Ewa Marine Corps Air Station is located in the southeast corner of Oahu, Hawaii. It was the first site attacked by Japanese aircraft on their mission to destroy the U.S. fleet in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In the attack, the entire squadron (48 fighters and dive-bombers) of Marine Air Group -21 (MAG) were destroyed on the ground, as well as a Red Cross ambulance and a fire engine.
The International Midway Memorial Foundation (IMMF) has been working to place Ewa Marine Corps Air Station on the List of the National Registry, a designation that would provide the first level of protection for the air station from being destroyed so that a private mall can be built on its grounds. In consultation with the National Park Service, it became clear that the air station clearly met the criteria for being designated a National Historic Landmark (NHL), but the first -- easier -- step would be to place the Ewa Marine Corps Air Station on the List of the National Registry. The IMMF was also advised that, in order for the Foundation to proceed, it would first need to receive the approval of the Department of the U.S. Navy. To my disappointment, the office representing B.J. Penn, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, declined to grant this permission to the foundation.
With this information in hand, the IMMF is putting forth its best efforts to the Department of Interior to retain Ewa Marine Corps Air Station on the proposed list of historic sites that are to receive National Monument status by President Bush. The effort is on-going and the answer to whether Ewa Marine Corps Air Station is saved should come soon.
The International Midway Memorial Foundation, in association with the Navy Memorial and the History Department of George Washington University, will host a Battle of Midway Symposium at the Navy Memorial on June 4, 2009. Representing George Washington University will be Richard C. Thornton, Professor of History and International Affairs. Invitations will also be extended to Dr. William S. Dudley, former Director of the Naval Historical Center; Rear Admiral Jay DeLoach, USNR (Ret.), present Director of the Naval Historical Center; Midway veterans and other interested parties. The Battle of Midway will be reviewed both from a military and political perspective. Individuals who wish to participate in the symposium may contact me at 941-744-5140. Further details regarding the time of the symposium and an outline of the program will follow. In addition, the Navy Memorial will host a commemorative ceremony to the Battle of Midway on its front grounds on that date.
The IMMF continues its critical review of the assertions made in the book Shattered Sword, by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully.
Assertion: "Had Nagumo not decided to rearm his aircraft with land attack weapons, he would have been in position to attack the Americans as soon as they were discovered. Not true. The reserve strike aircraft were not spotted on the flight deck when the Americans were detected. Given the time required to spot the decks, Nagumo's odds of launching an attack before Tomonaga's return were low at best. The ceaseless American air attacks had destroyed any reasonable possibility of spotting the decks before Tomonaga's return because of the constant launch and recovery of combat air patrol (CAP) fighters."
Discussion: In order to respond to the assertion, one must first be aware of the tactical disposition of the aircraft regarding their attack on Midway Island. The first wave of planes attacking Midway Island consisted of 36 dive-bombers, 36 torpedo bombers and 36 fighters for a total of 108 planes. Thirty-six of the dive-bombers came from the Akagi and Kaga, leaving the torpedo bombers behind on those two carriers. Thirty–six of the torpedo bombers came from the Soryu and Hiryu, leaving the dive-bombers behind on those two carriers. There were 9 fighters from each of the four carriers for a total of thirty-six fighters.
Given that disposition, one must realize that the changing from torpedoes to bombs and vice-versa was occurring only on the Akagi and Kaga, since Soryu and Hiryu had only dive-bombers aboard. An option open to Admiral Nagumo, which he did not choose to execute, was for the combat air control to launch and land from one carrier, namely Akagi or Kaga. This disposition would have enabled Soryu and Hiryu to spot their dive bombers and either Akagi or Kaga to spot its torpedo bombers.
Conclusion: Admiral Nagumo gave the order to change from torpedoes to bombs before knowing for certain that an American Task Force was not in the vicinity. Clearly the larger threat was from an American fleet, so that the order for the change in armament was an error in judgement. The following is the time sequence of events: 0445, the first wave of 108 planes head toward Midway; 0700, Nagumo received a message from Lt. Tomonaga that a second strike on Midway was necessary; 0715, Admiral Nagumo gave the order to change from torpedoes to bombs on the aircraft on Akagi and the Kaga; 0748, Nagumo received word that 10 enemy war ships were spotted by Tone's Number 4 scout plane; 0820, Tone's Number 4 reported that an enemy carrier was sighted; 0830, the first wave of the Japanese strike force was returning from Midway.
If the dive-bomber planes on the Soryu and Hiryu and the torpedoes planes from one of the remaining carriers were spotted at 0700, with the remaining carrier functioning to launch and land the aircraft of the combat air control, the Japanese would have been able to launch at 0815 36 dive bombers, 18 torpedo planes and 18 fighters for a total of seventy-two planes against the American carriers. The key in this situation was not to have had every carrier tied down to launching and landing the combat air patrol for refueling and rearming which prevented the spotting of aircraft.
The time frame for honoring Admiral Houser is now best suited to be held around June 4, 2009. The Dinner honoring Admiral Houser will be on an evening in that week leading up to the Midway Symposium. Details will follow.