While Mitoya clambers down Kaga’s ladders through smoke, Lt. Jacob “Dusty” Kleiss of VS-6, the seventh plane to dive on Kaga, scores a hit on the painted red circle near the forward elevator. The eighth plane to dive in bombs Kaga in the same spot. The seventh plane’s bomb hits the forward elevator and crashes through it, exploding in the hangar deck. The blast cooks off the airplanes, fuel, and ordnance. The next bomb explodes a fuel cart near the air command post, which just misses the Kaga, but the ball of fire covers the bridge with flaming gasoline, killing Okada, Fiyuma, and everyone on the bridge.
On Akagi, civilian newsman Teiichi Makishima films Kaga’s ordeal. He’s aware that the censors will probably keep the film, but he is also aware that he is shooting history. He watches the columns of water from the near-misses, and sees Kaga’s bridge burn, and says, “She is beaten at last.”
The following bomb explodes right over Cdr. Yamasaki, the chief maintenance officer, and he disappears. Amagai, watching, thinks, “Let a bomb come upon my head, if it comes. Those who vanish like the dew will surely be quite happy.”
Amagai may wish to vanish like the dew – with Okada and the bridge crew dead, the airman inherits command of a blazing 38,000-ton aircraft carrier. In all at least four bombs hit Kaga, probably more. The last American down is Ens. George Goldsmith, who roars straight down to 1,500 feet. Goldsmith amazes his back-seater, Radioman James Patterson, with an accurate hit on the flight deck amidships – Goldsmith is a horrible pilot in practice.
Up above, Jimmy Thach sees the dive-bombers attack, and it looks like “a beautiful silver waterfall” to him. He watches the bombers bore in, and the explosions from above.
On Akagi, Makishima discovers he’s out of film. He runs into the chartroom to swap out cartridges. Meanwhile, Akagi, having launched her first Zero, comes under Dick Best and the five planes of Bombing 6’s first division. Everyone on the flagship is watching the launch instead of the sky, or watching the last TBDs fleeing. Best orders his team, “Don’t let this carrier escape.” Best opens his flaps and streaks down. He is fascinated by Akagi’s yellow flight deck and the red circle painted on its deck. He aims his three-power telescope at his target, a point just ahead of the bridge. At 3,000 feet, he sees Akagi’s lead Zero take off, and keeps boring in.
Just as Masuda swings his flag, a lookout screams, “Hell-divers!” Fuchida glances up to see three of Best’s bombers racing in, straight for the bridge. Best, Lt. j.g. Bud Kroeger, and Ens. Fred Weber are all diving on Akagi.
Fuchida crawls behind a protective mantle. Makishima aims his camera on the three incoming SBDs, and suddenly realizes they are heading for him. Then he hits the deck. Kroeger dives in closer and closer, and releases his 1,000-lb. bomb at 2,500 feet. He pulls back tightly, convinced that his bomb has hit and the carrier has a starboard island.
Actually the bomb is a near-miss, just off the port bow, and its splashes into the sea, soaking everyone on the bridge, blackening their faces. The blast makes Akagi shudder. Nagumo, Genda, and the rest are surprised, but not scared. Cdr. Sasabe, the fleet navigator, looks at the water column, and thinks he sees his mother’s face. However, Best’s bomb, the second, hits directly near the midship elevator, and shreds the lift into twisted metal. The lift drops into the hangar. So does the bomb, which explodes in the hangar deck, setting off bombs, planes, and torpedoes. Among the ordnance going off are the 800-kg contact bombs Masuda’s crew left lying around in the endless swap-outs. These bombs explode, setting off more blasts. The explosion sends flames through the empty elevator well, and sets the flight deck ablaze. “Fatal hit. Several holes,” Akagi’s damage chart notes blandly.
Weber’s bomb, the third, hits Akagi’s stern, ripping apart the flight deck and the readied aircraft. It plunges through the hull and jams the carrier’s rudder. Then, silence, as Best’s planes pull out. He sees the undamaged Hiryu in the distance, fighting off the last of VT-3’s TBDs. The roar of engines and whine of bombs is replaced by the crackle of fire. Genda, who has been watching Kaga, thinks, “Akagi has been hit, too. What a pity! We must not be downed, as we still have the Second Carrier Division.” Fuchida’s reaction is more emotional. He starts to cry.
On Soryu, Cdr. Hisashi Ohara stands on the navigation bridge, riveted by Kaga’s struggle. Then one of his lookouts yells, “Enemy dive-bombers – hole in the clouds!” Ohara looks up to see a dozen planes diving on his ship. A minute later the first bomb hits the port side of the flight deck, between elevators. The second hits right in front of the bridge, and knocks Ohara of his feet and back down the flight deck. He doesn’t feel hurt – just like being in a steam bath. When he staggers to his feet, people start tossing towels on his face to handle the burns. That bomb explodes in the hangar deck. The third bomb hits aft near the Number Three elevator, and explodes more aircraft.
Up above, Thach sees pink and blue flames rise from the three carriers. It’s time to go. He streaks back to Yorktown, and feels liquid all over his leg. He thinks its blood. Then he picks up his glove and sees it’s covered with oil. His line has been hit, causing the liquid. It’s one occasion he’s happy to see oil all over the floor. His squadron mate, Lt. Sheedy, has less luck. Short of fuel, he crash-lands on Hornet without cutting off his machine-guns. The impact sprays across the flight deck and island, and kill five men, wounding 20 others. Among the dead is Lt. Royal R. Ingersoll II, son of Adm. Royal Ingersoll, Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet. The elder Ingersoll told his son after Pearl Harbor that, “now that war had been declared, no regular officer could possibly consider a shore assignment; he must ask for a job at sea.” The son has heeded those words, and now pays the price.
With Soryu burning, Yorktown’s last planes attack her screening destroyer, Isokaze, mistaking it for a light cruiser. They score no hits, and start pulling out. Amazingly, Yorktown’s group does not lose any planes. But oil starts splattering all over Holmberg’s cockpit. He asks La Plant – a mechanic by trade – what’s happening. La Plant says that if the dials are all right, he has lost hydraulic pressure. Sure enough, shrapnel or flak has ripped up his hydraulic fluid, and he and his buddies streak back to Yorktown. The carrier’s air group has had the most successful attack of the three. It is an irony that the surviving pilots will believe – to their annoyance – that they sank a light carrier weighing 10,000 tons, thus achieving the least of the three attacks. Actually, Soryu displaces 18,800 tons, making her only 1,200 tons smaller than Yorktown.
