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A grim tableau of destruction greeted the task force built around the United States Navy aircraft carrier Lexington on December 11, 1941. As a yeoman on Rear Admiral John Newton’s staff, Joseph H. ‘Jack’ Adams witnessed the spectacle of defeat.

‘I remembered how Pearl Harbor looked the previous August,’ Adams said. ‘It was filled with what seemed like hundreds of ships–battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers. I thought nobody would be able to defeat us. Now Battleship Row was wrecked. Four battleships were sunk, and the other three were damaged. There was oil and every type of debris floating in the harbor. I said to myself, ‘This will go down in history. Everybody in the United States should see this.’ I was only 17 1/2 years old.’

Six months later, young Adams saw the tide of war turn in the Pacific at the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. In an interview with Roger Steinway, he described his role in those pivotal events.

Military History: What prompted your enlistment in the U.S. Navy in 1941?

Adams: When I graduated from high school in Dayton, Texas, in May 1941, there were no jobs. Two friends of mine had joined the Navy in January of ’41. They came home on leave and told me I could get good training and do more than swab decks. I received my parents’ permission and went into the Navy on June 3, 1941.

MH: Where was your initial training?

Adams: Boot camp was in San Diego, Calif. You could tell that America was gearing up for war. A carrier task force was across the bay at North Island. B-24 Liberator bombers from the Consolidated Aircraft factory flew over our barracks. New recruits were arriving by the hundreds.

MH: What did you learn in basic training?

Adams: It lasted for 10 weeks. We must’ve marched about six hours a day. There was physical fitness and swimming. We were taught self-defense, small-arms shooting, first aid, seamanship, personal hygiene and health, firefighting, discipline and how to properly pack a sea bag. Believe me, these things would be part of reality later on.

MH: Didn’t you meet someone from home at boot camp?

Adams: Frank Malcolm Rowell from Daisetta, Texas. We had competed against each other in high school sports. We went home on ‘boot leave’ together after basic training and took the Navy transport ship Wharton to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. I was assigned to the heavy cruiser Chicago. I saw Frank off to the motor launch that took him to the battleship Arizona in August 1941.

MH: What were your duties on Chicago?

Adams: My battle station was to operate one of the three shell hoists for the after 8-inch gun turret. On anti-aircraft exercises I was a pointer for a 5-inch gun. However, the ship’s tailor was about to be discharged. I was offered his job because I had done alterations for a cleaning and pressing shop back home. You could make around $50 extra a month tailoring for the crew. My pay was only $21 a month at that time.

MH: How did you make the jump from ship’s tailor to the admiral’s staff?

Adams: Everybody knew that I could type pretty well. My records made it up to the flag group–the admiral’s staff. One of the staff sailors was fixing to get discharged. A yeoman asked me if I would be interested in the job. It was like a message from heaven! I passed a typing test and became a member of the staff of Rear Adm. Newton.

MH: Who was in the flag group?

Adams: About 120 officers, signalmen, radiomen, yeomen and Marines made up the staff. The flag is in charge of the task force. My assignment was in the communications office, where I typed out dispatches. A chief petty officer taught me shorthand, which got me promoted to yeoman first class. There were no Xerox machines in those days. Everything had to be written or typed out. This meant that after the decoding officer, I was the first to know what was going on. Another nice thing was that I would type out letters home for the admiral’s stewards. They would then feed me the same food the admiral ate.

MH: Your job with the flag group was interrupted, however. What happened?

Adams: Chicago led a task force back to San Francisco Bay for maintenance. While I was there, I learned that my father had died, and I received a 10-day emergency leave. At the end of my leave, I heard that sailors on leave from the cruiser Salt Lake City had been recalled. Nobody contacted me, but the recalls were true. I reported back to Chicago at Vallejo.

MH: Did you believe there was a crisis brewing in the Pacific in November 1941?

Adams: There were a number of Japanese freighters tied up in San Francisco Bay. I was told that these ships were being quarantined. I wasn’t ignorant about what was going on. In basic training we had been told to watch out for Japanese spies.

MH: Few Americans realize it, but the aircraft carrier crews of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were ‘watching out’ in early December 1941.

Adams: On December 5, 1941, Chicago led a task force built around the carrier Lexington to Midway Island, at the western end of the Hawaiian Islands, about 1,000 miles from Pearl Harbor. Lexington was to transport Marine Corps Vought SB2U Vindicator scout bombers to the base on Midway. We were two days out of Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked.

