A6M2 Zeros of Shôkaku fighter squadron ready for takeoff at the Battle of the Coral Sea, 7-8 May 1942.
rest of Shōhō’s air group was preparing
to strike the Americans At 1045 hours,
Cdr Ault deployed his dive and torpedo
Neither side was aware that at 2000 bombers for a classic coordinated attack.
hours, they passed within 70 miles of The Dauntlesses hit Shōhō with six 1,000each other.
lb bombs; five minutes later the ship was
The morning of May 7 dawned with Lexin- a flaming wreck. When the TBDs bored
gton and Yorktown steaming under the in, the two A5M4s swooped on them, but
low clouds of a warm tropical front. At Paul Baker’s two F4Fs went after them.
0615 hours, Yorktown launched ten SBDs Maintaining speed and refusing to engage
to search the Louisiades. At 0655 Zuika- the nimble A5Ms in dogfights, Baker claiku and Shôkaku, 300 miles east of Task med both. Apparently, he only damaged
Force 17, launched 12 B5N2s to search for them since two A5Ms were also claimed
the enemy. They flew east of Task Force 17 by VF-42, one by Jimmy Flatley.
and failed to sight the enemy in the poor Air Group Five arrived shortly after Air
Group Two and attacked Shōhō shortly
Flatley replied, “That’ll teach you not to fly
At 0815 hours, VS-5‘s Ensign John L. Nielsen sighted the Invasion Screening Force;
minutes later he spotted Shōhō. Admiral
Fletcher ordered both carriers to launch
all aircraft. The 93 planes were on their
way by 1013 hours: Lexington’s 40 planes
included ten VF-2 Wildcats led by Paul
Ramsey, who placed four F4Fs led by
Lt Fred Borries as close escort to the 28
SBDs from VB-2 and VS-2, two others
as high cover for Air Group Commander,
Cdr William B. Ault, while Ramsey’s four
covered the 12 TBDs at low altitude. Unlike
Yorktown’s strike which organized themselves enroute, Lexington’s air group
formed up into an organized unit before
after 1100 hours, scoring hits with 11 more
1,000-lb bombs and two torpedoes. Torn
apart, Shōhō slipped beneath the waves
at 1135 hours, the first aircraft carrier lost
in a carrier-vs-carrier battle.
sey hit the first B5N2 from 700 yards and
it exploded. He then hit a second from 300
yards that burned all the way until it disappeared in the dark sea below. Baker shot
down a third B5N while his wingman hit
a fourth that finally caught fir. Baker chase
a fifth and disappeared into the dark sky;
a moment later, an explosion lit the sky.
Ramsey reported that Baker must have
collided with his second victim. “Ramsey’s
Lambsies” had completely broken up
the Japanese attack, shooting down five
of the deadly B5N torpedo bombers while the surviving attackers jettisoned their
ordnance and turned for home as the sun
set on the horizon at 1830 hours; they had
the misfortune to run into two divisions
from VF-42, which promptly shot down
two more B5Ns and a D3A1.
Noel Gayler’s division returned to Lexington and briefly came under American
fire as they entered the landing pattern.
Shôkaku launched eight B5N2s at 1515 Gayler recalled, “They had a whole bunch
hours to sweep west 200 miles. Shortly of .50 caliber machine guns independentbefore 1615 hours, they reached the end of ly operated on the catwalk. Somebody
their search legs and turned back without started shooting and in those days the fire
spotting anything in the thick overcast. discipline was not very good, so everyone
With the opportunity for a daylight attack started shooting.
narrowing, 12 D3A1s and 15 B5N2s were
launched from Zuikaku at 1615 hours. The LSO realized what was happening beAt 1747 hours they were spotted on Lexin- cause he knew who he had in the landing
gton’s radar. Paul Ramsey’s four F4F-3s pattern. He turned around and hit the neturned toward the enemy while both ca- arest guy across the face with his signal
rriers launched 18 more Wildcats. Mi- flags and knocked him away from his gun.
Shōhō was spotted at 1040 hours; Lexin- nutes later, Ramsey spotted nine B3N2s. Gradually the word went up the line and
gton’s strike deployed to attack. Six A6M2 Ramsey and his wingman took one side they realized who we were. Christ, I had
Zeros and two A5M4 Type 96 Claude fi- of the formation while Lt(jg) Paul Baker my wheels down and my flaps down when
ghters were airborne as fleet CAP; the and his wingman took the other. Ram- they opened up!”