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Thread: Significance of the Battle of Midway

  1. #151
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    Parsifal,

    thank you for your long answer.

    With respect, I won't answer to your kind words such as "you need to do some research before saying things like that", " you are mistaken", etc. English is not my native langage and I sometimes fail to understand somes shades of meaning. Such words in French would be quite rude or unpolite and I want to keep this discussion pleasant and open-minded.

    I wrote quickly, from memory, and did not take the time to check the facts. Indeed allied opposition at Kota Bharu and Rabaul was stronger than I wrote. My bad. However, I still fail to see some of your points.

    You wrote : "The assaults that were delivered were against enemies more experienced, better equipped and more numerous than the defences that existed at Midway at that time. US armed forces on the ground were extremely weak, and quite unready for ground combat. (...) in the case of Rabaul, ther are some very interesting comparisons that can be made. The harbour defences at rabaul were superior to the shore based defences at Midway, the ratio of troops about the same, and the frontages actually smaller. The Australians were experienced troops, but were simply unable to withstand the assault"

    It's the first time I read that the USMC soldiers (including raiders) were "very weakk, and quite unready for ground combat". Please forgive me if I am a bit sceptical. As far as I see things, the USMC is a prestigious elite corps whose members are said to be very good soldiers. IMHO the difficulties encountered by the Japanese during the invasion of Wake shows how good the Marines were early in the war.

    While Australian soldiers gained an excellent reputation in North Africa the NG, please note that the 2/22nd Bn has no experience of combat. As 2/22nd Battalion | Australian War Memorial tells us, the unit was raised in July 1940 and did not leave Australia before going to Rabaul. Hence I do not understand why you say that the Australian were "experienced" and why you rate them superior to the marines.

    You probably did not miss that of the 1400 defender of Rabaul, only 700 were regulars (2/22). As Lark Force - Lost Lives - The Second World War and the islands of New Guinea shows, the other infantryman were New Guinea Volunteer Rifles, who lacked adequate training and weapons. I guess you have also noted that the harbour defences at Rabaul were made of 2 old 6" guns which were hardly "superior to the shore based defences at Midway".

    You also wrote : " The 3rd Battalion, 144th Infantry Regiment, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Kuwada Ishiro, was held up at Vulcan Beach (but did get ashore) by a mixed company of Australians from the 2/22nd and the NGVR, but elsewhere the other two battalions of the South Seas Force were able to land at unguarded locations and began moving inland". That valids my arguments : the Japanese lacked firepower, etc. in amphibious assauts. Their landings succeeded because they quickly landed troops on undefended beaches then moved toward the enemy.

    In your second message, you express the opinion that the Chinese soldier of 1937 is superior to the USMC of June 42. My opinion is that marines have better training, morale, weaponry, doctrine and leadership than the Chinese infantryman. Chinese units were notoriously unreliable and their real strengh was often inferior to their theorical strengh. China was at this stage a failed state and corruption was endemic. Some generals were known to sell the equipement of their troops to make some money.

    You wrote "As would be the case for Midway. The invasion points would be defended by two companies, against two full reinforced regiments....roughly 5500 men to 300". Please let me ask how you make your calculation because it may be of interest. As far as I understand things, Midway islands are pretty small. Every man in the island would quickly be able to engage the enemy. For the attackers, it's another story because they probably don't have enough landing crafts to bring 5.500 men at once. They would have to make several trips with less and less crafts as time goes because of battle damage, groundings on reefs, mechanical failures, etc.

    May I ask your sources relative to "There were no mines, and no significant hardening of the beach defences" ?
    My sources (SS, but also http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmchist/midway.txt and Midway Islands' Undaunted Defenders ? May '96: World War II Feature) say the contrary :

    "the extremely extensive system of obstacles, mines, and
    demolitions projected by Colonel Shannon was brought to final completion.
    By now Sand Island was surrounded with two double-apron tactical wire
    barriers, and all installations on both islands were in turn ringed by
    protective wire. Antiboat mines made of sealed sewer pipe, and obstacles
    fashioned from concertina-ed reinforcing-steel lay offshore. The beaches were
    sown with home-made mines consisting of ammunition boxes filled with dynamite
    and 20-penny nails; although electric detonation was planned, every such mine
    also had a bull's eye painted on an exposed landward side, so that it could be
    set off locally by rifle fire. Cigar-box antitank mines were filled with
    dynamite to be fired on pressure by current from flashlight batteries, and
    whiskey-bottle molotov cocktails of high-octane gasoline and fuel oil stood
    ready at every position."

