Midway

The Battle of MidwayI recently finished The Battle Of Midway by Craig Symonds.

It’s an enjoyable book, engrossing actually.  The second military book I’ve read in a row that has good maps.  The author challenges the idea of “The Miracle At Midway” in favor of a view of a battle won because of anything but luck.  My take is that strategically luck was not involved.  The U.S. Navy was in the right place at the right time because of good intelligence, not because of luck.  The Navy also had radar, the Japanese did not.  That gave the Navy a great advantage. If there was a miracle involved it was that the Navy had three carriers instead of only two because the dry-dock at Bremerton (?) was able to patch up a carrier so quickly – a job originally estimated to take a number of weeks.  Admiral Nimitz said three days and it was done.

On the tactical level, there was more luck involved.  There was a lot of poor performance by the Navy and its fliers.  The U.S. Hornet hardly contributed to the battle because of numerous errors and bad luck.  Because of lack of training and coordination between the squadrons from the three carriers, the U.S. planes ended up attacking in constant, unplanned waves that wore down the Japanese defenses until the U.S. dive bombers started to score hits with their big bombs.  The relative lack of experience of the U.S. fliers helped – in a way – to enable eventual victory.

So, strategy – no luck; tactics –  luck.  In the end a decisive strategic and tactical victory.  Since a strategic result is more consequential that a tactical result, I agree with the author that the luck concept of Midway is exaggerated.

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