Lt Cdr Paul Ramsey, CO of VF-3 “Ramsey’s
Lambsies” at the Battle of the Coral Sea, May
in three consecutive strikes against Tulagi, where they sank the destroyer Kikuzuki and three minesweepers, damaged
four other ships, and destroyed four H6Ks.
The strikes cost Air Group Five one TBD-1
and two F4F-3s; their crews became the
first Americans to arrive on Guadalcanal,
where they were rescued by Australian
Admiral Takagi’s Carrier Striking Force was fueling 350 miles north of Tulagi
when they learned the Americans had
attacked Tulagi. Knowing at least one
enemy carrier was in the Coral Sea, they
headed southeast while remaining north
of the Solomons.
Having saved Lexington, Edward H. „Butch“ O‘Hare became the first Naval Aviator of the Second World War awarded
the Medal of Honor, the only one of eight
Wildcat pilots to win this honor who was
Remsey’s Lambsies at the
Battle of the Coral Sea
Lexington’s VF-2, the famous “Flying
Chiefs,” had been replaced aboard the carrier by VF-3 when Saratoga was torpedoed. When Sara arrived at the Bremerton
Naval Yard for repairs, the highly-experienced Chief NAPs departed; several were
commissioned, and others went to different fighter squadrons. Fighting-Two was
reconstituted under command of Lt Cdr
Paul Ramsey with a few experienced pilots among the “nuggets” fresh out of flight
school. F4F-3 Wildcats replaced the F2A-3s that had proven themselves unsuited
for carrier operations. The squadron, now
“Ramsey’s Lambsies,” returned to Pearl
Harbor in early April, in time to reconnect
with Lexington when she returned from
her South Pacific deployment.
On April 13, 1942, the British intercepted
and deciphered a message from the Imperial Navy General Staff informing overall theater commander Admiral Inoue
that the Carrier Striking Force commanded by Vice Admiral Takeo Takagi with the
Pearl Harbor veterans Zuikaku and her
sister Shōkaku had been assigned to cover the Port Moresby invasion.
Ramsey’s Lambsies returned to Lexington on April 15. Since the squadron lacked
pilots with combat experience, experienced pilots from VF-3 had been transferred
Task Forces 11 and 17 joined at 0816 hours
on May 5, 320 miles south of Guadalcanal.
A few minutes later, four Yorktown VF-42
Wildcats found a Yokohama Kōkūtai H6K
and shot it down 11 miles from Lexington.
While the Mavis failed to before it went
on April 12. Lt Albert O. Vorse became se- down, its failure to return alerted the Jacond division leader, with Ensign Edward panese that American carriers were in
L. Sellstrom as his wingman and Lieute- the Coral Sea.
nant(jg) Robert J. Morgan as element lead Later that day, Admiral Fletcher learwith Ensign John H. Lacket as wingman. ned intelligence had determined the JaLt (jg) Marion H. Dufilho, O’Hare’s wing- panese planned to land at Port Moresby
man in the epic battle off Rabaul, took on May 10; their carriers would cover
over third division with Ensign Newton H. the invasion convoy. Ever concerned
Mason as his wingman. Lt Noel A.M. Gay- about fuel, Fletcher notified Admiral
lor, who had scored three victories in the Fitch that once fueling was complebattle off Rabaul, took fourth division with ted on May 6 the fleet would head toLt(jg) Howard F. Clark as element lead ward the Louisiades, with expectation of
and Ensign Richard H. Rowell as wingman. a fleet action on May 7.
Ensigns Willard E. “Bill” Eder and Leon W.
Throughout May 5, both fleets sent out
Haynes joined fifth division.
scouts that failed to discover the enemy,
Task Force 11 sortied from Pearl Harbor since each was just out of range of the
the evening of April 15, headed for the other. At 1000 hours on May 6, an H6K
Coral Sea to join Admiral Fletcher’s York- from Tulagi sighted the American carriers.
town-based Task Force 17. During the voy- When Admiral Takagi received the report,
age south, “Ramsey’s Lambsies” trained his fleet was 300 miles north of the reporhard. The VF-3 veterans knew how to use ted American position, maximum range
the new “Thach Weave” maneuver develo- for a strike. His belief that battle was
ped by their former commander and the imminent was confirmed when Admiral
squadron worked hard to learn the mane- Gotō‘s Moresby invasion fleet was spouver. Essentially, the “Thach Weave” utili- tted and attacked by B-17s several times
zed the basic formation of a section of two during the day, but without success. When
airplanes; when attacked, they would turn Admiral Fletcher received the report that
toward each other, placing each Wildcat located “at least one carrier” (Shōhō) 489
in position to meet head-on a Zero that miles northwest of Task Force 17, he too
had commenced its attack from the rear, was convinced action was imminent.
which threw off the opponent while giving
either Wildcat the chance to shoot it down. Throughout May 6, the CAP protecting
By the time they got to the Coral Sea, eve- Lexington and Yorktown chased and found Japanese search planes. Four Wildcats
ryone knew the maneuver.
of VF-42 led by Lt Cdr Jimmy Flatley, and
The morning of May 1, Task Forces 17 four VF-2 Wildcats led by Lt Noel Gaylor
and 11 rendezvoused 300 nautical miles were sent after one shadower. Flatley
northwest of New Caledonia. The next day found the H6K and reported the discovery
was spent with Admiral Fletcher’s com- to Yorktown, which requested its position.
pulsive refueling. On May 3, word came He replied, “Wait a minute and I’ll show
the Japanese had arrived at Tulagi in the you,” and promptly shot down the Mavis,
Solomon Islands to establish a seaplane which blew up with pieces falling through
base. Yorktown was 100 miles south at the clouds, narrowly missing Gaylor, who
dawn on May 4; she launched 60 aircraft radioed, “That almost hit me!” to which