Oil Tanks burning on Midway

Oil Tanks burning on Midway

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Midway: Dauntless Victory, Fresh Perspectives on America's Seminal Naval Victory of World War II, Peter C. Smith. A very detailed and well researched account of the battle of Midway and of the historical debate that still surrounds it, supported by a mass of original documents and interviews with participants. An invaluable look at this crucial battle. [see more]

The Forgotten Story of Midway’s Marine Defenders

VMF-221 pilots pose at Ewa Mooring Mast Field, Hawaii, on July 12, 1942.

Outnumbered and outgunned, the Marine pilots of VMF-221 paid a heavy price for their heroic efforts to stem the Japanese onslaught on Midway Atoll.

At 0555 hours on June 4, 1942, the heart-pounding wail of Midway atoll’s air raid siren sent the pilots of Marine Fighting Squadron 221 (VMF-221) scrambling to their aircraft. The island’s air defense radar had detected a swarm of Japanese aircraft—“Many planes, 93 miles, 310 degrees, altitude 11,000 feet”—heading their way, and no pilot wanted to be caught on the ground when they arrived.

Second Lieutenant John C. Musselman Jr., the squadron duty officer, jumped in the command post pickup truck and raced along the line of aircraft revetments, gesturing wildly. “Get airborne!” he yelled excitedly. Within minutes, the taxiway was crowded with Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo and Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighters urgently scrambling to get into the air.

Major Floyd B. “Red” Parks, the squadron commander, took off first with his five-plane division of Buffalos. He was followed closely by three other F2A-3 divisions (one with a Wildcat attached) and a three-plane division of F4F-3s led by Captain John F. Carey (two additional Wildcats, already flying a patrol, joined Carey’s division after refueling). The five divisions were divided into two equal groups, one vectored out on an azimuth of 310 degrees and the other on 320 degrees. Altogether, VMF-221 put 26 fighters into the air, although one had to turn back. Second Lieutenant Charles S. Hughes’ engine was vibrating badly and losing power. “The engine was [running] so rough it would have been suicide to try and fight the plane,” he reported.

Captain Carey’s fifth division was the first to make contact. As Carey peered intently through his Wildcat’s windshield, scattered cumulous clouds cut visibility, making it difficult to see the reported “many bogies heading Midway.” He was at 14,000 feet, with 2nd Lt. Clayton M. Canfield echeloned right and slightly to the rear, and Captain Marion E. Carl several hundred yards behind. Canfield slid behind his leader as Carey “made a wide 270 degree turn, then a 90 degree diving turn.” Canfield’s radio suddenly came alive with the electrifying “Tally-ho! Hawks at angels 12,” and, after a slight pause, “accompanied by fighters.”

Arrayed in five “V” formations 2,000 feet below, 36 Nakajima B5N2 “Kate” level bombers and 36 Aichi D3A1 “Val” dive bombers roared toward the island. An escort of 36 Mitsubishi A6M2 Zeros flew out of position just below and behind them, expecting to catch the Americans climbing to attack. The Marines’ altitude advantage gave them a free pass at the exposed Japanese bombers.

Albatross chicks—the offspring of Midway’s famous “Gooney Birds”—survey the confusing scene on Sand Island as oil tanks burn after the Japanese attack. (National Archives)

Carey started his run “high side from the right” on the leader of the first V. He waited until the enemy plane filled his gunsight and then opened up with his four .50-caliber machine guns, shredding the Kate and setting it on fire, but not before its gunner cracked Carey’s windshield with a slug. Milliseconds later, the bomber blew up, filling the air with debris. Carey streaked down through the bomber formation, then zoomed up and turned back for another attack. He started to make a high wingover run when his F4F was raked by a burst of fire that tore through his right knee and left leg. In excruciating pain and on the verge of losing consciousness, Carey “dove at about a 40-degree angle and headed for a large cloud about five miles away.”

Canfield followed Carey through the enemy formation and “fired at the number three plane in the number three section until it exploded and went down in flames,” he reported. In the middle of the run, the Zero escort dived on the three Americans, cannons and machine guns blazing. Canfield said his Wildcat was “hit on the right elevator, left wing and flap and just ahead of the tail wheel by a 20mm cannon shell. There was also a .30-caliber hole through the tail wheel and one that entered the hood on the right side about six inches up, passing just over the left rudder pedal and damaging the landing gear.”

