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Chapter 5: The Battle of Midway

Japanese Plans

The first phase of the Pacific War, following the neutralization of the United States Fleet at Pearl Harbor, consisted of the swift expansion of the Japanese Empire into the South Pacific and Southeastern Asia and the establishment of a defensive perimeter of island positions to the southeast and to the south. This phase terminated in the seizure of the Dutch East Indies and the acquisition therewith of the resources considered necessary by Japan to sustain her power and position in the Western Pacific.

Immediately after the seizure of the key objectives, the second phase commenced, in which Japan planned to seize additional outposts to guard the newly gained Empire against attack, to consolidate positions and to cut enemy supply lines. This phase included a plan to occupy Midway and the Aleutians in order to establish an outer defense line to the east and northeast of Japan. Occupation of these points was to be followed by establishment of air coverage from these bases to a radius of 1,300 miles, a radius which included the Hawaiian Islands.

The Japanese, aware of the fact that all available United States carrier strength had been present in the distant Coral Sea only three weeks before, designated 6 June 1942 as the date of occupation of Midway Island, and made the following estimate of the United States situation:

Relying on the line determined by our initial operational advance as his first line of defense, the enemy is growing desperate to check his decline as his outer shell crumbles under our successive blows, and as India, Australia and Hawaii become directly threatened. By strengthening and giving an active role to both his aircraft in the Australian theatre and his submarines, roaming under the seas which we command, he conducts guerrilla operations against us. With a striking force he reconnoitered the South and Southwest Pacific Ocean Area. Comparatively speaking, he is displaying remarkably vigorous activity. His morale was not at once shaken by his crushing defeat in the Coral Sea on 7-8 May 1942; and the last 10 days of May saw the sudden return of lively activity throughout enemy areas after our fleet sortie from Hashira Jima; he is paying singular attention to the Australian Area; the time is ripe to strike at Midway and the Aleutians.

United States Defensive Efforts

United States forces to counter such an attack were relatively weak, but the Japanese intentions were suspected by the United States Command. [Note: this account was written long before the wildly successful efforts of American cryptanalysts in decrypting the Japanese naval codes was declassified. The reader is encouraged to see the index page which includes accounts of these operations and their decisive effect on the Battle of Midway.] Naval losses sustained at Pearl Harbor and in the Battle of the Coral Sea had not been replaced. In view of this deficiency it was decided not to commit the United States surface vessels, but instead to reduce the strength of the Japanese Fleet through attrition, prior to its arrival at the objective, by means of long-range air attack from the three carriers then steaming at top speed from the Coral Sea toward Midway. In addition, the local defenses of Midway were strengthened, a submarine cordon was established, and Marine aircraft squadrons and long-range Army and Navy search planes were concentrated at Midway.

As the Japanese Fleet advanced behind a submarine scouting line with island-based air coverage to the southward and westward, the United States Task Force took up a position to the northeast of Midway.


The Battle

On 1 and 2 June Midway based aircraft conducted negative searches to a distance of 800 miles to the north and west. However, at 0904 3 June (plus 12 time) a patrol seaplane made the initial contact with the Occupation Force about 500 miles to the southwest of Midway. A B-17 striking group immediately took off to attack the transports but scored no hits. Shortly after midnight the same night one flying boat damaged a transport with a torpedo hit while another strafed the decks of the transport columns.

At 0545 the next morning (4 June) a flying boat reported an enemy air group heading for Midway from the northwest and shortly thereafter sighted the carriers of the enemy striking force. About 0830, against extremely heavy fighter opposition, shore-based Marine dive bombers conducted a bombing attack on the battleships and carriers of the Japanese striking force. Against this same overwhelming opposition an unsuccessful torpedo attack was carried out by the Hornet torpedo squadron. At about 1020 the Enterprise and Yorktown dive-bomber squadrons, protected by their own fighters, carried out a successful dive-bombing attack making three hits on Soryu which was rearming planes preparatory to attacking the United States carriers in lieu of Midway, two hits on Akagi, and four on Kaga. When attacked, Akagi had 40 planes on board and Kaga 30; the latter sank later that afternoon as a result of fire and a delayed fuel tank explosion and at the same time the damaged Soryu was torpedoed and sunk by the submarine Nautilus.

In the meantime, a second aircraft striking group was launched by the enemy including all aircraft from the as yet undamaged Hiryu. This group attacked the United States Task Force, scoring three bomb hits on Yorktown which put her flight deck out of action, and forced her withdrawal from the battle. Three days later, while retiring to the eastward, Yorktown and the destroyer Hammen were sunk by torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-168.

