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  USS Yorktown CV-5
USN
Yorkown Class Carrier

19,800 Tons (Light)
25,500 Tons (Full Load)
824' 9" x 109' 6" x 25' 11.5"
Armament as of Feb 1942
8 x 5"/38 cal guns
4 x Quad 1.1" AA Gun
24 x 20mm AA
24 x 50 cal MG
90 Aircraft
3 x elevators
3 x catapults
Click For Enlargement
USN c1938

Ship History
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. Commissioned at Norfolk, Virginia, on September 30, 1937 with Capt. 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 of 1938, conducting carrier qualifications for her newly embarked air group.

Prewar
Yorktown sailed for the Caribbean on January 8, 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 Cristobal near the Panama Canal. Departing Colon Bay, Cristobal on March 1, Yorktown departed for Hampton Roads, arriving March 6, then to the Norfolk Navy Yard the next day.

After undergoing repairs through the early autumn of 1938, Yorktown shifted from the navy yard to NOB Norfolk on October 17 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 (CV-6) 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 (CA-30).

The critique of the operation revealed that carrier operations - a part of the scenarios for the annual exercises since the entry of USS Langley (CV-1) 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.

Yorktown returned briefly to Hampton Roads before sailing for the Pacific on April 20. Transiting the Panama Canal a week later, Yorktown soon commenced a regular routine of operations with the Pacific Fleet. Operating out of San Diego, California into 1940, the carrier participated in Fleet Problem XXI that April.

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, a battleship division, and accompanying cruisers and destroyers.

Yorktown departed Pearl Harbor on 20 April 1941 in company with USS Warrington (DD-383), USS Somers (DD-381), and USS Jouett (DD-396); headed southeast, transited the Panama Canal on the night of 6 May and 7 May, and arrived at Bermuda on the 12th. From that time to the entry of the United States into the war, Yorktown conducted four patrols in the Atlantic, ranging from Newfoundland to Bermuda and logging 17,642 miles steamed while enforcing American neutrality.

Although 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-40), 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.

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 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 10 emergency turns while Morris (DD-417) and Anderson (DD-411) dropped depth charges, and Hughes (DD-410) 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 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 Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941 and the United States entered the war.

Pacific War
On December 16, 1941 Yorktown departed Norfolk on bound for the Pacific via the Panama Canal. Aboard, her secondary gun galleries were equipped with 20mm canons. She reached San Diego, on December 30, 1941 and became flagship for Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher's 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 Tutuila and Pago Pago 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, TF 8 built around Enterprise, and TF 17, built around Yorktown, parted company. The former headed for the Marshall Islands, the latter for the Gilberts - each bound to take part in some of the first American offensives of the war, the Marshalls-Gilberts raids.

At 5:17am, Yorktown screened by USS Louisville (CA-28) and USS 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 and shipping they could find at Jaluit, but adverse weather conditions hampered the mission in which six planes were lost. Other Yorktown planes attacked Japanese installations and ships at Makin and Mili Atolls.

The attack by TF-17 on the Gilberts had apparently been a complete surprise since the American force encountered no enemy surface ships. A single Kawanishi H6K Mavis attempted to attack American destroyers that had been sent astern in hope of recovering planes 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 attacked the destroyers came out of low clouds 15,000 yards 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 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 TF 8 and TF 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.

Yorktown subsequently returned to Pearl Harbor and replenished there before she put to sea on February 14, 1942 bound for the Coral Sea. On March 6, 1942 she rendezvoused with Task Force 11 (TF 11) formed around USS Lexington CV-2 and under the command of Rear Admiral Wilson Brown and 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. However, as the two carriers screened by a powerful force of eight heavy cruisers including HMAS Australia plus 14 destroyers steamed toward New Guinea, the Japanese continued their advance toward Australia with a landing on March 7, 1942 on the Huon Gulf occupying Salamaua and Lae. News of the Japanese operation prompted Admiral Brown to change the objective of TF 11's strike from Rabaul to the Salamaua-Lae.

