THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY (VERSION – 1) INTRODUCTION 1. By any ordinary standard, they were hopelessly outclassed. They had no battleships, the enemy eleven. They had eight cruisers, the enemy twenty-three. They had three carriers (one of them crippled), the enemy had eight. Their shore defences included guns from the turn of the century. They knew little of war. None of the Navy pilots on one of the carriers had ever been in combat, nor had any of the army fliers of the marines. Seventeen of twenty new pilots were just out of flight school, some with less than four hours flying time.
Some of their dive-bombers could not dive-the fabric came off the wings. Their torpedoes were slow and unreliable, the torpedo planes even worse. Yet they were up against the finest fighting plane in the world. Their enemy was brilliant, experienced and all conquering. They took crushing losses – 15 out of 15 in one torpedo squadron…….. 21 out of 27 in a group of fighters …… many, many more. 2. They had no right to win. Yet they did and in doing so they changed the course of the war. Gentlemen, the Midway showed that once in a while. “What must be” need not be at all.
Even against the greatest of odds, there is something in the human spirit – a magic blend of skill, faith and valour that can lift men from certain defeat to incredible victory. 3. Therefore, gentlemen, in next thirty minutes I along with my panel member would introduce you to the Battle of Midway which harnessed entire course of subsequent events and shaped the globe as of today. 4. We shall present before you the sequence of events as flashed: a. Historical Background b. Area of Operation c. Comparison of Forces d. Battle Planning e. Conduct of Operations f. Analysis in light of Principles of War g. Lessons learnt . Conclusions j. Recommendations HISTORICAL BACKGROUND 5. Japanese surprise attack on Pearl harbour on 7 December 1941 can be termed as strategic failure as it neither crippled US Pacific Fleet nor did it effect US moral too much. Rather it lured a hesitant US in to war. 6. “If I am told to fight regardless of the consequences, “ Admiral Yamamoto confessed to his premier in 1941,”I shall run wild for the first six months or a year, but I have utterly no confidence for the second and third years of the fighting”. To Admiral Yamamoto there was only one solution: a quick, decisive victory before America got rolling.
If he could crush the weakened US fleet especially carriers missed at Pearl Harbour, he would control the Pacific completely. Then just possibly Washington might settle for a peace favourable to Japan. 7. April 18, 1942, was just another spring day when Prime Minister Hideki Tojo took off on a routine visit to a small port of Mito. Suddenly “most curious” brown planes were seen flying toward them. Puzzling moments: then the frantic realization that these were American bombers. Whole Japan was just as surprised, as Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle’s 18 B-25s swept in on their famous raid on Tokyo.
The damage caused was small, but the shock and wounded pride were enormous. Japanese Imperial considered it as humiliation and to avoid such attacks in future Imperial General Headquarters issued a directive on 5 May 42: “Commanders In Chief Combined Fleet will, in cooperation with the Army, invade and occupy strategic points in the western Aleutians and Midway Islands”. 8. Later, in the battle of Coral Sea Japanese loss of one light carrier and damage to two carriers strengthened the Japanese Supreme Commander, Admiral Yamamoto’s, belief that top priority be given to destroy the American Pacific fleet.
Hence the stage was set for Midway campaign. AREA OF OPERATION 9. Midway islands lay about 2500 miles to the east of Tokyo and about 1200 miles to the NW of the famous Pearl harbour. There two small islands, Sand and Eastern, with a total area about 1300 acres. It named Midway because it is situated approximately halfway between Japan and West Coast of USA. 10. USA had built a cable station on the Honolulu Guam Manila underwater telegraph line and also used it as an airport for the Pan American airways China Clipper.
The Midway saw a considerable fortification due to its strategic location after March 1940. US Navy had built air base and a submarine refueling station there. It was also named as unsinkable aircraft carrier. 11. The Japanese on the other hand weighed its importance as jump off base to facilitate reconnaissance and control of future operations in the Pacific. COMPARISON OF FORCES 12. Japanese Order Battle. a. The Main Force. The Main Force under the command of Admiral Yamamoto comprised of one light carrier with 8 aircraft onboard, 7 battleships, 3 Cruisers and 21 Destroyers. b. Main Carrier Strike Force.
