The Battle of Midway was a major naval battle widely regarded as the most important of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. It took place between 4-7 June, 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States Navy decisively defeated an Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) attack against Midway Atoll, inflicting irreparable damage on the Japanese navy and seizing the strategic initiative.
The Japanese operation, like the earlier attack on Pearl Harbor, aimed to eliminate the United States as a strategic Pacific power, thereby giving Japan a free hand in establishing its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. It was hoped another demoralizing defeat would force the U.S. to negotiate an end to the Pacific War on conditions favorable to Japan.
The Japanese plan was designed to lure the United States' few remaining carriers into a trap. The Japanese also intended to occupy Midway Atoll as part of an overall plan to extend their defensive perimeter in response to the Doolittle Raid. This operation was considered preparatory for further attacks against Fiji and Samoa. The plan was handicapped by faulty Japanese assumptions of American reaction and poor initial dispositions.
American codebreakers were able to determine the date and location of the attack, enabling the forewarned U.S. Navy to set up an ambush of its own. Four Japanese aircraft carriers and a heavy cruiser were sunk in exchange for one American aircraft carrier and a destroyer. The heavy losses, particularly the four fleet carriers and their aircrews, permanently weakened the Imperial Japanese Navy. Japan was unable to keep pace with American shipbuilding and pilot training programs in providing replacements.
Japan had been highly successful in swiftly securing its initial war goals, including the takeover of the Philippines, capture of Malaya and Singapore, and securing vital resource areas in Java, Borneo, and other islands of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). As such, preliminary planning for a second phase of operations commenced as early as January 1942. However, because of strategic differences between the Imperial Army and Imperial Navy, as well as infighting between the Navy's GHQ and Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s Combined Fleet, the formulation of effective strategy was hampered, and the follow-up strategy was not finalized until April 1942. Admiral Yamamoto succeeded in winning a bureaucratic struggle placing his operational concept—further operations in the Central Pacific—ahead of other contending plans. These included operations either directly or indirectly aimed at Australia and into the Indian Ocean. In the end, Yamamoto's barely-veiled threat to resign unless he got his way succeeded in carrying his agenda forward.
Yamamoto's primary strategic concern was the elimination of America's remaining carrier forces, the principal obstacle to the overall campaign. This concern was acutely heightened by the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo (18 April 1942) by USAAF B-25s launched from USS Hornet. The raid, while militarily insignificant, was a severe psychological shock to the Japanese and showed the existence of a gap in the defenses around the Japanese home islands. Sinking America's aircraft carriers and seizing Midway, the only strategic islands besides Hawaii in the eastern Pacific, was seen as the only means of nullifying this threat. Yamamoto reasoned an operation against the main carrier base at Pearl Harbor would induce the U.S. forces to fight. However, given the strength of American land-based air power on Hawaii, he judged the powerful American base could not be attacked directly. Instead, he selected Midway, at the extreme northwest end of the Hawaiian Island chain, some 1,300 miles (2,100 km) from Oahu. Midway was not especially important in the larger scheme of Japan's intentions, but the Japanese felt the Americans would consider Midway a vital outpost of Pearl Harbor and would therefore strongly defend it. The U.S. did consider Midway vital; after the battle, establishment of a U.S. submarine base on Midway allowed submarines operating from Pearl Harbor to refuel and reprovision, extending their radius of operations by 1,200 miles (1,900 km). An airstrip on Midway served as a forward staging point for bomber attacks on Wake Island.
Typical of Japanese naval planning during the Second World War, Yamamoto's battle plan was exceedingly complex. Additionally, his design was predicated on optimistic intelligence suggesting USS Enterprise and USS Hornet, forming Task Force 16, were the only carriers available to the U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time. USS Lexington had been sunk and USS Yorktown severely damaged (and believed by the Japanese to have been sunk) at the Battle of the Coral Sea just a month earlier. The Japanese were also aware that USS Saratoga was undergoing repairs on the West Coast after suffering torpedo damage from a submarine.
However, more important was Yamamoto's belief the Americans had been demoralized by their frequent defeats during the preceding six months. Yamamoto felt deception would be required to lure the U.S. fleet into a fatally compromised situation. To this end, he dispersed his forces so that their full extent (particularly his battleships) would be unlikely to be discovered by the Americans prior to battle. Critically, Yamamoto's supporting battleships and cruisers would trail Vice-Admiral Nagumo Chūichi's carrier striking force by several hundred miles. Japan's heavy surface forces were intended to destroy whatever part of the U.S. fleet might come to Midway's relief, once Nagumo's carriers had weakened them sufficiently for a daylight gun duel; this was typical of the battle doctrine of most major navies. 
Unbeknownst to Yamamoto, the United States had broken the main Japanese naval code (dubbed JN-25 by the Americans). Yamamoto's emphasis on dispersal also meant that none of his formations could support each other. For instance, the only significant warships larger than destroyers that screened Nagumo's fleet were two battleships and three cruisers, despite his carriers being expected to carry out the strikes and bear the brunt of the US counterattacks. By contrast, the flotillas of Yamamoto and Kondo had between them two light carriers, five battleships, and six cruisers, none of which would see any action at Midway. Their distance from Nagumo's carriers would also have grave implications during the battle, since the larger warships in Yamamoto and Kondo's forces carried scout planes, an invaluable reconnaissance capability denied to Nagumo.
Likewise, the Japanese operations in the Aleutian Islands (Operation AL) removed yet more ships that could otherwise have augmented the force striking Midway. Whereas prior historical accounts have often characterized the Aleutians operation as a feint to draw American forces away, recent scholarship on the battle has shown that AL was supposed to be launched simultaneously with the attack on Midway. However, a one-day delay in the sailing of Nagumo's task force meant that Operation AL began a day before the Midway attack.
Prelude to battleEdit
In order to do battle with an enemy force anticipated to muster four or five carriers, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas) needed every available U.S. flight deck. He already had Vice Admiral William Halsey's two-carrier (Enterprise and Hornet) task force at hand; Halsey was stricken with psoriasis and was replaced by Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance (Halsey's escort commander). Nimitz also hurriedly called back Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher's task force from the South West Pacific Area. He reached Pearl Harbor just in time to provision and sail.
Yorktown had been severely damaged at the Battle of the Coral Sea. Despite estimates that she would require several months of repairs at Puget Sound, her elevators had remained intact, and her flight deck largely so. The Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard worked around the clock and in 72 hours, she was restored to a battle-ready state, judged good enough for two or three weeks of operations, as Nimitz required. Her flight deck was patched, whole sections of internal frames cut out and replaced, and several new squadrons were drawn from Saratoga; they did not, however, get time to train. Nimitz disregarded established procedure in getting his third and last available carrier ready for battle—repairs continued even as Yorktown sortied, with work crews from the repair ship USS Vestal—herself damaged in the attack on Pearl Harbor six months earlier—still aboard. Just three days after putting into drydock at Pearl Harbor, Yorktown was again under way.
On Midway Island, the USAAF stationed four squadrons of B-17 Flying Fortresses, along with several B-26 Marauders. The Marine Corps had nineteen SBD Dauntless dive bombers, seven F4F-3 Wildcats, seventeen Vought SBU-3 Vindicators, twenty-one F2A-3 Brewster Buffalos, and six Grumman TBF-1 Avenger torpedo bombers, the latter a detachment of VT-8 from Hornet.
Meanwhile, as a result of her participation in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese carrier Zuikaku was in port in Kure, awaiting a replacement air group. That there were none immediately available was a 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. The heavily damaged Shōkaku was under repair from three bomb hits suffered at Coral Sea, and required months in drydock. Despite the likely availability of sufficient aircraft between the two ships to re-equip Zuikaku with a composite air group, the Japanese made no serious attempt to get her into the forthcoming battle. Consequently, Admiral Nagumo would only have four fleet carriers: Kaga and Akagi forming Carrier Division 1; Hiryū and Sōryū as Carrier Division 2. At least part of this was a product of fatigue; Japanese carriers had been constantly on operations since 7 December, 1941, including raids on Darwin and Colombo.
The main Japanese strike aircraft to be used were the Aichi D3A1 dive bomber and the Nakajima B5N2, which was capable of being used either as a torpedo bomber or as a level attack bomber. The main carrier fighter was the fast and highly maneuverable Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero. However, the carriers of the Kido Butai were suffering from a shortage of frontline aircraft. For various reasons, production of the D3A had been drastically reduced, while that of the B5N had been stopped completely. As a consequence, there were none available to replace losses. This also meant that many of the aircraft being used during the June 1942 operations had been operational since late November 1941; although well maintained, they were almost worn out and had become increasingly unreliable. These factors meant that all carriers had less than their normal aircraft complement and few spare aircraft.
Japanese strategic scouting arrangements prior to the battle also fell into 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. A second attempt at reconnaissance, using four-engine Kawanishi H8K flying boats to scout Pearl Harbor prior to the battle (and thereby detect the absence or presence of the American carriers), part of "Operation K", was also thwarted when Japanese submarines assigned to refuel the search aircraft discovered that the intended refueling point—a hitherto deserted bay off French Frigate Shoals—was occupied by American warships (because the Japanese had carried out an identical mission in March). Thus, Japan was deprived of any knowledge concerning the movements of the American carriers immediately before the battle. Japanese radio intercepts also noticed an increase in both American submarine activity and message traffic. This information was in Yamamoto's hands prior to the battle. However, Japanese plans were not changed; Yamamoto, at sea on Yamato, did not dare inform Nagumo for fear of exposing his position and assumed that Nagumo had received the same signal from Tokyo. Nagumo's radio antennae, however, were unable to receive such long-wave transmissions, and he was left unaware of any American ship movements.
Admiral Nimitz had one priceless asset: American and British cryptologists had broken the JN-25 code. Commander Joseph J. Rochefort and his team at HYPO were able to confirm Midway as the target of the impending Japanese strike, to determine the date of the attack as either 4 or 5 June, and to provide Nimitz with a complete IJN order of battle. Japan's efforts to introduce a new codebook had been delayed, giving HYPO several crucial days; while it was blacked out shortly before the attack began, 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 was aware, for example, that the vast numerical superiority of the Japanese fleet had been divided into no less than four task forces, and the escort for the main Carrier Striking Force was limited to just a few fast ships. For this reason, they knew that the anti-aircraft guns protecting the carriers would be limited. Knowing the strength he faced, Nimitz calculated his three carrier decks, plus Midway Island, to Yamamoto's four, gave the U.S. rough parity (although American carrier air groups were larger than Japanese ones). The Japanese, by contrast, remained almost totally unaware of their opponent's true strength and dispositions even after the battle began.
Order of battleEdit
- Main article: Midway order of battle
Initial air attacksEdit
The first air attack took off at 12:30pm on 3 June, consisting of nine B-17s operating from Midway. Four hours later they found the Japanese transport group 570 miles to the west. Under heavy anti-aircraft fire, they dropped their bombs. Though hits were reported, none of the bombs actually landed on target and no significant damage was inflicted. Early the following morning, Akebono Maru sustained the first hit when a torpedo from an attacking PBY flying boat struck her around 01:00..
At 04:30 on 4 June, VAdm Nagumo launched his initial attack on Midway itself, consisting of 36 Val dive-bombers, 36 Kate torpedo bombers, and escorted by 36 Zero fighters . At the same time, he launched combat air patrol (CAP), as well as his eight search aircraft (one from heavy cruiser Tone launched 30 minutes late due to technical issues).
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. Yamamoto's faulty dispositions had now become a serious liability.
American radar picked up the enemy at a distance of several miles and interceptors were soon scrambled. Unescorted bombers headed off to attack the Japanese carrier fleet, their fighter escorts remaining behind to defend Midway. At 06:20, Japanese carrier aircraft bombed and heavily damaged the U.S. base. Midway-based Marine fighter pilots, flying obsolescent Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats and obsolete Brewster F2A-3s, intercepted the Japanese, suffered heavy losses, though they managed to destroy four bombers and at least three Zeros. Most of the U.S. planes were downed in the first few minutes; several were damaged, and only two remained flyable. A total of three Wildcats and 13 Buffalos were shot down. American anti-aircraft fire was accurate and intense, damaging many Japanese aircraft and claiming a third of the Japanese planes destroyed. Another attack would be necessary to neutralize Midway's defenses before troops could be landed on 7 June; American bombers could still use the airbase to refuel and attack the Japanese invasion force.
Having taken off prior to the Japanese attack, American bombers based on Midway made several attacks on the Japanese carrier fleet. These included six TBF Avengers from Hornet's VT-8, their crews on their first combat operation, and four USAAC B-26 Marauders armed with torpedoes. The Japanese shrugged off these attacks with almost no losses, while destroying all but one TBF and two B-26s. In return, at least two Japanese fighters were shot down. One B-26, which had been hit by anti-aircraft fire from Akagi, made no attempt to pull out of its run and narrowly missed crashing directly into Akagi's bridge. This experience may well have contributed to Nagumo's determination to launch another attack on Midway, in direct violation of Yamamoto's order that the carrier force should keep its reserve strike force armed for anti-ship operations.
Admiral Nagumo, in accordance with Japanese carrier doctrine at the time, had kept half of his aircraft in reserve. These comprised two squadrons each of dive bombers and torpedo bombers, the latter armed with torpedoes, should any American warships be located. The dive bombers were, as yet, unarmed. As a result of the attacks from Midway, as well as the morning flight leader's recommendation regarding the need for a second strike, at 07:15, Nagumo ordered his reserve planes to be re-armed with general purpose contact bombs for use against land targets. Some sources maintain that this had been underway for about 30 minutes when, at 07:40 the delayed scout plane from the cruiser Tone signaled the discovery of a sizable American naval force to the east; however, new evidence suggests that Nagumo did not receive the sighting report until 08:00, so that the rearming operation actually proceeded for 45 minutes. Nagumo quickly reversed his order and demanded the scout plane ascertain the composition of the American force. Another 40 minutes elapsed before Tone's scout finally radioed the presence of a single carrier in the American force, TF 16 (the other carrier being missed).
Nagumo was now in a quandary. Rear Admiral Yamaguchi Tamon, leading Carrier Division 2 (Hiryū and Sōryū), recommended Nagumo strike immediately with the forces at hand: 18 Aichi D3A2 dive bombers each on Sōryū and Hiryū, and half the ready CAP aircraft. Nagumo's seeming opportunity to hit the American ships, however, was now limited by the fact his Midway strike force would be returning shortly and needing to land promptly or ditch (as is commonly believed). Because of the constant flight deck activity associated with combat air patrol operations during the preceding hour, the Japanese never had an opportunity to spot their reserve for launch. The few aircraft on the Japanese flight decks at the time of the attack were either CAP fighters, or (in the case of Sōryū) fighters being spotted to augment the CAP. Spotting his flight decks and launching aircraft would have required at least 30–45 minutes. Furthermore, by spotting and launching immediately, Nagumo would be committing some of his reserve to battle without proper anti-ship armament; they had just witnessed how easily unescorted American bombers had been shot down. (In the event, poor discipline saw many of the Japanese bombers ditch their bombs and attempt to dogfight interceptor F4Fs.) Japanese carrier doctrine preferred fully constituted strikes, and in the absence of a confirmation (until 08:20) of whether the American force contained carriers, Nagumo's reaction was doctrinaire. In addition, the arrival of another American air strike at 07:53 gave weight to the need to attack the island again. In the end, Nagumo chose to wait for his first strike force to land, then launch the reserve force, which would have by then been properly armed and ready. In the final analysis, it made no difference; Fletcher had launched beginning at 07:00, so the aircraft which would deliver the crushing blow were already on their way. There was nothing Nagumo could do about it. This was the fatal flaw of Yamamoto's dispositions: it followed strictly traditional battleship doctrine.
Attacks on the Japanese fleetEdit
Meanwhile, the Americans had already launched their carrier aircraft against the Japanese. Admiral Fletcher, in overall command aboard Yorktown, and benefiting from PBY patrol bomber sighting reports from the early morning, ordered Spruance to launch against the Japanese as soon as was practical. Spruance gave the order "Launch the attack" at around 06:00 and left Halsey's Chief of Staff, Captain Miles Browning, to work out the details and oversee the launch. It took until a few minutes after 07:00 before the first plane was able to depart from Spruance's carriers, Enterprise and Hornet. Fletcher, upon completing his own scouting flights, followed suit at 08:00 from Yorktown. It was at this point Spruance gave his second crucial command, to run toward the target, having judged that the need to throw something at the enemy as soon as possible was greater than the need for a coordinated attack among the different types of aircraft (fighters, bombers, torpedo planes). Accordingly, American squadrons were launched piecemeal and proceeded to the target in several different groups. This diminished the overall impact of the American attacks and greatly increased their casualties; coincidentally, it also reduced the Japanese ability to counterstrike and found Nagumo with his decks at their most vulnerable.
American carrier aircraft had difficulty locating the target, despite the positions they had been given. Nevertheless, they did finally sight enemy carriers and began attacking at 09:20, led by Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8, from Hornet), followed by VT-6 (from Enterprise) at 09:40. Without fighter escort, every TBD Devastator of VT-8 was shot down without being able to inflict any damage, with Ensign George H. Gay, Jr. the only survivor. VT-6 met nearly the same fate, with no hits to show for its effort, thanks in part to the abysmal performance of their aircraft torpedoes. The Japanese combat air patrol, flying the much faster Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zeros", made short work of the unescorted, slow, under-armed TBDs. However, despite their losses, the American torpedo attacks indirectly achieved three important results. First, they kept the Japanese carriers off balance, with no ability to prepare and launch their own counterstrike. Second, their attacks pulled the Japanese combat air patrol out of position. Third, many of the Zeros ran low on ammunition and fuel. The appearance of a third torpedo plane attack from the southeast by VT-3 at 10:00 very quickly drew the majority of the Japanese CAP to the southeast quadrant of the fleet. Better discipline, and employment of all the Zeroes aboard, might have enabled Nagumo to succeed.
By chance, at the same time VT-3 was sighted by the Japanese, two separate formations (a total of three squadrons) of American SBD Dauntless dive bombers were approaching the Japanese fleet from the northeast and southwest. They were running low on fuel due to the time spent looking for the enemy. However, squadron commanders C. Wade McClusky, Jr. and Max Leslie decided to continue the search and luckily spotted the wake of the Japanese destroyer Arashi. The destroyer was steaming at full speed to rejoin Nagumo's carrier force after having unsuccessfully depth-charged the U.S. submarine Nautilus, which had earlier unsuccessfully attacked the battleship Kirishima.
McClusky's decision to continue the search was credited by Admiral Chester Nimitz, and his judgment "decided the fate of our carrier task force and our forces at Midway..." The American dive-bombers arrived at the perfect time to attack. Armed Japanese strike aircraft filled the hangar decks, fuel hoses snaked across the decks as refueling operations were hastily completed, and the constant change of ordnance meant bombs and torpedoes were stacked around the hangars, rather than stowed safely in the magazines, making the Japanese carriers extraordinarily vulnerable.
Beginning at 10:22, Enterprise’s air group scored multiple hits on Kaga. To the north, Akagi was struck four minutes later by three of Enterprise's bombers. Yorktown’s aircraft went for Sōryū. Simultaneously, VT-3 targeted Hiryū, which was sandwiched between Sōryū, Kaga, and Akagi; again, the American torpedo aircraft again scored no hits. The dive-bombers, however, had better fortune. Within six minutes, the SBDs left all three of their targets heavily ablaze. Akagi was hit by just one bomb, which penetrated to the upper hangar deck and exploded among the armed and fueled aircraft there. One extremely near miss also slanted in and exploded underwater close stern, the resulting geyser bending the flight deck upward with and causing crucial rudder damage. Sōryū took three bomb hits in the hangar deck, Kaga at least four, possibly more. All three carriers were out of action and were eventually abandoned and scuttled.
Hiryū, the sole surviving Japanese aircraft carrier, wasted little time in counterattacking. The first wave of Japanese dive bombers badly damaged Yorktown with two bomb hits that snuffed out her boilers, immobilizing her, yet her damage control teams patched her up so effectively (in about an hour) that the second wave's torpedo bombers mistook her for an undamaged carrier. Despite Japanese hopes to even the odds by eliminating two carriers with two strikes, Yorktown absorbed both Japanese attacks, the second wave mistakenly believing Yorktown had already been sunk and they were attacking Enterprise. After two torpedo hits, Yorktown lost power and developed a 26° list to port, which put her out of action and forced Admiral Fletcher to move his command staff to heavy cruiser Astoria. Both carriers of Spruance's Task Force 16 were undamaged.
News of the two strikes, with the reports that each had sunk an American carrier, greatly improved morale in the Kido Butai. Its few surviving aircraft were all recovered aboard Hiryū, where they were prepared for a strike against what was believed to be the only remaining American carrier.
Late in the afternoon, a Yorktown scout aircraft located Hiryū, prompting Enterprise to launch a final strike of dive bombers (including 10 bombers from Yorktown). This delivered a killing blow, leaving Hiryū ablaze, despite being defended by a strong defensive cover of more than a dozen Zero fighters. Vice Admiral Yamaguchi chose to go down with his ship, costing Japan perhaps her best carrier sailor. Hornet's strike, launching late because of a communications error, concentrated on the remaining escort ships, but failed to score any hits.
As darkness fell, both sides took stock and made tentative plans for continuing the action. Admiral Fletcher, obliged to abandon 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 was still unsure of what Japanese forces remained and was determined to safeguard both Midway and his carriers. 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. Fearing a possible night encounter with Japanese surface forces, Spruance changed course and withdrew to the east, turning back west towards the enemy at midnight.
For his part, Yamamoto initially decided to continue the engagement and sent his remaining surface forces searching eastward for the American carriers. Simultaneously, a cruiser raiding force was detached to bombard the island. The Japanese surface forces failed to make contact with the Americans due to Spruance's decision to briefly withdraw eastward, and Yamamoto ordered a general retirement to the west.
American search planes failed to detect the retiring Japanese task forces on 5 June. An 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 searchlights in order to aid their landings..
At 02:15 on 5 June–6 June, Commander John Murphy's Tambor, lying some 90 nm (165 km) west of Midway, made the second of the Submarine Force's two major contributions to the battle's outcome. Sighting several ships, he (along with his exec, Ray Spruance, Jr.) could not identify them (and feared they might be friendly, so he held fire), but reported their presence, omitting their course. This went to Admiral Robert English, Commander, Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC), and from him through Nimitz to the senior Spruance. Unaware of the exact location of Yamamoto's "Main Body" (a persistent problem since PBYs had first sighted the Japanese), Spruance presumed this was the invasion force. Thus, he moved to block it, taking station some 100 nm (185 km) northeast of Midway; this frustrated Yamamoto's efforts, and the night passed without any contact between the opposing forces.
Actually, this was Yamamoto's bombardment group of four cruisers and two destroyers, which at 02:55 was ordered to retire west with the rest of his force. Tambor was sighted around the same time; turning to avoid, Mogami and Mikuma collided, inflicting serious damage to Mogami's bow, the most any of the eighteen submarines deployed for the battle achieved. Only at 04:12 did the sky brighten enough for Murphy to be certain the ships were Japanese, by which time staying surfaced was a hazard, and he dived to approach for an attack. This was unsuccessful, and at around 06:00, he finally reported two Mogami-class cruisers, westbound, placing Spruance at least 100 nm (185 km) out of position. It may have been fortunate Spruance did not pursue, for had he come in contact with Yamamoto's heavy ships, including Yamato, in the dark, his cruisers would have been overwhelmed, and his carriers helpless. (At that time, only Britain's Fleet Air Arm was capable of night carrier operations.)
Over the following two days, first Midway and then Spruance's carriers launched several successive strikes against the stragglers. Mikuma was eventually sunk, while Mogami survived severe damage to return home for repairs. Captain Richard E. Fleming, a U.S. Marine Corps aviator, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his attack on Mikuma.
Meanwhile, salvage efforts on Yorktown were encouraging and she was taken in tow by USS Vireo, until late afternoon on 6 June when Yorktown was struck by two torpedoes from Japanese submarine I-168 . There were few casualties aboard Yorktown, since most of the crew had already been evacuated, but a third torpedo from this salvo also struck and sank the destroyer USS Hammann, which had been providing auxiliary power to Yorktown. Hammann broke in two with the loss of 80 lives. Most of the lives lost were due her own depth charges exploding. Yorktown lingered until just after 6:00am on 7 June.
After winning a clear victory, and as pursuit became too hazardous near Wake, American forces retired. Historian Samuel E. Morison wrote in 1949 that, had Spruance immediately pursued, the Japanese surface fleet could have been totally destroyed.[page needed] Clay Blair argued in 1975 that, had Spruance done so, he would have met Yamamoto's surface forces, including Yamato, at night, enabling the Japanese to overwhelm his cruiser escort while being unable to launch his aircraft. Japan's loss of four out of her six fleet carriers, as well as a large number of highly trained aircrew, ended Japanese expansion in the Pacific. Only Shōkaku and Zuikaku were left for offensive actions. Japan's other carriers, Ryūjō, Junyo, and Hiyo, were second-rate ships of comparatively limited effectiveness.
On 10 June, the Imperial Japanese Navy conveyed to the military liaison conference an incomplete picture of the results of the battle, on the ground the real extent of damage was a military secret not to be entrusted to all members. Only Emperor Hirohito was accurately informed of the carrier and pilot losses. He chose not to inform the Army immediately, and Army planners continued to believe the fleet was healthy and secure for a short time.
Allegations of war crimesEdit
Three U.S. airmen, Ensign Wesley Osmus (pilot, Yorktown), Ensign Frank O'Flaherty (pilot, Enterprise) and Aviation Machinist's Mate B. F. (or B. P.) Gaido (radioman-gunner of O'Flaherty's SBD) were captured by the Japanese during the battle. Osmus was held on the destroyer Arashi, with O'Flaherty and Gaido on the cruiser Nagara (or destroyer Makigumo, sources vary), and it is alleged they were later killed. The report filed by Admiral Nagumo states of Ensign Osmus, "He died on 6 June and was buried at sea". Nagumo records obtaining seven items of information, including Fletcher's strength, but does not mention the death of O'Flaherty or Gaido.
The battle has often been called "the turning point of the Pacific". However, Japanese continued their expansion moves in the South Pacific, and it was many more months before the U.S. moved from a state of naval parity to one of increasingly clear supremacy, so Midway by itself did not change the direction of the war in the same sense as Salamis or Trafalgar. Nonetheless, Midway was the Allies' first decisive victory against the previously unbeaten Japanese, and along with the earlier inconclusive Battle of Coral Sea, both battles blunted Japan's strategic initiative and robbed them of their offensive capability. It paved the way for the following campaigns around the Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal, which would see the Allies prevail after a prolonged attrition in combined arms and take the offensive in the Pacific War.
The Battle of Midway permanently damaged the Japanese Navy's striking power, and the loss of operational capability during this critical phase of the campaign ultimately proved decisive. In particular, the battle inflicted irreparable damage on the Japanese carrier force, such that they could no longer put together a large number of fleet carriers with well-trained aircrews.  Japanese planners, having failed to foresee a long war, were ill-prepared to replace the loss of ships, pilots, and sailors; at Midway, the Japanese lost as many aircrewmen in a single day as their pre-war training program had produced in a year. Replacing their combat experience would be impossible. The following Battles of Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz would further decimate their veteran aircrews. Also important was the loss of four of Japan's fleet carriers; her carrier strength did not recover until 1944. By the time of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, while the Japanese had somewhat rebuilt their carrier forces, the planes largely were flown by inexperienced pilots so it was not as potent a striking force as it was before Midway.
In the same span of time, the U.S. Navy commissioned more than two dozen fleet and light fleet carriers, and numerous escort carriers. By 1942, the United States was already three years into a shipbuilding program, mandated by the Second Vinson Act, intended to make the navy larger than Japan's. The greater part of USN aviators survived the Battle of Midway and subsequent battles of 1942, unlike their Japanese counterparts, and combined with the ramping up of training programs, the US was able to develop a large number of skilled pilots to complement its material advantages in ships and planes.
Discovery of sunken vesselsEdit
Because of the extreme depth of the ocean in the area of the battle (more than 17,000 feet/5200 m), researching the battlefield has presented extraordinary difficulties. However, on 19 May 1998, Robert Ballard and a team of scientists and Midway veterans (including Japanese participants) located and photographed (artist's rendering) Yorktown. The ship was remarkably intact for a vessel that sank in 1942; much of the original equipment and even the original paint scheme were still visible.
Ballard's subsequent search for the Japanese carriers was ultimately unsuccessful. In September 1999, a joint expedition between Nauticos Corp. and the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office searched for the Japanese aircraft carriers. Using advanced renavigation techniques in conjunction with the ship's log of the submarine USS Nautilus, the expedition located a large piece of wreckage, subsequently identified as having come from the upper hangar deck of Kaga. The main wreck, however, has yet to be located.
The Battle of Midway has been featured in several motion pictures. The first was a documentary directed by John Ford, a commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve at the time and on temporary duty at Midway Island during the battle as a photographic and intelligence officer. While shooting 16 mm color footage from atop the island's power plant, Ford was exposed to enemy fire by attacking aircraft and wounded in the arm by shrapnel. He received a Purple Heart and later the Legion of Merit. The footage Ford shot is included in his 1942 Academy Award-winning documentary, The Battle of Midway.
Subsequently, the battle was given in-depth coverage by the 1960 big-budget Japanese war film Storm Over the Pacific directed by Shūe Matsubayashi for Toho studios. The film focuses on a young Zero pilot aboard Hiryū who participates in both the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway. It was barely released in the United States in a dubbed, abridged version, under the sensationalized title I Bombed Pearl Harbor.
The miniature and pyrotechnic effects were considered by Universal Studios to be good enough to reuse 16 years later in the star-studded Midway, directed by Jack Smight, starring Charlton Heston, and released in 1976. It strongly fictionalized events and relied heavily on stock footage (for which it was criticized) from various World War II battles, as well as some previously filmed for Tora! Tora! Tora!, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Away All Boats, and especially Storm over the Pacific.
Chicago Municipal Airport, important to the war efforts in World War II, was renamed Chicago Midway International Airport (or simply Midway Airport) in 1949 in honor of the battle.
- ↑ Note: Japanese names are traditionally listed as family name followed by given name(s), for example, Yamamoto Isoroku. This convention is followed in Japanese publications and in many recent English and American publications; eg: Parshall and Tulley Shattered Sword.
- ↑ Parshall & Tully, p. 90-91
- ↑ The Battle of Midway: END OF THE YORKTOWN
- ↑ "Battle of Midway: June 4-7,1942". Naval History & Heritage Command. April 27, 2005. http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq81-1.htm. Retrieved on February 20, 2009. "...considered the decisive battle of the war in the Pacific."
- ↑ Dull, Paul S. Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945. US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-219-9. "Midway was indeed "the" decisive battle of the war in the Pacific.", p. 166
- ↑ "A Brief History of Aircraft Carriers: Battle of Midway". U.S. Navy. 2007. http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/ships/carriers/midway.html. Retrieved on 2007-06-12.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 U.S. Naval War College Analysis, p.1; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp.416–430.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, p. 33; Peattie & Evans, Kaigun.
- ↑ H.P. Wilmott, Barrier and the Javelin; Lundstrom, First South Pacific Campaign; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 19–38.
- ↑ Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin
- ↑ Dull, The Imperial Japanese Navy: A Battle History, p. 166; Willmott, The Barrier and the Javelin, pp. 519–523; Prange, Miracle at Midway p. 395; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 416–430.
- ↑ Prange, Miracle at Midway, pp.13–15, 21–23; Willmott, The Barrier and the Javelin, pp. 39–49; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 22–38.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, p. 33; Prange, Miracle at Midway, p. 23.
- ↑ Prange, Miracle at Midway, pp. 22–26. One wonders what the Japanese thought the presence of American submarines off their coast, beginning with Joe Grenfell's Gudgeon some twenty days after Pearl Harbor, represented; in light of how poor IJN ASW training and doctrine was, perhaps it should be no surprise this was ignored. Blair, Silent Victory, p.110; Parillo, Japanese Merchant Marine; Peattie & Evans, Kaigun.
- ↑ Parshall & Tully, Shattered Sword, p. 33.
- ↑ Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin, pp. 66–67; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 33–34.
