The Rising Sun, Part 4 - The First Strike | South Carolinians in WW II - Episode 4


Fritz Hamer, military historian, explains that Japan was an industrial power, but it needed the resources to maintain it. Japan's purpose was to nullify the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor, then destroy the Air Force in the Philippines, with the intention of moving further south into New Guinea and ultimately Australia. The Yorktown and their battle fleet had left Norfolk, coming through the Panama Canal on their way to the Pacific. They went to San Diego and stayed for five or six days, and then escorted a marine battalion to U.S. Samoa. Admiral William "Bull" Halsey and Admiral Frank "Jack" Fletcher decided to bomb the Marshall and Gilbert Islands to throw the Japanese off from their invasion of Australia and New Guinea. They hit Salamaua and Lae on the southeast coast of New Guinea, sank 14 ships, and a few days later, hit Tulagi, which brought the Japanese fleet down, stopping the invasion of New Guinea and Australia. Then they went back into the Coral Sea to keep the Japanese from destroying the lifeline from the United States to Australia. 


The First Strike

Australia was the Americans' only base of support, so they sent a carrier force into the Coral Sea to meet the Japanese navy and stop them from going further south. From their memories of these events, our veterans reconstruct a detailed account of all that happened. The Yorktown, one of the latest U.S. carriers, and two larger, older carriers, the Sarasota, and the Lexington, were all engaged in the battle, and airplanes were also engaged. For the first time, airplanes on both sides attacked their opponents. The first day, the Japanese carrier, Shoho, was sunk, and the next day, two bombs struck the Yorktown, and a number of torpedoes hit the Lexington, along with some bombs. One of the Japanese carriers, the Shokaku, was damaged severely, but the Hiryu and the Shokaku planes hit the Lexington and the Yorktown. The Japanese sank the Neosho, one of the U.S. tankers, and one of the U.S. destroyers. An armor-piercing bomb hit the Lexington and went down into the inner workings of the ship and exploded. The sinking of the Lexington was a big jolt because the U.S. had only four carriers in the Pacific, and the Japanese had nine. The crew members from the Lexington were picked up on various ships, and Admiral Nimitz ordered them to get back to Pearl because they knew that the Japanese were getting ready to attack Midway. It was said that it would take six months to repair the Yorktown, and Admiral Nimitz gave them 70 hours. Coral Sea gave everyone an understanding of war that they had not had before.

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