    "Barbed wire sprouted along Midway's coral beaches. Shannonbelieved that it would stop the Japanese as it had stopped theGermans in World War I. He ordered so much strung that one Marine exclaimed: "Barbed wire, barbed wire! Cripes, the old manthinks we can stop planes with barbed wire!" The defendersalso had a large supply of blasting gelatin, which was used tomake anti-boat mines and booby traps. "

    You believe that the island would be devastated by air strikes and naval gunfire : "An idea of the vulnerability of the atoll to bombardment can be found in the accounts of the bombardments carried out in December, as part of the Pearl harbour attacks." While I don't say that Midway is immune to air and naval attacks, I am not so optimistic.
    First, we cannot know how many Japanese planes would be available after the carrier battle. May be none, as what happened, if the carriers are sunk, damaged or in poursuit of the US Fleet. We cannot know neither how many ships would perform NGFS since many of them would be with the main fleet, seeking battle with the USN.
    Then, accuracy of gunfire and air strikes would be IMHO very low. The first salvoes or bombes could be aimed accurately but the following ones would probably not because of dusk and smoke.
    Anyway, we should not forget that the initial strike on Midway was not considered sucessfull since 25-30 planes (number depends on sources) were lost and a second strike judged necessary. According to Midway under Japanese air attack-4 June 1942 "On Midway itself, twenty men had been killed. Camouflage had effectively protected the 5-inch coastal guns, and much of the damage to installations was repairable".




    Let me add a few points if you don't mind. According to http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmchist/midway.txt there was only 2.500 assaut troops (the rest probably being reinforcements and garrison) and their landing on Midway was problematic :

    "The actual landing on Midway was to be accomplished by approximately
    1,500 Special Naval Landing Force troops who would storm Sand Island; and by
    1,000 Army troops of the Ikki Detachment, to land on Eastern Island.
    Summarizing the enemy landing plan, Captain Toyama stated:

    We were going to approach the south side (of Midway), sending out landing
    boats as far as the reef. We had many different kinds of landing boats but did
    not think that many would be able to pass over the reefs. If they got stuck
    the personnel were supposed to transfer to rubber landing boats. We had plenty
    of equipment for a three months' occupation without help, but were not sure of
    our boats.

    Assault elements in the landing would be backed up by the 11th and 12th Construction
    Battalions plus miscellaneous base-development detachments."

    As you see, landing assaut troops, then reinforcements and supply would be very difficult.

    By the way, I repeat my argument over the possible loss of ships to air, submarine and PT attacks before and during the landing, meaning less troops and less landing crafts for the operation.

    Best regards,

    Francis Marliere

  2. #152
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    double post
    Last edited by Francis marliere; 05-07-2014 at 08:03 AM.

  3. #153
    Senior Member parsifal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gjs238 View Post
    Did the four carriers ever operate that way together?
    Took a quick look at SS and it is clear that the approach to midway was using their standard diamond formation. Parshal has done a number of dispositional diagrams for various times of the battle. At 0710, when the first attacks by VT-8 and AAC B-26s were underway, the Kido butai was on a SE heading, with Akagi at the bottom of diamond, Soryu at the top and hiryu abeam to port, and Kaga to the Stern. This is the wrong positioning of the carriers to use this port/starboard side islands idea, but the diamond formation is clearly there. Spacing at that time was about 6000 yards abeam, and the carriers astern were about 7000 yards distant.

    parxhall then has a disposition diagram for 0753. The KB was still heading SE, in the same basic diamond formation, and no changes to disposition, but the TF had now dispersed just slightly to about 7000 yards. This was still the case at 0815 when attacked by Norris and the B-17s. By this stage Hiryu, Akagi Soryu and BC Haruna were all making smoke and were undertaking evasive manouvres to starboard. At 0917 Akagi (and presumably the other carriers altered course to generally a northeast heading , except for the landing on operations that began just after the course change, and completed at 0932

    At 0920, when attacked by Owens' VT-8, the carriers were still in a rough diamond or box pattern, heading ENE, with Soryu now port side lead, Hiryu Staboard side lead with Kaga astern of Soryu and Akagi astern of Hiryu. TDs were now greatly reduced, though Parshals diagram does not include a scale for this time frame. Owens' attack was head on from the NE, and unexplainably (to me anyway), the carriers took evasive action by altering port, thus presenting broadside on to the attackers, though admittedly it depends on the timing, since the manouvre was actually an "S shaped manouvre....they may have altered to port early to present broadside on and maximise flak effcts, and then turned to starboard at the time of the attack commencing to again present bow on to the launched torpedoes.

    by 0940, when VT-6 delivered their attacks on the Kaga, the carriers were now on a basecourse heading of NW, still in the same relative positions to each other, but the diamond formation was now even more squashed flat than in the previous time periods. this time the torpedo bombers delivered an "anvil attack, which would have been very nerve wracking for the Kaga. no hits, however.

