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Battle of Midway: June 4–7, 1942

Fold3 Image - Map of the Battle of Midway
On June 4–7, 1942, American naval and air forces met the Japanese near Midway Atoll in one of the most decisive naval battles of the war. The Battle of Midway would become a turning point in the naval war in the Pacific, as the Japanese losses sustained there proved irreparable.

Following the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in April 1942, the Japanese felt the need to force a decisive battle with the U.S Pacific Fleet that would leave America powerless in the Pacific and perhaps even lead America to accept peace on Japan’s terms. The Japanese developed a complex plan, to be carried out under the general direction of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, that involved attacking and occupying both the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and Midway Atoll, not far from Hawaii, in an attempt to lure the American fleet into a trap. However, American cryptanalysts were able to break enough of the Japanese code to be fairly certain of the basics of the Japanese plan.

American admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, sent two task forces to meet the Japanese at Midway: Task Force 16, with the carriers Hornet and Enterprise, under Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance; and Task Force 17, with the carrier Yorktown, under Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher. The Japanese Midway force brought four carriers: the Soryu, Hiryu, Kaga, and Akagi.

Fold3 Image - Map of Midway Islands
The Japanese began carrier-based air attacks on the Midway Islands at dawn on June 4 in preparation for a land invasion. As the Japanese carriers were preparing to recover the planes from their Midway strike and launch others, various waves of Midway- and carrier-based American planes found the Japanese ships. Although the American planes in these initial attacks sustained great losses themselves, they did not do serious damage to the Japanese. However, they did prepare the way for subsequent American dive-bombers from the Enterprise and Yorktown to cause devastating damage to three of the Japanese carriers. Planes from the Enterprise destroyed the fourth Japanese carrier later that day as well, and all four carriers would eventually sink from the attack.

However, the Americans also sustained a carrier loss when—on the afternoon of the 4th—Japanese planes found the Yorktown and damaged her badly enough that the captain had the ship abandoned. A Japanese submarine finished off the Yorktown two days later and sunk it.

As a result of the various engagements between the Japanese and Americans from June 4th to 7th, the Japanese sustained heavy losses: 3,000 men and 4 carriers, while the Americans lost 300 men and 1 carrier. The Battle of Midway would prove a turning point in the naval fight in the Pacific, as it hobbled the Japanese carrier fleet and put Japan on the defensive at sea for the remainder of the war.

Did you have family who fought at Midway? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the battle on Fold3.

107 Comments

  1. Why has WWII history and the various WWII museums seemingly forgotten/overlooked the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) which had a short but distinguished career in the Atlantic. Mediterranean and Pacific before being sunk by Japanese submarine I-19 on Sept.14, 1942 while supporting the Guadalcanal landing?

    • Right. My father, a medic, and my uncle were both on the Wasp when it sank. They never forgot that frightful day and being in the water not knowing if or when help would arrive.

    • Raymond,

      I don’t think the Wasp has been forgotten, or minimized. That ship, and its crew, served most nobly. It’s just that there are so many heroic events from that time, and none were more momentum changing than the Midway battle, along with, perhaps, the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The latter was actually deemed a defeat for us until it was realized just how much it has caused the Japanese to alter their strategy and retreat. Indeed, the war in the Pacific is full of incredible stores of heroism. And it wasn’t all carriers either. There are loads of fascinating events involving our submariners, who carried a tremendous amount of the “load” after our horrific losses at Pearl Harbor.

    • Thanks for reminding us of the Wasp and its important contribution.

    • If you have the opportunity to obtain the five volume series of books entitled “Battle Report,” you see that Wasp was talked about in volume two. This series of books centers around the U.S. Navy’s role in WWII. Since Wasp was sunk in the Med. Sea and wasn’t involved in the Pacific campaign, it isn’t referred to much when talking about the Pacific War.

    • Sunk in the Med!

    • Yeah, and the USS Pringle? Sunk by Kamikaze pilots April 16, 1945?

  2. When the Balanced Budget Amendment was being hyped, with its exception being if war was declared, I used Midway as part of my argument against it. If the BBA had been in effect at the start of the Depression, there would have been no carriers at Midway (Yorktown, Hornet, and Enterprise, and yes, the Wasp, all being built in the middle of the Depression on deficit budgets.) There would have been only about 4 destroyers (the rest built during the Depression as well) and maybe a light cruiser. The first destroyer laid down after December 7 was not commissioned until well after the battle. Note that the pre1929 carriers Lexington (sunk at Coral Sea) and Saratoga (in dry dock for torpedo damage) would not have been available and the Ranger was considered too small for fleet actions.
    With the BBA in effect, the Japaneses would have wiped out the available force with little trouble, taken Midway, and probably moved on to take other Hawaiian islands. Our first offensive action in the Pacific would probably have been to retake some of our own territory.

    • We rarely go to war prepared. As a rule, we start getting ready after the war has started. In our long history, we can find only two exceptions, the Spanish-
      American War and the Persian Gulf Conflict.

      At Midway, our young men went into battle in obsolete aircraft and torpedoes that proved to be duds. Our marines attempted to defend Midway with obsolete fighters and our navy attempted to attack the Japanese carriers with obsolete torpedo bombers. Most of them were shot down by much superior Japanese fighters. We lost about 80% of those brave young men.

