June 05, 2007

Midway Myths Debunked

Today, June 5th, is the 65th anniversary of one of the biggest victories in US Naval history, the Battle of Midway. LGF links to a post on the battle that, while well-written, brings out the usual myths of "The Miracle At Midway".

The story of Midway is well-known by now, thanks to numerous books and one feature film. Most of these books, and the movie, were mostly (if not entirely) based on American sources and a perishingly few translated Japanese "I was there" accounts that were never checked for accuracy.


Now that more researchers are able to read the raw Japanese data, such as the official War history of Japan (the Senshi Sosho), it's clear that much of what we "know" of the battle of Midway needs to be reevaluated.


Let's go over some of those myths, shall we?


1) "The near total destruction of the first wave of U.S. pilots and crew on board the "low and slow” torpedo bombers was not in vain; it alone made possible the exact conditions that allowed 50 U.S. dive bombers to send the Japanese armada to the bottom of the ocean minutes later."


2) "Four sitting duck Japanese carriers, without their protective shield of Zero fighter planes, with scores if not hundreds of Japanese planes sitting on the carrier decks, strewn with ordnance, fuel and crew..."


3) "The combined Japanese Alaskan and Midway forces, including those in support role, involved 200 ships, including 8 carriers, 11 battleships, 22 cruisers, 65 destroyers, 21 submarines and approximately 700 aircraft."


4)"A small Japanese carrier group first launched an attack on Alaska, intended to draw the U.S. Fleet out of Pearl..."


5)"The US Navy - outnumbered in carriers, ships, technology, planes and pilots - had achieved the greatest naval victory in modern history."


I'll discuss all of these below... read on, won't you?

1) "The near total destruction of the first wave of U.S. pilots and crew on board the "low and slow” torpedo bombers was not in vain; it alone made possible the exact conditions that allowed 50 U.S. dive bombers to send the Japanese armada to the bottom of the ocean minutes later."

The Devastators of Torpedo 8 (VT-8), off the USS Hornet, began their attack run at 0918, and by 0932 the last of them had been shot down. Torpedo 6 (VT-6), off the USS Enterprise, began their attack at 0938. Due to the miserably slow speed of the outdated Devastator when carrying a torpedo (~100knots), the last of the VT-6 planes didn't drop it's payload until 1000. Five planes from VT-6 survived the attack run, though one never made it back to the US carriers, and all were well shot up.


The attack of the Dauntless dive bombers didn't begin until 1020. Given the performance of the Zero, 20 minutes was plenty of time for the defending planes to get back to a good altitude to defend against any incoming planes.


The sharp reader will note that only two of the three torpedo squadrons flying off of the US carriers has been mentioned. That's because VT-3, off the USS Yorktown, actually made their attack at the same time the dive bombers did.


The conclusion is simple: the 20 minutes of time between VT-6's attack and the combined attack of the dive bombers and VT-3 should have allowed the Japanese CAP (Combat Air Patrol) to have gotten back to altitude. It wasn't that they were drawn too low, it was that they were drawn too far. VT-8's attack came from the Northeast, VT-6 from the South-southwest, VT-3 from the Southeast. Throw in the Wildcats of VF-3, the only fighter cover any of the US attacks had on this day, which sponged up a disproportionally large number of Zeros, and the Dauntlesses had clear runs. The sacrifice of the torpedo bombers surely served a purpose: it kept the Japanese carriers from being able to launch an attack on the US fleet (see #2, below).


Two years later, radar would have provided the Japanese carriers with an effective way of controlling where their CAP was going (as shown by the US carrier forces of 1944-45). Instead, it was up to the individual pilots to decide what they'd attack and when.


2) "Four sitting duck Japanese carriers, without their protective shield of Zero fighter planes, with scores if not hundreds of Japanese planes sitting on the carrier decks, strewn with ordnance, fuel and crew..."


