USS Yorktown II - History

USS Yorktown II - History



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Yorktown II

(Gunboat No. 1: dp. 1,910; l. 244'5", b. 36'0"; dr. 14'0" (mean); s. 16.14 k.; cpl. 191; a. 6 6", 4 3-pdrs.,4 1-pdrs., 2 30-car. mg.; cl. Yorktown)

The second Yorktown (Gunboat No. 1)—a steelhulled, twin-screw gunboat protected by a then armored deck—was laid down on 14 May 1887 at Philadelphia, Pa., by the William Cramp and Sons' shipyard; launched on 28 April 1888, sponsored by Miss Mary Cameron, the daughter of United States Senator Don Cameron; and commissioned at the League Island (Philadelphia) Navy Yard on 23 April 1889, Comdr. French E. Chadwick in command.

Yorktown conducted final sea trials before being assigned to the "Squadron of Evolution" in the autumn of 1889. Yorktown operated with that unit as it developed tactical maneuvers for use by the new steelhulled naval vessels then coming into service in the United States Navy.

After this duty, Yorktown departed the east coast of the United States on 7 December 1889, bound for European waters; stopped briefly at Fayal in the Azores; and arrived at Lisbon, Portugal, two days before Christmas. The ship subsequently cruised the Mediterranean into the early spring of the following year, calling at ports in Spain, Morocco, France, Italy, Greece, and Malta. Following her return to the United States on 17 June 1890, the warship entered drydock at the New York Navy Yard on 1 July for repairs that lasted until 8 August. Upon the completion of these alterations, Yorktown took part in the ceremonies marking the embarkation of the remains of the noted inventor, John Ericsson—of Monitor fame—for transportation back to his native Sweden for burial.

Yorktown next again operated in the Squadron of Evolution—sometimes referred to as the "White Squadron"—off the eastern seaboard and into the Gulf of Mexico into the summer of 1891. Under Acting Rear Admiral John G. Walker, the squadron normally cruised in the Gulf of Mexico from January to April and off the east coast from May to October. While in the gulf. the ships called at Galveston, Tex., New Orleans, La., and Pensacola, Fla., and carried out target practice in Tampa Bay. Later, the squadron conducted small arms practice at Yorktown, VA., after arriving at Hampton Roads. In July 1891, the squadron carried out exercises and maneuvers in connection with the naval militias of New York and Massachusetts during which it added torpedo attacks upon the Fleet to the usual target practices. In addition, it conducted drills and landing exercises—the precursors of the amphibious landing operations of World War II over five decades later.

The Secretary of the Navy's report for the fiscal year 1891 noted with pride that "useful experience" had been gained by the Squadron of Evolution in the training of commanding, navigating, and watch officers in skillfully and safely maneuverinF vessels in formation and in restricted waters. In addition, engineers were trained in regulating and maintaining economical coal consumption.

On 8 October 1891, Yorktown, under the command of Comdr. Robley D. Evans, departed New York to join the Pacific Squadron. The gunboat put in to Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands, to "coal ship" on 14 October. While the ship was engaged in this grimy, dusty duty, an incident occurred on the other side of the South American continent that would directly affect Yorktown's future employment. A revolution in Chile had caused deep division in the country. The victors charged the United States with favoritism when it sheltered some of the rosin' side's leaders in the American consulate at Valparaso. A mob of Chileans, wielding knives and clubs and throwing rocks, set upon a liberty party from the cruiser Baltimore. In the ensuing riot, two bluejackets were killed and 18 wounded. Thirty-six American sailors were arrested by
the local authorities and incarcerated in Chilean jails. War fever ran high in both Chile and the United States.

After getting underway on 17 October, Yorktown made few stops en route to the troubled Chilean seaport and weathered fierce gales in transiting the Strait of Magellan. In the days before rapid communication had shrunk distances and had allowed quick transmlssion of orders and news, the passage of time was critical. War between the United States and Chile could have broken out at any time during Yorktown's hurried voyage 'round the Horn.

The gunboat eventually arrived at Valparaiso on 30 November. Less than two weeks later, Baltimore— her presence now no longer advisable—departed, leaving American interests in the hands of Comdr. Evans and Yorktown. Over the ensuing weeks, Chile and the United States teetered on the brink of war; but cooler heads prevailed. Locally, Evans' patience was "dangerously tested," but it held in spite of various provocations by the Chileans. One inflammatory incident occurred when Chilean torpedo boats bore down on Evans' ship, turning their helms hard over at the last possible instant to avoid a collision. On another occasion, a group of sullen locals threw rocks at Evans and his gig as it lay at the foot of a jetty.

After a month of "showing the flag," Yorktown embarked refugees from the American, Spanish, and Italian legations in mid-January 1892. She got underway on the 19th and arrived at Callao, Peru, on the 25th. While Yorktown lay anchored there, tension between the United States and Chile relaxed and the crisis abated. Yorktown may have looked "none too potent" at Valparaiso, but her visit—as Evans' biographer Edwin A. Folk later wrote, ". sufficed to make the natvies realize that she flew a battleship-size flag and was commanded by an officer who knew how to defend it." Yorktown had proved her mettle in a struggle of nerves in which one misstep could cause a war. The Chilean government made amends, provided gold for the famifles of the slain American bluejackets, and restored the American minister, who had been declared persona non grata during the incident.

Yorktown stood out of Callao on 4 March, steamed northward via San Diego and San Francisco, and eventually arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard Vallejo, Calif. The gunboat subsequently underwent repairs there until late in the following month. Having weathered one diplomatic storm and international incident, Comdr. Evans and his trim white-and-buffpainted command soon set sail on another mission that, if handled wrongly, could have caused ill-feeling with the British.

That spring, Yorktown—along with two other naval vessels and a trio of revenue cutters—headed toward Arctic waters on 27 April to protect the great herds of seals in the Bering Sea from vicious poachers. Traveling along the west coast of the United States, the gunboat and her crew "braced," in Evans' words, "at the prospect of doing something." As at Valparaiso, Evans faced the possibility of becoming involved in an international incident arising from possible confrontations with Canadian sealers. Operating under the protection of the British crown, the latter had taken particularly heavy catches. Many American vessels put to sea under the British flag in an attempt to evade prosecution by their own government. Fortunately for Evans and unfortunately for the law-breakers, the British agreed to help put an end to the heedless slaughter of seals and decided upon joint action with the United States in prosecuting the poachers.

About 110 schooners, large and small, made up the sealing fleet. They were "armed" with double-barrelled shotguns for killing the animals and Winchester rifles for dealing with any humans who attempted to interfere with their brutal, but lucrative, trade. The fact that the great majority of seals killed had been female —still with young in many cases—almost doubled the toll of slain seals. As Evans noted: "the slaughter in the North Pacific was fearful."

Arriving at Port Townsend, Wash., on 30 April Yorktown put to sea on 13 May, arriving at Ilinliuk Unalaska, one week later. Coaling there, the gunboat skirted the ice floes near the seal rookeries at Pribilof Island, reconnoitering the vicinity for sealers. Assisted by a revenue cutter, Yorktown guarded the passes to the Bering Sea. The crews of the patrolling American ships lacked fresh provisions but carried on in spite of the hardships imposed by both diet and climate. Fresh fish, however, proved abundant. Codfish was the staple with an occasional gourmet treat of salmon.

Besides the patrols made during this deployment in northwestern waters, Yorktown conducted routine operations such as target practices. Among the officers assigned to the ship at that time was Lt. Bradley Fiske a bright and creative young officer who had invente and constructed a practical telescopic gunsight.

Fiske's sight had been tested in Baltimore and had favorably impressed that ship's officers—including her commander, Capt. W. S. Schley. Evans, however, had not taken a liking to Fiske's newfangled gadget but nevertheless consented to allow a second test on board Yorktown (the first one had failed miserably, much to the inventor's chagrin). On the afternoon of 22 September 1892, during scheduled target practice, Fiske's invention worked as designed and elicited begrudging praise from Evans. As Fiske himself later wrote in the Naval Institute Proceeding$, modern naval gunnery had its birth not in the British Navy but in the American— off Unalaska on 22 September 1892, in Yorktown.

This event went largely unnoticed by the world at large, and the gunboat continued her unsung but important task of protecting the seals in Alaskan waters. She continued this thankless task until 21 September when she departed Unalaska for the Mare Island Navy Yard. From 11 to 24 October, the ship underwent repairs there before proceeding on to the east coast via Cape Horn. Yorktown eventually arrived at Norfolk, VA., on 24 February 1893.

After repairs at the New York Navy Yard from 26 April to 26 July, Yorktown retraced her route south and sailed again around Cape Horn into the Pacific. She then moved north to resume patrolling the Bering Sea. She protected seal rookeries into 1894 before returning to Mare Island for repairs which lasted into mid-September.

On 24 September 1894, Yorktown sailed for the western Pacific and duty on the Asiatic Station. Sailing via Honolulu, Hawaii, she reached Yokohama, Japan, on 8 December 1894 and spent the next three years touching at the principal ports-of-call along the coasts of China and Japan, "showing the flag" in the Far East. She departed Yokohama early ln the autumn of 1897 and made port at Mare Island on 18 November 1897. Subsequently laid up at Mare Island and decommissioned on 8 December, the gunboat remained inactive there through the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Recommissioned on 17 November 1898, Comdr. Charles S. Sperry in command, Yorktown sailed again for the Far East on 7 January 1899. Rumors of German machinations in Samoa lengthened Yorktown's stay at Hawaii from a few days to a few weeks, but when the anticipated trouble failed to materialize Yorktown resumed her voyage to the Philippine Islands. She arrived at Cavite Navy Yard, near Manila, on 23 February.

There, Yorktown was assigned the task of keeping a seaborne lookout for gun runners who were thought to be supplying guns and ammunition to the "Insurrectos," Filipinos who were fighting for independence. Initial Filipino-American cooperation had been replaced by open warfare when what the former regarded as promises of independence in return for assistance against the Spanish had turned to apparent overlordship by the United States.

At one point, rumors flew concerning possible German gun-running activities, and Yorktown patrolled off the entrance to Subic Bay and from thence to Lingayen to keep a lookout for the "filibusters." She continued

coastal patrol work over the next three years, cooperating with the Army, transporting and convoying troops and patrolling wide areas of often badly charted waters. Upon occasion, Yorktown served as "mother ship" to smaller gunboats, providing officers and men to man those patrol craft. Among the junior officers who served in Yorktown at this time were future Admirals (then ensigns) William H. Standley and Harry E. Yarnell, and the future naval historian and archivist Dudley W. Knox.