Canfield wisely decided to follow Carey to safety. “I went around the cloud in the opposite direction and joined up with him again,” he said. The two airmen headed in the general direction of Midway on an unsteady course. Carey kept losing altitude and falling behind. “I kept throttling back so he could keep up,” Canfield explained. “Carey’s wounds kept him from working the rudders, and his plane was all over the sky.”

The two pilots reached the field, which was under attack, and prepared to land. Canfield discovered that he did not have any flaps. “When the wheels touched the ground the landing gear collapsed and the plane slid along the runway,” he said. “When it stopped, I jumped out and ran for a trench just as a Japanese plane strafed my abandoned plane.” Carey landed right behind him, and “ended up in a ground loop, as I had a flat tire and could not control the plane because of the wound in my leg.” He was pulled out of the wreck just before the bombs began to fall.

Despite being wounded in both legs, Captain John F. Carey managed to return his shot-up Wildcat to Midway. (National Archives)

Meanwhile, Captain Carl had been tangling with the Japanese. As he rolled in on an overhead pass, he caught sight “of these damn Zeros…the air was full of them!” Carl made a high-side firing pass on one of them, and looked back to see the results of his attack. He was surprised to see several Zeros swinging into position on his tail, so he dived straight down at full throttle, then zoomed back up to 20,000 feet. Heading toward Midway, Carl spotted three Zeros at low altitude. They didn’t see him “drop astern and to the inside of the circle made from one of the fighters. I gave him a long burst, until he fell off on one wing…out of control, [and] headed almost straight down with smoke streaming from the plane.”

“I looked around and can’t find a friendly airplane any place,” Carl continued, “…and the next thing I know, I’ve got a Zero on my tail…that’s shooting away.” He headed for a cloud, “chopped the power, and threw the plane into a skid. When I came out of the other side, the Zero had overrun me. I pulled the trigger on my guns—and got nothing!” His guns had jammed, but evidently Carl’s maneuver “scared [the Japanese pilot] so badly that he gave up the fight.”

Despite being shot up, Carl was able to limp back to safety. He went on to become the Marine Corps’ seventh-ranking fighter ace, with 18½ victories.

E lsewhere, Red Parks led his division’s obsolete Buffalos against the incoming raiders, and was immediately jumped by the Zero escort. Hughes, who watched the battle from the ground, said the Buffalos “looked like they were tied to a string while the Zeros made passes at them.” Parks, one of the first victims, bailed out of his burning aircraft. His parachute opened, but as he dangled from the shroud lines, a Zero pilot strafed him all the way down, and continued to fire even as his body landed on a reef.

Parks may have had a premonition the night before his death. Normally an extrovert, he was moody and distracted. Captain Kirk Armistead tried to cheer him up. “By this time tomorrow, it’ll all be over,” he said. “Yeah,” Parks replied, “for those of you who get through it.” All the pilots in Park’s division were shot down.

Captain Philip R. White was one of only two men in the second division to survive. “After the first pass, I lost my wingman and the rest of the division,” he reported. “I made a long, low, fast climb and made a second above-side pass, and started for a third, when I saw a Zero fighter climbing up on my tail very rapidly. I pushed my stick forward as hard as I could and went into a violent dive. When I recovered and looked around, I had lost the Zero fighter.”

White spotted a Val and made “a long fast side pass on [it].” The dive bomber wavered and then “made an easy left turn into the water.” White regained altitude and targeted another Val, making two passes on it before running out of ammunition. He returned to Midway and rearmed, but did not get back in the fight. In his after-action report, he complained bitterly: “The F2A-3 is not a combat aircraft. It is inferior to the planes we were fighting in every respect …. It is my belief that any commander that orders pilots out for combat in a F2A-3 should consider the pilot as lost before leaving the ground.”

Captain Armistead’s third division attacked in column, starting their firing run at 17,000 feet. His target consisted of “five divisions of five to nine planes each, flying in division ‘Vees.’” He made a high-speed head-on approach on the fourth enemy division. “I saw my incendiary bullets travel from a point in front of the leader, up through his plane and back through the planes on the left wing of the Vee,” Armistead reported. He looked back as he continued his dive, and saw two of those three Japanese planes falling in flames.

