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Introducing WWII Battle of the Coral Sea Veteran Capt. John Hancock

Wednesday, April 5, 2017   (0 Comments)
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Capt. John Hancock.
(USS Yorktown CV5)

 

I was a seventeen year old Seaman from Athens, Georgia who served aboard the USS Yorktown; assigned to the second Division. My duties were to stand watch as a sky lookout during daylight hours. My Battle Station was on the forecastle as a gunner on a fifty-caliber machine gun.

 

During the long patrol in the Coral Sea, USS Yorktown and her escorts launched an air attack on the East coast of New Guinea over the Owen Stanley mountains while off the west coast of New Guinea in the Torres Straights. The Japanese were staging and all-out attack on Port Moresby. The attack sank some Japanese ships and thwarted their move on Australia. Our task force 17 then resumed scouting the Islands bordering the Coral Sea.

 

On May 5th a lone four engine Kawanishi Japanese flying boat appeared out of low lying clouds dead ahead of our task force undetected by radar. Our air officer called two fighters to buster to the aircraft who raced to the enemy and shot it down.

 

On May 6th our scouts discovered Japanese activity in the Solomon’s on Tulogi(sic) Island. There were ships, aircraft and building activity detected and Admiral Fletcher ordered an attack on the Island. The Pilots shuttled back and forth from the ship to the Island a number of times, sinking some of the ships and destroying the base. This tipped the Japs off to the fact that we there.

 

All day of May 7th we scouted for the enemy and they us. We found the Japanese in the afternoon and sank one of their Carriers. The Japanese found our tanker Neosho and the Destroyer Sims off to the southwest of us and sank them. That night a Japanese force joined our landing fighters and tried to land on us, mistaking USS Yorktown for their carrier seventy miles to the north.

 

The next day May 8th both USS Yorktown and USS Lexington launched full deck loads of aircraft loaded with ordinance towards the Japanese fleet. The Japanese did the same in our direction and passed opposing flights. The Japanese started dive bombing, strafing and torpedo runs on the Yorktown about mid-morning. I, along with all guns on the ship opened fire. During the Battle, I fired four canisters of ammunition at Japanese planes attacking the Yorktown. The sound from all guns was deafening.  The attack lasted approximately 45 minutes.  I did not know we were hit until after the Japanese departed. I was sent below to get sandwiches for the gun crew and discovered dead sailors scattered about the hanger deck. A bomb had penetrated the flight and hanger decks to explode in the forward mess killing 42 men in repair 5. My hammock was in the netting and was destroyed causing me to sleep on the steel deck all the way to Pearl Harbor.

 

The Lexington maintained station on our starboard quarter as we withdrew until she exploded in mid-afternoon. She received bombs and torpedo hits during the battle. We circled her as the men left their ship and recovered her aircraft that were aloft. Admiral Fletcher our SOPA ordered our destroyers to torpedo and sink her after we gathered up the fleet and bent a course to Tonga Taboo. At the Island of Tonga we got organized and received orders from Admiral Nimitz to buster Pearl. Arriving at Pearl we circled Ford Island and entered dry dock capping a record of 104 days at sea. We were ordered out of dry dock 72 hours after being patched and were sent to intercept the Japanese off Midway. We could not make our normal battle speed of seventy-four knots and were unable to avoid torpedoes and bombs at Midway and were sunk thus ending the cruise of the USS Yorktown CV5. But the day we were sunk our Pilots in company with our sister ship USS Enterprise CV6 sank the four Japanese carriers and some escorts and sent their Navy all the way back to Japan.  It is noteworthy that the four Japanese carriers were part of their six-carrier task force used for the Pearl Harbor raid on December 7th.


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