The untold story of the battle of Midway

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Pacific Historian
Jun 4, 2005
Orange County, CA

This has got to be one of the finest books on naval warfare in the Pacific. This was an excellent addition to my collection and if any of you go out and buy one, I swear you will not be dissapointed.

The authors look at the battle from the Japanese point of view, using documents that have long existed but never used in the western "story" of the battle.

Plenty of myths exist about what happened. The book looks at them all. Among them are:
# The Americans triumphed against overwhelming odds at the Battle of Midway.
# The Aleutians Operation was conceived by Admiral Yamamoto, the commander in chief of Combined Fleet, as a diversion designed to lure the American fleet out of Pearl Harbor.
# During the transit to Midway, Admiral Yamamoto withheld important intelligence information from Admiral Nagumo, the operational commander of the carrier striking force. As a result, Nagumo was in the dark concerning the nature of the threat facing him.
# Had the Japanese implemented a two-phase reconnaissance search on the morning of 4 June, they would have succeeded in locating the American fleet in time to win the battle.
# The late launch of cruiser Tone's No. 4 scout plane doomed Admiral Nagumo to defeat in the battle.
# Had Admiral Nagumo not decided to rearm his aircraft with land-attack weapons, he would have been in a position to attack the Americans as soon as they were discovered.
# The sacrifice of USS Hornet's Torpedo Squadron Eight was not in vain, since it pulled the Japanese combat air patrol fighters down to sea level, thereby allowing the American dive-bombers to attack at 1020.
# Japan's elite carrier aviators were all but wiped out during the battle.

If anyone wants to discuss carrier warfare in the PTO during the fist several months of the war, please do.


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Agreed. Jon and Tony did a great job. Combine Shattered Sword with Bob Cressman, et. al.'s Glorious Page in Our History" and John Lundstrom's The First Team and there's not many stones left unturned.

Leonard, I remember your father being mentioned. I believe he flew off the USS Yorktown when the Japanese planes were coming in and shot one down.

Do you have more you can tell us?
Only came out less than a year ago and not in paperback. Still hardbound, probably north of $25 in price. That might scare people off. This one should come out in paperback in another year or two. Great read, great detail.

Actually, if you're building a WW2 library, Shattered Sword would be a good addition. Well written and well researched.

Having said that, there are problems with the book. The Authors note, and intend, this book to be a starting point for a re-examination of the battle. As such, it does not cover more than a cursory look at the American participation of the battle. The authors expect the reader to be pretty well cognizant of the part the US Navy played and the story of the battle through American eyes. I fear this could lead to a backlash on the battle as the Japanese are considered less of a threat than they were and the American victory is a forgone conclusion. It could degrade from the importance and impact of the victory.
What makes this book so interesting is the authors looked at official IJN reports of the battle. Its amazing that these reports have been completely ignored by western sources for decades.

They look at the battle from the perspective of IJN doctrine and carrier operations. It is quite interesting how these often overlooked facets often dictate the battle how it will unfold.

IJN and USN carrier doctrine were not the same in many matters. Nor were the national charachters the same. For instance, the size of the "islands" on the IJN carriers were quite small and had a single "bridge" that was quite cramped. The Admirals staff and the captains staff were often co-mingling because of this. Think that has an effect on the conduct of a battle as compared to the roomier US "islands" that had seperate bridges for the admirals and captains? Read the book and find out!
I've reread this book a few times and heres some interesting tidbits.

The Aleutions Operation was a diversion.
Thats a falsity on two accounts. First is the obvious. If its a diversion, why did the operation start at the same time as the Midway operation? For it to have been a diversion, it should have started at least a week sooner so as to get the US fleet out to sea. Second, the Imperial staff decided that this was actually going to be an important campaign. If you look at a map, the Aleutions are not to many sea miles or air miles between the two countries. Of course no one really gave thought to how it would be that strategic of a place if the weather conditions were horrible at best.

Another interesting aspect of the Midway operation was the horrible staff planning and wargaming in the IJN. There was a definate dislike between the Yamamoto "clique" and the Imperial Navy General Staff. Yamamoto was making his moves using the "my way or I will resign" way of negotiating. And it was wearing thin. At the staff planning and the war gaming excersizes, even some member of his staff saw the folly in the operation, but felt powerless to tell Yamamoto their thoughts.

To top it off, during war gaming, there were two occasions where the "US" scored heavily against the combined fleet carriers and inflicted severe loss's. On one of these scenarios, the damage was reversed because the USN was not expected to flank the carrier group (which in real life they did) and the other scenario was changed because too many bombs landed on a carrier. The umpire said "not likely". Some Japanese analysts (postwar) commented that the Midway operation was Japans best planned defeat.

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