This image makes for great drama; as Mitsuo Fuchida put it in his book "Midway: The Battle that Doomed Japan" (the first Japanese account of Midway published in English), the carriers of Kido Butai were "mere minutes away from launching their attack" when the US dive bombers came down. Most every book on the battle reiterates this concept: it was a near thing.


It's also wrong.


Unlike the US carriers, Japanese carriers had enclosed hangar spaces (that is, contained entirely within the hull with little ventilation. US carriers had rolling metal shutters that allowed access to the outside). While the US could fuel, arm and warm up the engines of their planes below decks, thereby allowing the planes to be ready for takeoff the instant they were on the flightdeck, the Japanese could only fuel and arm theirs below. Planes needed to be raised to the flightdeck, rolled aft to their spots, then their radial engines needed to be warmed. The warmup process took around 15 minutes to complete, and if it wasn't done correctly (it couldn't be hurried), the chances of the engine failing were huge. The entire process of preparing a deckload attack required about 45 minutes of downtime for the flightdeck in optimal conditions. In other words, no planes taking off or landing (the British innovation of the angled deck didn't exist yet).


However, after 0730, when the first scouting reports of American carriers came in, the Japanese carriers never had those 45 minutes. From approximately 0705, when six brand new Avenger torpedo bombers from Midway attacked the fleet, to 1020, when the dive bombers pushed over into their runs, the four carriers of the Kido Butai were either A) launching or landing CAP fighters; B) recovering the original Midway strike; C) rearming the planes belowdecks for ship attack; or D) radically manuevering to avoid the stream of squadron-sized attacks that were coming in.


All four of these things conspired to prevent the Kaga, the Akagi, the Soryu and the Hiryu from ever getting their planes up to the flight deck.


A, B, and D were the major reasons. Since carriers of the time could only do one thing at a time (spot, launch or recover), they were limited in their flexibility. With four carriers in a group, theoretically you could have two carriers performing CAP duties while the other two spotted their attack force... but Japanese doctrine didn't allow for that. They were masters of the combined force strike; in Midway's case, half the carriers would provide dive bombers, the other half torpedo planes, and all four would provide Zeros for fighter protection. They also understood that an attack en masse would be able to saturate target defenses and thereby limit losses. Launching a piecemeal attack, while it may have gotten results, simply wasn't something they had effectively trained for.


In any case, D prevented them from being able to do so in any case. Moving a large aircraft around a flight deck by hand as the carrier careened around the ocean avoiding bombs and torpedoes was a very dangerous proposition, to say the least. Planes could (and often were) damaged or lost over the side, and crewmembers maimed or killed, in the most innocuous conditions... doing the same thing on a wildly tilting flightdeck would have been foolhardy.


Which is not to say that there weren't ANY planes up on deck when the Dauntlesses came in; there were... and they were part of the CAP defending the fleet. The attack planes, however, were still belowdecks.


3) "The combined Japanese Alaskan and Midway forces, including those in support role, involved 200 ships, including 8 carriers, 11 battleships, 22 cruisers, 65 destroyers, 21 submarines and approximately 700 aircraft."


This is true, but not a realistic way to look at the way the fleets lined up. There were three seperate fleets involved in the attack on Midway:


1) The Invasion Force, consisting of one light carrier, two battleships, eight cruisers, 22 destroyers, and assorted transports and oilers, for 33 combatants.


2) The Carrier Force, consisting of four large carriers, two battleships, two cruisers, 12 destroyers, and assorted oilers, for 20 combatants.


3) The Main Body, consisting of one light carrier (Hosho, which only carried eight planes), three battleships, two cruisers, nine destroyers, and assorted oilers, for 15 combatants.


By any definition, this was a dominating group of ships... except in the way they were positioned on the ocean. In no way were they three fleets arrayed so as to be mutually supporting. The Invasion Force was well over 300 miles south of the Carrier Force, which was positioned almost 400 miles ahead of the Main Body. Each group was on their own for the coming battle.


