The Battle of Midway is considered to be the most devastating battle of the World War II fought between 4th and 7th June 1942 in the Pacific Campaign shortly after the Battle of Coral Sea and Japan's attack on the Pearl Harbor. The Japanese operation was aimed to eliminate the United States strategic power in the Pacific. This will enable Japan an easy hold in the formation of Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Japan was of the view that after Pearl Harbor attack the battle will be a frightening defeat for the United States and they would surrender in the Pacific war . [1: Charles Mercer, Miracle at Midway (Putnam Publishing Group, 1977).]
Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto had planned to make a surprise attack on the Midway, a small island located thousand miles from Hawaii. Their efforts were concentrated on to destroy the American forces after the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo and the Battle of Coral Sea. On the other hand the decisive plan of Yamamoto to establish an airbase in Midway was interrupted by the American intelligence and Admiral Chester Nimitz alternative plan to have the American fleet on standby waiting for Japan's naval forces to give blunt answers in form of sever attacks.
battle of midway: Japanese strategic plans and outcomes
After the Battle of Coral Sea, Japan had hoped to shatter the confidence of American military force and wanted to have victory over them for control of the Pacific regime. Therefore, Japan had planned to attack and occupy Midway as an overall strategy in defensive response to the Doolittle Raid in Tokyo. The Admiral Yamamoto had planned future attacks in Fiji and Samoa. Japanese force was well equipped and had put in all efforts with six aircraft carriers, eleven battleships, thirteen cruisers, forty-five destroyers, assorted submarines, transports and mine sweepers. On the other hand American force consist of three aircraft carriers- Hornet, Enterprise and Yorktown; eight cruises; fourteen destroyers and the aircraft station on the midway. The Yorktown was so much destroyed in the Battle of Coral Sea that Japanese had though it was sunk.
Yamamoto's Plan for the battle
The battle plan designed by Yamamoto was a complex and complicated one . The Japanese had clear idea about the forces available to American and their strength to counter the attack. Beside knowledge of the Yorktown they also knew that USS Saratoga was under repairs on the West Coast after damages from torpedo from a submarine. Yamamoto was strong on his conviction that America would be under a miserable state after the defeat few months ago and would not be confident enough to counter the attacks made by Japanese. They were very much confident on their judgment and were thinking to have control over the bases of America through their fierce military action. [2: Gordon W. Prange, Donald M. Goldstein, Katherine V. Dillon Miracle at Midway, (Penguin Non-Classics,1983)]
In response to the thinking and analysis of Yamamoto, he decided to disperse his forces to the widest extent so that they are not discovered by Americans before the battle. Japan has targeted through heavy surface forces to destroy whatever U.S. fleet come in way in the defense of Midway. The Japanese fleet also constitutes the largest battleship in the world, the Yamato, the smaller battleships Nagato and Mutsu accompanying with them various cruisers and destroyers. It is out of doubt that Yamamoto plan was very shrewd and technical but its complexity has dominated all the intelligence portrayed in the plan.
Japanese Plan deficiency
Yamamoto plan has two major defects that had laid Japan to face the defeat in front of Americans despite of the fact that in terms of armed forces they were hundred times better equipped than Americans. The core reasons for their defeat were identified as:
a) Yamamoto was overconfident about the supremacy of his battleship. He was unable to figure out that an aircraft blow can prove to be a massive disaster to an enemy but with a distance as compared to the battleship. Yamamoto was over evaluating the situation and was thinking that aircraft carriers are supporting the battleship ignoring the importance and strength of the battleship itself. The damages to the carriers slow down the pace of the battleship thus losing the confidence of the warriors who were otherwise very well equipped.
b) The other disappointing element for the Japanese was that Americans have already foreseen Yamamoto's plan for battleship. In response to it they have arranged their carriers and destroyers on the destination of attack prior to the attack. Yamamoto was planning to make a surprise attack to the American island in response to which American wouldn't be able to compete but to Yamamoto's surprise Americans were already planned and ready for the attack.
c) Japanese strategic inspection plans and arrangements before the battle was also somewhat confused and messed up. Submarines were late in assembling to the line this could have been due to the panic created by Yamamoto. But the late action taken by the Japanese gave opportunity to Americans to reach their assembly point northeast of Midway known as Point Luck very neatly and smoothly without being noticed and caught.
d) Japanese were not very well aware of the American movements of carriers before battle. This is well evident in the case when a second attempt at scouting by using four engines Kawanishi H8K "Emily" flying boat to investigate Pearl Harbor before battle to verify the presence of American carriers, disturbed when Japanese found out that the refueling point was occupied by the American warships. This had happened because Japanese had carryout out the same plan in the immediate prior battle.
e) Weak communication system had let down the Japanese in being aware of the American movements. The Japanese radio transmission was not capturing the long distance transmission thus the Japanese Nagumo had not received any signal from Tokyo and was completely not aware what was happening regarding the American carriers movement.
f) American Admiral Nimitz had a precious asset. Cryptanalysts had unveiled the JN-25 code. This had informed that Americans about the Japanese attack with the determination of the date between 4th and 5th June and the complete information about the strength of the Japanese forces and their attack points. This was the reason they were prepared for the battle and to encounter it was limited resources. The information link of the Americans had proved to be more valuable than the carriers and destroyers of Japanese. This is why it was said that Yamamoto has lost the true essence of battleship despite of having a heavy equipment to attack . [3: Jonathan P. And Anthony T. Shattered Sword, (Peattie & Evans, Kaigun, 2005), 33.]
Battle Outcome and leadership structure
These drawback in the pre-planning of the Yamamoto battleship and in the process flows had let American to have a clear picture of the battle that where, when and in what way the Japanese would be making attacks and how American force should prepare themselves to counter these attacks. Nimitz had calculated that his three carrier decks, Midway Island, to Yamamoto's four, gave the U.S. vague combination, especially when American carrier air groups were much larger than Japanese ones. The Japanese, on the other hand, were almost totally unaware of their opponent's true strength and dispositions even after the battle began. This is why Japanese has lost the battle in front of Americans who were initially considered weak and no resourceful in the beginning of the battle as compared to the Japanese forces and planning. Retreating pursue
Battle of Midway Lessons Learned and impact
Spruance however gained much criticism for not following the withdrawing Japanese and allowing the receding Japanese surface fleet to escape. The Japanese public was not informed about the defeat of the Japanese force in the Battle of Midway. Japanese news had announced great victory in their part. It was on the Emperor Hirohito Navey Command personnel who were correctly informed about the carrier and pilot losses. Due to the false information floated in the masses, army planners were of the impression that fleet would have been in good condition. [4: Morison, Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Actions, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II Journal Volume IV (1942): 142]
Japanese fleet when returned to Hashirajima on 14th June the injured officers were transferred to the naval hospital in private care units so that the stories about their defeat couldn't be spread among the peer groups and in the masses. They were all treated as secret patients. Other officers were spread to remote areas in the South Pacific and were not allowed to meet family and friends. Nagumo was later placed in command of the rebuild carrier force.
The Japanese navy had definitely learned lessons from the Battle of Midway. They had adopted new policies and procedures and more aircrafts were refueled and re-armed on the flight deck instead of keeping them in the hangers. They had adopted…