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Battle of Midway - Part 1

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LT. (j.g.) O.B. Wiseman was killed at the Battle of Midway June 4, 1942

USS Yorktown CV-5, Aircraft Embarked, 29 May 1942

Bombing Squadron Three (VB-3)

Charles Westbrook Albright, ARM2c David Frederick Johnson, AMM2c ENS Phillip Walker Cobb
William R. Anderson, AMM3c George Albert LaPlant, AMM2c ENS Robert Haines Benson
Clifton R. Bassett, AOM2c Theodore Schevon, ARM3c ENS Milford Austin Merrill
Harmon Donald Bennett, ARM2c Jack Alvan Shropshire, ARM3c ENS Raymond Morrow Reynolds
David Donald Berg, ARM3c Leslie Alan Till, RM3c ENS Jack Rugen
Dallas Joseph Bergeron, ARM3c Sidney Kay Weaver, ARM3c ENS Roy Maurice Isaman
Frederick Paul Bergeron, ARM3c Clarence E. Zimmershead, ARM2c ENS Bunyon Randolph Cooner
Charles C Brassel, AOM1c Grant Ulysses Dawn, ARM3c ENS Robert Martin Elder
Duane John Chaffee, ARM3c LT(jg) Osborne Beeman Wiseman ENS Robert Keith Campbell
Ray Edgar Coons, ARM1c LCDR Maxwell Franklin Leslie ENS Aldon W. Hansen
Horace Henry Craig, AMM1c LT DeWitt Wood Shumway ENS Charles S. Lane
William Earl Gallagher, ARM1c LT Harold Sydney Bottomley ENS John Clarence Butler
Joseph Vernon Godfrey, ARM3c LT(jg) Gordon Alvin Sherwood ENS Paul Wahl Schlegel
Jack Charles Henning, ARM2c LT(jg) Paul Algodte Holmberg  

 

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Battle Of Midway

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March 1942 - 3rd June 1942

Japanese Battle Plan

Admiral  Isoruku Yamamoto, Commander in Chief of the Combined Japanese Fleet, was stunned by the April 18, 1942 attack by 18 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers, barrowed from the Army Air Force, as they flew off the deck of the carrier Hornet, accompanied by the Carrier Enterprise, at a distance of only 650 nautical miles from Japan. Led by Lt.-Col James H. Doolittle, these bombers hit Tokyo, Yokosuka, and a score of other towns. They did not inflicted material damage but they had severely shaken the Japanese morale.

If the Americans could hit Tokyo, they could also hit the Emperor's palace; that could harm the Emperor. To Yamamoto, this situation had to be remedyed and that meant a decisive battle. Ever since March, Yamamoto had been pressing to convince the Naval General Staff that the planned attacks on Samoa and Fiji Islands had to be dropped in favor of an attack on the Central Pacific island of Midway.

A battle scheme was set up by Yamamoto and his staff. The entire force of the Combined Fleet would be sent across the Pacific to give battle to the US Pacific Fleet in the waters around Midway. For that goal, Yamamoto's order of battle included most every fighting unit that was not needed in tasks around the Empire.

Among the fleets were seven battleships, ten carriers, two dozen cruisers, and more than seventy destroyers, dispersed among half a dozen fleets. Admiral Yamamoto would lead the impressive Main Body, battleships Yamato, Nagato and Mutsu, the Imperial Japanese Navy most powerful battleships. Support would come from the light carrier Hosho, and its eight attack planes, they would be used for anti-submarine work. Destroyers would screen the force.

The powerful First Air Fleet. Under command of Vice-Admiral Nagumo Chuichi, For the mission, all six of the heavy carriers would be available according to the plan. Two battleships and two heavy cruisers plus a destroyer squadron would be forming the protective circle around the carriers. This great assembly of naval units would be used in deploying the Japanese plan.

The flagship of Admiral Nagumo,the heavy carrier Akagi. First, Hosogaya would strike the US Naval facilities at Dutch Harbor, Aleutians, on June 3, in order to lure the US carriers north to defend Alaska. This would be followed by an air strike from Nagumo's carriers against Midway, which would destroy the US defenses there. Then, Nagumo would take station in the area awaiting US naval forces. Following these carrier strikes, the IJN's various seaplane tender and transport groups would occupy Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians, Kure Island 60 miles north of Midway, and Midway itself. Then, with the Main Body, and Kondo's support forces available for battle, the Japanese would sink the US Navy if it appeared.

