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Midway Inquest

Why the Japanese Lost the Battle of Midway

Dallas Woodbury Isom

Publication Year: 2007

Midway, the most famous naval battle in American history, has been the subject of many excellent books. However, none satisfactorily explain why the Japanese lost that battle, given their overwhelming advantage in firepower. While no book may ever silence debate on the subject, Midway Inquest answers the central mystery of the battle. Why could the Japanese not get a bomber strike launched against the American carrier force before being attacked and destroyed by American dive bombers from the Enterprise and Yorktown? Although it is well known that the Japanese were unable to launch an immediate attack because their aircraft were in the process of changing armament, why wasn't the rearming operation reversed and an attack launched before the American planes arrived? Based on extensive research in Japanese primary records, Japanese literature on the battle, and interviews with over two dozen Japanese veterans from the carrier air groups, this book solves the mystery at last.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Twentieth-Century Battles


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-ix

This book on the pivotal naval battle of the Pacific War—and perhaps the most famous naval battle in American history—is the product of over ten years of research, much of it in Japan. I embarked on this project after concluding that none of the existing accounts on the Battle of Midway satisfactorily explained why the Japanese lost that battle; ...

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pp. xi-xiii

When I got the idea for this project to discover what really happened on the Japanese aircraft carriers during the crucial hours of the Battle of Midway, I realized I would not get very far unless I could link up with someone in Japan who could track down Japanese veterans of the battle and arrange interviews with them. ...

Map: Pacific Theater of Operations

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pp. xvi

Battle of Midway Search & Course Chart

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pp. xvii

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One Why This Inquest

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pp. 1-31

A great many books have already been written about the Battle of Midway. It continues to grip the imaginations of those interested in World War II because it had all the ingredients of an epic saga: it was the pivotal battle of the Pacific, and the underdog won. Not only did the Americans win this legendary battle of June 4, 1942, ...

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Two Prelude

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pp. 32-70

On September 6, 1941, the Japanese government decided to go to war with America. (Japan had been preparing for the possibility of war for several years, but at this time the Japanese Cabinet resolved to complete preparations.) Though the final decision to actually go to war was deferred, pending a possible but unlikely diplomatic breakthrough, ...

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Three The Run-up to Midway

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pp. 71-103

As we have seen, the impetus for the Midway operation was the failure of the Pearl Harbor operation to catch and destroy the American carriers of the Pacific Fleet. But this failure lost its sting in the immediate post–Pearl Harbor euphoria in Japan over the stunning achievements by its navy at Hawaii and the army in the Southern Operation. ...

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Four The Fatal Decision

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pp. 104-128

At 0715 on the morning of the battle, Admiral Nagumo made the fatal decision to rearm his torpedo planes with land bombs for a second strike on Midway. It was the first of three crucial decisions Nagumo made during the three critical hours before most of his carriers were destroyed at 1025. ...

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Five Gamble Lost

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pp. 129-153

Less than fifteen minutes after Nagumo gave the order to rearm his standby torpedo planes and dive-bombers for a second strike on Midway, the Tone 4 search plane discovered the American fleet. As we have seen, this discovery was fortuitous and could not have been made by Tone 4 this early had it not ...

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Six To Launch or Not to Launch

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pp. 154-181

We have seen that at 0820 Tone 4 spotted an American carrier “to the rear” of the cruisers and destroyers earlier reported. Nagumo received this report at 0830.1 It is doubtful that he was shocked by this discovery—as already mentioned, he probably had suspected the presence of carriers since 0800. ...

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Seven Ironies

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pp. 182-203

In the prior three chapters, Nagumo’s fateful decisions on the morning of June 4, 1942, have been analyzed from the perspective of the Japanese side of the battle. In this chapter I will attempt to put those decisions into the broader context that takes into account what happened on the American side of that battle ...

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Eight Denouement

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pp. 204-236

After three hours of almost unremitting attacks on the Mobile Force, at 1000 a moment of calm finally arrived in Nagumo’s headquarters on Akagi. The last torpedo from the second wave of American carrier-launched torpedo bombers had just been dropped at 0958, and there were no other American planes in sight. ...

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Nine Aftermath

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pp. 237-265

Yamamoto had one more card to play: to entice the two remaining American carriers north to the Aleutian area, where a newly constituted carrier force would lie in wait. That new force would consist of Junyo and the light carrier Ryujo of the Second Mobile Force, already in the Aleutians—reinforced by the light carrier Zuiho ...

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Ten Postmortem

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pp. 266-294

We have seen that the disaster that befell Nagumo’s Mobile Force at Midway was one from which the Japanese navy never recovered. It was not only one of the most lopsided naval victories in history, but the turning point of the Pacific War. However, it is generally accepted that had Nagumo gotten his grand-scale attack ...

Appendix A. Nagumo’s Official Report (Excerpts)

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pp. 295-328

Appendix B. SRMN-012, Traffic Intelligence Summaries, pp. 499–505

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pp. 329-336

Appendix C. Reconstruction of Japanese CAP activity

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pp. 337-340

Appendix D. A War Game Exercise

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pp. 341-352


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pp. 353-388

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 389-392


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pp. 393-408

E-ISBN-13: 9780253117021
E-ISBN-10: 025311702X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253349040

Page Count: 432
Illustrations: 18 b&w photos, 2 maps
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Twentieth-Century Battles