On the morning of March 10, 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 planes launched. While the choice of the gulf as the launch point for the strike meant that the planes would have to fly roughly 125 miles across the Owen Stanley mountain that approach provided security for the task force and ensured surprise.

In the attacks that followed, Lexington's SBD's from Scouting Squadron (VS) 2 commenced dive-bombing Japanese ships in Huon Gulf off Lae at 0922. The carrier's Torpedo Squadron (VT) 2 and Bombing Squadron (VB) 2 attacked shipping at Salamaua at 0938. Her fighters from Fighter Squadron (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 "Lady Lex." 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. TBD Devistators attack from 13,000' and score one or more bomb hits damaging Kiyokawa Maru.

The fighters of VF-42 flew over Salamaua on CAP until they determined that there was no air opposition and 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 of VS-2 had been downed by Japanese antiaircraft fire. The raid on Salamaua and Lae was the first attack by many pilots of both carriers; and, while the resultant torpedo and bombing accuracy was inferior to that achieved in later actions, the operation gave the fliers invaluable experience which enabled them to do so well in the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway.

Task Force 11 retired at 20 knots on a southeasterly course until dark, when the ships steered eastward at 15 knots and made rendezvous with Task Group (TG) 11.7 (four heavy cruisers and four destroyers) under the Australian Rear Admiral John Crace — the force that 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 as part of Task Force 17 (TF-17) put in to the undeveloped harbor at Tongatabu Harbor off Tonga, for needed upkeep, having been at sea continuously since departing Pearl Harbor on February 14, 1942.

Admiral Nimitz reported to the fleet that there were "excellent indications that the Japanese intended to make a seaborne attack on Port Moresby the first week in May." On April 27, 1942 Yorktown departed Tongatabu Harbor on bound for the Coral Sea as part of Task Force 11 (TF 11) under the command of Rear Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch.

On May 1, 1942 refueled by USS Neosho (AO-23) during rough seas southwest of New Hebrides. On May 2, 1942 at 3:17pm, two SBD Dauntless dive bombers from VS-5 sighted a Japanese submarine, running on the surface. Three TBD Devastators took off from Yorktown and made an attack that only succeeded in causing the target to dive and escape.

On May 3, 1942 during the morning Task Force 11 (TF 11) and Task Force 17 (TF 17) were roughly 100 miles apart being refueled. Shortly before midnight, Fletcher received word from Australian-based aircraft that Japanese transports had arrived in Tulagi Harbor and were disembarking troops and occupying Tulagi, Gavutu and Tanambogo. To attack this force, Yorktown set course northward steaming at 27 knots.

Battle of Coral Sea
At the start of the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 4, 1942 at daybreak Yorktown was within striking distance from Tulagi and launched her first strike at 7:01am including: 18 F4F-3's of VF-42, 12 TBD's of VT-5, and 28 SBD's from VS and VT-5. Arriving at 8:15am, Yorktown aircraft made three consecutive attacks against ships and shore installations at Tulagi and Gavutu. Yorktown's planes damaged Kikuzuki that later sank and damaged three minecraft and four barges. In addition, Air Group 5 destroyed five seaplanes, all at the cost of two F4F's lost (the pilots were recovered) and one TBD (whose crew was lost) and expended 22 torpedoes and 76 x 1,000 pound bombs during the three attacks.

Meanwhile on May 3, 1942, Task Force 44 (TF 44) a cruiser-destroyer force under Rear Admiral Crace (RN), joined Task Force 11 (TF 11) including USS Yorktown to complete the composition of the Allied force.

To the northward, eleven troop transports escorted by destroyers and covered by Shoho, four heavy cruisers, and a destroyer steamed toward Port Moresby. In addition, another Japanese task force - formed around Shōkaku and Zuikaku, and screened by two heavy cruisers and six destroyers provided additional air cover.

