Midway Sentinal

Spring 2009



On June 4, 2009, a Battle of Midway Symposium will be held at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue. The symposium will be hosted by the Navy Memorial Foundation and the International Midway Memorial Foundation. Opening Remarks will be given by Rear Admiral Jay DeLoach, USN (Ret.), Director of the Naval Historical Center. The moderator of the symposium will be Dr. James M. D'Angelo. The panelists, thus far, include: Midway veterans Captain Jack W. Crawford, USN (Ret.), YORKTOWN (CV-5) and Joseph Sanes, USS HAMMANN (DD-412); James Perry, Ph.D, Northrup Grumman; Richard C. Thorton, Ph.D, Professor of History and International Affairs at George Washington University and William Price, National Security Agency (Ret.).

The discussion will cover the first six months of World War II in the Pacific with special emphasis on the Battle of Midway. The Battle of Midway Symposium begins at 0830 and ends at 1245. Lunch will be between 1245 and 1345. There will be a Navy Memorial Battle of Midway Ceremony at 1400, with a reception at 1500. The keynote speaker of the Ceremony is Admiral Gary Roughead, USN, Chief of Naval Operations. We look forward to seeing all of you there.


It is a well-accepted fact as documented in Fuchida's book Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan that Japan had all of its planes at Midway on its carriers' decks ready for takeoff, when the U.S. dive-bombers arrived on the scene. He stated that "On Akagi's flight deck all planes were in position with engines warming up. The big ship began turning into the wind." Fuchida postulated, that if the Japanese had five minutes more, every plane would have been launched and directed to the U.S. carriers. The words "five fateful minutes" reverberated throughout history as the difference between success and failure for the Japanese Navy in the battle of Midway.

Parshall and Tully's assertion: "Fuchida did not tell the truth... And, of course, his most blatant untruth concerned the state of the Japanese flight decks immediately before the decisive American attack between 1020 and 1027 on 4 June."

They argue — correctly — that photographs of three of the Japanese carriers taken at 0800 that morning by B-17 bombers found their decks devoid of bombers. Admittedly, the pictures were taken two hours and twenty minutes before the fateful American attack, leading to further inquires about whether the carrier decks were replete with planes at 1020-1027 that morning.

For the record, the time required for spotting and rearming planes is forty-five minutes to one hour. Parshall and Tully also recorded from the log of Akagi's flight operations the following:

0837-0900: recovered the Midway attack force
0910: recovered the Combat Air Patrol (CAP)
0932: launched the CAP
0951: recovered the CAP
1006: launched the CAP
1010: recovered the CAP

From this data, the authors conclude that the Japanese bombers could not have been spotted on deck at 1020 because Japanese Zeros were landing and taking off almost every 15-20 minutes to refuel and rearm.. They also point to additional evidence to support their case, that is, if Fuchida's statement were accurate, the Hiryu should have launched all of its planes at 1020, but did not do so until around 1050.

Discussion: The Japanese planes returning from their attack on Midway were recovered in the following order: 0850 by Kaga; Akagi by 0859; 0910 by Soryu and Hiryu. This gave one hour and 10 minutes for the carriers to rearm and spot the planes. It is important to mention that Parshall and Tully do not clearly tie together the CAP landings and take offs with the difference in flight operations between the Americans and the Japanese. The United States normally parked most of its aircraft on the flight deck and used the hangar below for repair and maintenance. The Japanese, on the other hand, used its hangars as its main storage area as well as for servicing, refueling, and loading ordnance. [1] In addition, the Americans used crash barriers to separate parked and landing aircraft, whereas the Japanese needed to clear its flight decks during flight operations. After each Japanese plane landed, it had to be stowed below before the next aircraft could land. This mode of operation kept Japanese flight decks clear and permitted a fairly rapid launch of aircraft, but during continuous flight operations, elevator cycles governed launch and recovery speeds. In consequence, more time was required to refuel and rearm planes than it would have taken to do this on the flight deck.[2] This operational policy for launching by the Japanese could require anywhere between forty-five and ninety minutes for planes to be recovered, rearmed, refueled and brought up by elevator to the flight deck for launching.

However, it was the frequency at which the CAP landed, moved below for refueling and rearmament, then back up the elevator to the flight deck for launching that prohibited the planes below (in the hangar deck) to be brought to the flight deck and launched. It is conceivable that some or all of the carriers had their dive bombers and torpedo bombers ready to be taken up the elevator to the flight deck for launching at 1020, but the repetitive landings and takeoffs of the CAP prevented this.

In testimony to the fact that the planes were not on flight decks ready for launching is the letter I received in May 1992, from Flight Petty Officer Taisuke Maruyama, observer for a Nakajima B5N2 Type 97 attack plane from the carrier Hiryu. In the letter, Maruyama summarizes his experiences on that fateful day. He participated in the attack on Midway on the morning of June 4, 1942, and later in the day, was involved in the attack on the USS YORKTOWN.

Of significance is his observation of what happened on the Hiryu at 1030 on June 4. He had retired to the flight ready-room for some rest, wondering when the order would come from Akagi to launch the planes. At 1030, someone came tearing into the ready-room crying "Akagi is done for." This testimony is consistent with the fact that the Japanese planes were still in the hangar decks of their carriers at the time of the U.S. dive-bomber attack, which occurred between 1022 and 1025 and destroyed three Japanese carriers.


[1] David C. Evans and Mark R. Peattie, Kaigun (Annapolis, Naval Institute Press, 1997) 324.
[2] Ibid., p. 323


Lyle Laverty, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks during the George Bush administration, thanked the IMMF for its contribution in providing the secretary with historical documentation for certain Pacific sites to be included in the Department of Interior's World War II Valor of the Pacific National Monument. Click here for a copy of his letter.

Chris and I wish you a great summer, and we think of you often.

Written By:

James M. Dangelo

Chairman and Founder, IMMF

Written By:

M. Christine Sims

Vice President and Chairman, IMMF

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