- Paperback: 640 pages
- Publisher: Potomac Books; Reprint edition (November 1, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1574889249
- ISBN-13: 978-1574889246
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.5 x 9.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 540 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway Reprint Edition
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"To really know about the Battle of Midway, you must read this book."
"A lot has been written about Midway since 1945. Yet everyone who thinks that they know the last word about this momentous event must examine Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully's book on the subject. Shattered Sword, packed with new information, will certainly become the definitive volume on the most important naval battle of World War II."
"This meticulously researched and thoroughly documented study is an essential corrective. It is essential reading for anyone interested in carrier aviation, past, present, or future. Although imposing in scale, Shattered Sword is a bargain, and a highly engaging read. Every page seems to throw up a new perspective - from the pathetically low Japanese aircraft production figures, to the political infighting both within the Naval High Command and between the services. The best naval history book of 2005." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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According to the publisher's blurb, "Shattered Sword" professes to disclose important new material relating to the Battle of Midway and it has been generously reviewed on the book's dust cover and on Amazon.com. I found "Shattered Sword" to be a very disappointing book. I could not find in it any historically significant disclosures that built on the magisterial works Incredible Victory: The Battle of Midway (Classics of War)(1967) by Walter Lord, Miracle at Midway(1982) by Professor Gordon W. Prange, and Hawaii Under the Rising Sun: Japan's Plans for Conquest After Pearl Harbor (1984) by distinguished Japan scholar and historian Professor John J. Stephan. Apart from adding extensive coverage of Midway from a Japanese perspective, one major purpose of this book appeared to be a denial that the Americans won an extraordinary victory at Midway against seemingly overwhelming odds. According to Parshall and Tully, in the chapter "The Myths and Mythmakers of Midway", it was the Japanese who were outnumbered by the Americans at Midway (at pages 432-434). Publishers know that controversy sells books, not dry technical insights into Japanese planning and tactics at Midway. "Shattered Sword" could have provided very useful insights into the Battle of Midway from a Japanese perspective. Instead, it seeks to diminish the historical significance of an extraordinary and heroic American achievement without any adequate foundation for doing so.
I knew that both authors were devoted admirers of the Imperial Japanese Navy, as evidenced by their website "Combined Fleet", and had steeled myself for bias in favour of the Japanese Navy before I opened "Shattered Sword". I found clear evidence of that bias. The authors could not avoid acknowledging the extraordinary heroism of the Americans at the Battle of Midway, but engage in what I am compelled to describe as ludicrous distortion of the respective strengths of the two navies at the point of tactical contact off the northern approaches to Midway Atoll. It appears to me that one purpose in diminishing the extraordinary nature of the American victory at Midway may have been to dredge up an excuse for the defeat of their beloved Imperial Japanese Navy. They argue (at pages 432-434) that their "dispassionate evaluation of the factual evidence" demonstrates that the Americans did not triumph against overwhelming odds at the point of tactical contact on 4 June 1942 as long believed.
So what is the author's claimed "dispassionate..factual evidence"? They point to the numbers of warships and aircraft on either side as if numbers alone could provide conclusive proof that the Americans did not face overwhelming odds at Midway. They assign Vice Admiral Nagumo's First Carrier Striking Force twenty warships, including four large fleet carriers, two battleships, and 248 carrier aircraft. They assign Rear Admiral Fletcher's two Task Forces 16 and 17 a total of twenty-five warships, including three large fleet carriers, no battleships, and 233 carrier aircraft; but they add to Fletcher's force 115 American aircraft on Midway Atoll and suggest that the aircraft on Midway were the equivalent of an unsinkable fourth American carrier (at page 434). If we accept the picture of opposing forces at Midway presented by "Shattered Sword" as being a true one, the Americans have more ships at Midway, and the Japanese have 248 aircraft against 348 American aircraft. It follows, according to this simplistic and deeply flawed reasoning, that the Americans were not facing overwhelming odds at the Battle of Midway; it was the Japanese who were facing overwhelming odds. This assessment of the opposing forces at Midway may suit authors who have long adored the Imperial Japanese Navy, and it may support the publisher's book sales, but it is a very false picture of the true strengths of the opposing forces at Midway on 4 June 1942 and, in my view, it demeans an extraordinary victory marked by extraordinary heroism on the part of Americans, and especially, the American pilots and aircrews. It is necessary to demolish this false picture promoted by "Shattered Sword" by demonstrating with facts the actual strengths of the opposing forces at Midway.