Main Carrier Strike Force, under the command of Vice Admiral Nagumo, comprised of 04carriers with 261 aircraft onboard, 2 Battleships, 3 Cruisers and 12 Destroyers. It was tasked to attack the Midway. c. Midway Invasion Force. Midway invasion force comprised of one light carrier with 24 aircraft onboard, 2 Battleships, 10 Cruisers, 20 Destroyers and 5000 men I 12 Transport ships, under the command of Vice Admiral Kondo. d. Second Carrier Strike Force. Vice Admiral Hosogaya had 2 light carriers with 90 aircraft onboard, 5 Cruisers, 13 Destroyers and 4 transport ships with 2400 troops under his command to capture Aleutians. . Advance submarine Force. 10 submarines were deployed in three groups between Hawaii and Midway. The submarine force was under the command of Vice Admiral Komatsu. 13. American Order of Battle. The American Pacific Fleet Commander, Admiral Nimitz divided his fleet as: a. Task Force 17. Task Force 17, under the command of Vice Admiral Fletcher, comprised of one carrier with 75 aircraft onboard, 2 CCs and 6 DDs. b. Task Force 16. Task Force 16 comprised of 2 carriers with 158 aircraft onboard, 6CCs and 11 DDs and commanded by R/Admiral Spruance. c. Midway Defence Force.
The 6th Marine defence Battalion held midway shore defences an in addition they had 109 aircraft of various types to support their defences as well as carry out reconnaissance. d. Aleutians Defence Force. Aleutians Defence Force had 5 cruisers, 14 Destroyers and 6 Submarines and was commanded by R/Admiral Theobald. e. Submarine Force. Submarine Force was deployed in 3 groups at 50,100 and 150 miles from Midway, Rear Admiral H English had 19 submarines in his command for the purpose. BATTLE PLANNING 14. Japanese Planning. Based on the directive, Admiral Yamamoto planned the
Midway operation on “Division of Forces” and “Diversionary Tactics”. The tentative date set for the operation was 4 June 1942. Main features of Admiral Yamamoto’s plan were: a. Striking Dutch harbour in the Aleutians on 3 June and occupy Attu, Adak and Kiska islands. b. Bombing Midway on 4 June and occupy it the following day. c. Destroy American fleet with Japanese carrier and Midway based aircraft when it would rush to defend Midway. 15. American’s Planning. The American had known about the Japanese Midway camping through radio intercepts and deciphered code messages.
Keeping in view the Yamamoto’s plan, the American pacific Fleet Commander, Admiral Nimitz, made the plan as: a. Task Force 16 was rushed from south pacific to Hawaii area for further deployment. b. Sea plane carrier Tangier and her patrol bombers simulated the presence of a carrier task force by broadcasting fake radio transmissions between aircraft and the controller. c. Over hundred planes were stationed at Midway. d. Three patrol barriers of submarines were set up towards NW of Midway. e. Aircraft Carrier Yorktown, undergoing repairs was made combat ready within 48 hours and deployed as Task Force 17.
CONDUCT OF OPERATION 16. Attack on Aleutians. The Aleutian Defence Cdr, R/Admiral Theobald deployed his forces 400 miles south of Kodiak to cover the likely approaches of Japanese. However, Japanese Task Force passed the Americans without any notice and heavily bombarded the Dutch harbour on 3 and 4 June. Subsequently, Kiska and Attu were occupied on 6 and 7 June respectively. 17. Midway Area Operations. a. On the morning of 3 June, Admiral Yamamoto ordered V/Admiral Takasu’s Guard Force to break off from the Main Body and proceed to a point 500 miles south of Kiska island to cover Aleutian’s operations. . Nagumo’s 108 aircraft screamed towards Midway at 0430 on 4 June. A recce mission was also flown from cruiser Tone towards South Northeast through East. Almost at the same time, Americans also launched their reconnaissance missions from Midway and carriers to cover the likely approach of Japanese. The Americans were the first to sight the Japanese at 0534. Subsequently, 10 torpedo bombers were launched from Midway to attack the Japanese. However, only 2 American aircraft could survive without inflicting any damage to Japanese. c.
The Japanese air strike on Midway inflicted a little damage to the ground installations but the runways were still usable. At 0700, the Midway air strike commander signaled Nagumo for the need of second air strike on Midway. The torpedo bombers were rearmed with fragmentation bombs for the purpose. It was about 0745, when first sighting report of US Ships was received on board Nagumo’s Flag ship. The report did not mention about strength or composition of force therefore assuming worse i. e. presence of carriers Nagumo decided to first attack the US naval ships for which the order of reaming the torpedo bombers was reversed.
