on 10 April 2008
Accounts of this battle, both published and unpublished, are extremely numerous and this author has considered them all - and their many contradictions - in an attempt to present a truly accurate description of the events. He has also interviewed many of the survivors, especially in Japan, for which great credit is due.
In short, it's the book I have been waiting for and it's best to get the niggles out of the way first, such as abundant mis-spelling and, at times, a chaotic presentation. Also annoying is the fact that many pages are dominated by the sub-notes: some perfunctory, others a story in their own right! I found much of the presentation annoying and the fact is that there is much detail that it's sometimes hard to follow the plot.
But then, this IS a very detailed account with a comprehensive analysis of every stage of the battle, not least the many, many mistakes made by both sides - and at so many different levels in their command chains. As the author gradually picks his way though all this it becomes rather sobering, as do the several inglorious claims to fame. It's also good to see some of the technology put in the frame, even the reality of radio communications between ship and plane. Shocking inadequacies are revealed on both sides.
And there's the rub for Peter Smith is a British author and this enables him to referee, as it were, perspectives from both combatants' sides, and in places, make telling comparisons with Royal Navy experience. At several points the text really lights up!
Without wishing to spoil the plot, although it's well known of course, put very simply, 3 American carriers ambushed 4 Japanese ones, and the result left just two carriers still afloat, both American. What isn't immediately obvious is that EVERY carrier which was attacked was sunk.
One of the Appendices carries particular clout, "Midway and the Media". Quite a wide net is cast, not least the grossly inaccurate Hollywood film "Battle of Midway" by which most people know the battle. Smith's book holes this film below the waterline and his derision for re-writing of history is palpable. It's good to see a measured account that tries to set the record straight. If you can bear with the glitches mentioned above, the demolition of so many myths and a measured presentation of what most probably actually happened is a joy to read.