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Midway Inquest: Why the Japanese Lost the Battle of Midway (2007)

– tekijä: Dallas W. Isom

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioKeskustelut
331586,301 (3.25)-
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.… (lisätietoja)
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It won't take you long to realize this was written by a lawyer.

This really is an inquest into the battle of Midway -- a post-mortem examination into a specific topic. In essence, it looks at one very detailed question -- exactly when did the Japanese Admiral Nagumo learn that there were American ships in the area of Midway -- and how the exact time affected the outcome of the battle. (Isom's conclusion is that Nagumo received the signal about twenty minutes after the time most students of the battle list -- and as a result lost the Battle of Midway, because those twenty minutes were all that it took to trap him into a disastrous strategy).

That point is important, because this isn't really a very good overall history of the battle. There isn't much of a general overview of the conflict; we head straight into the weeds. That's not terrible if you already know the story of the battle -- but if you don't, you'll probably find your head spinning and no idea why you should care about all this information. So this assuredly shouldn't be your first book about Midway. Nor is it worth the effort if you don't want to really get into details. This is a book about building a case, and Isom does it brick by brick, and in the end, it's quite an imposing edifice.

Does that make it right? I have to admit that I'm not sure. Without an equally detailed exposition from the other side, how can we know if there aren't holes in the case? I will grant that it's an impressive argument. On the other hand, it's not something I was deeply worried about -- far more important to know that the Americans won at Midway than to know exactly what moment things went wrong for the Japanese.

Also, the book addresses only one particular problem: Why, after making his first strike at Midway Island, Admiral Nagumo decided to re-arm his planes to make a second attack on Midway rather than keep them available for attacks on ships. It is generally agreed that this decision cost Nagumo the battle -- but it's worth remembering that military defeat usually stems from a series of mistakes, not just one. Isom lists several other mistakes in the sequence, but I'm really not sure this sequence is right. Certainly there have been other sequences listed.

And, ironically, because Isom is so intent on his one mistake, he doesn't address some of the other errors with which the Japanese have been charged. For instance, some writers say that the real fault of the Japanese was to divide their navy into many small forces, some headed for the Aleutians, some headed for Midway. This has always struck me as bogus. Yes, the Japanese had about eight different task forces floating around. But there were really only two: the group headed for Midway and the one headed for the Aleutians. These were divided into smaller fleets, but the main reason for that was because the ships had different sailing characteristics -- transports with a top speed of fifteen knots, e.g., would simply be an impediment to a fast carrier flotilla that could steam at thirty-odd knots! And sending a force to the Aleutians was a feint, and no one objects to feints in general; it's only when they detract too much from the main forces that they become a problem. And the Aleutians force had no fleet carriers and no battleships -- the only ships that could possibly count in a major battle. It was a feint that failed, but there was nothing wrong with the concept.

It seems to me that the Japanese made three basic errors, and the Aleutians feint wasn't one of them. Their first error was that they didn't anticipate that the Americans could read their coded transmissions. Their second was that they had wanted to have a line of screening submarines to watch for the Americans, and it didn't arrive in time. The third mistake was that Nagumo simply wasn't emotionally prepared for the possibility that there might be surprises. Isom in effect adds a fourth mistake, following on the third. It is the fourth which Isom addresses, and he argues (successfully, I think) that Nagumo responded properly in that situation. But that doesn't change errors #1, #2, and #3. And these Isom does not address. To return to the inquest analogy, he's figured out what killed the murder victim. But he hasn't addressed who did it or why. ( )
1 ääni waltzmn | Jul 1, 2017 |
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PREFACE
This book on the pivotal 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.
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia (1)

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.

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