Friday, May 27, 2011

The Yorktown's Last Stand

At 1352 on May 27, 1942 the USS Yorktown limped battered and bruised into Pearl Harbor's berth 16.  She had just arrived on her long journey from the Battle of the Coral Sea where she had taken a critical bomb hit on May 8 that had exploded deep witnin her interior.  She was lucky to be arriving in Pearl Harbor at all, but luck was a commodity that would touch America again early in 1942.  Probably no one would have believed that Yorktown would be seeing action anytime soon, most expected some minimum repair work at Pearl and then several months of more extensive repair on the West Coast.  This was not to be the case.

Admiral Nimitz and the Pacific Fleet needed Yorktown , as well as the carriers Enterprise and Hornet right away to counter what his own intelligence office was telling him would be a Japanese attempt to invade and occupy the Midway Atoll within a matter of days.  Yorktown had suffered considerable structural damage which limited her speed a great deal.  Without speed a carrier would be seriously hampered in its ability to launch aircraft and just as importantly to evade attack.  The next day Yorktown was moved to dry dock one where she was flooded with electricians, welders, machinists and every other Pearl Harbor Shipyard worker that could be mustered in oreder to get her "up to speed" immediatley.  They worked through all hours of the day and through out the night and with the first of many miracles that the shpyard would complete in the war, Yorktown pulled out of Pearl Harbor on May 30 on her way to "Point Luck", a spot in the ocean about 300 miles northeast of Midway, from which Admiral Nimitz hoped to spring our own trap on the Imperial Japanese forces coming to do destroy the Pacific Fleet's air forces.

Sadly, this would be Yorktown's last battle, but one in which her aircraft would play a significant role in balancing the odds in the Pacific by joining with aircraft from the Enterprise  on June 4 to sink all four of the Japanese carriers that had been sent to inflict the same decisive blow on the U.S. Navy.  Those four carriers had made up two-thirds of the First Air-Fleet that had attacked Pearl Harbor on arguably America's darkest day.  Unfortunatley, though the Battle of Midway was an overwhelming success for the United States, Yorktown would never return.

It seems all the more fitting that the day that Yorktown pulled out of Pearl Harbor for her last stand an in America's defense was Memorial Day 1942.

1 comment:

  1. Well written article! It is too bad the young sailors stationed there do not look or research your articles, there is ton of Naval Heritage for all the USN/USNR to glean from your articles and especially for the Officer and Enlisted Stationed in Hawaii.