  3. Never, ever, cut the military budget.

  4. My cousin Phillip Lee Kostyal, Ensign USN. Flew a Wildcat off the USS Fanshaw Bay
    and sank a Japanese destroyer but he also went down. His name is on the monument in San Diego CA (the Rosecrans). He was awarded the DFC posthumously.

    • May he rest in peace. Thank you and your family for his sacrifice. RIP Daddy, Korea, Semper fi, L.Cpl. – plus – RIP to our 2 on the Viet Nam Wall, Kennedy and Plunkett and our 2 at the USS Arizona – the Murdock brothers. PLUS our other over 1,000 military Veterans, Grannddaddy Plunkett -WW1 who fought the Germans on their soil, Daddy’s older brother 1Lt. U.S. Army, lost his best friend and over 1/2 his btn. at Normandy, Omaha and Italy; 56 who served in WWII, 14 of those served their entire tours in Europe during the war; a 19 year old co-pilot shot down with his crew over Germany, imprisoned at the infamous Stalag Luft 3 made famous by the movie “The Great Escape” plus my mother’s cousin Gloria, a Rosey the Riveter Supv.; also our 25 Plunketts who fought suffered and some died in the Amer. Rev. War plus our over 160 from 9 yes NINE states who fought, suffered – many from disease – and many imprisoned in the UN-Civil War and we provided provender to the troops. Also thanks to my 1st husband who served in the Viet Nam war as a Photo Journalist. 6 Uncles who served in the WWII in all theaters. RIP to all of them and those still with us. Salute! Note: I also served as a Volunteer in the Civil Air Patrol ’77- ’79.

    • My dad was on the US Franshaw Bay!!!

    • Wasn’t the Fanshaw Bay one of the mighty midgets at the Battle Off Samar?

  5. I recently spent the night on the USS Hornet, now a live aboard museum with my grandson’s cub scout pack. We had a wonderful time. Well worth it. The Hornet is now in Alameda CA.

    • Hello Andrea,

      I served on the Hornet from 1963 to 1964. Made a west pac cruise to Japan in 64.
      I live in Texas and want to visit the Hornet some day, but I am 75 now and My wife is 73 and can not travel anymore. I was in the V-4 Division which was the Gas Gang at that time. I had no night vision and had to work below decks in the foward pump room. There was light there and it was about 9 decks below. The Flight deck crew would call me to pump the gas to the Flight Deck. We had 4 Crashes while I served aboard. Very scary situation. I still have my West Pac Cruise book and have made a CD of the entire book. If you would like a copy of the CD I will mail you one. I just need your Mailing address. My email address is below if you would like to contact me any time.

    • What a great experience, I’m sure.

  6. The Battle that saved America. To the 84 men who gave their lives and changed the tide of battle. The torpedo bombers..

    Carrier YORKTOWN VT-3 Squadron Leader Massey 13 TBD Devastators
    12 planes shot down.. 1 survived
    Carrier ENTERPRISE VT-6 Squadron Leader Lindsey 14 TBD Devastators
    11 planes shot down.. 3 survived
    Carrier HORNET VT-8 Squadron Leader Waldron 15 TBD Devastators
    15 planes shot down..0 survived

    The combined torpedo plane attack on the Japanese carriers drew the Zero aircraft covering their carries down to sea level, thus paving the way for our dive bombers to strike and sink three carries…KAGA, SORYU and AKAGI. All in a matter of minutes. America should build a monument to the 3 squadrons VT-3. VT-6 & VT-8… and their pilots as they saved our country. If we lost the Battle of Midway the Japanese would have landed on Midway and then invaded Hawaii. As a young lad of nearly 2, I most likely would have not made it through Japanese internment… Good Bless these men and Admiral Chester Nimitz.

    • The sentiment expressed in your post is warranted but author/historian John Parshall has pretty much disproven the “distracted fighters” theory. Truth is, half a dozen dive bombers scored some lucky hits. The Devastators were an ineffective weapon and their attack was poorly planned. Not being unappreciative of the sacrifice; just being truthful.

    • had those torpedo planes not been on the deck and the japanese fighters with them, the dauntless et al would not have been so successful, being at the right altitude at the right time they sunk 4 carriers and changed the tide of the pacific war

    • I always wondered IF CV 8’s SBD’s & F4F’s ‘would have followed Waldron’s TBD’s course Ashe begged Ring and Mitscher as I believed Spruance over ruled Miles Browning when he was faced with a similar situation? Ah, the fog of war and the denial/lies/coverup that ensued. You might recall that Spruance stated that Enterprise logs/record the actions of TF-16. The logs of CV-8 when down with its sinking 4 months later.. Food for thought….JW

    • Yes these 3 squadrons reveal the strength of “The greatest Generation” using outdated planes but willing to sacrifice all. They should be honored.

    • My uncle,Lt.(jg) Randolph Mitchell Holder, was one of the pilots of VT-6 who did not return from the attack. He posthumously received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart. Two ships were named for him. The first one, DE 401, was severely damaged by torpedo fire in the Mediterranean with loss of life and was decommissioned in 1944. The second USS Holder, DD/DDE 819, served her country for 30 years.

    • your uncle was a true hero!