Yorktown stood in to Baler Bay, on the west coast of Luzon, on 11 April 1899, on a mission to relieve a dwindling but brave Spanish garrison that had been under siege by Insurrectos for nine months. Lt. James C. Gillmore and a party of sailors in the ship's whaleboat provided a decoy, ostensibly taking soundings of a nearby river. Meanwhile, Ensign Standley and an enlisted man landed further up the coast to reconnoiter. The next day, Gillmore and his boat crew drifted into a trap, running aground too far from the river's mouth and out of sight of Yorktown. Filipino guerillas, hidden in the jungle-covered banks, raked the boat with a murderous fusillade of rifle fire. Two American sailors were killed; two were mortally wounded, and the remainder, including Gillmore, were slightly wounded. The survivors were taken prisoner and endured months of privation until finally freed by Army troops. Ensign Standlev completed his mission and, together with the enlisted signalman, made it back to the ship.

In the spring of 1900, the situation in China worsened until it culminated in the famed "Boxer Rebellion." Some Chinese Imperial troops, supporting the "Society of Righteous Harmonious Fists" (the "Boxers") besieged the foreign legations at Peking and at Tientsin. An international relief force was sent to relieve the siege; Yorktown was withdrawn from her patrol duties in the northern Philippines to provide assistance to the operations off the coast of North China. She departed Manila on 3 April 1900, bound for China, and, after she reached the mainland, her landing force served ashore at Taku. In June of 1900, she assisted Oregon (Battleship No. 3) back off a reef near that Chinese port.

The gunboat departed Shanghai on 10 September 1900 and reached Cavite on the 17th. In the Philippines, she resumed her cooperation with Army forces, stir] engaged in pactfication operations, and continued theef duties for the next two years. In between pactfication missions, she performed survey work: at Guam in November 1901 and at Dumanquillas Bay, Philippines, in February 1903. Yorktown departed the Far East in early 1903 and returned to Mare Island on 3 June. Two weeks later, on the 17th, she was decommissioned.

Recommissioned at Mare Island on 1 October 1906, Comdr. Richard T. Mulligan in command, Yorktowr was fitted out there until 9 November. Underway on that day, she operated off the west coasts of Mexico, Honduras, and Nicaragua into the following summer, ready to protect American lives and property. After repairs at San Francisco and Mare Island, Yorktow,' conducted target practice at Magdalena Bay, Mexico and relieved Albany as station ship at Acapulco. She then cruised with the 2d Squadron of the Pacific Fleet to Magdalena Bay and San Francisco.

Over the ensuing months, Yorktown continued her regular local operations; she took part in the reception for the United States Atlantic Fleet—en route to wield President Theodore Roosevelt's "Big Stick" in the Far East—at San Francisco on 1 May, and participated in festivities for the Rose Festival at Portland, Oreg., on the 80th of that month. From June to September, Yorktown conducted seal patrols in Alaskan waters, out of Nome, Unalaska, and Sitka, and between 15 and 19 September, established a site for a wireless station at Valdez, Alaska.

After that stint of independent duty, Yorktown sailed south to rejoin the Pacific Fleet. conducting battle practices between 19 November and 1 December at Magdalena Bay. She later joined the armored cruisers West Virginia and Colorado and the tender Glacier at Acajutla, Salvador, before sailing for Corinto, Nicaragua, in March of 1909 to protect American interests there.

After more target practices at Magdalena Bay, Yorktown was repaired at Mare Island in June and into July before shifting to Seattle, Wash., to participate in festivities for the Seattle Exposition. Later in July, the ship visited Esqulmalt, British Columbia, Canada She subsequently cruised off the Pacific coast and participated in the Portola festival at San Francisco in October.

From 13 December 1909 to 27 March 1910, Yorktown operated off Corinto, Nicaragua, with the Nicaraguan Expeditionary Squadron, protecting American interests She then pursued a schedule of exercises and maneuvers, operating between California and British Columbia through June and July. She returned to a posture of readiness off Corinto and San Juan del Sur between 13 August and 7 September. She then operated off Ecuadorian, Colombian, and Peruvian ports, with the United States Consul General at Large embarked between 19 September and 16 October before putting into Panama for coal and stores. She subsequently protected American interests at Amapala, Honduras, and the familiar Corinto for most of November and Derember. She spent Christmas at Corinto before shifting to Amapala, en route to San Francisco and Mare Island

From March to July of 1911, Yorktown cruised off the west coasts of Mexico, Nicaragua, and Honduras On 29 May, she rescued the survivors from the foundered steamer Taboga, of Panamanian registry. Another period of repairs and upkeep in the late summer of 1911 proceeded the ship's resuming her "show the flag" duties off the Pacific coasts of South and Central America. She returned to Mare Island in May of 1912 and was decommissioned there for alterations on 16 July.

Recommissioned on 1 April 1913, Comdr. George B Bradshaw in command, Yorktown operated out of San Diego on shakedown into mid-April. She was soon back at Corinto, however, remaining in Nicaragua until 6 June, protecting American interests in that perennially troubled country. After a brief period of operations off the coast, she returned to Corinto on 21 June and remained there for over a month before departing on 31 July to coal at Salina Cruz, Mexico. She moved to Mazatlan on 10 August and there picked u' mail, delivering it to the port of Topolobampo, Mexlco, on the 11th. Yorktown remained there, protecting American interests, until mid September.

For the remainder of 1913, Yorktown conducted local operations out of San Diego and San Francisco. In January 1914, though, the gunboat returned to Mexican waters and investigated local conditions at Ensenada between 3 and 6 January before moving, in subsequent months, to a succession of ports: Mazatlan, San Blas, Miramir, Topolobampo, and La Paz to extend protection to American citizens and their interests should Mexican civil unrest warrant armed intervention or a show of force.

Following an overhaul at Mare Island from 24 June to 2 September 1914, Yorktown served in Mexican waters again into June 1915. From that point until the entry of the United States into World War I in April 1917, Yorktown continued her routine of patrols off Mexican, Nicaraguan, and Honduran ports, investigating local conditions and varying that extension of diplomacy with repairs at Mare Island and maneuvers out of San Diego.

After the United States joined the Allied and Associated Powers, Yorktown operated off the coast of Mexico until August of 1917, when she paused briefly at San Diego. She then cruised off the west coasts of Central and South America into 1918. After a refit at Mare Island, Yorktown sailed for the east coast on 28 April 1918, transiting the Panama Canal en route, and arrived at New York on 20 August. The gunboat escorted a coastal convoy to Halifax, Nova Scotia, soon thereafter before returning to New York. She performed local coastwise escort duties through the end of World War I. After a period of upkeep at the New York Navy Yard in December, she departed the east coast on 2 January 1919 on her last voyage to California.

Arriving at San Diego on 15 February 1919 Yorktown was placed out of commission at Mare Isiand on 12 June 1919. The veteran steel-hulled gunboat was sold to the Union Hide Co., Oakland, Calif., on 30 September 1921.


USS Yorktown II - History

USS Yorktown , now with large torpedo holes on both sides amidships, floated through the night of 6-7 June 1942, while her escorting destroyers unsuccessfully pursued the Japanese submarine I-168 , treated injured sailors and kept watch. As dawn approached, it was clear that the carrier was lower in the water with an increasing list. As the sun rose on 7 June, Yorktown rolled over on her port side and sank by the stern.

She was not seen again by human eyes until 19 May 1998, when an expedition led by Dr. Robert Ballard located and photographed her wreck, sitting upright on the sea floor with a approximate 25-degree "list " to starboard. On her starboard side amidships the "mud line" reached to about the hangar deck level, while on her port side her midships underwater hull was visible nearly to the turn of the bilge. Despite fifty-six years under 16,650 feet of salt water, Yorktown was in surprisingly good condition, with all but a little of her structure undistorted and readily recognizable. Measure 12 camouflage paint was still intact, and the white hull number "5" could be clearly seen at her bow and stern. Evidence of Battle of Midway damage and the subsequent salvage efforts was abundant: the bomb hole in her flight deck aft of the midships elevator fire-damaged paint and metal on her smokestack a huge torpedo hole in her port side anti-aircraft guns still pointing skyward and other guns missing where they had been jettisoned by the salvage party on 6 June 1942. Damage incurred as the ship plunged to the sea floor was also apparent: Yorktown 's bow was distorted by implosion her tripod mast and aft flight deck overhang had disappeared globs of the clay-like sea bottom still adhered to some vertical surfaces, where they had been driven by the force of impact.

This page features, and provides links to, all the views we have showing USS Yorktown as she sank.
These photographs are presented in approximately the order in which they were taken, up to the point at which the ship began to settle rapidly by the stern.

If you want higher resolution reproductions than the Online Library's digital images, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

Click on the small photograph to prompt a larger view of the same image.

Battle of Midway, June 1942

USS Yorktown (CV-5) sinking, just after dawn on 7 June 1942, as seen from an accompanying destroyer.
The ship has capsized to port, exposing the turn of her starboard bilge.
This view looks forward, with Yorktown 's forefoot in the right center. The large hole made by one or two submarine torpedoes is in the center of the photo. Yorktown 's starboard forward 5-inch gun gallery is in the left center, with two 5"/38 gun barrels sticking out over its edge. The two larger thin objects sticking up, just aft of the 5-inch guns, are aircraft parking outriggers. When the ship's wreck was examined in May 1998, both guns were still in position, but the outriggers were gone.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 107KB 740 x 610 pixels

Battle of Midway, June 1942

USS Yorktown (CV-5) sinking, just after dawn on 7 June 1942, as seen from an accompanying destroyer.
The ship has capsized to port, exposing the turn of her starboard bilge.
This view looks toward the ship's bottom, with Yorktown 's bow off camera to the right. The large hole made by one or two submarine torpedoes is in the center of the photo, severing the ship's forward bilge keel. Note the strip of debris sticking up from the hole's lower rear.
The stern of one of the ship's accompanying destroyers is in the extreme right distance.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 107KB 740 x 605 pixels

Battle of Midway, June 1942

USS Yorktown (CV-5) sinking, just after dawn on 7 June 1942, as seen from an accompanying destroyer.
The ship has capsized to port, exposing the turn of her starboard bilge, with a large torpedo hole amidships severing the forward bilge keel. Yorktown 's forefoot is at the extreme right. Her starboard forward 5-inch gun gallery can be seen further up her hull, with two 5"/38 gun barrels sticking out over its edge. The two larger thin objects sticking up, just aft of the 5-inch guns, are aircraft parking outriggers. When the ship's wreck was examined in May 1998, both guns were still in position, but the outriggers were gone.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 104KB 740 x 600 pixels

