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Thread: The Battle of Midway: "Five minutes" that changed the War.

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    Default The Battle of Midway: "Five minutes" that changed the War.

    I've posted what is really a brief history as an overall primer, more info on the ships, weapons, and tactics of the battle to follow...

    From: Eyewitnesstohistory.com
    Under Attack

    Alerted of Japanese plans through intercepted messages, an American Task Force awaited the enemy steaming towards Midway. The Japanese struck first with an attack on the island. The Americans located the Japanese fleet in the early morning and commenced a costly air strike that only 6 of the attacking 41 torpedo bombers survived. Mitsuo Fuchida witnessed the battle from the deck of the aircraft carrier Akagi:

    "The first enemy carrier planes to attack were 15 torpedo bombers. When first spotted by our screening ships and combat air patrol, they were still not visible from the carriers, but they soon appeared as tiny dark specks in the blue sky, a little above the horizon, on Akagi's starboard bow. The distant wings flashed in the sun. Occasionally one of the specks burst into a spark of flame and trailed black smoke as it fell into the water. Our fighters were on the job, and the enemy again seemed to be without fighter protection.

    Presently a report came in from a Zero group leader: 'All 15 enemy torpedo bombers shot down.' Nearly 50 Zeros had gone to intercept the unprotected enemy formation! Small wonder that it did not get through.

    Again at 0930 a lookout atop the bridge yelled: 'Enemy torpedo bombers, 30 degrees to starboard, coming in low!' This was followed by another cry from a port lookout forward: 'Enemy torpedo planes approaching 40 degrees to port!'

    The raiders closed in from both sides, barely skimming over the water. Flying in single columns, they were within five miles and seemed to be aiming straight for Akagi. I watched in breathless suspense, thinking how impossible it would be to dodge all their torpedoes. But these raiders, too, without protective escorts, were already being engaged by our fighters. On Akagi's flight deck all attention was fixed on the dramatic scene unfolding before us, and there was wild cheering and whistling as the raiders went down one after another.

    Of the 14 enemy torpedo bombers which came in from starboard, half were shot down, and only 5 remained of the original 12 planes to port. The survivors kept charging in as Akagi's opened fire with antiaircraft machine guns.

    Both enemy groups reached their release points, and we watched for the splash of torpedoes aimed at Akagi. But, to our surprise, no drops were made. At the last moment the planes appeared to forsake Akagi, zoomed overhead, and made for Hiryu to port and astern of us. As the enemy planes passed Akagi, her gunners regained their composure and opened a sweeping fire, in which Hiryu joined. Through all this deadly gunfire the Zeros kept after the Americans, continually reducing their number.

    Seven enemy planes finally succeeded in launching their torpedoes at Hiryu, five from her starboard side and two from port. Our Zeros tenaciously pursued the retiring attackers as far as they could. Hiryu turned sharply to starboard to evade the torpedoes, and we watched anxiously to see if any would find their mark. A deep sigh of relief went up when no explosion occurred, and Hiryu soon turned her head to port and resumed her original course. A total of more than 40 enemy torpedo planes had been thrown against us in these attacks, but only seven American planes had survived long enough to release their missiles, and not a single hit had been scored. Nearly all of the raiding enemy planes were brought down."

    All of the men of "Torpedo Eight" (VT8), in the above photo, save Ensign George Gay (with the circle around him) were killed in action on June 6, 1944 in a gallent charge of the Japanese Carriers while flying slow, obsolete planes with no fighter cover. Their actions were not in vain however, as they distracted the Japanese fighters and AA gunners just long enough that they did not notice the Dauntless dive-bombers soon to reign down death from above.

    Five Minutes That Changed The War

    The Japanese were now caught in a logistical nightmare. Wanting to follow up on their earlier attack on Midway, they armed their bombers with bombs. However, in the midst of battle, scouts spotted the American Fleet, so the bombers were ordered refitted with torpedoes. Simultaneously, the Zeros defending the Fleet returned to their carriers for rearming and refueling. At this moment, more American attackers appeared, Commander Fuchida continues his story:

    "Preparations for a counter-strike against the enemy had continued on board our four carriers throughout the enemy torpedo attacks. One after another, planes were hoisted from the hangar and quickly arranged on the flight deck. There was no time to lose. At 1020 Admiral Nagumo gave the order to launch when ready. On Akagi's flight deck all planes were in position with engines warming up. The big ship began turning into the wind. Within five minutes all her planes would be launched.

    Five minutes! Who would have dreamed that the tide of battle would shift completely in that brief interval of time?