    • Mike, slight typo. Ensign George Gay was the single survivor from VT-8. If there is a monument it should also include the names of the pilots and aircrew of the Navy and Marine aircraft who flew from Midway in a sort of “Forlorn Hope” to similar levels of casualties who, with the torpedo squadrons, kept the Japanese carriers maneuvering and unable to rearm their aircraft and stage them on deck for an attack (recent research has proven that the decks were not stacked for a launch when the dive bombers struck as related by Fuchida’s book)

  7. My Dad served in the Navy in WWII, as officer onboard YMS 477…this was a small, woodhulled craft, built at shipyard in Tacoma Washington, one of a number of mine sweepers which went in ahead of the larger ships to clear mines. He hold not talk about his experiences there and at Iwo Jima, saying only that there were lots of planes, And they were strafed.

    • Wondering if by chance if you or someone in your family might be related to the Father of a friend of mine. His name was Newell “Orville” Morrison b. 2/27/1920 in Ellensburg, Wa. He went by “Orville”. His daughter, Marsha, thinks he fought for the Army in the Pacific Theatre around 1942, 1943 and possibly 1944. He died about 1998 or 1999 in Ellensburg, Wa.

  8. My father was on the U.S.S. Wasp, CV18 during WWII. You never seem to read anything about this Carrier. How come?

  9. In my capacity as an air traffic controller, back around 1983 I had the pleasure of working with a Mr, Tom Convery, a retired naval officer. I’m a big military history fan, an let him know it. One day at lunch he was relaxed enough to discuss his youth in 1942, and here was his story, as I recall the details.
    Tom, an Ensign, had just completed naval flight training, and was high enough in his class to select an F4F Wildcat. He then completed initial aircraft familiarization, carrier training and combat crew training in the Wildcat. Then his squadron was assigned, as I recall, to the Enterprise. His squadron of 12 aircraft flew from Alameda Naval Air Station to the Enterprise, via a navigation training route, to land at sea. The Enterprise was a fairly new ship, and the bomber and fighter crews arrived at their designated rondevous locations, three aircraft at a time for recovery. His squadron was the last to arrive. After engine shutdown he was informed that he, with all of the other flight crews, were to report to the ready/briefing room for an important mandatory briefing from the Air Commander on the ship. And he and the other two pilots in his formation ran to the ready room, via directions from an officer on the flight deck.
    When they arrived there was only standing room left, and hardly breathing room for so many crew members. The last pilots arrived, the doors were shut, the Air Commander arrived and pulled back a curtain covering a large map of the Pacific Ocean. The briefing went something like, “Gentlemen, our shakedown/training orders have been cancelled, and we are about to engage the Japanese Imperial Navy north of Hawaii.” Tom said you could have heard a pin drop in that room, as only a few officers on each ship were aware of the new orders to engage the most experienced naval aviators in the world.
    All three U.S. carriers arrived northeast of Hawaii, and the crews flew every day, and trained seriously. The U.S. navy knew when the Japanese would arrive north of Midway, but would have to search for their specific locations. I won’t bother you with the details, as Tom recalled them, but he bagged three Japanese fighters in a fur ball east of the Japanese fleet and west of the U.S. carriers. First flight that day was escorting dive bombers (SBD Dauntless) to their targets, and then, after landing, taking off to meet the last Japanese bombers and fighters to attack the U.S. carriers. When the Yortown was torpedoed by Japanese aircraft, a few aircraft were flown off, and a few returning aircraft were recovered by the other two carriers or flew to Midway. Some crews ditched at sea and were never recovered. Tom retired as a squadron commander of an F4 Phantom unit.
    As I told Tom at lunch that day, “Not bad for a day’s work.” Til the day he retired, he never
    let me forget that statement, as I was an Air Force Reserve officer at the time.

  10. To all,
    These were all great comments, and, as a history buff, I appreciate them all and congratulate the crews on the Hornet, Enterprise and Yorktown for their courageous service and for successfully turning the tide of naval warfare in the Pacific. As a follow-up to my original message, it is, however, regrettable that the USS Wasp (CV-7) on which my dad (USMC) was an AA gunner remains virtually unmentioned despite its distinguished service. If anyone is interested WikIpedia has a good brief history of the ship’s service.

    • In my studies of naval warfare, it seems some ships manage to be in the thick of action, while others, through no fault of their own, do not; fate plays a leading role. Wasp was one of the latter in the actions in the South Pacific in 1942. Wasp, Enterprise, and Saratoga, commanded by RADM Frank Jack Fletcher, covered the landings at Guadalcanal in early August of 1942, and Wasp’s fighter aircraft were part of the force that successfully intercepted Japanese bombers attempting to strike the landing force on 7 August. With the landings completed and secured, Fletcher elected to retire his carriers for refueling on the evening of 8 August, thusd missing the battle of Savo Island in which a Japanese surface force successfully attacked the force commanded by RADM R. K. Turner, resulting in one of the worst defeats in the history of the U. S. Navy. If the carriers had been present, . . . . ., but they werem not. Captain Forrest Sherman, CO of Wasp, begged for permission to go back but was denied, thus Wasp was not in the action.
      On 23 August, Fletvjher’s carriers, including Wasp, were covering the sea appproaches to the Solomons in anticipation of an attack by Vice Admiral Kondo witth his carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku. Fletcher was informed by PacFlt intelligence that Kondo’s force was still north of Truk, leading Fletcher to conclude there would be no action for several days, so he detached Wasp to proceed to a fueling rendezvous. In fact, Kondo was less than 300 miles from Fletcher on the morning of 24 August, and on that afternoon, sent his attack groups from his two carriers against Enterprise and Saratoga Thus Wasp missed the battle of the Eastern Solomons.
      Wasp and Hornet were Tasked to cover the Marine Seventth Regiment on its way from Espiritu Santo to Guadalcanal, due to land around the 15th of September 1942. A Japanese submarine eluded Wasp’s ASW screen and put three torpedoes into Wasp, sinking her. The torpedoes fired at Hornet missed.
      So we see Wasp as one of those ships, no les courageous or gallant than others, but dogged by the “Jonah” fate that besets some ships for reasons unknown. A second Wasp joined the Pacific fleet in 1943.