We are told by Prange (at page129) that the American aircraft on Midway Atoll on 4 June 1942 numbered 115; but it was a motley collection of aircraft manned by many pilots and air crews who lacked combat experience or had just recently graduated from pilot training school. This motley collection of aircraft on Midway included thirty-two Catalina PBY scout flying boats. These aircraft are totally unsuited to attacking heavily defended warships. So they can be immediately deleted from the Midway aircraft line-up. Now we are left with a total of eighty-three fighters and bombers on Midway Atoll. Recalling that "Shattered Sword" presents the motley collection of aircraft on Midway as being equivalent to a fourth American carrier, we need to consider whether any of these remaining eighty-three aircraft are front-line warplanes of the sort that you could expect to find on an American carrier in June 1942. We can safely exclude any obsolete and obsolescent aircraft because they would not be on an American carrier at this time. So, out go the eleven obsolete and heavily patched Vought SBU-2 Vindicator dive-bombers that were actually flown off Midway Atoll to attack the Japanese carrier force on 4 June. These elderly bombers were so slow and worn that they could no longer be used as dive-bombers because the fuselage coverings tended to disintegrate when so used. The US Marines jokingly called these flying death traps "vibrators". Their mission on 4 June was effectively suicidal, especially as they had no fighter protection against the deadly Japanese Zero fighters. We can justly remove these museum pieces from the Midway line-up; leaving only seventy-two fighters and bombers. However, that number included twenty Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo fighters. The US Navy called this obsolescent fighter a "Buffalo". The US Marines called these Navy "hand-me-downs" a "Brewster". Unofficially, pilots of both services dubbed them "Flying Coffins". They were no match for the Japanese Zero fighter which was much faster and more agile in combat. On the morning of 4 June 1942, these twenty elderly fighters would fly off Midway Atoll to challenge the incoming Zero fighters from Vice Admiral Nagumo's carrier force. They were no longer front-line fighters fit for service on American carriers, and accordingly, cannot be used by Parshall and Tully to justify their description of Midway Atoll as a fourth American carrier. That brings the number of front-line aircraft on Midway Atoll down to fifty-two. Of this number, nineteen were Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers. These high-flying bombers were totally ineffective against enemy warships, although they could produce excellent aerial photographs of these warships situated 20,000 feet below them. We can justly remove the B-17 heavy bombers from anything equivalent to a carrier line-up on Midway Atoll. So we are left with only thirty-three aircraft on Midway Atoll fit to be launched against the Japanese warships. Of this number, four were US Army Air Corps B-26 Marauder medium bombers that had been jury-rigged with torpedos. None of the air crews on the B-26 bombers had ever dropped a torpedo before 4 June 1942 and American air launched torpedoes were notoriously unreliable at this time, but similar Japanese "Betty" medium bombers equipped with torpedoes had been used to deadly effect against the Prince of Wales and Repulse off the coast of Malaya on 10 December 1941. So we must count the Marauders as part of Midway's effective aircraft line-up on 4 June. We are left with 29 aircraft that can be classified as front-line at this time, namely, six new US Navy TBF torpedo bombers (also armed with notoriously unreliable torpedoes) and flown by inexperienced pilots and aircrews, sixteen Dauntless SBD-2 dive-bombers flown mostly by pilots who lacked adequate training to engage in dive-bombing, and 7 Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighters. The pilots who would fly these 29 aircraft were mostly green or freshly out of flying school (Prange at page 77), and they were facing Japanese Navy combat veterans, many of whom had been honing their fighting skills in carrier-launched attacks on China and in combat ranging from Pearl Harbour to the Indian Ocean. For Parshall and Tully to suggest that the 115 aircraft on Midway Atoll and their mostly inexperienced pilots and aircrews were the equivalent of an American carrier is laughable.
