The Battle of Midway
On June 4, 1942, the Imperial Navy of Japan tried to lure Americans into a colossal trap at the Midway. A raffled battle turned into an exchange of "long, straight and side" on the maneuver. "Boxing match" was conducted at a long range as the main participants were not approaching each other by less than 150 km.
Development of operation "MI" by the Japanese consisted of the following tactics. First, they had to implement disembarkation on the Aleutian Islands, forcing the US troops in the north to perform transition to a counterattack. This was supposed to capture a strategic outpost of the United States, i.e. Midway Island. A threat of losing the stronghold located just less than 2,000 km from Hawaii would pose a problem that Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief in the Pacific Ocean, could not ignore. His weakened squadron was forced to turn to cover the island where the Japanese fleet in all its power and glory fell on them. The Japanese suffered from the lack of a complex plan and inability of its authors to take into account that the Americans were able to predict their intentions with the help of deciphering radio intercepts.
Compounds of US aircraft carriers experienced not the best times then. Only the "Enterprise" and "Hornet" of the 16th tactical connections of Vice Admiral William Halsey of the four "floating airfields" were in the Pacific at Pearl Harbor. On May 27, "Yorktown" arrived damaged by bombs in the Coral Sea, which people managed to bring in order and prepare to conduct operations in a remarkably short time. A newly renovated "Saratoga" was still on the West coast and could not come on time.
The Japanese engaged 162 ships divided into 13 separate groups in the operation "MI". On June 3, airplanes from aircraft carriers "Dzun" and "Rydji" launched an attack on one of the Aleutian Islands of Attu. However, this step provoked Americans to respond and involved them in the match only to fail later.
Japanese flying boats and submarines in the area of the Island of Midway summed command, failing to provide troops with necessary information. However, the American aircraft found a court invasion of enemy forces on the island, while they were still at a distance to the West. A group that remained unnoticed made an acute onset of the Japanese carriers of Vice Admiral Nagumo, excluding two "flight deck", unable to take part in the hostilities after drubbing in the Coral Sea. Yamamoto on board of the battleship "Yamato" was ready to attack the Americans in full force as soon as they got into a fight with the vanguard. Task Force Midway moved to the South.
"Enterprise" and "Hornet" operated in conjunction with the "Yorktown" of Rear Admiral Frank Fletcher and were not seen by the enemy, thus waiting at the position in the Northeast of the island. Admiral Yamamoto, the organizer of great traps, was very close to falling into the trap.
On June 4, Vice Admiral Nagumo sent the first raid on the island consisting of 72 bombers and 36 fighters. He was about 400 km away from the goal and continued to approach at a high speed. Acting as a kind of a movable shield, combatants were ready to prevent retaliation from Midway. About 100 armor-piercing bombs and torpedoes were ready to attack US ships as soon as they appeared.
At 05:30, Nagumo’s force spotted a base on Midway called "Consolidated" PBY and the entire airspace over the island was filled with planes. With accuracy locating Japanese carriers, Spruance took an action. Between 06:30 and 07:00, despite fierce opposition, the enemy’s aircraft managed to inflict some damage on facilities on the island, but pilots signaled the need for re-coating.
However, Nagumo already found themselves short of 67 aircrafts downed and damaged by anti-aircraft or fighter opposition during the attack on the enemy. Location of American carriers (if any were in the area) remained unknown while four existing "floating airfields" were scattered, performing the Yamamoto’s plan. Nagumo’s anxieties declined due to a complete failure of his enemy planes, attacking aircrafts coming from bases in Midway. However, their numbers made him think about the wisdom of the next impact on the island.
Information about movements of US aircraft carriers still did not arrive and the technical staff was ordered to rearm shrapnel bombs remaining on board of aircrafts for ground targets.
