The Japanese mistakenly believed that the doomed torpedo bombers from the Hornet, Enterprise and Yorktown had been launched from Midway Island. In response, the Japanese Admiral Nagumo decided to strike Midway again, and returning Japanese fighters were re-armed with bombs for the attack on Midway’s airfields.
But as the Japanese were re-arming their fighters, they received a delayed report from one of their scouting planes, warning of a sighting of a US carrier. Nagumo reversed himself, and ordered that his fighter planes be re-armed with torpedoes. Thus, the decks of the Japanese carriers – painted yellow, with a red sun signifying the Japanese imperial war regime - were strewn with bombs, torpedoes, fuel tanks and fuel lines.
A few moments after 10:00 a.m., June 4th, 1942, the Japanese Admiral Nagumo and his staff believed that they had just annihilated all of the U.S. air cover for Midway, and in addition, their massive armada including 4 aircraft carriers with vastly superior planes and pilots was ready to attack the just-sighted U.S. carrier. Admiral Nagumo believed that Japan was one launch away from annihilating the United States Navy. The War of the Pacific was about end in glorious victory for the Empire of the Rising Sun.
Yet, at this critical moment, the so-called "lost squadrons" of US planes from the USS Enterprise and USS Yorktown arrived at high altitude over the Japanese carrier group. Lt. Cmdr. Wade McCluskey’s USS Enterprise dive bomber group of 32 planes had failed earlier to locate the Japanese fleet, and rather than turn his fighters back to his carrier, he changed course to search out the Japanese ships. They were located by trailing a Japanese destroyer trying to catch up to its flotilla. As McClusky arrived, Commander Maxwell Leslie also arrived in formation high above the Japanese, with a 17-plane squandron of Yorktown dive bombers.
McCluskey’s and Maxwell's dive bombers came upon an extraordinary situation: Four sitting duck Japanese carriers, without their protective shield of Zero fighter planes, with scores if not hundreds of Japanese planes sitting on the carrier decks, strewn with ordnance, fuel and crew:
“If they’d looked up they coulda seen us, but they were too busy trying to destroy the torpedo planes that had gotten there first.”
----Wilbur Roberts, U.S. Dive Bomber
The Japanese carrier decks were painted yellow, with the empire’s huge “Rising Sun” red circle painted on the bow of each carrier. This was a further gift to the U.S. dive bombers --a red targeting ball on a yellow deck, set against a dark gray ocean:
“Here are the arrogant Japanese with their bright yellow decks with a meatball up on the bow.”
-----Lt. Richard Best, U.S. Dive Bomber
At 10:22 a.m., June 4, 1942, the U.S. dive bombers - armed with bombs, not torpedoes - attacked the Japanese carrier fleet from high altitude in classic dive-bomber style. The Japanese had only a few minutes to savor what they thought had been a victory over the United States; it all evaporated within 5 minutes, courtesy of the dive bombers.
There were 4 Japanese carriers at Midway. The U.S. dive bombers immediately scored hits on 2 of those carriers (the Akagi and the Kaga) by precision dropping the bombs onto the carriers' loaded decks. There was no Japanese fighter cover in place at higher altitude to repel the attacks. A couple of bombs from US dive bombers, aided by the re-fueling tanks, torpedoes and bombs stacked on the decks of the Japanese carriers, turned into an inferno. Akagi and Kaga were destroyed. Shortly thereafter, a dive bomber squadron from the USS Yorktown attacked and destroyed the third Japanese aircraft carrier, the Soryu. Notably, these Yorktown dive bombers attacked with only a dozen working bombs.
Later, a small squadron of dive bombers from the USS Enterprise attacked and burnt the fourth and last Japanese carrier, the Hiryu, but not before Hiryu was able to launch an attack that disabled the USS Yorktown.
All four Japanese carriers at Midway – the Akagi, the Kaga, the Soryu and the Hiryu, burned and sank to the bottom of the Pacific.
The ailing USS Yorktown was later sunk by a Japanese submarine while limping back to Pearl Harbor. Minor skirmishes between the retreating US and Japanese naval groups continued through June 6th.The Result.