Sweeping away the false picture of comparative Japanese and American aircraft strengths at the Battle of Midway promoted by "Shattered Sword", we are left with a true picture of American aircraft strength at the point of tactical contact at Midway of 233 carrier-borne plus thirty-three front-line aircraft from Midway Atoll, a total of 266 American aircraft against the 248 Japanese carrier aircraft listed by Parshall and Tully. But even this picture of opposing aircraft strengths at the point of tactical contact at Midway is misleading because the American carrier torpedo squadrons were equipped with forty-two of the elderly Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo bombers which Prange describes as "obsolete" - with slow climb, slow speed, and "notoriously poor torpedoes" (at page 130). Prange is talking about the very unreliable American Mark 13 air-launched torpedo that had a tendency in 1942 to either hit a target and not explode, or run deeper than the set depth and pass under targets. When under attack by Zeros, the TBD was a veritable death trap for its unfortunate crews. Without fighter support, a TBD mission on 4 June 1942 was gallant but effectively suicidal. Keeping to front-line aircraft, and ignoring the undoubted superiority of the nimble Zero fighter over the American Wildcat fighter, we are left with a true figure at the point of tactical contact at the Battle of Midway of 224 front-line American aircraft against 248 Japanese front-line aircraft. A realistic appreciation of comparative aircraft strengths at Midway demonstrates that the picture presented by "Shattered Sword" of American air superiority is a false one.
It is necessary to deal now with the claim in "Shattered Sword" that the Japanese were facing greater odds at the point of tactical contact at Midway on 4 June 1942 in ship numbers, including an unsinkable fourth American carrier, namely, Midway Atoll (pages 433-434). The phantom fourth American carrier argument has been shown to lack any realistic foundation. Looking at the actual orders of battle at the point of tactical contact on 4 June, we see that the Japanese Nagumo carrier force had four powerful fleet carriers, two battleships, two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and eleven destroyers - a total of twenty warships. The two American carrier Task Forces 16 and 17 at Midway comprised between them three powerful fleet carriers, seven heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and fourteen destroyers - a total of twenty-five warships. For "Shattered Sword" to suggest that the larger American warship fleet at Midway dispels the "myth" of a near incredible American victory (at pages 432-434) is more simplistic and deeply flawed reasoning. Numbers alone did not reflect the comparative strengths of the Japanese and American fleets at Midway. The cruisers and destroyers add little weight when opposing carrier forces do battle. Not only did the Japanese have four carriers to the American three, but the Japanese carriers were all veterans of combat. The USS Hornet had never launched its air group in actual combat until Midway. USS Enterprise had participated in hit-and-run raids against the Japanese. The only American carrier combat veteran at Midway was USS Yorktown, fresh from the Battle of the Coral Sea, and Yorktown's performance on 4 June would prove the value of that combat experience. The two Japanese battleships cannot be discounted by "Shattered Sword" as simply two warships in the Japanese fleet. Aircraft carriers are highly combustible and comparatively fragile shells designed to carry air groups that are intended to project power and defend their carriers. Carriers cannot be brought within range of hostile battleship guns, and the Americans had to avoid any contact at Midway that would bring their carriers within the range of Vice Admiral Nagumo's battleship guns. If threatened with battleship salvoes, the American carriers could only hit-and-run. The four carriers and two battleships provided Nagumo with much greater striking power than that available to Rear Admiral Fletcher. So, a realistic appreciation of comparative warship strengths at the Battle of Midway demonstrates again that the picture presented by "Shattered Sword" of American warship superiority is a false one.
When the true strength of opposing forces at Midway is seriously distorted by apparent bias, as appears to have happened in "Shattered Sword", it appears to me that the book loses credibility as an historical resource.
The chapter "Assessing (Midway's) Importance" (pages 416-430) drives another nail into the credibility of Parshall and Tully as serious writers of Pacific War history. They profess to have read Professor John J. Stephan's authoritative work "Hawaii under the Rising Sun: Japan's plans for Conquest after Pearl Harbor", and they praise it, but they appear not to have read it carefully or with understanding. In "Shattered Sword" they attribute to Professor Stephan a Japanese plan to invade the heavily populated and defended island of Oahu after the destruction of the American carriers at Midway (at page 425). Professor Stephan said nothing of the kind in his book. See pages 110-111. Assuming the destruction of the US Pacific Fleet, the Japanese high command was planning for invasion of the lightly defended and less populous "Big Island" also known as "Hawaii". Compounding their failure to understand what the Japanese were actually planning for Hawaii, the authors of "Shattered Sword" go on to detail the reasons why a Japanese invasion of Oahu must fail.
It is a pity that Parshall and Tully did not address what the Japanese were actually planning for Hawaii in the event of a massive American defeat at Midway. It not only makes much of this chapter valueless, it also raises questions about the credibility of so-called new insights offered by "Shattered Sword" in relation to the Battle of Midway.
