The era of carrier warfare dawned a little earlier in the AL&SWverse than in real life.
|The calm: Lexington, from Yorktown|
As anyone with a passing interest in naval history likely knows, Coral Sea was the first naval battle ever fought where ships of the two opposing sides never saw each other—all of the offense was delivered by carrier-based air power. Two US fleet carriers (USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Yorktown (CV-5)) squared off against two fleet carriers (Shōkaku and Zuikaku) and a light carrier (Shōhō) of the IJN. The carriers exchanged strikes over the course of two days; ultimately, Lexington and Shōhō were fatally wounded, and Yorktown and Shōkaku were seriously damaged. Both sides lost many aircraft (and their crews) and a handful of smaller ships as well. The human toll was about 1,700 men killed.
|The storm: The Lady, in extremis|
As mentioned above, Shōkaku came out of the battle significantly worse for the wear. On the second day of strikes, she took three bomb hits, wrecking her flight deck and damaging her bow. Her crew managed to put out the resulting fires, giving her at least a chance to survive to tell the tale. She was, however, still far from home—and her enemies well knew they’d hurt her badly. They codenamed her “Wounded Bear,” and directed all available assets to find and kill her before she could make port.
That task, of course, largely fell to the submarines.