    Parshall has a further dispositional diagram for 10am, and the following commentary...."The fleet dispositions at this time had been so distorted as to no longer resemble a box formation at all, rather a ragged line ahead , with Kaga trailing on the port quarter". the Japanese were beginning to buckle under the pressure, finally. More importanlty, the AA escort was now almost completely out of position. Kirishima was astern kaga, but outside effective AA supporti8ng range, and Haruna out of position completely . Tone and Chikuma were well astern and also out of effective AA range. The fighters were at deck lkevel, no wonder the SBDs had a field day. unsupported carriers, with little or no defensive CAP and no supporting AA fire....a divebombers dream come true basically.
    Fr President Clemenceau’s speech to the AIF 7th July 1918: “ we expected a great deal of (Australians)… We knew that you would fight a real fight, but we did not know that from the beginning you would astonish the whole continent. I shall go back and say to my countrymen “I have seen the Australians, I have looked in their faces …I know that they will fight alongside of us again until the cause for which we are all fighting is safe for us and for our children”.



  4. #154
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    I've read that the Japanese doctrine was to spread out their forces and rely upon evading strikes, whereas the US doctrine was one of keeping the vessels of the task force closer together and relying on supporting flak for defense.

    I'm not sure how rigid this idea was for the two navies, and if this was even US doctrine at the start or evolved that way through the course of the war.

  5. #155
    Senior Member bobbysocks's Avatar
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    wow there is a ton of good info here...i will have to read it slowly later....thanks all for posting. good stuff

  6. #156
    Senior Member oldcrowcv63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by parsifal View Post
    "At 0920, when attacked by Owens' VT-8, …"
    I think you meant to write Waldron's VT-8.
    None of us is as smart as all of us...

  7. #157
    Senior Member parsifal's Avatar
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    I just transferred what I saw in SS. Im not that intimate with USN squadron commanders.


    Gary, with regard to whether the japanese used manouvre whilst the USN went more for massed firepower, I think as a generalization thats true, but there are so many exceptions to this general statement. A ship violently manouvered is not an ideal AA platform, but its a harder target than a ship steaming at a measured pace with less violent manouvres.

    Both sides however put aa lot of importance on maintaining station, because if your not, you are probably opening up gaps in the fire screen, and not providing mutual support to the other carriers. The japanese were using a tight box formation for their carriers, because the overwhelming weight of AA fire came from the Carriers themselves, and it was intended that if a ship came under attack, the other carriers would be able to provide some protective fire over the carrier being attacked....mutual support. The down side to this was of course that grouping the carriers made them an easier target.

    The diamond formation used by the japanese was too widely spaced for mutual fire to be provided, but close enough for them to spotted and attacked more or less simulataneoulsy. Because the Box had been pushed out of shape, the escort was also out of position, so this made the USNs job just that much easier.

    I suspect the formations being used by the Japanese were adopted, and the carriers placed and spaced as they were, not for defensive reasons, but because this disposition made launch and ranging of combined strikes a bit easier. at 6 yards spacing, communication by flag or aldis lamp was possible, and the spacing meant aircraft could be launched and form up relatively easily. Not a lot of help when you are under attack however, as the morning progressed the Japanese showed clear signs that their C&C over the TF was slipping. They were buckling under the pressure, though I bet they were not exactly aware of it at the time.
    Fr President Clemenceau’s speech to the AIF 7th July 1918: “ we expected a great deal of (Australians)… We knew that you would fight a real fight, but we did not know that from the beginning you would astonish the whole continent. I shall go back and say to my countrymen “I have seen the Australians, I have looked in their faces …I know that they will fight alongside of us again until the cause for which we are all fighting is safe for us and for our children”.