Spruance and Fletcher sent 151 aircrafts into the sky. They were still on the road when the Japanese reconnaissance floatplane finally found the Americans. His report caused a sort of panic for Nagumo who hastily again rearmed, being ready to fly aircrafts. In spite of everything, the Japanese fighter cover operated with high efficiency. Many planes "Hornet" could not reach the target and the wave merging in 41 "Douglas" TBD lost 35 aircrafts. Meanwhile, the fighters were almost over the water and, therefore, the following composition of 49 dive bombers had the opportunity to bomb. Nearby, "Akagi", "Kaga", and "Soryu" received at first two, then four, and finally three heavy bombs. Dressed and armed planes stood on the deck, while the ammunition intended for the raid on the island was not removed yet. Hits caused severe fires, while aircraft carriers became unfit for combat and later were sunk. "Hiryu" acted at a distance from the rest and up to time avoided a sad fate, sending in turn dive bombers into battle. Those who found "Yorktown" took a victorious air group and inflicted three blows on the aircraft carrier. It lost speed, but recovered and continued driving. Opponents separated only for 200 km and the "wounded" got two torpedoes during the raid of the second shock wave "Hiryu".
The exhausted surviving crew of "Enterprise" and "Hornet" took off again. Forty "Douglas" SBD found "Hiryu" for the same task. Four bombs tore down most of the flight deck and four ripped it apart near the damaged hull. Being shattered, it was subsequently flooded by a team.
Only the loss of "Yorktown" marred American victory. Eleven attended battleships participated in the battle, but they did not decide the outcome of the event. The first violin in a symphony was played by extremely tragic aircraft carriers. Overconfident Japanese were strongly shortened. Six months after Pearl Harbor, four of the six aircraft carriers lied at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and the enemy had to forget about plans relating to isolation of Australia.
Before this battle, the Japanese had not suffered a single defeat on the sea as they had better ships in a higher quantity. Better planes and better aircraft carriers were added with a high number of them. In the end, they had better pilots experienced in fighting against the majority of newcomers among the Americans. However, a whole series of incredible coincidences gathered up that eventually led to the defeat of the Japanese.
The first thing was that the Americans hacked the secret Japanese code JN-25 just a month before the battle. The likelihood of such an event was almost zero. Most likely, the whole war could go and no one would have cracked the code. The likelihood that this would happen on the eve of this important event generally tended to absolute zero. However, this event had little impact on the course of the battle itself. Before the first bomb hit a carrier, Americans carried out 6 attacks and had not achieved a single hit, losing almost all their aircrafts. That was the way it should be. Experienced pilots of Japanese fighters easily shot down American newcomers who had no chances.
Then, miracles began. The main hero of the battle was Clarence Wade McClusky and his group of dive bombers, who at the beginning got lost and could not find the Japanese fleet. It was quite natural, given the experience of the pilot. However, the fact that he found the Japanese when he returned to his aircraft carrier is already quite fantastic. This is despite the fact that neither in the air nor on the deck of the Japanese aircraft carrier there was not a single fighter that could repel the attack. It looks somehow as an incredible coincidence. However, it happened that way. Moreover, the miracles did not end there. This latter group of inexperienced American pilots managed during one attack to sink three of the four Japanese aircraft carriers. When, for example, experienced Japanese pilots were able to drown only one American aircraft carrier during the two attacks.
Speaking of Japanese assaults, it should be mentioned that during the first attack they almost knocked out "Yorktown". It remained afloat only by a miracle. The Japanese returned to their last aircraft carrier, rearmed, and repeated the attack. There were almost no aircrafts for the defense of American ships. The Japanese could still win the battle with the two remaining aircraft carriers. Then, again, the American incredible luck came into play. The Japanese, by mistake, attacked all the same doomed "Yorktown", leaving untouched the other two virtually defenseless carriers. They were to hold a third attack and still finish off the Americans. However, the American luck intervened in the deal again. Almost last 25 US aircrafts found the last Japanese aircraft carrier and no fighter rose in the air. Thus, they were able to sink it.