Armistead pulled out of his dive and zoomed back to 14,000 feet for another run. Suddenly three Zeros made a firing pass on his Buffalo. “I kicked over in a violent split ‘S’ and received 3 20mm shells: one in the right wing gun, one in the right wing root tank, and one in the top left side of the engine cowling…[plus] 20 7.7mm rounds in the left aileron…which sawed off a portion of the aileron.” He pushed over in a power dive, barely in control as his Buffalo corkscrewed toward the ocean. The Japanese fighter pulled off, assuming the American was done for. Armistead regained control, however, pulling out at 500 feet before shakily landing on Eastern Island.

Captain William C. Humberd rolled in behind Armistead and shot down one bomber in a high-side approach. He attacked again from the other side. “I was halfway through another run when I heard a loud noise and turning around, saw a large hole in the hood of my plane…and two Jap Zeros on me about 200 yards astern.” He pushed over in a steep dive to escape, but one of the enemy planes kept on his tail. “I stayed at water level with full throttle until I gained enough distance to turn into him. We met head on. I gave him a long burst when we were about 300 yards distant, and the plane caught fire and, out of control, dived into the water.”

Humberd landed his battle-damaged aircraft shortly afterward. “My hydraulic fluid was gone, and my flaps and landing gear would not lower, so I used my emergency system to lower my wheels.” He landed safely, although his Buffalo had three or four holes in the left fuel tank and two 20mm holes in the fuselage. Despite the damage, Humberd refueled, rearmed and took off intending to go “some distance from the field for a period [of time] when orders to land were given to all fighting planes.”

Second Lieutenants William V. Brooks and William B. Sandoval made a pass down the right side of the enemy formation. “One of us got a plane from the right side of the Vee,” Brooks said. When he pulled out of the dive, two fighters attacked him. “I could not out-dive these planes [his landing gear had partially locked in the down position], but I managed to dodge them and fire a burst or so into them as they swept past.” At this point Brooks was close enough to Midway for anti-aircraft fire to drive the Japanese off.

Brooks stayed in the fight. “I saw two planes dog-fighting…and decided to go help,” he said. “My plane was working very poorly, and my climb was slow. As I neared the fight, both planes turned on me!” Brooks believed he had been tricked—that the Japanese were staging a sham battle to attract him. “I turned and made a fast retreat, collecting a goodly number of bullets on the way.” With his aircraft shot up, he decided to land. “As I circled the island, I saw two Japs on a Brewster,” he continued. “Three of my guns were jammed, but I cut across the island, firing as I went with my one gun.” He was too late, and the Marine was shot down. Brooks landed his tattered aircraft with 72 bullet and cannon holes in it.

Sandoval was not so lucky. One of his squadron mates reported that he leveled off on his firing run and got “nailed” by a backseat gunner. He failed to return and was listed as killed in action. He was later credited with a victory after Brooks requested that “Lt. Sandoval, deceased, be logged up with the bomber which one of us got in our first run.”

Second Lieutenant Charles M. Kunz was the last pilot in Armistead’s division to survive. “I saw tracers go by my cockpit and bullets ripping my wings,” he recounted. He immediately dived for the water in an attempt to shake the Zero off his tail. “I made radical turns at full throttle hoping the pilot couldn’t get steadied on me.” He was partially successful. His aircraft was still flyable but bullets passed along each side of his head, creasing his scalp above each ear. Despite being close to passing out, he managed to land his aircraft safely. That night the group commander said “it was necessary for the group surgeon to give him several ‘stiff shots’ before he could sleep.” Credited with two Vals, Kunz would become the only American ace to have scored any victories in the Buffalo.

“I was just preparing for another run on the bombers, when I saw a Japanese fighter already on my tail,” recalled 2nd Lt. Darrell D. Irwin, flying in the two-plane fourth division. “I immediately dove (from 16,500 feet)…attaining at least 300 knots, pulling out about 3,500 feet.” He was unable to shake his pursuer, who shot away most of his left aileron. Irwin dropped to 500 feet off the water and headed for Eastern Island. Another Zero joined the chase and “continued to make runs on me, each time going by me and making steep wing-overs for another run…on several occasions I heard bullets strike the armor plate in back of my seat which is only shoulder high. I ducked my head as far as I could in the cockpit.” Irwin landed his heavily damaged Buffalo safely, “during a full scale dive bombing attack.”

