The Battle of Midway (June 1942)
The Battle of Midway June 1942 The naval battle in which the Americans defend the island of Midway in the Pacific.
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The Text of the Battle of Midway
June 2nd-6th 1942 – THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY – American intelligence reports prove correct. The Japanese Invasion Fleet is steaming towards Midway, unaware that two U.S. Task Forces 16 and 17, are rendezvousing northeast of Midway, before moving jointly to a point, about 200 miles from Midway to meet the enemy Armada. Japanese fighters, dispatched from two Carriers, raid Fort Mears and Dutch Harbor,Alaska, in an unsuccessful attempt to divert attention from the Japanese troops landing in the Aleutians. In addition to the U.S. Surface Vessels, the U.S. deploys 12 Submarines around Midway. The Trigger, Narwhal and Plunger deploy at a point where they can run interference between Oahu and Midway keeping a vigil to the east and north. Four other Submarines camp about 300 miles north of Oahu, while six additional Submarines are racing to the scene. The lone Cuttlefish, holds the point, about 700 miles out, to relay the signal at the first sign of the invaders. The U.S.S. Saratoga, a formidable Carrier, would be a welcome sight to the Yanks, but her voyage from the States, prevents her from reaching Midway in time. During the first rays of sunshine on the 4th, the Cuttlefish reports an enemy Tanker about 600 miles from Midway, then is forced to submerge, because of daylight and does not regain contact with the enemy. Shortly thereafter, Scout Planes detect the Invasion Force.
On the 4th, the Japanese strike Dutch Harbor again, causing slight damage. American Planes search in vain for the Carriers. Poor visibility works in favor of the Japanese, allowing them to escape southward without damage, but the Japanese ruse fails to rattle Nimitz. Search Planes based at Midway locate a genuine bonanza on the second of June, discovering two Japanese Carriers 400 miles south of Kiska.
Land-based Bombers, swarm above the approaching enemy vessels on the 3rd, inflicting some damage, but not enough turn back the invaders. One hundred and thirty Japanese Planes are launched from four Carriers on the 4th, to destroy Midway and its defenders. The threat is met initially by U.S. Marine Corps Planes based on Midway. As the danger signals rattle the communication lines, every available Plane is sent aloft. Approximately 50 Zeros with superior maneuverability and speed, lead the parade, escorting an array of nearly 100 Dive Bombers and Torpedo Planes. The formation is interrupted, about 30 miles from their objective , when Marine Pilots pounce on the Bombers, before the Zeros can come to their aid. The badly outnumbered Marines, attached to Fighting Squadron 213, do a magnificent job, considering the odds. During the Air duel, the Jap Bombers penetrate and strike Midway. Fifteen of the 25 Marine Fighters are shot down and another seven are severely damaged. but they make their way back to Midway. The Japanese pay a high price for their air attack, losing 34 Planes (damaged or shot down). The Marine Pilots return to base, passing over the smiling faces of the defenders who are waving excitedly in the shadow of Old Glory. They had intentionally avoided bombing the Airfields, that they might utilize the fields themselves in the near future. Instead, the Airfields remain useful to the Yanks.
Although the Marines whacked the Japs as they encroached Midway, all hell is breaking out in the battle zones. Army Bombers, based on Midway and without Fighter cover stream through the skies, heading for the objective. as quickly as the coordinates of the enemy Strike Force are received through the radio system, zooming for the anticipated location of the enemy Carriers. The staunch aggressiveness of a PBY had made contact with the Strike Force, at a position about 150 miles from Midway and now the Eagles are close behind. While the Fortresses advance, the Submarines receive their orders; the Cuttlefish, and the Flying Fish and the Cachalot, are ordered to stand fast, while other Submarines are ordered to attack the Carriers. The unescorted Army B-26s and Navy Torpedo Planes dive without cover fire and are mangled by Antiaircraft fire and Jap Zeros. This heroic assault by six Torpedo Planes (Avengers) and four B-26s (Marauders) cost the U.S. seven Planes, as one TBF and two 8-26s return alone. Additional Marine Squadrons follow the fury and are synchronized in the attack, with the Flying Fortresses. The Marine Dive Bombers penetrate the flying steel, again without cover fire. Out of 27 Dive Bombers who crash through the Zeros and ack-ack, eight are shot down and the remainder sustain severe damage. The Fortresses expend all bombs, but none strike the mark, invigorating the Japanese, who still contemplate the seizure of Midway. The unscathed Japanese Carriers have evaded destruction and receive reports detailing the location of the American Carriers, which are slightly beyond the horizon. At about 09:00, the Japanese alter their course to seek out the Enterprise and her counterparts, the Hornet and Yorktown.
