Yorktown (CV-5) - WW2 PTO V

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Aug 21, 2006
In my castle....
User Name: Lucky13
Name: Jan
Category: Intermediate
Scale: 1/48
Manufacturer/Model: Academy/Accurate Miniatures, SBD-3 Dauntless
Extras: Eduard PE, twin .30 Stinger and decals....


Yorktown CV-5 and Task Force 17 operate in the Pacific Ocean in February or March 1942....

The Marshall-Gilbert Islands raids

While Yorktown had been escorting her charges to American Samoa, the new Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC), Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, deemed the time right for the first American counter-offensive against the Japanese. The selected targets were Japanese forward bases in the Marshall and Gilbert island chains. The aims of this counter-offensive were to inflict damage on the enemy, draw forces away from other areas where Japanese forces were steadily advancing, and boost the morale of all Americans. Yorktown and her sister ship USS Enterprise were chosen by Nimitz as the means to carry the war back to the Japanese.

On 11 January 1942, Enterprise left Pearl Harbor to join Yorktown in the South Pacific. Enterprise and her screening warships were designated Task Force 8 (TF-8), with Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr. in command.

Having safely covered the troop movement to Pago Pago, Yorktown, in company with Enterprise, departed Samoan waters on 25 January and the two carrier task forces steamed north-west towards the Gilbert and Marshall Islands. Every day, Yorktown's aircraft were aloft, probing for the enemy, and battling recurring rain squalls.


A U.S. Navy SOC Seagull floatplane flies over Wotje Atoll, during the attack on the Japanese airfield there by gunfire from USS Salt Lake City (CA-25) and USS Northampton (CA-26) and fighters from USS Enterprise (CV-6), 1 February 1942. The original picture caption identifies the burning facilities as an ammunition dump and two fuel dumps.
On the 31st of January 1942, Yorktown (TF-17) and Enterprise (TF-8) parted company. The objectives for the Yorktown Task Force were Jaluit, the seat of government in the Japanese Marshall Islands Mandate, and Makin and Mili Atolls, located at the northernmost point of the Gilbert chain. The Enterprise Task Force continued steaming further northward to raid Kwajalein, Wotje, and Maloelap in the Marshall Islands.

Screened only by cruisers USS Louisville (CA-28) and USS St Louis (CL-49), Yorktown approached her objectives in the pre-dawn darkness of 1 February 1942. Her four destroyer escorts had been detached the previous night to form a scouting line. At 0415 hours Yorktown went to flight quarters, and launched eleven Douglas TBD-1 Devastator torpedo bombers and seventeen Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless scout bombers. The air strike was led by Commander Curtis W. Smiley.

The Jaluit attack group had to battle rain squalls all the way to the objective, and over Jaluit they encountered a fierce tropical thunderstorm that scattered an already ragged formation. Despite the foul weather, and very poor visibility, an uncoordinated attack on Jaluit was pressed home by squadron sections and individual aircraft. Yorktown's aircraft attacked the few Japanese shore installations and shipping that could be seen in the murky conditions. Little damage was done and six Yorktown aircraft failed to return from the Jaluit raid. Appalling weather conditions or running out of fuel appear to have been responsible for these losses. Two SBDs took off from Yorktown and were never seen again. Two TBD's were forced to ditch off Jaluit. The crews reached shore where they were taken prisoner by the Japanese. Two downed TBD's were seen in the sea by aircraft returning to Yorktown and their approximate location was reported. Some stragglers from the Jaluit raid touched down on Yorktown with only a couple of gallons of fuel left in their tanks.

Other Yorktown aircraft looked for Japanese installations and ships at Makin Atoll. Here the weather conditions were better, and Yorktown's SBDs destroyed two large Kawanishi four-engine H6K flying boats (code-named "Mavis" by the Allies) and severely damaged a gunboat, the Nagata Maru. At Mili Atoll, Yorktown's pilots found nothing to attack.

The attack by TF 17 on the Gilberts appears to have taken the Japanese completely by surprise. Apart from some belated and ineffective anti-aircraft fire, the main obstacle was the bad weather.

While searching for the crews of the two TBDs seen in the sea by aircraft returning from the Jaluit raid, three of Yorktown's destroyers encountered a four-engine Kawanishi H6K Mavis flying boat. The heavily armed reconnaissance flying boat was one of three that had taken off from Jaluit after Yorktown's raiders had withdrawn. The flying boat attacked USS Sims but a stick of bombs fell well astern in the destroyer's wake. The flying boat was driven off into low cloud by anti-aircraft fire from Sims.

