Miracle of Midway
By destroying FOUR of Japan’s finest aircraft CARRIERS together with many of her BEST PILOTS it deprived the Japanese Navy of a large and vital portion of her powerful carrier striking force; it had a stimulating effect on the morale of the American fighting forces; it stopped the Japanese expansion to the east; it put an end to Japanese offensive action which had been all conquering for the first six months of war; it restored the balance of naval power in the Pacific which thereafter steadily shifted to favor the American side; and it removed the threat to Hawaii and to the west coast of the United States.
Five Minutes that Changed History: The Battle of Midway 10:22-10:27 on June 4th 1942
Six months after Pearl Harbor the U.S. Navy clashed with the Imperial Japanese Navy in a battle on the seas and in the air around Midway Island. It was a battle with a fleet that had known only victory in the months after Pearl Harbor, sweeping across the Pacific and the Indian Oceans and devastating Allied Naval forces that stood in their way —Bataan, Corregidor, Wake Island, Guam, and Singapore fell one by one into the clutches of the victorious Japanese. Not one American triumph interrupted the string of defeats, causing civilians back home to wonder what had happened to the nation’s army and navy. The HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse off of Singapore, a force of Royal Navy cruisers and the Aircraft Carrier HMS Hermes in the Indian Ocean, the bulk of the US Asiatic Fleet in the waters around the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies all obliterated, culminating in the Battle of the Java Sea where the bulk of the American, British, Dutch and Australian naval forces engaged were annihilated. In only one place had a Japanese Naval task force been prevented from its goal and that was at the Battle of the Coral Sea where Task Force 11 and Task Force 17 centered on the Carriers USS Lexington and USS Yorktown prevented a Japanese invasion force from taking Port Moresby by sinking the light carrier Shoho, damaging the modern carrier Shokaku and decimating the air groups of the Japanese task force.
In May US Navy code breakers DISCIPHERED the next move of the Imperial Navy -- an attack on Midway Island and the Aleutian islands. Since the occupation of Midway by Japanese forces would give them an operational base 1300 miles from Pearl Harbor, Admiral Chester Nimitz committed the bulk of his naval power. This included the carriers USS Enterprise CV-6, USS Yorktown CV-5 and USS Hornet CV-8 and their 8 escorting cruisers and 15 destroyers, a total of 26 ships with 233 aircraft. They embarked to defend Midway and IGNORED the diversion at Kiska and Attu in the Aleutians. Midway had a mixed Marine, Navy and Army air group of 115 aircraft which included many obsolete aircraft, 32 PBY Catalina Flying Boats and 83 fighters. The fighters were dive bombers, torpedo planes and Army Air Force bombers piloted by a host of inexperienced pilots.
The Japanese Flagship Akagi
The Japanese sent a force of 7 battleships, 7 carriers including the elite First Carrier Striking Group composed of the Pearl Harbor attackers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu and their highly trained and combat-experienced air groups composed of 273 aircraft along with 14 cruisers and 39 destroyers assigned to take Midway and destroy the US Navy when it came out to fight. Also a force of 4 battleships, and 12 destroyers was assigned to the Aleutian invasion force which was accompanied by 2 carriers 6 cruisers and 10 destroyers. The other carriers embarked a further 114 aircraft. A factor which aided the Americans was the distance between the Japanese Task forces which were SCATTERED over thousands of square miles of the Northern Pacific Ocean from which they could not rapidly come to the assistance of any other group.
With the FOREKNOWLEDGE provided by the code breakers the US forces hurried to an intercept position northeast of Midway (TF16 left Pearl May 28; TF17 left Pearl May 30) eluding the Japanese submarine scout line which the Japanese Commander Admiral Yamamoto presumed would find them when they sailed to respond to the Japanese attack on Midway. Japanese submarines arrived at their observation posts surrounding the Hawaiian island of Oahu on June 3, thus MISSING SPOTTING the American fleet by FOUR DAYS. Planned aerial reconnaissance of Pearl Harbor had to be CANCELED when Japanese submarines discovered an American seaplane tender at French Frigate Shoals, from which they hoped to position their own observation planes. Consequently, having heard nothing to the contrary, Nagumo ASSUMED the American carriers were still at Pearl Harbor and continued confidently toward Midway. American Task Force 16 with the Enterprise and Hornet sailed first under the command of Rear Admiral Raymond A Spruance and Task Force 17 under Rear Admiral Frank “Jack” Fletcher with the Yorktown which had been MIRACULOUSLY brought into fighting condition in THREE DAYS by 1500 men working ROUND-THE-CLOCK on repair operatons after the carrier had suffered heavy damage at Coral Sea. Japanese intelligence thought the Yorktown was sunk. Fletcher assumed overall command by virtue of seniority and Admiral Nimitz instructed his commanders to apply the principle of calculated risk when engaging the Japanese as the loss of the US carriers would place the entire Pacific at the mercy of the Japanese Navy. This meant "the avoidance of exposure of your force without good prospect of inflicting, as a result of such exposure, greater damage to the enemy.”