There also was the Aleutians Strike Force, commanded by Vice-Admiral Hosogaya Moshiro, it consisted of a carrier force with the light carrier Ryujo, and the converted cruise-liner and now-carrier Junyo. Four battleships, Ise, Hyuga, Fuso and Yamashiro would be the far-cover for this operation, and an assortment of cruisers and destroyers would be protecting both forces. Admiral Kondo Nobutake would be leading the Second Fleet, the battleships Kongo and Haruna, and the light carrier Zuiho. His task would be to protect the Invasion Force under Rear-Admiral Tanaka Raizo. A major force of destroyers and cruisers would be available for screening. 

Before all this, Yamamoto hoped to reduce the US forces with a tight submarine cordon, to deploy by June 1st north-west of the Hawaiian Islands. This cordon would, sink as many US ships as possible, thinning out the enemy for the final engagement with the Main Body. This plan was presented to the Naval General Staff, and it was the plan Admiral Nagano, Chief of the Naval General Staff, accepted and ordered on 5th May. By this time, changes had taken effect. Since the Army was not convinced of the decisive nature of the future battle at Midway, it had pursued its own plans.

Operation MO, the capture of Tulagi Island and Port Moresby, had been started under the cover fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku. This was an important splitting of Admiral Nagumo's carrier force, for it risked the availability of a third of the First Air Fleet.

Admiral Yamamoto had allowed these carriers to participate in MO, believing the Americans to be morally beaten and incapable of mounting an operation outside his, Yamamoto's, choosing. He was wrong; both Shokaku and Zuikaku, and the light carrier Shoho, were put out of action at the Battle of the Coral Sea, 8th May 1942, because of US Intelligence.

 

US Combat Intelligence

Commander Joseph P. Rochefort was the commander of The Combat Intelligence Office (OP 20 02). Leading a team of trained professionals in mathematics, communications and cryptology, Rochefort had broken the Japanese Naval Cipher, code named JN-25, before the war had started and had been able read at least 10 percent of the Japanese Navy's radio transmissions.

On paper, 10 percent did not amount to much useful information, but Rochefort was a very talented man when it came to examining the value of the intercepted information. His team had little chance to prove itself during February and March, when US carriers hit the exposed island positions during the first carrier raids, but by late April, his codebreakers were ready. Radio messages were intercepted and deciphered indicating Japanese naval operations were to begin in the Coral Sea. Admiral Nimitz based his deployments on the information collected by Rochefort and was ready for the Japanese at the Battle of the Coral Sea.  

The Combat Intelligence Office had its first important hit. Even while the Japanese and American forces were battling for the Coral Sea, Rochefort's men, noticing a increase in Japanese radio traffic, they discovered that a new operation was being planned, an operation combining all fleet units that the Japanese could muster. The Intelligence Office often cited a problem was that they had no clues to the target of the operation. Their ability to put together the big picture helped convince them that the target, codenamed "AF", must be Midway. They had yet to convince the superiors at Navy Communications in Washington, D.C., namely Commander John Redman. For the latter was convinced that if any target in the Pacific warranted this fleet, it was Hawaii.

Rochefort chose a trick. Utilizing the underwater telephone connection with Midway, he asked that Midway transmit, via uncoded radio traffic, a message saying that the desalination plant was out of order. The Japanese swallowed the bait, and when Rochefort's men decoded another message thereafter, they were pleased to read that "AF has problems with its de-salting plant". What Intelligence was finally able to provide Nimitz with was eye opening. First, he knew that the main objective was Midway, eliminating Admiral Yamamoto's deception at Dutch Harbor.

Second he knew of the submarine cordon, allowing him to place his forces prior to it's installment, eliminating another part of Yamamoto's plan. Third, he could mass all ships, lanes, and defensive measures on and around Midway, now he had no fear of their operations. By the time of these discoveries, Nimitz had more information than he could use.

The Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown, since the sinking of Lexington Nimitz's only carriers, were all out at sea until mid-May. Enterprise and Hornet arrived earlier than Yorktown, which was damaged at the Coral Sea.  

A problem-Vice-Admiral Halsey, a fearless Commander, Aircraft Carriers, Pacific Fleet, was ill with a skin infection and it could not be helped. Halsey was brought into hospital, where Admiral Nimitz questioned him regarding his replacement. Admiral Halsey selected Rear-Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, commander of the cruisers in Halsey's screen, to lead the carriers into the most important battle in US history.

Nimitz accepted, not knowing he was turning the bad luck of Halsey's illness into a great move for the US. Two days later, Admiral Fletcher aboard the damaged Yorktown, arrived at Pearl Harbor. Being informed that the Yorktown would be out of action for at least three weeks. Fletcher informed Nimitz, but Nimitz could not wait that long. He ordered that every effort be made to put the carrier out again on May 30, in time to avoid the submarine cordon.

