A good ship if there ever was one, the U.S.S. Coral Sea...

Salmagundi

July 16, 1993

A good ship if there ever was one, the U.S.S. Coral Sea recently was tugged up the Chesapeake Bay to be scrapped here in Baltimore by Kurt Iron and Metal.

The huge aircraft carrier was authorized during World War II, joined the active fleet in 1950 and saw action in Vietnam, where its planes flew the first and last sorties of that conflict. It also took part in many other missions.

It was named for one of the most epic naval battles ever fought. Here is Martin Gilbert's thumbnail account of the Battle of the Coral Sea:

"On May 2 [1942], alerted by their daily reading of the most secret Japanese ciphers, United States naval forces intercepted a Japanese fleet escorting two invasion forces across the Coral Sea, one aimed for Tulagi in the Solomon Islands, the other for Port Moresby, on the southern coast of New Guinea, less than 500 miles from Australia.

"For four days, a series of battles were fought, mostly from the decks of aircraft carriers, in which 70 Japanese and 66 American planes were shot down; almost equal losses in what was the first 'air-naval' battle in history: Not a single shot was fired by the ships against each other, the battle being entirely fought by the aircraft carriers of the two fleets, plane against plane and plane against ship.

"During the battle, the American fleet aircraft carrier Lexington was so badly damaged by aerial attack that she had to be sunk; of her crew, 216 had been killed by Japanese bombs and aerial torpedoes. The Japanese lost the light aircraft carrier Shoho.

"If ships lost were the measure, it was a Japanese victory. Japan, however, was forced as a result of her losses in the air battle, particularly of highly trained and experienced pilots, to call a halt to her southward expansion."

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