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The Battle of Midway 1942: Told from the Japanese Perspective (1/3)

(Animated Battle Map)

This is part one of a three part video series covering Operation MI. As you can see I spent a considerable amount of time covering Nagumo’s Dilemma. To me it’s one of most striking examples of how tough it can be for a commander to make a decision based on the information at hand. I found that to be the most interesting aspect of the battle.

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“Strength” , “Auxiliary”, and “unknown” are misspelled in the video.

At 22:55 I should have stated “North of Midway” instead of Northeast of Midway. The illustration shows a 10 degree 240 nm from midway location. Not so Northeast as I audibly stated.

At 23:43 I should have stated 79 aircraft instead of 78 and I should have displayed 35 instead of 34 torpedo bombers. the “mistake” came about because sources still differ on whether there were 27 or 26 Carrier attack planes (Kates). If it was 27 it would have been 79 Planes. if it was 26 it would have been 78. During the recording I somehow mixed up the numbers.

Additional Notes:
notice that the carriers started off the battle in a box formation. This provided further mutual support for their rather weak AA fire. however, due to the incessant air attacks from VT-8, VT-6 and VT-3, the carriers were never able to reform in a box formation, instead they were in a ragged line which further worsened their AA capabilities.

—————————————–Spoiler Below regarding Nagumo’s Dilemma———————————————

So what was the answer to Nagumo’s Dilemma?

“Taking all together, and admittedly operating with the benefit of hindsight, the “right” answer to Nagumo’s conundrum probably should have emphasized maneuver, offensive speed in preference to mass, and passive damage control. With fifteen minutes in which to act, he didn’t really have time to implement anything terribly fancy. But he could have helped himself immensely by immediately spotting every strike airplane in his hangars, whether they were armed or not, and launching them at the Americans. The sixty-four armed aircraft he had in had were perfectly capable of doing enormous damage to his enemy. And by emptying his hangars, he removed the single greatest danger to his carriers — the presence of fueled and armed aircraft within them.”

Parshall, Jonathan B.; Tully, Anthony P.: Shattered Sword. The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway. Potomac Books: United States, 2007 : p. 170

Music :


Ride of the Valkyries – Wagner

Isom, D. W. (2007). Midway inquest: Why the Japanese lost the Battle of Midway. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Lundstrom, J. B. (2013). The First Team Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway. New York: Naval Institute Press.

Parshall, Jonathan B.; Tully, Anthony P.: Shattered Sword. The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway. Potomac Books: United States, 2007.

Stille, M. (2010). Midway 1942: Turning-point in the Pacific(Vol. 226, Campaign). Oxford: Osprey Publishing.

Toll, I. W. (2012). Pacific crucible: War at sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942. New York: W.W. Norton.

Willmott, H. P. (2008). The barrier and the javelin: Japanese and Allied Pacific strategies, February to June 1942. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.

And of course:

Video transcription:

It's been six months since the attack on Pearl Harbor and so far the war has been triumphant for the Empire of JapanThey had achieved a string of victories across the Pacific and had captured many resource rich territoriesHowever, Japan still found herself in a difficult positionDespite all of their successes, their biggest opponent, the United States, had yet to show any signs of surrendering – this was worrisome.Japan needed to end the war quickly before the US, with its mighty industrial strength, ultimately defeated them.So, what Japan needed was to win a decisive battle – one that would demoralize the Americans and finally bring them to the negotiating table.It was considered that America's center of gravity was its Pacific Fleet, primarily its carriers.Destroy this and you destroy their will to continue the war.Therefore, the only chance Japan had a winning this war was if the American carrier fleet was destroyed.But the question was: how to provoke the carriers from leaving it's safe base at Pearl Harbor?The answer: attack an objective that the Americans wouldn't relinquish without a fightand, after much debate, it was decided that Midway would be that objective. If the Japanese attacked and invaded Midway,the Americans would certainly respond in forceand this would finally give the Imperial Japanese Navy a chance to annihilate the American carrier fleet, once and for all.And thus, Operation MI was created with the objective of capturing Midway and destroying the Pacific Fleet.The Japanese premised their plan on achieving surprise and therefore would have to make the 3,000 mile voyage on radio silence.Also, they were to disperse their forces in order to avoid detection and mask their intentions.In conjunction, there was another operation to the north to take over the Aleutian Islands, which was code-named Operation Al.And so, on the early hours of June 4th, all the forces were in position to attack a small tiny atoll in the Central Pacific.The stage was set for one of the most epic engagements in naval history. This is the Battle of Midway.The battle will be told from the Japanese perspective. The fog of war will be included during this video.That means you, the audience member, will only know the positions of the Americans the moment the Japanese commander knew of it.This is to put the audience member in the commander's seat to see how they would have reacted themselves given the unique circumstancesand complex scenarios that plagued the Japanese on the morning of June 4th.So, to start off, let's see who the commander was and what his forces were.Spearheading the MI formations were four top-of-the-line fleet carriers of the First Mobile Striking Force, also known as the Kido Butai.This was the most destructive offensive weapon the Japanese Navy had and would be the main protagonists of the upcoming fight.Its commander is Vice Admiral Nagumo Chuichi. He was 55 and had assumed command of the First Air Fleet in April of 1941.He didn't get this post because he had a naval aviation experience. In fact, he has specialized in torpedoes.He got the job simply based on seniority. It was said his command style lacked decisiveness and that he was too reliant on his staff.Nevertheless, in June of 1942, he was the most experienced carrier commander in the world.Nagumo had four carriers with him this day. His flagship was the Akagi.The Akagi was the oldest and longest of all the flat tops.She had a large aircraft capacity and since she had been converted from a battle cruiser hull, possessed a high speed.The Kaga was a battleship conversion so this made her the least maneuverable and the slowest of the four but she did embark the most aircraft.While typical squadron strength was 18, she herself carried 27 carrier attack planes.These two carriers were just solid war horses of the Kido Butai. They packed a mean punch and were not to be messed around with.Next came to two dashing cavaliers of Carrier Division 2. They were the smaller but more nimble Soryu class.They were designed from the keel up, had a good air group size, and a very high speed due to their light hull and construction.However, the downside was that they were lightly armored. The Soryu came first, being commissioned in 1937. She was well liked in the Navy.Her near sister ship, the Hiryu, was almost identical but had a larger bridge and was slightly better armored.Real Admiral Yamaguchi was a commander of Carrier Division 2 and he made the Hiryu his flagship.He was another high-ranking member of the fleet and was known to be an aggressive, hot-temper commander compared to Nagumo.From the four carriers, Nagumo had a combined strength of 248 aircraft;260 total aircraft if one includes the scout planes from his escorting cruisers.What was equally important in the aircraft themselves was the quality of Nagumo's air crews.It wasn't a stretch to say that at this point in the war,the best naval pilots in the world were onboard these four ships.Nagumo's mission was not going to be a walk in the park. He essentially had a dual mission:One, take out Midway. He needed to neutralize the base and its aircraft before the invasion