USS Yorktown (Yorktown-class)
|Ship Class||Yorktown-class Aircraft Carrier|
|Builder||Newport News Shipbuilding, Virginia, United States|
|Laid Down||21 May 1934|
|Launched||4 Apr 1936|
|Commissioned||30 Sep 1937|
|Sunk||7 Jun 1942|
|Displacement||19800 tons standard|
|Armament||8x127mm guns, 22x12.7mm machine guns|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseYorktown was the lead ship of her class of aircraft carriers, sponsored by the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She spent much of her pre-WW2 years along the east coast of the United States, in the Caribbean Sea, and once visited the Panama Canal. During this time, she underwent repairs in fall 1938 and was for some time the flagship of Carrier Division 2. On 20 Apr 1939, she departed Hampton Roads for San Diego via the Panama Canal, joining the Pacific Fleet. During the pre-WW2 years, she also participated in Fleet Problem XX and XXI; both were critical in the development of carrier tactics used in the upcoming war. On 20 Apr 1941, Yorktown, along with destroyers Warrington, Somers, and Jouett, were sent back to the Atlantic to counter the threat German submarines posed. She patrolled and escorted convoys between Newfoundland and Bermuda until the American entry into WW2.
ww2dbaseOn 16 Dec 1941, Yorktown departed Norfolk; upon arrival at San Diego, Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher broke his flag on her as the flagship of Task Force 17. After escorting a troop transport convoy to American Samoa, she embarked on an offensive on 31 Jan 1942 against the Gilbert Islands. At 0517 that morning, she launched 11 TBD-1 torpedo bombers and 17 SBD-3 dive bombers against Japanese shore installations and shipping at Jaluit, Makin, and Mili. The attack achieved tactical surprise, but failed to locate any Japanese ships. Six aircraft were lost. She returned to Pearl Harbor after the raid.
ww2dbaseOn 14 Feb, Yorktown departed Pearl Harbor and rendezvoused with Task Force 11 on 6 Mar in Coral Sea. As the combined force sailed toward New Guinea to conduct a raid on Japanese shipping between that and Rabaul, it received word of Japanese operations along the Salamaua-Lae sector on the northern coast of eastern New Guinea, and the attack plan changed. At 0810 on 10 Mar 1942, Yorktown launched her aircraft, twenty minutes after her fleet mate Lexington had already done so. Lexington's VS-2 SBD dive bombers attacked Japanese ships at Lae at 0922, and VT-2 torpedo bombers and VB-2 dive bombers attacked ships at Salamaua at 0938, both covered by fighters. Yorktown's aircraft followed up on the attacks, with VB-5 and VT-5 against Salamaua at 0950 and VS-5 against Lae. Out of the 104 American aircraft engaged, only a Lexington SBD dive bomber lost.
ww2dbaseAfter some time at Tongatabu, Yorktown set sail on 27 Apr 1942 for the Coral Sea. Task Force 17 once again joined with Task Force 11 on 1 May. On 4 May, Fletcher was within striking distance of Tulagi after the night's steaming. At 0701 that morning, 18 F4F fighters, 12 TBD torpedo bombers, and 28 SBD dive bombers from Yorktown attacked Tulagi and Gavutu in three waves and, destroying 5 Japanese seaplanes and sinking destroyer Kikuzuki, three minelayers, and four barges. Two F4F fighters and one TBD torpedo bomber were lost during the attack.
ww2dbaseOn the morning of 6 May 1942, two days after the successful raid on Tulagi and Gavutu, Fletcher consolidated all Allied ships into Task Force 17, with Yorktown as the flagship. Knowing there was a Japanese force sailing south toward his general area, Fletcher stretched his screen to detect it. On 7 May, Japanese search planes found the American fleet first, locating oiler Neosho (which they mis-identified as a carrier) and destroyer Sims. A wave of horizontal bombers and another of dive bombers attacked the two ships, sinking Sims with three direct hits and damaging Neosho with seven direct hits. This opening chapter of the Battle of Coral Sea provided advance warning for the carriers. American aircraft launched quickly after the attack, finding Japanese light carrier Shoho, sinking her. In the afternoon, fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku, undetected by American forces, launched an attack with 27 aircraft, but failed to locate the American fleet. After a dogfight that cost them 9 aircraft, the exhausted pilots came upon on Yorktown, mistaking it for their motherships, and attempted to land until the anti-aircraft guns opened fire on them.
ww2dbaseOn 8 May 1942, Lexington's search plane located the two remaining Japanese fleet carriers. In the subsequent strike, Yorktown's aircraft scored two hits on Shokaku. Along with another hit by a Lexington dive bomber, the American attack seriously damaging the flight deck, thus rendering her useless. At 1100, the retaliatory strike arrived at the American fleet. American combat air patrol fighters downed 17 of the attackers, but several torpedo bombers and dive bombers managed to slip through, hitting Lexington with two torpedoes and three bombs and Yorktown with one bomb. The bomb that hit Yorktown exploded belowdecks, killing or seriously wounding 66 men and started a fire. Her damage control teams, however, quickly brought the fire under control, and the carrier continued flight operations. Lexington was eventually abandoned in the afternoon of 8 May.