Battle of Midway, June 1942

USS Yorktown (CV-5) sinking, just after dawn on 7 June 1942, as seen from an accompanying destroyer.
The ship has capsized to port, exposing the turn of her starboard bilge.
This view looks toward the ship's bottom, with Yorktown 's starboard forward five-inch gun gallery at the right. Her bow is off-camera, further to the right. The large hole, made by one or two submarine torpedoes and severing the ship's forward bilge keel, is in the left center. Note the strip of debris sticking up from the hole's lower rear.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 82KB 740 x 610 pixels

Battle of Midway, June 1942

USS Yorktown (CV-5) sinking, just after dawn on 7 June 1942, as seen from an accompanying destroyer.
The ship has capsized to port, exposing the turn of her starboard bilge.
This view looks toward the ship's bottom from off her bow, with Yorktown 's forefoot in the right foreground and her starboard forward five-inch gun gallery beyond. The large hole made by one or two submarine torpedoes, severing the ship's forward bilge keel, is toward the left.
USS Monaghan (DD-354) is in the left center distance.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 95KB 740 x 610 pixels

Battle of Midway, June 1942

USS Yorktown (CV-5) capsized and sinking, just after dawn on 7 June 1942, as seen from an accompanying destroyer.
The ship has rolled over to port, exposing the turn of her starboard bilge, with a large torpedo hole amidships severing the forward bilge keel. Yorktown 's forefoot is in the center foreground. The forward starboard corner of her flight deck is near the sea surface at extreme right, with the bow Landing Signal Officer platform extending upward from it.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 97KB 740 x 610 pixels

Battle of Midway, June 1942

USS Yorktown (CV-5) sinking, just after dawn on 7 June 1942, as seen from an accompanying destroyer.
The ship has capsized to port, exposing the turn of her starboard bilge.
This view looks aft, with Yorktown 's forefoot in the center foreground and the forward end of her flight deck in the right center.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 84KB 740 x 615 pixels

Battle of Midway, June 1942

USS Yorktown (CV-5) sinking, just after dawn on 7 June 1942, as seen from an accompanying destroyer.
The ship has capsized over to port, with her bow nearest to the camera. Her forefoot is at left, and her forward 1.1" machine gun positions, located just in front of the island, are very near the sea surface at right. Note froth on the water from escaping air.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 83KB 740 x 610 pixels

Battle of Midway, June 1942

USS Yorktown (CV-5) sinking, just after dawn on 7 June 1942, as seen from an accompanying destroyer.
The ship has capsized to port, exposing the turn of her starboard bilge.
This view looks aft from off the forward end of Yorktown 's flight deck. Her forefoot is at the left. In the center, severing the ship's forward bilge keel, is the large hole made by one or more submarine torpedoes.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 103KB 740 x 615 pixels

Battle of Midway, June 1942

USS Yorktown (CV-5) sinking, just after dawn on 7 June 1942, as seen from an accompanying destroyer.
The ship has capsized to port, exposing the turn of her starboard bilge.
This view looks toward the ship's starboard flight deck gallery, with her forefoot at the left. The front edge of the flight deck is slightly to the right of the forefoot, with a .50 caliber machine gun tub and the bow Landing Signal Officer platform sticking up. Further aft is her starboard forward five-inch gun gallery, with two 5"/38 guns pointing upwards. Behind them are two aircraft parking outriggers and the front of her forward 1.1-inch machine gun position, located just in front of the island. Beyond that, in the right center, is the large hole made by one or more submarine torpedoes. Note the strip of debris sticking up from the hole's rear end.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 129KB 740 x 615 pixels

Battle of Midway, June 1942

USS Yorktown (CV-5) sinking, just after dawn on 7 June 1942, as seen from an accompanying destroyer.
The ship has capsized to port, exposing the turn of her starboard bilge, and is settling rapidly by the stern.
This view looks over the ship's upper starboard structure, with her bilge beyond. Yorktown 's forefoot and front edge of her flight deck are toward the left. In the right center is the large hole made by one or more submarine torpedoes. Note the oil slick surrounding the ship.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 112KB 740 x 615 pixels

If you want higher resolution reproductions than the Online Library's digital images, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

Page made 12 April 1999
New images added and page divided 15 August 2008
Coding updated 22 April 2009


USS Yorktown

The USS YORKTOWN (CV-10) was the tenth aircraft carrier to serve in the United States Navy. Under construction as BON HOMME RICHARD, this new Essex-class carrier was renamed in honor of YORKTOWN (CV-5) sunk at the epic Battle of Midway (June 1942). Built in an amazing 16 ½ months at Newport News, Virginia, YORKTOWN was commissioned on April 15, 1943. World War II’s famous “Fighting Lady” would participate significantly in the Pacific offensive that began in late 1943 and ended with the defeat of Japan in 1945. YORKTOWN received the Presidential Unit Citation and earned 11 battle stars for service in World War II.

In the 1950s, YORKTOWN was modernized to operate jet aircraft as an attack carrier (CVA). In 1957, she was re-designated an anti-submarine aircraft carrier (CVS), and would later earn 5 battle stars for service off Vietnam (1965-68). The ship also recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts and capsule (December 1968). YORKTOWN was decommissioned in 1970 and placed in reserve.


USS Yorktown (CV-10)- Part 2

On December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 was launched atop a Saturn V rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Apollo 8 was the second manned Apollo mission, but it was the first to leave low earth orbit and the first to orbit the moon. The crew of Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders was originally scheduled for Apollo 9, to be launched in 1969. Because of concerns about advances being made by the Soviet Union, as well as President Kennedy’s promise to reach the moon by the end of the decade, the entire program was accelerated. Borman’s crew was moved to Apollo 8 and launched with several months less training than planned. Despite this, the mission was a complete success and it helped to pave the way for Apollo 11, the first Lunar landing, on July 20, 1969.

Apollo 8 made 10 orbits of the moon and the crew of three were the first humans to see the dark side of the moon and the first to witness an ‘Earth rise’- seeing the Earth appear as the capsule emerged from behind the moon. The crew began their return to Earth on Christmas Day, splashing down two days later in the Pacific Ocean, southwest of Hawaii. On station to recover the capsule and crew was the USS Yorktown.

Photo Courtesy of Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum

The recovery of the crew and capsule was also a complete success, with the three astronauts being picked up by a team from UDT-12 (Underwater Demolition Team 12). An SH-3 helicopter transported them to the deck of the Yorktown and the capsule was later lifted aboard the carrier. The Apollo crew was flown to Hawaii the next day and the Yorktown arrived there several days later with the capsule.

Photo Courtesy of Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum

Displayed on the Hangar Deck is this mockup of the Apollo 8 capsule as it was after splashdown, as well as a variety of photos and information about the historic flight. The exhibit includes original items such as the actual hook from the tackle that was used to lift Apollo 8 aboard Yorktown. Younger visitors can take a ‘ride’ in the capsule while listening to actual recordings from the mission and watching original video. (Note- the capsule is currently closed to visitors, but will re-open in the near future).

As was mentioned in last month’s blog, the Flight Deck of the Yorktown mainly displays Vietnam era aircraft and the Hangar Deck has predominantly WW-II and Korean War aircraft. Almost all of the aircraft types on display served on the Yorktown during its long history.

The first plane ever to land on the Yorktown was a Grumman F6F Hellcat part of Air Group Five commanded by James “Jimmy” Flatley. Flatley helped introduce the new Hellcat Fighters to the fleet in 1943 and was named Commander of Air Group Five, the first Air Group assigned to the new Yorktown. As CAG, Flatley had the honor of making the first landing aboard CV-10.

The Grumman F6F Hellcat was built between 1942 and 1945 with over 12,000 produced. Flying for the Navy, Marines and the Royal Navy, Hellcats were credited with destroying 5,223 enemy aircraft, the most of any allied Naval aircraft.

The Vought F-4U Corsair is perhaps the best known, and most recognizable carrier aircraft from the WW-II era. The iconic inverted gull wings give the Corsair a distinctive and aggressive look. The R-2800 Double Wasp engine was the most powerful available when the Corsair was designed and, combined with a very large propeller, it made the F-4U the first single engine aircraft capable of 400 MPH in level flight. The size of the propeller is what led to the wing design, to keep the prop from striking the deck during a carrier landing. Because of the high nose position and the aft position of the cockpit, the Corsair was a difficult plane to bring aboard. There were also problems with the stall characteristics at slow carrier landing speeds, which led to the first groups of Corsairs being assigned to land-based Marine squadrons.

The Grumman F4F Wildcat was an earlier design than the Corsair and the Hellcat and was, in fact, the first Navy fighter with retractable landing gear. Powered by the Pratt and Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp, the Wildcat proved to be a very capable carrier aircraft during the early years of WW-II. As faster aircraft, particularly the F6F, became available, the Wildcat continued in service on smaller escort carriers, and was operational throughout the war. After April, 1942, Eastern Aircraft (a division of General Motors) provided a second production source of the F4F. The Eastern Aircraft planes were designated the FM-1, and a later, improved model, the FM-2.

Although it doesn’t look at home on an aircraft carrier, this North American B-25 Mitchell represents one of the great achievements of carrier aviation during WW-II. On April 18, 1942, 16 B-25s lifted off the deck of the carrier Hornet bound for Tokyo (The Hornet (CV-8) was a sister ship of the Yorktown). Led by Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, the raid was a morale boost for the US, coming just four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The B-25 displayed on the Yorktown is painted to commemorate the plane of Lt. Ted Lawson, the Ruptured Duck.

Like the majority of the planes that participated in the raid, the original Ruptured Duck did not return. Unable to find a landing field in China in darkness and bad weather, Lawson flew out to sea and ditched. Picked up by Chinese fisherman, the crew all survived, even though some were badly injured, including Lawson, who lost a leg. Lawson’s popular book about the raid, Thirty Seconds over Tokyo, was also made into a movie starring Spencer Tracy as Jimmy Doolittle.

The Hangar Deck is a large area and besides the many aircraft on display, there are numerous exhibits covering Naval history during WW-II and beyond. It is interesting to compare this large model of the Yorktown with a straight deck, as she was originally built, with her final, angle deck, configuration that you see on the Flight Deck. The shotgun in the foreground was presented to Captain James Cain, Yorktown CO 1965-66, by the crew.

This scale model of a Douglas TBD Devastator dropping a torpedo is just one of the many interesting, attractive, and informative exhibits on the Hangar Deck.

The SBD Dauntless was an extremely capable dive bomber (earning the moniker Slow But Deadly). Douglas Aircraft built almost 6,000 of these R-1820 Wright Cyclone powered aircraft. The Dauntless was introduced to the Fleet in 1940 and was the main aircraft involved in the Battle of Midway, when four Japanese carriers were sunk or disabled. Three US carriers were involved in the battle, including the original Yorktown (see Issue 21 for more about Midway). As you can see in the photo, the SBD had large flaps. Not seen in the photo are similar flaps, called diving brakes, which extended above the wings, giving the Dauntless its great slow diving ability. Another factor was that, unlike most carrier aircraft, the Dauntless did not have folding wings, allowing for more structural strength. Almost a 1,000 of this type (with no tail hook) were flown by the Army Air Corps as the A-24 Banshee.