Responding to an appeal for air support from her destroyers, Yorktown launched six F4F Wildcat fighters of VF-42 to hunt for the enemy flying boat. The search was fruitless, but at 1307 hours Yorktown's radar picked up another intruder approaching from the east. Yorktown went to general quarters, and shortly afterwards, another Mavis flying boat emerged from low clouds. The intruder was only about 15,000 yards from the carrier, but Yorktown and her escorts withheld anti-aircraft fire to give the combat air patrol Wildcats a free hand to deal with the enemy.

The Japanese flying boat had only just crossed Yorktown's bow when Ensigns E. Scott McCuskey and John P. Adams closed with the enemy aircraft and fired simultaneously. McCuskey saw his tracers striking the flying boat near the wing root, and it suddenly exploded. The excited McCuskey was heard to report, "We just shot his ass off!"

As the first Yorktown pilots to down an enemy aircraft, McCuskey and Adams were called to the bridge to be awarded respectively a colourful jacket and a fez as mementos of the occasion. It was only later that night, when the adrenalin rush had subsided, that the two young American pilots began to address the sobering realisation that they had been forced to destroy a Japanese aircrew as well as the aircraft that was threatening their ship. A week later they would view the terrible devastation wrought by the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, and their initial sympathy for the Japanese aircrew would be swept away by the sight.

Rear Admiral Fletcher was contemplating a temporary withdrawal to refuel his destroyers and await better flying weather when Vice Admiral Halsey ordered TF-17 to terminate the Gilbert-Marshall operation and return to Pearl Harbor.

The Marshall-Gilbert Islands Raid in retrospect
Admiral Nimitz described the Marshall-Gilbert Islands raids as "well conceived, well planned and well executed", and noted that the task forces had been obliged to make their attacks somewhat blindly, due to lack of hard intelligence data on the Japanese occupied islands, and in the face of appalling weather conditions.

Although the damage inflicted on a section of the Japanese eastern defensive perimeter had not been significant, and was in no way commensurate with the heavy loss of American lives and damage to the Pacific Fleet produced by Japan's treacherous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the bold hit-and-run raids by Yorktown and Enterprise on the Marshalls and Gilberts resonated strongly in Japan. Admiral Yamamoto was especially alarmed. The primary targets of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had been the aircraft carriers of the US Pacific Fleet, but they had all been at sea when the attack took place. Japan's military leaders believed that their devastating attack on Pearl Harbor would cause the United States to adopt a largely defensive posture for at least six months. This comfortable belief had been shattered by the Marshall-Gilbert Raid. That raid demonstrated very clearly to Tokyo that the US Pacific Fleet was still very much in business. Over the ensuing months, Admiral Nimitz intended to provide the Japanese with continuing reminders of that fact.

Yorktown returns to a changed Pearl Harbor
On the 6th of February 1942, Yorktown returned to Pearl Harbor for the first time since April 1941 when she departed for service in the Atlantic war zone. As Yorktown moved up the channel to enter the harbor, her officers and men were mustered on the flight deck in their dress whites. As the ship entered the harbor, the extent of the devastation produced by the Japanese attack on 7 December 1941 was still apparent, and officers and men were shocked by the scene.

After replenishing in Pearl Harbor, Yorktown was ordered to join Vice Admiral Halsey's Enterprise task force (TF-8) in more bold hit-and-run raids on America's Wake Island, now occupied by Japanese invaders, and Japan's Minami-tori Island (also known as Marcus Island), a coral atoll in the central Pacific, only 700 miles (1,125km) south-east of Japan.

Yorktown put to sea on 14 February, but on that same day, she was redirected by Admiral King to the South Pacific. Admiral King was concerned by intelligence suggesting that the Japanese were preparing to seize more territory in New Guinea or the Solomons. Under Admiral Halsey's command, TF-8 sailed off alone to raid Wake and Minami-tori Islands.
An appraisal of the strategic situation in the Coral Sea in February 1942
As early as August 1941, the Japanese Navy had requested troops from the Japanese Army to capture Rabaul in the Australian Territory of New Guinea at an early stage of the Pacific War. Rabaul possessed a fine harbour and was located on the northern island of New Britain. The admirals of the Imperial Navy General Staff viewed Rabaul as a threat to Japan's major naval base at Truk in the Caroline Islands. The reason for their concern was that Truk would be well within the operational range of American B-17 heavy bombers if they were based at Rabaul.