Enterprise’s air group is less lucky. The Zero pilots, having seen three of their carriers get bombed, are enraged. Two Zeros pounce on McClusky. Every time one dives, McClusky turns toward it, hoping that gunner Chochalousek can open fire. The Japanese score first – shooting up McClusky’s cockpit, wounding him in the left arm. McClusky expects to die. Then the gunfire stops and he’s still flying. Despite an injured shoulder, McClusky turns back to see Chochalousek unharmed. He’s shot down one Zero and scared off the other. The plane, however, has taken 55 hits.
Ensign Pittman also faces Japanese attack, and his gunner, MM2 F. D. Adkins, faces an odd challenge – his twin .30 caliber machine-guns break loose from their mount. Adkins grabs onto it and holds it in place, somehow shooting down a Zero. The machine guns weigh 175 lbs. However, not all of Enterprise’s planes make it back. She loses 14 SBDs, most of them those that have to ditch for lack of gas.
All morning long, Yamamoto and his staff await developments. As the Americans attack and fail, they listen in on Nagumo’s tactical radio transmissions. Cdr. Yasuji Watanabe remarks, “It all turned out just as we wanted.”
At 10:30 the radio room reports overhearing a message from Nagumo, “The Akagi is on fire!” Watanabe rushes to the battle command post and hands the message to Yamamoto. The latter asks Kuroshima if it might be wise to confirm that the carriers have actually attacked the American fleet. Of course, Kuroshima says, the attack has been launched. It’s all in his plan.
More messages come up…fire on the Kaga, then the Soryu. Nobody worries yet. Ships get hit in action. That’s war.
The second phase of the Battle of Midway is over. It has lasted five minutes. Three of Japan’s largest and most powerful aircraft carriers now lie as blasted wrecks. Nobody knows it – the American pilots are trying to make it home and the Japanese crews are trying to save lives and ships – but the tide of World War II in the Pacific has turned. In five minutes.
On the three blasted carriers, however, nobody is immediately concerned with the historic implications of the battle. Right now it is a grim struggle to save men and ships. More than 200 men have been flung overboard from Akagi, and Masuda races around, trying to get his crewmen undercover. “Anybody who isn’t working, get below!” he yells.
Fuchida hobbles down to the briefing room, joined by Makishima, to find it set up as an emergency hospital. He asks why the badly-burned men haven’t been taken to sick bay, and an attendant tells him all the lower decks, including sickbay, are on fire. Stunned, Fuchida realizes that if he had stayed in his sickbay bed, he’d be dead now. Fuchida and Makishima shuffle back to the flag bridge to find Genda, who glances at Fuchida and says, “Shimatta.” In English, “We goofed.”
Nearby, Kusaka takes in reports from damage control parties. Radio is out, steering is out, all guns but three are out, and the carbon dioxide extinguishers cannot keep up with the fires. Flooding of ammunition magazines isn’t working, either. Akagi’s rudder is jammed at port 20, and she is drifting in circles. Damage Control officer Cdr. Dobashi, however, has taken one measure appropriate to the mess: he’s buckled on his samurai sword. If he can’t save the ship, he’ll go down in the best traditions.
Akagi Navigator Miura rings the telegraph to stop engines, but there’s no response. He sends a messenger down to the engine room to find everyone there has been suffocated by smoke sucked down the vents. The engines are running by themselves. At 10:42, Miura tells the boiler room to draw the fires and stop the ship. A minute later, a Zero near the bridge explodes, and the fire starts crackling toward the bridge.
Kusaka, methodical as ever, realizes that Akagi is out of a job, and the flag staff has to find a new home. He urges Nagumo to transfer the flag. “It’s not time yet,” Nagumo says, standing near the compass.
Captain Tajiro Aoki, Akagi’s skipper and Kusaka’s Eta Jima classmate, joins the two, tears in his eyes. “Chief of Staff, as the ship’s captain, I am going to take care of this ship with all responsibility, so I urge you, the Commander in Chief, and all other staff officers to leave this vessel as soon as possible, so that the command of this force may be continued.” Nagumo refuses.
Kusaka tries again. “You are Commander in Chief of the First Carrier Striking Force as well as the Akagi. It’s your duty to carry on the battle.” Long silence. Then Nagumo nods his head. Kusaka semaphores the destroyer Nowake to move in and send a boat. Flag Secretary Commander Nishibayashi looks for a ladder out of the bridge, but all are burning. The enlisted men punch holes in the bridge windows at 10:46 and hurl lines out. Nagumo is first out. A judo expert, he easily lands on the flight deck. The fatter Kusaka gets jammed in his window, and needs a few pushes before landing on the burning flight deck, spraining both ankles and losing his left shoe. He hops across the deck – burning his left foot – down to the anchor deck, where a rope ladder waits to take the staff to Nowake.
Last man down is Fuchida, who sees his rope smoldering. One of the explosions rending Akagi hurls him in the air and smacks him on the flight deck. Fuchida breaks both legs in the ankle, and cannot move. His uniform starts to smolder as flame advances toward him. He figures it’s the end. But two enlisted men grab Fuchida and swing him in a net onto Nagumo’s lifeboat.
Another person climbing into Nagumo’s lifeboat is Genda, who suffers a burned hand. A petty officer gives his gloves to Genda, saying, “Air Staff Officer, please use this.” At that moment, Genda’s batman turns up to give his boss his bank deposit book. Genda is touched by the batman’s devotion, even though Genda’s savings are not vast.
All hands plop into Nowaki’s launch. Cdr. Chuichi Yoshioka feels as if he’s left his heart back on Akagi, Japan’s first heavy carrier, a floating symbol of Imperial prowess. The launch plows through the water to the light cruiser Nagara, flagship of Destroyer Squadron 10, the carrier group’s escorts. At 11:30, Nagumo and his staff clamber aboard Nagara, and Rear Adm. Susumu Kimura is on the quarterdeck to greet them.
“Kimura, do you think the Nagara could tow the Akagi?” Nagumo says immediately.
“It may be difficult, in view of the actual circumstances of the Akagi.” While Nagumo digests this, Kusaka heads up to the bridge to break out a vice admiral’s flag for his boss. Despite the catastrophe, protocol must be observed. However, Nagara has no vice admiral’s flags. So Kusaka takes Kimura’s own rear admiral’s flag, which shows the familiar red sun with rays, and red strips across the top and bottom. Kusaka tears off the bottom strip – vice admirals have only one strip at the top – and hoists the tattered flag up the foremast.
