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Date: Thursday, 4 June 1942
Place: Midway, Oceania
Destroyers stand by to pick up survivors as USS Yorktown (CV-5) is abandoned during the afternoon of June 4, following Japanese torpedo plane attacks. Destroyers at left are (left to right): USS Benham (DD-397), USS Russell (DD-414), and USS Balch (DD-363). Destroyer at right is USS Anderson (DD-411). Photographed from USS Pensacola (CA-24). At about 1400 on June 4, 1942, soon after Yorktown began to move again following bomb damage repairs, her radar detected a second incoming raid from the Japanese carrier Hiryu. This formation included ten torpedo planes commanded by Lieutenant Joichi Tomonaga, plus six escorting fighters. As they approached, Yorktown steadily increased her speed to about twenty knots and launched additional "Wildcats", some with very little fuel. Despite losses to the defending F4F fighters and heavy anti-aircraft fire, the Japanese planes pushed on to deliver a beautifully coordinated torpedo attack. Approaching Yorktown from both sides, in an attack designed to divide her defenses and make it impossible for her to maneuver to avoid all their "fish", the Japanese strike force dropped several of the very effective Type 91 torpedoes. Those coming from starboard missed, but one hit Yorktown squarely amidships on the port side. She immediately took a slight list and started to turn. Then a second torpedo hit, in almost the same place. The two warheads opened a very large hole, flooding machinery spaces and other compartments. Her propulsion knocked out once again, Yorktown coasted to a stop and began to list dangerously. Within a few minutes of her torpedoing, USS Yorktown had listed heavily to port, almost bringing her hangar deck to sea level. More importantly, she had lost all steam and electrical power, and therefore could not effectively control and counter flooding. Facing a threat that the stricken carrier might capsize, drowning most of her crew, her Commanding Officer, Captain Elliot Buckmaster, made the reluctant decision to abandon ship. At about 1500 hours on 4 June, the grim process got underway, as crewmen began to go down knotted ropes into the oily water surrounding their ship. Escorting destroyers sent boats and stood by to pick up the survivors. One destroyer, USS Benham (DD-397) took in over 700 men, three times as many as in her own crew!
Official U.S. Navy Photograph #80-G-21694, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives