The turning point of the war in the Pacific
American naval aviators wiped out three Japanese carriers in eight minutes on June 4, 1942
You almost feel like you are there, standing on the flight deck as one after another Wildcat fighter takes off to fight the Japanese Zeros in the air over a Japanese carrier.
Craig Symonds takes you to the dark days of spring, 1942, just a half year since the Japanese naval force bombed
Pearl Harbor, in his book The Battle of Midway (2011).
After December 7, 1941 the Japanese swept across the western Pacific, destroying American and allied forces, and capturing and occupying bases and islands from the Philippines to Burma. The Japanese were a terrible firestorm across Asia, just about to leap to
. Would they attack the American mainland next? Australia
Admiral Nimitz, 1942
Right after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt sent an old submariner, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, to
to command all
the naval forces in the Pacific. Nimitz
arrived on Christmas day, 1941 and surveyed the damage from the Japanese attack. His first response was surprisingly positive,
because he noted that, despite the destruction of several of our battleships
and other ships in port, the Japanese had failed to destroy American fuel
supplies, or industrial facilities and all our aircraft carriers had been
elsewhere when they attacked. Those carriers would live to be the nucleus of
the Navy that would go to war with Hawaii . Japan
Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto decided it was time to force a battle with the Americans and destroy our remaining aircraft carriers. He planned to invade the tiny
island of Midway, just 1000 miles north of Oahu, and at the
same time, some of the outer islands of the Aleutian chain of .
These would make nice stepping stones as Alaska Japan
approached Mainland . USA
You are present at staff meetings of the Imperial Japanese Navy as they discuss Yamamoto’s plan, overcome objections, and get the Emperor’s approval.
You are also present aboard the carriers where some of
finest young naval aviators are learning how to fight a war when Japanese and
American forces clash in the waters near New
Guinea, in the Battle of
the Coral Sea May 7-8, 1942.
Symonds brings you along as Americans and Japanese fight, and for
it is a wonderful Victory
parade of one success after another. Japan
However-- Americans have been breaking the operational code of the Japanese Navy, so they are able to piece together messages which lead them to discover that the main force of the Japanese Navy will be in the vicinity of
early in June, and attack the island and occupy it. Midway Island
As June 4th, 1942 dawns, Navy, Army and Marine Corps aviators from Midway search for the Japanese, and then launch bombing raids. They score no hits.
Next come torpedo attacks by squadrons from three American carriers. They score no hits, but the Japanese cut them to pieces, so few torpedo bombers make it back to their carriers.
There’s a “Flight to Nowhere” when the commander of the air group from USS Hornet leads his aircraft on a course 35 degrees north of where they should be going, and it turns out to be the first of many failures by Hornet and her aircraft in this battle.
The Japanese are mauling our aircraft as squadron after squadron attacks them, without scoring hits. It looks bad for our side.
Then, our dive bombers arrive on the scene with 1000-lb. and 500-lb. bombs and attack the carrier Kaga and bombs tear into the flight deck and down into the hangar deck, where bombs and torpedoes loaded aboard airplanes detonate.
More dive bombers attack Akagi, the flagship with Admiral Chūichi Nagumo aboard, and soon that carrier is burning from stem to stern.
Dive bombers from another squadron attack Soryu, placing her out of action as well.
USS Yorktown, June 4, 1942
The Japanese are now reduced to only one carrier now: Hiryu. Bombers from that carrier search out the American carriers and find USS Yorktown and attack her. The Japanese submarine I-168 finishes her off with two torpedoes.
Aircraft from USS Enterprise and Hornet launch to attack Hiryu, and soon the Japanese have lost all four of the carriers of their main force. The Americans have lost
In just one day, the tide turns in the Pacific, and from then on, the
Navy is on the
offensive, and the Imperial Japanese Navy will never recover. There will be three more years of bitter
fighting, and many men will be killed and wounded on both sides. The Battle of Midway was as important in
World War II as the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 when United States defeated the French and the
Spanish fleets. Britain
Symonds’ Midway is colorful and fast-paced, and his narrative flows with the characters who fought this battle, both the heroes and the others.
The lessons of Midway for naval officers of our generation were many, and I believe future naval officers will be studying those lessons long into the future.
Craig L. Symonds, The
Midway, 2011. Battle New York: Press, 452 pp.
Craig Symonds is a brilliant naval historian. I first met him when he was a professor at the
and I was an instructor in the naval warfare department. He continued his career teaching naval history
at the U.S. Naval Academy, and was well known for his specialty, the naval side
of the Civil War. Naval War College
Recently Craig retired, then came back to occupy the Naval Heritage Chair at
, an endowment
of the Class of 1957. My classmates and
I from 1957 contributed to endow this chair for our 50th
anniversary gift to the Academy, and we’re proud of each of the three fine
scholars who have occupied that chair since 2007, and particularly proud of
When we arrived at
and became Plebes in 1953, only 11 years had elapsed since Midway. Among the
many bits of naval lore we were expected to spout off whenever asked by an upperclassman
was “Kaga, Akagi, Soryu and Hiryu”
--- the four Japanese carriers that were sunk at the Battle of Midway. Annapolis
All during my naval career I felt the proximity of the heroes and key actors of the Battle of Midway. Several of the flag officers I knew when I was a young submarine officer had served aboard submarines at Midway.