If the Japanese were not intending to invade Oahu as Parshall and Tully claim (at page 425), what were they intending to do in the event that they had destroyed or crippled the US Pacific Fleet carriers at Midway? Professor Stephan does not deal with Japanese planning beyond an invasion of Hawaii's Big Island by three Japanese Army divisions (at pages 110-111, 115-117) but we can reasonably assume that the Imperial Japanese Army would be fully aware of the enormous difficulties facing invaders of Oahu in late 1942 and push instead for intensive naval blockade of the Hawaiian archipelago of the kind that was planned for Australia by implementing Operation FS. The Australian Operation FS was designed to isolate Australia from all Allied help in 1942 and compel an Australian surrender to Japan by bombardment of coastal cities and towns without the need to commit twelve Japanese divisions and keep them supplied while in Australia.
Being apparently unaware of Japanese planning to blockade the Australian continent in 1942, Parshal and Tully do not take seriously the possibility that the Japanese might undertake and possibly achieve an effective blockade of Hawaii (at page 426) if America had suffered a massive defeat at Midway. The authors suggest that regardless of cost in American lives and merchant shipping, the United States would expend any effort necessary to break a Japanese blockade of Hawaii. Parshall and Tully do not address the difficulties that would face the United States in supplying beleaguered American forces on Hawaii across 2000 miles of uninterrupted ocean infested with Japanese submarines. They do not address the enormous political impact that would be likely to follow a massive US Navy defeat at Midway for President Roosevelt's Democrats. Even with an extraordinary victory at Midway, Roosevelt's Democrats were savaged at the mid-term elections for Congress in November 1942. Some of these issues are addressed in the Pacific War Historical Society's Midway chapter "Assessing the place of Midway in World War II".
But it gets worse for Parshall and Tully when they refer to the logistical difficulties that the Japanese would face if they actually managed to gain control of the Hawaiian islands. The authors claim that logistical problems would make a Japanese occupation of the Hawaiian archipelago unsustainable. This claim appears to be founded on the argument that the Japanese would be unable to maintain pre-war living standards for the conquered Americans on Hawaii, including ham and eggs for breakfast, without drawing heavily on a Japanese merchant fleet that was needed to move to Japan oil, rubber, and minerals looted from Japanese conquests in South-East Asia. The authors appear to be unaware that Japanese armies were used to living off the lands that they had conquered even if the populations of those countries starved. Based on their harsh treatment of prisoners of war in conquered territory after Pearl Harbor, American prisoners on Hawaii, both military and civilian, would not be supplied with ham and eggs by their generous captors. They would be lucky to live off a couple of handfuls of dirty rice or its Hawaiian equivalent. The authors appear to have acquired their unrealistic logistical argument from objections raised by Navy General Staff to Combined Fleet planning to occupy Hawaii prior to the Doolittle Raid. To block Combined Fleet planning to attack and occupy Hawaii, Navy General Staff deliberately exaggerated the logistical problem by adopting the massive imported food and other requirements necessary to support infrastructure and the comfortable life-styles of American residents of Hawaii in peacetime.
Having written off Hawaii as an unobtainable objective on the basis of unsound premises, Parshall and Tully then discuss other options, including an invasion and occupation of Australia which they describe as a subcontinent with "several superb infantry formations of (its) own", and well capable of resisting Japanese attempts to invade by force of arms (page 427). I have to fail the authors on their knowledge of geography. Australia is a continent. India is a subcontinent of Asia. Again, I have to fail them on their knowledge of Australia's military strength in June 1942. At this time, Australia had only one "superb infantry formation" to defend the whole continent, namely, the 2nd AIF Seventh Division (returned from fighting in the Middle East). The two American divisions in Australia arrived there in April and May 1942. They were inadequately trained and equipped for battle, and had been cobbled together from several State National Guard units. The best Australian militia units had reached the lowest level of combat effectiveness, namely "F", and were sent to New Guinea to fight the Japanese on the Kokoda Track (or Trail) at that same low level of combat effectiveness. Finally, I have to fail the authors on their inadequate knowledge of Japanese Pacific War strategy in 1942. After March 1942, the Japanese high command had abandoned any thought of invading Australia by force of arms. The Japanese appreciated the enormity of such a task. Prime Minister Tojo and his generals believed that Australia could be persuaded to surrender to Japan by isolating it from the United States, intensified blockade, and psychological warfare. As mentioned earlier, this plan for bringing Australia to Japan's heel had the code reference Operation FS.