There are two aircraft on the Hangar Deck that post-date WW-II: this Grumman F9F Cougar and a Douglas AD Skyraider.

The F9F Cougar was developed from the F9F Panther, the Navy’s first carrier jet aircraft, which had a straight wing. First flown in 1947, the Panther was also the first plane flown by the Blue Angels. In 1952, Grumman began producing the F9F Cougar, a swept-wing version of the Panther. The Cougar in the Yorktown collection is one of the last built for the Navy, being accepted in 1959. Built as a trainer, an F9F-8T (later renamed a TF-9J), this Cougar spent its life at Naval Air Station Iwakuni, in Japan, and in Pensacola Florida.

Painted in its original gloss blue paint, this Douglas AD-4N, BuNo 127007, has the markings of Attack Squadron 65. VA-65 was assigned to Carrier Air Group Two aboard the Yorktown, circa 1953. Designed during WW-II as a carrier based long-range torpedo/bomber, the Douglas Skyraider did not become operational until 1946. Assigned a number of designations (variations of AD and A-1), the Skyraider was commonly called the Spad. The Spad had a long and successful career in the Navy and Air Force and it was still flying missions in Vietnam when I entered Navy flight school in 1971. Powered by the 18-cylinder Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone, over 3,000 Skyraiders were built.

As mentioned in last month’s blog, numerous interior spaces of the Yorktown are open to visitors. You can tour squadron ready rooms, kitchen and dining facilities, and even the depths of the engine room. These areas have been maintained in the condition they were in while the Yorktown was still active, making for a unique and very enlightening experience. I have toured three other carriers that are museums and each is unique in its own way, and certainly very interesting. I found the Yorktown, however, the best of the group because of the excellent historical preservation.

There are several well-marked tours that you can follow, or you can just wander and explore for yourself. Let’s take a look below.

Note-to visit many of the interior spaces, you will have to negotiate the original ship ladders. There is an elevator from ground level to the Hangar Deck and to the Flight Deck and you can see the vast majority of the museum, including all the aircraft, without using any stairs. If you begin your visit on the Hangar Deck, volunteer veterans are on duty to help you get started navigating the museum.

Some of the areas, such as this dentist office, have figures posed as they would have been in the normal course of daily operations on the carrier.

The crew mess has been given particular attention, with a number of spaces being designed to offer a great look at daily life for the over 3,500 men aboard the Yorktown. Because Navy ships operate 24 hours a day, four meals are served each day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midrats (midnight rations).

For the recovery of Apollo 8, the Yorktown cooks went to work and produced a 540-pound cake to commemorate the astronauts and their accomplishment.

Photo Courtesy of Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum

As we travel further below, we find a number of spaces and levels of the engine room and engineering areas. Once again, we see everything preserved as a historic slice of the Vietnam era Navy.

Aircraft carriers are the largest Navy ships and are comparatively very roomy. Even so, as you can see here, space is always at a premium-even on a carrier. If you visit the destroyer Laffey or the submarine Clamagore while at Patriot’s Point, you will see much more cramped crew quarters. As COD pilots, we didn’t spend very many nights on the ship, but when we did, we never knew where they would put us. We would usually be assigned to someone’s bunk who was on leave, but at least one carrier, the JFK, would give us a bed in the ship’s hospital ward.

It is easy to imagine the tension in this ready room as a squadron briefs for a mission from Yankee Station in the South China Sea during the Vietnam War. The TV screen on the right plays a period video. This TV would have been showing the Flight Deck with launches and recoveries broadcast live and later played back on tape. Every carrier landing is taped and graded and pilots learn a lot from watching their own landings and others.

This is just a small sampling of all the interior spaces open to visitors. For more pictures, see the second Photo Gallery at the end.

Two more aircraft will finish up our visit to the Yorktown. This TBM Avenger is a Grumman designed aircraft (TBF), but the TBM designation means that it was built by General Motors Corporation’s Eastern Aircraft Division at Linden, New Jersey. As with the F4F, whose production was also moved to New Jersey, this allowed Grumman to concentrate on F6F production. The very successful TBM torpedo bomber had a crew of three and the type was credited with sinking 30 submarines as well as sharing credit for sinking two Japanese super-battleships, the Yamato and Musashi. The TBM is well-known as the type future President George H.W. Bush flew (and in which he was shot down). Actor Paul Newman also served on TBMs as a gunner (he was not accepted as a pilot because he was color-blind). The Avenger continued in active service well into the 1960s.

Although not a carrier aircraft, this Model 75 Stearman is appropriately on display here, as the vast majority of pilots who served on the Yorktown during WW-II received their basic training in this plane. Stearman originally built the Kaydet Model 70 in 1934, the same year that the company was bought by Boeing. The Model 70 won an Army contract but the Navy was the first service to take delivery, and designated it the Boeing NS. The Army called their Stearman the PT-13, which had a different engine. Eventually, the two services standardized as the Model 75, which the Navy then called the N2S. The type was probably the most produced biplane ever.

There is no doubt that this is one of the great aviation museums. The fact that so many interior spaces are preserved, combined with the way the aircraft are separated into two distinct eras, make it a superb visit. From the feedback I received about part 1, it is clear that the Yorktown is very popular with readers, and one that people enjoy visiting multiple times. I know I’ll return there is so much to see at Patriot’s Point.

Many thanks again this month to Captain Thom Ford of the USS Yorktown Foundation for his assistance with research for this blog.

And, as always, many thanks to my brother Mike who proof reads for me each month- there is always an apostrophe or two out of place!

To learn about what to do in the local area, museum hours, and costs, as well as books to read and other interesting odds and ends, keep reading! At the end you will find a photo gallery of the entire museum.

PLANNING YOUR VISIT

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum is open every day aside from Christmas Day. Current operating hours are 9 AM to 6:30 PM. The last tickets are sold at 5 P.M.

USS YORKTOWN- Aircraft Carrier

3 Acre Vietnam Experience

Veterans/ First Responders (ID Required) : $21

Active Duty/Retired Military (ID Required): $19

Charleston International Airport (CHS) and Charleston Executive (JZI) are each about 25 minutes from Patriot’s Point. Both are full-service airports.

A smaller field, also 25 minutes away, is Mount Pleasant Regional Airport (LRO). It has a 3,700’ runway (17/35), RNAV approaches to each runway, and a full service FBO.

LOCAL ATTRACTIONS

There is a lot to see in the Charleston area but a visit would not be complete without a trip out to Fort Sumter. Construction started in 1814, after the British attacked Washington by sea during the War of 1812. The site of two Civil War battles, Fort Sumter is a very interesting historic site to visit.

WHERE TO EAT

Museum Staff recommended Water’s Edge Restaurant on Shrimp Boat Lane, just a few minutes away.

Reader Andy Brothers added this recommendation: Vickery’s Bar & Grill, a great casual spot which is also on Shrimp Boat Lane. He also recommended Red’s Ice House, which is in the same area. Thanks Andy!

SUGGESTED READING

USS Yorktown, The History of the “Fighting Lady” by Douglas W. Bostick is full of facts and stories relating to the Yorktown. This highly illustrated and interesting book is available in the excellent Patriot’s Point gift shop as well as various on-line sites.

When I was a 737 first officer (yes, many years ago!) one of the Captains I enjoyed flying with was Tom Block who, at the time, wrote a column for Flying Magazine. Tom has written a number of best sellers, and his first, Mayday, was made into a CBS movie. I mention them here because one of his books Forced Landing involves the hijacking of the USS Yorktown. I’ll quote from the Goodreads listing- “Taking place in a pre-9/11 world of the 80's, a former US submarine is hijacked in the Gulf, a floating aircraft carrier museum is hijacked from its dock in South Carolina, a Learjet and then a DC-9 are hijacked from New York shortly thereafter. The story is a vintage-era caper that involves gold, hostages and a cast of noble and exceptionally nasty characters”. A fun read to go with this visit to the Yorktown! Tom mentioned that all of his books are available on audible.com, narrated by the author. Check his website to see all Tom Block books.

MUSEUM WEBSITE

Fantasy of Flight, Polk City Florida

MUSEUMS ARE WHERE YOU FIND THEM

This segment is dedicated to finding interesting aviation artifacts that are in public view- but not in an aviation museum. If you see one send a photo!

This entry does not quite fit the category, as it is not in public view, but reader Steve M. has built such an amazing aviation artifact that I am sure it will be of interest.

The Avro Vulcan is a much-admired British bomber from the 1950s. After hearing about a group of enthusiasts in England who had built a full-sized Vulcan simulator, Steve decided to build his own and he now has a fully operational, actual size, Vulcan simulator.

No actual Vulcan parts are available and so everything, such as this throttle quadrant, was made from scratch.

A pretty amazing project-Thanks for sharing Steve! (all Vulcan photos courtesy of Steve M).


Treasures from World War II US Navy Command Files

The National Declassification Center (NDC) at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) recently released 192,500 pages of formerly classified U.S. Navy Command Files from the World War II era. The Treasures from World War II US Navy Command Files consist primarily of records from the Pacific Theater. Most of the records date between 1941 and 1946. Some records, however, date as far back as 1917 and some up to 1967.

This collection of records was created by the Office of Naval Records and Library from various Naval components in an effort to convey one of many military experiences during World War II. These records also include some materials created by and about the United States Marine Corps.

These records are arranged by subject, and a subject matter list is available for each box. All records have been declassified, and are fully available for researchers.

Record types vary. They include memos, reports, books, pamphlets, manuals, bound volumes, charts, letters, lists (for example, lists of staff on ships, air strikes, ships at certain battles, dead and missing sailors by state, and crew list), blueprints, maps, diagrams (of ship movements, battles, and command organization), photographs, photograph albums, and aerial photographs.
See items in our National Archives Catalog, National Archives Identifier 23873594

The topics covered by these records are vast and varied. Subjects include: Naval intelligence, combat operations, the investigation into the Pearl Harbor attack, operational planning, submarine and anti-submarine warfare, ships' combat damage control (to include material dealing with the battle damage to US Naval vessels broken down by year), escort operations, and Naval administration. Amphibious warfare operations covered include the invasion of North Africa, Sicily, and Northern France in the Mediterranean and European Theaters the Solomon Islands, Gilberts Islands, Marshall Islands, Mariana Islands (Saipan, Guam, & Tinian), the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa in the Pacific Theater as well as the battles of Wake, Coral Sea, and Midway in the Pacific Ocean.