Pilots from the Hornet and Enterprise desperately attempt to locate the Jap Flattops, but their fuel diminishes rapidly as the Japanese have changed course, making the Americans’ task even tougher as they scour the clouds. The Flying Fighters from the Hornet are compelled to ditch at sea and the Bombers must head for Midway or suffer the same fate. The worries of the day become more serious for the Yanks at Midway, the most vulnerable of the objectives. Japanese Bombers from the Enterprise are skyward, but they see nothing, but wide open seas. Suddenly, a Squadron of Fighters from the Enterprise spots the enemy Carriers and roars to the location to the Bombers. They immediately close the range in conjunction with testy Fighters from the Yorktown, whose memories of the Coral Sea are still vivid in their minds. As luck would have it, the Japanese on the Kaga, are caught reloading the Bombers as Planes from the Yorktown arrive. First, the Japs receive several reprieves. Torpedo Squadron 8, fresh off the Hornet, approaches, again without Fighter protection. The dauntless Pilots begin the attack, just prior to 09:30, fully realizing the expected odds and the entire Squadron, commanded by Lt. Commander John C. Waldron, of 15 is downed. The lone survivor is Ensign George H. Gay. The Pacific Theater is about to make a fibber out of Barnum, for it is Ensign Gay, who is about to have the front row seat, at the greatest show on earth, at least if you count the Pacific Theater. As Gay ponders his fate, while clinging to his life preserver, the clock nears 10:00 as friendly Yankee engines roar overhead, bound for the Carriers. A Torpedo Squadron from the Enterprise dives through the flying lead, followed closely by additional Skywarriors from the Yorktown. As an astonished Ensign Gay watches, a most magnificent roar trembles over the ocean. The initial explosion is soon followed by more, until the Kaga is consumed by fire and smoke. The battle rages, with more bombs striking, and more explosions, literally catapulting Japanese Sailors from the decks into the nearby inferno of the once unspoiled waters, which have instantly been transformed into a vision of carnage and wreckage. Both the Akagi and Soryu are ablaze. The American Planes return to their Carriers, although 10 Torpedo Bombers, from the Yorktown and a like number from the Enterprise are shot down. However, there are three less operational Carriers in the Japanese Navy.
Japanese Planes discover the location of the American Carriers at about 12:00 and close for the attack with 36 Planes, equally divided between Dive Bombers and Zeros. Twelve Fighters from the Yorktown are launched in quick succession, to meet the threat and they knock out half of the Bombers. Several Japs break through the skywall, to be knocked down by gunners, but three bombs strike the Carrier, causing severe fires. The crew works feverishly to extinguish the inferno, but as they do, another group of Torpedo Bombers swoops down on the wounded Carrier. The Gunners knock out every Plane, but the Vessel is rocked with several additional torpedoes. Soon, Captain Elliot Buckmaster is forced to abandon his Carrier. The score is three to one, but the loss of the Yorktown is critical to the American cause. The key to victory depends on finding the 4th Jap Carrier, the Hiryu, which is retreating to the northeast, while the other three are burning, in what might be the biggest fish fry outside of Tokyo. The Hiryu, flanked by her escorts, is speeding out of the area, but Spotter Planes from the Yorktown locate the enemy Armada, which includes the lone Carrier, still operational and two Battleships, a few Destroyers and two Cruisers. Planes from the Hornet and the Enterprise are called out and combine to knock out the Carrier. Incessant enemy fire greets them, as they make the approach, from 10 Zeros but the Hiryu is hit and set ablaze. While the attackers from the Enterprise are pummeling the Hiryu, other Planes from the Hornet assault the escort Vessels.
Ensign Gay, remarkably floating alone in the middle of this gigantic graveyard in the sea, is unaware that he is not the only American in the area. Several fathoms below, lies the impetuous U.S.S. Nautilus, the only Submarine, out of a cast of 29, that will playa major part in the show. The crew of the Nautilus is a little aggravated with the day so far, as she has been assaulted at about 08:00, by a Jap Plane and a couple of aggressive Cruisers. A little later in the morning, the Nautilus spots a peculiar looking Vessel, a Battleship. The Warship now attacks the periscope of the Nautilus, while the crew is on its deck, scurrying around, anticipating a jubilant kill. The curious periscope scans the water and sees enemy Vessels at every point of revolution. Brockman, disgruntled by the irreverent treatment by his hosts, shakes loose of a barrage of depth charges, and rears forward to attack. The Nautilus fires torpedoes at a Cruiser, bringing even more depth charges. The Armada move ahead, leaving a lone Destroyer to catch the Nautilus. The Destroyer searches in vain, but the Submarine skirts under the waves at a zesty pace, then impulsively pokes her periscope atop the water, enabling the Vessel, to observe a sky full of bursting shells strewn in umbrella style, high above an enemy Carrier. Above the shellfire, is a more delightful view; soaring American Planes. Enemy escorts spot the protruding eye of the Submarine and initiate an attack. Taking corrective action, the Nautilus fires her torpedoes before diving for cover to the bottom. The enemy evades the incoming torpedoes and starts dropping depth charges wide of the Nautilus, which is beached nervously in sand. At about 10:00 it goes up for another look and finds all is clear, except for a few blazing Carriers, as reported over the radio. The Nautilus creeps near the burning, but operational Carrier Soryu, and fires a few poignant torpedoes. All three torpedoes hit the mark, triggering severe explosions and finally, a thunderous roar, that rocks the entire area after the Vessel is half way to the bottom. The final explosions are so terrifying, that the Nautilus momentarily thinks it is under attack. The periscope verifies no Ships, friend or foe, and the men of the Nautilus enjoy their dinner. Ensign Gay, holding the only front seat for the Nautilus performance, has enjoyed the show and will be later rescued to tell the tale.