convoy arrived two days later.Task number two was to keep a lookout for enemy carriers that might appear in the defense of the islands.Now, this was unlikely as the Americans were not expected to react so quickly to the invasion.But as a safe measure, he was to keep half of his strike force armed with anti-shipping weapons in the event the Americans did show up early.It has to be mentioned here that there were some ominous signs for the Japanese.As mentioned, the Japanese were counting on surprise for this bold operation to succeed.However, on the eve of battle, there were signs that this may not be going their way.Intelligence had revealed suspicious enemy activities around Midway, meaning the Americans were more alert than they should have been.Second, it must be emphasized that the Japanese, up to this point, have failed to confirm the location of the carriers.The Japanese believed they would have to face against two,possibly three carriers to their four, so it was imperative that they get a confirmation of their whereabouts.It was believed that they would still be in Pearl Harbor during the first days of the operationand there were two attempts to verify this. The first was a reconnaissance mission to reconnoiter Pearl Harbor.However, this mission had been canceled but there was still a fallback plan:a picket line of submarines ahead of Nagumo's force, and, so far, none of them had reported anything at all.So as far as Nagumo was concerned, everything was going as planned.Dawn: June 4th. Compared to the scatter cloud cover to the northeast, the Kido Butai found itself under low, but light cumulus clouds.The carriers continue to steam into the wind, which is coming from the southeast, to prepare for the air raid.At 0430, a strike of 108 aircraft was launched against Midway.All of these planes were launched in just 10 minutes, a testament to the skill and training of the Japanese pilots.Leading the strike was Lieutenant Tomonaga Joichi.He was a veteran of the air war over China, but this will be his first combat sortie against the Americans.Nagumo had to keep the other half of his planes in reserve in case American carriers appeared.The pilots in this group were the A-team, the best the Kido Butai had to offer.Akagi's torpedo squadron was said to be the best in the Navy,while Carrier Division 2 had the reputation of having the best dive bombers.Any report of an American carrier and these pilots will make easy work of them.At the same time of the launch of the Midway Strike Group,reconnaissance planes were sent out from the escorting cruisers. The search consisted of 7 lines, 6 of which stretched out to 300 miles.Clearly, with only seven planes to cover more than a 176,000 square miles,the search effort can be considered half-hearted, perhaps even negligent.But, in Nagumo's defense, it must be reminded that this was a precautionary air search.Simply put, Nagumo and his staff were convinced that no enemy carriers would appear this early into the battle.Although, I would say criticism is justified.I mean, given the fact that intel reported suspicious activities around Midway, and given the bad weather in the area,Nagumo should have doubled his search efforts as a safety measure.It's what a prudent commander would have done.Anyway, the launch of the search planes went well except the launching of Float Plane No. 4,from the cruiser Tone, was delayed for thirty minutes.As the military proverb goes: "no plan survives contact with the enemy," and today would be no exception.The operation officially began to unravel at 0532.An American Catalina PBY was spotted surveying the Kido Butai.Damn, Nagumo had been spotted, meaning surprise had been lost.This meant that the Americans would be able to get their land-based aircraft airborne before his strike arrived.As predicted, the Americans have been able to launch all of its planes before the strike arrived.The bombers went to attack the Japanese carriers. Only the fighters stayed behind to defend the islands.These were 18 obsolete Buffaloes and 6 Wildcats.They intercepted the Japanese at 0620, 30 miles from the base.They never stood a chance with the more agile Zeros. In the ensuing battle, 13 Buffaloes and 2 Wildcats were lost.The carrier strike aircraft pushed through and began their bomb runs.Carrier Division 2-level bombers struck first at 0634. The dive bombers would come next at 0640.On Eastern Island, the power plant, command posts, gasoline lines, and mess hall were destroyed but damage to the runways was minor.On Sand Island, the oil tanks were set ablaze and the water lines were hit.A seaplane hangar and various base facilities were also destroyed.For their effort, American fighters and anti-aircraft fire destroyed 11 Japanese planes.Another 14 will be rendered unserviceable when they landed back on their carriers.That's a 23% loss.The damage to Midway support facilities had been heavy but the base wasn't out of the fight.The Air Group commander, Lieutenant Tomonaga, looked back at the condition of Midway and, with great dissatisfaction,had to report back to Nagumo that a second strike was needed to neutralize the base.What