Shattered Sword: The Japanese Story of the Battle of Midway
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Likewise, the Japanese operations aimed at the Aleutian Islands Operation AL removed yet more ships from the force that would strike at Midway. However, whereas prior histories of the battle have often characterized the Aleutians operation as a feint to draw American forces northwards, recent scholarship on the battle has shown that according to the original Japanese battle plan, AL was designed to be launched simultaneously with the attack on Midway. In order to do battle with an enemy force anticipated to be composed of carriers, Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas Chester W.
Nimitz needed every available U. Spruance Halsey's escort commander. They reached Pearl Harbor just in time to provision and re-sortie. Admiral Nimitz showed disregard for 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 —which was still damaged from the raid on Pearl Harbor six months earlier—still aboard. Just three days after pulling into drydock at Pearl Harbor, the ship was again under steam, as the ship's band played "California, Here I Come.
Meanwhile, as a result of their participation in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku was in port in Kure near Hiroshima , waiting for an air group to be brought to her to replace her destroyed planes. 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. At least part of this was a product of fatigue; Japanese carriers had been constantly on operations since December 7, , including pinprick raids on Darwin and Colombo.
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 proceed to their assembly point northeast of Midway known as "Point Luck" without being detected. Japanese radio intercepts also noticed an increase in both American submarine activity and U. This information was in Yamamoto's hands prior to the battle. However, Japanese operational plans were not changed in reaction to this.
Admiral Nimitz had one priceless asset: American and British cryptanalysts had broken the JN naval code. Japan's efforts to introduce a new codebook were delayed, giving HYPO crucial days; they were blacked out shortly before the attack began. 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 the anti-aircraft guns protecting the carriers would be limited. Knowing the strength he faced, Nimitz calculated three carrier decks, plus Midway, to Yamamoto's four gave him rough parity.
Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway by Jonathan Parshall
The Japanese, by contrast, remained almost totally in the dark about their opponents even after the battle began. Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo launched his initial attack wave of aircraft at on June 4. At the same time, he launched seven search aircraft one of which was launched 30 minutes late , as well as combat air patrol CAP fighters. Japanese reconnaissance arrangements were flimsy, with too few aircraft to adequately cover the assigned search areas, which were laboring under poor weather conditions to the northeast and east of the task force.
At , Japanese carrier aircraft bombed and heavily damaged the U. American anti-aircraft fire was accurate and intense, damaging many Japanese aircraft. The Japanese strike leader signaled Nagumo that another mission would be necessary to neutralize the island's defenses before troops could be landed on June 7.
Having taken off prior to the Japanese attack, American bombers based on Midway made several attacks on the Japanese carrier fleet. The Japanese shrugged off these attacks with almost no losses, while destroying all but three of the American bombers. 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 were armed with torpedoes for an antiship strike, should any American warships be located.
The dive bombers were, as yet, unarmed. This had been underway for about 30 minutes, when at a scout plane from the cruiser Tone signaled the discovery of a sizable American naval force to the east. Nagumo quickly reversed his order and asked the scout plane to ascertain the composition of the American force.
Another 40 minutes elapsed before Tone' s scout finally detected and radioed the presence of a single carrier in the American force TF 16, the other carrier was not detected.
Nagumo was now in a quandary. Nagumo had an opportunity to immediately launch some or all of his reserve force against the American ships  but had to act quickly because his Midway strike force would be returning shortly. They would be low on fuel and carrying wounded crewmen, and they would need to land promptly.
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Spotting his flight decks and launching aircraft would require at least 30—45 minutes to accomplish. Japanese carrier doctrine preferred fully constituted strikes, and in the absence of a confirmation until of whether the American force contained carriers, Nagumo's reaction was cautious. In the end, Nagumo chose to wait for his first strike force to land, then launch the reserve strike force, which would have by then been properly armed and ready.
Meanwhile, the Americans had already launched their carrier aircraft against the Japanese. Admiral Fletcher, in overall command on board Yorktown, and armed with PBY sighting reports from the early morning, ordered Spruance to launch against the Japanese as soon as was practical. Fletcher, upon completing his own scouting flights, followed suit at from Yorktown. This diminished the overall impact of the American attacks and greatly increased their casualties, although it later had the effect of splitting the Japanese defenses.
American carrier aircraft began attacking the Japanese carrier fleet at , with first Torpedo Squadron 8 VT-8 , followed by VT-6 at VT-6 met nearly the same fate, with no hits against the enemy to show for their efforts.
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The Japanese CAP, flying the much faster Mitsubishi Zero fighter, made short work of the Americans who not only had no fighter support of their own but were flying the slow, under-armed TBD Devastator torpedo planes. However, despite their terrible sacrifices, the American torpedo planes 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 had pulled the Japanese combat air patrol out of position—not in terms of altitude as has commonly been described , but by laterally distorting the CAP coverage over the Japanese fleet.
Third, many of the Zeros were low on ammunition and fuel.
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By chance, at the same time VT-3 was sighted by the Japanese, two separate formations comprising three squadrons total of American SBD Dauntless dive-bombers were approaching the Japanese fleet from the northeast and southwest. These formations initially had difficulty in locating the Japanese carriers, and their fuel was running low.
Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway (Paperback)
However, by the decision by squadron commanders C. Wade McClusky, Jr. The destroyer was steaming at full speed back to Nagumo's carrier force, after having unsuccessfully depth-charged the U. However, contrary to some accounts of the battle, recent research has demonstrated that the Japanese were not prepared to launch a counterstrike against the Americans at the time they were decisively attacked.
The dive-bombers, however, had better fortune. Within six minutes, the SBDs made their attack runs and left all three of their targets heavily ablaze. Akagi was hit by just one bomb, which was sufficient; it 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, bending the flight deck upward with the resulting geyser and causing crucial rudder damage. All three carriers were out of action and would eventually be abandoned and scuttled. The Nautilus crew claimed that one torpedo hit the carrier, causing "flames. Of the four torpedoes launched, one failed to run, two ran erratically, and the fourth was a 'dud,' impacting amidships and breaking in half.
The first strike of Japanese dive-bombers badly damaged Yorktown with two bomb hits, yet her damage control teams patched her up so effectively in about an hour that the second strike of torpedo bombers mistook her for an intact carrier. Despite Japanese hopes to even the battle by eliminating two carriers with two strikes, Yorktown absorbed both Japanese attacks, the second wave of attackers believing mistakenly that Yorktown had already been sunk and that they were attacking Enterprise.
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After two torpedo hits, Yorktown lost power and was now out of the battle, forcing Admiral Fletcher to move his flag to the heavy cruiser Astoria, but Task Force 16's two carriers had escaped undamaged as a result. News of the two strikes, with the reports that each had sunk an American carrier, greatly improved the morale of the crewmen of the Carrier Striking Force. There they were prepared for a strike against what was believed to be the only remaining aircraft carrier of the American fleet.
Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi chose to go down with his ship.