ww2dbaseHaving stopped a major Japanese thrust in the South Pacific, Yorktown steamed for Pearl Harbor for repairs. Originally estimated at three months, because of the anticipated Midway attack, temporary repairs were completed within the month. She set sail against as Task Force 17's flagship on 30 May 1942.
ww2dbaseNortheast of Midway Atoll, Task Force 17 rendezvoused with Task Force 16. In the morning of 4 Jun, PBY Catalina reconnaissance aircraft launched from Midway discovered a Japanese fleet. Fletcher, in command of both American task forces containing three carriers, ordered the immediate launch of attack waves in search of Japanese carriers. American torpedo bombers found the Japanese carriers first, but 35 out of the 41 torpedo bombers were shot down without dealing any damage. Yorktown's dive bombers scored three direct hits on Kaga while Enterprise's dive bombers causing similar damage on Akagi and Soryu.
ww2dbaseYorktown was attacked twice at Midway. At 1057, Lieutenant Michio Kobayashi and his 18-dive bomber unit took off from Hiryu to attack American carrier Yorktown, escorted by 6 fighters. Two-thirds of his attack force carried 250-kilogram semi armor-piercing bombs against Yorktown while the others carried high explosive bombs against the ship's crew. The force found Yorktown and commenced to attack. US Navy Lieutenant John D. Lorenz, the Battery Officer at Mount 3 just abaft of Yorktown's island, recalled
ww2dbaseThe sky was turning black from anti-aircraft fire but on they came. It was to be our last fight together but none of us realized it.... Moments passed, then I heard the word 'diving attack starboard beam.'... From then on it was smoke, flame, and tracer bullets. The explosive bullets were blowing our enemy apart. The Japanese bomb came loose from the plane, it fell towards us! The plane that dropped the bomb was gone so we merely shifted our fire to the next plane. We continued firing. Then the bomb hit.
ww2dbaseI don't remember much for the next few seconds. I was stunned, dazed and knocked down. I found myself back up against the splinter shield, my legs tangled beneath me, my helmet and pistol knocked off and my clothes torn open. It seemed that fire was all around me and the smoke made things worse.... The sight that met my eyes was appalling. The complete gun crew was down. it seemed strange and unbelievable to see them in a heap like this.... One sailor was lying on top of the rest, badly hit. I didn't want to know who he was.
ww2dbaseTwo more hits hit Yorktown subsequently. The second bomb pierced the flight deck near the island, detonating inside the ship and starting a large fire and many smaller ones. The third bomb hit her on the number one elevator and detonated above the fourth deck, starting a fire in the rag stowage space near the forward gasoline stowage and the magazines, but proper flooding of the magazine and filling the gasoline tanks with carbon dioxide prevented the damage from getting far worse. Although Kobayashi's attack was able to disable Yorktown, a high cost was paid. Out of the 24 aircraft sent on the attack, 18 of them were lost, and of the 6 that returned only 2 were in undamaged condition. Kobayashi was among those killed, shot down by Enterprise VF-6 pilots Thomas Clinton Provost and James Alex Halford who arrived too late to save Yorktown from becoming disabled but in time to intercept the attackers.
ww2dbaseThe second attack was led by Lieutenant Joichi Tomonaga, who left Hiryu knowing he did not have enough fuel on his torpedo bomber to make a return trip; it was to be his final mission. The attack consisted of 18 torpedo bombers and 18 fighters. "Planes were flying in every direction," recalled Captain Elliott Buckmaster of Yorktown as the Japanese attackers came, "and many were falling in flames." Not all fell in silence, however. Four bombers were able to release their payload before being hit. One of them ripped a hole 10 square foot in size on the flight deck, starting fires. The second hit the port side and exploded in the lower part of the funnel, disabling two boilers. The third pierced the side of number one elevator and exploded on the fourth deck, starting a fire near the forward gasoline stowage and the magazines. The fourth was Tomonaga, launching his torpedo before his aircraft fell apart from the damage dealt by the F4F fighter piloted by Jimmy Thatch; Tomonaga's missed. After receiving the hits, Yorktown slowed to a stop at about 1440, but damage control and repair parties got the ship underway at 1550 at 20 knots. As soon as flight operations resumed, 10 incoming Japanese aircraft were detected. Three of them were shot down on their approach, but the remaining seven continued to close in on Yorktown. The first two torpedoes were avoided, but a third hit her on the port side at 1620, immediately followed by a fourth. Yorktown lost all power and she began to slowly list to port. Andy Mikus recalled what he felt at this time.
ww2dbaseWithout power, Yorktown's damage control crew could not counter-flood to correct the list. Buckmaster ordered all crew to don their life jackets in preparation for the worst. When the list reached 26 degrees, the order to abandon ship was given. Buckmaster was the last to leave the carrier (at least he believed so at the time; two more were actually rescued the next morning). Fletcher transferred his flag to the cruiser Astoria. While Yorktown was bring abandoned, her aircraft, together with that of Enterprise's, found the fourth Japanese carrier, Hiryu, causing damage that eventually led to the abandonment.