Disaster reigns on Soryu as well. Capt. Ryusaku Yanagimoto stands on the signal tower on the bridge’s starboard side, yelling at the men to save themselves. The heat is unbelievable – it warps doors and drives survivors out of the hangar deck onto the flight deck. On the anchor deck, overworked medics give shots to the injured and bandage the bleeding. The agony is made worse by the Japanese sailors’ uniforms – t-shirts and shorts. With such light covering, Japanese sailors are easily exposed to burns. In contrast, American sailors wear long-sleeved blue shirts and dungaree trousers, which are more resistant to heat.
Those beyond hope are left to die. An explosion sends many officers on the forward deck – including Ohara, who has fainted from his burns - into the drink. When Ohara comes to, he’s floating in the water, a corpsman slapping his face to keep him awake.
At 10:40, the engines stop, Soryu in flames. The fire hits the starboard torpedo room, setting off more explosions. At 10:45, Yanagimoto, himself injured, faces facts: main engines stopped, steering gone, fire mains gone. With the tin cans Hamakaze and Isokaze hovering nearby, he orders “Abandon ship.”
CPO Juzo Mori and a bunch of other pilots are trapped in the ready room. Some of the men jump. But Mori times it right, and grabs the fall of an empty davit, hoping to lower himself into the water. Instead, he shoots straight down. He splashes into the water next to an upside down boat, and he and some other men struggle to flip it over.
Kaga is also a mess. Cdr. Amagai is running the firefighting efforts from air command post, but the fire is winning. He evacuates it and leads a fire team down to a lower deck to organize things. But he can’t get down to the hangar deck, because huge explosions are hurling men and debris out of the carrier. CWO Morinaga, on the scene, is already finding things hopeless – the water mains are busted and the bucket brigade from the heads can’t keep up. He orders all combustibles hurled overboard, which is a good idea, but doesn’t help much.
Defeated, Morinaga finds himself cornered on a small open deck near the bridge, with one-way out, down the canvas of a cutter lashed to the ship. He struggles down and reaches the deck below, finding Amagai. The air officer now has to wrestle with the decision to abandon ship.
Another Japanese officer facing a big decision at 10:30 is Rear Adm. Hiroaki Abe, second-in-command of the First Carrier Striking Force, who inherits command of the force while Nagumo shifts his flag. Abe has to avenge the defeat. He wastes no time. From his flagship, Tone, he signals Hiryu, “Attack enemy carriers.” The massive airstrikes have clobbered three Japanese carriers, but Hiryu, 10,000 yards ahead, remains untouched. Her exec, Cdr. Kanoe, watches the fires and smoke, and becomes disheartened, saying, “What will become of us?”
The answer is quick, with Yamaguchi blinkering back at 10:50: “All our planes are taking off now for the purpose of destroying the enemy carriers.” Everyone on Yamaguchi’s staff is disheartened and discouraged, except the fiery Yamaguchi, who sees the situation as an opportunity to excel – and boost his reputation over that of his rival, Nagumo.
Yamaguchi tells his staff, “Well, we, with Hiryu alone, are going to sacrifice ourselves to kill the damned enemy force.” He picks up the 1MC, and tells the entire crew that it is “Now up to the Hiryu to carry on the fight for the glory of greater Japan.”
While Yamaguchi boosts morale, Cdr. Kawaguchi works out the attack plan. There is no time to wait to finish re-arming the torpedo bombers, but the dive-bombers are ready. They will go in right away, and the torpedo bombers will follow. Lt. Michio Kobayashi will lead the dive-bombers. Yamaguchi and Hiryu Capt. Tomeo Kaku shake hands with each pilot, and Kaku tells them, “I am not going to let you die alone.” Yamaguchi tells the pilots the situation is critical and everything depends on them. So don’t be foolhardy or reckless. Japan’s hopes depend on their coolness and skill. Kobayashi is shaking so hard, his teeth rattle. He’s not scared – just determined. Kobayashi has been flying strikes since Pearl Harbor.
Hiryu turns into the wind just before 10:50 and 18 Vals and six Zeros are spotted on the flight deck for attack. As the pilots swarm onto the flight deck Kawaguchi impulsively shakes hands with Lt. Takenori Kondo, an Eta Jima classmate and leader of a bomber section. Kawaguchi urges Kondo on. Kondo says, “I’ll do my best.”
At 10:50, Yamato’s communications officer climbs up ladders onto the flag bridge, and hands a message to Yamamoto’s signal officer, Cdr. Wada. He stares at it and hands the message silently to Rear Adm. Matome Ugaki, who passes it on without comment to Yamamoto, who stands immaculate in dress whites.
The message is from Rear Adm. Abe. “Fires are raging aboard the Kaga, Soryu and Akagi resulting from attacks carried out by land-based and carrier-based attack planes. We plan to have the Hiryu engage the enemy carriers. In the meantime, we are temporarily retiring to the north, and assembling our forces.”
Yamamoto hands the message back without saying a word. His face is frozen. He and his staff “looked at one another, their mouths tight shut,” writes Yeoman Noda. “There was indescribable emptiness, cheerlessness, and chagrin.”
With Nagumo temporarily out of the picture, and Abe not a carrier man, Yamaguchi takes command of the battle, watching his strike roar down Hiryu’s flight deck. At 10:54 Hiryu starts launching her Zeros, by 10:58 the strike is airborne in two equal groups of dive-bombers, one of fighters. Kobayashi leads the first bomber section, Lt. Michiji Yamashita the second, and Lt. Yasuhiro Shigematsu the fighters. They head northwest, towards Yorktown’s reported position.
Meanwhile, Yamamoto reacts to the shocking news. He orders his battleships to rush straight to Nagumo, cranking up speed to 20 knots, course 120, through thickening fog.
On the American task forces, tension is high as all hands await developments. Communications are sketchy due to static and interference. But at 11 a.m., the planes start returning, Fighting 6 the first. They have nothing to report but frustration.
Another frustrated group, Bombing 8, gives up the ghost and heads for Midway. Three run out of gas and fall into the drink, but the rest roar in, jettisoning their bombs on Midway’s reef. The defenders assume this is the Japanese attack and open fire, nicking the SBDs with bullets before someone realizes the “invaders” are American. Fighting 8 has a worse time. By 11 a.m., all of their planes splash into the drink, out of fuel.
