Author Topic: "Scratch One Flattop"  (Read 122 times)

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Offline PeteS in CA

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"Scratch One Flattop"
« on: February 01, 2021, 09:37:54 PM »
The title of Robert C. Stern's Scratch One Flattop comes from the jubilant radio broadcast after the very successful attack on the IJN Shoho. This book covers not just the actual Battle of the Coral Sea but quite a few days before the culminating battle.

The broad context is that Japan has conquered the resources areas - Malaysia and the Dutch East Indies - and has moved on to creating a defensive perimeter to protect those conquests. The IJN being what it was, the operation that led to the Battle of the Coral Sea was complicated, throwing in setting up bases to threaten the US-Australia supply line. The big goals were to neutralize New Guinea by taking the Port Moresby area (multiple airfields) and setting up garrisons and seaplane bases in the central and southern Solomon Islands.

For the USN the timing was near perfect. The code breakers at PH had finally arrived at the point where they had fully broken the then-current version of the IJN's code. So the IJN's plans were largely known. The task groups formed around USS Lexington and USS Yorktown were sent to the area to harass and frustrate the IJN's plans.

In the end, light carrier Hosho was sunk, Shokaku's flight deck was rendered unusable, and the air groups of both Shokaku and Zuikaku severely depleted. The US lost Lexington (two torpedo hits and uncontrollable avgas explosions and fires later in the day) and Yorktown was seriously damaged. Due to much reduced (land-based only) air support, the invasion of Port Moresby was cancelled. And due to Shokaku's damage and the depleted air groups, Shokaku and Zuikaku were not at the Battle of Midway in the following month.

Little of this was news to me. But the narrative is very detailed and one can see pretty clearly the less than excellent leadership style and actions of Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher. One can also see how Shokaku and Zuikaku allowed their attack aircraft groups to gradually deplete prior to the culminating battle.
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