follows next is a series of complicated events and situations happening to both the Kido Butai and onboard Nagumo's headquarters.So, I'll tackle them separately starting with the initial air strikes against the Kido Butai.At 0710, 6 TBF Avengers and 4 Army B-26s were spotted approaching the Japanese carriers.This would be the first of four separate attacks from Midway-based aircraft that would harass them throughout the early morning.Over 30 fighters were sent to destroy the 10 American warplanes. The Avengers selected the Hiryu.Zeros swarmed over them and one-by-one, the torpedo bombers were shot down.Only two were able to launch at the Hiryu but from extreme range and they missed.The 4 B-26s, which had been modified to carry torpedoes, went for the Akagi. Only 2 were able to launch but they both missed.The real danger was posed by the last B-26. The damaged bomber made no attempt to pull out of its attack.Instead, it headed directly for a Akagi's bridge. Nagumo and his staff saw this and were shocked.The Americans were not supposed to show this kind of bravery. The bomber pressed on and at last minute -narrowly missed the bridge and crashed into the sea.This suicide attack had failed, but surely it had given Nagumo and his staff one hell of a scare.Despite the bravery and determination, the attack had failed to achieve a single hit. 5 Avengers and 2 Marauders had been shot down.The Japanese lost 2 Zeros.Half-an-hour later, at 0753, a new force was spotted approaching the Mobile Force: 16 Marine Corps Dauntless dive-bombers.9 Zeros set out to destroy them. The dive bombers pressed on and went for the Hiryu.Instead of going for a steep dive, ensuring accuracy, these planes conducted a glide bombing attack.They were clearly inexperienced pilots if this was their way of attacking.They managed to bracket the Hiryu with some near misses, but ultimately, no hits were scored.They lost half of their squadron, leaving only eight survivors to return to Midway. The Japanese lost only 1 Zero.Shortly after that attack, 15 Army B-17s attacked from 20,000 feet.At this altitude, the B-17s were immune to the anti-aircraft fire below them.However, this also greatly diminished their accuracy.They went after the Soryu, Hiryu, and Akagi.But the carrier's below them had more than enough time to conduct evasive maneuvers and avoid the bombs.There were no losses on either sides and no hits were scored; only near misses on the Soryu and Hiryu caused any alarm.A remarkable set of photographs were taken at this momentHere's the Hiryu dodging a couple of very near misses.Note the 3 fighters of Combat Air Patrol on her flight deck.Here, we got the Akagi, Nagumo's flagship, while under attack.Easily noticeable is the red Rising Sun painted on the deck.The third picture shows the Soryu. She's conducting a tight turn to starboard to avoid being hit.Carrier doctrine and flight deck operations need to be commented on here.During attacks, the main priority was obviously the defense of the carriers.This came in 3 forms:Japanese anti-aircraft fire capabilities were very weak, so could not be counted on.So this left fighter cover and evasive maneuvers as the main forms of defense for Nagumo's force.There was a downside though:one, due to the evasive maneuvers that require wild and violent turns,it was obviously dangerous to spot or launch a squadron of aircraft while being bombed.So let's say you wanted to launch an airstrike, but then you found yourself under attack,it would actually be better to wait until the attack was over to then fly off for strike.Second point: as these pictures show, Japanese flight decks had to be kept clearanyways during air attacks for the replenishment of their own fighters.This was rather frequent since a Zero had about 7 seconds of canon ammunition.Fighters were given priority because they did after all provide the most effective measure of defense.Hence, the only activity you would see during attacks was the recovery, replenishment, and relaunching of these small packets of fighters:three at a time, sometimes six at a time.In other words. and the point I'm trying to drive in here was that, as a general rule,you couldn't launch a strike while under attack.So let's just say hypothetically then, at this moment, Nagumo wanted to send a strike.It was prudent to just wait until the attack was over, maybe 15, 20 minutes, and then launch his aircraft.So, maybe these attacks aren't being accurate, or deadly, but they are hindering flight operations.Keep this in mind as you will see the fateful consequences of it.Midway's final attack came at 0827.Eleven old Marine Corps Vindicator dive-bombers arrived from the southeast.These were obsolete bombers and they wisely decided not to go for the formatively defended carriers.Instead, they selected the battleship Haruna as their target.There were 11 fighters on Combat Air Patrol to oppose them.The Americans persisted and made their dives on the Haruna, but once again, none of them scored a hit.Two Vindicators were lost during the attack.In the midst of all of this, a submarine had been spotted and at 0825, it fired a torpedo at the battleship