The Battle of the Coral Sea

Honolulu Star-Bulletin Newspaper

May 8, 1942


Below I've posted the front page of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper on May 8, 1942.  It was printed shortly after the culminating day of the Battle of the Coral Sea, when the American aircraft carrier U.S.S. Lexington was sunk by Japanese aircraft and, 200 miles away, the Japanese carrier Shokaku was damaged by bombs from American planes.  Those events also happened on May 8 but because of the International Date Line, the main conflicts in the Coral Sea were about a day old by the time this newspaper was printed.  The following day, May 9, both sides retreated from the Coral Sea to lick their wounds. 


When this newspaper was printed, about 24 hours after the battle's main conflicts, little information had been disclosed by the U.S. Navy regarding the losses they had suffered, as these stories indicate.  News about the sinking of the American carrier U.S.S. Lexington hadn't yet been released, to hinder the Japanese war planning effort and minimize the negative effect of the carrier's loss on the morale of the American public.  News of the Lexington's sinking a huge blow to the U.S. Navy wouldn't be confirmed by the navy for another few weeks, and almost as a quiet afterthought to try to minimize its impact on the American public.


It's interesting to read how both sides distorted the facts.  For instance, the Japanese claimed to have sunk an American battleship.  No American battleships actually participated in the battle, so perhaps this "loss" was instead the destroyer U.S.S. Sims.  The Japanese also claimed to have sunk two heavy U.S. aircraft carriers.  Yes, the Americans had lost the carrier Lexington.  But the carrier Yorktown was only damaged and would be patched up in time to participate in the decisive Battle of Midway in early June.  The American claims of Japanese losses in the Coral Sea having sunk two Japanese aircraft carriers and one heavy cruiser were almost as exaggerated.  In fact, the Americans had sunk one light carrier, the Shoho, and one destroyer, but they had only damaged the heavy carrier Shokaku.


This is a reflection of how stories of success were often exaggerated by the pilots of both sides, of the uncertainty of the battle's actual outcome only 24 hours after the conflict, and of how the media was purposely manipulated by both sides during the war, a fact not uncommon during wartime then and now.


The Battle of the Coral Sea was the first major naval battle between America and Japan during World War II, as these articles describe. The surprise attack of Japanese forces on the American fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor had occurred six months earlier, and during the months afterwards the American navy had skirmished with the Japanese around the Pacific, including at Wake Island.  But this battle, in the Coral Sea, was the first major head-to-head conflict between the U.S. and Japanese navies during the war. 


It's interesting how these articles describe the lofty importance of the Battle of the Coral Sea.  The battle certainly was important during that early phase of the war.  But given later conflicts in the war's Pacific theatre, including at Midway, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and other sites, and how those battles overshadowed the events that had occurred near Australia in May 1942, today most Americans have never even heard of the Battle of the Coral Sea.


I bought this 12-page newspaper on eBay in 2004.  Click on the image below to see a larger version.




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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