The force earmarked for the capture of Rabaul was Japan's South Seas Detachment. This was an elite 5,000-man unit with specialist jungle training. This was the same force that had captured America's Guam on 10 December 1941.

On the 23rd of January 1942, five thousand troops of the South Seas Detachment stormed ashore at Rabaul and quickly overran the single reinforced Australian battalion defending the town and its harbour. Having occupied Rabaul, the Japanese were greatly concerned when their invasion force immediately came under attack from Allied bombers launched from Lae and Salamaua on the north-eastern coast of the New Guinea mainland. Something now had to be done to protect Rabaul from Allied counter-attacks. Plans were immediately set in train for the early capture of Lae and Salamaua.

While the Japanese were preparing to occupy more of the island of New Guinea, Admiral Nimitz had not been idle at Hawaii. He responded to the capture of Rabaul by ordering Vice Admiral Wilson Brown to take Task Force 11 (TF-11), formed around the heavy fleet carrier USS Lexington (CV-2), to the Coral Sea to raid Rabaul.

With its supporting cruisers and destroyers, Lexington moved into the Coral Sea and approached Rabaul from the south-east. A Japanese patrol plane spotted the American task force on the morning of the 19 of February, and Lexington was attacked later that day by a formation of eighteen Japanese medium bombers launched from Rabaul. All but two of the Japanese bombers were shot down by Wildcat fighters from Lexington. This was the famous occasion when Lieutenant Edward "Butch" O'Hare shot down five Japanese bombers and was awarded the Medal of Honor. Having lost the advantage of surprise, Admiral Brown decided to withdraw his task force out of range of Japanese bombers.

The proximity of an American carrier task force so close to Rabaul produced consternation at Rabaul and Truk, and caused the Japanese to postpone the capture of Lae and Salamaua until the 8th of March 1942.

This was the situation unfolding in the South Pacific that had caused Admiral King to divert Yorktown to the Coral Sea on 14 February. An additional carrier had been requested by Vice Admiral Brown to support Lexington in a raid on shipping at the Japanese naval base being developed at Rabaul.

Yorktown is ordered to join Lexington in the Coral Sea
On the 24th of February 1942, Admiral Nimitz ordered Rear Admiral Fletcher's Task Force 17 (TF-17) to rendezvous in the Coral Sea with Vice Admiral Brown's Task Force.

As Yorktown and her escort warships were steaming towards the Coral Sea, Admiral Brown was directed to use his combined task forces to attack Japanese-occupied areas on New Britain about 10 March. The purpose of these raids was to check the Japanese advance southwards and to cover the arrival of an American troop convoy at Noumea in New Caledonia. On 6 March, the Yorktown task force joined Vice Admiral Brown's TF-11 and Rear Admiral Crace's Anzac cruiser squadron in the Coral Sea. The combined Allied force, under the overall command of Vice Admiral Brown, was now designated task Force 11 (TF-11). Admirals Brown, Fletcher and Crace immediately began planning for attacks on Rabaul and the airfield at Gasmata on the southern coast of New Britain.
While Admirals Brown, Fletcher, and Crace were engaged in planning attacks on the Japanese base at Rabaul and the airfield at Gasmata on the southern coast of New Britain, a Japanese amphibious invasion force of 3,000 troops had already left Rabaul on the 5th of March with the intention of capturing the town of Lae and the nearby village of Salamaua on the north-eastern coast of the New Guinea mainland. Both Lae and Salamaua were important to the Japanese because they possessed airstrips from which Allied counter-attacks on Rabaul had been launched. The Lae-Salamaua operation was a preliminary to the more ambitious Operation MO - the capture of the vital Allied base Port Moresby on the southern coast of New Guinea.

The invasion convoy of several transports and covering warships was sighted by an Australian Hudson reconnaissance bomber on the afternoon on the 7th of March as it was nearing its two objectives.

Japanese invasion forces land at Lae and Salamaua
At 1.00 am on the 8th of March 1942, Japanese marines waded ashore at Lae in heavy rain to secure a beachhead. Further down the coast, troops of the elite South Seas Detachment landed at Salamaua. The small Australian garrisons at Lae and Salamaua withdrew into the jungle as the Japanese were landing. After some attention from Australian Hudson bombers during the day which caused some damage to one transport, the Japanese set to work to unload their transports, fortify their beachheads, and prepare the airstrips to receive Japanese Zero fighters from New Britain.