A fourth fleet, that of the Aleutians Strike group, was over 1000 miles north of the Midway action, though their ships (two light carriers, five cruisers, 18 destroyers, and assorted auxilaries) are claimed in the totals of the ships involved. While a sizeable force, they were much too far away to be involved.


Because of the way the ships were arrayed, the only true Japanese force on the ocean for the battle of Midway was that of the Carrier Force, with their 20 fighting ships. Everything else was at least 15 hours away.


4)"A small Japanese carrier group first launched an attack on Alaska, intend[ing] to draw the U.S. Fleet out of Pearl..."


It's often claimed that the Aleutians attack was a mere feint, a way to "fake out" the US carrier force. In truth, it was nothing of the sort. It was designed as a stand-alone unit who's departure and attack coincided with the Midway force's. If it had been meant as a feint, it would have occurred more than one day earlier, so as to allow the US fleet to actually sortie. As it was, the battle for the Aleutians DID begin only 24 hours before Midway.


5)"The US Navy - outnumbered in carriers, ships, technology, planes and pilots - had achieved the greatest naval victory in modern history."


While Midway is arguably the greatest naval victory in modern history (which assessment I agree with, by the way), the US Navy wasn't particularly outnumbered where it counted: carriers and planes.


Consider these numbers: the Japanese had four carriers with an actual on-hand strength of 227 planes, plus another 21 Zeros destined to be the fighter garrison for Midway. Some of the pilots for those fighters were not carrier qualified, but we'll include the planes for completeness' sake, bringing the total to 248. This is somewhat less than what the carriers could actually carry, but operational losses (lost via combat, accident, or unreparable) in the previous six months had not yet been entirely replaced.


The US forces had three carriers, with 233 planes embarked. So, yes, they were technically outnumbered... until you include the island of Midway itself, and the roughly 120 planes based there at the time of the battle. Furthermore, Midway could not be sunk.


It was the JAPANESE that were outnumbered at the battle of Midway in the categories that counted, not the Americans.


If you want to go farther into the numbers, you can point out that the Japanese Carrier Force (the only force that actually fought against the US on June 5th, 1942) had 20 combatant ships (listed in #4, above). The US fleet had 25.


As far as being 'outnumbered' in technology goes, the Zero was a better performing fighter than the Wildcats and Buffaloes flown by the US (indeed, the Buffalo is widely considered the worst mainline fighter ever, though the Finnish airforce in WWII might argue that point), it had weaknesses. It was fragile, with no armor and no protection around the fuel tanks. A hit that would kill a Zero, on the other hand, would only damage a Wildcat, which was armored, and packed a heavier punch to boot.


The dive bombers primarily used in the battle, the Val and the Dauntless, were essentially even. The Dauntless could carry a larger bomb than the Val, but only at the expense of combat range.


The biggest advantage amongst the Japanese planes was in torpedo bombers. The Kate could carry a heavier torpedo than the Devastator, could fly twice as fast while doing so, and could drop it's torpedo from a higher altitude, a higher speed, and a longer range. Furthermore, at this point in the war, American torpedoes had an unfortunate tendency to malfunction and not explode, even if a hit was managed. In fact, after the battle of Midway was over, the Devastator was removed from combat roles completely.


In such things as radar, anti-aircraft weaponry and fire control, and particularly damage control aboard carriers, the US had an overwhelming advantage. For example, according to Senshi Shoho, the Akagi suffered only one bomb hit and two near misses during the climactic attack, yet this was enough to set her ablaze fatally. Part of this was due to the rearming/refuelling going on in her hangars when the bomb hit, but even that may have been controllable in an American carrier (witness the agonies the USS Franklin would endure later, or the Yorktown suffered at Midway).



"Midway was far more than a decisive naval victory. It was far more than the turning of the tide in the Pacific war. In a strategic sense, Midway represents one of the turning points of world history -- and in that role it remains under-appreciated."

