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Battle of Midway - Aftermatch

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Battle of Midway
Yamamoto's plan
Prelude to battle
Battle
Attacks on the Japanese fleet
Japanese counterattacks
Aftermatch
Discovery of sunken vessels
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Aftermath

After winning a clear victory, and as pursuit became too hazardous near Wake, American forces retired. Japan's loss of four out of her six fleet carriers, as well as a large number of highly trained aircrews, ended Japanese expansion in the Pacific. Only Zuikaku and Shōkaku were left for offensive actions. Japan's other carriers, Ryūjō, Junyo, and Hiyo, were second-rate ships of comparatively poor effectiveness.

On 10 June, the Imperial Japanese Navy conveyed to the military liaison conference an incomplete picture of the results of the battle, on the ground that the real extent of damage was a military secret not to be entrusted to all members. Only Emperor Hirohito was accurately informed of carriers and pilots losses, and he chose not to inform the Army immediately. Army planners then continued for a short time to believe the fleet was healthy and secure.

Allegations of war crimes

Three U.S. airmen, Ensign Wesley Osmus (pilot, Yorktown), Ensign Frank O'Flaherty (pilot, Enterprise) and Aviation Machinist's Mate B. F. (or B. P.) Gaido (radioman-gunner of O'Flaherty's SBD) were captured by the Japanese during the battle. Osmus was held on the destroyer Arashi, with O'Flaherty and Gaido on the cruiser Nagara (or destroyer Makigumo, sources vary), and it is alleged they were later killed. The report filed by Admiral Nagumo states of Ensign Osmus, "He died on 6 June and was buried at sea". Nagumo records obtaining seven items of information, including Fletcher's strength, but does not mention the death of O'Flaherty or Gaido. The practice of burial at sea applying even to enemy dead was common to all navies involved.

Impact

The battle has often been called "the turning point of the Pacific". However, Japanese continued their expansion moves in the South Pacific, and it was many more months before the U.S. moved from a state of naval parity to one of increasingly clear supremacy, so Midway by itself did not change the direction of the war in the same sense as Salamis or Trafalgar. Nonetheless, Midway was the Allies' first decisive victory against the previously unbeaten Japanese, and along with the earlier inconclusive Battle of Coral Sea, both battles blunted Japan's strategic initiative and robbed them of their offensive capability. It paved the way for the following campaigns around the Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal, which would see the Allies prevail after a prolonged attrition in combined arms and take the offensive in the Pacific War.

The Battle of Midway permanently damaged the Japanese Navy's striking power, and the loss of operational capability during this critical phase of the campaign ultimately proved decisive. In particular, the battle inflicted irreparable damage on the Japanese carrier force, such that they could no longer put together a large number of fleet carriers with well-trained aircrews. Japanese planners, having failed to foresee a long war, were ill-prepared to replace the loss of ships, pilots, and sailors; at Midway, the Japanese lost as many aircrewmen in a single day as their pre-war training program had produced in a year. Replacing their combat experience would be impossible. The following Battles of Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz would further decimate what remained of their veteran aircrews. Also important was the loss of four of Japan's fleet carriers; her carrier strength did not recover until 1944. By the time of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, while the Japanese had somewhat rebuilt their carrier forces, the planes largely were flown by inexperienced pilots so it was not as potent a striking force as it was before Midway.

In the same span of time, the U.S. Navy commissioned more than two dozen fleet and light fleet carriers, and numerous escort carriers. By 1942, the United States was already three years into a shipbuilding program, mandated by the Second Vinson Act, intended to make the navy larger than Japan's. The greater part of USN aviators survived the Battle of Midway and subsequent battles of 1942, unlike their Japanese counterparts, and combined with the ramping up of training programs, the US was able to develop a large number of skilled pilots to complement its material advantages in ships and planes.


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

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