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24 Januari 2013


The Battle of Midway took place on June, 1942, one month after the battle of Coral Sea. The failure of its maneuver in Coral Sea did not cause the Japanese strategy designers withdraw nor change the strategy and the operational pattern of its fleets.   Seemingly, the obsession of Yamamoto to destroy the American Fleet in Pacific never came to vague, and so was his obsession to match the  achievement of Admiral Togo at the battle in Tsushima.

The failure in maneuver of the Japanese Fleet in Coral Sea even motivated Yamamoto to destroy the US Fleet in one strike, in a very big power, namely 131  ships.  This maneuver would be carried out in Midway Island, and if succeeded in controlling Midway, he would move to the East to attack Pearl Harbor again. Not only attacking and destroying as already been conducted at the beginning of the Pacific War, but also had to be able to seize and control it.  That was the obsession and plan of Yamamoto, that had become “his dream” for a very long time.

The Japanese Fleet, under the command of Admiral Yamamoto himself as the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Joint Fleet Command set-off  leaving the Japanese waters towards Midway Island exactly on May 27, 1942 the date of the 37th Commemoration of the Victory Day of Admiral Togo in Tsushima Battle. All of his officers and soldiers were in high combat spirit. Such a big power of 131 battle ships, equal to the amount of Spanish Fleet mobilized by King Philip to destroy the British Fleet in 1588, made Japan very optimistic that by then would be successful to destroy its enemy.

There were several subjects forgotten by Yamamoto, and even these forgotten things caused the fatal defeat in Midway. The concept of maneuver to Midway and also the ways of deception taken, had the tendency to repeat his success at the beginning of the war.  The failure of maneuver at the Coral Sea did not sufficiently make him aware that the tactic of his fleet maneuver had actually been understood by his enemy. 

At the Coral Sea, the power of Japan’s fleet was not strictly confirmed on the main goal, namely the landing in Port Moresby, but on the contrary he even “informed” his enemy by attacking Tulagi first.  And so was the maneuver in Midway.  Before his striking task force approached Midway, Yamamoto “informed” his enemy by his maneuver to Attu and Kiska at Aleutian Islands, a group of small islands separated more than 1000 miles from Midway Island.

IJN Battleship YAMATO ( )

In addition, the Japanese intelligence was very weak. Japan mobilized more than 10 submarines assigned as the advanced task force to do the spying on Midway and Pearl Harbor.  However, when it was closed to the attacking day,   these Japanese submarines just even moved Northwards to spy the possibility of the movement of US ships to Aleutian.  And the more important thing was the possibility of the US Ships movement from Pearl Harbor to Midway became undetected by the Japanese advanced task force.

As a result, the striking task force under the command of Nagumo, with core power consisting of four carriers: Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, did not definitely know the power of enemy being encountered. These four carriers had the main duty to carry out the air raid to Midway, to destroy the American air-crafts having the base there, and also their other base facilities, and then prepared their landing on June 5. 

Yamamoto and Nagumo did not realize that their presence had already been waited by their enemies, not only the bomber combating planes from Midway base, but also from the US carriers. On the other hand, the attack plan to Midway actually had leaked to the American hand. Therefore, Admiral Nimitz was not trapped by Japan’s provocation to Aleutian, but even he prepared “a warm welcome” to greet Nagumo’s presence by the sudden maneuver.

Admiral Nimitz gave command from Pearl Harbor base, and Fletcher was appointed to lead the battle with his core power consisting of three carriers: Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown. These three US carriers were under the command of Rear Admiral Spruance. Although Japan had superiority in its number, the American had more important superiority, namely information about the enemy’s power and its maneuver plan. The other advantage was that the Spruance’s carriers had already been in the battle field awaiting for the arrival of enemy in fresh condition and ready to face the combat.

Cunningly Spruance set up position of his carriers in Northwest of Midway, away from the reach of Japanese spying planes launched from their carriers. Meanwhile the spying by airplanes from the their carriers was continuously carried out, assisted by the plane spying from Midway base.

At 04.30 on June 4, Nagumo had already been 240 miles from Midway and began releasing its bomber combating planes from his four carriers. While his planes were attacking Midway, Nagumo who was on board of Akagi carrier was shocked, because the pilot of the Japanese spying plane reported the presence of the US carriers’ movement approaching his position. 

He realized that his enemies were not only the bomber planes from Midway, but also the bomber planes from the US carriers. However, his awareness came too late, because not long after his bomber planes completed their raid and landed back on the carriers’ decks, a wave of air raid by bomber planes launched by Spruance from his three carries: Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown attacked them without a halt.

At around 10.30, the three Japan’s carriers: Akagi, Kaga and Soryu got the tremendous bombardment from American bomber planes. Nagumo had no chance to give significant resistance, because by then his carriers were still fuelling their planes. The result of this American bombardment, Akagi was burnt down and the fire severely inflamed, so that at 10.47 Nagumo was compelled to abandon the ship of the Japanese pride. Almost at the same time, tremendous fire also occurred at Kaga and Soryu, so that all the crews abandoned the ships.

The other carrier, Hiryu, still had a chance to launch its bomber planes and attacked Yorktown. Yorktown got the counter bombardment from Japan, and caused a great fire, and at 15.00 it was compelled to be abandoned by Fletcher and his crew. Hirju itself at 17.00 got a bombardment and had to be left behind by its crews as well.

Read More at Other Views of Naval Battles:

Author together with RNSETT Director, HMS.Nelson, Portsmouth

There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army:

(1) By commanding the army to advance or to retreat,being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey. This is called hobbling the army.
( ABDA - The Java Sea Battle )


(2) By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army. This causes restlessness in the soldier's minds.
( Argentine - The Falklands War )

(3) By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.

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