Foreword for Midway

By Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, U.S. Navy (Retired)

In reading the account of what happened on 4 June, I am more than ever impressed with the part that good or bad fortune sometimes plays in tactical engagements. The authors give us credit, where no credit is due, for being able to choose the exact time for our attack on the Japanese carriers when they were at the greatest disadvantage—flight decks full of aircraft fueled, armed and ready to go. All that I can claim credit for, myself, is a very keen sense of the urgent need for surprise and a strong desire to hit the enemy carriers with our full strength as early as we could reach them.

Two other points may be of interest in reading the Japanese account of Midway. One is our retirement to the eastward for some hours during the night of 4-5 June. The situation toward sundown on 4 June was that Admiral Fletcher’s afternoon search from Yorktown had located and reported Hiryu ; then Yorktown had been disabled by two torpedo hits from Hiryu ’s second attack; and finally Enterprise and Hornet ’s planes had knocked out Hiryu . After Enterprise and Hornet had recovered aircraft, I decided to retire to the eastward so as to avoid the possibility of a night action with superior forces; but to turn back to the westward during the night, so that at daylight we would be in air supporting distance of Midway, in case the enemy were to attack there. The Japanese did order a night attack.

The second point concerns what occurred on 6 June, the third and last day of the battle. I had desired to chase and to inflict as much damage as possible on the retreating enemy. We knew, however, that the Japanese had strong air forces on Wake waiting to garrison Midway after its capture. I had decided in advance that I would keep outside of the 700 mile circle from Wake to avoid attack by these forces. When the day’s action on 6 June was over—one search mission, three attack missions, and one photographic mission—we were short of fuel, and I had a feeling, an intuition perhaps, that we had pushed our luck as far to the westward as was good for us. Accordingly, we turned back to the eastward and headed for the oiler rendezvous which Admiral Nimitz had set up for us. Had we continued on to the westward during the night of 6-7 June, we would probably have run foul of Admiral Yamamoto and his superior Japanese forces the next morning.

Our success at the Battle of Midway was based primarily on the excellent intelligence which enabled Admiral Nimitz to exercise to the full his talent for bold, courageous, and wise leadership. He recalled Task Forces 16 and 17 from the South Pacific and, with no time to spare, had them lying in wait to the northeast of Midway. He disposed his available submarines to the northwestward of Midway. He strengthened the defenses of Midway itself with Marines, artillery, and aircraft, and instituted air searches over the critical areas. He sent forces to the Aleutians.

Admiral Fletcher, Commander Task Force 17, was also in overall command of Task Forces 16 and 17 and played a very important part in the battle. The Yorktown' s air group did splendid work as a unit until their ship was disabled, and after that the individual aircraft recovered by Enterprise and Hornet continued in the fight for the following two days.

I feel sure that all of us who took part in the Battle of Midway, as well as those who have studied it, will enjoy and profit by reading this Japanese account. The authors are to be congratulated on te research they have done and the book they have written.



Conferences and Events

Maritime Security Dialogue

Thu, 2015-07-09

You are cordially invited to: Surface Warfare in a Complex World A discussion with: Vice Admiral Thomas S. Rowden, USNCommander,...

2015 Naval History Conference

Why Become a Member of the U.S. Naval Institute?

As an independent forum for over 135 years, the Naval Institute has been nurturing creative thinkers who responsibly raise their voices on matters relating to national defense.

Become a Member Renew Membership