Monday, June 04, 2012
Brilliance Shot With Luck
Seventy years ago history of the Pacific War was changed. Afterwards Japan would find its ill-gotten gains stripped away during one brutal battle after another until Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Approximately 1025 on June 4, 1942 32 Dauntless dive bombers of VB-6 and VS-6 found themselves over the First Air Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Also arriving over the same carriers were 17 Dauntless aircraft of VB-3 lead by Lt. Cmdr Max Leslie. And there were no A6M-2 Zero fighters to oppose them, the valiant and almost futile sacrifice of VT-6, VT-8, VT-8 Det., and VT-3 had seen to that.
So a perfect storm of retribution fell upon the attackers of Pearl Harbor. When the men of all three dive bomber squadrons pulled up from their dives, they witnessed three carriers in flames.
The butcher's bill had some charges still to add. The surviving Japanese carrier Hiryu would launch two strikes at the American fleet. Both times they struck USS Yorktown, finally crippling her and forcing Capt. Buckmaster to order abandon ship. Just as this was happening Lt. Samuel Adams of VS-5 found Hiryu.
As Hiryu struggled to gather enough planes and pilots to strike at what they thought was just one remaining American carrier, Spruance's dive bombers arrived overhead in the dusk. Survivors of VB-6, VS-6, VB-3, and VS-5 plunged down in their steep dives. Soon Hiryu was wreathed in flames and rocked by explosions like Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu.
Lt. Samuel Adams would die on 5 June, 1942 while trying to sink the IJN destroyer Tanikaze. Amazingly the destroyer escaped without damage. Japan would soon lose the heavy cruiser Mikuma due to attacks by Enterprise and Hornet air groups; the cruiser had earlier collided with it's sister ship Mogami while trying to evade the US Navy sub Tambor. Even the surviving TBD Devestators would attack since there were no enemy fighters to defend the hapless cruisers, they still failed to score any hits.
The final casualty of the Battle of Midway would be USS Yorktown herself as IJN sub I-168 slipped through the destroyer screen. Four torpedoes were fired at the wounded carrier. Two struck the carrier while a third broke in two the destroyer Hammann. Yorktown would finally sink the next day, 7 June 1942. Thus ending a battle that could have easily gone the other way if not for extraordinary actions by men of the United States Navy.
Previous posts on the Battle of Midway:
Moments of Decision
A Sea Story?
Midway to Victory
Midway in Color
New web-site to check out:
The Battle of Midway Roundtable.
Recent articles on the battle
Victory at Sea