Jump to content
You need to play a total of 5 battles to post in this section.

AHLA: The Battle of Midway, 75th anniversary. (Image heavy)

8 comments in this topic

Recommended Posts

Wiki Lead, Beta Testers, Privateers
6,801 posts
5,248 battles

Hi guys! Well this time of year rolled around again, and most will get swept up in the remembrance of D-Day, we cannot forget the decisive battle of the Pacific War, Midway. 


For this post, I will do a simple overview of the battle and the ships involved.


Let's get this show on the seas!







USS Yorktown (CV-5), Yorktown-class. She was the carrier that bore the brunt of the damage inflicted on US forces at Midway, and was sunk on the final day of battle.



The prelude of battle begins roughly a month before at the Battle of the Coral Sea the first carrier vs carrier battle in history. The events of that battle led to USS Lexington (CV-2) being sunk, and Shōkaku and Zuikaku damaged, Shōkaku heavily. Yorktown was also damaged and in need of repairs.


US codebreakers had already determined that an attack on Midway Atoll was imminent and the Navy was scrambling to muster a force to intercept. Against a force of 4-5 fleet carriers, the US needed every available flattop they could muster. Admiral Chester Nimitz already had Halsey's two carriers (USS Enterprise (CV-6), and USS Hornet (CV-8)), but two against four would not due so he recalled Yorktown as well despite her needed repairs. These repairs, which were estimated to take several months at Puget Sound were completed in an astonishing 72 hours at Pearl. The round the clock work managed to get her operational for long enough to battle the IJN forces on their way to Midway, in fact they were still working on her as she was underway with crews from USS Vestal (AR-4).





USS Enterprise, Yorktown-class. She is destined for history from this moment on to be the most famous, and decorated ship of US history.



Yorktown still had a depleted air group so reinforcements were taken from USS Saratoga (CV-3) and Lexington. 


On the IJN side, Coral Sea took a toll the Japanese would have wished to not take in the long run. Light carrier Shōhō was sunk, and Shōkaku was damaged by three bomb hits and was under repairs. Zuikaku, while undamaged, was down to less than half her air wing and needed replenishment from Kure. These two carriers being absent may have cost the IJN far more loss at Midway than had they been there. The two most advanced carriers in the IJN, were sidelined for the main event, it was down to Akagi (Flagship of the Kido Butai), Kaga, Sōryū and Hiryū, to accomplish the mission, and they were in need of rest, having been in constant operation since December, 1941.


The stage was set. It was time for battle.





Deployment map for the forces at Midway; table is listed on the pic.



The Battle.

On June 4, 1942 at 04:30, Nagumo launched his attack on Midway. The attack was unsuccessful in neutralizing the airfield, however some US planes were shot down. The planes of Hornet's VT-8 had already launched from the carrier and joined up with the Midway defending force to attack the carriers. The attacks failed and all but one of VT-8 were shot down and killed; the lone survivor was Ensign George Gay. 


Faced with a decision, Nagumo ordered his next wave of strike aircraft to load up for attacking Midway, in violation of IJN carrier doctrine at the time. The order was reversed not an hour later as sightings of a USN carrier came in (Yorktown). Despite the back and forth between the decision to strike or wait, the USN launched their aircraft already.




TBD Devastators of VT-6 being prepped for takeoff onboard Enterprise.



The USN carrier tactics were not well proven at this point of the war; Enterprise and Hornet took over an hour to launch roughly the same amount of aircraft it took the IJN seven minutes to launch. Even then, the squadrons were all over the place and attacked at will, this proved disastrous for VT-8, VT-6, and VT-13. The slow, unescorted torpedo bombers were the first to arrive and strike the carrier force and were decimated. VT-8 lost all but one of her planes, VT-6 lost 10 out of 14, and VT-13, 10 out of 12; for a pitiful attack that accomplished nothing as the Mark 13 torpedoes were abysmal and failed. Despite this, it still accomplished something: First it kept the IJN CVs from readying another strike to counterattack. Second it took the CAP out of position and away from the carriers. Thirdly, the Zero's were low on ammo and fuel after the attack. 


All this however could have been for naught as the SBDs of Enterprise and Yorktown almost could not find the carrier force. Running low on fuel and the possibility of ditching on the horizon, squadron Commander, C. Wade McClusky, Jr. elected to continue searching, and that decision payed handsomely. By chance, a lone destroyer, Arashi (Kagerō-class) had been detached from the main force hunting USS Nautilus (SS-168), and was steaming at full speed to return to the force and was making a large enough wake for the SBDs to find, and follow the destroyer; this one destroyer, cost the IJN four carriers. 




An SBD-2 Dauntless Dive-bomber from Midway. This venerable aircraft was the mainstay of the USN carrier striking force.