  8. #158
    Senior Member oldcrowcv63's Avatar
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    Total digression prompted by Pars VT-8 misque. The events we discuss here recede into a past that is perhaps not quite as distant as it may seem. occasionally that becomes crystal clear in an unexpected moment. Picture a young naval cadet visiting the original ramshackle Naval Aviation museum in Pensacola circa 1970. He's resolving a Midway aircraft-type argument with a classmate, using the display of a model TBD memorializing VT-8 at Midway. The cadet becomes aware of a gaggle of 'blue-haired' ladies gathering around the display. They gather closely around the display and suddenly one realizes the historic connection to their own lives. "My God! that's Adelaide's husband's squadron and plane!" one explains. The ladies were friends of Ms. Waldron's who happened to be visiting the museum that same day and moment. It's a moment I'll never forget.
    Last edited by oldcrowcv63; 05-08-2014 at 07:38 AM.
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  9. #159
    Pacific Historian syscom3's Avatar
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    "Shattered Sword" talked at length of the IJN carrier formations at the start of the battle and how incessant American attacks stretched and distorted their formation. By the time the Enterprise and Yorktown Dauntless's went into their dives, any semblance of an organized battle group was long gone. That is one of the reasons the Japanese command and control failed them at that point.
    "Pilot to copilot..... what are those mountain goats doing up here in the clouds?"

  10. #160
    Senior Member parsifal's Avatar
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    yep, and it makes sense that this is a reflection of the gradual breakdown of C&C in the TF.

    I also read in SS that Nagumo was not the preferred commander for the Striking Force. Yammamoto before the war wanted Ozawa to be in Command. Even in 1942, whilst Ozawa was only given relatively minor Commands (his usage of the light carrier Ryujo in the PI and Indian Oceans was outstanding) he showed clear superiority over Nagumos rather manic unpredictability

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jisabur%C5%8D_Ozawa
    Last edited by parsifal; 05-08-2014 at 05:47 PM.
    Fr President Clemenceau’s speech to the AIF 7th July 1918: “ we expected a great deal of (Australians)… We knew that you would fight a real fight, but we did not know that from the beginning you would astonish the whole continent. I shall go back and say to my countrymen “I have seen the Australians, I have looked in their faces …I know that they will fight alongside of us again until the cause for which we are all fighting is safe for us and for our children”.



  11. #161
    Pacific Historian syscom3's Avatar
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    Ultimately, the most significant thing about Midway is the loss of four carriers. They were irreplaceable, and the Japanese never recovered from that body blow. The US could have lost all three at the battle, yet only a year later, they would be getting a fleet carrier every month.
    "Pilot to copilot..... what are those mountain goats doing up here in the clouds?"

  12. #162
    Senior Member parsifal's Avatar
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    Sys, thats probably where you and i diverge. The loss of the four carriers was a remarkable achievement by the USN, and an undeniable victory for them with real benefits conferered on the USN. It was also an enormous deflation to IJN confidence. However, the loss of the carriers was far less important to Japanese capability than might be supposed. Even before midway, Japanese pilot standards were falling, and they were unable to make good pilot losses even in relatively low loss periods. Akagi for example went to war with a complement of just under 80a/c embarked, by the time of the battle this was down to 63 and still falling. somewhere, ive read the Navy was projecting further falls to an air complement of around 50 aircraft by late Septemeber. this was one of the reasons they wanted to write down the US carriers in a decisive battle....they needed to rest and replace their own losses. But as you say, this was never going to happen.

    The IJN fought the remaining carrier battles of 1942, more or less with the survivors of Midway CAGs. They didnt win, but they did fight the USN to the point of exhaustion. Trouble was, they also fought themselves to that same point. from that situation, the USN rapidly recovered, but the IJN could only repleneish at a very limited rate, and with pilots of fairly low quality. Twice in 1943 their CAGs were again committed, as land based elements, and twice these hastily trained aircrews were decimated by the increasingly competent US air forces. It was relentless, and from a Japanese persepective tragic.

    By Phil Sea, the Japanese had largely recovered carrier numbers, and fielded a good number of carriers, that again were underutilized in terms of carrying capacity. having four additional carriers might help in the sense of spreading losses out better, but it could hardly affect pilot replacement rates. Ozawas 1st Mobile Fleet would still have gone into battle with about 450 a/c, filled with pilots that were just cannon fodder regardless of the outcome of Midway. Conversely, if the japanese had won their battle, and destroyed all three US carriers in June 1942, the US would have gone to battle in June 1944 with 160 less aircraft than they did. Carrier capacity was the limiting factor for the USN in 1944, not so the IJN.
    Fr President Clemenceau’s speech to the AIF 7th July 1918: “ we expected a great deal of (Australians)… We knew that you would fight a real fight, but we did not know that from the beginning you would astonish the whole continent. I shall go back and say to my countrymen “I have seen the Australians, I have looked in their faces …I know that they will fight alongside of us again until the cause for which we are all fighting is safe for us and for our children”.