With 1300 men working on her, Yorktown was in for a record repair, although not all the work was completed. Admiral Nimitz had ordered Rear-Admiral Obert English, COMSUBPAC, to deploy a submarine cordon of his own west of Midway, and another one north of Hawaii to support a retreating fleet in case of a defeat at Midway. Furthermore, he had transferred almost all available planes to Midway, and was still re-routing new arrivals to the tiny atoll.Finally, on May 28th, Admiral Spruance on Enterprise departed with his two carriers.

One more of Yamamoto's plans was discovered and prevented. To assure that no enemy carriers would be around Midway, Yamamoto's staff planned a reconnaissance flight of Emily flying boats to Pearl Harbor from Wotje in the Marshall Islands. They would refuel from a modified Japanese submarine at the French Frigate Shoals, an atoll more reefs than land. But US planes had tracked the Japanese reconnaissance unit, and some quick thinking revealed that the French Frigate Shoals were the only possible place where to fuel a flying boat. When the submarine that was to fuel the Emily ordered to check Pearl Harbor on June 1 arrived at the Shoals, it was disturbed to find them occupied by a US seaplane tender group. The mission was abandoned. It would have been important enough - for the day before, Yorktown, and thus the last of the three battle-ready groups, sortied. Though still not 100% ready, Yorktown would be a valuable addition to the US forces.

On June 1st, Saratoga hurried out of San Diego, hoping to arrive at Midway in time to join in the battle, but she did not make it. The day before, Captain Marc Mitscher of Hornet had been promoted to Rear-Admiral.

On June 2nd, Fletcher in command and Spruance, meet for the first and last time during the battle at "Point Luck".

June 3, 1942 The Aleutians were definitely not a great place for flight operations, and Admiral Kakuta Kakuji was to find that out on June 3rd. His orders from Yamamoto were to strike Dutch Harbor, a small harbor installation on the extreme end of Alaska. To meet that goal, Kakuta had command over the light carrier Ryujo, his flagship, and the bigger, converted carrier Junyo, and 82 planes. Bad weather hampered his operations since contact with his force had to be maintained but could not be maintained - Ryujo, his flagship, was alone until well after 0233, his launching time. Only when Junyo, his second carrier, came in sight ten minutes later could Kakuta launch the battle's first air strike against a strategically and tactically minor target.

His planes attacked Dutch Harbor under clear skies and damaged it badly. There were no US heavy units in Dutch Harbor and, though the base was well maintained and well equipped, and its damage severe, the entire point of the operation was lost thanks to US Intelligence.  

Worse was still to come. A Zero, damaged during the raid, crashed on a small island not far from Dutch Harbor, killing the pilot. A submarine could not locate the slightly damaged plane, but the US did, revealing for the first time the negative points of the Zero which eventually resulted in its defeat.  

Several hundred kilometers to the south, fifteen minutes after the Japanese attackers of Dutch Harbor had taken off, the pilots of the search planes flying from Midway atoll were awaken and got their breakfast, and finally took off in search of the enemy fleet. Shortly after 9 o'clock,

Rear-Admiral Tanaka Raizo's Invasion Force was sighted by Ensign Jack Reid of VP-44, flying PBYs. He radioed the sighting report to Midway, without noting anything but speed and course. After specifying ship types and numbers on orders from Midway, giving the base a picture of the approaching enemy, he began following it for a while. His report allowed a group of  B-17 bombers from Midway to hit the transport force shortly after half past four in the afternoon.

Without scoring damage, the bombers returned to Midway, and left the scene for a daring attack by PBYs. Four of the slow planes took off from the atoll late in the evening, seeking out the enemy transport force. Finding it an hour after midnight on June 4, they attacked with torpedoes and secured a hit on Akebono Maru, damaging the oiler slightly, but failing to sink or stop her.

The US carriers had been stationed north of Midway, waiting for the enemy to appear, and keeping track of the action and sighting reported. Fletcher brought Yorktown closer to Midway in preparation for air operations. Action was close at hand.

  

 

June 4, 1942

On the Island of Midway at 0230 pilots and air crews were awakened and just fifteen minutes later the units of the First Air Fleet, in preparations for the air attacks that morning against Midway began at 0245 when pilots and air crews aboard the flagship, Akagi, were awakened, At 0400 PBY Catalinas and F4F Wildcats from Midway had already taken off, patrolling the area and the island. By 0430, the first airplanes started lifting off for their first air strike of the day, 108 planes from all four carriers this time. Half an hour earlier, Scouts were launched from the Japanese carriers prior to the attack, but too few: one Kate each from Akagi and Kaga, supplemented only by two catapult planes from Tone and two from Chikuma, and a smaller scout from Haruna. Tone's No.4 catapult plane would not launch in time due to a malfunction and Admiral Nagumo did not send out a replacement as he could have should done

The strike force, closed on Midway, and appeared shortly before 0600 on the radar at t Midway. Midway's base commander launched all available planes, including the twenty-seven fighters led by Marine Major Floyd B. "Red" Parks, which would jump the enemy bombers on their run in. Six Avenger torpedo-bombers, four Army Marauder medium bombers, eleven Marine Vindicator dive-bombers and sixteen Douglas Dauntlesses, and a total of nineteen B-17 bombers, augmented the rest of the 32 total Catalina’s. 

