Guide Midway

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Finally, much of Yamamoto's planning, coinciding with the general feeling among the Japanese leadership at the time, was based on a gross misjudgment of American morale, which was believed to be debilitated from the string of Japanese victories in the preceding months. Yamamoto felt deception would be required to lure the U.

They were intended to come up and destroy whatever elements of the U. What Yamamoto did not know was that the U. His emphasis on dispersal also meant none of his formations were in a position to support the others.

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By contrast, Yamamoto and Kondo had between them two light carriers, five battleships, four heavy cruisers, and two light cruisers, none of which would see action at Midway. Similarly, most Americans feared that the occupied islands would be used as potential jumping points for Japanese bombers to attack strategic targets and population centers along the West Coast of the United States.

The Japanese operations in the Aleutian Islands Operation AL removed yet more ships that could otherwise have augmented the force striking Midway. Whereas many earlier historical accounts considered the Aleutians operation as a feint to draw American forces away, according to the original Japanese battle plan, AL was intended to be launched simultaneously with the attack on Midway. A one-day delay in the sailing of Nagumo's task force resulted in Operation AL beginning a day before the Midway attack.

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To do battle with an enemy expected to muster four or five carriers, Admiral Chester W. Spruance , Halsey's escort commander. Despite estimates that Yorktown , damaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea , would require several months of repairs at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard , her elevators were intact and her flight deck largely so. However, her damaged superheater boilers could not be repaired which limited her top speed. Yorktown ' s partially depleted air group was rebuilt using whatever planes and pilots could be found, including those from Saratoga.

Some of the aircrew were inexperienced, which may have contributed to an accident in which Thach's executive officer Lieutenant Commander Donald Lovelace was killed. Although the fleet carrier Zuikaku escaped the battle undamaged, she had lost almost half her air group, and was in port in Kure awaiting replacement planes and pilots. That there were none immediately available is attributable to the failure of the IJN crew training program, which already showed signs of being unable to replace losses. Instructors from the Yokosuka Air Corps were employed in an effort to make up the shortfall.

World War II Facilities at Midway

They also note that doing so would have violated Japanese carrier doctrine, which stressed that carriers and their airgroups must train as a single unit in contrast, American air squadrons were considered interchangeable between carriers. In any case, the Japanese apparently made no serious attempt to get Zuikaku ready for the forthcoming battle.

This was partly due to fatigue; Japanese carriers had been constantly on operations since 7 December , including raids on Darwin and Colombo. The main Japanese carrier-borne strike aircraft were the D3A1 "Val" dive bomber and the B5N2 "Kate", which was used either as a torpedo bomber or as a level bomber. The main carrier fighter was the fast and highly maneuverable A6M "Zero". For a variety of reasons, production of the "Val" had been drastically reduced, while that of the "Kate" had been stopped completely and, as a consequence, there were none available to replace losses.

These factors meant all carriers of the Kido Butai had fewer aircraft than their normal complement, with few spare aircraft or parts stored in the carriers' hangars. In addition, Nagumo's carrier force suffered from several defensive deficiencies which gave it, in Mark Peattie 's words, a " ' glass jaw ': it could throw a punch but couldn't take one.

The IJN's fleet combat air patrol CAP consisted of too few fighter aircraft and was hampered by an inadequate early warning system, including a lack of radar. Poor radio communications with the fighter aircraft inhibited effective command and control of the CAP. The carriers' escorting warships were deployed as visual scouts in a ring at long range, not as close anti-aircraft escorts, as they lacked training, doctrine, and sufficient anti-aircraft guns. Japanese strategic scouting arrangements prior to the battle were also in disarray.

A picket line of Japanese submarines was late getting into position partly because of Yamamoto's haste , which let the American carriers reach their assembly point northeast of Midway known as "Point Luck" without being detected. Thus, Japan was deprived of any knowledge concerning the movements of the American carriers immediately before the battle. Japanese radio intercepts did notice an increase in both American submarine activity and message traffic. This information was in Yamamoto's hands prior to the battle. Japanese plans were not changed; Yamamoto, at sea in Yamato , assumed Nagumo had received the same signal from Tokyo, and did not communicate with him by radio, so as not to reveal his position.