    • before Midway and Guadalcanal, WASP played a major role in the spring-summer, 1942 Mediterranean air-sea battles, flying in two deckloads of British fighters to Malta…without which the vital island might well have fallen to the Italo-Germans.

  11. My grandfather was not in the battle for Midway. He was with the work crews that built a new runway on Midway just before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He came home just before the war started.

  12. My father was in the Battle of Midway and assigned to the Yorktown. He was a rear gunner in a TBD and was up in his plane when the Yorktown was hit. My father was not one to talk about the battle but was mentioned in a book about the battle years later. I never realized that the survival rate for rear gunners was so low- my father never let on how much danger he was in during WWII. My father went on to fight in Korea and Vietnam.

    • My dad was a tail gunner in the Army Air Corps in Brisbane and Port Morsby. He was classically reticent about his experiences but it was clear that he was one very lucky tail gunner, sitting between the bullet holes after being straffed.

      He was pulled out of the Pacific before the war ended to attend West Point under a special program for nco’s only to wash out — along with his room mate — while attending prep classes at Emerson. Both came back with malaria. Always wondered what might have been.

  13. My father, Commander Nicholas T. Gansa was the next to last CO of the USS Antares, an old store ship that had seen service in the Caribbean in the 1929’s and 1930’s. The ship was attacked on28 June 1945 on the way to Pearl Harbor from Saipan by two Japanese submarines with Kaiten midget submarines. The alert lookout spotted one of the subs and gave the alarm. Torpedos from the mother submarine missed and the Antares sank one of Kaiten mini subs as it was a few yards from the ship. A miraculous escape with the destroyer USS Sproston comming to lend a hand also sinking another Kaiten. My father received the Navy Commendation ribbon later medal for this action.

    • nice. Antares was also @ Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941: towing a target sled that morning just outside the harbor entrance, with a Japanese midget sub in between trying to sneak in…the sub then spotted and attacked by an American destroyer in what were the first shots fired that day.

  14. My father-in law Radm Harold Tiemroth was at the battle of midway in command of the USS Baluch, a destroyer. He saved over two hundred men from Yorktown when that carrier sunk. His destroyer searched for the Japanese submarine but was unsuccessful

    • = USS Balch, DD-363. In fact saved more than 500 men from the carrier, then fought @ Guadalcanal, through most of the Pacific War, and 1944-45 in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. A highly-decorated ship and crew.

  15. that would be good movie material for a little covered topic. Kind of like the new Dunkurk movie coming out in July.

  16. As a gift to the Air and Command College in Montgomery, Alabama school my1982 class commissioned a painting of “Great Moments in [military] Aviation History” which included fifteen aviators and events such as WWI Ace George Vaughn and Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. The individuals depicted in the painting attended our presentation dinner. Attending was George Gay, known as the “Sole Survivor” of Torpedo Squadron 8 from the Hornet during the Battle of Midway. From the booklet which accompanied the painting is George Gay’s story: “During the battle of Midway, 15 torpedo bombers from Torpedo Squadron 8 were launched from the aircraft carrier Hornet and none of them returned. The only survivor was George Gay, a 25-year-old native of Waco, Texas. He had been shot down less than one year after competing completing the Navy Aviation Cadet Program and then had struggled to escape from his sinking plane. After freeing a jammed canopy he had risen to the surface in the middle of the Japanese fleet and, to avoid capture and probable death, had hidden under a cushion that floated free of his aircraft. The wounded “sole survivor” spent 30 hours in the water before he was rescued by a PBY “Catalina” flying boat. After recovering from his wound in 1943, he was assigned to land-based Torpedo Squadron 11 on Guadalcanal where he flew TBD Avengers.” Following the Guadalcanal campaign, he returned to the United States as an instructor pilot. When World War II ended Lieutenant. Gay left the Navy for a career with a commercial airline and eventually retired as a captain with Trans- World Airlines.” During the battle of Midway Ensign Gay flew a “Devastator”. During the battle he flew in a top attack wave on the Japanese aircraft carrier Kaga. He was flying at 80 knots and he had just released a one ton Mark 13 torpedo at a range of approximately 850 yards when “Zero” fighters shot him and the remaining TBD-1 Squadron 8 aircraft down.

  17. We were stationed on Midway from 1967-68 and you could still see remaining evidence of that battle.

  18. My stepfather, Silas Wills, served on the Wasp and was in the water listening to other survivors parish. It impacted his life forever.

