Monday, May 7, 2012

Day 981 May 8, 1942

Battle of the Coral Sea. At 8.20 AM, American and Japanese carriers are 240 miles apart when both are spotted by enemy search planes. They steam towards each other to shorten the distance the return flight for their aircraft. At 9.15 AM, Japanese carriers launch 18 fighters, 33 dive bombers, and 18 torpedo bombers while US carriers launch 15 fighters, 39 dive bombers, and 21 torpedo bombers. At 10.57 AM, Japanese carrier Shōkaku is badly damaged by three 1,000 lb bombs (223 killed or wounded). At 11.20 AM, US carrier USS Lexington is hit with 2 torpedoes and 2 bombs (191 killed) and USS Yorktown is hit by a 550 lb armor-piercing bomb which penetrates 4 decks and explodes, causing severe damage (66 killed or wounded). At 12.47 PM, gasoline leaking from torpedo damage to USS Lexington explodes starting a large fire (25 killed), followed by more explosions and fires. At 5.07 PM, 2735 men abandon ship and USS Lexington is sunk by 5 torpedoes from destroyer USS Phelps at 7.15 PM. Both sides withdraw low on fuel, with damage to their carriers and with many of their strike aircraft and fighters lost. The Japanese invasion of Port Moresby is cancelled.

Operation Ironclad. Despite the French surrender yesterday, Vichy submarine Monge attacks British aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable, which avoids the torpedoes, at 7.56 AM off Diego Saurez, Madagascar. British destroyers HMS Active and HMS Panther counterattacks and sink Monge.

140 miles southwest of Japan, US submarine USS Grenadier sinks Japanese freighter Taiyō Maru transporting 700 geologists and oil technicians to the East Indies to exploit oil production. This loss will hamper Japan’s war effort later in the war. 140 miles East of Cam Ranh Bay, French Indochina, US submarine USS Skipjack attacks a merchant convoy escorted by a destroyer, sinking Bujun Maru and severely damaging Taiyu Maru.

British minelayer HMS Welshman sails from Gibraltar, disguised as a French destroyer, carrying RAF personnel and 240 tons of stores to Malta. British submarine HMS Olympus leaves Malta ferrying crews from sunken submarines HMS Pandora, HMS P36 and HMS P39 to Gibraltar. HMS Olympus soon hits a mine and sinks (89 killed, 9 survivors swim 7 miles back to Malta). The wreck of HMS Olympus will be discovered in 2011.

Off the East coast of Florida, U-564 sinks American SS Ohioan. U-507 sinks Norwegian SS Torny in the Gulf of Mexico. Off Nova Scotia, U-136 sinks tiny Canadian sailing ship Mildred Pauline with 102 rounds from the deck gun.

Overnight, 193 RAF bombers (98 Wellingtons, 27 Stirlings, 21 Lancasters, 19 Halifaxes, 19 Hampdens, 9 Manchesters) raid Warnemünde and the nearby Heinkel aircraft factory, deep in Germany near the Baltic port of Rostock. 8 Wellingtons, 4 Lancasters, 3 Hampdens, 2 Halifaxes, 1 Manchester and 1 Stirling are lost. Baedeker Blitz; Luftwaffe bombs Norwich on the East coast again.

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