MH: How did you find out about the attack?

Adams: I was on watch in the communications office on December 7. Messages came in about 6:30 a.m. concerning unidentified submarines in the outer area of Pearl Harbor. Ensign Bill Clapp ran them up to the admiral. About 7:50 I heard the radio operator say, ‘My God! Look at this!’ He handed me a message in plain English. ‘Air raid Pearl Harbor–This is no drill–Repeat–No drill.’ The admiral was informed and General Quarters was sounded.

MH: Did the task force return to Pearl Harbor immediately?

Adams: No. We were sent to the southwest toward the Marshall and Gilbert islands. These islands were the closest Japanese territory to Hawaii, so it was logical to assume that these were the staging area for the raid on Pearl. Lexington did launch its air group when a Japanese carrier was reported. It turned out to be a U.S. Navy barge that had broken loose from its tow. The planes returned with their bombs and torpedoes attached. The search for the Jap fleet continued for four days until we returned to Pearl Harbor on Thursday, December 11.

MH: How did the damage look to you?

Adams: After clearing the torpedo nets at the mouth of the channel, we could see Hickam Field, the Army’s air base, to starboard. Burned buildings, hangars and charred aircraft were visible. You could see the battleship Nevada stuck in the mud. She had been badly damaged and ran aground after trying to make a dash out of the harbor. To port we were looking straight up Battleship Row. California was sunk in the mud, with water up to her main deck. Oklahoma had capsized. West Virginia was also sunk, with her deck awash. Arizona was blasted into bits. Her main mast and bridge were bent forward.

MH: What happened to Frank Rowell?

Adams: He was dead–one of the hundreds of sailors entombed within Arizona. Just 18 years old and probably didn’t know what hit him. Chicago‘s buoy was a couple of hundred yards astern of Arizona, and I was saddened to look at her. My wife and I traveled to Hawaii in 1974, and we went to the Arizona Memorial. It was a chilling experience thinking about Frank and other boot-camp buddies who were on the ship. I wrote a letter about Frank to our local newspaper, which was published on the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

MH: What happened after the attack?

Adams: It seemed to me that the admirals were assessing the damage and gathering ships for both defensive and offensive actions as the new year approached. It was very fortunate that our three Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers–Enterprise, Saratoga and Lexington–missed the Pearl Harbor attack. The carriers were all we had to hit back with and were now the most important ships in the fleet. Our task force put to sea in early January 1942, to attack the Japanese in the Marshall and Gilbert islands, but the mission was called off on the eve of the attack. There was both good and bad news at that time. The bad news was that a Jap submarine had torpedoed Saratoga on January 11 and temporarily put her out of action. The good news was that Enterprise and the newly arrived Yorktown had attacked the Marshall and Gilbert islands. Those attacks had a great effect on morale. Then on February 7, 1942, the staff went over to Yorktown. Our new commander was Rear Adm. Frank Jack Fletcher.

MH: It must have been quite a change to go from a cruiser to an aircraft carrier.

Adams: The size of the ship was unbelievable. Three football fields would fit end to end on her flight deck. She had a complement of more than 2,000 men, operated 100 planes and had three elevators to take planes from the flight deck to the hangar deck–one fore, one aft and one amidships. My quarters were two decks below the hangar on the port side amidships, and I wasn’t particularly thrilled about the location. I think we were one deck below the armor belt and about even with the waterline. I wondered if I would wake up some night with a Japanese torpedo in my bunk.

MH: When did Yorktown put to sea?

Adams: We steamed for the South Pacific in mid-February. Scout planes and anti-submarine patrols were always in the air. We drilled on simulated air attacks. In the first week of March, Lexington‘s task force joined us, and we began operating in the Coral Sea between New Guinea and the northeast coast of Australia. The Japanese had landed troops at Salamaua and Lae in New Guinea. Planes from both carriers bombed the Japanese on March 10, and claimed several ships sunk. For a few weeks the task force roamed the Coral Sea, seeking out the enemy and running short of supplies. I think I ate only spaghetti and canned tomatoes for two weeks. In mid-April, we went to Tongatabu, in the Tonga Islands, for provisions.

