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Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan, the Japanese Navy's Story (Bluejacket Books) Paperback – Illustrated, January 1, 2001
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"An enlightening account of the Japanese naval leaders of the time..." --Military Review
About the Author
Masatake Okumiya became a member of Japan's air self-defense force after the war and was active as a historian until his death.
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Fuchida's account of the events of that fateful morning of June 4, 1942 has been called into question, most notably by the recently published (2005) Shattered Sword, by Parshall and Tully. I have not yet read Shattered Sword, but plan to do so in the near future. Most objections I have seen raised by readers of Shattered Sword involve the presence or absence of IJN assault planes being refueled and rearmed on deck during the American attacks.
Details of the morning of June 4 notwithstanding, I was interested in Fuchida's analysis of the cause of Japan's defeat, and the assessment of Yamamoto's and Nagumo's judgement, and the other factors, ranging from over-dispersion of forces, battleship-centric traditionalists, down to flaws inherent in the Japanese national character.
Personal accounts of this nature, especially those told from the losing side, inevitably contain some self-justification and evaluation done by 20-20 hindsight. Even accounts told from the winning side are seldom free of those influences. If I were interested solely in just the facts of Midway then I would have gone straight to Shattered Sword and skipped the old books, like Fuchida, Lord and Prange. However, I am interested also in the historiography, that is, the evolution of how the story of Midway has been told, so I am reading them all. If necessary, after reading the others, I will amend this review.
It may look slightly outdated by modern standards . But core facts need no revision. Certain aspects ,however, demand elaboration . For instance, role played by intelligence in deciding the outcome of battle. US Navy was privy to Japanese plans on Midway thanks to its ability to read Japanese naval ciphers. Being forewarned is almost like forearmed. Consequently, Americans frustrated Japanese bid to seize Midway and push defense perimeter farther west. Authors have acknowledged the contribution of intelligence to American victory. However documentation to this effect is minimal.
The important thing is the phenomenal luck enjoyed by Americans. Lt. Cdr Wade McClusky was leading 33 Dauntless dive-bombers from USS Enterprise in a hunt for Japanese fleet..Where he expected to find enemy fleet ,he found nothing. Soon his planes would have to return because fuel was running low. But McClusky took a risk and upon an hunch decided to search farther west. This gamble paid off. Little later he saw the wake of a Japanese destroyer and decided to follow it. The enemy fleet hove into view. American dive-bombers swooped down to attack . The time 10.25 am June 4, 1942 and rest is history.
McClusky strike could not have come at a better moment. Nearly 100 planes crammed on Japanese carriers preparing for an assault on US fleet. All were loaded with high explosives and high- octane fuel. Bombs were loosely stacked on hangar decks and tiniest spark could turn them into a blazing inferno. However principal credit for American victory should go to torpedo-bomber pilots. It was they who first found Japanese carriers . Dive- bombers capitalized on the sacrifice of brave torpedo-bomber pilots from carrier USS Yorktown . Japanese combat air patrols drawn down to sea level while engaged in repelling latter's assault lacked sufficient time to regain altitude for intercepting the dive-bombers hurtling down to attack.
These are some interesting facts conspicuously absent in this book. To me, MI plan resembled a huge Cannae type manoeuvre at sea. Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo while engaged in action with US fleet will facilitate Admiral Yamamoto's main body to sneak from behind and strike at the American flank. Soon they would be joined by Rear Admiral Kakuji Kakuta's Second Air Fleet who will descend upon American rear returning from operations in Aleutian island chain. The result would be annihilation of US pacific Fleet.
Unfortunately for Japanese the battle did not unfold in this manner . MI plan was exceedingly complex based on false assumptions. Japanese anticipated American reaction only after they neutralized Midway. But sudden appearance of American fleet derailed their plans. Failure of Japanese naval planners to foresee such a contingency was deplorable. This speaks volumes of Tokyo's poor pre- battle reconnaissance ,intelligence gathering capabilities inadequacy of which prevented Adm Nagumo from exploiting his victory at Pearl Harbor.
Of particular interest to this engineer was how unsophisticated their capabilities were: none of the ships had radar, they usually had no idea were the enemy(that's us guys)were, their aerial recon was pathetic and they had no night fighting capability because they could never find the targets or return to their own ships in darkness!
Their mentality that once a plan was made, it could not be changed or delayed, played a major role in their defeat. Of course Ike's version of that mentality damn near doomed The Normandy Invasion, what with a bunch of sea sick soldiers fighting their way ashore! But that's another story, with a happier ending.
Adm Spruance didn't get the credit he deserved for launching a perfectly timed strike which arrived in the midst of refueling the returning Midway strike force.
It is surprising that when the US, Great Britan and even Germany were throwing resources at gathering intel, breaking codes and trying to gain the slightest edge in force location, Japan was blundering forward with slight regard to Military intelligence and apparently no coordination of what they did have.
A very good book!
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Anyway it was good to know the japanesse perspective for both the war and the battle.
It is also interesting to read about the reasons for the battle from the loser side.
About the book itself: quick read, direct to the points and nice font size to read (unlike shattered sword, I need a microscope for it without entering in the content comparison)