Another pilot who ran out of gas is Tony Schneider, who is close enough to see the smoke of the Japanese carriers burning. Also floating around is Ensign George Gay, who watches the whole bombardment, cheering and yelling at every hit. In later years, his report of having witnessed the entire attack will generate a sea of controversy, over whether or not he is actually close enough to see the actual bombings or simply the columns of smoke in the distance.
On the American carriers, the long wait continues. At 11:50, the remains of Bombing 6 and Scouting 6 come back, in twos and threes. Wade McClusky enters Yorktown’s landing circle before realizing he’s heading for the wrong carrier. He is down to five gallons of gas as he comes in to land on Enterprise. Lt. Robin Lindsey, the landing signal officer, waves McClusky off, but he thumbs his nose at Lindsey and lands anyway. McClusky trots up to Flag Plot and reports to Spruance. Three carriers burning, one unhurt. While McClusky gives account, Enterprise’s XO, Cdr. W.F. Boone gasps, “My God, Mac! You’ve been shot!” McClusky has been so busy with his story, he quite forgets that he is also bleeding all over the deck from five different wounds. McClusky is now out of the battle. So are 18 of Enterprise’s 32 dive-bombers. Most of them run out of gas on the way back, including Dickinson, who splashes 10 miles from Enterprise.
Two damaged Bombing 6 SBDs land on Yorktown. Lt. j.g. Wilbur Roberts and his gunner, AMM1 William Steinman being one crew, and Ens. George Goldsmith and ARM3 James Patterson Jr. the other. Both planes are struck below to the hangar deck for repairs and stay there.
The luckless Stan Ring and Scouting 8 also make it in, but only three SBDs return from Bombing 8. Torpedo 8, of course, is a complete write-off…39 planes gone from Hornet. Lt. George Flinn, Torpedo 8’s personnel officer, orders the galley to keep the squadron’s chicken dinners ready for them all.
Yorktown’s vigil is shorter. By 11:15, Max Leslie’s dive-bombers return, but have to wait until Fighting 3 can land. However, Fighting 3 hasn’t turned up yet. One of Leslie’s bombers signals by lamp that they had punched out an enemy carrier, and scuttlebutt improves that to the Japanese, having lost their carrier, are landing on Midway to surrender. At 11:20, Fletcher shoots off 10 of the 17 dive-bombers he has been holding back to find the fourth carrier. At 11:45, Jimmy Thach returns, and everyone is recovered. Yorktown loses only two planes from Fighting 3. Ensign Dibb finds his plane riddled with bullets, including one that zipped through the cockpit cover, missing Dibb, and smacking into the instrument panel. Meanwhile, Leslie continues to orbit upstairs, awaiting a chance to land.
Thach explain things to Fletcher. With three carriers sunk, Fletcher says the battle is “going our way.” But as the officers talk, Yorktown’s radar picks up bogeys coming in from the west, and Task Force 17 has to go to air defense battle stations. Yorktown orders its escorts to assume Victor formation against air attack – cruisers Astoria and Portland cranking up to 30 knots and off the carrier’s port and starboard bow. The destroyers make up the outer screen. Task Force 17 turns southeast.
While Fletcher awaits the blow, three Japanese carriers struggle to survive. Akagi’s Capt. Tajiro Aoki abandons his blazing bridge at 11:20, climbing down onto the flight deck. Once there, Aoki and his colleagues find they have little to do, so they pass their only two cigarettes around to relieve the tension, an act that would leave modern Navy damage control experts stunned. At 11:35, the torpedo and bomb storage magazines explode, and the fire races forward, savaging the boat deck. Aoki and his staff flee to the anchor deck, where a band of survivors is gathered.
Aoki is determined to save his ship, but the situation is bleak. Electrical power is out, which means there’s no interior light or pressure pumps. Crewmen force seawater through hoses on the fire, but it isn’t enough. Just to make things worse, the chemical fire extinguishers don’t work, either. Damage control parties attack the flames with hand pumps, and are mowed down by flame and smoke.
Lt. Raita Ogawa circles the wrecked Akagi in his Zero, with two cronies, gulping fuel. Down to five gallons, he can’t land anywhere. He signals the cruiser Chikuma, racing after Hiryu, to ask for a pick-up. Chikuma’s too busy, racing to keep up with Hiryu. But she hoists her wind-sock and turns into the wind to give Ogawa a smooth wake. All three Zero pilots splash into the water, Ogawa making the best landing. As a former seaplane pilot, landing on the water is natural to him. The three pilots climb out of their sinking planes to find scores of swimmers in the water around them. Many have been blown off their carriers, like the 200 from Akagi. Others have jumped into the sea, with nowhere else to go.
Many have come from Soryu, obeying orders to abandon ship. Capt. Yanagimoto limps onto the bridge’s semaphore platform, and shouts encouragement to the swimmers, and “Long live the Emperor!” 30 men swimming below cheer back as Yanagimoto vanishes back into the smoke.
On Soryu’s anchor deck, the XO, Cdr. Ohara, lies on deck, faint from his burns. Other crewmen toss lines in the water to help swimmers come back aboard.
Meanwhile, Soryu’s orphaned scout plane finally spots the American task force. The pilot reports three carriers in sight – but his radio is busted. He heads back to Soryu, unaware that the ship is ablaze.
Things are not much better on Akagi. Aoki sends an optimistic blinker message to Akagi, but the fires rage on. The engines start up at 12:03 and the big carrier turns to starboard. Aoki sends Ensign Akayama to find out, but he can’t get through the flames. The carrier continues to circle to starboard.
Akagi’s odd move saves Lt. Fujita’s life. He is drifting in the water, reading his palm to keep his mind off of his troubles. He notices the smoking bulk of Akagi heading toward him and starts swimming toward her and an escorting destroyer. The destroyer Nowake races up, a machine-gun aimed at Fujita, but the aviator hand-signals, “I am a flying officer from Soryu.” Two of Fujita’s Eta Jima classmates on Nowake – Koichi Aoki and Toshio Kanai (the Nowake’s XO and navigation officers), recognize Fujita, and haul him aboard.
Exhausted and drenched, Fujita pulls on one of Kanai’s uniforms and finally has some lunch. Then he climbs up to the weather decks and watches Akagi burn, her sailors jumping into Nowake boats. Fujita has a worm’s-eye view of the battle, but he is sure of one thing. Japan has lost the battle. He shuffles down below and falls asleep.