Additional subjects include mine warfare, post mortems of enemy submarines, and the defense against Japanese aerial suicide attacks on U.S. Naval vessels. Moreover, there are reports on various actions and campaigns, numerous unit histories, and ships’ war diaries. Histories involve those for various Naval aviation squadrons as well as ship histories for vessels such as the USS Saratoga, the USS Ticonderoga, the USS Yorktown, and the USS Franklin. Some histories document World War II submarine operations, as well as the Naval administration of the war. Furthermore, letters for award commendations and citations, as well as letters of condolences, are included. Also covered is a Joint Army-Navy Intelligence study of the Philippines.

For three of the vessels, the USS Enterprise, the USS Yorktown, and the USS Franklin, documents reveal the daily activities of the ships and the sailors. The deck logs (1942 – 1945) from the USS Enterprise indicate the changing activities of the ship. The history of the USS Yorktown contains information about where she fought, sketches of her commanding officers, as well as ship and air group casualties. In contrast to this, the records of the USS Franklin reveal the sailors lives on the ship through their promotions, demotions, discipline, courts-martial, awards, staff transfers, and deaths.

These three aircraft carriers significantly contributed to the war effort in the Pacific Theater. They participated in major battles in the effort to defeat the Japanese Empire. The USS Enterprise, referred to as the "Big E," was damaged several times, but survived the war. She was scrapped in 1960. The USS Yorktown was badly damaged at the Battle of Midway in 1942, and sank. A successor USS Yorktown was built, fought in the Pacific area and was sometimes called the "Fighting Lady", later became a museum in South Carolina in 1975. The USS Franklin, nicknamed "Big Ben," was badly damaged during several battles, but survived the war. This carrier was sold for scrap in 1966.

Of interest to military historians are the strategical and tactical analysis of such battles as the Coral Sea, Midway, Savo Island, and Leyte Gulf. Significant topics include a history of US Naval bases in the United Kingdom, and the US Navy search for German scientific and technological advances for the benefit of the Navy Department, as well as the history of underwater demolition teams.

Diverse subjects include the organization of the USS Enterprise, PT (Patrol Torpedo) boats (as well as a small amount of information about President John F. Kennedy's PT 109), and CINCPAC (Commander in Chief, Pacific Command) Headquarters. Accompanying the findings on the Pearl Harbor Navy Court of Inquiry is the profound statement by President Harry S. Truman on the conclusions of the court.

Some of the most interesting records may be the photograph albums of various Pacific Ocean World War II battles. Those battles include Tarawa, Marshall Islands, Mariana Islands (Saipan, Tinian, & Guam), Peleliu, and Iwo Jima.

For some researchers, the terrain studies may be of interest. These studies analyze the land use on various islands in the southwest Pacific area. It is quite surprising the depth of analysis these reports turn out to reveal.

If you have an interest in World War II or the United States Navy, then the Treasures from the World War II US Navy Command Files await exploration. These records are worth your time and your effort to investigate, to study, and to learn.

This page was last reviewed on June 26, 2017.
Contact us with questions or comments.


USS Yorktown II - History

The nineteen photographs in our collection of the sinking of USS Yorktown (all presented on these pages) were found during processing of previously unexamined and uncataloged images. The first three (Photo #s NH 95575, NH 95576 and NH 95577) were first spotted by Naval Historical Center staff during the later 1970s or early 1980s, and were cataloged in the mid-1980s. The other sixteen were discovered by Christopher P. Cavas (a recognized ship expert and well-known journalist, who has long performed volunteer work for the Naval Historical Center) early in 2008. They were cataloged in August of that year. All of the original prints for these nineteen photos are on paper-based stock, of a type generally used prior to the 1980s.
Despite the relatively late discovery and cataloging of these photographs, some of them had been published earlier. That seen in Photo # NH 106000 appeared in the first (1967) edition of Walter Lord's "Incredible Victory". Three others (Photo #s NH 95575, NH 106006 and NH 106011) were published in the same year in Pat Frank and Joseph D. Harrington's "Rendezvous at Midway". In those books, the photographs are credited to Charles R. Cundiff, who was one of Yorktown 's officers at the time of her loss.

Controversy concerning the way USS Yorktown sank:

For many years a Navy combat veteran, who witnessed Yorktown 's sinking while serving as a signalman in the destroyer Hughes , has vigorously maintained that she sank upright and somewhat down by the bow. He has forcefully rejected all evidence that is at variance with his own memories. To emphasize that the existing historical record provides an accurate account, this page presents documentation and other evidence that Yorktown did, in fact, capsize to port and sink by the stern. It also addresses certain aspects of the claims to the contrary.

Claim: The photographs presented on these pages either show the sinking of another ship or are bogus.
Response: the ship structure seen in these photographs exactly matches that of Yorktown , and the images reflect the circumstances of her sinking (early morning lighting, absence of smoke or other evidence of fire, torpedo damage in the same location described in contemporary reports). The ship structure seen does not precisely match that of any other U.S. aircraft carrier sunk during World War II, or at any time, although with some notable differences it resembles that of USS Hornet (CV-8). However, that carrier sank at night, was afire at that time, and the event could only have been photographed from a Japanese destroyer. It is thus impossible that the photographs show any other ship but Yorktown . In addition, nothing about them indicates that they are not genuine. For examples of nicely done "manufactured" photographs, made by experienced professionals using the best techniques available in the pre-digital era, see the Norman Bel Geddes diorama views shown elsewhere in our Battle of Midway presentations. The appearance differences between these extremely well-executed, but "non-genuine" photos, and actual photographs like those showing USS Yorktown sinking, are too obvious to require further comment.

Claim: The condition of Yorktown 's wreck, as found and photographed during Dr. Robert Ballard's 1998 Midway expedition, supports the contention that she sank upright.
Response: A member of the Naval Historical Center (now called the Naval History and Heritage Command) staff (Charles R. Haberlein Jr., Head of the Center's Photographic Section, who is the writer of this text) was an active member of that expedition and closely examined all still and video images of Yorktown 's wreck that were taken at that time. Nothing about the condition of the wreck supports a claim that Yorktown sank upright, and one element reinforces the considerable contemporary photographic and documentary evidence that she sank by the stern: Yorktown 's bow shows a good deal of crushing, a strong indication that she plunged by the stern rapidly enough for the bow to have reached its crush depth before all the air trapped inside had been forced out. Furthermore, her wreck rests some three miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, providing more than enough vertical space for her to have returned to, and maintained, an essentially upright aspect during her long fall through the water. All intact deep sea (more than 1000 feet deep) shipwrecks that this writer has examined, either directly or indirectly, rest essentially upright. The only exceptions (the Japanese battleships Kirishima and Yamato , and the British battlecruiser Hood ) are not intact, but rather have lost large portions of their hulls. This may have greatly changed their post-sinking stability characteristics, thus preventing them from maintaining an upright aspect.

This page features comentary on the sinking of USS Yorktown , including the background of the related photographs and an associated controversy concerning the way she sank.


Special Operations Outlook 2019 Digital Edition is here!

The USS Yorktown drydocked at Pearl Harbor after the Battle of Coral Sea. Shipyard workers had just three days to patch up Yorktown and return her to the fleet in order for her to participate in the Battle of Midway. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photo

The Battle of the Coral Sea had barely concluded when Task Force 17 under the command of Rear Adm. Frank Jack Fletcher was ordered to return to Pearl Harbor as fast as the crippled Yorktown’s condition would allow. Despite hull damage that caused her to trail an oil slick ten miles long, the carrier was able to reach a sustained speed of twenty knots. The voyage to the naval base would take eighteen days. During that time, the Yorktown’s damage control teams succeeded in patching so cleanly the bomb hole in her flight deck that it would appear never to have been damaged. Meanwhile, her skipper, Capt. Elliott Buckmaster, prepared an action report for Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz that included a detailed list of the carrier’s damage. It would be a preliminary estimate of what would repairing the Yorktown would require.

Dated May 25 and delivered by plane while the Yorktown was about a hundred miles from Oahu, the report that Nimitz read was sobering. A 551-pound armor-piercing bomb had plunged through the flight deck 15 feet inboard of her island and penetrated fifty feet into the ship before exploding above the forward engine room. Six compartments were destroyed, as were the lighting systems on three decks and across 24 frames. The gears controlling the No. 2 elevator were damaged. She had lost her radar and refrigeration system. Near misses by eight bombs had opened seams in her hull from frames 100 to 130 and ruptured the fuel-oil compartments. Rear Adm. Aubrey Fitch, aboard the damaged carrier, estimated that repairing the Yorktown would take ninety days.

“We must have this ship back in three days.”

– Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet

Nimitz didn’t have the luxury of waiting ninety days. Thanks to excellent codebreaking work by Cmdr. Joseph Rochefort and his intelligence team, Nimitz knew that the Imperial Japanese Navy planned an amphibious assault on the strategic island of Midway on June 4. Leading the attack would be its Kidō Butai, the carrier strike force that had attacked Pearl Harbor. Despite being outnumbered in carriers, planes, and other ships, Nimitz was determined not to let Midway go the way of Wake Island – at least not without a fight. But, when he sent his task force into harm’s way, he wanted it to be as powerful as possible.

That meant reinforcing his available carriers Enterprise and Hornet with the Yorktown. To determine if that was possible, Nimitz ordered Pearl Harbor’s yard superintendent Capt. Claude Gillette and a team of specialists to fly to the Yorktown and make a preliminary study.

View of the underside of Yorktown’s flight deck structure, showing the impact hole made by the Japanese bomb that struck the ship amidships during the Battle of the Coral Sea. A patch over the flight deck’s broken wooden planking is visible within the hole. Note structural beam in lower part of the photo, distorted by the bomb’s passage. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photo

They radioed back that they thought it was possible to get the carrier ready in time, but doing so would take a supreme effort.

The next morning, after Nimitz had cut orders voiding the safety rule of spending a day purging her tanks of stored aviation fuel, the Yorktown eased into Drydock Number One. The caissons closed behind her, and pumps began draining out the water. With at least a foot of water still remaining in the drydock, men in waders gathered to inspect the hull. One of them was Nimitz.

One day ahead of schedule, on May 27, the Yorktown limped into Pearl Harbor. The next morning, after Nimitz had cut orders voiding the safety rule of spending a day purging her tanks of stored aviation fuel, the Yorktown eased into Drydock Number One. The caissons closed behind her, and pumps began draining out the water. With at least a foot of water still remaining in the drydock, men in waders gathered to inspect the hull. One of them was Nimitz. After staring at the burst seams and other damage on the hull, Nimitz turned to the technicians and said, “We must have this ship back in three days.” After a long silence, hull repair expert Lt. Cmdr. H. J. Pfingstag gulped and said, “Yes, sir.”