For reasons which remain unclear, Nagumo did not alter his plans or take additional precautions. It was initially not known where "AF" was, but Commander Joseph Rochefort and his team at Station HYPO were able to confirm that it was Midway: Captain Wilfred Holmes devised a ruse of telling the base at Midway by secure undersea cable to broadcast an uncoded radio message stating that Midway's water purification system had broken down.

Japan had a new codebook, but its introduction had been delayed, enabling HYPO to read messages for several crucial days; the new code, which would take several days to be cracked, came into use on 24 May, but the important breaks had already been made. As a result, the Americans entered the battle with a very good picture of where, when, and in what strength the Japanese would appear. Nimitz knew that the Japanese had negated their numerical advantage by dividing their ships into four separate task groups, all too widely separated to be able to support each other.

Nimitz calculated that the aircraft on his three carriers, plus those on Midway Island, gave the U. The Japanese, by contrast, remained mainly unaware of their opponent's true strength and dispositions even after the battle began. Navy patrol squadron VP , [60] spotted the Japanese Occupation Force nautical miles miles; kilometers to the west-southwest of Midway. He mistakenly reported this group as the Main Force. Nine Bs took off from Midway at for the first air attack. Three hours later, they found Tanaka's transport group nautical miles miles; 1, kilometers to the west.

Under heavy anti-aircraft fire, they dropped their bombs. Although their crews reported hitting four ships, [62] none of the bombs actually hit anything and no significant damage was inflicted. This was the only successful air-launched torpedo attack by the U. At the same time, he launched his eight search aircraft one from the heavy cruiser Tone launched 30 minutes late. Japanese reconnaissance arrangements were flimsy, with too few aircraft to adequately cover the assigned search areas, laboring under poor weather conditions to the northeast and east of the task force.

As Nagumo's bombers and fighters were taking off, 11 PBYs were leaving Midway to run their search patterns. At , a PBY reported sighting two Japanese carriers and another spotted the inbound airstrike 10 minutes later. Midway's radar picked up the enemy at a distance of several miles, and interceptors were scrambled. Unescorted bombers headed off to attack the Japanese carriers, their fighter escorts remaining behind to defend Midway.

At , Japanese carrier aircraft bombed and heavily damaged the U. Midway-based Marine fighters led by Major Floyd B. Parks , which included six F4Fs and 20 F2As, [65] intercepted the Japanese and suffered heavy losses, though they managed to destroy four B5Ns, as well as a single A6M. American anti-aircraft fire was intense and accurate, destroying three additional Japanese aircraft and damaging many more.

Of the Japanese aircraft involved in this attack, 11 were destroyed including three that ditched , 14 were heavily damaged, and 29 were damaged to some degree. The initial Japanese attack did not succeed in neutralizing Midway: American bombers could still use the airbase to refuel and attack the Japanese invasion force, and most of Midway's land-based defenses were intact. Japanese pilots reported to Nagumo that a second aerial attack on Midway's defenses would be necessary if troops were to go ashore by 7 June.

Having taken off prior to the Japanese attack, American bombers based on Midway made several attacks on the Japanese carrier force. The main airfield at Guadalcanal was named after him in August One B, after being seriously damaged by anti-aircraft fire, made a suicide run on Akagi. Making no attempt to pull out of its run, the aircraft narrowly missed crashing directly into the carrier's bridge , which could have killed Nagumo and his command staff. In accordance with Japanese carrier doctrine at the time, Admiral Nagumo had kept half of his aircraft in reserve.

