Coral Sea Campaign

0500 - 0700 May 4, 1942

  • Before dawn on the 4th of May, 1942, Allied and Japanese search plane engines began to drone. Emilies and Mavises of the Japanese, and PBYs for the Allies took to the skies. Cruiser search planes for both sides were launched. Where were the enemy ships? The Allies had gotten wind of a Japanese attempt to invade Port Moresby, New Guinea, to isolate the allied forces in Australia. The Japanese knew that the Allies were going to try to stop them. Two mighty armadas were now searching for each other, with land-based bombers poised to assist if possible.

  • As the sun rose in the east the Allied forces sent 36/8 PG, composed of eight Airacobras to the Japanese advanced base at Lae with orders to engage and destroy any CAP they found. When they arrived, however, they discovered only two Zeros of 3/4 NAG flying CAP and four more sitting on the runway. The commander of the Pursuit Group decided to send four of the Airacobras to deal with the CAP and the others to strafe and destroy the planes on the ground.

  • Unbeknownst to the Allies, the planes on the ground were ready to take off, and all during the Allied approach they staggered into the air. The two planes flying CAP were quickly disposed of, but in a tragic turn of events two Airacobras approaching the runway collided with the last Zero to take off and all three planes were destroyed.

  • At this point things became even worse for the Allies. Eleven zeros of 1/4 NAG based in Rabual arrived on an air transfer and engaged the remaining Airacobras. As the Airacobras were being mauled, a flight of eight B-17s showed up on a mission to bomb the airfield.

  • Coming in at high level they were attacked by the then numerically superior Japanese Zeros and their bombing was abysmal. Of the eight bomb loads dropped only one caused minimal damage. After dropping their loads the B-17s made a hasty exit and both sides settled down to lick their wounds.

  • The butcher's bill for this early morning raid was five Airacobras and one B-17 lost by the allies, but only two Zeros lost by the Japanese.

  • The Allies will rue the loss of their fighters, but at best this air battle was a diversion. There is still a Japanese fleet of carriers and transports somewhere near the Coral Sea, and a mighty Allied fleet is also somewhere in the area, searching for them.

    USS Yorktown