-James R. Schlesinger, former US Secretary of Defense

Midway was decisive; one side lost four carriers, the other one. That's decisive in any book. Saying that it "represents one of the turning points of world history", however, is stretching a bit. Japan could not win the Pacific War. The best it could hope for was a negotiated peace, and some claim that that America would have folded if Midway was lost. This view ignores the point that fighters better than the Zero were already being produced and were entering squadron service at the time of Midway; the first Essex-class carriers were just a handful of months away from being commissioned; and that the US had carriers other than the Yorktown, Hornet and Enterprise in service.


The median result would be that the war would likely have been extended a year or two. The end result would have been the same, except with higher casualties on both sides.


The worst Japan could imagine was what occurred.


(my thanks to Jonathan Parshall and A.P. Tully for their book, "Shattered Sword", the main reference for this post)

Posted by: Wonderduck at 05:45 PM | Comments (12) | Add Comment
Post contains 2502 words, total size 17 kb.

1 When I saw the title of the post, I said to myself, "I'll bet he's read Shattered Sword." One of the best nonfiction books I've ever read, BTW.

Posted by: Mike at June 05, 2007 10:36 PM (gJDlA)

2 Meh, a lot of this is just contrarian hair-splitting. Almost every battle won by the inferior force is fought by nearly-even elements at the point of contact, and most feature local superiorities of force by the victory. It's rather the point, achieving superior concentration of force, isn't it? Look at Jackson's May 1862 Valley campaign - he was outnumbered decisively at every moment of the campaign if you total up the theatre resources, but he enjoyed significant numerical advantages in every single tactical battle.

I'm not much on naval history - if the four ships of the Carrier Force only carried ~250 planes, and the other three fleets in the theatre only had four light carriers between them, how do we get to a total force of 700 planes? Is that number just bullshit?

As for techological imbalances, was radar a tactical factor in Midway? I seem to remember from the few books I read on the battle that everybody was flailing around with line-of-sight flying boats. I'll grant you superior damage-control & carrier design, but the torpedo imbalance cancels that out, and the worthlessness of the torpedo planes & the period superiority of the Zero seem to be rather important elements which bear out the myth.

Your other myths seem to be more akin to misperceptions & mis-statements than actual errors - the torpedo plane runs *did* expose the carriers to the dive bombers when it mattered, the repeated American attacks *did* keep the Japanese carriers from mustering a decisive attack on the American fleet, the Aleutians force *was* an attempt at concentration-in-time.

There are much more controversial & mis-understood battles out there - you ever want to see fur fly, bring up Shiloh/Pittsburg Landing. Or Perrysville/Chaplin Hills. Or Stones River/Murfreesboro. Or even Antietam/Sharpsburg. Hell, they can't even agree on the names, let alone which side won, or how!

As decisive battles go, Midway was pretty danged decisive, although naval battles tend to be somewhat more decisive than land engagements in general.

Posted by: Mitch H. at June 06, 2007 12:49 AM (iTVQj)

3 Mitch, if you take the maximum number of planes the eight Japanese carriers could theoretically carry, and add in the seaplanes carried by the Midway Assault force, you come within sighting distance of 700. Closer than that, I can't get, so I don't know where the number 700 came from. But that's the same rationale that says that the US faced "8 carriers, 11 battleships, 22 cruisers, 65 destroyers" at Midway.

You say "Almost every battle won by the inferior force is fought by nearly-even elements at the point of contact, and most feature local superiorities of force by the victory."

Here's the thing: IT DIDN'T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY. The Japanese fleet specifically and knowingly threw away their advantage in ships and planes, and didn't care. They WANTED to have it that way.

Was radar a tactical factor at Midway? Not a huge one, I'll grant you, but it WAS there, and the US used it to vector their CAP around much better than the Japanese could ever hope for.