I took command of the destroyer, USS McCaffery, at Midway in 1972. We had stopped for refueling before we continued on to
Yokosuka, Japan, on our way to take part in the last
months of the
war. Viet Nam
I relieved Captain Gene Lindsay as Commander of Fleet Activities,
. Gene’s father had commanded one of the
ill-fated torpedo bomber squadrons at Midway, and died in that battle. Sasebo, Japan ,
the base I commanded, when it had belonged to the Imperial Japanese Navy, had
been commanded by Admiral Chūichi Nagumo, the commander of the Carrier Attack
Force at the Battle of Midway. He had also commanded the force when it attacked
Sasebo Pearl Harbor.
Early in my tenure at
I hosted members of the Japanese Diet as we flew aboard USS Carl Vinson for flight demonstrations at sea. One of those Diet members in 1983 was Minoru
Genda, the bright young naval officer who had planned the Japanese naval strike
on Sasebo Pearl Harbor, and then helped plan the
Midway operation. I sat next to him as we had lunch with Admiral Sylvester
Foley, CINC Pacific Fleet, aboard the carrier.
A lesson from Midway: Let us always keep our Navy ready for the next war. Not the last war, but the next.
Fighters on deck, 1942
The Personal Navigator offers these books and papers about World War II:
United States Naval Institute Proceedings, November, 1942, Vol. 68 No. 477
Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute. World War II issue
includes excellent photos, including Battle of Midway, June 4-6, 1942, sinking
of carrier Yorktown after Midway, aerial view of convoy in South Pacific, ,
formation of VB-3's, modern Navy fighter, tail marking XF-4F-2, Navy Patrol
Bomber by Glenn L. Martin Co., Cruiser USS Memphis. "The Case for Aircraft-Carrying Oil
Tankers" by B. Orchard Lisle. "Fox's United
to Russia" by Commander
L.J. Gulliver, USN (Ret.) writes of Civil War Mission of Assistant Secretary of
the Navy Gustavus Vasa Fox to ,
and of Russian fleet visits to American ports during that war. "The
Captain of the 'Whip' Pearl Harbor to Russia " by Lieut. Commander
C.A. Ferriter, USN (16 p.). Professional Notes: USS Yorktown. Commander
Irving Day Wiltsie, USN, ace aviator and formerly navigator of Australia Yorktown describes the final hours of that
ship. Ads for Kollsman, Bethlehem Steel Co., Foote Bros. Gear and Machine,
Remler, Kellogg's Cereals, Electric Boat Co., Chicago Wheel & Mfg. Co., New
York Shipbuilding Corp., Higgins Industries, Inc., Cramp Shipbuilding Co.,
Boeing, Douglas Aircraft Co., RCA, Alcoa, Nordberg Mfg. Co., and more. 152 pp.
+ adv. 17 x 25 cm. Paper periodical, minor nicks and soiling in cover wrap, very good. (7901) $28.00. Navy/World War II
Wings for America, Fighting Planes of the U.S.A. by Thomas Penfield, with foreword by Colonel Edgar S. Gorrell, cover illustration by Herbert Rudeen; American Patriot's Series. ©1941 Chicago, IL: Rand McNally & Co. History of U.S. Military aviation. Numbering system. Pictures of Lockheed P-38, Curtiss SO3C-1, Douglas SBD-1, Consolidated B-24, more; Bombing tactics, Pensacola; U.S. Army Air Corps schools, aerobatics. 64 pp. 14 x 17 cm. Paper on board, cover lightly worn and soiled, text block very good. Overall very good. (5283) $20.00. History/World War II
U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard: Aircraft Carrier Commissioning, November 26, 1944, Navy Yard,
New York 1944 New York, NY: Navy Yard, . Pamphlet handed out at Commissioning Ceremony;
Program of events for Commissioning. History of ship, named after first USS
Bon Homme Richard, John Paul Jones' Continental Frigate. In the famous
battle with HMS Serapis on 23 Sept. 1779, Serapis was captured,
and Bon Homme Richard caught fire .... Commodore Jones, when called upon
to surrender, replied "I have just begun to fight." His ship was lost. This new carrier cost more than $60 million,
or the equivalent of 3,200,000 war bonds of $18.75 denomination. Sponsor for
the ship was Mrs. J.S. McCain, wife of Vice Admiral J.S. McCain, one of the
Navy's top-ranking aviators. [The
McCains were the grandparents of Senator John McCain of New
York .] 4 pp. 15 x 20 cm. Paper pamphlet
folded with vertical crease. Fair. (7817) $26.00. World War II/History Arizona
Jane's Fighting Ships, 1942 [Issued June 1943] Founded in 1897 by Fred T. Jane, 46th Year of Issue 1943 McMurtrie, Francis E., A.I.N.A., Editor.
The MacMillan Co. Forward to this book
notes the tremendous difficulty of preparing this edition, with secrecy on part
of combatants and neutrals, efforts to obscure or propagandize, and ships being
sunk daily. Frontispiece photo of HMS Exeter, Royal Navy cruiser that
bore the brunt of action with the German "pocket battleship"
Admiral Graf Spee at the New York, NY
of the Plate on December 13, 1939. Text notes that, while the Graf Spee was
was completely refitted and returned to combat. She was sunk by Japanese air
attack at the Exeter Battle of the
in 1942. This fascinating real-time record of naval action in World War II
shows the ships that survived the Japanese attack on Java Sea Pearl
Harbor (Dec. 7th, 1941), even noting changes to them as result of
repairs after the attack. Also with 62 pages of advertising for everything you
need to outfit a warship. 582 pp. + 62 pp. adv. 31 x 20 cm. Light blue cloth on
board with gilt lettering. Edges worn, tiny white paint spots on cover, good.
(6985) $106.00. Naval/World War II
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org