[Note: By early May 1942, only the southeastern portion of Australian New Guinea remained in Allied hands, but the Japanese army was stalled in the rugged Owen Stanley Mountains. To break the deadlock, the Japanese decided on an amphibious invasion against Port Moresby, the main Allied supply base on New Guinea’s southeastern coast.]

MH: Tell us about the Coral Sea battle.

Adams: The Japanese invaded Tulagi, in the Solomon Islands, on May 4. We made air attacks on the Japanese anchorage, sinking and damaging several vessels. However, the Japanese were alerted to the fact that American carriers were nearby. On May 7, we fueled from the fleet oiler Neosho. I had a friend from Seguin, Texas, on Neosho, and one of our yeomen had a brother aboard her. We got to talk to them using semaphore. Neosho headed out to Australia about 10 a.m., with the destroyer Sims escorting her. That afternoon, Japanese planes found and sank them both. Meanwhile, our search planes had sighted a group of enemy ships about 175 miles northwest of the task force. The air group launched a perfectly coordinated attack on the light carrier Shoho. Our planes reported that Shoho sank so quickly that many of her crew didn’t have a chance to abandon ship. We received the famous radio report, ‘Scratch one flattop.’ I found out this was sent by Lt. Cmdr. Robert Dixon of Lexington‘s dive bomber group. I became well acquainted with him later, when we served on the staff of Rear Adm. Frederick Sherman.

MH: Did the Japanese launch an airstrike?

Adams: Our radar picked up a number of ‘bogies’ late in the afternoon. We sent up additional combat air patrol (CAP) fighters–Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats. Both Yorktown and Lexington took cover in a rain squall. Our fighters chased the Japanese off, and we began to land the CAP after dark. Four of our Wildcats were in the landing circle when suddenly they were joined by six or seven other planes. I was topside and could see one of these strange-looking planes approaching the stern, flying somewhat faster than the usual landing approach, but he was in the groove. As he got closer, the pilot suddenly poured on the power and flew down the port side of the ship. He was close enough that I thought I could touch the plane. This plane wasn’t stubby like our Wildcat. It was sleeker, and the blue exhaust flames came out the side of the engine cowling, in contrast to the Wildcat’s exhaust, which came out the bottom. This plane was clearly a Japanese navy Zero [Mitsubishi A6M2] fighter. If Yorktown‘s landing signal officer hadn’t waved him off for coming in too fast, he would have landed. This still makes my hair stand on end. The other planes were Japanese. They were lost and mistook us for one of their carriers. Every ship in the task force opened fire on the Jap planes.

MH: So you were aware that there was at least one more Japanese carrier out there. It must have been a tense night.

Adams: Later that night I was on watch in the communications office. We began intercepting Japanese radio transmissions, which indicated the two forces were very close to each other. We found out later that we were moving in opposite directions and passed each other by 32 miles. I figured that all hell would break loose the next morning, and it did.

MH: What was the fighting like on May 8?

Adams: General Quarters sounded earlier than usual, and the scout, CAP and anti-submarine planes were launched. About 8 a.m., search planes found two large Japanese aircraft carriers with a screen of cruisers and destroyers 200 miles away. The carriers turned out to be Shokaku and Zuikaku. Yorktown and Lexington launched their air groups, and so did the Japanese. The first report of Japanese activity came from our air group when they passed the Japanese air group. Our radar reported the enemy about 60 miles out at the same time that Yorktown and Lexington air groups sent the message, ‘Enemy carrier force sighted.’ The air department kept us informed of the closing Japanese planes, using the loudspeaker. Yorktown speeded up to about 30 knots. When the cruisers and destroyers started to open fire with 5-inch guns, the announcement was, ‘Air department take cover, gunnery department take over.’ Every ship in the task force opened up–first the 5-inch guns, then the 1.1-inch pom-poms, then the 20mm guns and finally the .50-caliber machine guns.

MH: How many Japanese aircraft were involved in the first attack?

Adams: I am not sure about the number of [Aichi D3A1] dive bombers that attacked us. The first group I saw came down from the starboard quarter. Five or six bombs missed us, but not by very much. A near miss feels like it lifts the ship out of the water and can result in underwater damage to the hull as well as structural damage above the waterline. The next thing I felt was a tremendous jolt. We had been hit by an armor-piercing bomb that went through the flight deck, the hangar deck and into one of the mess halls, where it exploded and killed 44 people. I know Yorktown was attacked by 16 enemy torpedo planes [Nakajima B5N2s] because I was counting them. They came in during the dive-bombing attack from astern and fanned out to make their runs low over the water with black cigar shapes hanging from their bellies. Yorktown dodged or combed all the torpedoes because of superb helmsmanship by Captain Elliot Buckmaster and his team. The attack was over in just a few minutes.

