In carrying out the task assigned … you will be governed by the principle of calculated risk, which you shall interpret to mean the avoidance of exposure of our forces without good prospect on inflicting, as a result of such exposure, greater damage on the enemy. (Extract from CINCPAC Operational Order to TF 17 Commander)

In every battle there is a moment when the combatants, and the world, seem to catch their breath. It is a fleeting moment, lost in the blink of an eye. But in that same blink, everything changes. Such moments are borne of desperation, of courage, of plain dumb luck. But they are pivotal – for what was before is forever changed afterwards.

Until 1019 on the morning of 4/5 June 1942, things had gone badly for the US and its allies. With few exceptions, the Allies were fighting a losing battle in the Pacific. Indeed, as events unfolded that morning, it appeared as if the rout was on. The attacks by land-based air forces from Midway had utterly failed culminating in the loss of many aircraft. The strikes by the torpedo aircraft were decimated – an entire squadron of TBDs shot down with only a sole survivor to claim witness. An entire air group missed the Japanese carriers and the battle altogether and of the remaining forces, they were scattered and disorganized. The future was looking grim. At 1019, Hiryu’s senior lookout shouted he had spotted dive bombers attacking Kaga from overhead. Despite being thrown into a hard turn, Kaga was struck by a 500 lb bomb and then successive strikes utterly crushed her…

At 1024 Soryu was struck a mighty series of blows…

At 1026, LT Dick Best led a flight of two other SBDs away from Kaga in an attack on Akagi. Attacking in a “V” formation from a right-hand turn, history held its breath as the first bomb missed and the third narrowly missed the carrier. But the second bomb, a 1,000 pounder from LT Best’s aircraft tore through the aft edge of the elevator and exploded in the upper reaches of the Akagi’s hangar bay, in the midst of the refueled/rearming aircraft parked there. In the blink of an eye, fate turned and three carriers lay burning.

To be sure the battle was not over and a dreadful price remained to be extracted from the American carriers. Likewise, Kido Butai had not seen the last of the Americans either and would pay the final price later in that day.

Across a seaborne canvass that stretched over 176,000 sq nm, larger than the country of Sweden the battle see-sawed back and forth. No other naval engagment has seen such breath-taking distances involved and few, short of a Trafalgar, have seen such a decisive turn of events. We honor today those who fought and gave their all in this signatory battle.- SJS

To appreciate the sweep of events and the timescale involved, the reader is recommended to view the history of the battle as laid out over at Historyanimated, located here for the Battle of Midway.

See more here

Posted by SteelJaw in Aviation, Navy
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  • D’ohboy

    65th anniversary? 2009-1942 equals???

  • Big D

    History Animated is highly recommended–watching the pieces move about really gives a much better picture of events than reading a wall of text about who was where.

  • Byron

    I’m the kind of guy that HAS to have maps.

  • Some of you may be interested in our Battle of Midway series, a project I’ve been working on

    Part 1: Listen to Gen Doolittle recount – in his own words – the planning and execution of the Doolittle Raid, which gave the nation a badly needed victory after the dark days following Pearl Harbor.

    Part 2: Part 2: The Battle of the Coral Sea was a strategic victory for the United States, the first time in the Pacific war Japanese forces had been thwarted from taking their objective. Tactically, however, the Japanese had won, sinking more than twice the tonnage they had lost. But the tide of the war was beginning to turn. And the real test of what the losses meant to both sides in the Coral Sea would come a month later at Midway.

    Part 3: In the third segment of the four-part series of Remembering the Battle of Midway you will hear from U.S. Navy Adm. Ernest Eller, who provided an oral interview to the U.S. Naval Institute in November 1972 where he explained his part, as a writer of war reports, during World War II while stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Midway was the defining moment in the naval history of World War II. Some might say it was the finest hour in the history of the U.S. Navy. With nearly two-thirds of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s fleet carriers destroyed, the tide of the war in the Pacific had taken a dramatic turn. And the Japanese fleet would never recover.