ww2dbaseBecause Yorktown remained afloat through the next morning, Buckmaster decided that she might be able to be saved. He sent a crew of 170 to evaluate and repair the ship, meanwhile the craft Vireo began the slow process to tow her to a port. Destroyer Hammann pulled alongside to provide electric power to the crew onboard Yorktown. By mid-afternoon, the repair crew improved the list by two degrees. As the effort to save the ship progressed, Japanese submarine I-168 avoided detection and closed in on Yorktown. At 1536, Hammann's crew spotted the trail of four torpedoes. A 20mm gun immediately fired in attempt to prematurely explode the torpedoes, but it resulted in failure. One of the torpedoes hit and sank Hammann, and two struck Yorktown. Hammann's depth charges exploded after the ship had already sunk, killing some of the Hammann and Yorktown survivors floating up above. Vireo broke the towing cables and turned back to rescue the survivors. At 0530 hours on 7 Jun 1942, nearby ships made the observation that the list was increasing. At 0701 hours, Yorktown turned over and sank. US destroyers and other nearby ships lowered their flags to half mast to mourn the carrier's sinking.
ww2dbaseSources: Midway Dauntless Victory, Wikipedia.
Aircraft Carrier USS Yorktown (Yorktown-class) (CV-5) Interactive Map
USS Yorktown (Yorktown-class) Operational Timeline
|30 Sep 1937||Yorktown (Yorktown-class) was commissioned into service.|
|16 Dec 1941||USS Yorktown departed Norfolk, Virginia, United States to return to the Pacific Fleet.|
|30 Dec 1941||USS Yorktown arrived at San Diego, California, United States after a 15-day trip from Norfolk, Virginia, United States.|
|31 Dec 1941||American carrier USS Yorktown became the flagship of Rear Admiral Frank Fletcher's newly-formed Task Force 17.|
|6 Jan 1942||USS Yorktown departed for San Diego, California, United States to escort transports carrying the US 2nd Marine Brigade to American Samoa.|
|11 Jan 1942||USS Yorktown departed Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii.|
|6 Feb 1942||USS Yorktown arrived at Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii.|
|15 Feb 1942||USS Yorktown departed Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii for Marcus Island. Before she departed, she took on cryptanalyst and linguist Forrest "Tex" Biard.|
|24 Feb 1942||USS Yorktown for the New Hebrides for a rendezvous with USS Lexington for a raid on Rabaul in the Bismarck Islands.|
|6 Mar 1942||USS Yorktown made rendezvous with USS Lexington and sailed for a raid on Rabaul, New Britain.|
|10 Mar 1942||USS Yorktown launched aircraft to attack the Japanese invasion force at New Guinea.|
|20 Mar 1942||USS Yorktown patrolled the Coral Sea.|
|14 Apr 1942||US Navy Admiral Nimitz ordered USS Yorktown to Tongatapu, Tonga in the South Pacific; she was to support the defense of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.|
|27 Apr 1942||USS Yorktown departed for Coral Sea.|
|3 May 1942||USS Yorktown was dispatched toward Tulagi, Solomon Islands.|
|4 May 1942||USS Yorktown launched 12 TBD Devastor and 28 SBD Dauntless aircraft at 0700 hours, which reached the new Japanese positions at Tulagi in the Solomon Islands at 0850 hours; the attack damaged minelayer Okinoshima and destroyer Kikuzuki. At 1210 hours, a second attack wave hit Tulagi, sinking minesweepers WA-1 and WA-2 and damaging minesweeper Tama Maru; 87 Japanese personnel were killed during this second attack. USS Yorktown lost 3 aircraft, but all air crew were rescued. The Japanese withdrew from Tulagi temporarily, but would very soon return to complete the construction of a seaplane base.|
|5 May 1942||USS Yorktown made rendezvous with USS Lexington south of Tulagi, Solomon Islands.|
|11 May 1942||USS Yorktown sailed for Tongatapu, Tonga, British Western Pacific Territories for temporary repair for the damage incurred during the Battle of Coral Sea.|
|27 May 1942||USS Yorktown arrived at Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii at 1420 hours. 1,400 dock workers were assigned to attempt to repair her, damaged from Battle of the Coral Sea, in time for the impending Midway battle.|
|28 May 1942||USS Yorktown moved into Dry Dock No. 1 at Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, US Territory of Hawaii at 0645 hours.|
|29 May 1942||USS Yorktown was refloated and moved out of Dry Dock No. 1 at Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, US Territory of Hawaii. She received fuel and a new air complement from nearby Naval Air Station Kaneohe.|
|30 May 1942||USS Yorktown, having received rushed repairs from 1,400 dock workers, departed Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii for Midway Atoll.|
|2 Jun 1942||USS Yorktown made rendezvous with USS Enterprise and USS Hornet 350 miles northeast of Midway. Rear Admiral Fletcher took overall tactical command of this fleet.|
|7 Jun 1942||USS Yorktown, having already been abandoned for hours, slowly rolled over to her side and sank north of Midway Atoll at 0458 hours. Destroyers that remained near her wreck lowered her flags to half mast as she sank beneath the sea.|
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Winston Churchill, 1935