MH: Lexington did not fare as well, did she?

Adams: I could see her from Yorktown‘s flight deck. Lexington had taken hits from bombs and torpedoes. I’ll say this for her, she maintained her position and speed for the next couple of hours, and was even able to operate her aircraft until a massive explosion occurred about 1 p.m. Now I probably should’ve known better, but I was keeping a diary of what was happening. If you look at all the books that have been written about World War II, many people had to be keeping them. I was on the flight deck watching the explosions coming from Lexington, making note of the times. An officer came up and asked me what I was doing. I told him, and he said that it was against regulations, so I gave him the diary. About 4 p.m. Lexington had to be abandoned and our destroyers sank her. Our task force retired to Tongatabu, where divers examined the underwater damage to Yorktown. We then proceeded to Pearl Harbor.

MH: How did the attack on the Japanese carriers go?

Adams: We had some radio messages, indicating that a Jap carrier had been hit. We got a clearer picture when we took our air group and Lexington‘s aboard. Our planes had scored several bomb hits on Shokaku. She was out of action for several months. Our airmen paid the price. One Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bomber crashed into the island structure–the carrier’s command and control tower. Both the pilot and gunner had been badly wounded.

MH: Who won the Battle of Coral Sea?

Adams: Well, the invasion fleet bound for Port Moresby was stopped, and nobody had stopped a Jap invasion force before. They never came south of the Solomons after Coral Sea. The enemy lost a light aircraft carrier, a destroyer [Kikuzuki, during the May 4 strike on Tulagi] and suffered damage to a larger carrier. We lost our largest carrier, Lexington, the oiler Neosho and the destroyer Sims, and suffered damage to Yorktown. The battle convinced the Japanese that they needed a final showdown with the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers.

MH: What was the situation when you returned to Pearl Harbor?

Adams: Yorktown went immediately to dry dock for repairs. Civilian workers swarmed all over the ship. They repaired the hull and much of the internal damage in two days. We went back to sea on May 30. We were underway for a few hours when our air group came aboard. Yorktown had the same type of aircraft we used at Coral Sea–the Dauntless dive bombers and old Douglas TBD-1 Devastator torpedo planes. There was also the newer model of the Wildcat fighter, the F4F-4 with folding wings, so we could carry more of them. I was standing in the passageway of the island counting the planes when the Wildcats started to land and taxi forward. Lieutenant Commander Donald Lovelace landed his plane and was taxiing past the landing barrier when the next Wildcat came in and hit the deck hard. The plane bounced about 4 feet in the air, and the tailhook didn’t grab the arresting cable. The pilot didn’t seem to have any control of the plane, and when it passed the aft 1.1-inch gun mount, it seemed to turn directly for me. Well, I ran like hell. There was a loud bang, then a sound that reminded me of a piece of paper hitting a fan blade. The bouncing Wildcat had crashed into Lovelace’s Wildcat, and its propeller had torn great chunks out of the plane all the way up to the cockpit. Lovelace was killed.

MH: Did you know where you were going?

Adams: Yes. Captain Buckmaster told the crew after we were underway. Admiral Fletcher was in charge of two task forces that included the carriers Enterprise and Hornet. We didn’t know that the Navy had broken the Japanese code and discovered Midway was their target. Our carriers went out to ambush them. Patrol planes from Midway spotted Japanese ships on June 3, and long-range Navy and Army bombers from the island took a poke at them the same day. The Japanese aircraft carriers launched their planes against Midway on the morning of June 4, and the U.S. Navy, Army and Marine Corps planes based there replied in kind. Once the enemy carriers were sighted, our carriers launched their air groups. Enterprise and Hornet launched first because they were closer to the enemy. Yorktown launched a strike force made up of dive bombers, torpedo planes and fighters about 9 a.m. I was on duty in the communications office around 10 a.m. when radar reported an enemy plane a short distance from our ships. The CAP was there almost at once. We were able to see a fireball followed by a long black trail of smoke. Our fighters had shot down the Jap scout plane, but we had been spotted.