When various other skirmishes ended by June 6, Japan had lost 4 carriers, 332 aircraft, and hundreds of its best pilots and crew. The US had lost only one carrier, 144 planes and scores of pilots.
Japan had 9 aircraft carriers when Midway began. One day later, it had only 5.
The U.S. had only 3 carriers going into the Midway battle. After Midway, it effectively still had 3 carriers, as the USS Saratoga came out of dry-dock and replaced the sunken USS Yorktown.
Japan had planned to seize Midway, and emerge from the battle with a 9-0 carrier advantage, giving the mobile airfields and its Zero fighters free reign of the Pacific (including over Pearl Harbor and even the US West Coast). Instead, Midway remained in U.S. hands, and the overwhelming Japanese carrier dominance was reduced to a basic parity (5-3).
The Battle of Midway was nothing short of a rout of the vastly superior Japanese Navy.
With the US war shipyards already producing at full capacity, Japan had lost at Midway its one chance to defeat the US via an early take-out. Instead, it was a matter of time before the massive US industrial war machine would overwhelm the imperial militarized Japanese.High Water Mark of the Japanese War Empire
10:15 a.m., June 4, 1942, turned out to be the height of the fascist Imperial Japanese Empire. Unscathed and convinced of victory over the US after destroying almost every U.S. torpedo bomber in the initial engagements of June 4th, Japan's war effectively became a lost cause by 10:30 a.m.
The US Navy - outnumbered in carriers, ships, technology, planes and pilots - had achieved the greatest naval victory in modern history.
The near total destruction of the first wave of U.S. pilots and crew on board the “low and slow” torpedo bombers was not in vain; it alone made possible the exact conditions that allowed 50 U.S. dive bombers to send the Japanese armada to the bottom of the ocean minutes later.Epilogue and the Big Picture
Modern historians have trouble coming to grips with the nature of the fascist, racist Japanese Imperial armed forces. Japan’s immediate goals leading up to Pearl Harbor were regional domination. But what lay behind that, is never questioned: Historians ignore why the high echelons of the Japanese warlord establishment craved regional dominance. Instead, they focus on “rational” explanations, such as raw material procurement. As such, Western historians simply miss the point: The Japanese military was hell-bent on destroying any and all peoples on the earth who were not Japanese. (Anyone confused, should start with a quick tutorial of Japan’s genocide of 300,000 Nanking civilians in just one month.)
What if the Japan has wiped out the US Navy at Midway?
In 1942, Germany was about to topple Russia, England was on life support, fearing an invasion once Germany had finished off Russia. For a few brief minutes on June 4, Japan believed that it was about to send the remaining US Navy Pacific carrier fleet to the bottom of the ocean, leaving the West Coast (and the entire Pacific) completely open to the overwhelmingly powerful Japanese Navy.
- Might the US have abandoned its “Europe First” policy? Americans were still wary of European wars, and fear of Japan was high following Pearl Harbor.
- Might the US have diverted materiel to the Pacific, thereby curtailing critical supplies to Stalin and Churchill? Might Russia and/or England have thereafter fallen?
- Might Japan have begun directly attacking the US, to sue for surrender from a position of dominance? Doolittle’s Tokyo raids occurred 2 months prior to Midway… .
- MacArthur surrendered in the Philippines in 1942; with a Japanese Midway victory, might other vast American armies and navies suffered the same fate?
- Might Japan have then attacked Russia, as part of its Axis duties, thereby forcing Stalin to pull forces off of the battle with Germany, to defend far-off Siberia?
It is not enough to assert that Japan’s goals were regional domination, and that Japan would have been content to leave the US alone once Japan dominated Eastern Asia and the Pacific. Modern generations talk around the point, because it does not fit well with our modern world. But the Japanese mindset in WWII was conquest – and worse.
So during this early June, remember the Battle of Midway, its codebreakers, and the dozens of torpedo-bombers, dive-bombers and other crews of the U.S. Navy who changed the course of history
More at: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/wwii-pac/midway/midway.htm