View of damage on the third and fourth decks, amidships, aboard the USS Yorktown. This view looks forward and to starboard from the ship’s centerline at frame 110. The photographer is in compartment C-301-L, shooting down through the third deck into compartment C-402-A. The large hole in the deck was made by the bomb’s explosion. Many men were killed or badly injured in C-301-L, a crew’s messing space that was the assembly area for the ship’s engineering repair party. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photo

Within minutes the first of 1,400 repairmen, who would work around the clock, swarmed into the drydock to begin repairing the Yorktown. To satisfy the enormous power needs of the repair crews the Navy contacted Leslie Hicks, president of the Hawaiian Electric Company, who arranged a series of rolling blackouts in Honolulu. Only the most urgent repairs were made. Instead of individually fixing the hull’s ruptured seams, an enormous steel plate was welded over the damaged section.

To satisfy the enormous power needs of the repair crews the Navy contacted Leslie Hicks, president of the Hawaiian Electric Company, who arranged a series of rolling blackouts in Honolulu. Only the most urgent repairs were made. Instead of individually fixing the hull’s ruptured seams, an enormous steel plate was welded over the damaged section.

At 11:00 a.m. on May 28, Drydock Number One was flooded and the Yorktown was towed into the harbor with workmen still busy aboard. On the morning of May 30, more patched than repaired but fit enough to fight, Yorktown steamed out of Pearl Harbor. With an air group composed of aircraft from three carriers, Yorktown sped to a rendezvous with the Enterprise and Hornet at “Point Luck” to participate in one of the most decisive battles in naval history.

DWIGHT JON ZIMMERMAN is a bestselling and award-winning author, radio host, and president of the.


USS Yorktown - Charleston SC - Historical Naval Ship of World War II


The USS Yorktown (CV-10) is a US naval aircraft carrier built during the Second World War. Commissioned in April 1943, the ship participated in several campaigns during its time before being decommissioned in 1970 and becoming a historical landmark in 1975. Now, the USS Yorktown is a museum ship residing in Patriot's Point, South Carolina.

The ship was the tenth aircraft carrier to serve in the US Navy, and was built in 1941 by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. The ship was originally named the Bon Homme Richard, but was renamed the Yorktown when the USS Yorktown (CV-5) was lost in the Battle of Midway in June 1942. It then became the fourth ship to bear the name, commemorating the Battle of Yorktown of the American Revolutionary War in 1781.

The ship took over 16 months to build and was launched on 21 January 1943. On April 15th of the same year the ship was commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard to be commanded by Capt Joseph J Clark, and from there she started her career in the Navy.

During her time she earned 11 battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation for service in the Second World War, as well as 5 battle stars for Vietnam service. She's also been somewhat of a film star, having the Academy Award winning 1944 documentary "The Fighting Lady'' almost entirely filmed on board, as well as being used for the 1970 movie "Tora! Tora! Tora!''.

After being decommissioned in 1970, the Yorktown spent 5 years in reserve before being taken to Charleston to be the centerpiece of Patriot's Point Naval and Maritime museum. On the 200-year anniversary of the Navy, 13 October 1975, she was officially dedicated as a war memorial.

Since then countless visitors have boarded the ship, and many can fail to be amazed by the sheer size of it. Weighing in at 27,000 and being 872 feet long and up to 147.5 feet wide, she's a sight to behold. Despite her grand size she managed to reach a speed of 33 knots or nearly 40 miles an hour during her time in service, and housed a massive 90-100 aircraft in her enormous hanger bays.

The ship still houses some of the planes today in various exhibitions. There aren't any specific tours but it's self-guided with all the information you need, and as such you can spend as much or as little time on each exhibit as you like. Be prepared to spend around 3-4 hours there to make sure you see everything, and sensible shoes are a must - as you can imagine, there are rather a lot of stairways and ladders in such an enormous ship.

Patriot's Point is open daily from 9am to 6:30pm, only being closed on Christmas Day. Admission prices range from $8 for children (aged 6-11) to $16 for adults and children age $12 and over. Children under 6 and active military personnel in uniform get in free, and seniors and military personnel with ID get in for $13.


USS Yorktown (CV-5): How a Badly Damaged Carrier Turned the Tides at Midway

On May 8, 1942, the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) was badly damaged after helping to destroy the Japanese carrier Shoho at the Battle of the Coral Sea. With a gaping hole in her flight deck and her superheater boilers out of commission, Yorktown was expected to be out of action for months—but after just 72 hours of repairs, she was able to participate in the Battle of Midway, where it helped sink two IJN carriers while protecting the other American carriers from aerial counterattack.

In honor of Memorial Day, we’ll take a brief look at the remarkable circumstances around this storied carrier and the exceptional contributions of the heroes who made it happen.

The Yorktown: From Humble Beginnings to the Battle of the Coral Sea

Launched in 1936, Yorktown was the lead ship of the new Yorktown-class of carriers, designed to incorporate all the experience and lessons learned from the previous four carriers. She carried 90 aircraft—roughly equivalent to the larger Japanese carriers it would fight against at Midway—and a wartime complement of around 3,000 men.

Yorktown in 1937. Photo is from the National Archives, Image # 19-N-17424

Following training in Hampton Roads, Virginia, Yorktown conducted her shakedown cruise—or performance test—in the Caribbean. In 1939, she participated in Fleet Problem XX, the Navy’s 20th annual large-scale naval exercises, setting a new benchmark for carrier performance. After a brief period operating along the west coast, Yorktown set out for the Atlantic on April 20, 1941, to protect American interests from a new threat: the U-Boat. Following her neutrality patrols, she put into port at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia on December 2, 1941.

Little did her captain and crew know that in just five days’ time, Imperial Japan would attack Pearl Harbor, killing thousands of Americans and sending the US Navy’s surface fleet of destroyers, battleships and cruisers.

This left Yorktown and the six other carriers—Enterprise, Hornet, Lexington, Wasp, Ranger and Saratoga, none of which were at Pearl Harbor—as the backbone of the US Navy.

With America now at war, Yorktown was recalled to the Pacific and, on December 30, made flagship of Rear Admiral Fletcher’s newly-formed Task Force 17. It wouldn’t be long before she saw her first major action.

Working with superior intelligence, Admiral Chester Nimitz—now Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Fleet—knew that the Japanese Navy intended to attack Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, in the first week of May 1942 in an attempt to strengthen their defensive position in the South Pacific. He issued orders that sent four carriers towards the port to finally put an end to a series of USN defeats. Only Yorktown and USS Lexington (CV-2) would make it there in time.

The American fleet made contact with the numerically-superior IJN fleet—which consisted of fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku (both of which took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor), light carrier Shoho, and a number of support craft—and the two forces traded blows over the course of four days in what would come to be called the Battle of the Coral Sea. This was the first battle in history where two carriers battled toe-to-toe. Losses were heavy.

When the dust settled, both American carriers and all three Japanese carriers had sustained heavy damage or were depleted of aircraft. Lexington and Shoho were scuttled. Shokaku sustained heavy damage to the flight deck (courtesy of Yorktown’s dive bombers) and limped to safety. Zuikaku, her air arm slaughtered, did the same.

Bomb damage on Yorktown’s third and fourth decks, copied from the war damage report, 1942.

Damage to Yorktown was significant. Captain Elliott Buckmaster, skilled as he was in maneuvering, could do nothing when a Japanese “Val” dive bomber scored a direct hit. The 550-pound bomb penetrated the deck and exploded below, killing or seriously injuring 66 men and damaging her superheater boilers. The damage looked to be so severe that the Japanese thought she had been sunk. They would soon be proven terribly wrong.

Patchwork Repairs

Following the Battle of the Coral Sea, Yorktown was ordered back to Pearl Harbor ASAP for repairs. Some experts estimated that she would need at least three months of repairs. Admiral Nimitz, understanding the grave urgency of a new threat to a tiny atoll called Midway, gave shipyard workers just three days to get Yorktown back into fighting shape.

One of my favorite accounts of the shipwrights’ struggle comes from Reddit user Limonhed in this thread:

“My late father-in-law was one of the civilian shipwrights flown out to Yorktown after it was damaged at the Coral Sea. He said they worked 24/7 doing what they could, and fell asleep on the deck where they worked. The sailors had orders not to bother a sleeping shipwright unless it was an emergency. They ate sandwiches brought by the sailors while they continued to work. Cutting torch in one hand and sandwich in the other. Sometimes a sailor would stop by and stick a lit cigarette in his mouth while he continued to work. Much of the preparation work for the repairs were finished when they arrived at Pearl. They continued working 24/7 the entire time they were at Pearl and were still on the ship when it sailed. They were flown off only when the fleet got close enough to worry about Japanese attacks. Their efforts cut a week off the repairs and allowed Yorktown to get back in time for the next battle.”

Without the hard work and dedication shown by the yard workers, Yorktown would never have made it to Midway. Her unexpected presence confused the IJN and helped the United States Navy deliver a crushing defeat—and serious payback—to the Japanese fleet.

Yorktown at the Battle of Midway

Armed with knowledge of when and with what ships the enemy planned to ambush Midway (and the two aircraft carriers that constituted the IJN’s real targets), Adm. Nimitz moved the entire Pacific fleet to Midway to set an ambush of his own.

The Yorktown was a lynchpin in this regard. The already-outnumbered US Navy could not make up the difference in operational aircraft—not to mention that the Yorktown was the only carrier with experience launching a full strike.

Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown would face off against Soryu, Hiryu, Akagi and Kaga in a battle that turned the tide of war in the Pacific.

Japan began its initial attack on Midway Island at 4:30am on June 4, intent on destroying the land-based aircraft. It was repulsed thanks to stiff resistance from American forces. Neither navy had located the other until 5:34am, when a PBY seaplane from Midway Island finally spotted the Japanese fleet. Admiral Fletcher ordered the launch of aircraft from Enterprise and Hornet starting at 7:00am.

LCDR Max Leslie ditches in the ocean

The first wave was a disaster from the get-go. While Japan was able to launch 108 aircraft in just seven minutes, it took Enterprise and Hornet over an hour to launch 117 aircraft. It’s odd to think of the USA as underdogs in any capacity, let alone war, but that’s exactly the case.

And Japan’s advantage reached far beyond coordination and training. The American Navy was still using the TPD Devastator torpedo bomber, a woefully outmoded aircraft that was totally outclassed by Japan’s Zero fighters. Of the 41 Devastators that sortied during Midway, not a single one produced a torpedo hit, and only six returned. And even if one of the Devastators HAD registered a hit, there’s a good chance that the poorly-manufactured Mark 13 Torpedoes would not have detonated.

