This is a Kindle book which I, not yet modern enough for a Kindle, am reviewing as a Word file on my desktop. That way it runs to 79 pages although as I understand it on a Kindle it might run to rather fewer. It is essentially a pamphlet rather than a book and, as I have it, is clearly a text which could be usefully fleshed out with maps, charts and photographs to make a very attractive contribution to popular naval history.
No, that's too dismissive. Freeman has brought the story up to date in terms of modern research - in particular some strikes on the enemy being much less successful than was earlier supposed - and his analysis is excellent, bringing out extraordinarily well the key facts about the battle. He has backed up his work very professionally with sources for quotations and a well-selected shortlist of further reading. And, quite extraordinarily for a civilian, he has got the tone of the thing right.
Well summarised are the negative factors involved - Yamamoto's failure to follow some basic Principles of War, in particular Maintenance of the Aim and Concentration of Effort, and the same officer's glib false assumptions about the enemy's immediate dispositions, most particularly his assumption that the American carrier USS Yorktown had been sunk at Coral Sea; Japanese over-use of the French Frigate Shoals on trivial errands was another mistake as the Americans then prevented their use for supporting reconnaissance flights to Hawaii.
The USN attacks were hampered by its inferior aircraft and weapons, flight deck drills in need of improvement, and, crucially, the decision not to pass to the air groups Nagumo's northward alteration of course, a decision that cost the USN many planes for no return at all. The US Army's B-17s on Midway were predictably useless and expensive in scarce fuel (shades of 1982 Black Buck) but one can understand that leaving them out of the battle would have been morally unacceptable.
So what went right? Most clearly the incredible heroism and determination of the personnel of the US Navy, and of the USMC pilots on Midway Island itself, but also the incredible feat of getting the Yorktown - `the Fighting Lady' - fit for battle in three days flat when the received opinion after Coral Sea was that she needed months in a Stateside dockyard; and, crucially, Captain Rochefort USN's cryptographic coup which enabled Nimitz to finesse the Japanese objective and get his carriers to sea, and in the right place, before ever the Japanese plan expected them. So also Lieutenant Commander McClusky's inspired decision to track the Japanese carriers to what proved to be their doom. It was, like Marston Moor, a close-run thing and McClusky was in this case the man who turned the tide. Even here luck played a part, Nagumo being caught with his kimono up and his pants down, his aircraft struck down for refuelling and rearming.
Yamamoto knew the US better than most Japanese seniors. He knew Japan had only six months to knock America out of the war before the US industrial machine started to grind Japan to dust, and I don't think he (or most commentators) realised that Pearl Harbor was a strategic Japanese defeat; it rid the USN and its black-shoe admirals of any lingering reliance on battleships for fleet actions, and left its carriers, which were quite fortuitously absent, to come into their inheritance as rulers of the Pacific and for the USN to take over the dominance of the sea which the Royal Navy had exercised since 1580. There is no world power without sea power, and the lesson of Midway and the ensuing seventy years is that sea power means aircraft carriers of a size to carry the battle to the enemy regardless of other influences. Any other sort of Navy is just along for the ride.
America learned, and could afford to profit by the lessons of Coral Sea and Midway.
Back to 1942. The Doolittle raid must have given Yamamoto a whiff of what was in store. Pearl Harbor also inspired in the American flyers a lust for revenge and zeal for battle of which Nagumo's carriers were to reap the whirlwind.
Two codas, just to show I do read the text: the gift of a crashed Zero received with such glee at Midway did indeed allow the Americans to produce much better fighters, although the Zero itself must have been inspired by Howard Hughes' pre-war H1, so casually dismissed by the American aeronautical establishment as `Not Invented Here' (Mitsubishi deny this, but they would, wouldn`t they?). Better fighters also accelerated the American Pacific victory via the 1944 battle of the Philippine sea (the `Great Marianas Turkey Shoot') in which the Japanese aircrew replacements were shot out of the sky almost at will. The attrition of experienced Japanese naval aircrew in the earlier Battle of the Coral Sea, and at Midway, was a major contributor to this and I would not write Coral Sea off as a `draw'. As Freeman himself points out, it did stop the Japanese advance on Port Moresby and in that sense was definitely a strategic victory. It is ironic that losing at Midway saved the Japanese from several more atom bombs and a chemical weapons attack on the mainland which, although richly deserved, would have reduced Nippon pretty much to a deserted slag heap.
Freeman's ultimate analysis is thus spot on. Midway cleared the way for a much more rapid American victory in the Pacific than would otherwise have been the case and allowed that prioritisation of the European war that shaped our own nearby continent, and thus the world, for the remainder of the twentieth century. By ensuring victory in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, as above, Midway cleared the way for the capture of Tinian and its use as a B29 base. Curtis Lemay's victory in the air was won on the back of Nimitz' and Halsey's victories at sea (and no little of that was their skill in turning `ninety-day wonders' into sea officers). In that way the heroism and dedication of the USN and USMC pilots at Midway, small though their numbers were, helped to save a million Allied lives in the invasion that Coral Sea and Midway helped forestall.
As to the publisher's production values, proofreading is essential for dictated work -`hale' of fire! and `likely' for `lightly'. Personally I do not so warm to an e-text as to a real book, but each to his own. Otherwise, as above, a first-rate summary of an absolutely vital battle and a useful update to the general corpus of naval history. Detailed personal accounts are sparse but if you want that, pay for six hundred pages somewhere else. If you want a crisp, thorough briefing on what actually happened and how America (just) won, four anchors.