Bad weather impeded progress on the Lae airstrip which had been heavily damaged by Australian demolition crews before they withdrew. Poor weather conditions over the Japanese beachheads also prevented Zeros from New Britain airfields providing air cover for the landings.

Lexington and Yorktown strike the Japanese at Lae and Salamaua
As Lexington and Yorktown, screened by a powerful force of eight cruisers (including HMAS Australia) and fourteen destroyers, steamed across the Coral Sea toward New Guinea, Vice Admiral Brown received word of the Japanese landings at Lae and Salamaua. This was welcome news, and caused an immediate cancellation of the plan to strike at Rabaul and Gasmata. The Allied task force could now strike the Japanese when they were most vulnerable - engaged in unloading their transports at the beachheads.

The first hurdle facing Admiral Brown was how to avoid early detection of his task force by vigilant Japanese patrol planes of the kind that had defeated his attempt to strike Rabaul in February. The most direct route across the Solomon Sea and up the north-eastern coast of the New Guinea mainland posed a real risk of early detection by Japanese patrol planes flying from airfields on the island of New Britain.

Vice Admiral Brown resolved that TF-11 would mount its attack on the Japanese beachheads from the Gulf of Papua on the southern side of the New Guinea mainland. Although the actual flying distance was not great, this route would require the carrier attack groups to cross the towering central mountain feature of New Guinea - the rugged Owen Stanley Range. The many ridges of this range were cloaked by dense rain forest and often obscured by cloud or mist. Experienced New Guinea pilots regularly flew from Port Moresby to Lae by a carefully defined route. They took care to avoid being trapped in the mountains when cloud closed in.

Naval charts offered little guidance to the American pilots who were about to cross the Owen Stanleys, and the vital guidance needed to cross the massive range was ultimately provided to Commander William B. Ault, Lexington's air group commander, on the 9th of March by experienced Australian civilian pilots at Port Moresby. Vice Admiral Brown fixed the raid for the following day. To cover his flank to the east and the arrival of the American troop convoy at Noumea, Brown dispatched Rear Admiral Crace with four cruisers and four destroyers to the Louisiade Archipelago off the eastern tip of New Guinea.

To cover their landings at Lae and Salamaua, the Japanese had bombed the Australian military airstrips at Port Moresby, Bulolo, and Wau. They met no Allied fighter opposition. Their long-range Kawanishi H6K flying boats had patrolled the Solomon Sea and Coral Sea intensively for American carriers, and had found nothing. They believed that they had nothing to fear from Allied aircraft, and had grown complacent. Admiral Brown's ruse had succeeded beyond his wildest expectations.

In the pre-dawn darkness on the 10th of March, as the two carrier task forces stood off the southern coast of Papua, Yorktown and Lexington went to general quarters. Lexington began launching her air group at 0749. Yorktown began launching her own air group at 0803. Both carriers launched fifty-two aircraft. By 0849, all aircraft were on their way with Commander Ault from Lexington in overall command, and having authority to proceed or abort the strike.

Lexington's attack group comprised eighteen Dauntless SBDs of VS-2, twelve Dauntless SBDs of VB-2, thirteen Devastator TBD torpedo bombers of VT-2, and an escort of eight Grumman Wildcat F4F fighters of VF-3 led by Lieutenant Commander John "Jimmy" Thatch.

Yorktown's attack group followed, and comprised seventeen SBDs of VB-5, thirteen SBDs of VS-5, twelve TBDs of VT-5, and ten F4F fighters of VF- 42.

While the strike was under way, the task force was protected in the Gulf of Papua by a combat air patrol of twelve fighters and nine SBDs flying an anti-torpedo patrol.

Having reached the vital gap in the range that gave access to the northern coast, Commander Ault circled to oversee and coordinate the passage of both air groups.

VS-2 from Lexington initiated the strike at Lae. The SBDs pushed over at 0922 and attacked two Japanese transports and an armed merchant cruiser. Fire from a shore battery downed one SBD, but escorting F4F Wildcats of VF-3 quickly put the battery out of action. Lexington's VB-2 followed VS-2 and attacked a mine-layer and third transport. Hampered by fogged windshields and telescopic sights, all SBD bombs missed their targets. Off Salamaua, three torpedo bombers from VT-2 had one success. A torpedo hit a Japanese transport which began to sink. The remaining torpedo bombers from Lexington attacked the transports off Lae, and holed one transport and the armed merchant cruiser. The escorting Japanese cruisers and destroyers weighed anchor, made smoke to provide cover, and headed for open water.