These comprised two squadrons each of dive bombers and torpedo bombers. The dive bombers were as yet unarmed. The torpedo bombers were armed with torpedoes should any American warships be located. At , Nagumo ordered his reserve planes to be re-armed with contact-fused general-purpose bombs for use against land targets. This was a result of the attacks from Midway, as well as of the morning flight leader's recommendation of a second strike. Re-arming had been underway for about 30 minutes when, at , [73] the delayed scout plane from Tone signaled that it had sighted a sizable American naval force to the east, but neglected to describe its composition.

Later evidence suggests Nagumo did not receive the sighting report until Nagumo quickly reversed his order to re-arm the bombers with general-purpose bombs and demanded that the scout plane ascertain the composition of the American force. Another 20—40 minutes elapsed before Tone' s scout finally radioed the presence of a single carrier in the American force. This was one of the carriers from Task Force The other carrier was not sighted. Nagumo was now in a quandary. The returning strike force needed to land promptly or it would have to ditch into the sea. Because of the constant flight deck activity associated with combat air patrol operations during the preceding hour, the Japanese never had an opportunity to position "spot" their reserve planes on the flight deck for launch.

Japanese carrier doctrine preferred the launching of fully constituted strikes rather than piecemeal attacks. Without confirmation of whether the American force included carriers not received until , Nagumo's reaction was doctrinaire. In the end, Nagumo decided to wait for his first strike force to land, then launch the reserve, which would by then be properly armed with torpedoes. In the final analysis, it made no difference; Fletcher's carriers had launched their planes beginning at with Enterprise and Hornet having completed launching by , but Yorktown not until , so the aircraft that would deliver the crushing blow were already on their way.

Even if Nagumo had not strictly followed carrier doctrine, he could not have prevented the launch of the American attack. The Americans had already launched their carrier aircraft against the Japanese. Fletcher, in overall command aboard Yorktown , and benefiting from PBY sighting reports from the early morning, ordered Spruance to launch against the Japanese as soon as was practical, while initially holding Yorktown in reserve in case any other Japanese carriers were found.

Spruance judged that, though the range was extreme, a strike could succeed and gave the order to launch the attack.


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The carriers had to launch into the wind, so the light southeasterly breeze would require them to steam away from the Japanese at high speed. The first plane took off from Spruance's carriers Enterprise and Hornet a few minutes after Fletcher, along with Yorktown' s commanding officer, Captain Elliott Buckmaster , and their staffs, had acquired first-hand experience in organizing and launching a full strike against an enemy force in the Coral Sea, but there was no time to pass these lessons on to Enterprise and Hornet which were tasked with launching the first strike.

While the Japanese were able to launch aircraft in just seven minutes, it took Enterprise and Hornet over an hour to launch Accordingly, American squadrons were launched piecemeal and proceeded to the target in several different groups. It was accepted that the lack of coordination would diminish the impact of the American attacks and increase their casualties, but Spruance calculated that this was worthwhile, since keeping the Japanese under aerial attack impaired their ability to launch a counterstrike Japanese tactics preferred fully constituted attacks , and he gambled that he would find Nagumo with his flight decks at their most vulnerable.

American carrier aircraft had difficulty locating the target, despite the positions they had been given. The strike from Hornet , led by Commander Stanhope C. Ring, followed an incorrect heading of degrees rather than the degrees indicated by the contact report. As a result, Air Group Eight's dive bombers missed the Japanese carriers. Waldron , broke formation from Ring and followed the correct heading. The 10 F4Fs from Hornet ran out of fuel and had to ditch. Waldron's squadron sighted the enemy carriers and began attacking at , followed at [93] by VF-6 from Enterprise , whose Wildcat fighter escorts lost contact, ran low on fuel, and had to turn back.

Ensign George H. Gay, Jr. VT-6 lost nine of its 14 Devastators one ditched later , and 10 of 12 Devastators from Yorktown ' s VT-3 who attacked at were shot down with no hits to show for their effort, thanks in part to the abysmal performance of their unimproved Mark 13 torpedoes. A few TBDs managed to get within a few ship-lengths range of their targets before dropping their torpedoes—close enough to be able to strafe the enemy ships and force the Japanese carriers to make sharp evasive maneuvers—but all of their torpedoes either missed or failed to explode.

