The crippled USS Yorktown is abandoned

Without power nothing could be done to correct the list. The switch-board had been destroyed. The ship was in total darkness. It was difficult to move around because of the heavy list to port. Captain Buckmaster and the Damage Control Officer both believed the ship would capsize in a few minutes. Captain Buckmaster gave orders to abandon ship.

I went to the photo lab, starboard side, hangar deck. It was burned black and gutted. Since the fire was out, I left a still camera on the counter. I had the movie camera and made films of sailors in the water.

Destroyers stand by to pick up survivors of USS Yorktown (CV-5) after the carrier was hit by two Japanese aerial torpedoes. From left, the destroyers are: USS Benham, Russell, Balch and Anderson. The photograph was taken from the cruiser USS Pensacola.

I took off my shoes and placed the camera near the rail and asked an officer passing by to hand it down to me. When I looked up he was gone.

I had taped up three cans of exposed film and stuffed them under my dungaree shirt and kapok life jacket . The hand lines were 15 feet short of the ocean because of the list to port. A mess attendant was tangled up in the lines and hollered that he could not swim. I got him free. We both got to the armor belt and I gave him a gentle push and jumped about 15 feet after him. I got him to a life raft. Life rafts were scarce and overloaded; about twenty-five sailors in them or holding on. Wounded were sliding under water, so we secured them.

As each wave broke over my head, the oil and gas vapors burned my eyes and nose making it difficult to breathe. I was covered with bunker oil. Some sailors swallowed oil, and water, and then vomited trying to hang on. Wind and waves kept all of us against the rough side of the steel hull that was tearing at our skin. It was difficult to get away. We were all afraid the Yorktown would roll over, sink, and take us down. I gradually worked my way towards the stern. Captain Buckmaster had gone off the stern, and I heard him hollering that he could not hold on much longer. He was holding a young sailor. Some of the better swimmers went to his rescue. Before long, a motor whale boat took Buckmaster in tow.

All destroyers were weaving back and forth about 300 yards out. They were on high alert and would quickly move out. It was dark when I was finally pulled by a boat towards the destroyer Hammann.

I was dragged aboard at night and lay on the steel deck totally exhausted. I looked for a place to go. All deck space was packed with survivors. I went below. The mess tables were being used to operate on the wounded. Some wounded were covered with blankets waiting and in shock. Finally, I went topside and found an open hatch. That night, totally exhausted, I slept on sacks of potatoes out of the cold and wind. Next morning I tried to get cleaned up.

Hammann crew had given most of their spare clothing to survivors of the carrier USS Lexington at Coral Sea, the month before. I got a shirt and pants. Then we came alongside the heavy cruiser Astoria to transfer the wounded. I saw a Yorktown photographer and passed up the cans of film to him.

The loss of USS Yorktown and USS Hammann

Captain Buckmaster was on the Hammann and sent word he was organizing a salvage party of 29 selected officers and 141 enlisted men. I volunteered.

Hammann returned us to Yorktown early morning June 6, 1942. First order was to put out the fires in the forward rag locker. It was still burning near the forward bomb and torpedo magazines, and the aviation gas storage tanks. We next cut away the port 5 inch guns. I made photos. Then I was asked to help the medic identify and bury the dead left on the flight deck. Next, I helped lower new aircraft from the hangar deck overhead and push them overboard to get the weight off the port side. I asked Captain Buckmaster, to give me one of the new torpedo planes. He said "you got it Roy" as it went over the side to 17,000 feet below. I then went back to the bow to help remove the second 5 inch gun and make photos.

At 1.36 pm the 20mm gun started firing and I ran across to starboard just in time to see the bosun on the bow of Hammann using a fire axe trying to cut the bow lines. The port turbines were screaming as they were backing down. Commander Arnold True was trying to break loose from Yorktown.

Gunfire was shooting at the four torpedoes that had been fired from the Japanese submarine I-168. Hammann, hit by one torpedo under the bridge, blew up alongside Yorktown and broke in two. Sailors were catapulted off the bow forward through the air. Sailors were blown overboard. Yorktown was hit by the next two torpedoes on her starboard side. She rocked up and rolled hard. Great explosive sheets of fire, oil, water and metal blew up between the two ships. The 4th torpedo passed astern. I was knocked over into a bulkhead. Some Yorktown sailors were blown overboard. Sailors were thrown in every direction. I got up and made three sequential photos of the Hammann stern going back with sailors clinging on. When the stern sank many men were in the water. Then the eighteen depth charges on Hammann's stern reached their set depth, and they exploded with a mighty explosion and eruption of water.

This photograph of the stern of the destroyer USS Hammann disappearing beneath the sea was taken by Bill Roy from the starboard fore-castle of the carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) on the afternoon of 6 June 1942 after both ships were hit by torpedoes fired from the Japanese submarine I-168.

The Yorktown rose up out of the water shaking and rolled again. There was only foaming water showing in the last photo I made, where the Hammann stern had sunk.

I went off the starboard side to board the minesweeper Viero, which had cut its tow on Yorktown. We picked up survivors and wounded and dead. Captain Buckmaster performed sea burial services for two officers and one enlisted man.

We then transferred to a destroyer. Next day, early dawn, at 5.30 am June 7, 1942, Yorktown seemed to be on an even keel. We had hopes to salvage the ship and save her. The list of Yorktown was then noticed to be increasing rapidly to port and, at 7.01 am, Yorktown turned over to her port side and sank stern first in about 3000 fathoms of water with all battle flag's flying.


At Lae, Salamaua, Coral Sea and Midway, USS Yorktown played a major role in turning the tide of Japanese military aggression in 1942. In this photograph, taken just after dawn on 7 June 1942, Bill Roy has captured the last moments of USS Yorktown.

I was on the bridge of the destroyer with Captain Buckmaster taking pictures with a K-20 aerial camera. It was the only camera that had film. Buckmaster told the destroyer captain, "take me through the debris where Yorktown sank". We cut through the flotsam. Buckmaster said "come about and go through again". We did. Then, Captain Buckmaster said "go through again". The destroyer skipper said,"I am taking her back to Pearl".