- ↑ Preserving the Past: After the Battle of Midway
- ↑ Prange, Miracle at Midway, pp. 375–379, Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin, pp. 110–117; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, p. 52.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, p. 53, derived from Japanese War History Series (Senshi Sōshō), Volume 43 ('Midowei Kaisen'), p. 118.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 51, 55.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 43–45, derived from Senshi Sōshō, p. 196.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 51, 55.
- ↑ Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 43–45, derived from Senshi Sōshō, p. 196.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 43–45, derived from Senshi Sōshō, pp. 119–121.
- ↑ Prange, Miracle at Midway, pp. 80–81; Cressman et al., A Glorious Page in Our History, p. 37.
- ↑ Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin, p.337.
- ↑ Cressman et al., A Glorious Page in Our History, pp.37–45; Lord, Incredible Victory, pp.37–39.
- ↑ Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin, p.338.
- ↑ Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin; p.337-40?
- ↑ Lord, Incredible Victory, p.39; Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin, p.340.
- ↑ 32.0 32.1 Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin, p.101.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 65–67.
- ↑ Note: The code names "Val", "Kate" and "Zeke", which are often applied to these aircraft, were not introduced until late 1943 by the Allied forces. The D3A was normally referred to as Type 99 navy dive bomber, the B5N as the Type 97 navy torpedo bomber and the A6M as the Type 0 navy fighter; it was also known as the "Zero". Parshall and Tully Shattered Sword pp.78-80.
- ↑ Parshall and Tulley Shattered Sword pp. 89-91.
- ↑ Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin, p. 351; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 98–99.
- ↑ Lord, Incredible Victory, pp. 37–39; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, p. 99; Holmes, Double-Edged Secrets.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 102–104; Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin.
- ↑ Isom, Midway Inquest: Why the Japanese Lost the Battle of Midway, pp.95-99
- ↑ Michael Smith, p.134
- ↑ Michael Smith, pp. 138-141
- ↑ Holmes, Double-Edged Secrets; Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin. There are occasional references to "deception", notably in the film Midway, referring to the false traffic before Pearl Harbor; this reflects a complete misunderstanding of the issue.
- ↑ Lord, Incredible Victory; Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin; Layton, And I Was There: Pearl Harbor and Midway—Breaking the Secrets.
- ↑ 44.0 44.1 44.2 Interrogation of: Captain TOYAMA, Yasumi, IJN; Chief of Staff Second Destroyer Squadron, flagship Jintsu (CL), at MIDWAY USSBS From Hyperwar, retrieved 2008-02-14
- ↑ 45.0 45.1 Admiral Nimitz's CinCPac report of the battle. From Hyperwar, retrieved 2008-02-13
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 107–112; 132–133.
- ↑ Willmott, Barrier.
- ↑ Stephen, Martin. Sea Battles in Close-up: World War Two (Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan, 1988), Volume 1, pp.166 & 167.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 200–204.
- ↑ Lord, Incredible Victory, p. 110; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, p. 149.
- ↑ Prange, Miracle at Midway, pp. 207–212; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 149–152.
- ↑ Parshall and Tulley Shattered Sword p. 182
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp.130–132.
- ↑ Lord, Walter. Incredible Victory; Wilmott, Barrier and the Javelin; Fuchida & Okumiya, Midway
- ↑ Isom, Midway Inquest: Why the Japanese Lost the Battle of Midway, pp.129-139
- ↑ Prange, Miracle at Midway, pp.216–217; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp.159–161 & 183.
- ↑ Bicheno, Hugh. Midway (London: Orion Publishing Group, 2001), p.134.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp.165–170.
- ↑ Fuchida and Okumiya, Midway; Willmott, Barrier & the Javelin.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, p. 231, derived from Senshi Sōshō, pp. 372–378.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp.121–124.
- ↑ Prange, Miracle at Midway, p.233.
- ↑ Bicheno, p.163.
- ↑ Prange, Miracle at Midway, pp.217–218 & 372–373; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp.170–173.
- ↑ Prange, Miracle at Midway, pp.231–237; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp.170–173; Willmott, Barrier & the Javelin; Fuchida & Okumiya, Midway.
- ↑ Willmott, Barrier & the Javelin; Fuchida & Okumiya, Midway.
- ↑ Relayed via Nimitz who, unlike Yamamoto, had remained ashore.
- ↑ Cressman et al., A Glorious Page in Our History, pp. 84–89; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 215–216; 226–227; Buehl, The Quiet Warrior (1987), p. 494ff.
- ↑ Cressman et al., A Glorious Page in Our History, pp. 91–94.
- ↑ Blair, Silent Victory, p.238.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 215–216; 226–227.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 226–227.
- ↑ Bicheno, Midway, p.62.
- ↑ "IJN KIRISHIMA: Tabular Record of Movement". Senkan!. combinedfleet.com. http://www.combinedfleet.com/Kirishima.html. Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
- ↑ "Accounts - C. Wade McClusky". cv6.org. http://www.cv6.org/company/accounts/wmcclusky/cv6.org.
- ↑ Prange, Miracle at Midway, pp. 259–261, 267–269; Cressman et al., A Glorious Page in Our History, pp. 96–97; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 215–216; 226–227.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, p. 250.
- ↑ Other sources claim a stern hit, but Parshall and Tully in Shattered Sword, p.253–354 and 256–259, make a case for a near miss, because of rudder damage from a high explosive bomb.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp.330–353.
- ↑ Ballard, Robert D. and Archbold, Rick. Return to Midway. Madison Press Books: Toronto ISBN 0792275004
- ↑ Potter & Nimitz 1960 p.682
- ↑ Marc Mitscher, commanding Hornet, would two years later issue the same order as the carrier force commander under similar circumstances during the Battle of the Philippine Sea
- ↑ Prange, Miracle at Midway, p. 320; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, p. 345.