MH: When did the Japanese attack?

Adams: It was noon. I had just been relieved in the communications office and had gone to my battle station on the port catwalk with the radio repair group. If a plane had its radio shot up, we would replace it. The flight deck officer gave us the closing distance of the enemy planes. When they got close, we watched our fighters go after the Japanese. The planes on fire and crashing looked like Roman candles coming down. I am not sure about how many Jap planes there were, but seven dive bombers made it through the fighters and anti-aircraft fire to Yorktown. Three of them scored hits.

MH: What happened then?

Adams: I watched them come down, and it seemed that Jap fliers did more of a glide-bombing run than our dive-bomber pilots, who attacked almost vertically. The first plane’s bomb was a near miss on the starboard side. Then we were hit by an armor-piercing bomb that went through the smokestack. Another bomb hit us up forward. An enemy contact bomb exploded just aft of the mid-deck elevator. It wiped out the 1.1-inch gun battery aft of the island. There was a machine-gunner and loader up on the searchlight platform on the smokestack. When the bomb went off, I saw a sailor on the smokestack platform come cartwheeling down to the flight deck. It was a good 40-foot drop. When the raid was over, I went up on the flight deck to see if I could help him. He appeared to be dead. There was blood running out his nose, mouth and ears. A pharmacist’s mate was there also, and I believe he thought the same thing. The injured sailor was taken to sickbay, but was left behind with another wounded man when the ship was abandoned. These two men revived and made it to the hangar deck. They attracted the attention of the destroyers by firing a machine gun into the water. George Weise was the name of the man who fell from the smokestack. I met him at the reunion of Yorktown‘s crew in 1988.

MH: So Yorktown was seriously damaged…

Adams: …And dead in the water. Damage control went to work quickly. The holes in the flight deck were covered with steel plates. It seemed like forever, but actually it took less than two hours to get underway. Meanwhile, Admiral Fletcher had transferred with some of the staff to the cruiser Astoria. I stayed on Yorktown.

MH: But you were not out of danger.

Adams: We had been expecting a torpedo-plane attack along with dive bombers. It finally came at about 2:30 p.m. The ship was only moving at 15 knots, too slow to dodge torpedoes, but our gunnery officer had .30- and .50-caliber machine-gun stanchions erected on almost every section of catwalk that could hold the weight. I should mention that in the midst of all of this we launched our last flyable planes. Our fighters hit the enemy planes first, then the anti-aircraft guns and finally the machine guns opened up. It was unbelievable that anything could fly through that barrage of steel. The first plane dropped its torpedo and then barely cleared our flight deck, going from port to starboard. A Marine Corps gunner on a .50-caliber machine gun shot him down off the bow. Another plane had us in its sights because I saw two streaks of foam about 50 yards apart, coming directly at me. I held on to a door and braced myself. The two torpedoes hit almost simultaneously. Paint chips flew off the deck and bulkhead to hit me in the face. The explosions lifted Yorktown out of the water. There was a sickening smell of smoke, and a yellow haze formed over the port side. I looked over the catwalk rail and saw fuel oil pouring out of the side of the ship. The ship was listing fast, and everything seemed to go silent. That was very frightening.

MH: Where did the torpedoes hit in relation to your battle station?

Adams: Almost beneath where I was standing. The catwalk had snapped several feet aft, and the explosion had thrown it on the flight deck. The six of us at the station felt sure that the ship would capsize, but we didn’t want to jump off the port side for fear of falling into jagged edges of metal sticking out from the hull. It was better to climb up on the flight deck. The list was steep, and the flight deck was slick with water and oil. We couldn’t walk across, so we crawled along, putting our fingers into the metal recesses on the deck that were used to lash down aircraft. After several attempts, I finally made the starboard side. I went in back of the island to the first rope line I could find. These lines with knots tied in them were secured in various places in the event we had to abandon ship. Whoever thought of these certainly deserved a medal because those lines saved many lives. I was a good 75 feet above the water and could see men swimming, so I started down the line, holding on to the knots. Just before reaching the end of the line, I realized I couldn’t see the water. The list of the ship obscured my view. The possibility of landing on top of another sailor in the water caused me to climb back up the line and look for a better place to get off.

MH: Where did you finally abandon ship?

