Tuesday, June 4, 2019

77 Years Ago

U.S. Navy Douglas SBD-3 "Dauntless" dive bombers from scouting squadron VS-8 from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) approaching the burning Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma to make the third set of attacks on her, during the Battle of Midway, 6 June 1942. Mikuma had been hit earlier by strikes from Hornet and USS Enterprise (CV-6), leaving her dead in the water and fatally damaged. Note bombs hung beneath the SBDs.
Some of those who paid the cost of victory:

Torpedo 8
Standing (L-R): Owens, Ensign Fayle (transferred); Waldron, R.A. Moore, J.M. Moore, Evans, Teats, Cambell.
Kneeling (L-R): Ellison, Kenyon, Gray, sole survivor Gay, Woodson, Creamer, Miles.
VT-8's first and best-known combat mission came during the Battle of Midway on 4 June 1942. Flying obsolete Douglas TBD Devastators, all of Lieutenant Commander John C. Waldron's fifteen planes were shot down during their unescorted torpedo attack on Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carriers. The squadron failed to damage any Japanese carriers or destroy enemy aircraft.

Only one member of VT-8 who flew from Hornet on that day survived in the action, Ensign George Gay. Ensign Gay was rescued the day following the battle. Torpedo 8 was afterwards awarded the American Presidential Unit Citation. (Source)
USS Yorktown (CV-5) burning after the first attack by Japanese dive bombers during the Battle of Midway.
Major ship losses of the Imperial Japanese Navy -

Battle of Midway, June 1942. The burning Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma, photographed from a U.S. Navy aircraft during the afternoon of 6 June 1942, after she had been bombed by planes from USS Enterprise (CV-6) and USS Hornet (CV-8). Note her third eight-inch gun turret, with roof blown off and barrels at different elevations, Japanese Sun insignia painted atop the forward turret and wrecked midships superstructure. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.
Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma sinking on 6 June 1942.
The burning Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryū, photographed by a Yokosuka B4Y aircraft from the carrier Hosho shortly after sunrise on 5 June 1942. Hiryū sank a few hours later. Note collapsed flight deck at right. Part of the forward elevator is standing upright just in front of the island, where it had been thrown by an explosion in the hangar.
Yorktown's VB-3, commanded by Max Leslie, went for Sōryū, scoring at least three hits and causing extensive damage. Some of Leslie's bombers did not have bombs as they were accidentally released when the pilots attempted to use electrical arming switches. Nevertheless, Leslie and others still dove, strafing carrier decks and providing cover for those who had bombs. Gasoline ignited, creating an "inferno", while stacked bombs and ammunition detonated. VT-3 targeted Hiryū, which was hemmed in by Sōryū, Kaga, and Akagi, but achieved no hits. (Text Source)
Death of Akagi.
(Source)
Within six minutes, Sōryū and Kaga were ablaze from stem to stern, as fires spread through the ships. Akagi, having been struck by only one bomb, took longer to burn, but the resulting fires quickly expanded and soon proved impossible to extinguish; she too was eventually consumed by flames and had to be abandoned. All three carriers remained temporarily afloat, as none had suffered damage below the waterline, other than the rudder damage to Akagi caused by the near miss close astern. Despite initial hopes that Akagi could be saved or at least towed back to Japan, all three carriers were eventually abandoned and scuttled. (Source)
Death of Kaga.
(Source)
The butcher's bill -

Japanese Losses:
  • 4 fleet carriers sunk
  • 1 heavy cruiser sunk
  • 1 heavy cruiser damaged
  • 248 aircraft destroyed
  • 3,057 killed
  • 37 captured
American Losses:
  • 1 fleet carrier sunk
  • 1 destroyer sunk
  • ~150 aircraft destroyed
  • 307 killed, including 3 killed as prisoners
Of the six Japanese carriers involved in the attack on Pearl Harbor - Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū, Hiryū, Shōkaku, and Zuikaku - only Shōkaku, and Zuikaku were left. They would join Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū, and Hiryū at the bottom of the sea before the war ended in August of 1945.

Japan had sowed the wind, the reaping of the whirlwind was just beginning...





52 comments:

  1. A near run thing even with breaking the Japanese codes. A decision to re-arm the Japanese second strike, following the wake of a Japanese destroyer, CAP brought down low by the Devastators strike arriving before the SBDs....... Good visuals Sarge, might be time to pull out Shattered Sword again. Hard to believe it's been fourteen years since that was published.

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  2. I remember watching the movie about that when I was a teenager. I had tears in my eyes when it was done. I still see those scenes in my head when I read about that battle. Strange how that works.

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  3. The murder of the USN prisoners by the IJN was barbaric.

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  4. That is a USMC Vought Vindicator on top of turret 4 , of MIKUMA.

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  5. If you’re video-ticaly inclined, this seems like a good ‘un.

    https://youtu.be/Bd8_vO5zrjo

    In particular the bits about Nagumo’s 15 minutes, and the interplay of Japanese doctrine and the fickle finger of fate...

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    1. Interesting, I'll have to set aside some time to watch that (and Part 2 as well).