    Visibility was good. Clouds were gathering at about 3,000 meters, however, and though there were occasional breaks, they afforded good concealment for approaching enemy planes. At 1024 the order to start launching came from the bridge by voice-tube. The Air Officer flapped a white flag, and the first Zero fighter gathered speed and whizzed off the deck. At that instant a lookout screamed: 'Hell-divers!' I looked up to see three black enemy planes plummeting toward our ship. Some of our machine guns managed to fire a few frantic bursts at them, but it was too late. The plump silhouettes of the American 'Dauntless' dive-bombers quickly grew larger, and then a
    The Douglas SBD Dauntless
    number of black objects suddenly floated eerily from their wings. Bombs! Down they came straight toward me! I fell intuitively to the deck and crawled behind a command post mantelet [rolled mattresses providing protection from shrapnel].

    The terrifying scream of the dive-bombers reached me first, followed by the crashing explosion of a direct hit. There was a blinding flash and then a second explosion, much louder than the first. I was shaken by a weird blast of warm air. There was still another shock, but less severe, apparently a near miss. Then followed a startling quiet as the barking of guns suddenly ceased. I got up and looked at the sky. The enemy planes were already gone from sight.

    The attackers had gotten in unimpeded because our fighters, which had engaged the preceding wave of torpedo planes only a few moments earlier, had not yet had time to regain altitude.

    Consequently, it may be said that the American dive-bombers' success was made possible by the earlier martyrdom of their torpedo planes. Also, our carriers had no time to evade because clouds hid the enemy's approach until he dove down to the attack. We had been caught flatfooted in the most vulnerable condition possible - decks loaded with planes armed and fueled for attack.

    Looking about, I was horrified at the destruction that had been wrought in a matter of seconds. There was a huge hole in the flight deck just behind the amidship elevator. The elevator itself, twisted like molten glass, was drooping into the hangar. Deck plates reeled upward in grotesque configurations. Planes stood tail up, belching livid flame and jet-black smoke. Reluctant tears streamed down my cheeks as I watched the fires spread, and I was terrified at the prospect of induced explosions which would surely doom the ship."

    References:
    Fuchida, Mitsuo and Masatake Okumiya, Midway, the Battle that Doomed Japan (1955); Lord, Walter, Incredible Victory, (1967).
    Last edited by Nickdfresh; 09-18-2006 at 08:35 PM. Reason: Spelling

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    Nickdfresh,
    There is a small film that was made the day they were launched into combat. Basically it was a "farewell" message to their families. It was shot in color and I'm trying to get ahold of it. It is very rare and only the families of the pilots were given copies.

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    Wow. I didn't know that. These guys knew their time was short. I've heard they referred to the Dauntless as the "flying coffin." It really was tantamount to a suicide mission.

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    Default "flying coffin?"

    Didn't the Dauntless last a long time on major USN carriers - as a dive bomber - much longer than the F4 series at least, so maybe it was a flying coffin by '43, but maybe not quite in mid '42. IIRC it was entirely used as a dive bomber at Midway.

    I know both the Douglas Devastator and the Vultee Vindicator (yorpedo bombers IIRC)were suicide ships at least by mid 42.

    Were there any strikes by Dauntlesses from Midway, and were they caught by the Misterbishies - ;-)!

    I don't know enough about the Dauntless series or the USN's type codes like TBD to be certain it couldn't be used as a dive bomber, as well!

    I think i's retention may have been due to failures/delays in the Vultee Vengeance program, which Aussie, India and the RAF in Asia then were 'gifted'. Turned out useful and 'sorta okay', I think.

    Timbo in Oz
    Skeptical mensurer, and audio scavenger.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Timbo in Oz View Post
    Didn't the Dauntless last a long time on major USN carriers - as a dive bomber - much longer than the F4 series at least, so maybe it was a flying coffin by '43, but maybe not quite in mid '42. IIRC it was entirely used as a dive bomber at Midway.

    I know both the Douglas Devastator and the Vultee Vindicator (yorpedo bombers IIRC)were suicide ships at least by mid 42.

    Were there any strikes by Dauntlesses from Midway, and were they caught by the Misterbishies - ;-)!

    I don't know enough about the Dauntless series or the USN's type codes like TBD to be certain it couldn't be used as a dive bomber, as well!

    I think i's retention may have been due to failures/delays in the Vultee Vengeance program, which Aussie, India and the RAF in Asia then were 'gifted'. Turned out useful and 'sorta okay', I think.

    Timbo in Oz


    Ooops! My bad, I meant the Devastator actually.

