IJN light carrier Shōhō on fire after attack by USS Lexington on 7 May 1942. Shoho was the first aircraft carrier lost to enemy aircraft.
after them and found them fast enough
that it was hard to catch up. He caught the
rear vic of three and flamed the last B5N
five miles from the ships. He was then
caught by the Zero escort and later reported he managed to damage two before he
escaped in a dive.
The American defenders mistakenly expected the B5Ns would attack like the
TBD - low and slow.The six VF-42 Wildcats were too low at 1,000 feet and could only watch the B5Ns swarm overhead
at speeds over 200 mph, dropping their
deadly Type 91 torpedoes at an altitude
of 1,500 feet. The four attacking Yorktown
all missed but the other 14 successfully
employed a “hammer and anvil” attack
on Lexington. At 1120 hours, she was hit
by two torpedoes; the first hit buckled
the port aviation gasoline stowage tanks
while the second ruptured the port water main. As the attackers flew away, four
were shot down by Lexington’s gunners.
The 33 D3As circled to attack from
upwind. Nineteen Shôkaku D3As lined
up on Lexington while Zuikaku’s 14 attacked Yorktown. Four VF-2 Wildcats led by
Fred Borries attacked the Zuikaku force
but were swarmed by escorting Zeros
and had to dive away to save themselves.
Two VF-42 Wildcats above Yorktown da- bers were more adequate than his guns.”
maged two D3As in their dives, while di- The fight saw three SBDs, three Wildcats,
three B5Ns, one D3A, and Eder’s Zero lost.
srupting the aim of the others.
Shôkaku’s torpedo leader Lt Kanno and
Lexington was damaged by two hits and strike leader Lt Cdr Takahashi were both
several near misses. Yorktown was hit shot down and killed.
in the center of her flight deck at 1127
hours by a single bomb that penetrated The American and Japanese strike forfour decks before exploding. The explosi- mations ran across each on their return
on caused severe structural damage and flights. VF-42 Wildcats shot down a B5N
killed or wounded 66 men. Twelve near and two D3As, while Noel Gayler became
misses damaged her below the waterli- the leading Navy ace of the time with eight
ne. Two D3As were shot down by a VF-42 victories when he shot down two D3As.
Wildcat during the attack.
Lexington’s fires were out by 1233 hours
As the bombers attempted to escape, and the carrier was still able to operate
they ran into Vorse’s division that had despite the torpedo hits. Noel Gayler did
just returned from aborting the strike. Bill not notice any damage as he approached
Eder recalled, “My wingman and I headed for landing. “She was making 25 knots
for two Jap planes, but lost them in the and operating airplanes. She looked okay
clouds. Then we became separated and from the air. It was only after I landed,
I turned and saw this fighter below me. when I noticed nobody paid any attention
He turned up toward me as I headed down to me, contrary to before, that I looked
toward him and we met head-on. I was around and noticed some of the faces
firing four .50 calibers on a down slant were looking sort of strange. Then I saw
and he was firing on an up slant. I cou- flecks of fire-fighting foam all over the
ld see his 20mm stuff was falling short, deck and knew she had been hit.”
though his 7.7.s were doing better. Then
Vorse’s division also landed aboard.
my .50s began hitting him. Almost immeGayler tried to organize another strike
diately he sort of snap-rolled, then spiraagainst Zuikaku while Lexington still seeled downward, uncontrolled. My emotion
med able to function but there was no way
was ‘scored,’ and I’m glad my .50 cali-