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70 years ago today…….. June 7, 2012

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, awesomeness, blogfoolery, Society.
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…….the Battle of Midway ended.  It was fought from June 4-7 1942.  In reality, the action on the 6th and 7th was mostly just mopping up, but Yamamoto did not make a final decision to abandon objective “AF” until the 7th.  It was the first turning point of the Pacific War, in which the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Combined Fleet (Nihon Kaigun) suffered their first serious reverse.  And a serious reverse it was – 4 of their prime, pre-war carriers sunk and a couple hundred of their best pilots killed.  Midway allowed the strategic initiative in the Pacific to pass from the IJN to the USN.  But the issue was contested for the rest of 1942 and well into 1943 in the horrible, grueling fighting in and around Guadalcanal, where the Japanese had local supremacy and the US was frequently outnumberd and outfought.  “Ironbottom Sound” they call the channel between Guadalcanal and Savo Island, because of the dozens of ships sunk there.   But, miraculously, almost as if by Providence, the Americans held on to Guadalcanal in spite of being badly outnumbered in theater and in spite of everything (still very, very considerable) the Japanese could throw at them, and caused severe losses to the Japanese in turn.  The attrition suffered in and around Guadalcanal was truly the end of Nihon Kaigun – the magnificent pre-war fleet constructed so carefully and painstakingly, with so much attention to detail (the Japanese way!), was smashed, broken, and had to be replaced.

What replaced it was weak and ineffectual, nowhere near as efficient as what the USN improvised on the fly in the WWII.  For, whereas the greatest American strength in the war was extemporaneous action, it was the IJN’s greatest weakness. 

McCluskey

I love the Battle of Midway, in a sense.  It was the first battle I really understood as a little kid.  I thought it heroic and wonderful, the Americans so vastly outnumbered outsmarting and outfighting the Japanese.  But so much depended on luck. In spite of being desperately low on fuel, if Wade McCluskey, a grizzled 40 y/0 veteran hadn’t kept following his 6th sense and found the Japanese fleet at the same time Max Leslie stumbled upon it, allowing the two squadrons of SBD-3 Dauntless divebombers to coordinate their attacks and swamp the Japanese defenses, the war could have dragged on for months more than it did. 

That’s right – a devastating defeat at Midway wouldn’t have spelt doom for the US in the Pacific as is often assumed, it would have only prolonged the war.  In reality, Midway

Max Leslie ditching at Yorktown fuel starvation

was a strategic blunder for the Japanese – 6ooo miles from Japan at the end of an extremely vulnerable supply chain, it would have been an albatross around the Japanese necks, not the spring board to the invasion of Oahu.  All the loss of the prewar carriers would have done was to delay the massive US counterattack  – once the two dozen plus Essex class carriers, hundreds of escort carriers, the tens of thousands of aircraft, the thousands of very well trained pilots were ready, it would have been lights out – as is occurred, regardless.

Still, one never knows.  The Japanese were masters at operating in the field with a tiny portion of the logistics US forces required, so maybe they could have pulled it off and genuinely kept Hawai’i under threat.   Maybe the US would have gotten discouraged and sued for peace, as the Japanese hoped.

I have another, older post on Midway here. 

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