The Battle of the Coral Sea

The U.S.S. Henley (DD-391)



On the afternoon of May 11, 1942, three days after the U.S. and Japanese fleets had withdrawn from the Coral Sea, the destroyer U.S.S. Henley discovered the disabled tanker, U.S.S. Neosho, listing at 30 degrees and drifting aimlessly with 123 weary survivors on board.  The Neosho had been attacked four days earlier by Japanese dive-bombers and was severely damaged, but because the crew had transmitted the wrong coordinates to the main American fleet, over a hundred miles away, they weren't found until May 11. 


Above:  The navy destroyer U.S.S. Henley was a welcome sight to the men onboard the listing Neosho.

The filthy and sunburned men on the Neosho, many of whom were covered with diesel oil, were elated to see the Henley approach, since they had figured they would never be found.  That included my uncle, Bill Leu.  The men had been preparing to abandon their stricken tanker later that day, board four wooden whale boats and try to make it to Australia, 500 miles away across the open ocean.


After expediting the transfer of survivors, the Henley tried to sink the Neosho to prevent it from being discovered by the Japanese.  In war, knowledge is power and the U.S. Navy didn't want the Japanese to know their planes had sunk a precious American tanker.  The Henley fired a torpedo which was a dud.  The second torpedo found its mark but it failed to sink the battered tanker.  The Henley then opened fire with its 5-inch guns.  After the Henley fired 146 rounds, the Neosho sank into the Coral Sea, stern first.  Many of the Neosho survivors openly wept as they watched the ordeal from the railing of the Henley.  As the Neosho slipped under the waves, they said a final farewell to their beloved friend.


After sinking the Neosho, the Henley searched for additional survivors of the tanker but failing to find any, it sped for the nearest hospital, at Brisbane, Australia.


Here are more photos of the destroyer U.S.S. Henley:







Table of Contents:

U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23)

U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23) Home Page


SECTION 1:  Background

Specifications of the U.S.S. Neosho

Photo Gallery of the U.S.S. Neosho

The Four U.S.S. Neoshos


SECTION 2:  Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941)


Prelude to War:  Conflict in the Far East

Bill Leu's Early Years

The U.S.S. Neosho at Pearl Harbor

Interview of Bill Leu:  The Attack on Pearl Harbor

U.S. Navy Action Report:  U.S.S. Neosho


SECTION 3:  Battle of the Coral Sea (May 1942)


The Battle of the Coral Sea:  Summary

Battle Action:  April 30 - May 4, 1942

Battle Action:  May 5 - May 7, 1942

Battle Action:  May 8, 1942

The Ordeal of the U.S.S. Neosho

May 7, 1942:  The Japanese Attack

May 8, 1942:  Waiting for Rescue

May 9, 1942:  Fading Hope

May 10, 1942:  Neosho Sighted

May 11, 1942:  Rescue

The Battle of the Coral Sea (continued)

List of Survivors and Casualties

U.S.S. Neosho:  Survivors and Casualties

U.S.S. Sims:  Survivors and Casualties

Interview of Bill Leu:  The Battle of the Coral Sea

U.S. Navy Action Reports:  Battle of the Coral Sea

Action Report of U.S.S. Neosho

Action Report of U.S.S. Sims

Action Report of U.S.S. Helm

Other Ships at the Battle of the Coral Sea

The U.S.S. Sims (Neosho's Escort)

>  The U.S.S. Henley (Neosho's Rescuer)

The U.S.S. Helm (Rescued Life Raft)

Battle of the Coral Sea Scrapbook

Honolulu Newspaper:  May 8, 1942

S.F. Examiner Article:  July 10, 1942


SECTION 4:  Aftermath


President Bush's 1991 Speech at Pearl Harbor

Seattle Times Article:  Bill Leu at Pearl Harbor

John S. Phillips, Captain of the U.S.S. Neosho

U.S.S. Neosho Veteran's Forum

Fireman Third Class, Bill Leu

Jack Rolston and the Tragic "Raft of 68"

Links, Sources and Further Information

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