BrianBM

Before the "Battle of Midway" movie

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If you have an interest in the history, I have a recommendation.

 

Craig L. Symonds retired from the U.S. Naval Academy a few years ago, where he'd been a Professor of History.  He wrote a book, "The battle of Midway."  There are a multitude of books about that battle, and a bunch with that title. I can't say I've read them all, but I've read some, and his is very up-to-date, commendably calm and sober in tone, and very, very readable. If there's only time for one title on this subject, this is the one to read.

 

IMHO. 

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Read a few books on Midway and all were good. Many have no idea how important that battle was and how it changed the world. Sometimes battles and wars are won by the best army or navy but many are won by the one who makes the fewest mistakes. This battle took an empire that was almost unstoppable in the Pacific and stopped them dead in the water. It sealed Japans fate for sure. We were so lucky that the Japanese navy made enough mistakes that day and we were there at the right time to take advantage of them. I hope Hollywood doesn't screw it up. 

Hey Brian. Have you ever read "A Glorious Way to Die" Puts you right into the mindset of a Japanese warrior. Great read.     

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We won the day.

We destroyed 4 of their front line fleet carriers.

We killed all their most skilled aircrews and pilots when we did it.

The tide of the war turned.

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2 hours ago, DoorGunner said:

Read a few books on Midway and all were good. Many have no idea how important that battle was and how it changed the world. Sometimes battles and wars are won by the best army or navy but many are won by the one who makes the fewest mistakes. This battle took an empire that was almost unstoppable in the Pacific and stopped them dead in the water. It sealed Japans fate for sure. We were so lucky that the Japanese navy made enough mistakes that day and we were there at the right time to take advantage of them. I hope Hollywood doesn't screw it up. 

Hey Brian. Have you ever read "A Glorious Way to Die" Puts you right into the mindset of a Japanese warrior. Great read.     

This would make a great winter bull session.

 

Japan's defeat was inevitable. Our industrial base was many times the size of theirs; we had much closer cooperation with the British on technical matters (radar, the proximity fuse, etc.) than they did with Germany; they had to import almost all their raw materials, while we did not; and so on. I would describe the Battle of Midway as the end of the beginning, rather than the beginning of the end. (Paraphrasing Churchill.  If you're going to steal a phrase, steal it from a master of the English language.) 

 

I haven't read "A Glorious Way to Die." I know of it from references. (The last voyage of IJN Yamato, essentially a battleship on a kamikaze run to Okinawa). One of these days I will read it. 

 

There are a couple of things that I assume the movie will screw up, simply because every movie made about the battle has screwed them up so far.  The codebreakers at Pearl Harbor will get the credit they are due. (They didn't get it, at the time.)  Adm. Mitscher and his air boss, Stanhope Ring, failed badly.  Hornet's planes were sent in the wrong direction, and the only planes from Hornet to make contact were the torpedo planes of Torpedo 8. Commander Waldron violated orders by breaking away from the air group, and going on to annihilation and a heroic place in American military history by doing so. Stanhope Ring took his dive bombers and fighters on the wrong course - and beyond the point of no return. They all ran out of gas on the way home and ended up in the water. This doesn't play well in the heroic mythology we prefer, so it gets overlooked. Cmdr. Waldron got a medal (posthumous, of course.) Stanhope Ring made Rear Admiral.

 

Mitscher spent a year afterwards in Nimitz' doghouse.  It was a year or more before Nimitz trusted him with a seagoing command again, and by that time the disparity between the size of the American Navy and that of the Japanese was going beyond lopsided into a monstrous mismatch. Much has been made of the difference between the caution Mitscher later showed at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the recklessness that Adm. Halsey showed at Leyte Gulf. I haven't read a biography of either man, but I suspect that having been so wrong at Midway chastened Mitscher enough to make him a more cautious commander.