Gotta go to work, more later.

Posted by: Wonderduck at June 06, 2007 01:14 AM (2nDll)

4 The Pacific Theater geek in me is thoroughly pleased. Well done, fellow waterfowl!

Posted by: GreyDuck at June 06, 2007 01:47 AM (2Yvi7)

5 "...the repeated American attacks *did* keep the Japanese carriers from mustering a decisive attack on the American fleet."

Yes, quite true. However, that's not what the original article said, and the many many books on the subject don't say that either. They simply say that the death of the various Torpedo squadrons 'drew down the Zeros', and that's NOT what happened.

"...the Aleutians force *was* an attempt at concentration-in-time."

I'm afraid that's entirely incorrect. Concentration would be putting everything in the same place. The Aleutians force was the exact OPPOSITE of concentration. Those two carrier decks, if put in with Kaga, Akagi, et al, could... perhaps WOULD... have made Midway a completely different event.

Posted by: Wonderduck at June 06, 2007 02:31 PM (A5s0y)

6 "Concentration in time" is a goofy strategic concept you run into a lot in discussion of the American Civil War. The idea is to put as many of your elements in motion at the same time, so as to overwhelm a numerically inferior enemy with threats & hopefully provoke an ill-timed reaction such that the force in motion is unavailable at the crisis, being in transit. The classic example is Halleck's attempt at concentration-in-time by coordinating operations between Grant, Burnside, and Rosecrans in December 1862, which supposedly worked because a large division was en transit from Bragg's army in Tennessee to Mississippi instead of pitching in with the rest of Bragg's troops at Stone's River.

The fact that none of the December 1862 operations were what you'd want to call particularly successful (they included Fredericksburg, Grant's first failure against Vicksburg and the bloody tactical see-saw in front of Murfreesboro) didn't divert Union commanders from repeatedly trying for the same thing - concentration in time. The ugly mess in Virginia in May 1864 was yet another swing at the concept.

Concentration-in-time is usually employed by a numerically superior force in a logistically problematic theatre. If it's theoretically easier & cheaper to move three forces of 40k along three separate axes than one lumbering, starving mass of 120k along a single axis, then you'll have somebody pushing for concentration-in-time. That obviously wouldn't apply in the Midway example... hmm.

So if the Aleutians diversion wasn't a concentration-in-time effort or a true feint, what was it? Clearly, the Japanese would want to engage the American naval force away from the ground bases at Midway or Honolulu - engage his fractions with your mass, not vice-versa. I know the Japanese didn't realize that the Yorktown was in theatre, they'd already had a recent demonstration in the Coral Sea that American carrier groups weren't pushovers even *without* the support of a nearby airbase or string of airbases.

Posted by: Mitch H. at June 07, 2007 04:43 AM (iTVQj)

7 I always took Midway to be a "Turning Point in World History" in that it is probably the clearest of the second world war battles in which victory is won through information supremacy rather than industrial supremacy, something which holds true even though the sides were much closer to being equal than is often acknowledged. The Battle of Britain is probably the first example, although one that is not as well defined as a battle. As modern warfare is much more warfare of informational supremacy rather than warfare of industrial supremacy, Midway does represent the start of an important trend. World War 2 may be seen as the last of the wars of industrial supremacy and the first of the wars of informational supremacy.

The tendency to romanticize great moments in history is something that will always be with us, for good and for ill.

Posted by: Civilis at June 07, 2007 09:57 AM (rgi1K)

8 The last account I read on Midway was in Keenan's book on intelligence - he used it as an argument that even thorough and precise intelligence was often unhelpful in the actual combat encounter.

Did the Japanese suffer from a lack of concentration of forces? Absolutely - like you said, a few of those light carriers might have turned the tide, or at least prevented the kind of fatal damage to the Japanese fleet carriers that made the engagement decisive.