  19. My uncle Elvin E. Mitchell was a gunner’s mate first class (GM-1) on the heavy cruiser Astoria (CA-34) at both the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. He was gun captain of a 28mm (1.1″) battery that, according to a shipmate of his “got our share of planes) in both battles.

    Later, Uncle Elvin was killed at the Battle of Savo Island off the coast of Guadalcanal where the Astoria, along with the heavy cruisers Vincennes (CA-44) and Quincy (CA-39) were also sunk along with the Australian cruiser Canberra.

    My mother, who was the next younger sister of Elvin, gave me the middle name “Elvin” to honor her brother, a fact of which I am intensely proud.

  20. Great stories. Should be required reading for all the following generations year by year. So many things are forgotten so soon.
    I was a noncom in the ETO during WW11. I saw and I did. The odor of death that we sensed when we neared Dachau perminated my soul
    So few realize that had it not been for all those sacfrafices our people today woulb be speaking Japanise or German.
    When we recite the National Anthem we should remind ourselves
    and our children that Freedom was and is not free and our Liberty was Costly. ed.henry

    • Well said Ed. These wars should be covered and discussed fully in today’s classrooms. Perhaps our upcoming generation would not be so quick to hate..which leads to conflict on all levels.

  21. My father was a gunner on the US California. Was that destroyer at the battle of Midway? I remember Dad telling us about a strategy called “crossing the T” in one of his ship’s successful battles. He was proud of his service and his shipmates. Only in his later years did we hear the “horror”stories which he kept to himself until he was in his 80’s. Dad died two years ago on May31,2015.
    We made sure he had full military honors.

    • USS California was one of the battleships sunk by Japanese torpedo planes at Pearl Harbor. Later refloated and repaired. She and other older-generation American battleships “crossed the T” during the Surigao Strait phase of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, 23-26 October 1944, and substantially destroyed one of the Japanese squadrons involved.

    • Thank you for responding to my questions. My father would be grateful to you also.

    • The California was not a destroyer, but was one of the battleships that was salvaged at Pear Harbor and fought in the Pacific. Crossing the T was a
      battle formation used at the battle of Leyte Gulf, where she fought alongside
      the USS Maryland, another battleship that survived Pear Harbor.

    • Thank you for responding and clearing that up for me. I know where to start my research now.

  22. The unanswered question to many of us was the longtime coverup of the actions of the Hornets, CV-8) air group (with the notable exception of the sacrifice of Waldron’s TBD’s), HCAG Stanhope Ring.& Marc Mitscher. Keenan’s 205 book “The Unknown Battle of Midway” was the best attempt (in my efforts to address this issue. My preliminary study began in the late ’50’s via a thesis/study of one
    of the greatest naval actions in history (so stated the eminent historian John Keegan).

    I would be interested in other thoughts re the differing accounts of Ring & Mitsceher’s reporting of the Hornets air group actions.

    • Kernan (who was a deckhand on HORNET) in his book unfavorably contrasts Ring, upper-class origin’d c/o of HORNET’s entire air-group, with the hardscrabble prole Waldron, c/o of the TBD squadron.. In fact he attributes the failure of the 2 HORNET divebomber squadrons to participate in the main phase of the Midway battle to Ring’s incompetence and outright cowardice. Maybe so on 1, definite no on 2. What seems to have happened is this. Early that morning Fletcher, commanding YORKTOWN and also c/o of the entire American force, had dispatched one of his 2 divebomber squadrons on a search along an approximately 270-degree westward vector….too far north, as it happened, and either failed to signal Spruance (commanding ENTERPRISE/HORNET)to this effect, or a signal was sent but not received. Meanwhile the Japanese had hit Midway (southwest of the American carriers on an approx 240-degree bearing) and were themselves now driving northeastward in search of the American carriers, all the while pestered by Midway-based air-attacks which, at a minimum, prevent Nagumo from getting his strike aircraft spotted on deck. Around 7 AM, having by now lost track of the Japanese carriers but understanding the importance of striking first, Fletcher and Spruance launched what amounted to a confused, scattered shotgun-blast of aircraft westward: the 2 ENTERPRISE divebomber squadrons flew southwestward toward Midway, with the torpedo squadron gradually diverging to the right; Fletcher’s remaining planes – one divebomber and one torpedo squadron – split the difference between Midway and the failed 270-degree search…flying, as it happened, a perfect vector. But what of the HORNET squadrons? The HORNET launch – remember, having done nothing but ferry B-25’s on the Tokyo Raid, the ship’s crew and pilots were the color green – was messy and delayed. Mitscher, unaware of Fletcher’s failed search due west, ordered just that: flight along a 270 vector. Ring, sensing (correctly) this was still too far north, differed and an (ahem) “animated discussion” ensued. Eventually Mitscher prevailed, and off they went. But not for long. After a half-hour or so, Waldron broke radio silence and demanded a veer to the left. Ring refused and, after another donnybrook, off went Waldron with the TBD’s…while Ring and his 2 divebomber squadrons flew ever westward. Meanwhile to the south, the the ENTERPRISE divebombers, failing to find anything of interest around Midway, had turned northeast on a course which, if followed, will miss the Japanese completely and take them back to their own carriers. Another half-hour passes as Ring and Co. drone onward into the central blue. Around 10 AM one of Ring’s divebomber pilots notices heavy smoke to the south – in fact, smokescreens laid by the Japanese destroyers during the massacre of the 3 American torpedo squadrons – but on they fly. Finally, around 10:30 and nearing the Point of No Return (and just about when the other 3 US divebomber squadrons are attacking the Japanese carriers) Ring’s command disintegrates; about half the planes turn back toward the projected position of the US carriers, shortly followed by Ring himself, while half turn southeast toward Midway…where they arrive, flying on fumes, c. 11 AM. When an angry Ring touches down on HORNET, he goes into an immediate closed-door conference with Mitscher and, according to those on the bridge, “the yelling could be heard from some distance”. Eventually, a plot of sorts is hatched to explain the cock-up: a false track-chart chart showing that the HORNET’s divebombers “actually”, like those from ENTERPRISE, flew down toward Midway but (not having the good luck to cross the path of a Japanese destroyer heading northward to rejoin Nagumo’s carriers) simply flew back to their carrier. Remarkably, the cover-up held for several decades and a lot of books, and only came apart after the 1996 publication of Bowen Weisheit’s LAST FLIGHT OF ENSIGN C. MARKLAND KELLY…which established the splashdown pattern of HORNET’s lost and out-of-fuel fighter squadron, and found it to be nowhere near Midway. As to Ring, it’s clear Kernan got it wrong. Ring wasn’t yellow. In fact, as a blueblood with connections, he could have easily sat out the war in a comfortable Pentagon desk-job. Instead, he chose combat command and – while certainly no great shakes as such- got knocked around by circumstances beyond his control. It’s also worth noting that, post-Midway and kicked upstairs by Mitscher, Ring peformed well as a carrier commander later in the Pacific War and, postwar, had a long and successful navy career.

