In 1942 Captain Edwin T. Layton delivered quality intelligence analysis to Admiral Chester Nimitz. Should a major war break in the Pacific today, could the intelligence community match Layton's performance? Not likely.
On 30 May 1942, a naval intelligence officer made one of the most important judgments in modern U.S. history. The war in the Pacific and the fate of the nation seemed to rest on his shoulders as he briefed Admiral Chester Nimitz at Pacific Fleet headquarters on the possible dates and disposition of a Japanese task force. Sensing the officer's hesitation to commit to a precise assessment, Admiral Nimitz said, "I want you to be specific. After all, this is the job I have given you—to be the admiral commanding the Japanese forces, and tell me what is going on."
The intelligence officer carefully recapped what he knew and delivered his assessment: Japanese carriers would attack Midway on the morning of 4 June and could be sighted at 0700 approximately 175 nautical miles from Midway bearing 325°. Six days later, when the enemy force was detected, Admiral Nimitz turned to his intelligence officer and remarked with a smile, "Well, you were only 5 minutes, 5 degrees, and 5 miles out." The rest of the story is a glorious page in the history of our Navy. The officer was Captain Edwin T. Layton, who today stands as the paragon of Naval Intelligence professionals. 1