Yorktown’s pilots, who had been held back from the initial launch in case other Japanese carriers were found, were given a harrowing briefing: “If only three out of your 12-plane squadron survive the run-in to deliver your torpedoes, your mission will have been a success.” Yorktown’s aircraft launched at 9:08am.

But just when the future of the US Pacific fleet began to look grim, the battle turned on a dime.

It just so happened that three squadrons of Douglas SBD Scout Bombers (a fine aircraft, not to be confused with the TBD Devastator) were approaching the Japanese fleet. Two of the three were short on fuel, and none of them knew exactly where the fleet was.

It was then that Enterprise Air Group Commander C. Wade McClusky, dangerously low on fuel, made one of the most fortuitous decisions in the war. Instead of turning back, he kept looking for the enemy carriers, and he just so happened to locate a lone Japanese destroyer traveling at flank speed. Acting on a hunch, he followed it…all the way to the Japanese carriers, now short on defense.

The three squadrons descended on the carriers like a swarm of locusts. Yorktown’s VB-3, commanded by Max Leslie, went for Soryu, battering it with three direct hits.

Enterprise’s squadrons split into two and took on Akagi and Kaga, scoring multiple direct hits.

Within six minutes, Soryu and Kaga were totally engulfed stem to stern. Although Akagi was hit by just one bomb, it exploded in the hangar, causing massive devastation and leaving it dead in the water. Just like that, a good portion of Imperial Japan’s mighty Pacific fleet was reduced to burning husks, leaving just the Hiryu.

Crewmen repair a 12′ diameter bomb hole on Yorktown’s deck. At this point, this kind of damage was mundane. She would be back in action shortly.

But it wasn’t all good news. Japanese bombers from Hiryu followed the retreating American aircraft and attacked the first carrier they found…which just so happened to be Yorktown. Japanese pilots managed to score three hits, blowing a hole in the deck and snuffing out her boilers. But American damage control and ship survivability were far beyond that of the IJN, and within just one hour, she was patched up and ready to go again.

The second wave of Hiryu torpedo bombers arrived another hour later. The repair efforts were so effective that the Japanese pilots assumed Yorktown must be a different, undamaged carrier. Again, they battered her, this time with two torpedoes. Yorktown lost all power and began to list…but she still didn’t sink.

Yorktown lists badly after being abandoned. Official US Navy Photograph.

Captain Buckmaster, having heard the reports about how quickly the Japanese carriers sank, gave the order to abandon ship. The wounded were offloaded first, followed by the able-bodied sailors, all in good order. Captain Buckmaster even walked the ship one final time to make sure nobody remained onboard, and when he found none, lowered himself into the water by means of a knotted line over the stern.

But this was a day of retribution, and later in the afternoon, a scout aircraft from Yorktown found the Hiryu. 24 dive bombers from Enterprise and Yorktown descended on the Japanese carrier, peppering it with four bombs. She went up in flames just like the other Japanese carriers had earlier in the day. Lieutenant Commander Dick Best, who has the unique distinction of landing bombs on two different carriers, recalls the feeling:

“I felt myself to be lord of creation of the time. The feeling of success and the fulfillment of revenge was so sweet that I’ve never felt anything as intensely as that in all my life.”

All four of Japan’s carriers were now at the bottom of the Pacific. The US Navy delivered a decisive blow, and Japan was never able to replace its most-skilled pilots and best aircraft fast enough. The war was far from over, but the tide had turned.

Yorktown finally succumbs

Believe it or not, after six major detonations—one at Coral Sea and five at Midway—Yorktown was still afloat, and the salvage effort was going well…until a Japanese sub snuck past the American destroyer line and fired a torpedo that hit the USS Hamann, a destroyer acting as tow/escort ship. The Hamann essentially broke in half and sank quickly, killing the 81 men aboard and others from Yorktown who has been blown overboard. Understandably, the other tow ship cut the cable to Yorktown, and the battered carrier finally fell beneath the waves the following morning.

Yorktown sinking, June 7th 1942. Courtesy of the Naval History & Heritage Command NH #106011.

“That’s alright, fellas,” Captain Buckmaster told his men. “We’ll get another ship and come out again.”

By the time the first shots were fired at Midway, Yorktown was already nearly half a year overdue for a major refit. The emergency repairs performed at Pearl Harbor were intended to keep her seaworthy for two or three weeks. She had been nearly blown to bits over the course of two major battles. And still, she gave more: her last great contribution was soaking up a Japanese counterattack that could easily have been aimed at one of the healthy carriers.

The truth is, the Japanese had to sink her three times before it finally “took.”

Here’s to the Heroes Who Made Yorktown Great

Despite her toughness, resilience, and valiant contribution to the war In the Pacific, Yorktown was still just a ship. Yorktown only achieved greatness because of the heroes who made her great.

On this Memorial Day, we honor them all. First and foremost, to the 207 Yorktown crewmembers who died in the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway. And to her crew, who put our fires, patched her up, and carried on in the face of constant duress. And to the Devastator torpedo bomber pilots who knew they wouldn’t make it back. To the Dauntless scout bomber pilots who directly contributed to the sinking of three Japanese aircraft carriers. To the shipyard workers at Pearl Harbor, who did the impossible. And, of course, to the savvy leadership of Capt. Buckmaster, Admiral Spruance, Admiral Fletcher and Admiral Nimitz..

Today, we honor those brave men, as we honor so many others for their sacrifices in serving our great nation. I’d like to offer a heartfelt thank you to all those who serve and have served.

Just one more note…I’ve never served, and as hard as I have tried to get my terminology correct and not be disrespectful, I admit that I may have made a misstep. Please feel free to correct me. – Thanks

  • It’s unfortunate that by focusing on Yorktown, the contributions of Enterprise and Hornet, and of the ground forces on Midway, are implicitly minimized. This is not the case. The USS Hornet launched the Doolittle Raid and participated in both Guadalcanal and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, USS Enterprise ended the war as the Navy’s most decorated ship, and the Marines stationed on Midway Island put up a hell of a fight and never flinched.
  • You can’t talk about the Navy’s intelligence operations without mentioning Joseph Rochefort. Rochefort not only helped to break Japanese code JN25, but was the only cryptanalyst to correctly surmise that “AF” was Japan’s code for Midway (others thought it was code for the Aleutian Islands or even the West Coast). In order to convince his superiors, he devised a plan: the garrison commander on Midway would radio an emergency request for water in “plain language.” Japan took the bait, transmitting a message that “AF” was out of water.
  • I tried my best to avoid the historical controversy around what happened when the three American bomber squadrons converged over the Japanese carriers. Much of our prior understanding of that event came from the writings of Japanese pilot Mitsuo Fuchida, who characterized the timing as something of a miracle. Parshall and Tully’s “Shattered Sword,” along with official Japanese publication of the war history, refuted many of Fuchida’s claims.“Shattered Sword” is excellent and I would recommend it to everyone interested in the subject.
  • If that Japanese submarine hadn’t snuck through the defensive perimeter and attacked the USS Hamann, there’s a very good chance Yorktown would’ve made it back to Pearl Harbor. Very generally speaking, American design favored survivability, while Japanese design favored speed and hitting power. For a navy that couldn’t replace pilots and materiel fast enough, this was a fatal decision.
  • Interestingly, of the 17 ships lost or damaged in the Attack On Pearl Harbor, 14 were repaired and returned to service. Additionally, Japan made a huge mistake by not targeting Pearl Harbor’s fuel storage and dry dock facilities.
  • As Lexington slowly sank after Coral Sea, her crew abandoned ship—but not before breaking into the freezer and eating all the ice cream. Sailors dipper their helmets into the ice cream and licked them clean before leaving.

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46 Responses to &ldquoUSS Yorktown (CV-5): How a Badly Damaged Carrier Turned the Tides at Midway&rdquo

Robt W Bennett

Thank you for including this today. Great story & well-written.

Bryan

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

Susan leerhoff

My Father was on the USS Yorktown c-v5 He was the chief petty officer that got back on her to ready her to tow her back when she got hit again.

William biggerstaff

I enjoyed reading this, Thank you for posting. My grandfather was on this ship at Midway. I remember him telling me stories about this. He passed away about 22 years ago, due to cancer. He was a great and Godly man. I’d like to thank all of the past American hero’s that have gave it there all. You where truly America’s greatest generation.

Ken Parlatore

Thank you! As a Navy veteran of the Vietnam war, I’m thankful and grateful that someone such as yourself took the time to let the next generation of Americans know about a war from our past that produced such great American heroes….Thank you again, and may God bless our great country!

Bryan

Thanks for your comment, Ken. I appreciate all kinds of positive feedback, but it’s especially rewarding when it comes from those who have served.

John McClain

This was perhaps the single most uplifting pair of battles that assured America we weren’t going to fall to a long preparing, determined Axis.
One of the most important decisions made in those first days, was assigning Admiral Nimitz to command the Pacific Fleet.
When he arrived by plane, at Pearl Harbor, he had “All Hands” gather, after he’d done a thorough reconnoitering of the whole of the Island of Oahu.
Standing before a somewhat demoralized Fleet of Navy and Marines, he checked off four things the Japanese did which ensured their attack was a complete failure. Up to then, every assessment had been negative, but Admiral Nimitz stood before those who would go on to these two battles, and stated, “the Japanese didn’t even bother to consider our culture and practices, and in attacking on Sunday, at 0700, ten percent of crews were aboard their ships, with the vast majority in Chapel, so while great, the loss of personnel, was not by any means incapacitating, but have made us determined. Secondly, the two dry docks, here at Pearl, were scheduled to be filled and closed, but we will put these ships back together, because we have the capability right here and now, the ships in the Harbor will sail again. Third, the Japanese expected our carriers to be here, and they weren’t, so their main target was missing, and a great disappointment. Lastly, all the Pacific Fleet’s fuel oil is stored in those tanks you see up on the hills, and not one of them was struck, had they targeted them specifically, they could have picked us off at their leisure, in the following weeks, but they didn’t have the intelligence.
We could have been set back six months to a year, and forced to capitulate, but instead, we will be back at sea in days, and at full strength in weeks, God was watching over us and we must live up to this miracle which has saved us from what could have been completely devastating to our whole pacific fleet.”
That’s not exactly a quote, but a fair representation of Admiral Nimitz’ comments that spurred the heroes into action, and truly turned the whole of “Pearl Harbor, the attack” completely around, and made way for the extraordinary return we got, establishing how the Pacific war would go, from then on. Despondency left that morning, and was replaced by hard edged resolve and a determined people.
Semper Fidelis,
John McClain
GySgt, USMC, ret.
Vanceboro, NC

Bryan

Great comment! Thanks for taking the time to read and leave a reply, John. I appreciate it.

