The Battle of Midway by Vice-Admiral Frank J. Fletcher, USN Disclaimer: This was obviously written either immediately after the action or by somebody else from inaccurate newspaper clippings, because it contains very many errors. - ed
Throughout the first half of 1942 or position the Pacific was extremely precarious. Our damage and losses at Pearl Harbor had not yet been replaced by newly constructed ships. What remained of our Pacific Fleet and our little Asiatic Fleet had to perform miracles to prevent the vastly superior Japanese fleets from surging over the whole Pacific.
Our small Asiatic Fleet performed a first miracle of delaying actions in the Philippines and Dutch East Indies, even at the cost of almost all its ships. Our small carrier and cruiser force at Coral Sea performed a second miracle in turning back the Japanese threat at Australia and New Zealand. The third miracle occurred at Midway, in June 1942.
Up until then the Japanese Navy, instead of pressing an aggressive offensive against Hawaii and even Panama or the West Coast, had allowed itself to be pressed into the service of the Japanese Army in its sweep of territorial conquest through The Philippines, Malaysia, the Dutch East Indies, Burma, and the Solomons. Now our Naval Intelligence learned that the Japanese Navy, counting on our losses and dispersed forces in the Southwest Pacific, planned a bold stroke at Hawaii and Alaska itself.
Practically our whole remaining force in the Pacific was hurriedly assembled at Pearl Harbor, including even the damaged Yorktown, hurriedly recalled from the Coral Sea. Our total forces were formed into two task forces, those consisting of the carrier Enterprise, Yorktown, and Hornet, plus 7 heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser, 14 destroyers, and about 20 submarines. Scouting and patrol lines were assembled westward of Midway Island, our small island outpost west and north of Hawaii. Also available were a Marine Corps air group at Midway, and Army bombers from Hawaii.
THE ENEMY IS SIGHTED
On June 3 a large enemy attack force was sighted several hundred miles southwest of Midway and later in the same afternoon were bombed by Army B-17's. On the following morning the main enemy attack force including carriers, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and transports, was sighted and attacked immediately by Army, Navy, and Marine Corps planes from Midway which severely damaged one carrier. Our carriers north of Midway also launched first torpedo planes, and then dive-bombers against the enemy. Torpedo Squadron Eight from the Hornet was shot down to the last plane, but only after making several hits on four enemy carriers. The other torpedo squadrons and dive bombers made further hits, as a result of which two enemy carriers were set on fire and put out of commission, and a third badly damaged. This third carrier was sunk the next day by our submarine Nautilus.
Meanwhile enemy planes had attacked Midway, but suffered heavy losses from our own planes and antiaircraft fire. Planes from the remaining Japanese aircraft carrier attacked the Yorktown and were annihilated, but only after making three bomb hits. Enemy torpedo planes shortly afterward made two torpedo hits on the damaged Yorktown which left her in a sinking condition. The only undamaged Japanese carrier was found and attacked by carrier planes from the Yorktown and Hornet, and left in a mass of flames. By now two Japanese battleships and two cruisers had also been hit and damaged by our dive bombers and the whole Japanese force turned in full retirement.
THE JAPS ARE DEFEATED
On the two following days planes from the Hornet and the Enterprise located the fleeing enemy and further damaged four cruisers and a destroyer. Due to poor visibility and the dispersal of the fleeing Japanese ships, we were unable to come up with them again, and the battle was at an end.
This battle, fought almost entirely by air and during which the opposing surface ships never even sighted each other, was the first decisive defeat suffered by the Japanese Navy in 350 years. But, more important, it ended the period of Japanese offensive activity in the Pacific, removed the threat to Hawaii and the West Coat, and paved the way for our assumption of the offensive in the Pacific - an offensive that through successive stages saw us reconquer the Solomon Islands, Guam, and the Philippines, capture Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, break the back of the Japanese Fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and eventually blockade and bomb Japan into submission from her own home waters.
BATTLE STATIONS ! : Your Navy in Action, 1946
Return to: WW2 Menu About this page: MidwayFJF - This page is taken from book with each chapter's introduction attributed to various admirals. This one was obviously written immediately after the action or by somebody else from inaccurate newspaper clippings, because it contains very many errors. It is displayed here as an example of inaccurate information during wartime.
No AAF planes scored any hits on any enemy ships -- although news reports attributed the entire victory to B-17's from AAF press releases while the Navy was still fighting at sea.
No aerial torpedoes exploded on any enemy ship. Most torpedo bombers were lost in the attempt : 41 of 53.
The enemy had attacked Midway and was refueling and rearming planes for an attack on the American carriers when attacked. Three Japanese carriers were set on fire by dive bombers. The Hornet bombers got lost. No battleships or cruisers were seriously hit.
The surviving enemy carrier sent aircraft which damaged Yorktown.
The fourth enemy carrier was struck with a second attack from US carriers.
A submarine attack forced a collision between two Japanese cruisers;
one was sunk by carrier aircraft, the other was further damaged, along with the two DDs.
The damaged Yorktown and a destroyer were torpedoed two days later by a submarine.
Yorktown sank after the battle.
Last updated on August 16, 2006 -- add the corrections
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