Major Park's pilots and their planes in both numbers and quality were not ready to engage this enemy. They were to early and failed to get into the bombers quickly, owing to the escorting Zero fighters. Of the intercepting fighters, 15 were shot down, and the fighters were unable to protect Midway from air attack, which task was now left to the air defense units. Total Japanese losses over Midway and before were around fifteen planes shot down and thirty-two damaged.  In exchange, the Japanese, without any planes to bomb, hit the facilities on Sand and Easter Island, and left both islands on fire, having destroyed fuel tanks, the hospital, storehouses, and seaplane facilities. 

Even before the Japanese planes attacked Midway, Nagumo's carrier lost their most important defense when Lt. Howard Ady, piloting a PBY Catalina spotted them. Ady immediately broadcast the sighting report, which was received at 0553 by USS Enterprise, Yorktown, and Intelligence back at Pearl Harbor.

US flattops waited on. But Nagumo's carriers would see their very first action. On Midway Lt. Langdon K. Fieberling led six VT-8 Avengers, re-routed to Midway when they had been unable to catch up with their mother ship, the Hornet, Midway's planes took off with orders to attack the enemy carriers along with four B-26 Marauder bombers They flew into the fray of AA and Japanese Fighters as the first US attack group. And above them, old Vindicator dive-bombers, SDB Dauntlesses, and B-17 level bombers approached for their attacks. 

Fieberling's planes attacked first at 0700, but there was no way around the Zero fighters, much less away through them. Four Avengers fell even before they were able to release their torpedoes. The other planes continued, but three more fell to AA, and the rest, an Avenger and two Marauders, scoring no hits, retired damaged to Midway. 

Nagumo, watching the attack from his flagship's bridge, was not impressed with the ability of the of the US pilots, but he felt that they might indeed prove what Lt. Tomonaga Joichi of the Midway strike force had stated: a second attack was necessary.  

Unknown to Nagumo, his fate was being sealed. Admiral Spruance, his flagship Enterprise having intercepted the report from Ady, had been steaming toward the enemy to reduce the range. When the Japanese planes left the air space over Midway at around 7 o'clock, quick calculations made it clear that if the US carriers launched immediately, they would probably hit the Japanese carriers with planes loaded on the deck, a most vulnerable condition. Accordingly, both carriers launched their planes between 0700 and 0755, full deckloads of bombers with a fighter escort. Twenty minutes past seven, Spruance ordered the new Rear-Admiral Mitscher to take Hornet and an escort and maneuver independently.  

Nagumo's ships underwent more attacks in rapid succession, first Major Loften Henderson's Marine Dauntlesses, then B-17s from the Army, and finally the Vindicators. None scored a  single hit, but the more planes attacked, the more convinced was Nagumo that a second strike was needed against Midway. Already at 0715, Nagumo had ordered to arm his ready planes  with bombs instead of torpedoes. But by 0730, Tone's No. 4 scout had radioed Nagumo that there were "ten enemy surface ships" in the vicinity. Though worried about the unplanned  presence of this force, Nagumo regarded the Midway forces as the main threat and continued  the re-arming.

Nagumo was greatly hampered by the incapable crew of Tone No.4, which took an hour to find out what it had really sighted, the Yorktown group. Only by 0820 did the plane inform Nagumo that the force included "what appears to be a carrier". Nagumo now had to worry but didn't for too long, and soon ordered armament changed back to torpedoes. Only half of the Japanese planes were affected, for only half of them had been loaded with bombs after the first of  Nagumo's rearm orders had been given. Due to the time pressure, however, bombs were not being properly stored. The Japanese carriers slowly became floating, unprotected arsenals. 

By 0830, the final Midway-based attack against Nagumo's forces had been made, and a mere nine minutes later, Lt. Tomonaga's Midway group arrived overhead and commenced landing. Though interrupted once by a false report of US torpedo planes, Nagumo successfully landed Tomonaga's group, and turned his forces toward the enemy by 0917. Only a minute later, however, Nagumo saw himself faced once again with enemy torpedo planes.  