  13. #163
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    Gents,
    Thanks for the lessons! I'm learning that facts have to be delved into, layer by layer, to get "the maximum learning points".
    Cheers,
    Biff
    "You love a lot of things if you live around them, but there isn't any woman and there isn't any horse, nor any before or any after, that is as lovely as a great airplane, and the men who love them are faithful to them even though they leave them for others. A man has only one virginity to lose in fighters, and if it's a lovely plane he loses it to, there his heart will ever be."
    Ernest Hemingway
    August, 1944

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    Sys, thats probably where you and i diverge. The loss of the four carriers was a remarkable achievement by the USN, and an undeniable victory for them with real benefits conferered on the USN. It was also an enormous deflation to IJN confidence. However, the loss of the carriers was far less important to Japanese capability than might be supposed.
    I'd agree, Parsifal. Had the Japanese "won" at Midway (we'll say took the island, knocked out 2 US carriers at a cost of one of their own), they would have had a increasingly hard time of keeping the carriers full. As Parsifal mentioned, they were already understaffed in planes/pilots at Midway. With some air to air losses at Midway they would be in trouble.

  15. #165
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    Quote Originally Posted by parsifal View Post
    Sys, thats probably where you and i diverge. The loss of the four carriers was a remarkable achievement by the USN, and an undeniable victory for them with real benefits conferered on the USN. It was also an enormous deflation to IJN confidence. However, the loss of the carriers was far less important to Japanese capability than might be supposed. Even before midway, Japanese pilot standards were falling, and they were unable to make good pilot losses even in relatively low loss periods. Akagi for example went to war with a complement of just under 80a/c embarked, by the time of the battle this was down to 63 and still falling. somewhere, ive read the Navy was projecting further falls to an air complement of around 50 aircraft by late Septemeber. this was one of the reasons they wanted to write down the US carriers in a decisive battle....they needed to rest and replace their own losses. But as you say, this was never going to happen.

    The IJN fought the remaining carrier battles of 1942, more or less with the survivors of Midway CAGs. They didnt win, but they did fight the USN to the point of exhaustion. Trouble was, they also fought themselves to that same point. from that situation, the USN rapidly recovered, but the IJN could only repleneish at a very limited rate, and with pilots of fairly low quality. Twice in 1943 their CAGs were again committed, as land based elements, and twice these hastily trained aircrews were decimated by the increasingly competent US air forces. It was relentless, and from a Japanese persepective tragic.

    By Phil Sea, the Japanese had largely recovered carrier numbers, and fielded a good number of carriers, that again were underutilized in terms of carrying capacity. having four additional carriers might help in the sense of spreading losses out better, but it could hardly affect pilot replacement rates. Ozawas 1st Mobile Fleet would still have gone into battle with about 450 a/c, filled with pilots that were just cannon fodder regardless of the outcome of Midway. Conversely, if the japanese had won their battle, and destroyed all three US carriers in June 1942, the US would have gone to battle in June 1944 with 160 less aircraft than they did. Carrier capacity was the limiting factor for the USN in 1944, not so the IJN.
    You seem to be ignoring the other factors that would have changed.

    Had Midway Islands been captured by the Japanese A: The U.S. would have had to retake the Islands, B: The Aleutian campaign would not have petered out as the Japanese then would have had a base from which it could have assisted the Aleutians Campaign for rearming while being able to fly reconnaissance missions of what the U.S. fleet was doing from Midway Island.
    Plus assuming the Japanese had only lost one carrier and the U.S. two or more, he U.S. would have had what would have amounted to a full-on three front war, not just deadly harassment because the Japanese would have had the U.S. trying to decide where the Japanese were going to strike from next.

    As I said in another post, the U.S. response would have massive in rearming but having suffered two serious defeats so early in the war while considering how fiercely as the Japanese fought, it would have made the war far more costly and bloody and longer than it was.
    At the same time Germany would have been fully aware that the U.S. was suffering off of its West Coast and may not be able to give as much support to Europe as it wanted to.
    Now that might have made Hitler act even more foolish than he did but one simply does not know.

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