|Battle of the Coral Sea|
|Carrier battle, first day|
|Carrier battle, second day|
|Recovery, reassessment and retreat|
Carrier battle, first day
Believing that Takagi's carrier force was somewhere north of his location, in the vicinity of the Louisiades, Fletcher directed Yorktown to send 10 SBD dive bombers as scouts to search that area beginning at 06:19. In the meantime, Takagi, located approximately 300 miles due east of Fletcher, had launched 12 Type 97 carrier bombers at 06:00 to scout for TF17. Hara believed that Fletcher's ships were located to the south and advised Takagi to send the aircraft to search that area. Around the same time, Gotō's cruisers Kinugasa and Furutaka launched four Kawanishi E7K2 Type 94 floatplanes to search southeast of the Louisiades. Augmenting their search were several floatplanes from Deboyne, four Kawanishi Type 97s from Tulagi, and three Mitsubishi Type 1 bombers from Rabaul. Each side readied the rest of its carrier attack aircraft to launch immediately once the enemy was located.
At 08:20, one of the Furutaka aircraft found Fletcher's carriers and immediately reported it to Inoue's headquarters at Rabaul, which passed the report on to Takagi. The sighting was confirmed by a Kinugasa floatplane at 08:30. Takagi, trusting the reports from his own scout aircraft, disregarded the cruiser floatplane reports.
At 08:15, a Yorktown SBD, piloted by John L. Nielsen, sighted Japanese cruisers, either from Marumo's or Gotō's forces, screening the invasion convoy and, making an error in his coded message, reported them as "two carriers and four heavy cruisers" 200 miles northwest of TF17. Fletcher concluded that the Japanese main carrier force had been located and ordered the launch of all available carrier aircraft to attack. By 10:13, the American strike of 93 aircraft, including 18 Wildcat fighters, 53 SBD dive bombers, and 22 TBD Devastator torpedo bombers, was on its way. At 10:19, Nielson landed and discovered his coding error. At 10:12, however, Fletcher had received a report from a United States Army B-17 search aircraft which had sighted an aircraft carrier and ten transports between 30 to 60-miles from the cruisers sighted by the Yorktown SBD. The sighting was of Shōhō and the Port Moresby Invasion Force transports. Believing that this was the main Japanese carrier force, Fletcher redirected the airborne strike force towards this target.
Four dive bombers attacked Sims and the rest dived on Neosho. The destroyer was hit by three bombs, broke in half, and sank immediately, killing all but 14 of her 192-man crew. Neosho was hit by seven bombs. One of the dive bombers, hit by anti-aircraft fire, crashed into the oiler. Heavily damaged and without power, Neosho was left drifting and slowly sinking. Before losing power, Neosho was able to notify Fletcher by radio that it was under attack and in trouble, but garbled any further details as to just who or what was attacking her and gave wrong coordinates for its position.
The American strike aircraft sighted Shōhō a short distance northeast of Misima Island at 10:40 and deployed to attack. The Japanese carrier was protected by six Zeros and two Type 96 fighters flying combat air patrol (CAP), as the rest of the carrier's aircraft were being prepared below decks for a strike against the American carriers. Goto's cruisers surrounded the carrier in a diamond formation, 3,000 to 5,000 yards off each of Shōhō's corners.