Kirishima.The battleship dodged it by turning to port and the destroyer Arashi was detached and sent in pursuit to chase down the submarine.As you can see, this had all been a narrow escape for the Japanese.These series of close calls surely had everyone on the edge of their seats.Although the Japanese were impressed by the determination of the attacks, they were not impressed by the skills of these pilots.Despite 52 planes being dedicated to the attack, not a single hit was achieved on the Japanese.The biggest success these attacks had was that it had kept the Japanese off-balance from 0700 to 0830,which, as we will see, was a critical time for Nagumo.During the early morning attacks on the Kido Butai,a more serious situation was developing in the high command with Nagumo and his staff.Shortly after 0700 hours, Nagumo received Tomonaga's report that a second strike was needed.The news was unpleasant, but had actually been expected.How could a force of 72 bombers, half of which were armed with medium sized bombs,be expected to neutralize a fortified base?He could allow Tomonaga's flight to return, refuel and rearm, and then send them back.But, of course, this would take hours to complete, allowing the Americans to lick their wounds and reform their defense.This would contribute to further casualties.Or, alternatively, he could strike the Americans while they were still down.He could use his reserve aircraft, who, at the moment, stood idly by doing nothing.But these were exclusively off the table because Yamamoto had ordered them to be reserved in case of an enemy carrier task force appearing.But, surely Yamamoto wasn't expecting Nagumo to fight an entire battle with only half his strength?I mean, come on, this was tantamount to making Nagumo fight the entire battle with one arm tied behind his back.This right here had been the fault in the whole Midway plan.There simply weren't enough planes.There weren't enough planes to do the dual mission, to both attack Midway and to keep a reserve in case enemy carriers appeared.So, Nagumo looked at the maps, and by now, his air searches were reaching their maximum rangeand so far, nothing had been found or reported.So, why not use these planes for the second strike?Let's not forget that, at this moment, a Maverick plane from Midway had just tried to suicide crash into his bridge.Midway was clearly still a threat and as long as his airbase was operational, it posed a danger to his carriers.This is what probably prompted Nagumo's consequent decision:Midway had to be neutralized.Thus, at 0715, Nagumo went against Yamamoto's orders and ordered the rearmament of his reserve aircraft.The rearming process began in the hangars below. Torpedoes were removed and land bombs installed.The dive bombers weren't affected by this because they were armed once they had been spotted on the flight decks.So, in reality, this chaotic, fast-paced rearming process was happening only in the hangars of the First Carrier Division.All in all, this process was going to take about 1.5hrs to complete.Then, 30 minutes into the rearmament process, at 0745, Nagumo received a report.That Tone plane, the one that had been delayed, ran across an American force andsights what appears to be ten enemy surface units.Nagumo was stunned. He quickly cancelled and reversed the rearmament order and took stock of the situation.It will basically boil down to two options for him:Send an immediate strike right now or send the strike after Tomanaga's planes were recovered.This is what is most commonly known as "Nagumo's Dilemma."So, I will ask the viewer to put themselves in Nagumo's shoes for a while to better understand his conundrum.I'll let you know it's not as simple as it looks – many factors have to be considered.Keep in mind that you would have had only 15 minutes to decide on the correct course of actionLet's first dive into the aggressive option, which is attacking immediately.First off, the sighting didn't even make sense.Based on the location, Tone No. 4 plane was never supposed to come across it.Either he wasn't where he was supposed to be or the task force location was incorrect.This brings up the composition factor – it was unknown. What did ten ships mean?It could be a carrier task force or they could simply be auxilary ships.Nagumo didn't know and this was unsettling.What if he sends a strike and the sighting proved to be just destroyers or support ships?This had actually happened to Admiral Takagi a month earlier in the Battle of Coral Sea.Nagumo did not want a repeat of that mistake.But there were two additional alarming clues about the sighting.Why was there force 240 miles northeast of Midway?There would be no reason for a force to be in this location unless it contained a carrier.And if it was a carrier, it would be in a prime position to unleash an attack on the Japanese's flank.And more importantly, why was it steering into the wind?It was known that it was procedure for aircraft carriers to steam into the wind when launching the aircraft.Nagumo and his staff apparently saw the validity of these two cluesbut in the end, came to the conclusion that it was most