It was VT-8 from Hornet, under the command of Lt.Cmdr. John C. Waldron. His planes were old, slow, and sluggish TBD Devastators, once the finest plane in the fleet ,but after seven years it had become a deathtrap., Waldron had trained his pilots to the last - and, before the battle, suggested to them that they should write a letter to their families. This brave but hopelessly outnumbered force approached Admiral Nagumo's carriers. Zeros were soon between them, and no single plane survived the massacre, as the Devastators approached in the "low and slow" manner necessary for them to conduct a successful attack, an approach forced upon the men by their torpedo load, the Mk13. Only one of the pilots, Ensign George Gay, survived, and was picked up alive by a PBY the next day. 

 

Midway Memorial Dedication, Aug. 31, 1995.

Today, Aug. 31,1995 a flight will return to the grave of the grand carrier Yorktown, and there, the crew will leave a wreath along with our prayers and our eternal gratitude. There, too, they will return to his shipmates the ashes and spirit of George Gay to be with the members of his torpedo squadron from Hornet. He alone survived the battle. Today, he rejoins his comrades.

 

From his ringside "seat", Gay was able to watch another torpedo squadron, Lt.Cmdr. Eugene Lindsey's VT-6 from Enterprise, make its attack. His squadron, fourteen planes were flown by experienced pilots - Hornet's pilots had been trained but never seen combat, while VT-6 was a veteran of the early Fast Carrier raids. Lindsey's force came in right toward the enemy carriers, and they went right after the Kaga as their target. The Japanese flattop fought them off very well, helped by the Zeros of the combat air patrol, and was not hit in the end. This time, ten Devastators had fallen into the sea, including Lindsey's. The engagement was not over for a minute when Akagi spotted another torpedo squadron coming in, this time VT-3 from Yorktown, under the command of Lt.-Cmdr. Lance Massey, the only squadron that had a fighter cover with it, Lt-Cmdr. Jimmy Thatch's six F4F-4 Wildcats, and was as combat trained as humanly possible. It was not enough to protect these last brave torpedo-bomber pilots of the battle. Thatch's, Wildcats were caught up in a dogfight with Zeros. Soryu's Zeros went for the Devastators, and soon, more of the Zeros came in after Massey’s torpedo bomber’s. Massey's fliers concentrated on Hiryu, but missed - only two planes returned to the US fleet.

 

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VT-6 on the deck of Enterprise, prior to launch at Midway.

 

McCluckey on his own, decided to head north-west, assuming the Japanese would not continue their course toward Midway, and seven minutes later, at 0955, had sighted the thin white trail of the destroyer Arashii, which had been planting depth-charges into the water to prosecute the US submarine Nautilus, which had been in the Japanese formation for some time without being able to score a torpedo hit. Now, the Arashii followed her fleet at high-speed.

McCluskey's "Dauntless flight "followed the direction of the IJN destroyer"
and soon, the First Air Fleet came into sight. McCluskey had before him a mess of ships. The evasive maneuvers of the flattops had thrown them out of order, and then reduced their support for each other - which had been thin enough from the onset. 

McCluskey divided his force into the two forces, ordering Lt. Richard Best of VB-6 to strike the starboard carrier, Akagi, while he himself led Lt. Earl Gallaher's VS-6 down on Kaga. The Japanese were not impressed. They had seen these dive-bombers before and had not been hit. Their own opinions on torpedo-bombers gave them the feeling that dive-bombers were not the weapon  to sink major warships. But they  were not warships at this time; they were a floating time bomb. Bombs were lying around, and fueled planes loaded with arms and were in place for Nagumo's strike against the enemy fleet.  

McCluskey's attack on Kaga was perfectly executed. While the his own bomb missed, Lt. Gallaher planted his bomb right on the parked planes on the after section of the flight deck, setting afire the flight deck. Shortly thereafter, another bomb penetrated the forward elevator,  exploded among the planes fueled and armed on the hangar deck, and shattered the bridge  windows, opening them for bomb number three, which exploded a fuel truck in front of bridge.  

The next explosion killed the captain and bridge officers, leaving the ship helmless . The last bomb hit exploded in the hanger, adding to the carnage. The fires were soon out of control, and by 1700, abandon ship was sounded.

Akagi was not hit by as many bombs, but the results were the same. The first bomb struck the carrier on the midship elevator, exploding  ammunitions that had not been stored properly, this was the first step to disaster. The second  struck the planes being rearmed, detonating whatever ammunition was loaded on them. The aft magazines could not be flooded, and even CO2 could not extinguish the hangar deck fires. The engines lost power at 1040, and Admiral Nagumo left his burning command at 1046. Abandon ship was sounded,  little personnel remained at 1900, and Captain Aoki was removed from the carrier  the last person to leave at 0300 June 5th. 