In the meantime, Nagumo carriers came under attack by Midway based aircraft that did not allow him to launch air attack against American Task Force. d. After abut 40 minutes of the first report, Nagumo received a positive report about the presence of an American carrier in the force. However, Japanese Midway air strike had also arrived. Therefore, he had only two options: (1)To launch an immediate attack against the American carrier force and let his some of the aircraft to be ditched. (2)Postpone the attack until Midway aircraft had landed.
He chose the second option so that his crew could also replace the torpedoes on the aircraft. e. Admiral Spruance, after receiving report of Japanese carriers, launched 67 Dive-bombers, 29 Torpedo bombers and 20 Fighters from his carriers at 0750. After about and hour Admiral Fletcher also launched 17 dive-bombers, 12 torpedo bombers and 6 fighters from his carrier Yorktown. f. Although air strikes from Midway based aircraft had given a firm fix to the Americans on Japanese carrier force but Nagumo change of course to northeast caused first wave of 35 dive-bombers to miss the Japanese.
However, remaining sorties, flying beneath the clouds, sighted the Japanese main carrier force and conducted attack. Although these attacks could not achieve any hit and lost 35 out of 47 aircraft but violent evasive maneuvers by the Japanese prevented them from launching more defensive fighters. This paved the way for dive-bombers from Enterprise to find Japanese carriers strike force in diamond formation. AKAGI, with 40 planes refueling on deck, was hit 3 times. KAGA took 4 hits and was severely damaged. In addition, dive-bombers from Yorktown inflicted heavy damage on SORYU.
Thus three of the Japanese carriers were destroyed within 2 minutes. g. The fourth Japanese carrier HIRYU succeeded to escape towards Northeast and launched two sorties to attack the American carriers. These planes could succeed to hit the Yorktown with 2 torpedoes forcing Admiral Fletcher to abandon the carrier. Later, a Japanese submarine sank it on 6th June. h. The Americans also launched dive-bombers to search and destroy the fourth Japanese carrier, which succeeded to hit the HIRYU at 1700 the same day. 18. Retreat. By 1730 on 4 June the main battle was over.
Admiral Yamamoto was baffled by this unexpected blow and was desperate to retrieve the disaster by advancing eastward during the night with his surface fleet still superior in strength to his enemy. However, Admiral Spruance aware of this danger retreated during the night. After mid night Admiral Yamamoto realized that he could not trap the Americans and radioed, “The enemy fleet, which has practically been destroyed, is retiring to the east…” before canceling occupation of Midway at 0255 am on 5 June 42. 19. War Losses. The war losses on both sides were as follows:
CarriersBattleCruisersDestroyersAirMan ShipsCraftsPower JAPAN41223323500 AMERICA1–1192307 APPLICATION OF PRINCIPLES OF WAR 21. Selection of Aim. Admiral Yamamoto failed to keep the emphasis fixed on the central goal of the operation – the destruction of enemy fleet. On the contrary the operational concept conceived was the invasion of midway as a mean of luring out the enemy fleet for decisive battle. However, even this concept was violated the moment the combined fleet, in its tactical plan, strapped the carriers to a fixed schedule and to supporting mission for invasion of midway.
Thereby the carriers lost the flexibility of moment that was imperative for a successful fleet engagement. Americans on the other hand knew their limitations. Hence, aimed on war of attrition by preserving their carriers and avoiding head on battle. 22. Maintenance of Morale. The sky-high moral of Japanese forces due to “victory disease” could not last long after the carrier strike force had crippled. Admiral Yamamoto, though still had four small carriers and a group of formidable battleship and cruisers could not maintain the hope rather preferred retreat.
American intelligence accuracy provided enormous confidence and moral to numerically inferior force. 23. Offensive Action. The idea of sailing with a gigantic fleet and snatching US Pacific outpost from under the nose of their navy, thus luring the latter out to fight a decisive battle, seems more aggressive them offensive. The thinking behind the campaign was essentially defensive; i. e. to secure an outer chain of bases to keep the enemy away, from the Japanese homeland. Americans went all out to destroy Japanese carriers after establishing their position despite severe set backs.