A lot of the reason -why- the Japanese had done so, however, was a fundamental miscalculation of which elements constituted the strength of the fleet. It's easy for us to say "duh, the carriers are more important than everything else put together" - we're looking back at the issue through the lens of history, especially the history of the Pacific Theater, where carriers came into their leading role.

The Japanese admirals, though, -simply did not appreciate that fact-. What Midway was designed to do was provoke a "decisive battle" with the American fleet, and to the Japanese, that meant the American battleships. If you look at their fleet deployment as putting the big battleships in front, and deploying the carriers to cover the battleships like some kind of long-range artillery... of course it didn't work, especially as we knew that they were doing things that way, but it was definitely a conventional way of looking at a fleet engagement.

The Japanese knew that carriers were important, but still believed in their battleships, right up until the end; the US went from the same opinion to using battleships for "harbor defense" in port. ;p There were also big differences in aviator training and replacement programs, so that the US naval aviation experience survived some pretty heavy losses during the war, while the Japanese reserve of (very) skilled pilots was utterly exhausted even before the carriers and planes ran dry.

Posted by: Avatar at June 07, 2007 11:02 AM (s42Qj)

9 "So if the Aleutians diversion wasn't a concentration-in-time effort or a true feint, what was it?"

A seperate operation altogether. Particularly after the Doolittle raid, the Japanese were very paranoid about attacks on the Home Islands. They feared that air attacks could be launched from the Aleutians against Japan, so moved to prevent that from ever happening.

The "funny" thing is that they had little concept of the weather up there, and how miserable it was to fly in; the US had pretty much given up on staging bombers out of there.

The Aleutians were also a compromise. Pre-Doolittle, the Army were opposed to the Midway operation (remember, the Japanese military was very stratified; the Army and Navy often refused to work together). Post-Doolittle, the Army said that they'd support the Midway landings if the Navy would agree to the Aleutians operation. It was a scheduling quirk that had both kicking off at the same time.

Posted by: Wonderduck at June 07, 2007 02:11 PM (2nDll)

10 "In such things as radar, anti-aircraft weaponry and fire control, and particularly damage control aboard carriers, the US had an overwhelming advantage. For example, according to Senshi Shoho, the Akagi suffered only one bomb hit and two near misses during the climactic attack, yet this was enough to set her ablaze fatally."

In part. There were several factors involved, however:

- It wasn't until after Coral Sea and Midway that the Navy deployed improved firefighting equipment on its ships. Before this the US and Japanese were essentially equal in the firefighting departments.

- The Franklin survived because (a) it was a tougher, more modern Essex class carrier and (b) the foam-emitting firefighting equipment used was a generation more advanced than that of the older carriers.

- One of the principle reasons Japan went to war was to gain control of the vast oil reserves in the Dutch East Indies. W/O those reserves they would not have been able to attack Midway. The most attractive features of these fields were their purity and quality - they required almost no refining to be used as bunker oil. Unfortunately, the Japanese didn't glom onto the "almost required almost no refining" part and took it straight out of the ground and into their fuel bunkers. "Almost" means that there were free radicals and volatiles still in the oil, making it highly volatile and likely to explode. Commercial-grade refined oil, in comparison, is much harder to ignite accidentally. The oil in Japanese fuel bunkers tended to explode when hit, making their ships powder kegs just waiting to be lit off.

- The principle advantage of the US fleet at Midway was that they had cracked the Japanese naval code and knew what the enemy was up to. They knew the enemy plan of attack and how best to counter it. The Japanese on their part had very poor intel on the US Fleet. They thought Yorktown was crippled and would be out of action for at least 6 months. They thought Nimitz would sortee the Pacific fleet to defend the Aleutians, when he had no intention of doing so even if he hand't known the Japanese's prime target was Midway.

Posted by: Orion at June 12, 2007 05:02 AM (xGZ+b)

11 "It wasn't until after Coral Sea and Midway that the Navy deployed improved firefighting equipment on its ships. Before this the US and Japanese were essentially equal in the firefighting departments."