Soryu's was being attacked by Lt.-Cmdr. Maxwell Leslie of Yorktown, head of VB-3, which Lt. O.B.Wiseman was attached to, it was ill fated . The SBDs were equipped with what a computer user would call a "buggy" electronic arming mechanism, resulting in the loss of Lt .Maxwell's  bomb and that of three of his pilots. With only thirteen bombs, the flight continued.  

Leslie's gunner sighted the Carrier Force at 1005, and Leslie quickly chose a large carrier he identified as Kaga as his unit's target. It was actually the Soryu but a nice prize  nevertheless. Leslie dove down on the carrier ahead of his squadron at around 1025, raking the AA emplacements and the flight-deck with his forward-mounted .50 caliber guns - his only  means of attack until they jammed.  

Soryu was struck by three bombs, neatly placed from fore to aft, exploding near all elevators, destroying all planes and ammunition stored on and beside the planes, and was out of the action by 1040, ten minutes after the last Yorktown planes had pulled up. Five minutes later, abandon ship was sounded, and Captain Yanagimoto committed suicide by plunging into the raging fires.

Attempts to keep her afloat were made, but shortly after 1920, she finally slid into her watery grave.

SORYU

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From the DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY

Battle of Midway: 4-7 June 1942, Online Action Reports: Commanding Officer, USS Yorktown, of 18 June 1942

At 1145 all three squadrons were rendezvoused and the group took the following formation: VT-3 at 1500 feet (just below the cloud base), 2 VF for low coverage at 2500 feet, 4 VF at 5000-6000 feet to protect the VT and low VF, and VB-3 at 16,000 feet. At about 1200, the enemy force was sighted bearing 345, distance 30-40 miles, headed on an easterly course, speed about 20 knots. It consisted of 3 or 4 carriers, 2 BB's, 4 CA's, 1 or more CL's and many DD. The formation appeared scattered; apparently the CV's had just previously landed their planes on board after their attack on Midway Island. Insofar as could be seen, the enemy CV's appeared undamaged. At about 1220 VB-3 lost contact with the torpedo planes and was unable to communicate with them by radio. At 1225, the order to attack was given by VB-3.

Dive Bombing Attack.

The dive bombing attack group consisted of 17 SBD's of VB-3, each armed with 1-1000 pound bomb, fused with Mk 21 and 23 fuses. At about 1220, VB-3 was in position to attack the enemy CV, located to the North Eastward in the formation. The dive bombers commenced their approach from 14,500 feet out of the sun upon a large CV believed to be of the Akagi Class. Its flight deck was covered with planes spotted aft. Upon sighting our aircraft, the CV turned right to a Southerly course in order to launch planes. The sides of the carrier turned into a veritable ring of flame as the enemy commenced firing small caliber and anti-aircraft guns. There was no fighter opposition at altitude. The attack signal was executed and individual planes of VF-3 took interval for diving as the first enemy planes was being launched. Diving from the South, all pilots had a steady dive along the fore and aft line of the target. The first bomb exploded directly in the midst of the spotted planes, turning the after part of the flight deck into a sheet of flame. A fighter was blown over the side as it was being launched. Five direct hits and three very near misses were scored immediately thereafter. 3-B-14 and 3-B-15 upon seeing the carrier so heavily hit and burning furiously, shifted their dives to the light cruiser plane guard, scoring a near miss and hit on the fantail. 3-B-12 and 3-B-16 LT(jg) Osborne Beeman Wiseman and Grant Ulysses Dawn, ARM3c likewise shifted to a nearby battleship and scored a direct hit on the stern and a near miss.

Release altitudes averaged 2,500 feet and withdrawal was made to the Northeast with radical maneuvering at high speed close to the water amidst heavy anti-aircraft fire. On retirement, 3-B-8 reported being attacked by a twin-float bi-plane, possibly a Kawanishi 95 with no damage resulting.

The carrier was an inferno of flames and undoubtedly a total loss, the battleship was smoking from the stern, the light cruiser attacked was stopped and had settled slightly by the stern, but was not afire.

All Bombing Squadron Three aircraft returned undamaged to U.S.S. Yorktown by 1315. Two of our torpedo planes were also observed returning. At 1407 while in the landing circle the Yorktown directed over voice radio that all planes get clear as she was about to be attacked. As the squadron had broken up into sections for landing, section leaders took their sections Eastward into the area midway between Task Force 17 and Task Force 16 to await the completion of the attack. Jettisoned enemy bombs were observed falling well clear of surface vessels and several Japanese planes fell in flames.

When the attack on the Yorktown was completed, all section leaders took their sections over to Task Force 16 and landed aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise except for two planes which landed in the water due to lack of fuel. The pilots and rear seat men were rescued uninjured by a CA.

