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My take on Midway

Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2017 6:35 am
by Xiahou Ren
Hey guys.
This is my personal understanding about what happened in Midway, where Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) who had 2-3 times as much force, were beaten decisively by a smaller force of United States Navy (USN).
Don't we all love when underdogs win? Anyway, I'm not an expert, so if I made mistake, by all mean, say so.
And to answer you question, yes, I had a lot of free time.

I classsify this as a "What could've give them a win", instead of actual blunder. Why? While I agree that avoiding this mistake might've just win the battle for IJN; I doubt that these are direct reasons for their defeat. In other word, even if these mistakes are factored in, IJN still have the chance to win Midway.

1. Zuikaku doesn't really matter
Many people criticized IJN for leaving Aircraft Carrier Zuikaku from Midway. Well, I don't. IJN already had superior firepower even without Zuikaku, so why bother? Is it a mistake? Yes. Did it cost the the battle? No.

2. USN Broke IJN's Code
Many people pointed the importance of this aspect, but does it really? I mean, I know information worth gold in wartime, but does it really applies to this situation? On one side, this extremely helped USN. It gave them time to muster their best defense, as well as repairing Aircraft Carrier Yorktown.

But on the other side, does it really matter for IJN? Midway battle play doesn't depend of secrecy, like Operation Mincemeat or Operation Mulberry. Japan was already factoring defense force in Midway. They were expecting a battle with USN and prepared themselves for it. Thus, does it make a difference for IJN whether USN knew their plan or not?

As I said before, not having their code broken, could've give IJN an easy victory; but it's not the direct reason why they lost. In my opinion, the importance of breaking IJN's code is overly exaggerated.

Okay, here we go

1. The Plan Was Stupid From the Start
Everybody know this. IJN had such gigantic power, but then they cut them all into tiny pieces for pointless purpose.
Courtesy of Isoroku Yamamoto.

For the record, I don't have a problem with violating the concentration of force rule. A lot of battle was won by dividing your force into separate efficient task forces. My problem is, violating the concentration of force and LOSE. You see, dividing your strength is always a high-risk high-return gamble. If you lose, you deserve all the ****storm that comes into your way.

Let's start from the beginning. At June 1942, IJN could dispatch 4 Aircraft Carriers, 4 Light Carrier , 7 Battleships, 6 Heavy cruisers, 8 Light cruiser, 24 Destroyers, 16 Floatplanes, 6 Submarines, 4 Transport ships, and around 40 support ships. That were a massive power.

Oh wait, 2 Light Carriers, 5 Cruisers, 12 Destroyers, along with the Submarines and Transport ships are allocated to Aleut. Okay.
Oh wait, 5 Battleships, 4 Heavy Cruisers, 2 Light Cruisers, and the rest of Light Carriers were withdrawn from the battlefield.
For no reason. Why?

All these unnecessary arrangement did nothing, besides dwindling IJN's superiority.
Now IJN only has 1 Aircraft Carrier, and 3 Destroyers advantage over USN, while USN has 5 more Heavy Cruiser than IJN.
Why did IJN purposely gimping themselves?

Until this day, I have no answer to this, beside the "severeous overconfidentitis", better known as VD (Victory Desease).
There's no merit in taking over Aleut. It has no tactical advantage. Once Midway fall, Aleut would be isolated and dies by itself. There's absolutely zero point in pulling back Battleship Yamato from Midway; which btw, was the biggest Battleship in the world at the time. All those ships which were pulled back, never had the chance to fire a single bullet. In fact, they were so far away from the battlefield, they can't even support their main force, even if they want to. All it accomplished, is a complete waste of fuel. Oh wait I forgot, two of the retiring Heavy Cruiser, Mogami and Mikuma, hit each other and severely crippled their speed. As a result, they were caught by USN bomber on their way back and got destroyed. Without ever participated in Midway. GJ Yamamoto.

Most people say Yamamoto's plan was overly complex, I say Yamamoto had no plan. The funny thing is, people who makes overly complex strategy; usually has no idea what they're supposed to be doing. Which I think describes Yamamoto quite well. He had no idea how to effectively wage war with a force that vast. He grossly overestimated his crew, he didn't even prepare a support force, in case the main force was overwhelmed. He was that clueless.

Yamamoto was once nicknamed as the "the most able and colorful" commander. Pretty sure it was a sarcasm.

2. Wrong Warfare Principle
Okay, now we know that IJN was BARELY stronger than USN at Midway. Still, how could they lose so bad? One of the major contributing factor, I believe, was their obsolete mindset. They're still so fixated in repeating the Battle of Tsushima, IJN didn't realized the nature of naval warfare had changed.

They were still stuck on battlefield frame which emphasizes "short ranged constituted strike", as in attack in one big coordinated movement; as in directing volleys of canon shoot. This is how Battleships fights. But at 1942, Battleships are no longer the core of a naval battalion. Aircraft Carriers are. And Aircraft Carriers are best suited with "long ranged piecemeal attacks".

Aircraft Carriers need time and space to "spot" (launch and land) aircrafts. A fully committed launch will yield in fully committed landings, which prolongs the carrier's vulnerability. Instead, it is better to stay away from hostile forces and send waves of airplanes one at a time, instead of one committed all-out attack. This way, your all of your airplanes doesn't need to land & resupply at the same time, making your carrier less vulnerable. The further your Aircraft Carriers from hostile forces, the better it is.

IJN was still adopting obsolete war principle.
They failed to recognize the importance of Aircraft Carriers, and it needs for proper spacing and continuous attacks.
Some said Yamamoto believe Aircraft Carriers is the future of naval warfare. While it might be true, it's pretty obvious that he haven't figured out how to use them yet.