Yorktown's air group then took its turn at 0950. The SBDs of VB-5 concentrated on the fleeing Japanese escort cruisers and destroyers. One division from VB-5 attacked Rear Admiral Kajioka's flagship Yubari and claimed three hits on the cruiser. Another division from VB-5 attacked the destroyer Asanagi and knocked out her boilers. A bomb hit the destroyer Yunagi and damaged her engines. The SBDs from VB-5 then strafed a Japanese gunboat, and set it on fire.

At 1005, the SBDs of VS-5 struck the relatively unscathed transports at Lae. The Yorktown SBDs scored direct hits on three transports, leaving all three on fire and beached.

The twelve TBDs of Yorktown's VT-5, each armed with two 500-pound bombs came upon the seaplane carrier Kiyokawa Maru and an escort destroyer just north of Lae. The TBDs had been armed with bombs instead of torpedoes for this operation, and lacking experience in high level bombing, the air crews failed to score a direct hit on either ship. However, a near miss damaged the seaplane carrier, allowed water to enter the engine room, and left her dead in the water.

The Wildcats of VF-42 strafed ships and shore installations, drew fire away from the dive bombers, and dropped fragmentation bombs.

When the last of the attack group left the Japanese beachheads, the score was three transports on fire and beached at Lae, a seaplane tender damaged and dead in the water, the light cruiser Yubari damaged sufficiently to require dockyard repairs in Japan, two destroyers damaged and stopped in the water, one transport listing heavily and another sunk off Salamaua. The final score was four transports sunk. One American SBD was lost in the raids on Lae and Salamaua. The approach from the Gulf of Papua had provided security for the task force and ensured complete surprise. Japanese Zero fighters arrived over the beachheads from New Britain too late to protect their ships and shore installations.

Of the 104 aircraft launched by Lexington and Yorktown, 103 planes were back safely on board by noon. The raid on Lae and Salamaua provided many of the pilots with their first experience of action against warships and ground targets defended by anti-aircraft fire, and although the torpedo and bombing accuracy of some squadrons left a good deal to be desired, the raid gave the fliers valuable experience for later major actions at Coral Sea and Midway.

Although Rear Admiral Fletcher urged a second strike, Vice Admiral Brown considered that the strike had been highly successful and that it was time to withdraw. Task Force 11 retired on a south-easterly course until dark, when the ships turned eastward and joined Rear Admiral Crace's squadron of four heavy cruisers and four destroyers.

The Lae-Salamaua Raid in retrospect
Admiral Nimitz did not award the Lae-Salamaua raid the same high praise that he had lavished on the Marshall-Gilbert raid. Nimitz was disappointed that the attacks on Lae and Salamaua had failed to dislodge the Japanese from their beachheads on the New Guinea mainland. President Roosevelt did not share Nimitz's reservations, describing the Lae-Salamaua raid to Winston Churchill as "the best day's work we have had."

President Roosevelt's assessment of the Lae-Salamaua raid turned out to be the correct one. The raid produced deep alarm in Tokyo, especially at Navy General Headquarters where it was becoming apparent that the carriers of the US Pacific Fleet could punch holes in Japan's eastern and southern defensive perimeter at will and with impunity.

The American carrier raids in the first three months of 1942 were causing deep concern to Admiral Yamamoto, Commander in Chief of Japan's Combined Fleet. He was particularly concerned by Vice Admiral Halsey's raids on Wake Island and Minami-tori Island (also known as Marcus Island). Minami-tori Island was only 700 miles (1,125km) from Japan, and Yamamoto feared that the American carriers had the capability to raid Tokyo. An American air raid on Tokyo was something that Japan's military leaders had assured their emperor could never happen. To ensure this did not happen, officers of the Combined Fleet began to plan a complex operation to destroy the American Pacific Fleet at Midway in the central Pacific.

For the Navy General Staff in Tokyo, the Lae-Salamaua raid reinforced its view that Japan's main strategic priority in the Pacific should be to cut the lines of communication between Australia and the United States. That plan had been assigned the code reference Operation FS, and involved Japan capturing and fortifying the chain of islands between New Guinea and Samoa. The Lae-Salamaua raid had demonstrated the urgent need for Japan to capture Port Moresby in the Australian Territory of Papua and Tulagi in the British Solomons as quickly as possible. On 15 March 1942, Imperial General Headquarters agreed that Operation FS was to be Japan's strategic priority in the Pacific and would commence with the capture of Port Moresby and Tulagi. This initial operation was asigned the code reference MO.

