This is the story of the gallant ship that played a major role in turning the tide of the Pacific War against Japan in 1942


This short history is dedicated to all those who served in USS Yorktown (CV-5)
between her commissioning at Norfolk, Virginia, and her loss at the Battle of Midway.

The aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) was in action guarding the Atlantic sea lanes even before Japan attacked the United States on 7 December 1941. After Pearl Harbor, Yorktown was continually in action from the Marshall-Gilbert Raids on 1 February 1942 to the great naval battle at Midway in the central Pacific on 4 June 1942.

Air groups from USS Yorktown and USS Lexington (CV-2) crossed the towering Owen Stanley Range in New Guinea to attack Japanese invasion forces at Lae and Salamaua on 10 March 1942. This devastating and brilliantly executed raid almost certainly changed the course of the Pacific War in favor of the Allies. By delaying the Japanese timetable for building a forward airfield on Guadalcanal, the Lae-Salamaua Raid made possible the successful landing by US Marines on Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942.

USS Yorktown (CV-5) holds the line in the South Pacific in April 1942.

Between 16 March and 31 April 1942, Yorktown was the only American carrier standing between the advancing Japanese and Australia. Artist Mark Churms has captured Yorktown while the carrier is moored off Tongatapu in the Tonga (or Friendly) Islands for provisioning and upkeep.

USS YORKTOWN CV-5 -Tongatabu 1942 © 2001. All Rights reserved.

Permission to illustrate this history of USS Yorktown (CV-5) on the Pacific War Web-site with this superb painting of the famous carrier was generously given by the distinguished artist Mark Churms. A range of his historical art can be viewed on-line.

A new Pacific War web-site featuring interactive animations of key Pacific War battles, including Coral Sea, Midway, and Guadalcanal is now online. These excellent animations should assist viewers to follow text descriptions of very complex battles such as Midway and Coral Sea. Strongly recommended.

At the Battle of the Coral Sea on 7 and 8 May 1942, Yorktown and Lexington engaged and repelled a powerful Japanese invasion force that was intending to capture the vital Allied base at Port Moresby. By rendering two of Japan's best fleet carriers unfit for action, Yorktown and Lexington laid the foundation at Coral Sea for the extraordinary American victory at Midway. The vital contribution of the Battle of the Coral Sea to turning the tide of war against Japan is only now being fully appreciated.

Despite carrying hastily repaired battle damage from Coral Sea, and a rapidly assembled Air Group-5 drawn from whatever pilots and aircraft were available, Yorktown played a major role in achieving the American victory at the Battle of Midway, 4-6 June 1942. Yorktown's air group located and destroyed the Japanese fleet carrier Soryu on 4 June. Later on that same day, Yorktown's air group located the fleet carrier Hiryu and played a major role in its destruction.

The Japanese counter-attack at Midway was focussed on Yorktown, and although superbly managed, she received massive battle damage and had to be abandoned. Yorktown was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine as an attempt was being made by her crew to salvage her. When Yorktown rolled over and slipped beneath the dark waters of the Pacific at dawn on 7 June 1942, with all of her battle flags still flying, the men who had served in her could take comfort in the knowledge that their gallant ship had played a major role in turning the tide of war against the Japanese.

Questions have been raised as to why the gallant Yorktown was denied a Presidential Unit Citation. The US Navy has never provided a satisfactory answer to this question. Perhaps one possible answer is that the war had moved on, and during the last months of 1942 the US Pacific Fleet and US Marines were engaged in a deadly struggle with the Japanese for possession of Guadalcanal. At this stage, Yorktown's broken hull was lying in eternal darkness three miles below the surface of the Pacific, and her air group and crew had been split up and assigned to other ships. It now appears clear that the US Navy failed to appreciate in 1942 how important Yorktown's contribution had been to turning the tide of war.

Sixty years later, with a better appreciation of the Pacific War theatre, it is possible to state positively that Yorktown (CV-5) did more than any other ship in 1942 to halt the seemingly unstoppable advance of the Japanese across the Pacific. It can be fairly argued that the time is long overdue for Yorktown's contribution to be appropriately recognised.


Yorktown's service prior to Pearl Harbor

The US Navy responds to Pearl Harbor

The Marshall-Gilbert Islands Raid

Yorktown returns to the South Pacific

The Lae-Salamaua Raid

Yorktown holds the line in the South Pacific

The Battle of the Coral Sea

"Coral Sea and other Reflections " by Lieutenant Commander Otis Kight, USN (Ret.)

The Battle of Midway

"A Year aboard the USS Yorktown (CV-5)" by Judson M, Brodie

Yorktown's service in retrospect