On the morning of May 6, 1942 Fletcher gathered all Allied forces under his tactical command as TF 17. At daybreak on the 7th, 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 carriers and their screens in search of the enemy, Japanese search planes located USS Neosho (AO-23) and USS Sims (DD-409) and misidentified the oiler as a carrier. They were attacked by two waves of Japanese planes: high level bombers then D3A Val dive bombers. Sims, her anti-aircraft battery crippled by gun failures, took three direct hits and sank quickly with a heavy loss of life. USS Neosho (AO-23) was more fortunate in that, even after seven direct hits and eight near misses, she remained afloat until May 11, 1942 when her survivors were rescued up by USS Henley (DD-391) then scuttled by the destroyer.

In their tribulation, 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 Shoho and punished that Japanese light carrier unmercifully, sending her to the bottom. 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 force 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, who 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.

On May 8, 1942 during the morning a search plane spotted Admiral 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 planes were attacking, Yorktown and Lexington - alerted by an intercepted message which indicated that the Japanese knew of their whereabouts - were preparing to fight off a retaliatory strike. Sure enough, shortly after 1100, that attack came.

American CAP Wildcats downed 17 planes, though some managed to slip through the defenses. B5N Kates launched torpedoes from both sides of Lexington's bows. Two torpedoes hit on the port side. D3A Val dive bombers added three bomb hits. Lexington developed a list, with three partially-flooded engineering spaces. Several fires raged below decks, and the carrier's elevators were put out of commission.

Meanwhile Yorktown was attacked by B5N Kate torpedo bombers but skillfully maneuvered by Captain Elliott Buckmaster to eight torpedoes. Afterwards, attacked by D3A Val dive bombers, but hit by an aerial bomb that penetrated the flight deck and exploded below decks, killing or seriously injuring 66 men.

The aerial bomb passed through and exploded directly beneath the compartment in which Lt. Ricketts' battle station was located, killing, wounding or stunning all of his men and mortally wounding Lt. Milton E. Ricketts. He promptly opened the valve of a near-by fireplug, partially led out the fire hose and directed a heavy stream of water into the fire before dropping dead beside the hose. His courageous action, which undoubtedly prevented the rapid spread of the fire. For his actions Lt. Milton E. Ricketts earned the Medal of Honor (posthumously). Yorktown's damage control parties brought the fires under control, and, despite the damage was able to continue flight operations. The air battle itself ended shortly before noon on May 8, 1942.

The Japanese won a tactical victory, inflicting comparatively heavier losses on the Allied force, but the Allies stemmed the tide of Japan's advance 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. Unfortunately, there was little time for repairs, because Allied intelligence - most notably the cryptographic unit at Pearl Harbor - had gained enough information from decoded Japanese naval messages to estimate that the Japanese were planning a major operation aimed at Midway.

Battle of Midway
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 naval forces - comparatively meager as they were - to meet the enemy at sea. As part of those preparations, he recalled TF 16 including Enterprise and USS Hornet (CV-8) to Pearl Harbor for replenishment.

Yorktown, too, received orders to return to Hawaii; and she arrived at Pearl Harbor on 27 May. Miraculously, yard workers there - laboring around the clock - made enough repairs to enable the ship to put to sea. Her air group - for the most part experienced but weary were augmented by planes and aviators from USS Saratoga which was then headed for Hawaiian waters after her modernization on the west coast. Ready for battle, Yorktown sailed as the central ship of TF 17 on 30 May.

Northeast of Midway, Yorktown, flying Rear Admiral Fletcher's flag, rendezvoused with TF 16 under Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance and maintained a position 10 miles to the northward of the latter. Over the days that ensued, as the ships proceeded toward a date with destiny, few men realized that within the next few days the pivotal battle of the war in the Pacific would be fought.

Patrols, both from Midway itself and from the carriers, proceeded apace during those days in early June. On the morning of the 4th as dawn began to streak the eastern sky, Yorktown launched a 10-plane group of Dauntlesses from VB-5 which searched a northern semicircle for a distance of 100 miles out but found nothing.