The day is full of fury, heroics and glory. In another instance of American fortitude, Captain Richard Fleming’s (U.S.M.C. Squadron 241) craft is struck by 179 hits during the day. His plane dips to an altitude of 400 feet, to release its bombs, during the initial attack. He returns against the enemy again and after scoring a near miss from an altitude of 500 feet, is struck by additional enemy fire, that forces the courageous pilot to crash in the sea. All in all, it has been a calamitous day for the Imperial Navy.
The chastened Admiral Yamamoto has no choice, but to attempt to get back to Japan. He instructs a group of Cruisers, (rom his Occupation Force, to move close to Midway in a diversionary tactic, to lambaste the island, preventing Aircraft from pursuing him. However, the U.S. has this one figured out also. All the Submarines, which had been dispersed to search for the enemy, are hastily recalled to their original positions, to protect Midway in the event of an invasion and are deployed by the early morning of June 5th. The Japanese move cautiously, toward Midway, but are surprised to find the Submarines waiting in ambush. Contact is made, with unidentified Vessels, by the U.S.S. Tambor, at slightly after 02:00, but extreme caution is taken by Lt. Commander Murphy, in the event that they might be American Ships. Further probing by the Submarine verifies the Vessels as hostile Cruisers and unquestionably Japanese. The Tambor dives as the enemy cruisers approach. When it comes up to periscope depth, the Tambor finds all (our Cruisers had swung to the left, causing two to collide immediately after sighting the American Submarine. Yamamoto, finding more futility in the belated endeavor, orders the attack aborted well before the sun comes out. The four Cruisers retreat, with the Mikuma and the Mogami, both damaged, and lagging behind.
Planes from Midway, following the trail of oil from the damaged Mikuma, deliver a brutalizing attack on the 6th of June. The Air assault incapacitates the Milmma and staggers the Mogami. Admiral Spruance then dispatches Aircraft from the Hornet and Enterprise to fini sh the job. The Dive Bombers bury the Mikuma and take a severe toll on the Mogami. Amazingly, the Vessel is able to crawl back to Truk. Midway is saved, but again the cost is high. The gallant Yorktown is knocked out of action and while being towed to Pearl Harbor for repairs, one of three enemy Submarines, operating around Midway is able to get off four torpedoes, two of which strike the Yorktown and the other two hit the Destroyer Hammann. A tremendous explosion ignites the Vessel’s ammunition, killing many of the crew and further damaging the nearby Yorktown, ensuring–her demise. Other Warships in the area rush to get the Submarine 1–168, culminating the battle. On the following morning, at 05:00, the Yorktown rolls over and sinks.
Admirals Nimitz, Spruance and Fletcher are the victors. Admiral Halsey, unable to oversee his Task Force. had made an admirable choice in Spruance. The U.S. Headquarters at Pearl is ecstatic as word had reached them about Yamamoto‘s retreat back to Japan. The U.S. Navy begins rescue operations, picking up surviving Pilots who had ditched in the Pacific. Aircraft losses on both sides are extremely heavy, costing the U.S. 150 Planes and the Japanese over 250. Surviving Japanese Pilots are rare, as few are issued parachutes. The Three American Carriers had turned the tide of battle and although the Yanks suffer the loss of the Yorktown, it has a successor, the Saratoga heading for the Pacific Theater. The principal body of Yamamoto‘s assault forces have escaped unscathed, but the Japanese have lost Over 4,500 Sailors, and four Carriers during this confrontation.
TheImperial Navy is down to only two Carriers and they have been preoccupied in the Aleutians, where U.S. and Canadian forces have stopped the Japanese thrust into Alaska. Yamamoto, devastated personally by the defeat, is prepared to call back the Aleutian force, but decides to instruct them to land at Attu and Kiska. In addition, the two consecutive losses at the Coral Sea and on Midway, has cost precious experienced Japanese Pilots. Both Air and Sea power in the Pacific now favor the United States. The U.S. Navy had won the decisive victory needed to raise morale and place the momentum on the side of the Allies.