  23. Hi everyone,
    I have a question to ask. Since, we had no one in the Navy. When reading the article written by Michael K. Bates. He mentioned VT-3 Squadron-I assumed the leader was Mr. Massey. But what is 13 TBD Devastator and etc.
    Like I said, we had no one in our family that was Navy. Our family was Army.
    Would be happy if some one would please explain the above. DEVASTOR? TBD?

    • Mary,
      TBD Devastor was a type of airplane, a torpedo bomber built by Douglas. Each Squadron was given a number like VT-3 to distinguish it from other squadrons, The number 13 is how many planes in VT-3 took off. You can see from Michael’s numbers how few returned. Each plane carried two men. These men knew their chances of returning were slim. You can google “TBD Devastor” to see photos of the planes.

    • “VT” is the designation for aircraft, torpedo bomber. The “-3” indicates that the squadron was assigned originally to the USS Saratoga, CV-3. The Saratoga had taken a torpedo from a Jap submarine and was sent home to Bremerton for major repair. Most of her aircraft with their crews and her guns were retained in Hawaii. VT-3 was transferred to the Yorktown, CV-2, to relieve her aircrews that had just fought the Battle of the Coral Sea. “Devastator” was the name or designation of the individual aircraft. The Saratoga and the Yorktown were converted battle cruisers and sister ships. These designations can be confusing until one gets accustomed to them.

  24. My father, Marvin Shepherd, was a Marine on the Yorktown. I grew up hearing stories about the Battle of the Midway and how they abandoned ship.

  25. My Mom and Dad were in Hawaii when it was bombed. My Dad was in the Coast Guard and he was shipped to Midway after the attack. My Mom came back to Long Beach via a ship Zig Zag operation. I have heard many Pearl Harbor Stories. My Mom was interviewed via our local Radio Station about the bombing and how it changed their lives. My father’s name was Charles Richard Young. R.I.P. I am planning on going to Hawaii this year in December as a Daughter of a Pearl Harbor Survivor. I would like to have more information on my Father’s life in the service.
    Stacy Nix

  26. My father Robert Powers was a CPO aboard the Yorktown. He never talked about his service when we were kids. As he got older he spoke bits and pieces of his experience.
    I think it took years to get past survivor’s guilt. As another said it impacted his life forever.

  27. I enjoyed reading all of these comments and learned some things I did not know. One thing I’m kind of surprised about in the back and forth that was not mention was that the Battle of Midway was also the first battle in the history of Naval Warfare were neither Fleet saw each other, as I believe is the true story. The fact that both sides tangled mainly with aircraft and the Japanese lost four carriers was huge at that time, but it also was a big step forward for proponents of air power.

    • The Battle of the Coral Sea, the previous month, has been recognized as the first naval battle where opposing fleets fought via aircraft rather than ships-of-the-line combat.

  28. Not really …

    The Army Air Force launched their B17s from Midway and they attacked the Japanese carriers. They bombed from high altitude and did no damage whatsoever.
    Dolittle missed the boat.

    We lost one carrier sunk by a torpedo launched from a Jap submarine.

  29. very interesting article and discussion. I’ll just point at that, various “experts” to the contrary, the Midway Battle had little to do with the Dolittle Raid: Japanese planning for the Midway attack and eventual seizure of Hawaii was already far advanced by April, 1942; even the occupation currency had already been printed. The DR was a Grandstand Play concocted by Roosevelt and the Navy Dept. in order to get the public’s mind off the Pearl Harbor debacle and certain questions involving FDR’s foreknowledge. That worked, though at the cost of two squadrons of B-25’s…aircraft then desperately needed in the SOPAC (New Guinea) where the Japanese were still advancing. Moreover, had the Japanese main carrier body returned from it’s Indian Ocean operation just 48 hours earlier than it did, both HORNET and ENTERPRISE would have been lost with all aircraft and all hands off the coast of Japan…and the Midway Battle not fought at all.

