昭和 17 5月十日
Kido Butai steams in the vicinity of Milne Bay. The task force, operating in support of the Port Moresby invasion is getting ready to return to base. The fighter cover is up and the pilots lounge in the ready room waiting for orders, not expecting any action today; everyone knows the fleet is heading back to base.
Suddenly the group commanders are summoned. The mechanics rush to arm the machines.
Enemy carriers! Spotted by a patrol craft out of Rabaul.
49 D3A1 bombers, 61 B5N2 torpedo bombers and 29 A6M2 escorts take off from the Japanese flat tops. Near Tagula Island they find their target. They barrel through a CAP of 56 Wildcats losing 9 zero sen fighters and seven bombers. The Japanese fighters claim 2 enemy fighters.
Two carriers attacked, Yorktown hit 4 times by bombs and Saratoga, three times, one of them repelled by the armor.
The airplanes return to base.
While on the way back, the radio waves crackle with the reports of an air battle in progress. The enemy also found their target near the Deboyne Islands. 65 SBD dive bombers and 29 slow, obsolete TBD-1 escorted by 55 fighters press in on the attack. 47 A6M2 fighters do their best but cannot stop the bombers from getting through. They claim 2 fighters, 4 dive bombers and 3 torpedo bombers with an additional 11 dive bombers and 2 TBDs damaged. The ineffective AA defenses claim 1 SBD-2.
Shokaku is hit once, Soryu three times, Zuikaku twice, but the worst is Akagi reeling under 5 direct bomb hits. Heavy cruiser Takao also is hit 3 times. Haruna hit 5 times is on fire but none of the bombs penetrate her heavy armor.
Additional small flights of B5N2, uncoordinated, arrive in dribs and drabs over the enemy carriers but, unescorted, they cannot break through the enemy fighter cover.
15 Devastators show up over KB and are devastated by 41 angry zero fighters. Only 2 are actually destroyed but only 2 release their fish and miss.
13 D3A1 arrive and attack meeting 19 Wildcats. 9 dive bombers release their fish over Saratoga and DD Hughes, missing.
Finally, a coordinated attack arrives over the American carriers:
20 Zeros, 103 B5N2 and 96 D3A1 meet 42 fighters. 3 zero. 4 B5N2 and 7 dive bombers fall to the enemy CAP, 3 dive bombers and 1 B5N2 fall to their AA fire. Only one wildcat is destroyed.
CV Yorktown takes 6 bomb hits, Saratoga 5. DD Ellet one torpedo, DD Phelps one bomb hit. CA San Francisco 6 bomb strikes, CA Chicago 4 bomb strikes and one torpedo.
But the enemy has also launched a second wave. 37 fighters escort 65 dive bombers and 37 TBD in against 43 Zero-sen. 3 Zero lost for 3 enemy fighters, 2 dive bombers and 4 torpedo bombers. 10 additional bombers claimed as damaged.
CV Hiryu, Bomb hits 4, on fire, heavy damage
BB Haruna, Bomb hits 7, on fire
CV Akagi, Bomb hits 1, on fire
CV Soryu, Bomb hits 4, heavy fires, heavy damage
CA Takao, Bomb hits 1, on fire, heavy damage
The reports fly out on the wireless.
In Singapore, RAdm Yamaguchi Tamon receives a terse message:
Proceed with KB 2 to Hiroshima soonest.
Appear at places to which he must hasten; move swiftly where he does not expect you.