Of VMF-221’s 25 aircraft that engaged the Japanese, 15 were shot down, and only two of the remainder were flyable after the brief but deadly encounter. The air group suffered 14 pilots killed in action and four wounded. VMF-221 had been all but wiped out as an effective fighting force. Twenty-three squadron pilots were awarded the Navy Cross, the majority posthumously.

Seated, from left: 2nd Lt. William V. Brooks, 2nd Lt. John C. Musselman Jr., Captain Philip R. White, Captain William C. Humberd, Captain Kirk Armistead, Captain Herbert T. Merrill, Captain Marion E. Carl and 2nd Lt. Clayton M. Canfield standing, from left: unidentified, and 2nd Lts. Darrell D. Irwin, Hyde Phillips, Roy A. Corry Jr. and Charles M. Kunz. (National Archives)

“Most of the surviving pilots were stunned by their experience,” Carl wrote. “…[T]he commanding officer and executive officer both were missing nobody seemed to know if any of the others might have bailed out …. VMF-221 was a shattered command.”

VMF-221 pilots claimed eight Vals and three Zeros shot down, plus four aircraft damaged. However, with the benefit of hindsight, author Barrett Tillman stated in Wildcat: The F4F in WWII , “At best, it appears that Parks’ squadron knocked down one Zero and two bombers.” On the Japanese side, Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo reported the loss of three B5Ns and two A6Ms in aerial combat and four planes to anti-aircraft fire.

Lieutenant Colonel Ira E. Kimes, Marine Air Group 22’s commanding officer, stated in a report to the commander in chief, Pacific Fleet, that “The performance of the F2A-3 and F4F-3 types of airplanes is markedly inferior to that of the Japanese 00 2 Sento K1 Fighter in speed, maneuverability, and rate of climb …. [I]t is recommended that the F2A-3 and F4F-3 be not assigned as equipment for use in combat, but be retained for use at training centers only.” Midway was indeed the Buffalo’s swan song in American service, but the Wildcat’s glory days were far from over.

Colonel Richard Camp (U.S. Marine Corps, ret.) is the author of 13 books and more than 100 articles on military history. Further reading: Miracle at Midway , by Gordon W. Prange History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II , by Robert Sherrod and Marines at Midway , by Lt. Col. Robert D. Heinl Jr.

This feature, originally titled “A Shattered Command,” appeared in the July 2017 issue of Aviation History. It received the General Roy S. Geiger Award from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation for best article published in 2017 about Marine Corps aviation. Subscribe here!

Burning Oil Tank

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The Battle of Midway: Mikuma’s Nightmare

When word of the American attack in the Kido Butai, and the subsequent destruction of the Kaga, Akagi and Soryu, made its way back to Admiral Yamamoto aboard his flagship Yamato, he was stunned. Information from captured American aviators also revealed the array of forces that the Japanese were up against for the first time – three carriers operating in two groups. Electing to re-organise his forces, Yamamoto temporarily suspended the invasion of Midway, ordering the attack transports to withdraw to the west, and ordered the two carriers involved in the Aleutians operation to head south with all possible speed to reinforce Nagumo’s Kido Butai. As part of this redeployment the 7 th Cruiser Division – Kumano, Suzuya, Mogami and Mikuma, plus destroyers Asashio and Arashio – was ordered to close on Midway and carry out a bombardment. Rear-Admiral Takeo Kurita was in charge, his flag flying from the Kumano.

At the time Kurita received his new orders his ships were 400 miles from Midway, necessitating a high-speed run in to the island in order to deliver the bombardment before the inevitable attack by American aircraft. Even so the shelling would have to be delivered in daylight, a highly dangerous undertaking with US Navy carriers in the vicinity. The cruisers went to maximum speed and soon left their escorting destroyers behind. Meanwhile the submarine I-168 was ordered to deliver her own bombardment to keep the island occupied whilst Kurita approached.

In the early hours of the 5 th of June, more messages reached Yamamoto – these making clear the hopelessness of the Japanese position. The captain of the Akagi requested permission to scuttle his ship, her situation being completely hopeless. This request seems to have shocked Yamamoto, who soon after ordered the cancellation of the Midway operation and the recall of all forces. However, the message that was intended for Kurita’s 7 th Cruiser Division was mistakenly sent to the 8 th Cruiser Division, a mistake that was not rectified for several hours. By the time the recall message was received at about 0200 on the 5 th , Kurita was just 90 miles from Midway.

Collision at Sea

Just moments after changing course to withdraw to the east, a lookout aboard the Kumano spotted the silhouette of the submarine Tambor. Orders for an emergency turn were flashed to the cruisers astern but the Mikuma, third in line, made a 90-degree turn instead of a 45-degree turn as ordered. Mogami, last in line, turned as ordered but soon the shape of the Mikuma ahead loomed in the darkness ahead, too late for any kind of evasive manoeuvre. Mogami rammed her sister just aft of the bridge, puncturing Mikuma’s oil tanks and causing fuel oil to leak into the sea. Mogami’s bow was badly crushed, almost all the way to her forward turret, which severely curtailed her speed. Kurita assessed the situation and, aware that he had been spotted by the Tambor and that American air strikes could be expected soon after dawn, elected to detach the destroyers Asashio and Arashio to escort the cripples whilst the Kumano and Suzuya escaped at high speed.

The Tambor’s report of ‘many ships’ so close to Midway brought the predictable response – it suggested that the Japanese might still be trying to force a landing. Other American submarines in the area were ordered to close in to protect Midway, and bombers on the island were readied for attacks. To the north, Spruance copied the dispatch and turned his two remaining undamaged carriers south, ready to assist if needed. Twelve B-17s took off from Midway just minutes after the message was received, but they failed to find the twin cripples and returned empty-handed. Soon afterwards a PBY made contact and gave an accurate position report but identified the vessels as ‘two battleships’ – a mistake which was to cause considerable confusion for the next two days.

Next to launch from Midway were six SBDs and six SB2Us from VMSB-241, lead by Capt. Marshall Tyler. The Marines soon spotted a heavy oil slick and followed it all the way to the Japanese cruisers. The SBDs elected to attack the Mogami, but all of their bombs missed due to the cruiser’s heavy anti-aircraft fire. The SB2Us, having been delayed after sighting and investigating a submarine, arrived a few minutes later and selected the Mikuma as their target. Again anti-aircraft fire was intense and the leading Vindicator, flown by Capt. Richard Fleming, was hit and ploughed into the sea. A myth has persisted the Fleming crashed his aircraft onto the Mikuma, but in fact his SB2U crashed into the sea not far from the cruiser. Shortly after the Marines departed, eight B-17s attacked the two cruisers with limited results. Mogami and Mikuma limped on.

Spruance meanwhile had to contend with several possible targets. The report of ‘two battleships’ 125 miles from Midway (actually Mogami and Mikuma) was soon followed by an accurate report of ‘two cruisers’ (Kumano and Suzuya) further to the west of Midway , but the most enticing was a report of a ‘burning carrier, 2 battleships, 3 cruisers’ to the west of Task Force 16. This was the Hiryū, still afloat and potentially a threat. Spruance decided to attack it rather than the reported ‘battleships’. This triggered a dispute within Spruance’s staff over which bombs the SBDs should carry – Capt. Miles Browning, Spruance’s chief of staff, wanted heavy 1,000lb bombs, a marginal prospect for a target 270 miles away given the SBD’s limited fuel capacity. McCluskey, Gallaher and Shumway argued against this and Spruance agreed, delaying the launch until the distance to the target had closed and substituting 500lb bombs instead. The strike was not launched until 1500.

By this time, the Hiryū had already slipped beneath the waves of her own volition, unseen by either Japanese or American eyes. The only ship in the vicinity was the destroyer Tanikaze, which had been sent back to search for survivors and if necessary deliver the coup de grace on the carrier. Whilst engaged in this task the destroyer was bombed by B-17s which mistakenly reported the little ship as a ‘cruiser’. The Enterprise strike flew out 315 miles without finding a target, but on the return leg they came across the Tanikaze. One squadron of SBDs attacked, but thanks to superb ship-handling none of the bombs hit home, and the only damage sustained by the plucky destroyer was due to near misses that killed six of her crew. One of the attacking SBDs was shot down by Tanikaze’s anti-aircraft crews. The bombers returned to their ships as darkness was falling, necessitating the switching on of each carrier’s lights to bring them in safely. Meanwhile, the two damaged cruisers and their escort continued west at 12 knots through the night.


First thing the following morning, at 0500, a search of 18 SBDs was launched from the Enterprise to cover the area to the west of Task Force 16. One of these aircraft sighted the Mikuma and consorts about 130 miles away, but the contact report was garbled in transit and was received by Spruance as a cruiser, 3 destroyers and carrier. A second SBD accurately reported the presence of the cruisers but with a different position, which suggested two different formations of enemy ships in the vicinity. The Hornet launched a strike of 28 SBDs supported by 8 F4Fs. Shortly after their departure, the erroneous report of a carrier was corrected leaving the Hornet group to concentrate on any surface warships they encountered. They came across the Mogami and Mikuma two hours after launch. The pilots identified Mikuma as a battleship – the Mogami was now slightly shorter than her sister having crushed her bow, which presumably caused the confusion. The SBDs gained good attack position and rolled in, claiming half a dozen hits. Mogami took the brunt, suffering a direct hit on her number 5 turret which caused heavy damage to the stern of the ship. Another bomb struck near her torpedo stowage area, but her damage control officer had jettisoned the volatile torpedoes the day before and damage there was minimal. Mikuma also took two hits which caused severe damage, and the Asashio took a damaging hit on her stern area. One Dauntless was shot down.

The Enterprise strike followed at 1045 – 31 SBDs, 12 F4Fs, plus 3 TBDs with orders not to attack if there was any sign of life amongst the target’s AA crews. This strike had orders not to attack the cruisers, but instead concentrate on the reported battleship contact thought to be a few miles ahead. This strike sighted Mogami and Mikuma but continued west, searching for the ‘battleship’. After a futile search, the SBDs turned back to go after the original group – by now the only Japanese ships within range. This latest attack concentrated on the Mikuma, which suffered five more hits by 1,000lb bombs, some of which caused terrible damage. The cruiser’s torpedo area was struck and several of the ‘fish’ exploded – Mikuma’s damage control team having elected not to jettison these weapons as Mogami’s had. One SBD attacked the Mogami and struck her amidships, causing more grievous damage. Arashio and Asashio both suffered a thorough strafing attack by the F4Fs.

A second Hornet strike was launched at 1445. By this time Task Force 16 had closed the enemy to the point that pilots at altitude could see both their own carriers and the burning enemy formation simultaneously, they were so close. In this attack the Mikuma again bore the brunt, being hit by as many as six 1,000lb bombs which left the cruiser a wreck from stem to stern. Mogami suffered another hit, and the Arashio was also hit on the stern – this bomb killed several Mikuma survivors that the destroyer had picked up. Spruance, still unsure of the identity of the targets, sent two SBDs with photographers to finally make a positive identification of the ships. These planes took detailed shots of the now derelict Mikuma, which were developed the next day and positively revealed her identity as a Mogami-class cruiser. Mikuma finally succumbed to her injuries after sunset and sank.

Spruance continued to chase the Mogami until it became clear that she was entering the umbrella of Japanese bombers based on Wake. Mogami escaped to Truk, where she was patched up and sent back to Japan for extensive repairs that lasted 8 months. She was eventually converted into a hybrid cruiser-carrier, her shattered aft turrets replaced with a small flight deck capable of housing a dozen seaplanes. Task Force 16 then broke off to head to a fuelling rendezvous, and eventually, Pearl Harbor. The Battle of Midway was over.


In this battle, a Japanese aircraft carrier strike force under Kakuji Kakuta launched air attacks over two days against the Dutch Harbor Naval Base and Fort Mears [2] in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The attacks inflicted moderate damage on the U.S. base. Shortly thereafter, Japanese naval forces under Boshiro Hosogaya invaded and occupied Attu and Kiska islands in the Aleutians.