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    2. Nagumo- Hero to Zero in 15 Minutes.

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    3. I don’t think there is a Part 2 yet, unfortunately.

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  6. Midway was the first indication the Japs had that they should have listened to Yamamoto when he warned about waking the sleeping dragon. The videos about the battle from the Jap perspective are interesting. I also remember seeing the movie Midway when it first came out. Japanese admirals will always look like Toshiro Mifune and James Shigeta. I also had not realized that Tom Selleck played a small part as a captain's aide. Anyway, one thing I took away from the movie was how important all aspects of an operation are and how they have to work together to have a chance at victory. Also, how one decision can change the tide of battle. The valor of the navy and marine aviators in that battle makes one ask where men like that get their courage and sense of duty. May they and all like them Rest In Peace and be always remembered for their sacrifice on behalf of the future they never knew.

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  7. It's interesting to watch as China seeks to do in the China Sea what Japan tried to do against the US in the Pacific island chains. China is keeping its first barrier within range of both its striking fleet and air cover from the mainland unlike Japan who was forced to cut them loose as the USN rolled over them in a slow tsunami.

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    1. Interesting, and scary. That's a problem which needs to be nipped in the bud sooner, rather than later.

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  8. I think if the Japanese had concentrated on the Western Pacific more, they may have won Midway. But, by Midway, they had extended their forces a bit too much, fortunately.

    Having played a couple Midway simulations, we (the USA) really lucked out. It was as Duke Wellington said of Waterloo.. "...It has been a damned nice thing - the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life..."

    We were very fortunate, indeed, that the butcher bill did not close in on Wellington's 30,000 casualties.

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    1. How does a game simulate the uncertainty and fog of war? Any Japanese player is going to know the American order of battle, and location, and all sorts of things Nagumo did not...

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    2. Some of the simulations I've participated in change things like the locations of units, the availability of certain units and other factors.

      One thing I've learned in multiple simulations of multiple battles/campaigns over the years is that history is seldom, if ever, repeated in a simulation.

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    3. And the uncertainty of the dice roll. One of the games I played you had to roll to receive units. It is a stone cold something something to try to play Midway with less than 3 American carriers. And a whole lot more fun to play as the IJN commander if you have most or all of the major fleet units, including battleships (hint, having most of the IJN capital ships in play means you can thunder-run your heavies into the Ami line, and force said Amis to either strike your carriers allowing the guns to come into play or stop the gun ships and leave the superior number of carriers and planes to decide the battle.)

      Really good simulations also allow for variations in weather, both surface waves and for storms, fog, overall wind direction (really messes with aircraft, the wind.)

      Yes, playing it straight is relatively easy, but still hard to do. Units start roughly where they are supposed to, but then the players get to change directions, task force. Teaches you the mechanics of that game. Then, in order not to bore people, the game designers toss in the variable and alternate rules (like, what would have happened if the IJN had surged their sub fleet forward?)

      It is amazing how little variations like speed of re-arming can change the whole picture. 10-15 minutes can mean a lifetime.

      And so can spotting the enemy. Change that time and the whole picture changes. Sometimes drastically.

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    4. A lot of what-if's. What if the destroyer Arashi had not stayed behind in it's effort to hunt USS Nautilus (SS-168).

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    5. Beans - One of my favorite old-timey games was Jutland. You spent a lot of time trying to find the enemy. Once you did, you might be up against a couple of destroyers, or the entire Grand Fleet. You never knew until you deployed your ships. Of course, it wasn't a very popular game except for a very small set of fanatics.

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    6. RHT447 - History is chock full of what ifs.

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    7. Some of the variant rules for the venerable Avalon Hill Gettysburg dealt with hidden troop movements (having a 3rd person as a ref,) alternate troops (Custer's cavalry being one of them) and weather. Mostly hot and humid as only west central Pennsylvania can be in a wool outfit, but what happens if you get one of those fast developing hard summer storms?

      All the little variations is what made Avalon Hill's Advanced Squad Leader so unplayable. The jungle rules themselves cover weather rules for seriously micro-micro terrain, rather than just lumping it under basic movement and visibility modifiers (Roll a die and see the effects of this hour's humidity on visibility and another on morale and another on propagation of radio signals due to sunspot activity and the effects based on degrees latitude above or below the equator (okay, that last one dealing with sunspots and radio propagation, not so much, the others, yes.)) Turned the game into a three player game - Side A, Side B, and Mother Nature. Almost got it down to roll playing, kinda Dungeons and Dragons meets Squadleader with Mother Nature as the DM.

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    8. I had the original versions of Squad Leader, bought the first of ASL, didn't like the concept, didn't like the rules, and (as you state so eloquently) it was (IMHO) unplayable. The originals were excellent games in their own right, ASL was a good idea (maybe) executed poorly.

      Sunspots and radio propagation? Jeebers, just factor that detail in.