During the afternoon of the 4th, aircraft from Hornet and Enterprise located Hiryu, the remaining carrier of the striking force which had attempted to escape to the north, and attacked scoring six bomb hits. Damage incurred in this battle by both Akagi and Hiryu was so great that these two vessels became unnavigable and were scuttled by their crews about 0500 on the morning of the 5th.

The Japanese Retirement

As a result of the loss of all four aircraft carriers of the striking force, which deprived the invasion fleet of air support, and of a serious collision between the heavy cruisers, Mogami and Mikuma during the night of the 4th, Admiral Yamamoto ordered abandonment of the operation and retirement of all ships.

On the 5th adverse weather conditions prevented United States carrier groups from locating the retreating forces to the north and west of Midway, although a Marine dive bombing group from Midway located the crippled Mogami to the southwest and inflicted additional minor damage to this vessel and Mikuma .

No further contacts were made until the next day when dive-bombers from both Hornet and Enterprise attacked and sank Mikuma and seriously damaged Mogami and the destroyer Arashio.

During this battle, carrier-based dive-bombers made 191 sorties obtaining 32 hits, 15 of which were the principle factors in the destruction of the First Air Fleet carrier force while the remainder sank the Mikuma and damaged the Mogami and Arashio. Although the B-17s of the Seventh Air Force based at


Midway made 62 sorties for horizontal bombing attacks, testimony of Japanese survivors indicates that no hits were scored by this means. The difficulties which attend high altitude bombing of ships were well illustrated when, on the afternoon of the 6th, a flight of B-17s reported sinking a "cruiser" by an attack delivered from over 10,000 feet; in fact, the "cruiser" was a United States submarine which hastily submerged when the first bombs fell off her bow. In contrast to the more experienced carrier dive-bomber pilots, the hastily assembled Marine dive-bombers made 50 bombing sorties but attained very few hits. However the manner in which the Marine attack occupied the fighter defense of the Japanese carriers on the 4th greatly contributed to the hits of the carrier bombers which came in shortly thereafter. Unfortunately both the Army and Navy torpedo attacks against the enemy were made in vain. Approaching without fighter protection, the torpedo groups were attacked and cut to pieces principally by the defending Japanese fighters before they were able to press home their attack.

Consequences of the Battle

As a result of this battle, the Japanese expansion to the east was stopped and Midway Island was saved as an important American outpost. To the Japanese this battle was disastrous. The loss of 4 of their finest aircraft carriers, together with 250 aircraft and some 100 of their first-line pilots deprived them of the powerful striking force with which they had achieved their conquests and with which they had planned to cut down United States efforts to counterattack. Battleships and seaplane tenders were withdrawn from the fleet for hasty conversion into carriers, but all efforts to regain what had been lost were insufficient, and from this date the balance of power in the Pacific shifted steadily to the United States side. In view of the strategic situation at the time and the condition of United States defenses, the carrier action at Midway was perhaps the decisive battle of the war.


  1. Detailed report of Striking Force, and First Air Fleet on midway operations, 27 May to 9 June 1942. WDC No. 161519.

  2. ONI Combat Narrative "The Battle of Midway."

  3. United States Strategic Bombing Survey Interrogations:

      Nav No. USSBS No.
    Battle of Midway 1 6
    Battle of Midway 2 11
    Battle of Midway 4 23
    Battle of Midway and Supplement 13 65
    Aleutian Campaign 20 97
    Battle of Midway 33 138
    Battle of Midway 39 165
    Japanese Naval Planning 43 192
    Battle of Midway 46 195
    Transports at Midway 60 252
    Battle of Midway 66 295
    Battle of Midway 83 407
    Battle of Midway 106 464
    Japanese Submarine Operations 108 466


Appendix 19

B-17 Attack on Midway Transports
PBY Torpedo Attack, on Midway Transports


Appendix 20

Track of Japanese Submarines

Appendix 21

Battle of Midway

Appendix 22

Action Chart of the Battle of Midway
June 5


Appendix 23

Summary of Attacks Upon First Air Fleet, Striking Force, Battle of Midway
(Translation of Japanese document WDC No. 161519)

