|Battle of the Coral Sea|
|Carrier battle, first day|
|Carrier battle, second day|
|Recovery, reassessment and retreat|
As TF17 recovered its aircraft, Fletcher assessed the situation. The returning aviators reported that they had heavily damaged one carrier, but that another had escaped damage. Fletcher noted that both his carriers were hurt and that his air groups had suffered high fighter losses. At 14:22, Fitch notified Fletcher that he had reports of two undamaged Japanese carriers and that this was supported by radio intercepts. Believing that he faced overwhelming Japanese carrier superiority, Fletcher elected to withdraw TF17 from the battle.
Around 14:30, Hara informed Takagi that only 24 Zeros, eight dive bombers, and four torpedo planes from the carriers remained operational. At 15:00, Takagi notified Inoue that his fliers had sunk two American carriers, but that heavy losses in aircraft meant that he could not continue to provide air cover for the invasion. Inoue immediately recalled the invasion convoy, postponed Mo to July 3, and ordered his forces to redeploy to begin the Ry operation. Zuikaku and her escorts turned towards Rabaul while Shōkaku headed for Japan.
That evening, Crace detached Hobart, which was low on fuel, and the destroyer Walke, which was having engine trouble, to proceed to Brisbane. Crace remained on patrol with the rest of TG17.3 in the Coral Sea in case the Japanese invasion force resumed its advance towards Port Moresby.
On May 9, TF17 altered course to the eastward and proceeded out of the Coral Sea via a route south of New Caledonia. Nimitz ordered Fletcher to return Yorktown to Pearl Harbor as soon as possible after refueling at Tongatabu. During the day US Army bombers attacked Deboyne and Kamikawa Maru, inflicting unknown damage. At 01:00 on May 10, Crace turned towards Australia and arrived at Cid Harbor on May 11.
At 22:00 on May 8, Yamamoto ordered Takagi to turn around and destroy the remaining Allied warships. Critically low on fuel, Takagi's warships spent most of the day of May 9 refueling from the fleet oiler Tōhō Maru. Late in the evening of May 9, Takagi and Gotō headed southeast, then southwest into the Coral Sea. Seaplanes from Deboyne assisted Takagi in searching for TF17. Fletcher's ships, however, were already well on their way out of the area. At 13:00 on May 10, Takagi concluded that the Americans were gone and decided to turn back towards Rabaul. Yamamoto concurred with Takagi's decision and ordered Zuikaku to return to Japan to replenish her air groups. At the same time, Kamikawa Maru packed up and departed Deboyne.
At noon on May 11, a US Navy PBY on patrol sighted the drifting Neosho. The US destroyer Henley responded and rescued 109 Neosho and 14 Sims survivors later that day, then scuttled the tanker with torpedoes.
On May 10, the Ry operation commenced. After the operation's flagship, the minelayer Okinoshima, was sunk by the American submarine S-42 on May 12, the landings were postponed to May 17. In the meantime, Halsey's TF-16 reached the South Pacific near Efate and, on May 13, headed north to contest the Japanese approach to Nauru and Ocean Island. On May 14, King and Nimitz, having obtained intelligence concerning the Combined Fleet's upcoming operation against Midway, ordered Halsey to make sure that Japanese scout aircraft sighted his ships the next day, after which he was to return to Pearl Harbor immediately. At 10:15 on May 15, a Kawanishi reconnaisance aircraft from Tulagi sighted TF-16 445 miles east of the Solomons. Halsey's feint worked. Fearing a carrier air attack on his exposed invasion forces, Inoue immediately canceled Ry and ordered his ships back to Rabaul and Truk. On May 16, TF-16 turned towards Pearl Harbor and arrived there on May 26. Yorktown reached Pearl the following day.