To be useful to researchers, a book such as "Shattered Sword" should have a proper index. Parshall and Tully have produced an index devoid of sub-headings to topics. For example, "USS Yorktown" featured significantly in the Battle of Midway and has seventy-seven page references in the index to "Shattered Sword" without any sub-headings to assist finding relevant material. The authors need to examine the authoritative works on Midway by Lord and Prange and they will see how it should be done.
The main thrust of this work is to refute the common wisdom that a major cause of the Japanese defeat was that American dive bombers hit three Japanese aircraft carriers while these vessels were in the process of loading bombs onto their own dive bombers and torpedo planes on their flight decks. Here, the authors are persuasive. They give detailed accounts which convince the reader that Japanese doctrine would have had the planes being refit below decks. Further, the authors claim with convincing evidence that the incessant American attacks throughout the morning kept the Japanese fleet largely on the defensive, as it tried to augment its Combat Air Patrol with additional launchings of fighter aircraft. This is a new perspective on the battle, and this appears to be the major finding of this book.
Beyond these tactical considerations, the authors further argue that Japan lost the battle for other more strategic reasons. The authors argue that Yamamoto's Midway strategy lost sight of the principles of Mass and Objective. The principle of Massing of Forces (Mass) was violated as the Japanese dropped one aircraft carrier from the battle due to moderate damage that it suffered at the Battle of Coral Sea (first) and, even more importantly, diverted one carrier group to support a simultaneous sideshow in the Aleutians, which diverted a considerable number of planes from the main battle which was to take place at Midway. These planes could have been decisive in the great battle that was to occur. Further, the Japanese lost sight of the principle of the Objective--were they there to defeat the American fleet or invade Midway and the Aleutians, or both? The Japanese strategy was a hodgepodge of conflicting objectives, and indeed the conflict as to whether they should strike Midway or turn to engage the American fleet that seemed to lurk on their flank plagued the Japanese fleet at a decisive moment.
By contrast, the Americans, as the authors point out, "moved heaven and earth" to put the Yorktown back into the battle, after that carrier was heavily damaged after the Coral Sea battle. So badly damaged was Yorktown that the Japanese never dreamed that the US Navy could produce her at the Midway showdown. As the authors put it, the US Navy simply "wanted the win" more desperately than did the Japanese. The Japanese, argue the authors, where overconfident after years of victories over both Asian and Western adversaries, and had contempt for their American foe.
I found the authors' arguments largely persuasive, but also incomplete. This book is told almost entirely from the Japanese perspective in that it focuses mainly on what the Japanese did wrong. It tells the reader much less about what the US Navy did right. The American victory at Midway largely turned on the decisions of one man, the great Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance. Spruances' decision to launch early, at long range, to get in the first blows against the Japanese was decisive, especially if we apply and accept the authors' analysis. Even though, at this early stage of the war, the American torpedo bombers were not very competent (none of them struck Japanese targets and they were slaughtered by Japanese fighers) and the launchings of the coordinated attacks did not come off well, this early strike that Spruance ordered kept the Japanese on the defensive after the first Japanese strike against Midway. This set the stage for the deadly-competent American dive bombers to strike. This is the very point that the authors make, but this was not due to Japanese incompetence, but rather to a carefully thought-out strategy by Admiral Spruance. Spruance then wisely protected the fleet, avoided exposing it, and kept it in position to protect Midway if necessary. He came in for savage insider's criticism even during the battle as well as thereafter. This criticism was incorrect, as history has judged. Unlike the Japanese, Spruance never forgot his objective (protect the fleet, defend Midway), and always applied the principal of Mass as he struck a lethal blow at the heart of the Japanese Navy with everything he had. While the American Navy at the Battle of Midway had not yet shook off all of the peacetime inertia, it executed its well thought-out doctrine against the Japanese under Spruance's leadership, and won a great victory. Victory was won by the US Navy at Midway, not lost by the Japanese.
"Shattered Sword" is an excellent analysis of the Battle of Midway which all readers with an interest in this great battle will want to read. Its main strength is its analysis of the Japanese side and its command of detail in this regard. Recommended