Facing attack, Yorktown buttons up. Machinist Oscar W. Myers clears the gasoline fuel lines of 100 octane and replaces it with CO2. It's a technique of his own devising. When the Japanese arrive, the fuel lines will be harmless, the gas back in the storage tanks and the lines full of harmless CO2. Nagumo's task force could have benefited from this measure, which will become standard. Yorktown crews also kick a portable gasoline tank over the side, and deploy repair and medical parties. Lt. Cdr. Leonard Davis, the gunnery officer, has placed .50-caliber machine-guns around the flight deck. The carrier enjoys this extra defense because Davis has somehow failed to turn in these weapons to higher authorities when Yorktown received replacement 20mm guns for close-in protection.
Lt. Cdr. Oscar Pederson, the fighter director, launches 12 F4Fs and asks Spruance for reinforcements. Spruance sends over six of his own CAP aircraft, which means Yorktown is defended by 18 fighters.
The Americans hit the Japanese from 15 miles out. The Americans enjoy the numerical advantage, the Japanese have the better plane in the Zero. But as Kobayashi’s bombers form up to attack, the Americans smash into the Japanese formation, guns blazing. The Japanese break into sections.
Lt. Arthur J. Brassfield, a peacetime Missouri high school teacher, already has four kills from the Coral Sea. Now he faces three Japanese bombers. He blasts one at 300 yards, flips to the left, and explodes another at 150 yards. The third flees, but Brassfield chases after him and shoots him down. The high school teacher is now a fighter ace. His buddies shoot down seven more planes. The remaining Japanese planes close the range.
On Task Force 17, everyone is at their battle station. Seaman Donat Houle on Hughes, wonders why he’s so far from his home in New Hampshire. Royal Navy Cdr. Michael B. Laing, on Yorktown to report to London on the battle, pulls out his notebook. Yorktown Capt. Elliott Buckmaster walks out onto the navigation bridge to watch the action, keeping his XO in the armored conning tower. Leslie himself is about to land, when he is waved off. Leslie is annoyed – he’s a good pilot, he usually makes it. Leslie flies off. Holmberg is next, and he can’t land, either. Then all the carrier’s AA guns open fire, and the radio blares, “Get clear – we are being attacked.”
The least perturbed person is apparently Fletcher, who stands in the chart room, studying his maps. A staff officer enters and says, “The attack is coming in, sir.”
“Well,” Fletcher answers cheerily, “I’ve got on my tin hat. I can’t do anything else now.”
Kobayashi’s strike swoops down on Yorktown, whose guns blaze defiance and shrapnel. The guns tear apart a Val, but its bomb smacks down onto the flight deck, just 15 feet inboard aft of the island, near Mount No. 4. The red-yellow flash blooms 60 feet high, and shrapnel kills 19 of 20 men at Mount No. 3, 16 more at No. 4. The blast also cooks off three planes in the hangar deck below, two from Enterprise, one from Yorktown, loaded with a 1,000-lb. bomb. Lt. A.C. Emerson, the hangar-deck officer, yanks the sprinkler system valve, and cool water smothers the flames.
At Mount No. 3, Ensign John D’Arc Lorenz, who has been knocked out by concussion, staggers to his feet and realizes that his Mount stands atop a ready magazine of 60,000 rounds. Smoke is coming out of the magazine. He jumps down to the flight deck and opens a hatch in the magazine, to find shells burning, spewing fire and smoke. He and two wounded sailors struggle to put out the fires. Gunner’s Mate Edward Zimmerle lies dying. The former Nashville Golden Gloves boxing champion, pale and exhausted, tells Lorenz, “Tell my folks this isn’t the end.” Also dead is Seaman 1st Rupert Davis, cut in half by a splinter, and Seaman 2nd Pearl Greison Prince of Bradenton, Fla. The latter lost his wife and baby a few months earlier in a car crash. But Seaman 2nd Harold Davies, unscratched, one of 12 kids from a Dillsboro, Indiana, farm, keeps firing his gun.
While medics care for the wounded, Yorktown’s guns continue to crackle, shooting down the second Val. Its bomb is a near miss close astern, with splinters flying in all directions, killing and wounding portside gunners. The next section of Japanese planes swings in from the portside, but only one releases its bomb, which has a delayed action fuse.
The bomb, which looks like “a big, black bowling ball” smashes through the flight deck’s wooden planks, the hangar deck, the XO’s office, and the VS-5 Ready Room, where Lt. j.g. Charlie N. Conaster is working out the flight schedule. The bomb hits the coffee percolator, flooding the compartment with brown goo, and keeps on going, finally exploding in the carrier’s stack. The explosion sends out a concussion wave that shuts down the fires in the boilers and ruptures the uptakes from Boilers One, Two, and Three. Yorktown drops speed from 20 to six knots.
Smoke and flame spew everywhere, into the galleys, the personnel files, and even the photo lab. A blast of heat and smoke rolls up the stack, setting paint on fire and hurling Signalman William Martin from his post on the stack searchlight. He floats through the air and comes to seconds later, hanging over the rail two levels down – unhurt.
Yorktown, however, is badly hurt. Even as she cuts her speed and spews smoke, another Val swings in and drops one last bomb from the starboard side. It smashes through the Number One elevator and explodes on the fourth deck, starting a fire in a rag storage room that happens to be next to gasoline and 5-inch shell storage. Damage Control Officer Cdr. Clarence E. Aldrich personally leads a firefighting team there to hose down the rags, while sprinklers flood the ammunition. The blast also pops open crates of powdered soap stored above the rags, which pour from the crates and help quell the fires.
Up above, Yorktown carpenters, who have drilled endlessly for this occasion, break out heavy timbers, hammers, and saws, and start cleaning up the flight deck. Meanwhile, Kobayashi’s survivors pull out. Ens. John Chase’s 20mm battery on destroyer Hughes chases a Val right over Hughes’ bridge, and Lt. Cdr. Donald Ramsey, the skipper, rushes to the bulwark to yell at the gunners. Astoria hurls 204 5-inch shells in 10 minutes, with even Chaplain Matthew Bouterse passing up cans of 1.1-inch ammo. Realizing it’s unusual for a chaplain to move ammunition, he thinks about Chaplain Howell Forgy’s now-famous words, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.”
One Japanese plane pulls out of its dive and flies by Astoria at bridge height. Astoria’s machine-guns stitch it up, but the plane keeps coming. It passes along the starboard side, and the pilot turns, waves, and smashes into the sea. At least he’s had a look at his enemy.