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    or there is a movie called "the battle of midway" one of my favorite WW2 movies behind band of brother ( if that counts) and longest day

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    Here's a solid article on the Douglas TBD-1 Devastator.
    ...But the Navy’s squadron commanders were beginning to worry about some of the planes their men would take into battle, particularly the TBD with its top speed of 206 mph (332 km/h). Intelligence reports on the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero-Sen (Zero) indicated its top speed was well over 325 mph (523 km/h). The fact Japan had such a fast and nimble aircraft came as a great shock to American military planners who had been led to believe the Japanese had only inferior copies of European designs. The Devastator was scheduled to be replaced by the Grumman TBF Avenger. The question was; when? During this initial phase of WWII, the development and delivery of new aircraft was agonizingly slow.
    ...
    During the first five months of 1942, the TBD seemed to lead a charmed life. By February 1942, the carriers were making raids on island bastions in the Marshalls and Gilberts held by the Japanese which were largely successful and the Devastator gave a good account of itself during these battles. On May 7, TBDs were instrumental in the sinking of the Japanese carrier "Shoho" in the Battle of the Coral Sea...

    At 0700 hrs., Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8) of the aircraft carrier Hornet launched 15 TBDs, VT-6 of the Enterprise launched 14. VT-3 on the Yorktown launched 12. Due to cloudy weather they lost their fighter escort and arrived at the scene of the battle without "top cover". Japanese A6M "Zeros" immediately attacked from the rear while the Imperial Fleet ships put up a wall of anti-aircraft fire from the front. The Zeros attacked while the TBDs were still more than 12 miles from the Imperial Fleet boats and one by one the TBDs splashed in. Not a single torpedo from these planes found a target. Of the 41 Devastators launched by the US Navy aircraft carriers, 37 failed to return to their ships. A loss rate of over 90%! After the Battle of Midway, the Navy struck the Douglas TBD "Devastator" from combat roles and it was relegated to training and communications roles...

    From: http://www.aviation-history.com/douglas/tbd.html
    Last edited by Nickdfresh; 09-20-2006 at 07:26 AM. Reason: Added text

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    From this link you can donwload the Movie "the Battle of Midway".

    http://www.archive.org/download/Batt...leOfMidway.mpg

    The Battle of Midway," directed by John Ford, provides a relatively
    brief account of the Japanese attack of American ships at Midway atoll.
    The film is comprised mostly of authentic footage from the battle, with
    dramatic narration by Henry Fonda. "Behind every cloud, there may be an
    enemy," he intones as American fighter pilots search the sky. The rest
    of the film mocks Emporer Tojo of Japan and portrays him as ruthless,
    bombing hospitals and churches as he tries to conquer the Pacific.

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    Default An old myth.

    The old myth that the Japanese were "5 minutes from launching" has been rather convincingly dispelled by a new book on Midway called "Shattered Sword."

    Actually, the Japanese flight decks were mostly empty when the dive bombers struck. Their carrier attack planes were still in the hanger decks. Which only increased the lethality of the American bombs, penetrating the wooden flight decks and exploding among the planes being rearmed.

    The "five minutes to launch" myth was started after the war by the Japanese in an attempt to make it look closer run that it actually was. They were more like 30+ minutes to launch.

    http://www.shatteredswordbook.com/
    Carl Anderton

    Within a cloud of silk she comes
    to do the serpentine,
    and when she kicks, her little feet
    though few, are far between.

    Puck, 1892

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    Think about this: Admiral Yamamoto, who had visited and traveled through the United States before the war, knew pretty well that if he awakened this sleeping giant which seemed so weak due to the Depression and neglect of its military, that if mobilized, could bring tremendous industrial capacity to bear against Japan. He said, before the Pearl Harbor attack, "That I will run wild in the Pacific for one year. After that..." In about six months from the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were dealt such a devastating blow that it never recovered from its singular defeat at Midway. The war was lost halfway through 1942, and most of the top navy brass and the Emperor knew it. Sic transit tyrranus.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Cremona View Post
    The "five minutes to launch" myth was started after the war by the Japanese in an attempt to make it look closer run that it actually was. They were more like 30+ minutes to launch.
    Agree, Cremona. The Japanese seem to have a penchant for self-delusion and denial stemming from World War II that continues up to this very day.

    Many countries have terrible and shameful moments in their history - the US is certainly no exception there - but the Japanese somehow seem to want to deny the blatantly obvious. I recall reading a description of a Japanese war museum that said, in its narrative of the beginning of the War in the Pacific: "And then the war broke out..." Yeah, right. All by itself. It just "happened". Good God, you meant to say, surely, "And then we launched a sneak attack on the American fleet at anchor on a Sunday morning to start the 2nd world war in the Pacific...."

    The Japanese delegates to a symposium on Pearl Harbor a couple of years ago "pounced" on the fact that an American destroyer had depth-charged a Japanese mini-sub near the entrance to Pearl Harbor a couple of hours before the Japanese air attack began and "triumphantly" proclaimed that because "America had fired the first shot", it was not to blame for anything. How ridiculously infantile can one be? What does this say about the character of a people when its own academics can't face up to simple facts?

