The submarine tender Tsurigizaki had been serving with the Combined Fleet in 1939-1940, but as soon as the conversion of her sister Takasaki into a carrier was completed in December 1940 she was taken in hand, re-emerging in January 1942 as the light carrier Shoho. Shoho did not see any action until the spring of 1942, when she covered the Port Moresby invasion, in the Support Force commanded by Rear-Admiral Aritomo Goto. It was this move by the Japanese which led to the Battle of the Coral Sea, the first carrier-versuscarner battle in history.
The Shoho was heading for Port Moresby on 6 May 1942 when at 10.30 she was sighted 60 miles (100km) south of Bougainville by four Boeing B-17 bombers. The four aircraft attempted a high-level bombing attack on the carrier, but caused negligible damage. The two sides were largely ignorant of each other's whereabouts. In a desperate attempt to find the American carriers, Takagi flew off reconnaissance planes for a dawn sweep on the next day. At 07.30 they reported a carrier and a cruiser, and the Shokaku and Zuikaku immediately flew off a large strike. Unfortunately the 'task force' turned out to be the US Navy oiler Neosho and her escorting destroyer, the USS Sims. It was a fatal error, for while the Japanese were sinking these ships they missed the chance of finding Task Force 17, and left the Americans time to discover the Shoho's carrier group.
The luckless Shoho had been ordered to launch all available aircraft for an attack on the American carriers, and when at 09.50 the Lexington's strike spotted her turning into wind they encountered no resistance. The first strike scored no hits, but a nearmiss blew five aircraft off her deck. At 10.25 a second strike arrived, from the Yorktown this time. This strike scored two devastating hits with 1,000-lb (454kg) bombs on the flight deck, in spite of a curtain of anti-aircraft fire from the Shoho's escorts. The carrier reeled under the blows, and as she began to lose speed more bombs and torpedoes found their mark. According to Japanese records as many as 11 more bombs and seven torpedoes hit, and Shoho burst into flames.
Only six minutes after the last American plane had departed the order was given to abandon ship, and at 10,35 the burning carrier rolled over and sank. Only 255 men out of an estimated total of 800 on board were saved. The Japanese had lost their first aircraftcarrier.
Specification Shoho Displacement: 11,262 tons standard, 14,200 tons full load Dimensions: length 204.8 m (672 ft 0 in) overall; beam 18,2 m (59 ft 8 in); draught 6.6 m (21 ft 8 in) Machinery: 2-shaft geared steam turbines delivering 52,000 shp (38770 kW) Speed: 28.2 knots Armour: none Armament: four twin 127-mm (5-in) dual-purpose and four twin 25-mm AA guns Aircraft: 30 Complement: 785 officers and men