Sunday, August 21, 2016

Miracle at Midway

Miracle at Midway
© 1983 Gordon Prange, Donald Goldstein and,Katherine Dillon,
512 pages



Miracle at Midway is a thorough history of the June 4-7 effort of the Japanese to simultaneously seize the most likely U.S. approaches to the Empire and lure the US Pacific Fleet into a general engagement wherein it might be destroyed in total. Though colossally outnumbered in ships, the US Navy and Army Air Forces on Midway island had a slight advantage in planes which was used to enormous effect; in this David and Goliath battle, the Japanese carriers were the object of a surgical strike, though one of dive-bombers instead of stones. While there was definitely an element of luck on the American side -- one Japanese carrier's planes were caught pants down, trying to refuel and re-arm -- Midway was a victory of intelligence and courage more than fate. Although suffering from a paucity of maps, the authors bring extensive analysis and heavy research into the Japanese side to the table as well. Midway is one of the more important battles of the second World War, at least for Americans: just six months after the humiliating surprise of Pearl Harbor, the Pacific Fleet had utterly reversed its fortunes, destroying in a day the pride of the Japanese imperial fleet. Dai Nippon lost not only four carriers, but hundreds of planes and thousands of veteran men whose talents and experience could not be replaced. It's also an extraordinary moment in the history of naval warfare, the first battle in which the competing surface fleets never saw one another but through their air wings.


8 comments:

  1. I have had this book on my radar for years.

    I do not read a lot of military histories anymore, but I may still read this one.

    Midway was indeed one of the major turning points of the Second World War.

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    1. This is a book with an interesting story -- the main author/researcher passed on before its publication. Still, the two others did an excellent job making it seamless.

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  2. Great book! One of the "must reads" for all U.S. Navy officers. The confrontation was proof that the tactics and strategies of naval warfare were forever changed. And American naval policy was from that moment altered, and carrier battle groups have been deployed around the world ever since. However, with warfare now changing (drones and missiles ruling the day!), the carrier task force may become obsolete in the very near future.

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    1. More's the pity -- most naval ships are beautiful to behold.

      (Strictly speaking, Coral Sea was also a carrier battle, but I haven't found a good treatment of it yet.)

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  3. I've read about Midway a few times. There's luck in any military encounter but I think Midway was a mixture of planning, signals intercepts (wasn't the Japanese code broken around this time), some very smart guesses at enemy dispositions and incredible bravery by the Naval aviators. As everyone above has said, the Japanese never really recovered from Midway whereas the Americans went from strength to strength after it.

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    1. Oh, yes, American access to the Japanese code was what allowed them to maneuver into place to begin with -- they knew the fleet was coming and kept themselves off to the side for an ambush.

      I may try Walter Lord's "Incredible Victory", depending -- but the same thing that stalled me last year hasn't been resolved. I'm still looking for a book on the Coral Sea by itself!

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  4. Oh, just posted a Name to a Face you *might* get.... [grin]

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  5. :-D Pretty sure I did. The year of the plane model was the big hint.

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