Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan, the Japanese Navy's Story (Bluejacket Books) Paperback – 9 Feb 2001
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The authors also do a fine job explaining the motivations and outlooks of the Japanese leaders, including the great famed Admiral Yamamoto--who evidently reacted to the Doolittle Raid by pushing for the attack on Midway. This key decision signed Japan's death warrant as regards the Pacific war. Had Japan instead turned west and attacked Russia, this could have changed the entire complexion of the war, as Germany might have prevailed against Russia, forcing the US to divert even more resources in its "Germany First" policy. The authors reveal how close Japan may have been to adopting this strategy.
This book impresses the reader not just with the mistakes the Japanese made, but also of the tenacity, skill, and competence of the former Japanese foe. The book was written in the early 1950s and the authors' viewpoints are somewhat overly colored by the aftermath of defeat--Japan had not yet shaken off the trauma of defeat and this pessimism about Japan's prospects is readily apparent. I trust the authors lived to see that in reality the Japanese people won, not lost, the war by becoming a prosperous and democratic economic powerhouse.
Incidentally, it appeared clear to me that the movie "Battle of Midway" with Henry Fonda was essentially based on this book.
This is a fine analysis of the most important battle of the Pacific War and constitutes essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the Battle of Midway and the reasons that Japan was defeated in both the battle and the war.
A few years after Midway two Japanese Naval aviators, Mitsuo Fuchida and Masatake Okumiya, wrote a scathing critique of the battle, exposing Japanese overconfidence, the rigidity of Japanese decision-making, and tarnishing in so doing the reputations of Admiral Yamamoto and others. Fushica's views are particularly valuable in that he was aboard the Japanese carrier Akagi during the battle, though grounded because of a recent operation. His record of the terrifying few minutes when the Dauntless dive bombers came out of the clouds to destroy the heart of the Japanese carrier fleet are invaluable, including his rescue and eventual return to Japan. Okumiya was attached to the northern force, part of the Midway operation, that attacked the fog-bound Aleutians, but who gathered much information about the battle afterwards from survivors.
The authors are harsh on the fecklessness of the Japanese naval forays into the Indian ocean which accomplished little of strategic value, the high-level conflicts in the Japanese decision-making process, and the over-confidence generated by their success at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere.
Tactics are also criticized, such as the perfunctory search plane missions to detect and locate enemy forces because the Japanese high command could not imagine that US forces might be within striking distance.
The book, reissued some years back by the Naval Institute Press, also contains footnotes that adds information not known to the Japanese authors at the time of writing.
The book is highly recommended for filling out the blanks in the battle of Midway and of adding details to the failures of Japanese strategic planning and decision-making.
The facts around these battles have been explained in a range of other books so that there are no real surprises. What is of interest is the insight that the book gives into the process of Japanese decision making during the war.
The authors show that following the victory at Pearl Harbour the Japanese didn't know what to do. The cruise to the Indian Ocean achieved little and used a large amount of their oil reserves. The overall command simply was not able to formulate a plan. Some groups thought of invading Darwin a plan which was shelved. In the end the attack on Midway was decided on. Such a plan put the Japanese miles from home at a considerable disadvantage.
The authors go on to show how the arrogance and self-confidence in that attack doomed the Japanese fleet. The failure to properly use sighting planes, the leaving of large numbers of aircraft on deck prior to the American attack.
The book is one of the most coherent attacks on the reputation of Yamamoto that I have read. For some reason Yamamoto has had a high reputation with American writers. The record shows that although Pearl Harbor went to plan it was all down hill after that.
The book is readable and evokes the frustration of felt by Japanese fighting men at the shortcomings of their leaders.
Fuchida and Okumiya place the reader on the bridge of the Akagi as she prepares to launch her airborne armada. One can only watch helplessly as the bombs begin to fall on the Japanese carriers at the moment of maximum peril, when bombs were scattered along the decks and fuel lines snaked between planes and flight personnel.
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