    • Also, what would have transpired IF CV-6 & CV-8 would have been available at Coral Sea?

      Yes, some interesting discussions are developing!

    • In the interest of historical accuracy, the spelling is “Doolittle.” Jimmy Doolittle earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in aeronautical engineering from MIT, rising to rank of Lieutenant General by the end of WWII. Besides leading the Doolittle Raid on Japan in 1942, he had an incredible post-war career, including chairman of NACA, the forerunner of NASA.

  30. I was in a PBY {catalina] squadron VP-72 in Hawaii during the battle
    of Midwaywe were patrolling the area ;looking for the Japanese fleet,
    one of our planes sighted the fleet.

    Marlin Crider Jax Fl.

  31. My NJROTC instructor, MCPO Robert Rhone, was a diesel electric submariner in the South Pacific during WW2. He devoted his life to the Navy, from dirt poor Texan to traveling the world, and saw combat in Korea and the “brown water Navy” of Vietnam. He was tough as nails, fair as allowed and travelled the States on his motorcycle. He told us many tales of life at sea. Sadly, cancer got the best of him. Here’s to you Chief!

  32. Tomorrow is the 75th Anniversary of the USS Midway in San Diego. I am invited by a VIP honoree at this event who is a retired 97 year old WW 2 Lieutenant Commander. As a Navy Pilot, he flew the PBY’s in 1942. The USS Midway War Ship and Museum are part of San Diego. We are a proud Navy town!!!!

  33. Marlin – we are certainly are having some interesting far discussions. One of my favorite personal aviation pieces of art is a Craig Kodera print titled “Searching for Nagumo” featuring the PatWing72 PBY5A flown by Jack Reid @ 0700 the morning of 6/4/42. Thanks for your service! JW

  34. Does anyone know what kind of bombers the U.S. Marine, Black Ace Squadron flew against the Japanese? I think they fought in the Marianas, but am not really sure, as this was my late wife’s father’s squadron. He survived WW 2 and retired Air Force.

    • most land-based Marine fighter squadrons flew F4-F Wildcats in ’42, then F4-U Corsairs 1943-45; the Marine bomber squadrons flew the flew the Dauntless SBD divebomber throughout the war, and I believe there were a couple Marine squadrons in the Philippines, 1944-45, that had twin-engined B-25’s.

      @Wooley, re Ring/Midway. That’s long been one of my own thoughts as well. With HORNET and ENTERPRISE @ Coral Sea, instead of doing the Grandstand Play, USA would have won even more decisively, perhaps getting an additional one (or more) of the Japanese carriers involved…and HORNET’s sailors and aircrew would have gone into Midway combat-experienced instead of raw. As it was, the Americans were extremely fortunate to have won at Midway: absent the ENTERPRISE divebomber squadrons crossing the northward path of that lagging Japanese destroyer, the outcome could have very different: maybe one Jap carrier sunk, and USA losing all 3. At that time, the Japanese 4-carrier main body, in particular the ace divebomber and torpedoplane squadrons, was the deadliest long-range striking force in the world.

  35. When are you going to cover the history of the Bataan Death March? My father’s first cousin lost his life during that march.

    Isn’t that an anniversary as well at this time?

  36. My dad was a Seabee with the first construction outfit to set foot on Midway after the battle. He never wanted to discuss anything about his days in the Navy but I did manage to get a bit out of him. He said Midway was hell on earth. There were still a few Japanese on the island who would take shots at them sometimes. The smell was horrific and the days were long, hot, and hard. Occasionally they’d find an undetonated bomb and everyone would run for cover. I can’t imagine what they went through even though they weren’t in the battle itself. I actually have a book, somewhat of an annual, that was published about the cleanup effort on Midway. That book is priceless to me.

  37. My father’s cousin Al Crockett was a navigator gutter on a B-17 flying out of Hickam field. They were shot up bad and the battle of Midway sea but managed to crash land and Hickam field. They stole another B-17 bomber and went back and sunk in aircraft carrier that they saw trying to escape the Battle. They were court-martialed for stealing the B-17 but also given the metal of honor

    • My great uncle Walter Wardigo was killed Pearl
      Harbor attack at Hickem Field he was in the Army Air Corps. Wish I had met him and we have a Am Legion post named after him in Shenandoah PA.

      John

  38. The USS Wasp (CV-7), which was sunk while in support of the landings at Guadalcanal, and the sacrifices of her crew were not forgotten. A successor ship, USS Wasp (CV-18), was commissioned on November 24, 1943 in commemoration of the CV-7 and joined the battle in the Pacific in 1944. The USS Wasp (CV-18) continued in her distinguished career, which included the recovery of the recovery of the Gemini 9 space capsule and crew, astronauts Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan, on June 6, 1966, to serve for 29 years before being decommissioned on July 1, 1972. USS Wasp (LHD-1) was commissioned on July 29,1989 and continues to serve in the U. S. Navy. The USS Wasp (CV-7), which is the ninth U. S. Navy ship to have carried the name, has not been forgotten but is now carried on with the 11th ship to bear the name Wasp, the USS Wasp (LHD-1).