All three dive-bomber squadrons (2 from Enterprise, one from Yorktown) arrived at the force simultaneously and immediately attacked the carrier force. The two squadrons of Enterprise split up to attack Akagi and Kaga but a miscommunication caused all DBs to dive on Kaga. Seeing the error Lieutenant Commander Richard Halsey Best, and his two wingmen pulled away, seeing Kaga was doomed and moved on to Akagi. Kaga was slammed by four to five direct hits which caused heavy damage and started fires; one of which, landed near the bridge killing the captain. Akagi only sustained one hit (Almost certainly by Best) but it proved to be fatal. The bomb struck the edge of the mid-ship deck elevator and penetrated to the upper hangar deck, where it exploded among the armed and fueled aircraft in the vicinity.


While all this was going on, VB-3 of Yorktown, attacked Sōryū gaining three hits, while other bombers which lost their bombs due to electrical failure, strafed the deck and escorted the remaining bombers. VT-3 attacked Hiryū but achieved no hits.


Within six minutes, Akagi, Kaga, and Sōryū were ablaze from stem to stern and quickly grew out of control. All three were abandoned and scuttled.




Hiryū, the sole remaining carrier left, made her mark in her counterattack.



Hiryū, undamaged and operational, wasted little time scrambling a counterattack. Her first wave followed the returning aircraft back and attacked the first carrier they found, Yorktown. They hit her with three bomb hits which blew a hole in the deck, snuffed her boilers, and destroyed an AA mount. Admiral Fletcher was forced to move his flag to USS Astoria (CA-34). Repair crews had the deck patched within an hour and restored some of the boilers getting her underway at 19 knots; she then resumed air operations. One hour later, Hiryū's second wave arrived. The repair work on Yorktown was so fast and effective the Japanese thought she was another carrier and attacked her again. She took two torpedoes crippling her, loosing all power and listing to port.


Later that afternoon, a Yorktown scouting aircraft spotted Hiryū, and Enterprise wasted no time attacking the last carrier. The attack by Enterprise and orphaned Yorktown DBs was successful, striking her with four to five bomb hits setting her ablaze and unable to operate aircraft. The blaze burned out of control and she was abandoned. She remained afloat for several more hours despite a scuttling attempt by a destroyer; she was found the next morning by an aircraft from Hōshō and hope of saving her was arisen, only to be dashed as she sank soon after being spotted.




The IJN still had one last strike to make. I-168, found the stricken carrier and launched a salvo of torpedoes. Hitting Yorktown and breaking USS Hammann (DD-412) in two.



The salvage of the stricken Yorktown continued and the work was encouraging and she was taken under tow by USS Vireo (AM-52). However late that afternoon (June 6) the submarine I-168 slipped through the destroyer screen, likely due to all the debris in the water, and launched a torpedo spread at the stricken carrier. Two torpedoes struck Yorktown but there were few casualties due to most of the crew being evacuated, but a third torpedo hit the destroyer USS Hammann (DD-412) which was providing auxiliary power to Yorktown. Hammann broke in half and sank with 80 of her crew, mostly because her depth charges exploded. The rest of the salvage was deemed hopeless and the remaining repair crews evacuated. Yorktown sunk the next morning. She was the third US carrier sunk in WWII after USS Langley (CV-1), and Lexington.





The destruction of four of the six main carriers of the IJN striking force was a blow the Japanese never recovered from. While Midway was decisive, the war continued to be a stalemate until the end of the Guadalcanal campaign in mid-1943. Nevertheless, Midway was one of the most crushing naval victories in naval history; the US forces were outnumbered, inexperienced, and ill-equipped for the battle, yet, better training, luck, and errors from the IJN command, not to mention knowledge of the enemy's plan, proved the US victorious.


The clashes of the US and Japanese carriers would continue through the next year, seeing Enterprise clash time and again against her imperial rivals, Shōkaku and Zuikaku, and would see all three carriers damaged, Hornet and USS Wasp (CV-7) sunk, and Enterprise get a name like no other ship before her.




That is all folks I hope you enjoy! 


Fair winds and following seas captains! :honoring:

  • Cool 14

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Beta Testers, In AlfaTesters
8,856 posts
3,680 battles

Hmm, so Yorktown's fast repairs were ultimately what killed her. Oh, the irony.


Good read. +1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
816 posts
46,060 battles

Midway was one of the most critical events on WWII and the battle history is an interesting read of personalities, technology, and luck. If Bull Halsey didn't have skin problems, if the planes had come in different waves, etc. And it was a bad day to be in a USN torpedo bomber..

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
8,932 posts
18,337 battles

Great write-up, @Doomlock

For a great visual representation of the Battle of Midway, skip forward to the 23:00 mark of the video below:


Edited by Ace_04

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.