Adams: I made my way aft, taking off my excess clothing. I kept on my T-shirt, shorts, shoes and life jacket. Earlier in the day I put my wristwatch and wallet into a rubber, and I tucked this into the pocket of the life jacket. I joined a small group of men in the aft boat pocket on the starboard side. Someone launched a medium-size life raft into the water below us. There was no rush or panic among the men, who began to abandon ship in an orderly fashion. The months of training began to pay off. The chaplain went down the line, and I followed with another sailor. By this time the oil from the port side had made it around the ship, and I could see hundreds of sailors thrashing away in the inches-deep spill. It brought to mind a large group of turtles or crawfish swimming in a nearly dried-up pond of mud.

MH: Did you make it to the raft?

Adams: Yes, but I didn’t get in. It was mostly filled with wounded men. A lieutenant and I took a line that was attached to the raft, tied it around our waists and began to swim away from the ship. Two men on each side of the raft had oars. It seemed that when we were 50 feet or so away from the stern, the waves would push us back toward the side of the ship. I was worried about suction if the ship went down. With frantic swimming and paddling we finally cleared this obstacle and started to make some headway. Then I heard a cry for help. A chief petty officer was hanging on to a crate and using empty powder cans from a 5-inch gun under each arm as floats. We took him in tow, since he wasn’t a good swimmer.

MH: How long were you in the water?

Adams: About two hours. We felt certain of being rescued since our destroyers were circling Yorktown. I was worried about Jap planes strafing us in the water. Eventually destroyer Benham came close, and her crew threw me a line and towed me in. I had every intention of helping the men from the raft come aboard, but upon reaching Benham‘s deck, I could scarcely stand from exhaustion. A sailor put a blanket around me and led me to a place behind the stack where it was warm. Up until then, I wasn’t even conscious of being cold.

MH: How many Yorktown survivors did Benham pick up?

Adams: More than 300. We were transferred to the cruiser Portland the next day. I felt fairly clean of all the oil I swam through after my fifth shower. The next day we were transferred to the submarine tender Fulton, which took us back to Pearl Harbor.

MH: How did you find out about the results of the Battle of Midway?

Adams: The scuttlebutt sounded good. We learned that four of the enemy carriers–Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu–had been sunk along with the heavy cruiser Mikuma. The Japanese lost all their planes and most of their aircrew, either in combat or for sheer lack of a place to land. It was sad to hear that Yorktown sank after the heroic efforts of Captain Buckmaster and his salvage team. [Yorktown stayed afloat, and a salvage team returned to try to save the ship. But on June 6 the Japanese submarine I-168 fired four torpedoes at Yorktown and the destroyer Hammann, which was tied up to the carrier. Both Yorktown and Hammann were sunk.] The air groups on all three of our carriers also took a beating, particularly the torpedo squadrons. However, this was the victory we needed.

MH: Was Midway the end of your service in the Pacific?

Adams: No, not at all. After the Battle of Midway there was a week in a rest camp at Pearl Harbor. Then I returned to Admiral Fletcher’s staff aboard Saratoga. Saratoga went out to cover the invasion of Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942. I also served on the staffs of Rear Adm. DeWitt C. Ramsay and Rear Adm. Frederick C. Sherman aboard the carriers Saratoga and Bunker Hill. Saratoga and Bunker Hill both saw plenty of action when I was aboard. They took part in Guadalcanal, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, the attacks on Rabaul, the battle for Tarawa, raids on Kavieng, Truk and Saipan. I finally returned to the States in the spring of 1944 and finished out my service at the Sub Chaser Training Center in Miami, Fla., in October 1945.

MH: You saw plenty of combat. Was it frightening, or just your job?

Adams: It was my job, but I’ll tell you when I got scared. It was that first hellacious attack at the Coral Sea. I was scared at Midway, too. But I had been through it before, so it wasn’t as bad.

MH: What are your conclusions about the first six months of the war in the Pacific?

Adams: My observations of Japanese naval fighting men, their abilities and equipment led me to believe that they gave a better account of themselves than we did. This includes the Battle of the Coral Sea. However, during those months the airmen and ship crews of the U.S. Navy learned the lessons we needed to win the Battle of Midway. From my point of view, the Battle of the Coral Sea was the beginning of the end for the Japanese navy.

This article was written by Roger Steinway and originally published in the June 2001 issue of Military History magazine. For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Military History magazine today!