Almost correct. The US had instituted one firefighting technique that almost certainly saved the Yorktown during it's first Midway bombing, that of draining the aircraft fuel lines and filling them with carbon dioxide.

The Lexington, sunk at Coral Sea, eventually died due to a massive explosion, caused by fuel vapors 'cooking off'. The Yorktown's damage control specialist knew this and suggested to the Captain that clearing the lines and filling them with an inert gas would prevent this, and indeed, it did. It wasn't until the torpedo attacks from both Kates and submarine that the carrier was given up for dead.

"They thought Yorktown was crippled and would be out of action for at least 6 months."

Actually, the Japanese thought the Yorktown was dead, sunk at Coral Sea. Minor point, but there nonetheless.

"They thought Nimitz would sortee the Pacific fleet to defend the Aleutians..."

Not so. The Aleutians attack was scheduled to occur on the same day as the Midway attack. It was only due to the Midway fleet's inability to sail on time (refueling problems) that the Aleutians attack occurred 24 hours before Midway. (please see debunking #4 in the main post for more details)

Posted by: Wonderduck at June 12, 2007 09:51 AM (h/YdH)

12

Midway's influence extended far beyond the Pacific as it radiated into North Africa, into Normandy and into the Russian front.  Even for the Pacific your reasonment assumes the Japense do nothing and just let the USN buildup.

Midway allowed Roosevelt to set a policy of Germany first (even with the Midway victory the Democrats paid a heavy price for it at the midterm electioons): D-Day came very close to be a failure and the German defences would have been far stronger in 1945, without Midway it would have been probably impossible for Roosevelt to lend to the British the Sherman tanks who won the Battle of El Alamein, without Midway operation Torch would have been impossible  since the carriers who covered it would have had to be assigned to the Pacific.  Operation Torch pinned in the Mediterranean crucial assets who, at least for the air ones, could have been used to strengthen Von Manstein's attempt to relieve the Sixth Army trapped at Stalingrad, also when the Germans tried to supply the Sixth Army only half of their transport planes were available, the other half was supplying the forces who had been sent to oppose Torch.  Finally, Hitler had assumed that the Japanese would keep the Americans busy for a couple years, Midway altered his plans and in a little known but first magnitude  unforced error he transferred several elite units to the West at a time the Sixth Army could have taken Stalingrad on the run had it had just one or two additional divisions.  Of course, we know that there was no way the Allies could do more than a large scale raid in 1942 but nevertheless Midway was one of the main factors in why Hitler sent those divisions to France instead of to the Sixth Army.  In 1943 when faced with the option of staying in the defensive Hitkler embarked in the ill-fated offensive at Kursk because he believed Germany needed to knock out the USSR in order to be able to turn West and face the Allied landings. 

The other point is that you assume that had the Americans lost at Midway it would have been just a matter of the IGN having four more cariers in 1944 and the Americans two less.   But a victorious IJN could have conquered Hawai or least make it it thus depriving the USN of a crucial base and severely curtailing its ability to operate against them.  The Japanse would have been able to put an air base at Guadalcanal and cut the communications between Americans and Australia.  They could have conquered New Caledonia thus depriving the Allies of half the world production of Nickel,  a metal used in stainless steel and many alloys.  But most importantly there is a definite possibility that the USN would have not had the leisure to build and train the impressive force who mopped the floor with the IJN in 1944, instead it is very possible as soon as out of the shipyards new US carriers would have been to be sent piecemeal to put out the fires set by the IJN and be destroyed in battles were they would have been outnumbered. 

Despite my critics about your conclusions over the importance of Midway I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed your article.  In fact I have spent several days trying to find it after coming on it a couple years ago but failing to bookmark it.  That is why I datred to post a reply four years after the initial post.   

Posted by: JFM at July 11, 2011 07:23 AM (avBnI)

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