October 29, 2011

The Flight To The Battle of Midway Roundtable

Back on October 6th, I posted a 3000-word article on The Flight To Nowhere, the disastrous mission of the USS Hornet's Air Group on the first day of the Battle of Midway.  After I posted it, I realized that it was actually pretty decent.  On a whim, I sent a link to the post to Ronald Russell, author of the book No Right To Win and the webmaster of the Battle of Midway Roundtable.

The BOMRT is an online gathering of historians, authors, interested amateurs, and (most importantly) veterans of the Battle of Midway.  It's probably the foremost online resource on the events of Midway, which explains why pretty much anybody who's written a book on the Battle or related topics in recent years is a member; Jon Parshall and Anthony Tully, John Lundstrom, Robert Cressman, Alvin Kernan, Robert Mrazek, Norman Polmar, amongst others.

A few hours after I sent the link to Mr Russell, I got a response with a few notes and a willingness to use the post in the next "issue" of the BOMRT Newsletter.  To say this is something of an honor is understating the matter a bit; short of the article actually being published somewhere, that's about as good as it gets for an "interested amateur" like myself.

The new issue of the Newsletter was posted today.  You can find the relevant "Now Hear This" page right here

I'm somewhat chuffed.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:30 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
Post contains 244 words, total size 2 kb.

1 Congrats! How does it feel to be a historian?

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at October 29, 2011 10:55 PM (GJQTS)


First, my congratulations.

Now, on to substance: there's been something about your post that's bothered me ever since. Your fundamental supposition is that when a military commander's mistakes can lead to the deaths of his subordinates, then he should be held responsible for them and relieved of command.

I understand the feeling that losing people should be a high burden and a huge black mark. But, well, everyone makes mistakes, and that's true during war just as much as in any other time. If we insist that our generals and admirals be perfect, we won't be able to come up with any admirals or generals.

There isn't a single major allied commander in WWII who didn't have at least one such blunder to his name. For instance, there was Halsey and Typhoon Cobra. Nimitz screwed up in not taking the reports of torpedo failures seriously enough early enough, defanging his submarine force for most of the first year of the war.

Spruance is often accused of not being sufficiently aggressive. MacArthur... well, the list of his mistakes is a long one.

And that was true in Europe, too.

It's been said that everyone makes mistakes in war, and the side that makes the fewest wins. But no one ever manages to get through with no mistakes at all.

If Nimitz had been as eager to can people for mistakes as you implied he should have been, then who would he have had as commanders by the end of the war?

Nimitz knew that mistakes were inevitable. But he also could tell that men like Marc Mitscher were valuable, and he  couldn't spare them even if they screwed up royally.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 30, 2011 12:39 AM (+rSRq)

3 Where is, repeat, where is Task Force 34? The world wonders...

I don't know if that extends to whitewashing the record, though. It's one thing for high command to get accurate reports of a screw-up and then to decide that it doesn't merit disciplinary action. It's quite another if they just don't know what really happened because someone's CO covered their ass.

The Japanese had a bad case of that, especially when it came to cross-service information sharing. The Japanese army knew it was over-committed; the Japanese navy knew (after Midway, anyway) that it couldn't win in a standard fleet action. But each service thought the other was in much better condition than it was. Lots of "if only they had been honest with us!" in after-war comments. Of course, they lost the war...

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at October 30, 2011 02:55 AM (GJQTS)

4 Steven, Av's got the right of it... I AM more concerned about the "sweeping it under the rug" aspect and the blatant falsification of records than I am the "he made a mistake" aspect.

People make mistakes.  But it's fairly clear that Ring should never have been in the position of command that he had, it cost two squadrons of aircraft and many people their lives for no material gain against the enemy, and then for all intents and purposes he got rewarded and promoted for his failure.  That's what I have the biggest problem with.

Posted by: Wonderduck at October 30, 2011 08:59 AM (o45Mg)

Posted by: Siergen at October 30, 2011 06:17 PM (CfQd5)

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