  39. I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank VADM J.A.Sangerholm, USN (Ret.) and Steven Beyer for their commentaries on the USS Wasp (CV-7), as well as mentioning the ship’s successor’s, (i.e. CV-18 and LHD-1). VADM Sagerholm’s comments are accurate in all regards and his final statement is indeed the case. Thanks again for your thoughtful replies.

  40. My father served 30 years in the navy, beginning as a Seabee in the South Pacific. He and his crews built air strips and then jumped into bunkers as the Japanese strafed and bombed them. Occasionally there would be arial combat as my Dad and his teammates cheered when one of the Zeroes plummeted into the ocean. Yes, there is no shortage of heroes who have served in the many wars since our founding in 1776. I only wish more of our citizens would recognize them for what they did, and for what they sacrificed. God Bless America

    • HI Tom. My Dad was in the Navy and then in the Coast Guard. My parents were at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed. My Mom and I took newspaper articles to our local Palm Springs Air Museum. They had them on display for a event one year and then they disappeared. I am doing some research now to try and find out more about where my Dad went from Hawaii. He had mentioned Midway. After the war and when I was growing up he didn’t want to talk about it. Later about a year before he died he kept trying to tell me his story but never finished it. So now I am checking with the Veterans Administration to see what I can find out about his service. My husband and I are planning to going to Hawaii next year for their Pearl Harbor Service. Mom passed away 3 years ago at 91.

  41. My son was on the USS Midway. It wa@ his second ship. He was on the Midway when it was “put out to pastuer”. It is now a museum at Seaport Village in San Diego.. while visiting ny son, i had an opportunity to visit.

  42. Thanks for all of your comments. I learned a lot of naval history from them.
    My neighbor’s brother was Adm Nimitz personal doctor all through the war. Her husband wore an Ike jacket with a Nimitz name tag on it. It was given to him by the DR. My Dad was a calvary officer in WW1, I was drafted during the Korean war, and my son just retired from the Army as a Bird Col. We were all proud of our service to our country. GOD BLESS AMERICA

  43. My mother’s cousin, R. J. Short, flew with Captain Doolittle over Japan. He was in Captain Doolitle’s squadron. His plane was shot down I believe and he was captured. He developed Malaria and subsequently died. My mother was Myrtle Short from Weatherford , Oklahoma. They were in their early twenties. I am Yvonne Engel Davis and I am 69 yrs. Old and live in Weatherford, Oklahoma.

  44. I just want to send out a request to see if there is anyone who might of known my Great Uncle Walter H. Wardigo 18th Air Base Squadron at Hickem Field. He was killed on 12-7-1941?

  45. David – Really appreciate the exchange of info re books/materials associated with the Battle of Midway. Nice to discuss references and the seemly ongoing research/writing/perceptions that continues to unfold. As I might have mentioned my interest & writings go back to the “50’s where, by todays info, was so basic if not rudimentary.

    I was quite interested in your citing of the Weisheit book and the “flight to no where”. I am always interested in broadening my understanding of WW II especially of one of the seminal events of not only of WW II but one of the most decisive events in military history per John Keegan, The Price of Admiralty, and others.

    I am very interested in adding Weisheit’s book to my collection but am finding it difficult to find one. Only one reference to a vendor on Amazon ($100) & none at Powell’s. Do you have any suggestions? Amazon cites that the book is “of unknown binding” printed in 1993.

    The Kernan book, Yale University (2005) was part of Yale Library of Military History series shows no reference to “The Last Flight” the only reference this humble & limited writer can find is documented & summarized in Craig L. Symonds, The Battle of Midway”, Appendix F, Flight to Nowhere, pgs. 389-391,Oxford Press, 2011. Another good read.

    Somewhere the truth lies for us anal, compulsive, neurotic seekers of the never ending quest for a better understanding of “the truth” in the midst of the Fog of War.

    Appreciate your comments……

    John Woolley

    • I got my copy from Bowen Weisheit’s wife, who sold off a few after her husband died. As far as I can recall, I got her address from one of the Battle of Midway websites…the “Midway Forum” I think. You may just have to spring for a C-note to get it; certainly a worthwhile read.

  46. I don’t remember my dad mentioning serving at Midway, but he talked about operating the bulldozer to maintain the runway on Guadalcanal as a “Sea Bee” while the Japanese were bombing it, because right on the tail of the bombing run were American planes flying on fumes and needing to land “yesterday”.

  47. My grandfather, James Wesley Thomas served in the US Navy and was involved at the battle of Midway, where his ship, the USS Hammann (DD-412) was sunk by torpedo fire while rendering salvage to the USS Yorktown. He survived the battle. He had set all the depth charges on safe when the Hammann had pulled up alongside the heavily wounded Yorktown about a half hour prior to the ship being sunk.

  48. I recommend reading Miracle at Midway by Gordon Prange. Riveting!

  49. My father in law was on the second Wasp later in the war. It was hit by at least one kamikaze and he lost a bunch of buddies. He seldom talked about it. He passed in 2006.
    Our son is now an officer in the Navy because of his grandpa.