Also still airborne is Lt. Harry Corl in his battered Devastator, hoping to land. His wounded radioman-gunner, ARM3 Lloyd Childers, is so weak from loss of blood, he passes out when he lifts his head. Corl says, “We can’t land on that ship.”
“Why not?” Childers mumbles.
“Can’t you see that hole in the deck?” Corl replies. No, Childers can't even lift his head. The hundreds of sailors on the flight deck watching, who include Childers' brother Wayne, assume that ince Lloyd is not moving in the rear seat, he is dead.
Corl, short of fuel, heads for Task Force 16, just 40 miles away. But he can’t make it. “Standby to hit the water,” he says a few minutes later, and splashes into the drink near the destroyer Monaghan. Corl tries to open his life raft, but oil has blown it over the canopy, making it too slick to open. Childers sees a whaler coming from Monaghan to save them.
“We don’t need the life raft,” Corl says. “Let’s go.” Corl jumps into the water and Childers slides into the water. Corl drags Childers away as the TBD sinks, and paddles for a few minutes. When the whaleboat arrives, he tells them to take Childers first. There is a doctor on the whaleboat and he begins pressing Childers’ back, squirting water of out his mouth. The doctor tells Corl that if Childers had gone another 30 minutes without medical attention, he would have died.
Childers recovers from his wounds and reports to flight training in December 1942. He is commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marines. He fights in Korea and makes lieutenant colonel in 1962, despite not having a college degree. He gains it later, anyway. After retiring from the Marines in 1968, he earns his Ph.D. and starts a second career as a college administrator, becoming administrative dean of Chapman College in Orange County, California.
Corl is shot down and killed at Guadalcanal a few months later.
20 miles to the southeast, the men on Enterprise, Hornet and the other Task Force 16 ships can only see the puffs of AA smoke to tell them that a battle is going on. Then a heavy smudge of smoke appears, clinging to the horizon. Spruance figures Yorktown has been hit. He detaches the cruisers Pensacola and Vincennes and the destroyers Benham and Balch to help. But he holds his 12 Enterprise combat air patrol fighters back until the battle is nearly over. When Lt. Roger Mehle’s 12 F4Fs are released, they catch the Japanese just as they are pulling out. To Mehle’s annoyance, his guns jam. But they splash one Val.
As the Enterprise fighters plunge into the fight, Cdr. Leonard “Ham” Dow, Spruance’s communications officer hears a Japanese pilot say, in English, “All planes return to base, all planes return to base.” Dow is enraged, “That was a Jap!” He yells into his microphone. “Disregard the order to return to base – that was a Jap!”
The Japanese pilot repeats his “order,” hoping to empty the skies of American planes. But Dow shouts, “The bastards are using his frequency,” and continues to denounce the Japanese trickery, doing so with increasingly colorful metaphors and terminology that amuse and impress everyone listening to the tactical circuit.
At 12:16 the last Japanese plane is gone – 11 minutes after the attack started. The only sound now is the rumble of Yorktown’s fires and the pounding of hammers and saws. Cdr. Laing looks for his lost notebook. He figures it was blown out of his hands by the Japanese bombs. “Those Jap baskets came rather a long way to ruin my month’s works.”
Fletcher and his staff stand on the flight deck, refugees from a smoke-filled Flag Plot. They have a lot to think about – only seven of 18 Japanese bombers were able to attack, but they scored three major hits. Fletcher himself is wounded, too, his head cut, but he keeps on working, dripping blood. A medic slaps on a bandage, and Fletcher forgets about his condition until he gets a Purple Heart some time later.
The Japanese have also taken a beating. Only five dive-bombers and one Zero fighter escape Fletcher’s fuming muzzles. Kobayashi is not one of them. One of the pilots reports to Hiryu, “Enemy carrier is burning,” at 12:45. Jubilation on Hiryu’s bridge, but Yamaguchi observes that one carrier could not have punched out Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu. There has to be another one, maybe more.
Anyway, the torpedo strike will deal with that. Hiryu is readying nine of its own torpedo planes, plus an orphan from Akagi; four Zeros as escorts, plus one from Kaga. Yamaguchi has no time to scrape up more planes. He will win or die with 15 aircraft.
At 12:20, Yamamoto radios a stream of orders to his shaken subordinates. The invasion of AF and the Aleutians is temporarily postponed. Kakuta’s carriers are to head south and hook up with Nagumo. The transports bound for Midway will retire temporarily to the southwest. Kondo will hook up with Nagumo. Kondo reports that he will be in position by 3 a.m. the next morning.
Then Yamamoto and his staff start piecing together the situation from fragmentary reports. Yamamoto needs to know if Midway has been flattened. Ugaki radios Nagumo on Nagara to that effect, and gets no answer. Obviously the attack on Midway was not a great success, Yamamoto deduces. Kuroshima suggests a surface force bombard the atoll by night. Yamamoto mulls that over.
On Yorktown, Aldrich faces a damage control officer’s worst nightmare – three separate hits, four major fires. He fills the forward magazine with seawater and the gas tank with CO2. Firefighters smother flames in the island structure, while repair teams attack the flight deck. The hit abaft – 12 feet across – requires wooden beams laid over them, a quarter-inch steel plate over that, and more steel plate on top. It takes 20 minutes, but Yorktown’s flight deck is ready for business.
In the engine room, two boilers are out, the rest full of smoke. Chief Water Tender Charles Kleinsmith re-lights the boiler fires amid smoke and red-hot bare casing. Boiler division officer Lt. Cundiff, wrapped in bandages from his burns, crawls into the uptake-intake space, to see why he can’t get up steam. The answer: the bomb has ruptured the uptake on Kleinsmith’s boiler, and the smoke is going into other boiler rooms. He orders Kleinsmith to reduce the fires to bare minimum while repairs are made.
Kleinsmith, a native of Zionsville, Pa., is a 37-year-old veteran with 20 years on his ticket, on the battleship USS Wyoming and cruisers Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Portland. His wife Mary and three-year-old son, Charles Jr., live in Long Beach.
Kleinsmith exhorts, cajoles, and threatens his crew of six – a 20-year Navy veteran can be good at that – to stay at their posts and repair the boilers. Father of a three-year-old son back in Long Beach, Kleinsmith and his crew manage to close the throttle and get the heat under control in Boiler No. 1, the only source of steam for the carrier’s generators. His team manages to keep 180 pounds of steam pressure and run auxiliaries. The compartment is full of smoke, fumes, soot, and unbearable temperatures. But Kleinsmith and his gang struggle on.