Meanwhile, PBYs flying from Midway had sighted the approaching Japanese and broadcast what turned out to be the alarm for the American forces defending the key atoll. Admiral Fletcher, in tactical command, ordered Admiral Spruance, with TF 16, to locate the enemy carrier force and strike them as soon as they were found.

Yorktown's search group returned at 0830, landing soon after the last of the six-plane CAP had left the deck. When the last of the Dauntlesses had landed, a flight deck ballet took place in which the deck was spotted 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 flattops located the Japanese carrier striking force but met disaster. Of the 41 planes from VT-8, VT-6, and VT-3, only six returned to Enterprise and Yorktown, collectively. None made it back to Hornet.

The destruction of the torpedo planes, however, had served a purpose. The Japanese CAP had broken off their high-altitude cover for their carriers and had concentrated on the Devastators, flying low "on the deck." The skies above were thus left open for Dauntlesses arriving from Yorktown and Enterprise. Virtually unopposed, the SBDs dove to the attack.

Yorktown's dive-bombers pummeled Sōryū scoring three hits with 1,000 pound bombs that turned the ship into a flaming inferno. Meanwhile, Enterprise aircraft hit Akagi and Kaga. The bombs from SBD Dauntless dive bombers caught the Japanese carriers in the midst of refueling and rearming operations, and the combination of bombs and gasoline aboard proved disastrous.

Three Japanese carriers had been lost. Hiryū, separated from the other carriers, launched a striking force of 18 D3A Vals that located Yorktown.

At about 1:29pm, Yorktown's radar detected the attackers. Aboard, her CAP fighters were launched and refueling ceased. Returning SBDs were ordered to stay aloft to join the CAP. The deck was cleared with a 800 gallon fuel tank thrown overboard while fuel lines were drained and compartments secured.

All of Yorktown's fighters were vectored out to intercept the oncoming Japanese aircraft, and did so some 15 to 20 miles out. The Wildcats attacked vigorously, breaking up what appeared to be an organized attack by some 18 "Vals" and 18 "Zeroes." "Planes were flying in every direction," wrote Capt. Buckmaster after the action, "and many were falling in flames." The leader of the "Vals" LT Joichi Tomonaga was probably shot down by F4F Wildcat piloted by commanding officer LCDR John S. Thach from VF-3 aboard Yorktown.

Despite an intensive barrage and evasive maneuvering, three D3A Vals scored bomb 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 number two elevator on the starboard side, exploding on contact and blasting a hole about 10 feet square in the flight deck. Splinters from the exploding bomb decimated the crews of the two 1.1 inch 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 pound bomb. Prompt action by LT A. C. Emerson, the hangar deck officer, prevented a serious conflagration by releasing 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. It ruptured the uptakes for three boilers, disabled two boilers themselves, and extinguished the fires in five boilers. Smoke and gases began filling the firerooms of six boilers. The men at number one boiler, however, remained at their post despite their danger and discomfort and kept its fire going, 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 CO undoubtedly prevented the gasoline from igniting.

While the ship recovered from the damage inflicted by the dive-bombing attack, her speed dropped to six knots; and then at 1440, 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 3:40pm Yorktown prepared to get underway again; and at 3:50pm the engine room force reported that they were ready to make 20 knots or better. Simultaneously, with the fires controlled sufficiently to warrant the resumption of fueling operations, Yorktown began fueling the gasoline tanks of the fighters then on deck. Fueling had just commenced when the ship's radar picked up an incoming air group at a distance of 33 miles away. 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 incoming raiders. Of the 10 fighters on board, eight had as much as 23 gallons of fuel in their tanks. They accordingly were launched as the remaining pair of fighters of the CAP headed out to intercept the Japanese planes.

At 4:00pm Yorktown churned forward, making 20 knots. The fighters she had launched and vectored out to intercept had meanwhile made contact, Yorktown received reports that the planes were "Kates." The Wildcats downed at least three of the attacking torpedo planes, but the rest began their approach in the teeth of a heavy antiaircraft barrage from the carrier and her escorts.