The Japanese could quietly drown all American aircraft carriers, then badly batter their fleet, and naturally capture Midway. Naturally, this would have affected the course of military operations in the world. Probably, for two years they would have captured everything in the Pacific region.
In turn, victory of the US intelligence should be considered in a much broader sense. In this case, an equally important role was played by both successful operations of the intelligence service and poor, inefficient work of the Japanese. The fact that their reconnaissance was working really bad eloquently testifies to the fact that the Naval General Staff did not have any idea about actual whereabouts of the enemy’s fleet until the beginning of the battle. It just disoriented the Combined Fleet Command, reporting that the US task force was operating in the Solomon Islands. Each time, the General Staff only emphasized that the enemy did not suspect anything about the impending attack on the island of Midway. Exploration of Combined Fleet worked no better. Unusual activity of the enemy was observed near the Hawaiian Islands from May 30 to June 1. Combined Fleet Staff did not consider it as a sufficiently serious sign that the enemy was preparing for an attack. They did not even warn Nagumo of such a possibility.
Another important cause of the defeat of the Japanese in Midway was wrong planning of the operation. The largest and most obvious mistake was assuming command of prompt construction of their naval forces. Officers who developed the plan of operation resorted to the dispersal of forces. It was one of their favorite tactics, which at that time was fatal. The concentration would create the most formidable and hitherto unknown single operative connection. However, the Combined Fleet Staff chose to spray their strength and thereby significantly weaken them. From a strategic point of view, the Aleut fist had no importance. Task of the Northern connection concerned only destruction of US facilities and temporary occupation of the Aleutian Islands followed by waste. Tactically, it also had great value. Diversion intended to distract the enemy's attention from the object of the main attack would not play a major role. A decision to sacrifice distinct advantages of concentration of forces for the sake of dubious benefits of red herring, undoubtedly, cannot be justified.
However, it seems reasonable to move to the analysis of three major mistakes made by Vice Admiral Nagumo. The first mistake was that he failed to organize properly a search for the enemy on the day of the attack on Midway Island. The commander had to take a two-phase exploration and it should have started a little earlier. Then, the task force of the enemy was able to find the Japanese in time to be the first to strike. The second mistake consisted in the wrong distribution of aircrafts during the first and second attacking waves. Nagumo should have made one wave of planes from the first two aircraft carriers and the second one from the other two. Simultaneous use of airplanes with four aircraft carriers required less time for takeoff and landing. Vulnerability of aircraft carriers inevitably increased in case of enemy attack in the process of and immediately after receiving airplanes. Since they were occupied with landing, they could not quickly raise planes in the air to repel the attack. Moreover, connection could not attack the enemy in these intervals even in case of emergency. If Nagumo had attacked the island with two aircraft carriers and the other two had been kept in reserve, he would not have had his hands tied at the critical moment.
The third and perhaps the most serious mistake of Nagumo was that he did not attack the enemy with all available planes although he knew that a part of the American task force included an aircraft carrier. Admittedly, it was extremely risky. However, the biggest risk was to be attacked by enemy’s aircraft when all the planes, being onboard, were refueled and replenished ammunition. Nagumo decided that it would be the most faithful and most reliable decision and his aircraft carriers were doomed from that moment.
Moreover, nothing could be worse than such underestimation of the enemy. Americans not only decided to fight, but also looked forward to it and were ready to fight back. The Japanese optimistic assumption that the opponent would be caught off guard was again based on the belief that they did not suspect about their intentions. However, in reality it was not that way. A decision to distribute the forces was another proof of overconfidence. Reaching this decision, the Japanese leaders had no doubt that martial forces would be easy to combine if the enemy decided to fight. A wrongly admitted operational disposition of forces confirmed that the connection could not be united to conduct effective military operations. This is because they were at a great distance from each other at the beginning of the battle.
To sum up, the main reason for the defeat of Japan lies in the peculiarities of the Japanese national character. Illogic actions are characteristic for their people. The Japanese often make decisions under the influence of impulse. This leads to random and often contradictory actions.