June 4,1942 Yorktown is hit and Planes from Yorktown have to land on Enterprise. At 1437-1438 Landed 5-B-3 and 5-B-16 (Yorktown planes). Yorktown pilot reported Yorktown in bad shape. Heavy smoke seen from Yorktown. B-16 was Lt.Wiseman’s plane.  (This report was from the USS Enterprise.)

The CV attacked was described as being larger but narrower than the Yorktown and having a full length flight deck with a small island about 1/3 of the length aft of the bow. It had vertical smokestacks encased in one (similar to the Saratoga) on the starboard side adjoining the island. While proceeding towards the objective, four bombs were released prematurely when the gun and bomb electrical switches were turned on. This squadron reported also that the windshields and telescopes fogged up during the dive. This serious defect has been previously reported. It is estimated that VB-3 obtained at least 7 bomb hits which resulted in either the sinking or disablement of the CV as it was left dead in the water and completely aflame, and the damaging of 1 BB and CL.

However, victory was not complete. Rear-Admiral Yamaguchi Tamon, COMCARDIV2, had seen his command reduced to half with the hits on Soryu, and was determined to pay it back to the US. His ship, Hiryu, was completely intact except for the losses her air group had taken in the attack on Midway. Hiryu had become separated from the rest of the fleet during the torpedo attacks, and anyway, no planes would have been available to hit her. Now, Hiryu and her fighting admiral assumed virtual command over the rest of the force. Actually, Rear-Admiral Abe Hiroaki, commander of Nagumo's screen, was the senior officer present, and he issued, at 1050, Yamaguchi his orders: attack the enemy carrier - Immediately!


Lt. Kobayashi Michio took off at the head of eighteen divebombers and six fighters trailing the Yorktown group, and at 1140, Japanese fliers sighted TF17, while Yorktown's radar located the incoming strike. Yorktown's condition was completely different from the Japanese carriers. No ammo was lying around, no fueled planes aboard her, besides the immediately scrambling fighters - even her aviation fuel lines were secured by the use of CO2 in them. Fighters jumped the enemy planes fifteen miles out, and eight Vals, as the Allies called the Aichi D3A dive-bomber, fell, along with two more to the thick flak fire. But eight penetrated, including Kobayashi's plane, scoring an impressive three hits.

Although no immediate danger to the carrier resulted, her speed was temporarily reduced to a mere six knots. Once again, Yorktown's crack damage control saved their ship, soon bringing it up to twenty knots. Fighters were landed, and anew combat air patrol launched. But Yorktown, as the only target for Yamaguchi's bombers, was not spared a second attack. This time it was a flight of ten Kate torpedo planes, which, due to space and time restrictions, had not been able to take part in the first attack.



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The Yorktown wounded and sinking at the Battle of Midway

Elliott Buckmaster, a good positive score on his side in the Coral Sea battle, where he had successfully evaded all torpedoes, was now faced with a grim situation he could not master. Two torpedoes (six torpedo-planes had been lost on the approach despite a six plane escort) struck Yorktown, and her increasing list, seemingly unstoppable, left Buckmaster with no choice but to abandon his ship. At 1500, he ordered the crew to do just that. Yorktown would be left on her own. Yamaguchi on Hiryu would not be able to entertain himself with his success.

At 1450, a US scout had found him, and ten minutes later, Lt. Gallaher from Enterprise set off to bag his second carrier of the day. Lt. Wiseman was now flying from the Enterprise as the Yorktown had been hit and unable to land aircraft. Lt. Wiseman was transfered to the Enterprise. It was at this battle that Lt. O.B.Wiseman and his gunner Grant Ulysses Dawn, ARM3c were shot down. Thirteen dive-bombers struck the carrier as her pilots were eating, while eleven more attacked battleships in the screen - a foolish maneuver, to split one's bombers and go after such minor targets as a battleship in the presence of a carrier, but fortunately not resulting in disaster, for four bombs of Gallaher's group struck in rapid succession, completely destroying the flight deck, and setting the hangar deck aflame. But no bomb penetrated deeply - Hiryu still made 30 knots after the attack. She was immediately surrounded by ships lending hoses and spraying the ship, whose fire-fighting equipment had  But the fires were not containable. They spread below, and terminated the brave engine crews, stopping the ship. The crew abandoned the ship starting 0315 on June 5th, but not so Admiral Yamaguchi and Captain Kaku, who both committed suicide on their ship.