Yorktown maneuvered radically, avoiding at least two torpedoes before two "fish" tore into her port side within minutes of each other. The first hit at 4:20pm. 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 list progressed, CDR C. E. Aldrich, the damage control officer, reported from central station that, without power, controlling the flooding looked impossible. The engineering officer, LCDR J. F. Delaney, soon reported that all fires were out; all power was lost; and, worse yet, it was impossible to correct the list. Faced with that situation, Captain Buckmaster ordered Aldrich, Delaney, and their men to secure and lay up on deck to put on life jackets.

The list, meanwhile, continued to increase. When it reached 26 degrees, CAPT Buckmaster and CDR Aldrich agreed that the ship's capsizing was only a matter of minutes. "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 minutes that ensued, the crew left ship, lowering the wounded to life rafts and striking out for the nearby destroyers and cruisers to be picked up by boats from those ships. After the evacuation of all wounded, the executive officer, CDR I. D. Wiltsie, left the ship down a line on the starboard side. CAPT Buckmaster, meanwhile, toured the ship for one last time, inspecting her 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 that point, water was lapping the port side of the hangar deck.

Rescued by USS Hammann (DD-412), Captain Buckmaster was transferred to USS Astoria (CA-34) and reported to Rear Admiral Fletcher. They agreed that a salvage party should attempt to save the ship despite the heavy list and danger of capsizing.

Interestingly enough, while the 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 in the afternoon.

Yorktown, as it turned out, floated through the night; two men were still alive on board her - one attracted attention by firing a machine gun that was heard by the sole attending destroyer, USS Hughes who rescued the two men, one who later died.

On June 6, 1942 during the morning a rescue party including 29 officers and 141 enlisted men boarded the carrier and attempted to save her while five destroyers formed an anti-submarine screen. Aboard, fires in the rag storage were still smoldering. USS Vireo (AT-144) began towing the carrier. Aboard the repair party worked while USS Hammann (DD-412) came alongside to the startboard aft to provide fire hoses, pumps and electric power. To reduce weight on the deck, aircraft were pushed overboard and a 5" gun was cast overboard. Below deck, pumps had removed water from compartments. These efforts reduced the list by about two degrees.

Meanwhile, Japanese submarine I-168 penetrated the destroyer screen and fired four torpedoes that were spotted off the starboad beam at 3:36pm. USS Hammann (DD-412) went to general quarters, a 20 millimeter gun going into action in an attempt to explode the "fish" in the water. One torpedo missed passing astern. The second hit Hammann and broke the destroyer in half and caused her to jackknife and sink in four minutes bow first. The third and fourth torpedoes hit Yorktown impacted the bilge at the after end of the island structure.

Approximately a minute after Hammann sank, an underwater explosion, likely her depth charges killed many sailors in the water. The concussion shook the carrier, carrying away Yorktown's auxiliary generator and cased fixtures from the hangar deck to fall down and jostled the salvage crew aboard. The remaining destroyers searched for the Japanese submarine while USS Vireo cut the towline to rescue survivors and funeral services for two officers and an enlisted man from Hammann. Captain Buckmaster opted to postpone further repairs until the next day. Overnight, Yorktown remained afloat. d afloat.

Sinking History
On June 7, 1942 at 5:30am nearby vessels noted Yorktown's list was increasing to port. At 7:01am, the damaged carrier turned over on her port side and sank into the Pacific Ocean at a depth of roughly 3,000 fathoms / 5,500 meters. Yorktown earned three battle stars for her World War II service; two for the Battle of the Coral Sea and one for the Battle of Midway.

Shipwreck
On May 19, 1998, Dr. Robert D. Ballard, discovered Yorktown three miles below the surface and photographed the shipwreck.

References
MIT News "Mindell helps find USS Yorktown on bottom of Pacific" June 10, 1998

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Last Updated
June 4, 2017

 

 

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