At 12:30, Akagi captain Aoki blinkers Nowake: “All safe except on flight deck. Every effort being made to fight the fires.”
On Yorktown’s flight deck, Fletcher decides that he can’t fight a battle from an immobile and burning aircraft carrier. Fletcher and his staff are just getting in the way of Buckmaster’s efforts to save his ship. Fletcher summons USS Astoria alongside at 12:30, and by 1 p.m., her No. 2 whaleboat is alongside. At 1:13 Fletcher’s staff slide down knotted lines from Yorktown’s flight deck, and other staff officers lower themselves hand over hand. Fletcher is about to do the same, then remembers he is 56 years old. “Hell, I’m too damn old for this sort of thing. Better lower me.” Two seamen rig a line with a bowline in it for the admiral.
Another task: caring for the wounded. Some are beyond help, though. Boatswain’s Mate Plyburn lies dying. He has $500 in his pockets, saved for the day he plans to marry. Now he begs his friends to take the money and have a good time.
A whaleboat takes Fletcher and his team through a Pacific Ocean full of empty brass powder casings from five-inch guns. The casings have turned into a vertical position, and look like submarine periscopes. Yeoman Frank Boo remembers the half-hour ride to Astoria as the most tense event of the day.
Also awaiting somewhere to go are Max Leslie and his 17 circling dive-bombers, gulping fuel and dodging bullets. Yorktown orders them to land on Enterprise or Hornet. Leslie and his fliers head northwest. Enroute, Leslie spots a swamped US TBD in the water, its crew in a rubber raft. He and Holmberg say with the raft until the destroyer Hammann arrives to pick up the castaways. However, that’s it for the fuel, Leslie and Holmberg have to splash into the sea near Astoria. Leslie lands so close to Astoria that he walks down the wing to the ship’s ladder. Before abandoning his SBD, Leslie flicks every button to the “off” position.
Another American aviator is out of the game, the determined Dick Best. While flying, he tests an oxygen bottle to be sure it isn’t leaking caustic soda. He snorts out the inhalation with no ill effects. But tomorrow, he will start coughing up blood. It’s not the canister. He has activated latent tuberculosis, and is hospitalized. He will be retired for physical disability, but survive until 2001.
Enterprise starts recovering VB-3’s planes at 12:37. Both carriers re-arm and refuel VF-3. Spruance needs those aircraft readied – Hiryu is still out there. Browning suggests an immediate counterattack. Spruance is not impressed by Browning’s desire for hasty action. The bombers are not ready, and Spruance doesn’t have an accurate fix on the Hiryu. He can’t afford to lose more aircraft on wild-goose chases.
Spruance is right. Yamaguchi is still moving north to evade snoopers, his screen thinned by the need to keep destroyers standing by the three wrecked carriers.
At 12:45, Hiryu is ready to launch her 10 torpedo planes in two five-plane sections. Tomonaga will lead the first section, Hashimoto the second, the only two Eta Jima men left. Hashimoto’s pilot will be Petty Officer Toshio Takahashi. Lt. Shigeru Mori will lead the six fighters.
At 12:50, Soryu’s Jill scout plane turns up, and it’s hard to say who suffers the greater shock, the pilot on seeing Soryu blasted or Yamaguchi at learning that there are three carriers in the American force. Initially, he can’t believe it. He’s also annoyed that the brand-new Jill torpedo plane’s radio didn’t work.
However, proof is coming from the destroyer Arashi, where Ens. Wesley Osmus is talking. He doesn’t have much choice in the matter. Arashi’s skipper, Cdr. Yasumasa Watanabe, threatens the weary American pilot with a samurai sword. Watanabe brings his ship alongside Akagi to fight fires, and Osmus sees the destruction. Osmus reveals that the Japanese are facing Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown. With this information extracted and blinkered to Hiryu, Osmus is taken to Arashi’s stern, told to face aft, and hit in the back of the neck with a fire axe. The blow doesn’t cut his head off. He clings to the ship’s rail chain for several minutes before falling over into the sea.
Nobody is ever tried for this war crime, as most of the Japanese officers and crew are killed before the war ends. However, on November 4, 1943, the destroyer escort USS Osmus is launched in Bay City, Michigan, sponsored by his mother, Mrs. Louisa Osmus, of Chicago.
After Yamaguchi digests the message, he gives last-minute instructions to Hashimoto, Tomonaga, and Mori: “Launch an attack upon other carriers than the one Kobayashi’s group hit and set on fire. If no other carriers are found in the area, direct attack upon the same one.” Yamaguchi shakes hands with the three leaders, and says, “Hope for a good fight.” Yamaguchi has a special word for Tomonaga: “I am not going to let you die alone, as I am going to follow you soon.”
When Tomonaga reaches his Kate, the maintenance men point out that the left wing gas tank has not been repaired. “All right, don’t worry. Fill up the other tank and leave the left wing tank as it is.”
The crew chief is unnerved. “Yes, sir. But should we bring your plane to the starting line just the same?”
“Yes, and hurry it up. We’re taking off,” Tomonaga says, and the mechanics shove his plane into positions. Hashimoto begs his pal to take a different plane. No, Tomonaga retorts. They need every plane that can fly. Swapping will take too long. He can make it back.
Nobody’s fooled. But nobody’s going to argue with the Samurai spirit, either. As Tomonaga’s buddies weep, Tomonaga pulls on his flight gear.
The torpedo pilots hop in at 12:45 and warm up their engines while the dive-bombers return. They can’t land until Hiryu’s deck is clear, so Petty Officer Satsuo Tange drops a message tube containing the Americans’ new position. Kawaguchi rushes the information to Hashimoto to in turn give to Tomonaga.
At 1:10 p.m., Yamamoto radios Kondo, “Invasion Force will assign a portion of its force to shell and destroy enemy air bases on AF. The occupation of AF and AO are temporarily postponed.” The Main Body plunges through fog at 20 knots, with ships becoming mixed up in the gloom. Deck officers place searchlights on the sterns to illuminate the situation, but portside screening destroyers wind up on the starboard side anyway.
At 1:30, Tomonaga takes off on his last mission, heading east. Yamaguchi watches them go, silent, motionless. He knows this may be Japan’s last chance in the battle.