Despite their failure to score any hits, the American torpedo attacks achieved three important results. First, they kept the Japanese carriers off balance and unable to prepare and launch their own counterstrike. Second, the poor control of the Japanese combat air patrol CAP meant they were out of position for subsequent attacks. Third, many of the Zeros ran low on ammunition and fuel.

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By chance, at the same time VT-3 was sighted by the Japanese, three squadrons of SBDs from Enterprise and Yorktown were approaching from the southwest and northeast. The Yorktown squadron VB-3 had flown just behind VT-3, but elected to attack from a different course. The two squadrons from Enterprise VB-6 and VS-6 were running low on fuel because of the time spent looking for the enemy. Air Group Commander C.

Wade McClusky, Jr. McClusky's decision to continue the search and his judgment, in the opinion of Admiral Chester Nimitz , "decided the fate of our carrier task force and our forces at Midway Beginning at , the two squadrons of Enterprise ' s air group split up with the intention of sending one squadron each to attack Kaga and Akagi.

A miscommunication caused both of the squadrons to dive at Kaga. Recognizing the error, Lieutenant Richard Halsey Best and his two wingmen were able to pull out of their dives and, after judging that Kaga was doomed, headed north to attack Akagi. Coming under an onslaught of bombs from almost two full squadrons, Kaga sustained four or five direct hits, which caused heavy damage and started multiple fires. One of the bombs landed near the bridge, killing Captain Jisaku Okada and most of the ship's senior officers.

Dickinson, part of McClusky's group, recalled:. We were coming down in all directions on the port side of the carrier I recognized her as the Kaga ; and she was enormous The target was utterly satisfying I saw a bomb hit just behind where I was aiming I saw the deck rippling and curling back in all directions exposing a great section of the hangar below Several minutes later, Best and his two wingmen dove on Akagi. Mitsuo Fuchida , the Japanese aviator who had led the attack on Pearl Harbor , was on Akagi when it was hit, and described the attack:. A look-out screamed: "Hell-Divers!

Some of our machineguns managed to fire a few frantic bursts at them, but it was too late. The plump silhouettes of the American Dauntless dive-bombers quickly grew larger, and then a number of black objects suddenly floated eerily from their wings. Although Akagi sustained only one direct hit almost certainly dropped by Lieutenant Best , it proved to be a fatal blow: the bomb struck the edge of the mid-ship deck elevator and penetrated to the upper hangar deck, where it exploded among the armed and fueled aircraft in the vicinity.

Planes stood tail up, belching livid flames and jet-black smoke, making it impossible to bring the fires under control. Some of Leslie's bombers did not have bombs as they were accidentally released when the pilots attempted to use electrical arming switches. Nevertheless, Leslie and others still dove, strafing carrier decks and providing cover for those who had bombs. Akagi , having been struck by only one bomb, took longer to burn, but the resulting fires quickly expanded and soon proved impossible to extinguish; she too was eventually consumed by flames and had to be abandoned.

All three carriers remained temporarily afloat, as none had suffered damage below the waterline, other than the rudder damage to Akagi caused by the near miss close astern.


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  • Despite initial hopes that Akagi could be saved or at least towed back to Japan, all three carriers were eventually abandoned and scuttled. The damage also forced Admiral Fletcher to move his command staff to the heavy cruiser Astoria. Thirteen Japanese dive bombers and three escorting fighters were lost in this attack two escorting fighters turned back early after they were damaged attacking some of Enterprise ' s SBDs returning from their attack on the Japanese carriers.