On June 3rd a PBY Catalina discovered the Japanese invasion force and US long range bombers launched attacks against it causing no damage. The morning of the 4th the Americans adjusted their search patterns in and the Japanese came into range of Midway and commenced their first strike against the island. Spruance was told that Jap strike aircraft were approaching the island of Midway. This was PRICELESS information since it meant that the planes would need REFUELING and REARMING after returning making them SUPREMELY VULNERABLE at that point. In response, land based aircraft from Midway were scrambled to avoid being sitting ducks and they attacked the Japanese carrier force taking heavy casualties but failing to damage the Japanese task force. The American Carrier task forces launched their strike groups at the Japanese fleet leaving enough aircraft behind of the Combat Air Patrol and Anti-submarine patrol. As the Americans winged toward the Japanese fleet, the Japanese were UNAWARE. Their reconaissance had been a DISASTROUS FAILURE. The Jap scout plane was DELAYED at launch one-half hour and then flew right past the Americans without spotting them. When the American fleet was finally spotted at 07:25, the pilot's report mentioned only "SURFACE SHIPS." A Japanese scout plane finally reported a CARRIER. This was the Yorktown and TF 17. For Nagumo, the revelation could not have come at a WORSE MOMENT. While the Japanese second wave was PREPARING TO LAUNCH, Nagumo's first wave, that had just returned from Midway was circling WAITING TO LAND. Also WAITING TO REFUEL AND REARM were the fleet's zero fighters, which had been in action protecting the carriers. If Nagumo were to launch his second wave against the reported enemy carrier, they would have to go without fighter cover. Nagumo decided to wait. He would return his second wave below decks; recover his circling aircraft for refueling, then launch a full scale attack on the American fleet.
Zeros Obliterated US Torpedo Bombers
As the Japanese crews worked the Japanese carriers were engaged in fending off attacks by the US torpedo bomber squadrons, VT-6 from Enterprise, VT-8 from Hornet and VT-3 from Yorktown. The Japanese Combat Air Patrol ripped into the slow, cumbersome and under armed TBD Devastators as they came in low to launch their torpedoes. Torpedo Eight from Hornet under the command of LCDR John C Waldron pressed the suicide attack hard but all 15 of the Devastators were shot down. Only Ensign George Gay’s aircraft was able to launch its torpedo before being shot down and Gay would be the sole survivor of the squadron.
Hopelessly Obsolete 40 of 44 TBD Devastators Were Lost in American Suicide Attack
Torpedo 6 under the command of LCDR Eugene Lindsey suffered heavy casualties losing 10 of 14 aircraft with Lindsey being one of the casualties. The last group of Devastators to attack was Torpedo 3 under the command of LCDR Lem Massey from the Yorktown. These aircraft were also eliminated and Massey killed but they had drawn the Japanese Combat Air Patrol DOWN TO THE DECK leaving the task force EXPOSED to the Dive Bombers of the Enterprise and Yorktown. This confusion had all but HALTED the rearming process and torpedoes, bombs, and fuel hoses DANGEROUSLY LITTERED the flight decks of each Japanese carrier.
TBD Devastator Attacks Akagi
There had been confusion among the Americans as to the exact location of the Japanese Carriers. The Bombing 8 and Scouting 8 of Hornet did not find the carriers and had to return for lack of fuel with a number of bombers and their fighter escort having to ditch in the ocean and wait for rescue. The Enterprise group under LCDR Wade McClusky was perilously low on fuel when the WAKE of a Japanese destroyer was SPOTTED. McClusky followed it for ten minutes to the Japanese Task Force. MIRACULOUSLY, the Yorktown’s group under LCDR Max Leslie arrived about the SAME TIME. They found the SKIES EMPTY of Japanese aircraft. Aboard the Japanese ships there was a sense of exhilaration as each succeeding group of attackers was brought down; and with their own aircraft ready to launch and deal a fatal blow to the American carrier, they wondered how big their victory would be. They had "Victory Disease." They were SUPREMELY SELF-CONFIDENT. They had repulsed NINE American attacks without any damage. Midway was in flames and their strike force recovered. Then they suffered their worst disaster in 350 years.