Local time (+12) Tokyo time (-9) Japanese report of number of attacking aircraft Japanese report of target Japanese report of bombs or torpedoes dropped Japanese report of hits Remarks (correct data when known)
4 June 5 June          
0707 0407 9 B-26's Hiryu 9 T 0 4 B-26's actually attacked.
0710 0410 4 torpedo bobmers Akagi 3 T 0 6 VT in attack
0711 0411 4 medium bombers Hiryu 4 T 0 Army-Navy
0712 0412 9 VT Hiryu 9 T 0 Midway Torpedo
0715 0415 1 VT Akagi 1 T 0 Group
0756 0456 9 medium bombers Hiryu B 0  
0808 0508 4 VF
4 VB
4 B 0  
0812 0512 6 VB Hiryu 1 B 0 Midway
0829 0529 4 medium bombers Haruna 5 B 0 USMC
0830 0530 3 VB Kaga 3 B 0  
0835 0535 3 B-17's Soryu 11 B 0 16 B-17's
1020 0713 16 VTB Hiryu 16 T 0  
  0725 12 VB Soryu   3 Sank 1610/5 (-9)
  0726 3 VB Akagi 3 B 2 Scuttled 0200/6 (-9)
  0730 9 VB Kaga 9 B 4 Sank 1625/5 (-9) explosion of fuel tank
  0730 5 VTB Hiryu 5 T 0  
[page 64]
1703 1403 13 VB Hiryu 13 B 4  
1703 1403 13 VB Hiryu 13 B 4 Scuttled 0210/6 (-9)
  1408 2 VB Haruna 2 B 0  
  1420 3 VB Tone 3 B 0  
  1428 34 VB Tone 34 B 0  
  1432 9 VB Chikuma 5 B 0  
  1445 1 medium bomber Chikuma 6 B 0
1810 1510 3 medium bombers Chikuma 4 B 0 2 B-17's
1826 1526 2 medium bombers Haruna 3 B 0  
  6 June  
  1336 4 VB Tanikaze 5 B 0  
  1507 26 VB Tanikaze   0 Hornet and
  1545 6 VB Tanikaze 4 B 0 Enterprise


Appendix 23-1
Appendix 23-2

Attacks on Hiryu (CV)

5 June 1942 (-9)
Time: 0407 0411 0412 0456 0508 0512 0713 0730 1403
Enemy A/C Type B-26 Med. Bombers Torp. Bombers Med. Bombers Fighters
Dive Bombers
Dive Bombers Torp. Bombers Torp. Bombers Dive Bombers
No. of A/C 9 4 9 9 4
6 16 5 13
Bombs dropped 9 4 9 9 Strafing
1 16 5 13
No. of hits 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
Chart of Hits      

4 killed, many casualties

1 very near miss
1 plane downed
3 off stbd;
1 off port;
2 off fantail;
1 off stbd;
1 off bow
3 off bow;
2 off fantail
Time Sunk or Scuttled                 Scuttled 6 June 1942, 0210
Location                 31° 27.5'N, 179° 23.5'E
Remarks 1 bomber shot down       3 dive bombers shot down 3 dive bombers shot down 1 torp bomber, 2 dive bombers shot down 2 torp bombers shot down 2 dive bombers shot down


Appendix 23-3

Attacks on Akagi (CV)

5 June 1942 (-9)
Time: 0410 0415 0726
Enemy A/C Type Torp. Bombers Torp. Bombers Dive Bombers
No. of A/C 4 1 3
Bombs dropped 3 1 3
No. of hits 0 0 2
Chart of Hits 1 run-in on stb2; 2 run-ins on port (1 made suicide dive
1 run-in aft on port side and one drop at about 500m
1st bomb struck about 10m off portside of bridge
2nd bomb struck on edge of central elevator (fatal hit)
3d bomb bstruck on after edge, port side of flight deck.
Time Sunk or Scuttled     Scuttled 6 June 1942, 0200
Location     30° 30'N, 178° 40'W
Remarks 3 bombers shot down, 2 by our guns    


Appendix 23-4

Attacks on Kaga (CV)

5 June 1942 (-9)
Time: 0530 0730
Enemy A/C Type Dive Bombers Dive Bombers
No. of A/C 3 9
Bombs dropped 3 9
No. of hits 0 4
Chart of Hits
Sank with great explosion from the fuel storage (or bomb storage) hold
Time Sunk or Scuttled   Scuttled 6 June 1942, 1625
Location   30° 20.3'N, 179° 17.2'W
Remarks   9 Dive bombers shot down


Appendix 23-5

Attacks on Soryu (CV)

5 June 1942 (-9)
Time: 0535 0630 0725
Enemy A/C Type B-17's Torp. Bombers Dive Bombers
No. of A/C 3 17 12
Bombs dropped ~11 4 0
No. of hits 0 0 3
Chart of Hits 2 very near misses: 1 fwd, 1 off stbd
Time Sunk or Scuttled     Scuttled 5 June 1942, 1610
Location     30° 42.5'N, 178° 37.5'W
Remarks   10 torp. bombers shot down (in cooperation with fighter cover 1 Dive bomber shot down


Appendix 23-6

Attacks on Haruna (BB)

5 June 1942 (-9)
Time: 0529 1408 1526
Enemy A/C Type Torp. Bombers Dive Bombers Med Bombers
No. of A/C 4 2 2
Bombs dropped 5
2 3
No. of hits 0 Very near misses 0
Chart of Hits
Time Sunk or Scuttled      