    Five torpedo bombers and two fighters were shot down in this attack. News of the two strikes, with the mistaken reports that each had sunk an American carrier, greatly improved Japanese morale. Despite the heavy losses, the Japanese believed that they could scrape together enough aircraft for one more strike against what they believed to be the only remaining American carrier. Hornet ' s strike, launched late because of a communications error, concentrated on the remaining escort ships, but failed to score any hits. Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi , together with the ship's captain, Tomeo Kaku, chose to go down with the ship, costing Japan perhaps its best carrier officer.

    As darkness fell, both sides took stock and made tentative plans for continuing the action. Admiral Fletcher, obliged to abandon the derelict Yorktown and feeling he could not adequately command from a cruiser, ceded operational command to Spruance. Spruance knew the United States had won a great victory, but he was still unsure of what Japanese forces remained and was determined to safeguard both Midway and his carriers.

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    To aid his aviators, who had launched at extreme range, he had continued to close with Nagumo during the day and persisted as night fell. Finally, fearing a possible night encounter with Japanese surface forces, [] and believing Yamamoto still intended to invade, based in part on a misleading contact report from the submarine Tambor , [] Spruance changed course and withdrew to the east, turning back west towards the enemy at midnight. Simultaneously, he detached a cruiser raiding force to bombard the island. The Japanese surface forces failed to make contact with the Americans because Spruance had decided to briefly withdraw eastward, and Yamamoto ordered a general withdrawal to the west.

    Spruance failed to regain contact with Yamamoto's forces on 5 June, despite extensive searches. Towards the end of the day he launched a search-and-destroy mission to seek out any remnants of Nagumo's carrier force. This late afternoon strike narrowly missed detecting Yamamoto's main body and failed to score hits on a straggling Japanese destroyer. The strike planes returned to the carriers after nightfall, prompting Spruance to order Enterprise and Hornet to turn on their lights to aid the landings.

    This report was passed on by English to Nimitz, who then sent it to Spruance. Spruance, a former submarine commander, was "understandably furious" at the vagueness of Murphy's report, as it provided him with little more than suspicion and no concrete information on which to make his preparations. In reality, the ships sighted by Tambor were the detachment of four cruisers and two destroyers Yamamoto had sent to bombard Midway. At , these ships received Yamamoto's order to retire and changed course to comply. The attack was unsuccessful and at around he finally reported two westbound Mogami -class cruisers , before diving again and playing no further role in the battle.

    As soon as Tambor returned to port, Spruance had Murphy relieved of duty and reassigned to a shore station, citing his confusing contact report, poor torpedo shooting during his attack run, and general lack of aggression, especially as compared to Nautilus , the oldest of the 12 boats at Midway and the only one which had successfully placed a torpedo on target albeit a dud.

    Over the following two days, several strikes were launched against the stragglers, first from Midway, then from Spruance's carriers. Mikuma was eventually sunk by Dauntlesses, [] while Mogami survived further severe damage to return home for repairs.

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    The destroyers Arashio and Asashio were also bombed and strafed during the last of these attacks. Fleming , a U. Marine Corps aviator, was killed while executing a glide bomb run on Mikuma and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Hammann broke in two and sank with the loss of 80 lives, mostly because her own depth charges exploded. With further salvage efforts deemed hopeless, the remaining repair crews were evacuated from Yorktown , which sank just after on 7 June.

    By the time the battle ended, 3, Japanese had died. In addition, the destroyers Arashio bombed; 35 and Asashio strafed by aircraft; 21 were both damaged during the air attacks which sank Mikuma and caused further damage to Mogami. Floatplanes were lost from the cruisers Chikuma 3 and Tone 2. Dead aboard the destroyers Tanikaze 11 , Arashi 1 , Kazagumo 1 and the fleet oiler Akebono Maru 10 made up the remaining 23 casualties. At the end of the battle, the U. Tinker , Commander, 7th Air Force , who personally led a bomber strike from Hawaii against the retreating Japanese forces on 7 June.

    He was killed when his aircraft crashed near Midway Island. After winning a clear victory, and as pursuit became too hazardous near Wake, [] American forces retired. Spruance once again withdrew to the east to refuel his destroyers and rendezvous with the carrier Saratoga , which was ferrying much-needed replacement aircraft. Fletcher transferred his flag to Saratoga on the afternoon of 8 June and resumed command of the carrier force.