likely just a surface force.Second, the rearmament process wasn't as devastating as many believe.The Val dive-bombers weren't affected by this, only the Kates.34 had been armed with torpedoes, but now, only 19 were ready.15 have been switched to land bombs.So instead of having a full strike complement of 78 planes, he now only had 64 planes properly armed.Although, that's only a difference of 15.64 planes were more than enough to sink any task force encountered.Here's a third factor: time.Nagumo was restricted on time because Tomonaga force would soon be arriving at about 0815 and it would be low on fuelmeaning they had to be landed quickly unless they were forced to ditch sea.This was the worst timing ever for Nagumo.Japanese flight decks were restricted in that they could only do one operation at a time. They could either launch, recover, or spot aircraft.Thus, Nagumo had to decide: either launch his counter strike now, or recover the Midway strike.The fuel situation was troubling.If he didn't want to lose any more planes through ditching,he needed to finish the recovery by 0845 at the latest.Why 0845?Well, let's take a look and work backwards to calculate the time constraints.It's 0745 now. Tomonaga's planes had enough fuel to fly overhead until about 0915.It would take 20 to 30 minutes to land them.That makes 0845 the threshold.You'd better finish your launching process by this time or you'll start losing aircraft by ditching.This leaves Nagumo with an hour of leeway, and it took about 45 minutes to spot and launch an air strike.So, if he wants to take this opportunity to launch an attack with what he's got, he can -but, he would have to start the process by 0800 at the latest.Thus, this is the 15 minute window Nagumo got to make a decision.Geez, talk about being under pressure, huh?Was an attack feasible? Yes, it was.It will be a tight squeeze, but if he began now by 0800, by 0845, his counter strike would have taken offand Tomonaga's planes, who will be flying on fumes at this point, will then land.However, scratch that hypothetical because at 0753, the Kido Butai came under attack by those dive-bombers.Theoretically, he could still launch a strike while under attack,although this was rarely done in combat and it was extremely risky.But one thing was for sure: that 45-minute launching process would have definitely stretched out closer to the length of an hour.As a result, the possibility of Tomonaga's air group having to commit a mass ditch would become likely.Disposing of perhaps dozens of aircraft at the start of a battle was unthinkable.So, Nagumo had to decide: does he attack this unknown target based in this sketchy, unconfirmed location,with some of his planes carrying the wrong ordnance,and risk losing additional planes by unnecessary ditching?Or, he could simply wait until Tomonaga's strike had landed andthen after recovery, launch a full balanced strike and whatever this target is with the proper ordnance.This was clearly the ultra-safe choice that offered no unnecessary risk.But what made Nagumo think he still had time?Well, if we take the reported position at face-value,the location meant that even if this force contained a carrier, it wouldn't have been within strike range of an escorted strike.The Americans would have to close the distance and then launch a strikewhich meant it wouldn't reach Nagumo's carriers until about 1015, some two hours from now.Thus, Nagumo would have the time to launch his own counter strike before he himself was reached.So I ask the viewer to press pause and consider the options.Honestly, with all this information at hand, what would you have done?With the conservative mindset that Nagumo had, it's not too difficult to imagine which course of action he took.He went for the safest option.He would recover his planes first, and then launch a powerful, well-balanced strike at the enemy.Nagumo opted for this choice because it promised mass and coordination over anything else.For as much as Nagumo has been criticized, his decision was doctrinal.If any other Japanese commander had been in his place, they would have also made the same decision.So, let's continue the saga.Down below, the crews in the hangars worked feverishly to change the Kates with land bombs back again to torpedoes.In the midst of all the chaos, the bombs were not stored away safely.Instead, they were laid haphazardly around the hangar.Above in the bridge, Nagumo waited impatiently for further information andit wasn't until 0820 that identification of the surface units finally came through.This was dreadful news.Well, you may ask, why not attack now that you have definite confirmation of a carrier?Well, it would still take 45 minutes to get the aircraft out of the hangar, spotted, and launched.Meanwhile, Tomonaga's air group would all run out of fuel and crash into the sea.Just there, you lost 97 planes.Also, the strike would have to go unescorted since all the fightershave been brought up to assist in the air defense of the mobile force during the recent attacks.So, the option of launching an unescorted strike, which was bound to receive heavy losses,and lose 97 planes