I only gained respect for Admiral Nimitz the deeper I got into my research. He made good call after good call, starting with his uniquely positive outlook on Pearl Harbor. If I recall correctly, Adm. Nimitz also retained Adm. Kimmel’s staff after Kimmel was removed from command following the attack. This decision energized his staff and inspired the sailors.

Not sure if the details are 100%, but regardless, this was a great man.

William messbarger

This is why we stand . Thanks to all the vets . thanks for serving.

John Sullivan

The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) intended to seize Port Moresby, New Guinea. If they had succeeded, Australia and shipping lanes between the USA would have been seriously emperiled. MacArthur was still marshaling Commonwealth and US offensive resources in Australia and the USN’s victory at Midway afforded the Commander (MacArthur) of the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) the opportunity to mount a coordinated offensive with the USN which eventually evolved into the successful island-hopping campaign.

Justin Ansel

May God bless their Sacrifices !

Mr. TerryLee Shepherd, Naval Airman, Vet!

I served in 1969! In The CPO, Quarters!

Ron R

The Greatest Generation was surely THE GREATEST!
I hope all the Sportsman’s folk read about this heroic sacrifice and pass it along!s

Excellent article. Thank you. More history, especially military history, would be very useful to educate the public. Too few appreciate that with out the military we could not enjoy the wonderful privileges we so often take for granted. To barrow and paraphrase Winston Churchill “American democracy is the worst form of government, except for every other form” We should value and appreciate what we have

Steve Rogan

Thank you for including this today. My grandfather was on three different carriers in the Pacific, with the Yorktown being his first. He was at Coral Sea and Midway. He rarely talked about the war, but he loved that ship.

Bryan

I’ve heard and read many stories like your grandfather’s. Yorktown was special, and she seemed to inspire a special kind of adoration in people.

Frank Muller

Thanks for showing the bravery and patriotism of Americans during a time of war. The bravery of our soldiers is what made the USA the great country that it is today.
Thanks for posting this.

Jerry Morris

For more info concerning another great carrier that served in the Pacific Theater check out http://www.cv6.org .This site has the history of the USS Enterprise (CV-6), Yorktowns sister ship. Be sure to check out the de-classified after action reports to fully understand the demanding efforts of carrier ops during WWII.

Joseph Burke

As the great nephew of Admiral Arleigh Burke this article makes me PROUD TO BE AND AMERICAN and the descendant of such fine American fighting men. – Joe Burke

Bryan

Well this is quite the honor! Your great uncle was a great man whose name won’t be forgotten.

Were you able to see or tour the USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51), by chance?

Alan Glimpse

Joe Burke, I worked with a man named Jimmy Burke when I was stationed on the Kitty Hawk in the early 80’s. This was up in Bremerton, Wa. I worked with him at various times before the ship was sent back to San Diego. He told us about being related to ADM Burke on the same day he was to have lunch with the Commanding Officer of the Kitty Hawk. The biggest reason I still remember Jimmy after all these years, is he was one of the nicest people I met up there.

Larry manuel

I served on the Valley Forge (lph 8) during VietNam. We had a helio crash on the flight deck and burn

a large hole in the deck. I can’t imagine what the men on the Yorktown endured.

James Dyer

I was on the Valley Forge when that happened Larry. Was in V-4 division working in av-fuels repair when that helo blew up. Shook the whole ship. Was on the hanger deck when this occurred.

Bruce Clark

During WW 2 my dad fought in both the battles of Midway and Coral Sea while in the Navy. He was stationed on a Destroyer Escort.

Mike Yerby

The bravery of our sailors and fighting men and women have never ceased to amaze me in all my 64 years. We all owe an unpayable debt to these fine men and women! I enjoy reading over and over about the history of our Great Nation, The United States of America!

Gerald Ross

I served in Viet Nam era. There are over 56 thousand names on a wall in DC Memorial Plaza. These great men served and gave the ultimate and as we remember all those who served least we not forget them. God Bless America.

Dale wells

I can only think of the sacaravices the people on the home front made to defeat enemys on both shores but none grater than our grand fathers,fathers and yes our grand mothers and mothers.aunts .uncles ,brothers and sisters and to some it all of the GRATIST GENERATION . GOD BLESS THEM ALL,Dale Wells

Jim Morrell

A great story. My close uncle was a Gunnersmate aboard the USS Langley, CVL 27 for its entire tour of the Pacific War. I have always been interested in the Naval war in the Pacific. This is one of the more interesting stories. The Langley, followiing the war, was “loaned to France, and later returned to the US and cut up for scrp.

Hopper Eldridge

Vet here too, but as another story about the “Greatest Generation” and the fantastic carriers of WWII that they fought, and died on, is the story of the USS Franklin, CV-13. It’s another of our carriers that refused to die though beaten to pieces and all but sinking yet still made it back to the West Coast for repairs.

Look her up and read about her story, really make one proud of the US and her fighting forces.

David eide

Thanks for remembering the ‘Franklin-CV-13’. My dad was a pilot on that fateful day,
his airplane was ready for takeoff that morning and was placed on the last row extreme aft,
starboard side. One of the bombs landed a few rows in front of his running plane. He has told me of watching some pilots in front of his plane,exiting their aircraft and running,only to be hit buy running propellors.of other aircraft.He has quite a story of survival that day and I have made it my life’s mission to tell anyone who will listen his remarkable story of survival. May God bless all who have served,are serving in any and all branches.Thank-You for doing a great and sometimes forgotten job.. WE ARE FREE and will remain so!
CT!1 Dave Eide (disabled ret.)

Terry Grant

Thank you for this important reminder of history. Our sailors of “The Greatest Generation” showed us what “Guts” means. They fought under conditions that would overwhelm todays young people. God Bless those heroes, we owe them the freedom and prosperity we enjoy today.

William Lindewirth

My Friend G. Laughery was a PBY PPILOT looking for Enemy Carriers. Far out and low on fuel He was one of the PBY PILOTS that reported whst they thought was the Main Japanses Garrier Group. Without these unarmed Recon Planes we may have lost mire. Thanks Gene. I remember.

ANTHONY FRANK TENCZA ABH_3

Serving on the USS Midway (CVA-41) 󈨅-󈨆 and USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) 󈨆-󈨇 I can relate to the problems the earlier carriers had. I worked on the flight deck in Fly 1 which which is from the island to the bow. I seen accidents and crashes there so I can relate to what happened during WWII. The carriers that I was on were rebuilt and updated WWII carriers, wooden decks and all. My heart goes out to all the servicemen that were lost during WWII. My father was on the USS Nevada (BB-) during WWII.He would tell me stories about being attacked. I’m glad he made it home.

John Palen

Two minor points for you, Port Moresby is in Papua New Guinea, not New Zealand. And the last bullet in the notes section said that the crew of the Lex broke into the ships freezers and finishing off the ice cream, …”Soldiers dipped their helmets…”. Having served in both the Army and the Navy, I believe that you meant to say that the Sailors dipped their helmets into the ice cream, not soldiers, (but if there had been any on board, I’d bet they’d be right there also). Like I said, very minor points, and in no way does it detract from the story. Thanks for writing it.

John Palen
Formerly Sgt, US Army Infantry (11B)
Formerly MM1(SS) US Navy

Bryan

Ha, I knew I’d slip up somewhere! Fixing it now.

Thanks for reading (and editing)!

James Stark

Thanks for this great atricle, very imformative. I forwarded the web addy to some Navy vets, I know. They also enjoyed it.

My father served in the Navy on Midway, the last 2 yrs of WW2. He said, he worked on sea going tugs and mine sweepers.

My self I served 3 yrs Army. 2 tours in ‘Nam. It was a joint service special ops’ duty, with MACV-SOG. As many others, I also have brothers in arms to remember.

JACK PRIEST

THIS DEAR FRIEND IS ONE OF THE MILLIONS OF OUR WONDERFUL MILITARY. HE WAS ON THE USS YORKTOWN, CV-5, WHEN IT WAS SUNK DURING THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY IN WWII IN JUNE 1942. HE WAS A RETIRED CAPTAIN IN THE UNITED STATES NAVY.
dignitymemorial.com
William Lee Howard Obituary – HUNTSVILLE, AL
Celebrate the life of William Lee Howard, leave a kind word or memory…

Jeff Schanbacher

My father was on the Yorktown starting on the East Coast, July 1941. He was with it until it sunk at Midway. He was originally assigned to Squadron 5 as a gunner, but, fortunately, they found he was good at typing and moved him to staff. If he had remained a dive bomber, I would probably not be here today.
I still have the original insignia from the squadron and the fighter list for June 4 and I hope to pass those along to some military museum or collector at some point.
Interestingly, they did not notify the public of the loss of the Yorktown until September. Couldn’t do that now.
Oh, and when they brought the Yorktown to the Pacific in late 1941, they changed the numbers on the ship while it went through the Panama Canal to confuse the enemy.
Thanks for the article (video is no longer available apparently).

Bryan

The dive bomber squadrons, as you well know, fared poorly at Midway, and it’s very fortunate that your grandfather didn’t have to be a part of it. Those TBD Devastators were sitting ducks.

Thanks for the anecdote about the Panama Canal. There’s still so much to be learned! The US and her allies did an excellent job with subterfuge and misinformation during the war.

And thanks for the heads-up about the video.

Carol Ramsey

Thank you for this article. My father was an 18 year old aerographer on USS Yorktown during the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway. He was always my hero, even though he didn’t speak much about his time in the service.

Mark Taylor

Thank You for the great post, my father Robert Taylor ( from Jacksonville, FL) he is 94 and was on the Yorktown at Midway. Although Dad’s hearing has been depleted, he was on one of the port bow 5″ anti aircraft guns, I still get moved by his memories and stories from his time at sea and what those brave sailors in those incredible battles.

Alan Brown

I consider it an honor to have served on the Midway other carriers.Both my father and grandfather couldn’t serve do to health problems.My great grandfather had the honor to serve with T.Rosevelt in Cuba.It is there where he was shot in the leg.

John Reinking

Fantastic job…. my time was spent on the Coral Sea during Vietnam. In fact, we launch the first air strikes against the North.

Gerald Suber

Great article well written thanks for including it. I’m a retired navy chief of 24 years stationed on 2 aircraft carriers and understand well the importance of these vessels. Also had a grangfather a great uncle who served in WW2 navy 3 great uncle’s army one still living and will be 100 in December and you are correct this was men of the greatest generation the best men I’ve ever known. They sacrificed more than today’s generation can fathom and it’s refreshing to see a young man such as yourself honor these true heroes. Thanks

Ronald Dennis

Joseph mcnamara

The psychological effect on the IJN seeing the Yorktown back in action is undeniable. The shipwright’s efforts were simply put, amazing.

The American planes “happening” upon the IJN fleet was a thesis I completed on the ethics of leadership & decision making during war.