    Here’s the link:

    More importantly, Hat’s off to SJS who has put together this outstanding series of Countdown to Midway blog posts!

  • Byron

    Absolutely, terrific stuff. And I will be attending a commerative dinner this Saturday night (yeah, I know, lucky dog)

  • Huey Campbell

    Colonel Smedley Butler, Winner of the congressional medal Honor, not once but Twice! Butler wrote a book, “To Hell With War”.
    Read it.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Smedley Butler was a Major General, and the name of his book was “War is a Racket”. I have read the book. What’s your point?

  • Grampa Bluewater


    Nice job. BZ.

  • Huey Campbell

    Thanks Reg, You are correct, The Title is “War is a Racket”

    My Point is those who died at Midway, died generating profits for the war machine owners, Bankers and industrialist

  • Byron

    Huey, at the risk of being temporarily banned by She Who Must Be Obeyed, and after having sat and dined with 11 survivors of the Battle of Midway Saturday night, including a Coast Guard Cox’n who made dozens of trips to the beaches of Normandy, you sir, are an ass.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Of course that’s your point.

    Why is it that Butler served 30+ years to the organization he later repudiated? Was someone forcing him to? Or were his later years opinions something of hypocrisy?

    In his later years, Butler considered anyone not an out-and-out Communist to be a Fascist or Fascist dupe. He was a hair’s breadth from court-martial for intentional unsubstantiated public remarks regarding Mussolini, even after being told to keep his yap shut on several occasions.

    Butler also thought it a good idea to have the Quantico football stadium dug by hand. So he was rightfully considered a bit of a nut and an eccentric. His contemporaries believed he’d gone ’round the bend.

    But to your point, I would assume that the men who gave their lives at Midway would agree that they did so to protect your right to spout the tired communist-populist message of proletariat revolution. Too bad Eugene Debs is dead, huh?

  • Was there a full moon this weekend???
    – SJS

  • Byron

    “Was there a full moon this weekend???”

    Some folks have no problem working overtime…

  • Gordon J. Fiegel

    The Battle of Midway has no comparison in history. The battle was fought with airplanes and ship defense forces. There will never be another battle at sea to come close to matching the scope of this battle. The heroism of the pilots will never be matched. There should be a national holiday extablished to commerate this event. This, along with the battle of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War must be exploited to the nth degree as a goal of Patriotism for all future Americans.

  • Erich B. Strong, Architect

    This is a fascinating article and well worth reading including the links. This battle lost, could have spelled disaster for the U.S. and could have very easily lost the war for the Allies. Albeit the Japanese would have been able to negotiate a peace with us we probably would have given up Hawaii and possibly opened the door for Nazi’s to partition the planet as they had planned. Half to Germany and half to Japan. Shortly thereafter the Germans had planned on defeating the Japanese in another war and they were a hare’s breath of completing an atomic bomb which they would have used on the entire Asian world. The Nazi’s were on a world domination trip for the Third Reich to rule for a thousand years. Most people not of Aryan blood would have been rounded up and gassed. This would have a least taken about 60 to 70 years to deplete the planet of African Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Poles, Russians, Chinese, Indians, Africans etc. and then enslaved those that were healthy enough to be slaves. More than not most of the remaining population would have been slaves to the Third Reich.

    Not many have ever contemplated how close this war was and what the future would have been like if we lost. That is why we should give more thought to those that fought and died for us to be where we are now and to respect and acknowledge their history. Many were young boys and girls, our young and innocent never to return home again many vaporized and lost forever.

    The fellows that did battle during Midway had no idea what that victory spelled in the future of the world which would have been completely different than what we live in today. Most of us may not have been born.

    Even the maneuvers of the Thatch Weave spelled doom for Japan’s air arm that day. Seemingly small but very large indeed.

    It all came down to 67 years ago this month. Albeit at this point Japan had lost they continued to fight and die along with thousands of Americans and allies for another 3 years of carnage.

    I was an awesome event full of intrigue and it all came from the knowing what AF meant in the Japanese signals.

  • Great post. Keep up the good work. Thanks…