At 10:20 the first Zero of the Japanese attack group began rolling down the flight deck of the flagship Akagi. Aboard Kaga aircraft were warming up as they were also on the Soryu. The unsuspecting Japanese were finally alerted when lookouts screamed “helldivers.” Leslie selected the Soryu as his target and guided his 17 dive-bombers toward the quarry. Leslie and his men quickly planted three bombs onto the carrier’s flight deck. In an instant, explosions and flames swallowed the Soryu’s surface, and within 20 minutes the crew started to abandon the sinking ship. Wade McClusky’s aircraft lined up over the Akagi and Kaga pushing into their dives at 10:22. There was a bit of confusion when the bulk of Scouting 6 joined the attack of Bombing 6 on the Kaga. The unprepared carrier was struck by four 1000 pound bombs which exploded on her flight deck and hangar deck igniting the FULLY FUELED and ARMED aircraft of her strike group and the ORDNANCE LITTERED about the hangar deck. Massive fires and explosions wracked the ship and in minutes the proud ship was reduced to an infernal hell with fires burning uncontrollably. She was abandoned and would sink at 19:25 taking 800 of her crew with her. LT Dick Best of Scouting 6 peeled off from the attack on Kaga and shifted to the Japanese flagship Akagi. On board Akagi were two of Japans legendary pilots CDR Mitsuo Fuchida leader of and CDR Minoru Genda the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack and subsequent string of Japanese victories. Both officers were on the SICK list and had come up from SICK bay to watch as the fleet was attacked. Seeing Kaga burst into flames they stood mesmerized until Akagi’s lookouts screamed out the warning “helldivers” at 10:26. Best’s aircraft hit with deadly precision landing two of their bombs on Akagi’s flight deck creating havoc among the LOADED aircraft and starting fires and igniting secondary explosions which turned the ship into a witch’s cauldron. By 10:46 Admiral Nagumo and his staff were forced to transfer the flag to the cruiser Nagara as Akagi’s crew tried to bring the flames under control. They would do so into the night until nothing more could be done and abandoned ship at 20:00. Admiral Yamamoto ordered her scuttled and at 05:00 on June 5th the pride of the Japanese carrier force was scuttled.
Scouting 6 Gets the Akagi
VB-3 under LCDR Max Leslie from the Yorktown stuck the Soryu with 17 aircraft, only 13 of which had bombs due to an electronic arming device malfunction on 4 of the aircraft including the squadron leader Leslie. Despite this they dove on the Soryu at 10:25 hitting that ship with 3 and maybe as many as 5 bombs. Soryu like her companions burst into flames as the FUELED aircraft and ORDNANCE exploded about her deck. She was ordered abandoned at 10:55 and would sink at 19:15 taking 718 of her crew with her.
The fourth Japanese aircraft carrier, Hiryu, had been obscured by cloud cover and was undetected during the attacks. In retaliation, a small force of aircraft was scraped together aboard Hiryu and launched against the Yorktown. The Japanese aircraft located the Yorktown and wounded her with three bomb and two torpedo hits. Yorktown's fire-suppression crews were able to put out the fires. A second wave of aircraft from Hiryu attacked Yorktown again, thinking it was the second and last American carrier and the first had already sunk. Again fire-suppression crews worked hard, but finally abandoned ship. Yet the Yorktown still didn't sink. Meanwhile American planes found Hiryu three hours later at 17:05 and four bombs hit the Hiryu's deck. Her pilots, who had been up before dawn, were now taking a SHORT BREAK. Twenty-four Enterprise dive-bombers attacked. They so damaged the Hiryu that she sank the following day. Pilot Best had now scored two hits on two Jap carriers.
It was quite MIRACULOUS what happened at Midway in less than five pivotal minutes. Authors have entitled books about Midway "Incredible Victory" and "Miracle at Midway" and the titles reflect the essence of the battle. A distinctly SMALLER force defeated a vastly SUPERIOR fleet in terms of experience, training and equipment. It appeared that the Japanese Fleet would advance to victory. But in a span of less than 5 minutes, what looked like certain defeat, was turned into one of the most incredible and even MIRACULOUS victories in the history of Naval warfare. In those 5 minutes history was changed in a breathtaking way. While the war would drag on and the Japanese would still inflict painful losses and defeats on the US Navy in the waters around Guadalcanal, the tide had turned and the Japanese LOST THE INITIATIVE in the Pacific never to regain it. At Midway, Japan suffered her greatest defeat in over 300 years. The Japanese government hid the defeat from the Japanese people and instead proclaimed a great victory; while the American government could not fully publicize the information that led to the ability of the US Navy to be at the RIGHT PLACE at the RIGHT TIME and defeat the Imperial Navy.
When one looks at implications of the victory it did a number of things. First it changed the course of the war in the Pacific probably shortening it by a great deal. Secondly it established the aircraft carrier and the fast carrier task force as the dominant force in naval warfare which some would argue it still remains. Finally those five minutes ushered in an era of US Navy dominance of the high seas which at least as of yet has not ended as the successors to the Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown ply the oceans of the world and the descendants of those valiant carrier air groups ensure air superiority over battlefields around the world.
Today the world's biggest ship-building nation - and the nation that builds the world's biggest ships - is Japan. A generation ago, Britain had that distinction. Great Britain became the world's dominant power when she took command of the seas away from the Spanish fleets in the sixteenth century. Britain has lost that preeminent position- she has ceased being a great sea power. These three peoples - the Japanese, Spanish and English - significantly, play an important role in Bible prophecies about Tarshish and the "ships of Tarshish." Tarshish, son of Javan (Gen. 10:4) was the ancestor of two major peoples intensely interested in sea trade. Tarshish (it's also spelled "Tharshish") was of mixed Oriental and White ancestry. Japheth, the father of Javan, and grandfather of Tarshish, had an Oriental wife. Remember, the three primary races in the pre-flood world passed through the Flood as a result of Japheth's and Ham's intermarriages. Japheth and Ham were white, but their wives were not. Japheth was the patriarchal ancestor of all Orientals and of many East and South European Whites.