At 1:38, Akagi Capt. Aoki faces different facts: his carrier won’t survive. He orders the Emperor’s portrait transferred to the destroyer Nowake. Seven minutes later, Nowake passes all this news on to Nagumo and Yamamoto, adding that fires are still raging on Akagi. While this message goes off, Akagi stops circling.
At 1:40, on Yorktown, Cundiff and Delaney succeed in getting boilers 4, 5, and 6 lit off. Boiler technicians and water tenders struggle to build up steam. With three boilers, Yorktown can do 20 knots, enough to resume flight operations. At 1:50, the damage control men yield the flight deck to the aircrews, and they start refueling Yorktown’s fighters.
On Kaga, Lt. Cdr. Yoshio Kunisada realizes the hangar deck is doomed when the paint begins to burn, and the oily smoke nearly suffocates his men. He tries opening portholes, but the wind only fans the flames. Kunisada slams the ports shut, and the deck fills up with smoke. Kunisada gets the point. He blocks the exits and opens the portholes so he and his team can escape, landing on a foot-and-a-half wide bulge along the side of the ship that exists as a stabilizing device. On their way out, Kunisada grabs a carton of cigarettes, and passes the packs around to cheer the men up. Only Kunisada lights his cigarette.
As he does, someone yells, “Torpedo, right quarter!” Sure enough, three torpedoes are zooming in on Kaga. Two of them miss, but the third is headed straight for the wounded carrier.
The fish come from the submarine USS Nautilus. Since 11:45, it has been stalking a burning carrier at four knots to conserve batteries. Now the immense bulk of Kaga looms before Cdr. Bill Brockman’s periscope, with two destroyers nearby. Brockman identifies the destroyers as cruisers, but can’t figure out the carrier. With his XO, Lt. Roy Benson, he thumbs through outdated recognition books and decides that the Kaga is the Soryu. Not accurate, but good enough. He fires his first torpedo at 1:59, and his third at 2:05.
“Jump in the water!” Kunisada yells as the torpedoes race towards him. Nobody moves, so Kunisada leads by example. The rest follow him, and all swim away from Kaga’s hull, hoping to avoid concussion and blast. The torpedo hits Kaga and bounces off. The warhead breaks off and sinks, while the air flask pops up to the surface. The Japanese sailors floating in the water punch the air flask and yell insults at it, to relieve the tension. Another sailor hops on top of the torpedo and rides the “bronco.”
Another sailor, miles away, lets out a long cheer. Signalman Peter Karetka, standing on Hughes’ signal bridge, sees Yorktown yank down her yellow breakdown flag and hoist “My speed 5.” Moments later, Buckmaster has his signalmen hoist a huge new (10 feet wide and 15 feet long) American flag from the foremast. Old Glory ripples in the breeze, its red, white, and blue colors glittering in the sun, inspiring all who see it. Ensign John d’Arc Lorenz says, “For the first time I realized what the flag meant: all of us – a million faces – all our effort – a whisper of encouragement.”
Among the delighted sailors is Ens. Lorenz, who has helped carry the wounded gun captain, Johnson, down to sick bay, only to see him die en route. Lorenz, upset, returns to the flight deck to see dead, wounded, and debris, scattered everywhere. But as the flag goes up, he sees Sailors waving their hats and shouting. Lorenz goes back to his mount and finds Seaman 2nd William Sullivan of Grand Rapids, who is badly wounded. Lorenz gets Sullivan below for a shot of morphine.
With morale and confidence soaring, everybody gets back to work, including the radar operators, who pick up Tomonaga’s strike at 2:10 p.m., heading in from the northwest. TF 17 moves back into Disposition Victor, while Yorktown cranks up to eight knots and then 15 knots by 2:28.
At that precise moment, Hashimoto is 37 miles away, and closing in. He checks through is binoculars to locate the burning Yorktown at the location he expects it to be – and it isn’t there. It must have moved again. Two minutes later he sees the Americans, and is amazed to spot a carrier steaming along without any apparent damage. It can’t be the Yorktown, he thinks. No ship could recover from damage so fast. Hashimoto is wrong – it is Yorktown. He simply does not realize just how capable and determined the American Sailor is when confronted by imminent disaster.
Hashimoto streaks alongside Tomonaga, and points out the ships to his leader. Tomonaga sees the ships and the point. Hashimoto returns to his position, and at 2:32, Tomonaga forms his planes for attack. Tomonaga will attack from the port side, Hashimoto the starboard. Yorktown will have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from the Imperial Japanese Navy’s aviation specialty.
Good tactics, but when the Japanese are 10 miles out, Yorktown’s patrolling F4Fs attack. The Yorktown’s radar picks up the Japanese when they are 33 miles out. Once again the big carrier drains the fuel lines and secures them with CO2, while hurling eight of the 10 F4Fs on her deck into action. Seaman 2nd Joe Wetherington slips on oil on the flight deck and under the revving propeller of another F4F. One of his buddies in VF-42, Seaman Bruce Blocker, snatches Wetherington from under the second plane before it rolls down the deck. Oklahoman Blocker is another man who delights pollsters: part Cherokee and Choctaw, he is a descendant of the “Sooner” settlers and a first cousin of actor Dan Blocker, who will play “Hoss Cartwright” on television’s Bonanza 20 years later.
At 2:05, Yamato’s radiomen decode a signal from Yamaguchi, timed 1:45, “According to report from planes, the enemy’s position at 9:40 (12:40 local time) is bearing 80 degrees, distance 90 miles from us. It is composed of five large cruisers and one carrier burning fiercely.” Good news for Yamamoto at last, but a minute later comes word from Haruna’s scout plane that the Americans have five carriers, all burning. Confusion reigns on Yamato’s flag bridge, as Yamamoto’s staff try to figure out what’s really going on..
On Astoria, a frustrated Fletcher watches the Japanese attack. He tells Rear Adm. Poco Smith, commanding the Astoria group, to fly two cruiser seaplanes to Midway and tell Simard, “For God’s sake, send a search and find out where this other carrier is.”
The combat air patrol charges in, splashing one of Tomonaga’s planes. Mori’s six Zeros pile into the Americans and keep them busy while the two torpedo sections charge in. Ensigns Dibb and Adams join Lt. J.G. Leonard in racking up three kills. The Japanese splash Ens. Hopper’s F4F, killing him.
At 2:40, Task Force 17 opens fire on the incoming strike. Hashimoto watches shrapnel clatter off his wings. Yorktown swings hard to the right and Hashimoto winds up on the port side, Tomonaga well astern. The Japanese attack anyway.