When the USN attacked, IJN retaliated with everything they had, instead of reacts proportionately. This proved to be fatal, as continuous waves of attacks kept all IJN's planes busy. And by the time their planes were low on fuel and ammo, they all landed and resupplied at the same time; just when another force of 37 SBD Dive Bombers, made of 3 USN's squadrons, the VB-6, VS-6, and VB-3 squadron came. IJN's A6M Zero Fighters were all low on fuel, ammo, and completely out of position (they were too low); they were unable to climb and catch USN's Dive Bomber squadrons in time.

To make things worse, IJN's Aircraft Carriers were spotting. Their deck is filled to the brim with fuel hoses, aerial bombs, and torpedoes. One of IJN Aircraft Carrier, Kaga, was only hit by 1 aerial bomb. But since there was so much fuel and ammunition around, it exploded way too powerful than it should and caused inextinguishable fire.

In their defense though, IJN's pilots were splendid:
04:30, 7 F-4F and 21 F-2A from Midway Marine squadron. 2 planes survived, the rest were shot down.
07:10, 31 various planes from VMSB-241, 17 were shot down.
09:25, 15 TBD Devastator from Hornet's VT-8 squadron, all were shot down.
09:30, 14 TBD Devastator from Enterprises' VT-6 squadron, 10 were shot down.
10:00, 12 TBD Devastator from Yorktown's VT-3 squadron, 10 were shot down.
For these performance, IJN's Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters was nicknamed "The Deadly Zero Fighters".

But in the end all of those matter little. It doesn't matter how many enemy planes you've shot down. When you lose your Aircraft Carriers, you lose your entire air squadron. IJN finally learned that Aircraft Carrier was then the core of naval battalions; the hard way.

3. Horrid formation
This might be a nitpick, but I found it interesting.
We know three USN's Dive Bomber squadrons managed to destroy 3 IJN's Aircraft Carriers, Kaga, Soryu, and Akagi. Okay.

My question is, why on earth such vital, gigantic carriers were so close to each other?
Aircraft Carriers are already a battalion by itself. It supports at least 70 planes. That's enough to make 3-4 flight squadrons. Why in the name of Holy Mother of God, IJN put them so close to each other? Shouldn't they give them just enough space to cover each other, but not so close they could all be destroyed in one single swoop?

This always baffles me. When USN's Aircraft Carrier Yorktown was scouted, IJN's Aircraft Carrier Hiryu sent planes destroyed and sunk. But other USN Aircraft Carriers were safe, because Aircraft Carriers Hornets and Enterprise are located elsewhere.

At Midway Chester Nimitz had 3 Aircraft Carriers. Yorktown, Hornets, and Enterprise. He formed Task Force 16 of Hornets and Enterprise; while sent Yorktown alone to a different location. Yamamoto had 4 Aircraft Carriers, Kaga Akagi, Soryu, and Hiryu. He made Carrier Division 1 of Kaga & Akagi, and Carrier Division 2 of Soryu & Hiryu. Then he crammed them all in one big humongous unit, under Chuichi Nagumo.

What's the point in dividing them into two divisions, if both division has the same objective, located in the same place, goes in the same direction, and operates under the same person?! Why? And if you put such important part of your battalion in one place, basically yelling, "We're here. **** us!" to the opponent; why did you pull back your battleship? Big target needs big covering support. They need your big-ass battleship.

I know, I know... IJN was still under "Battleship is roxxorz!" mentality...
But seriously, this is simple logic. How could Yamamoto missed it?!

4. Lucky Coup de Grace
Well, this is the last nail on IJN's coffin. USN was lucky.
First luck struck when one of IJN submarine (rumored to be commanded by a relative of Empress) was late to get in its designated position. This allowed USN Aircraft Carriers to pass the area undetected. As a result, USN were able to launch its flight squadron before IJN. By the time IJN realized that there were USN Aircraft Carriers nearby, it was far too late. USN planes were already on their way, denying IJN their chance for offensive. With the exception of the first strike to Midway, IJN was forced into defensive position the whole battle. Had they give enough space between Carrier Division 1 and Carrier Division 2, one of them could've launch an attack force to USN Aircraft Carriers. Alas, they crammed their precious Aircraft Carriers into a tight spot, thus USN continuous "piecemeal attacks", were able to keep all 4 IJN Aircraft Carriers busy.

The second luck is, USN Dive Bombers squadrons caught IJN Aircraft Carriers, at its weakest. There's no rhyme nor reason for this, its just pure dumb luck. However, due to poor planning in various aspects of IJN's/Yamamoto's plan; this dumb luck destroyed 3 IJN's biggest, strongest, and proudest Aircraft Carrier.

So there you go. Some people said attacking IJN's Aircraft Carriers while spotting is always Nimit'z plan; based on the IJN's coded message they've broken earlier. I... don't think so. It's just luck for me. It's too far fetched. I don't believe Chester Nimitz, or Raymond Spruance (USN CO at Midway), or anyone really.... is that smart. It's too far fetched. But I believe Spruance understand how to utilize Aircraft Carrier efficiently, and wanted to keep the battle as far as possible from his Aircraft Carrier. By sheer coincidence, his decision caused 3 USN Dive Bomber squadron, from two different position miles away, arrived at the same time, at that one time IJN Aircraft Carriers were spotting after 2-3 hours of non-stop battle. Planned? Don't think so.

You can argue that this equivalent to a lucky random uppercut which leads to complete knockdown, but I argue IJN was to inexperienced and to proud to make preparation against the possibility.

~ So that's my take on Midway
I hope it's enjoyable to whoever read it, as much I enjoy writing it.