through mass ditchingwasn't seriously going to be considered by Nagumo.Basically, it was too late for Nagumo to attack now.He had made his bed and now he had to lay in it.He would have to wait.Thankfully for him, the last morning attacks die down by about 0837.The Kido Butai finally got a break from all the morning attacks and could now begin recovering the aircraft.From 0837 to 0910, Tomonaga's strike force was safely landed.While one can sympathize with the predicament Nagumo is in, there was a decision that was questionable.The Kido Butai changed course to the northeast after recovering the air strike.Why? This was not necessary.Japanese planes out-range the Americans – there was no reason to close the gap.It would just make it quicker for your opponent to reach you.A wiser decision would have been to head northwest, still allowing you to strike back,but keeping you at the extreme striking range of the Americans.With the last of his aircraft recovered, Nagumo was now free to begin spotting his planes on the decks.It was looking good for Nagumo. All he needed now was a 45-minute, uninterrupted window,and a powerful counter-strike will be dealt to the Americans.However, events would soon foil his high hopes.Off to the north, enemy aircraft were spotted.Damn. Instead of preparing to launch a strike, Nagumo would now be forced into evasive maneuversand focus on protecting his carriers from the forthcoming assault.These 15 Devastator torpedo-bombers were coming in and with no escorts.They would be easy prey for the 30 fighters that were protecting the mobile force.The four carriers turn to port to present their stern to the incoming attackers.What followed next was a stern pursuit which put the Devastators at a disadvantage because of their slow speed.They could barely break 100 knots while carrying their ordnance.The fighters swarmed over them with impunity and they were cut to pieces.Two-thirds were intercepted before they were even close to making their run-ins.Only 3 got close enough to threaten the Soryu, but ultimately, only 1, just 1 of the 15, was able to launch its torpedo.However, not only did his torpedo miss, but the pilot was shot down himself.The attack had lasted about 15 minutes.Although the Japanese probably didn't know it at the moment,they had just destroyed an entire squadron and there were no hits to stand for it.There would only be 1 survivor of the 30 aircrew who participated in this heroic attack.But as soon as that attack was over, at 0940, another one began, this time from the south.It was at this time that Nagumo had to have realized that his mobile force was in serious trouble.It was imperative than Nagumo get his planes off the deck before being hit himself.All he needed was a 45-minute window to launch an airstrike. But, during attacks,he couldn't launch a strike because his flight decks were solely occupied with the replenishment of the Combat Air Patrol fighters.To add to the mess, he was in a dangerous state, because at the moment, he was at his most vulnerable.His planes were fully fueled, armed, and parked densely within the hangars of his carriers.More disturbingly, it was clear that these were carrier-based bombers.Obviously, the reported location of the carriers had been wrong this whole time.They had actually been 55 miles closer when they were spotted at 0728.Thus, his mobile force had been within American strike range this entire time.This is a clear example of the fog of war.Just like at Coral Sea, the Japanese commander had made a decision based on the information at hand,although unbeknownst to him, the information had been incorrect.Sometimes, you can just plain out have bad luck.One thing was for sure, Japanese scout planes needed to practice their ship identification and spotting skills.Oh well, maybe Nagumo can dodge this attack, as well.The 14 torpedo-bombers came in unescorted.The two divisions had selected the Kaga as their target and they were trying to do an anvil attack on the slow carrier.But, it would be difficult to do with their slow lumbering planes.Initially, they came in unopposed, but then, Zeros swarmed over them and the rightmost division took the brunt of the attack.Two torpedoes were launched but the Kaga dodged them.With additional Zeros added to the fray, only 3 torpedoes from the other division were released,but just as before, the Kaga skillfully avoided them, as well.Once again, an attack had been pressed on gallantly by the Americans, but it had been ineffective.9 of the 14 bombers were shot down and, of these 5 survivors, 1 had to ditch on the return trip.Only 1 Zero was lost.When that attack finished, guess what? Another one began! You have got to be kidding!For the last 50 minutes, these piecemeal attacks, although as ineffective as they were,were delaying the launch of the desperately needed Japanese counter-strike.And, more frightening, judging this to be the third torpedo squadron, there definitely had to be more than one carrier.Actually, there wasn't just one; there were three.Boy, was Nagumo in trouble.Also, the Japanese must have asked themselves at this point:where were the dive-bombers?If the