- ↑ Prange, Miracle at Midway, p.320; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, p. 345.
- ↑ Blair, Silent Victory, chart p.240.
- ↑ Blair, Silent Victory, pp.246–7.
- ↑ Blair, Silent Victory, pp.246–7; Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin.
- ↑ Thanks in part to the slow speed of the Fairey Swordfish. Stephen, Martin. Sea Battles in Close-up: World War 2 (Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan, 1988), Volume 1, p.34.
- ↑ 89.0 89.1 Blair, Silent Victory, p.247.
- ↑ Morison, 1949
- ↑ Herbert Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, 2001, p. 449
- ↑ Robert E. Barde, "Midway: Tarnished Victory", Military Affairs, v. 47, no. 4 (December 1983), pp. 188–192.
- ↑ "Japanese Story of the Battle of Midway". ONI Review. ibiblio.org. 1947. http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/Japan/IJN/rep/Midway/Nagumo/index.html#III-3. Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
- ↑ Dull, p.166; Prange, p.395.
- ↑ Willmott, Barrier and the Javelin, pp.522–523; Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp.416–430.
- ↑ Peattie, Sunburst, pp.131–134, 181–184, & 191–192..
- ↑ Peattie, Sunburst, pp.176–186; Eric Bergerud, Fire in the Sky, p.668.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 416–421.
- ↑ Shinano, commissioned on 19 November 1944, was only the fourth fleet carrier commissioned by Japan during the war, after Taihō, Unryū, and Amagi.
- ↑ "Why Japan Really Lost The War - War Production". combinedfleet.com. http://www.combinedfleet.com/economic.htm.
- ↑ Hakim, A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz
- ↑ "Titanic explorer finds Yorktown". CNN. 1998-06-04. http://www.cnn.com/TECH/science/9806/04/yorktown.found/index.html. Retrieved on 2007-07-01.
- ↑ Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword, pp. 491–493.
- Barde, Robert E. "Midway: Tarnished Victory", Military Affairs, v. 47, no. 4 (December 1983)
- Bergerund, Eric M. (2000). Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. pp. 752. ISBN 978-0-8133-2985-7.
- Bicheno, Hugh. Midway. London: Orion Publishing Group, 2001 (reprints Cassell 2001 edition)
- Blair Jr., Clay (1975). Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott. pp. 1072.
- Buell, Thomas B. (1987). The Quiet Warrior: a Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press. pp. 518. ISBN 0-87021-562-0.
- Cressman, Robert J.; et.al. (1990). "A Glorious page in our history," Adm. Chester Nimitz, 1942: the Battle of Midway, 4-6 June 1942. Missoula, Mont.: Pictorial Histories Pub. Co.. ISBN 0-929521-40-4.
- Dull, Paul S. (1978). A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941-1945). US Naval Institute Press.
- Evans, David; Peattie, Mark R. (1997). Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887-1941. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-192-7.
- Fuchida, Mitsuo; Masatake Okumiya (1955). Midway: The Battle that Doomed Japan, the Japanese Navy's Story. Annapolis, MD: United States Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-372-5. A Japanese account, colored by hindsight and sometimes inaccurate.
- Stephan, John J. (1984). Hawaii Under the Rising Sun: Japan's Plans for Conquest after Pearl Harbor. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-2550-0.
- Bix, Herbert P. (2001). Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. New York: Perennial / HarperCollinsPublishers. ISBN 0-06-019314-X.
- Holmes, W. (1979). Double-Edged Secrets: U.S. Naval Intelligence Operations in the Pacific During World War II (Bluejacket Books). Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-324-9.
- Hakim, Joy (1995). A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509514-6.
- Layton, Rear Admiral Edwin T. (1985). And I Was There: Pearl Harbor and Midway, Konecky and Konecky.
- Lord, Walter (1967). Incredible Victory. Burford. ISBN 1-58080-059-9. Focuses primarily on the human experience of the battle.
- Lundstrom, John B. (2005 (new edition)). The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 159114471X.
- Parillo, Mark. Japanese Merchant Marine in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute Press, 1993.
- Parshall, Jonathan; Tully, Anthony (2005). Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books. ISBN 1-57488-923-0. Uses recent Japanese sources.
- Peattie, Mark R.. Sunburst: The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power, 1909-1941. US Naval Institute Press. pp. 392. ISBN 1-59114-664-X.
- Potter, E. B. and Nimitz, Chester W. (1960). Sea Power. Prentice-Hall.
- Prange, Gordon W.; Goldstein, Donald M., and Dillon, Katherine V. (1982). Miracle at Midway. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-050672-8. The standard academic history of the battle based on massive research into American and Japanese sources.
- Smith, Michael (2000). The Emperor's Codes: Bletchley Park and the breaking of Japan's secret ciphers, Bantam Press, ISBN 0593 046420. Chapter 11: "Midway: The battle that turned the tide"
- Wilmot, H.P. (1983). The Barrier and the Javelin: Japanese and Allied Strategies, February to June 1942. United States Naval Institute Press. pp. 616. ISBN 1-59114-949-5. Broad-scale history of the naval war with detailed accounts of order of battle and dispositions.
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- Cook, Theodore F., Jr. (2000). "Our Midway Disaster". in Robert Cowley (ed.). What if?. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-75183-3. Counterfactual fiction has the Japanese winning.
- Schlesinger, James R., "Midway in Retrospect: The Still Under-Appreciated Victory", 5 June 2005. (An analysis by former Secretary of Defense Schlesinger.) Available from the Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy.
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