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Battle of Midway - Yamamoto's plan

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Yamamoto's plan
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Yamamoto's plan

Typical of Japanese naval planning during the Second World War, Yamamoto's battle plan was exceedingly complex. Additionally, his design was predicated on optimistic intelligence suggesting USS Enterprise and USS Hornet, forming Task Force 16, were the only carriers available to the U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time. USS Lexington had been sunk and USS Yorktown severely damaged (and believed by the Japanese to have been sunk) at the Battle of the Coral Sea just a month earlier. The Japanese were also aware that USS Saratoga was undergoing repairs on the West Coast after taking torpedo damage from a submarine.

More important, however, was Yamamoto's belief the Americans had been demoralized by their frequent defeats during the preceding six months. Yamamoto felt deception would be required to lure the U.S. fleet into a fatally compromised situation. To this end, he dispersed his forces so that their full extent (particularly his battleships) would be unlikely to be discovered by the Americans prior to battle. Unbeknownst to Yamamoto, any benefit from this was neutralized by the fact the United States had broken the main Japanese naval code (dubbed JN-25 by the U.S.), and his emphasis on dispersal meant that none of his formations could support each other.

Critically, Yamamoto's supporting battleships and cruisers would trail Vice-Admiral Nagumo Chūichi's carrier striking force by several hundred miles. Japan's heavy surface forces were intended to destroy whatever part of the U.S. fleet might come to Midway's relief, once Nagumo's carriers had weakened them sufficiently for a daylight gun duel; this was typical of the battle doctrine of most major navies. Their distance from Nagumo's carriers would also have grave implications during the battle, since Yamamoto's body included a light carrier and cruisers carrying scout planes, which deprived Nagumo of invaluable reconnaissance.

Aleutian invasion

Likewise, the Japanese operations aimed at the Aleutian Islands (Operation AL) removed yet more ships from the force striking Midway. Whereas prior historical accounts have often characterized the Aleutians operation as a feint to draw American forces away, recent scholarship on the battle has shown that AL was designed to be launched simultaneously with the attack on Midway. However, a one-day delay in the sailing of Nagumo's task force had the effect of initiating Operation AL a day before the Midway attack.


Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 April 2009 20:56 )  

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