Hiryu

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5th/6th June 1942

The coming of the evening of June 4th saw five carriers bobbing, four burning, and all abandoned. But while the Japanese carriers were clearly unsalvageable, the Yorktown was not. Fletcher, now aboard the Heavy Cruiser Astoria, had set off to join Spruance, but the destroyer Hughes remained near the carrier and reported that chances were she could be saved. Fletcher ordered the tug Vireo from the French Frigate Shoals to tow her to Pearl, later joined by destroyer Gwin, and sent three more destroyers from the screen around Enterprise to get a salvage party aboard the ship. Captain Buckmaster was with these men as they boarded the Yorktown, and slowly, the carrier was towed toward Pearl Harbor. She was not to make it.

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USS YORKTOWN CA 5 AT THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY


Admiral Yamamoto had ordered the submarine I-168 to go after the carrier, and it did, sinking it under of the protection of four destroyers as well as the destroyer Hammann alongside her. The 5th of June was the day of the submarine, indeed. Admiral Yamamoto, in a rather foolish attempt to gain at least something, ordered Admiral Kondo to bombard Midway. Admiral Kondo in turn gave the same order to Admiral Kurita Takeo, commanding the youngest and fastest cruiser division in the IJN. These ships, however, had not yet reached Midway when, at 0020, Yamamoto's order to turn back was received, and as they complied,they maneuvered themselves into more trouble. Submarine Tambor had sighted them earlier, and shortly after 0100, a submarine was sighted by Kurita's Kumano which Kurita tried to evade by an emergency, simultaneous turn by 45 degrees of all his cruisers.

But while executing this maneuver, Mogami and Mikuma, two of his heavy cruisers, collided. At day break, the two cruisers were, protected by two destroyers, slowly making way out of Midway's range. But they were too slow, and Kurita's order to have Mikuma stand by her sister now endangered both vessels. Midway SBDs and Vindicators began their attacks at 0745, scoring no hits, but probably a plane crashed on Mikuma.

B-17s followed, scoring nothing but the heavy cruisers were slowed down and by the next day, planes from Enterprise and Hornet found the enemy and struck repeatedly, sinking Mikuma and knocking Mogami out of the war for a year.

Over the 5th and 6th June, Yamamoto had pondered about commiting his remaining forces to a night surface action but had dropped this idea for fear of the risk he would be running. Rightly so: Admiral Spruance, whom Fletcher had given command after the loss of Yorktown, headed east in the night, knowing that a night surface battle - any surface battle - was not recommended.

Yamamoto's fleet retired. Attu and Kiska had been taken but at what cost! Four heavy carriers, one heavy cruiser, one hundred pilots, 3400 sailors, three experienced carrier skippers and a carrier admiral, plus the secrets of the Zero fighter. In exchange, the IJN had sunk a carrier and a destroyer, and destroyed around 150 planes. It was nothing short of a disaster into which Yamamoto had led his fleet and he was only right in claiming responsibility for this operation and its losses. Both fleets returned to their ports to think about their lessons at Midway. History's greatest naval battle was over. The United States had won.

The Battle of Midway was the most decisive single naval battle in US history. The battle left two heavy Japanese carriers against four US carriers, and cost the Japanese the pilots of a full year of training. Furthermore, the Japanese Navy lost the secret of its Zero fighter, leading to the development of the F6F Hellcat, which would, just a year later, begin to destroy Japanese air supremacy.


The Battle of Midway enabled the US Navy to go onto the offensive. Herein lay the importance of the battle. For this is where I think people are wrong when they say that the loss of the battle would not have been a too important event. If the US had indeed lost all three carriers at Midway there would have been merely three carriers to oppose any Japanese move - none of which was a really good ship. Saratoga was old and slow in maneuvering, Wasp small and with a small complement of planes, and Ranger slow and small as well as ill protected. None of these carriers could hope to last in a battle with the Japanese carrier fleet which would allow the Japanese to prosecute several goals: construction of airfields on Guadalcanal; invasion of Port Moresby; invasion of New Caledonia; and more. The battle of Midway reversed this. The Japanese could never again operate offensively, while the US could do so at a place of their own choosing.

Epilogue

Japanese

United States

Carrier Strike Force
(Admiral Nagumo):
CV Akagi (+)
CV Kaga (+)
CV Hiryu (+)
CV Soryu (+)
2 Battleships
2 Heavy Cruisers
1 Light cruiser
11 Destroyers
TF-16
(Admiral Raymond Spruance):
CV-6 Enterprise
CV-8 Hornet
5 Heavy Cruisers
1 Light Cruiser
9 Destroyers
Close Support, Midway Bombardment Group
(Admiral Kurita)
CA Kumano
CA Suzuya
CA Mogami (O*)
CA Mikuma (+)
TF-17
(Admiral Frank Fletcher):
CV-5 Yorktown (+)
2 Heavy Cruisers
6 Destroyers (Hammann +)

+ Sunk

Click Here For

Battle of Midway - Part 2

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