They kept the pressure on through both Midway and carrier based aircraft. 24. Concentration of Force. One of the fundamental causes of Japanese defeat was the faulty operational planning. The most striking and obvious error in this regard was the manner in which the various naval forces were disposed. Here the planners indulged in one of their favourite, and in this case fatal, gambits – dispersion. Instead of massing what could easily have been the most formidable single naval task force ever seen, combined fleet choose to scatter its forces, reducing them thereby to comparative feebleness.
Americans despite having knowledge of exact strength of enemy force and intentions like capture of outskirt bases and attempt to capture Midway concentrated their efforts towards destruction of Japanese carriers. This ultimately paid them in form of least expected victory. 25. Economy of Effort. A major portion of Yamamoto’s forces did not participate actively in the battle. The originally conceived force to capture Midway was enough for the job but a large secondary tasks wasted enormous efforts.
The Americans having known their inferior strength utilized all assets against targets which could be called as their center of gravity. 26. SecurityMidway was a victory of intelligence beyond the slightest possibility of doubt. Viewed from Japanese side this success of enemy intelligence translates itself in to a failure to take adequate precautions for guarding the secrecy of plans. Had the secret to invade midway been concealed with the same thoroughness as attack on pearl harbour, the battle might well have been different. On the other side American were more security minded.
For example, the pilots who carried out raid on Japan were trained under conditions of security so tight that they did not know where their target would be. 27. Surprise. Japanese planned operation based on “Surprise” but they failed miserably to achieve that. From the very start the Japanese were not very careful about the security of information. The information about the operation was not passed on need to know basis and the initial preparation were not well camouflaged. Therefore, Americans knew every movement of Japanese hence denying them surprise.
Whereas American attack came as surprise for Japanese as they were not expecting carrier force there. 28. Flexibility. Combined Fleet, in its tactical plan, restricted the main carrier strike force to a fixed mission there by losing their flexibility of movement that was imperative for a successful fleet engagement. The American carriers on the other hand could exercise various options depending upon the situation. The rigid approach of Japanese went in favour of their enemy, as they remained predictable throughout. 29. Concentration of Force.
Although on paper the Japanese had an overwhelming numerical superiority but due to dispersal of his forces over a vast area, the Japanese Admiral did not benefit from this superiority. The arrangement of forces was also faulty. Keeping the battleship astern of the mobile force ultimately resulted in these ships not participating in the battle at all. 30. Cooperation. Due to the dispersal of his forces over a vast area, Admiral Yamamoto made it extremely difficult for them to cooperate with each other. One component of his force did not know that the other had been detected, attacked and damaged.
Such information even when it came after long delays. Further, due to being so far apart from each other, individual components could not move in to assist the one in trouble. LESSON LEARNT 31. Following lessons can be drawn from the Battle of Midway:- a. The singleness of the aim is a vital factor. b. The “security of information” is very important to win or loose a war. c. It is essential to concentrate forces against the enemy at correct time and space. d. The air element is a dominant factor in the naval warfare and air power is a real force multiplier in modern warfare e.
Positive control and coordination is a key to success. The commander should be able to exercise a positive control over his battle field elements during the operations. f. Effective surveillance is of immense importance to get early warning and deny enemy the surprise. g. The enemy should never to be under estimated. Nothing can be more dangerous than ‘Victory Disease’. h. Correctly deployed submarines can help to attain the aim. However, correct estimates/intelligence has to be available for fruitful deployment of this potent weapon. As in case of this was neither side could utilize their submarines. . Superiority in numbers does not automatically mean victory. There are numerous intangible factors which can play pivotal role in victory or defeat. CONCLUSION 32. Midway was no doubt one of those rear battles in which a numerically inferior force suddenly snatched victory from a superior force and thereby changed the course of war. The destruction of two-third of Japan’s fleet carriers knocked out her ability to strike at will. Having lost this initiative, the Japan was condemned to convert the war into a holding operation. For the Japanese it was a major defeat.
In addition to the loss of ships and planes Japanese lost plenty of skilled pilots, who were there-after in short supply for the remaining war. 33. The American fore-knowledge of the operation acquired by the American intelligence network and Yamamoto’s failure to concentrate his forces, were two main reasons for the outcome of war. The battle proved as the turning point of war. It removed the margin of superiority that had enabled the Japanese to take the offensive at will. Pearl Harbour was evened and the balance of power in the pacific had changed.