Appendix 23-7

Attacks on Chikuma (CA)

5 June 1942 (-9)
Time: 1432 1445 1510
Enemy A/C Type Dive Bombers Med. Bombers Med. Bombers
No. of A/C 9 1 3
Bombs dropped 5 6 4
No. of hits 0 0 0
Chart of Hits
Time Sunk or Scuttled      


Appendix 23-8

Attacks on Tone (CA)

5 June 1942 (-9)
Time: 1420 1428 ????
Enemy A/C Type Dive Bombers Dive Bombers Med. Bombers
No. of A/C 3 34 3
Bombs dropped 3 34 3
No. of hits 0 0 0
Chart of Hits
Time Sunk or Scuttled      


Appendix 23-9

Attacks on Tanikaze (DD)

6 June 1942 (-9)
Time: 1336 1507 1545
Enemy A/C Type Dive Bombers Dive Bombers Dive Bombers
No. of A/C 4 26 6
Bombs dropped 5   4
No. of hits 0 Very near misses All wild
Chart of Hits
2 enemy A/C dive into sea
Time Sunk or Scuttled      
Remarks   1 Dive bomber shot down 3 Dive bombers shot down


Appendix 24

Forces Involved

United States Japanese (Main Body)
Enterprise (CV) (F)
   Rear Admiral R.A. Spruance
Hornet (CV)
Pensavola (CA) (F)
   Rear Admiral T.C. Kinkaid
Northampton (CA)
Vincennes (CA)
Minneapolis (CA)
New Orleans (CA)
Atlanta (CL)
Phelps (DD) (F)
   Capt. A.R. Early
Balch (DD)
Benham (DD)
Worden (DD)
Aylwin (DD)
Monaghan (DD)
Ellet (DD)
Maury (DD)
Conyngham (DD)
Yorktown (CV) (F)
   Rear Admiral F.J. Fletcher

Astoria (CA) (F)
   Rear Admiral W.W. Smith
Portland (CA)
Hammann (DD) (F)
   Comdr. A.E. True
Morris (DD)
Russell (DD)
Anderson (DD)
Hughes (DD)

Submarine Force
   Rear Admiral R.H. English
Flying Fish

Main Body

BatDiv 1:
   Yamato (BB) (F)
      Admiral I. Yamamoto
BatDiv 2:
   Ise (BB) (F)
CruDiv 9:
   Kitagami (F)
DesRon 3:
   Sendai (CL) (F)
   12 destroyers
   Zuiho (CVL)
No. 1 Supply Group
   Toei Maru
   1 destroyer
No. 2 Supply Group
   Sacramento Maru
   Tora Maru

Striking Force

CarDiv 1:
   Akagi (CV) (F)
      Admiral C. Nagumo
   Kaga (CV)
CarDiv 2:
   Hiryu (CV)
   Soryu (CV)
BatDiv 3:
   Haruna (BB)
   Kirishima (B))
CruDiv 8:
   Tone (CA)
   Chikuma (CA)
DesRon 10:
   Nagara (CL)
   16 destroyers
No. 1 Supply Group
   Kyoto Maru
   Shinkoku Maru
   Toho Maru
   Nippon Maru
   Koyuyo Maru
No. 2 Supply Group:
   Naichiro Maru
   Kyoei Maru
   Hoko Maru

Occupation Force

CruDiv 4:
   Atago (CA) (F)
   Chokai (CA)
BatDiv 3:
   Kongo (BB)
   Hiei (BB)
DesRon 4:
   Naka (CV)
   16 destroyers
   Kumano (CA) (F)
   Suzuya (CA)
   Mikuma (CA)
   Mogami (CA)
DesRon 2:
   Jintsu (CL)
   12 destroyers
   1 mine sweeper
   1 subchaser
   16 transports
CarDiv 11:
   Chitose (CVS)
   Kamikawa Maru
   1 destroyer

24th Air Flotilla (Search from Marshall Islands)
26th Air Flotilla (Search from Marcus Island)

Midway Aircraft:

Seventh Air Force:

28 VF
34 VB
14 PBY-5
16 PBY-5A

4 B-26
17 B-17

MTB Squadron One  
1500 Marines (Sand Island)
1000 Army (Eastern Island)
Engineers, 1 Battalion
Survey, 1 Battalion
50 Marines (Kure Island)


Appendix 25

Detailed Losses

United States

Yorktown (CV)
Hammann (DD)
Aircraft 150
Personnel 307


Akagi (CV)
Kaga (CV)
Hiryu (CV)
Soryu (CV)
Mikuma (CA)
Aircraft 253
Personnel 3500

  Mogami (CA) (Major)
Arashio (DD) (Major)
Tanikaze (DD) (Minor)
Akebono Maru (Major)


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