    For the remainder of that day and then 9 June, Fletcher continued to launch search missions from the three carriers to ensure the Japanese were no longer advancing on Midway. Late on 10 June a decision was made to leave the area and the American carriers eventually returned to Pearl Harbor. Historian Samuel E. Morison noted in that Spruance was subjected to much criticism for not pursuing the retreating Japanese, thus allowing their surface fleet to escape.

    This made it unlikely that they would be effective in an airstrike against the Japanese battleships, even if they had managed to catch them during daytime. On 10 June, the Imperial Japanese Navy conveyed to the military liaison conference an incomplete picture of the results of the battle. It was intended only for the highest echelons in the Japanese Navy and government, and was guarded closely throughout the war. In it, one of the more striking revelations is the comment on the Mobile Force Commander's Nagumo's estimates: "The enemy is not aware of our plans we were not discovered until early in the morning of the 5th at the earliest.

    The Japanese public and much of the military command structure were kept in the dark about the extent of the defeat: Japanese news announced a great victory. Only Emperor Hirohito and the highest Navy command personnel were accurately informed of the carrier and pilot losses. Consequently, even the Imperial Japanese Army IJA continued to believe, for at least a short time, that the fleet was in good condition.

    On the return of the Japanese fleet to Hashirajima on 14 June the wounded were immediately transferred to naval hospitals; most were classified as "secret patients", placed in isolation wards and quarantined from other patients and their own families to keep this major defeat secret. As a result of the defeat, new procedures were adopted whereby more Japanese aircraft were refueled and re-armed on the flight deck, rather than in the hangars, and the practice of draining all unused fuel lines was adopted.

    The new carriers being built were redesigned to incorporate only two flight deck elevators and new firefighting equipment. Replacement pilots were pushed through an abbreviated training regimen in order to meet the short-term needs of the fleet. This led to a sharp decline in the quality of the aviators produced. These inexperienced pilots were fed into front-line units, while the veterans who remained after Midway and the Solomons campaign were forced to share an increased workload as conditions grew more desperate, with few being given a chance to rest in rear areas or in the home islands.

    As a result, Japanese naval air groups as a whole progressively deteriorated during the war while their American adversaries continued to improve. Three U. Gaido, O'Flaherty's radioman-gunner. Osmus was held on Arashi ; O'Flaherty and Gaido on the cruiser Nagara or destroyer Makigumo , sources vary ; all three were interrogated, and then killed by being tied to water-filled kerosene cans and thrown overboard to drown.

    Watanabe died when the destroyer Numakaze sank in December , but had he survived, he would have likely been tried as a war criminal. After receiving medical care, at least one of these sailors cooperated during interrogation and provided intelligence.

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    The Battle of Midway has often been called "the turning point of the Pacific". Had Japan won the battle as thoroughly as the U. Saratoga would have been the only American carrier in the Pacific, with no new ones being completed before the end of While the U. Although the Japanese continued to try to secure more territory, and the U. Midway allowed this to occur before the first of the new Essex -class fleet carriers became available at the end of Some authors have stated that heavy losses in carriers and veteran aircrews at Midway permanently weakened the Imperial Japanese Navy.

    Navy commissioned more than two dozen fleet and light fleet carriers, and numerous escort carriers. Both the United States and Japan accelerated the training of aircrew, but the United States had a more effective pilot rotation system, which meant that more veterans survived and went on to training or command billets, where they were able to pass on lessons they had learned in training, instead of remaining in combat, where errors were more likely to be fatal. Midway showed the worth of pre-war naval cryptanalysis and intelligence-gathering.

    These efforts continued and were expanded throughout the war in both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters. Successes were numerous and significant. For instance, cryptanalysis made possible the shooting down of Admiral Yamamoto's airplane in