 

We might have missed the Japanese entirely, or they might have found us first, but for the observation of the wake of a Japanese destroyer running at full speed after hours spent playing cat and mouse with an American submarine. Luck, unpredictable luck .....

 

After the carriers were done with each other, Adm. Fletcher retreated to the west. He had no intention of risking a night confrontation with Japanese capital ships. That judgment was vindicated, because that's exactly what Yamamoto intended.  The overnight back-and-forth never gets described. Does Hollywood consider it too complicated? 

 

After the loss of the carriers, Adm. Yamamoto issued an order that other ships continue to advance, and that the nearest capital ships bombard Midway. This order he reversed a few hours later, by which time a quartet of cruisers were within 50 miles of Midway. They were heading away at speed when they were spotted by an American submarine. They spotted the submarine's periscope, too, and took violent evasive action. IJN Mogami and Mikuma managed a high-speed collision which left their bows crushed, and on fire. The sub captain saw this, but didn't report it for some hours. That cost us a chance to sink all four cruisers, and it later cost him his command. By the time we did catch up, the two undamaged cruisers had escaped, along with their destroyers, and the two damaged ships were making the best speed they could. Once American planes were spotted (Fletcher was advancing, with what he had left) the Japanese captains had a choice. These cruisers carried sixteen Type 93 torpedoes. The captain of Mogami  jettisoned all of his; he knew he was going to get hit and didn't want to do so with sixteen 900-lb warheads lying on deck. Mogami survived the beating she took, and stayed afloat until Leyte Gulf, two years later. The captain of Mikuma, for whatever reason, kept his torpedoes. Inevitably, one or more blew up when an American bomb landed nearby, helping to sink the cruiser. The whole cruiser episode is usually ignored in favor of footage about the attack on Pearl Harbor. (The same thing happened to another cruiser at Leyte Gulf, so despite the justly famed excellence of Japanese torpedoes, the firepower they offered Japanese cruisers and destroyers came with a substantial risk of devastating damage if the Japanese ship got hit while still carrying torpedoes.)

 

American bombs worked well. American torpedoes did not. During the maneuvering of the air battle on June 4, an American sub, I think USS Nautilus, found herself with a broadside shot at a carrier that was dead in the water and burning fiercely (anybody remember? I think it was IJN Soryu.) She fired four torpedoes. One wandered off to the right. One wandered off to the left. One refused to launch. The fourth ran straight and true, and hit the target, and refused to detonate. The warhead broke off and sank; the torpedo body floated, and Japanese crewmen already in the water beat it with their fists out of sheer desperation. Our torpedoes weren't completely debugged until early 1944.

 

USS Yorktown was crawling for home, barely afloat, with USS Hammann alongside to provide electrical power, when a Japanese submarine attacked her.  Japanese torpedoes worked very, very well. Two hit the carrier, one hit the destroyer, and down they went. 

 

Adm. Fletcher won the most important naval victory in the Pacific. CNO Adm. Ernest King didn't think him aggressive enough, so he never had a seagoing command again.  Go figure. 

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7 hours ago, BrianBM said:

If you have an interest in the history, I have a recommendation.

 

Craig L. Symonds retired from the U.S. Naval Academy a few years ago, where he'd been a Professor of History.  He wrote a book, "The battle of Midway."  There are a multitude of books about that battle, and a bunch with that title. I can't say I've read them all, but I've read some, and his is very up-to-date, commendably calm and sober in tone, and very, very readable. If there's only time for one title on this subject, this is the one to read.

 

IMHO. 

Excellent book on the Topic and more thsn does justice to the turning point in the Pacific theater.

HOOYAH Navy!

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My brother is a Naval Academy grad and retired commander, he told me years ago the battle of Midway determined the US could fight wars on both sides of the world/front and sealed Japan's fate. And my old man concluded, he was a WW2 navy vet who served aboard the USS Wichita, one of the first ships to go to Nagasaki after the bomb, and repatriated POWs back to the US.

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