Devastators had made it this far, an imminent dive-bombing attack was sure to come.But something was different with this forthcoming attack.These 12 torpedo-bombers came in with an escort of 6 Wildcats.The Zeros set out to intercept them, but little did they know, they were in for a surprise.For the first time in the war, the famous "Thach Weave" was used, named so by its creator, Jimmy Thach, who was leading the division.The planes would start in a Beam Defense Position.Once a Zero was on the tale of a Wildcat, the two sections would turn towards each other.This allowed one section to get a head-on attack on the chasing Zero.It would either kill or brush off the Zeros on your partner's tail.The process could easily be repeated.This defensive maneuver stunned the Zero pilots.Up to this point in the war, the Japanese pilots would always come out victorious in dogfights against their opponents.But now, they were the ones getting beaten.4 Zeros were shot down and only 1 Wildcat was lost during this interception.Thach, in his fighter squadron alone, attracted the attention of over 20 Zeros.Many things have to be acknowledged at this point.First, the escort had done an excellent job.11 of the 12 Devastators were actually able to push through for their run-ins and this posed a considerable threat to the carriers.This caused the remaining Zeros, who were looking up for any nearby dive-bombers,to descend from their high altitude patrols to shoot down these intruders.Therefore, as we can see, the northeast sector became a magnet, sucking in all the fighters on Combat Air Patrol.Disturbingly, this had the effect of leaving the carriers with no overhead protection.What we are seeing here is a dangerous example of "target fixation."All eyes were glued on this developing threat that the situational awareness,that is keeping a lookout for any other threats, was forgotten.This was leaving the Kido Butai in a vulnerable state.The American bombers carried on, but with fresh Zeros diving from above,the Devastator stood little chance to prevail.The same story played out and over half were shot down.Eventually, only 5 would end up launching at the Hiryu, but the Japanese carrier successfully avoided them.The end result would be that 10 of the 12 torpedo-bombers were lost, and 1 of their 4 escorts, for no hits.This last torpedo attack probably accounted for about seven fighters.The time was 1020.The torpedo attack was halfway through and, as expected, not one had struck home.It was a testament to the prowess of the Japanese pilots.The Kido Butai had been in combat for the last three hours and had avoided all the bombs and torpedoesthrown at it, with its evasive maneuvers and its skilled fighters.Nagumo had been quite lucky, actually.His mobile force, with no radar, had shot down 53 aircraft at this point,and had lost only 11 fighters itself, and there wasn't even a scratch on his ships.But, it was precisely at this moment when all the fighters were down belowfighting off this latest assault in the northeast sector that a new threat emerged high above.50 dive-bombers were approaching overhead, undetected and unopposed, and coming from two different directionsNagumo's luck had finally run out.The Kido Butai had never been faced with defeat before.In the previous 6 months, they had ruled the seas.They had sunk 5 capital ships, a light carrier, 2 cruisers, and half-a-dozen destroyers.But now, their unbroken string of victories would come to an end.These dive-bombers weren't rookies like the Midway-based bombers.These were the "A-team" of the Pacific Fleet and, with no opposition, the result would be deadly.From the south came 2 squadrons and they all teamed up on 1 carrier: the enormous Kaga.30 dive-bombers began their steep dives from 19,000 feet.The Kaga was practically taken by surprise and she received four hits,one of which landed on the bridge, killing the captain and his staff.The planes, being fully fueled and armed inside the hangar, ignited,causing a chain of secondary explosions. She quickly became an inferno.The Soryu was attacked by 13 dive-bombers.3 bombs were placed evenly along the center her flight deck.All her hangars were hit and, just like the Kaga, the bombs set off a chain of explosions inside the ship.Fires immediately engulfed the carrier.It looked as though the Akagi might get off scot-free.However, when the Kaga was being pummeled, 3 dive-bombers peeled off at the last momentand went for her and, with pure skill, a bomb was dropped in her upper hangar.It didn't seem serious at first. A carrier this big could have certainly survived this single hit.But, just like her sister ships, the planes and bombs inside her hangars began to detonate.Thereafter, fire spread uncontrollably and the Akagi, the flagship of the Kido Butai, was doomed.In less than five minutes, history had changed.The powerful Kido Butai had been wrecked.Only one had been able to escape destruction:the Hiryu.The outcome of the battle now rested upon the shoulders of the Hiryu and her elite pilots.


Midway,USN,IJN,Nagumo’s Dilemma,Aircraft Carrier Battle

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