In retrospect, it can be seen that the Lae-Salamaua raid was of vital importance to the Allies for a number of reasons. It was a severe blow to Japan's plan to isolate Australia from the United States as quickly as possible, because the Japanese had intended to use the sunk and damaged transports as part of the invasion force to capture Port Moresby and Tulagi in April 1942. The Japanese were forced to postpone the capture of Port Moresby and Tulagi for one month to replace the sunk and damaged ships, and because they realised that these operations would require support from their own aircraft carriers. In this way, the Lae-Salamaua Raid set the stage for the Battle of the Coral Sea.

The Lae-Salamaua Raid also laid the foundations for Allied victories later in 1942 at Guadalcanal and Kokoda. By delaying for one month the capture of Tulagi, the establishment of a Japanese forward airstrip on the northern coast of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands was also delayed. The delay in establishing that airstrip on Guadalcanal provided the Americans with more time to prepare a landing force to capture the airstrip that later became famous as Henderson Field. Even so, the Americans barely made it in time. When the Americans landed on Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942, the Japanese were ready to bring this forward airstrip into operation. If the Americans had not seized that strategically vital Japanese airstrip when they did, the Guadalcanal operation could not have proceeded as it did, and would almost certainly have been deferred to much later, probably 1943.

The Guadalcanal Campaign had a direct impact on the equally bloody fighting between the Japanese and Australians on the Kokoda Track. The Japanese outnumbered the Australians by five to one, and had pushed them back to a ridge overlooking Port Moresby. Here the Australians dug in to make a final stand. Major General Horii's starving and exhausted South Seas Detachment on the Kokoda Track was in sight of Port Moresby and begging for reinforcements for the final push to capture the vital Allied base. Because of heavy Japanese losses at Guadalcanal, Major General Horii was denied reinforcements and he was forced to retreat to his beachheads with the Australians in hot pursuit.
After the raid on Lae and Salamaua, Lexington departed on the 16 of March 1942 for Pearl Harbor, and joined Enterprise in dock for repairs and alterations. Saratoga was still undergoing repairs to torpedo damage inflicted on 11 January. Hornet was still en route from the Atlantic coast after a minimal "shakedown" cruise. With Wasp and Ranger operating in the Atlantic, that left Yorktown alone to hold the line against the Japanese in the South Pacific.

Maintaining her distance from land-based Japanese bombers, Yorktown patrolled the Coral Sea and stood ready to carry out offensive operations whenever an opportunity presented itself . However, following the Lae-Salamaua Raid on 10 March, the situation in the South Pacific appeared to have temporarily stabilised. The Japanese were busy replacing or repairing the ships damaged in that raid, and making preparations for Operation MO - the capture of Port Moresby and Tulagi, now fixed for May 1942.


While holding the line in the South Pacific in April 1942,Yorktown prepares to launch. The Task Force 17oiler Guadaloupe is in the background.​

Having been continually at sea since departing Pearl Harbor on the 16th February, the ships of TF-17 were beginning to run low on fresh food. Without the benefit of air conditioning, the crews of TF-17 were also enduring the hardships of a lengthy operating spell in the tropics. Even more alarming for Rear Admiral Fletcher, was a deterioration in the rubber sealing of the gasoline tanks of the Wildcat fighters of VF-42. With the approval of CINCPAC, Yorktown and her escort warships put in to Tongatapu in the Tonga Islands on 20 April for much needed maintenance and provisioning.

During the first half of April, monitoring of the Japanese naval code JN25 by Allied code-breakers had indicated that the Japanese were preparing to renew their push to sever communications between the United States and Australia. Admiral Nimitz was able to inform Rear Admiral Fletcher that there were strong indications that the Japanese were preparing amphibious forces to attack and capture the major Allied base at Port Moresby in the Australian Territory of Papua and Tulagi in the British Solomons. Yorktown accordingly departed Tongatapu on the 27th of April, bound once more for the Coral Sea. The Lexington task force TF 11, now commanded by Rear Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch, departed Pearl Harbor to join Fletcher's TF 17 in the Coral Sea. and arrived in the vicinity of Yorktown's group, south-west of the New Hebrides Islands, on the 1st of May.

These events were now laying the foundations for the first major fleet to fleet action between the American and Japanese navies following Pearl Harbor.

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