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    9. sometimes, the gods of war just roll dice and one does come with a crit...
      - but the one who rolls the most dice has the most chances...
      land based and torpedo squadrons have been all bad rolls for entire morning of that fateful day, until McClusky and Co. arrived on a shiny rolling "20"

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    10. Well, if the Dive Bombers hadn't arrived overhead at altitude at the exact time the Zeros were at low altitude putting paid to Torpedo 8, the outcome might have been quite different. Hence the "Hero to Zero" comment earlier. Nagumo had to have let out a "yippee" when he saw the last torpedo bomber go in the drink. Probably lifted his head to the sky to let out that "yippee" but what came out was really "Awww...Sheeet!"
      Sarge could probably come up with an exception, but to the best of my knowledge that's the quickest reversal of fortune in history.

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    11. it was little more different, considering fast climb rate of Zero, there have been ample time to regain altitude before DB arrived... also as far as I know, at least some Zeros attacked the DB but without much success as they have been overtaking them in dive flight due to much smoother aerodynamics. Plus at least one fighter squadron (Thatch) arrived at exact time and drove off some Zeros

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    12. Yes, the Zero's had a fast climb rate relative to other aircraft (according to Wikipedia 15.7 m/s (3,090 ft/min)). But physics is physics, if they were at sea level it would take them ~4 minutes to reach 12000'. The attack would be over by then. And, Pawel, you're correct, but that makes the first part of my first sentence what awes me such about the outcome of the battle. If they hadn't arrived overhead at virtually the same time the Torpedo Bombers were under attack, the Zero's might have regained altitude and the battle might have ended differently. I've got a favorite saying "If If's and Buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas."

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    13. And that's a great saying.

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  9. Replies
    1. Good morning/afternoon/evening, (nny)US. Hope the world, or at least the weather, is treating you well today.

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    2. Good coverage on that comment Beans.

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  10. On the weather front here, seeing as we kinda broached that topic talking about variables in games...

    104 degrees F. 0-2mph semi-light-not-really-there-breeze, 25% humidity (thankfully,) and stuck between two massive storms, one to the west and one to the east.

    It sucks. Even the dog doesn't want to go out. I think his poop bakes dry on the way down.

    Gaaahhhhhh..... There's a reason my house used to have a pool, and days like this are one of them. Bleh...

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    1. The last time I was in Florida (late July 2008, Pensacola) the weather was hot, hot, hot, humidity not too bad, tolerable. The last day there, the humidity soared into the stratosphere. I was surprised we were able to take off when we left.

      Lived in Mississippi in the summer, I learned my lesson. I can handle cold, heat and humidity, not so much.

      I won't tell you how beautiful New England is right now.

      But it is.

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    2. Three hours later, and three inches of rain later, we were at 74 degrees. 30 degree drop in 3 hours. Water is an excellent coolant, isn't it?

      As to how beautiful New England is, well, we have had no snow for lots of years, which means no snow, salt, slush, blizzards, New Englanders trying and succeeding in driving poorly in said conditions. And no snow/salt/snow-salt mix to eat our cars.

      Everywhere has some good points, even California (though any good points seem to be disappearing rapidly...)

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    3. Yes, winter in New England is a challenge at times. As for California, remove the idiots who are trying (and failing, no surprise) to turn the state into a socialist paradise and things will improve. The state itself has some breathtaking beauty.

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  11. There's a very good book about VT-8, called A Dawn Like Thunder, by Robert J. Mrazek. Among the facts in the book: Only half the squadron was in action at Midway; the other half had left the combat zone to be equipped with new TBF Avengers. After Cmdr. Waldron was killed, the squadron was commanded by a guy named Swede Larsen, who was such a swell commander that on two occasions his enlisted aircrewmen tried to shoot him, and were restrained by other aircrewmen. Larsen didn't report either incident, apparently on the theory that "two of my men tried to frag me" wouldn't look good on the old resume. The squadron transferred from the Hornet to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, saw heavy action there, and was decommissioned at the end of 1942. A very interesting book, well worth a read.

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  12. Check the awesome anthology of alternative histories, "Rising Sun Victorious" for scenario where Nagumo lucks out and wins...
    It does cost allies time, money and blood, but Kido Butai is eventually trounced in Battle of Los Angeles, and first Essex sails thru successfully defended Panama Canal to start 1943 US counteroffensives

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  13. I had the honor and privilege to meet George Gay at an airshow years ago.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. I met him, too, at the Chino airshow where he was signing his book.

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    2. Perhaps our paths crossed at airshows back in the day.

      Paul

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  14. Hey Old AFSarge;

    Sorry I didn't respond earlier, am out of country. Those were awesome pics you posted, some I never seen before and I thought I have seem them all. I had read a book that talked about the divisiveness of the Japanese General Staff, the Army concentrated on the Soviets as the major threats and the Navy focused on the Americans. It took a consensus to get anything going, and the Japanese attack on Midway was brought on by the Doolittle Raid, it united the Imperial General Staff to "do something" about those pesky American carriers.

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    1. One of the great things about our enemies in WWII was that they didn't play nice together a lot of the time.

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  15. Sportsfans/

    FYI George Gay is the guy who started Executive Jet ..
    ..

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