    If you carefully read Emperor Hirohito's statement read over the air to his own people, he never actually says "We surrender" or "We lost the war", he said "Japan must bear the unbearable" and that the progress of the war "was not necessarily to our advantage" but no mention of defeat. These are the tortured verbal gymnastics of a people incapable of staring truth in the eye. This reminds me of the Iraqi general who denied American tanks were in Baghdad when, behind him on the street below, they could be plainly seen!

    The Japanese deny that they used prisoners of war as guinea pigs for medical and germ warfare experiments, yet there is no doubt that they did this. The Japanese deny they impressed young Korean girls into service as whores for the Japanese Army, and on and on and on. The Japanese deny that they treated POWs badly yet the record screams otherwise. The Japanese deny shooting uniformed Dutch prisoners in the Dutch East Indies "just because they wanted to."

    While there are many things to admire about the Japanese, there are also many things about them that are very troubling which continue up until the present day. They have a problem with shame.
    Last edited by royal744; 05-18-2007 at 09:03 AM. Reason: added information

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    Wink Re: The Battle of Midway: "Five minutes" that changed the War.

    It's built-in to their language, social values and discourse! A lack of individual moral courage, and an excess of physical courage.

    Very few Japanese know anything about Nanking, the experiments on humans, etc, etc, the death marches in the Philippines and in Borneo and in 1942.

    there is instead a very powerful right wing and soldier-worshipping thread.

    I am profoundly suspicious of Western worshippers of Japan who compare us unfavourably with the wonderfully productive and obedient Japanese!

    On Japanese culture, despite its innigkeit, even on the gardening and food side, I feel little actual empathy!

    Yes, despite the many strands of effort to become a real participant in a global communities!

    I do admire their better audio products and the approach of many of their audio gurus, high efficiency speakers, and classic valve circuits. And some manufacturers eg. Koetsu and other specialist makers of pick-up cartridges, Nakamichi cassette decks, Yamaha speakers, Kenwood's tuners and ham-radio equipment.

    BTA we get stupid threads here, like what if Hitler had been a nice guy!

    very similar 'denial mind-sets' exist in Germany,

    and the USA has its own very strong "my country right or wrong!" crowd!

    ;-)!

    Tim B
    Skeptical mensurer, and audio scavenger.

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    Default Re: The Battle of Midway: "Five minutes" that changed the War.

    Thread returned to active duty.

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    Default Re: The Battle of Midway: "Five minutes" that changed the War.

    Uh...launching a "strike" takes time....The aircraft must circle and form before heading for the target.

    You probably mean the "Kudo Batai" was "Thirty minutes from sending the strike on it's way."

    The first aircraft to take off were the fighters, (longer range), and they were quite ready to go by that stage.
    So, from a Japanese point of view, they were "five minutes from launch."

    A "mostly empty flight deck" is simply an indication of something called "plane handling". The elevators of an aircraft carrier can only "handle" so many aircraft at a time. When launching, decks must be clear, as you cannot launch and land at the same time. Clear decks are an indication that the first waves are "GO" to be brought from the "Ready" section of the ship to the fore-section of the flight-deck. It's like a set of traffic lights, with "go" signals that are dependent on "junctions" in the launch routine.
    Just remember, better intelligence would have seen the launching of a simultanious strike earlier that morning. Their own admittance to indecisiveness as the cause of this particular "traffic jam" meant that they were making decisions based on partial information, and simply made the wrong choice, the consequences of which came back to bite in a very short space of time.

    The U.S. Navy had a fair bit of luck simply for Wade Mcluskey to FIND the Combined fleet. Without the presense of a U.S. submarine to cause a fleet alert and the detachment of DD "Arashi" to investigate, the dive bombers would probably not have found the "Kudo Batai" and delivered their attack...
    Last edited by B5N2KATE; 09-28-2008 at 02:20 PM.
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    Default Re: The Battle of Midway: "Five minutes" that changed the War.

    BTW...aircraft on a carrier do not go "into the hangar" unless there is nothing for them to do. They must be "readyed", and placed beside their correct elevator before rising to the flight deck only a few at a time. There are good reasons for this. Fueled and armed aircraft are a fire risk, so aircraft in the hangar would be out of the operational "loop", gas tanks drained, and ammunition stowed.

    Wooden Flight Decks made Pacific carriers vulnerable to dive bombing....an armoured flight deck has advantages and disadvantages, but a lack of armoured flight decks spelt doom in this case....

    PS: HMS "Illustrious", equipped with an armoured flight deck, was struck no less than EIGHT times by 1000 pound bombs from Fleigerkorps X Stukas and still steamed away at 18 knots......
    Last edited by B5N2KATE; 09-28-2008 at 02:22 PM.
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