Friday, June 03, 2005

4 June 1942 - The Battle of Midway - Turning Point in the Pacific

4 June 1942
In the Pacific near Midway Island, the western most island in the Hawaiian chain.

Two carrier forces meet in the pivotal battle of the war in the Pacific.

Four Japanese Fleet Carriers and three American Carriers. The fate of the near term, perhaps long term, war in the Pacific lies in the outcome of this battle.

"I feel we are all ready . . . . I actually believe that under these conditions we are the best in the world. My greatest hope I that we encounter a favorable tactical situation, but if we don't and the worst comes to the worst, I want each of us to do his utmost to destroy our enemies. If there is only one plane left to make a final run-in, I want that man to go in and get a hit. May God be with us all."

-- LCDR John C. Waldron, USN, Commanding Officer of USS HORNET's Torpedo Squadron 8, killed during Battle of Midway. Waldron's attack plan before the Battle of Midway, June 4, 1942. Morison, Vol. IV, p. 117.

CV- 8 USS Hornet
VF-8 (12 lost)
VB-8 (5 lost)
VS-8 (5 lost)
VT-8 -- 15 TBD, Lt. Cdr. John C. Waldron (Killed) (All lost)
Torpedo Eight lost all of her aircraft and only a single pilot survives.

CV-6 USS Enterprise
VF-6 (1 lost)
VB6 (11 lost)
VS-6 (9 lost)
VT-6 (11 lost)
Torpedo Six lost all but three aircraft and lost her commander.

CV-5 USS Yorktown (Sunk)
VF-3 (10 lost)
VB-3 (12 lost)
VS-3 (12 lost)
VT-3 (12 lost)
Torpedo Three lost all but one aircraft and lost her commander.

Marine Aircraft Group 22
VMF-221 (15 lost)
VMSB-241 (13 lost) including two commanders in one day
Detachment of 7th Army Air Force
B-26s, lost 2 or 4
B-17s lost 4 of 19

Experience is a quick, but brutal teacher.

The torpedo squadrons, first in, flying obsolescent TBDs using faulty tactics were decimated and did almost no damage. All three commanders lost their lives in the initial attack. While they did no significant damage to the Japanese force, they did tie up the Japanese and got them low while the dive bombers sank the four carriers.

We lost only Yorktown.

This was the turning point in the war. We had a plan to learn from each battle and fight a war of attrition, if needed. The Japanese did not. After our steep learning curve at Midway, we accelerated to Victory in the Pacific.

Our victory came at a tremendous cost, men like Waldron, Massey, Lindsey, Henderson and Norris gave their lives so we might be free, not safe.

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