Dutch Harbor was ringed with anti aircraft artillery batteries from the 206th Coast Artillery (Anti Aircraft), Arkansas National Guard, and was one of key targets protected by the Eleventh Air Force based out of mainland Alaska. [3] [4] The 206th CA (AA) was deployed to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, in August 1941 and had been on station for approximately four months when the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7. The 206th CA was equipped with the 3-inch Gun M1918 (an older model with a vertical range of 26,902 ft (8,200 m)), .50in (12.7mm) M2 Browning machine guns, and 60 in (150 cm) Sperry searchlights. The 206th had one radar in position at Dutch Harbor at the time of the attack. In the harbor were two old destroyers, King and Talbot, destroyer-seaplane tender Gillis, submarine S-27, Coast Guard cutter Onondaga, and U.S. Army transports President Fillmore and Morlen. [5]

On June 3, 1942, a Japanese carrier strike force, under the command of Rear Admiral Kakuji Kakuta, comprising the carriers Ryūjō and Jun'yō, plus escort ships, sailed to 180 mi (160 nmi 290 km) southwest of Dutch Harbor to launch air strikes at the United States Army and United States Navy facility to support a Japanese offensive in the Aleutians and in the central Pacific at Midway. The Japanese planned to occupy islands in the Aleutians in order to extend their defensive perimeter in the North Pacific to make it more difficult for the U.S. to attack Japan from that area.

Shortly before dawn at 02:58, given the geographic latitude and longitude, Admiral Kakuta ordered his aircraft carriers to launch their strike which was made up of 12 A6M Zero fighters, 10 B5N Kate high-level bombers, and 12 D3A Val dive bombers which took off from the two small carriers in the freezing weather to strike at Dutch Harbor. One B5N was lost on takeoff from Ryujo.

The planes arrived over the harbor at 04:07, and attacked the town's radio station and oil storage tanks causing some damage. Many members of the 206th were awakened on June 3 by the sound of bombs and gunfire. While the unit had been on alert for an attack for many days, there was no specific warning of the attack before the Japanese planes arrived over Dutch Harbor. With no clear direction from headquarters, gun crews from every battery quickly realized the danger, ran to their guns stationed around the harbor and began to return fire. In addition to their 3 in (76 mm) guns, 37 mm (1.46 in) guns and .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns, members of the unit fired their rifles and one even claimed to have hurled a wrench at a low-flying enemy plane. Several members reported being able to clearly see the faces of the Japanese aviators as they made repeated runs over the island.< [6] The highest casualties on the first day occurred when bombs struck barracks 864 and 866 in Fort Mears, killing 17 men of the 37th Infantry and eight from the 151st Engineers. [7]

When all the Japanese planes were recovered, there were erroneous reports of enemy ships in the vicinity, but search planes found no ships within the area. During the search, four Nakajima E8N2 "Dave" two-seat reconnaissance planes—launched from the heavy cruisers Takao and Maya—encountered U.S. fighters searching for the departing Japanese squadron.

The 206th CA spent much of the night of June 3/4 moving guns down off the mountain tops surrounding the harbor down into the city of Unalaska and into harbor facilities themselves. This was partially as a deception and partially to defend against an expected land invasion. Civilian contractors offered to help and were put to work filling sandbags to protect the new gun positions.

On June 4, the Japanese carriers steamed to less than 100 mi (87 nmi 160 km) south of Dutch Harbor to launch a second attack. At 16:00, a second airstrike of nine fighters, 11 dive bombers, and six level bombers took off and attacked the U.S. facilities at Dutch Harbor again less than an hour later. More targets were damaged including some grounded aircraft, an army barracks, oil storage tanks, aircraft hangar, and a few merchant ships in the port. When the Japanese returned on 4 June, the Zero fighters concentrated on strafing the gun positions while their bombers destroyed the fuel tanks located at the harbor. One wing of the military hospital at the base was destroyed. [8] After hitting the fuel tanks, the enemy dive-bombers and high-level bombers concentrated on the ships in the harbor, Fillmore and Gillis. Driven away from these two targets by intense anti-aircraft fire, they finally succeeded in destroying the station ship Northwestern which, because of its large size, they mistakenly believed was a warship. Northwestern was actually a transport ship which had been beached and used as a barracks for civilian workers. Although in flames and badly damaged, firefighters managed to save the hull. Its power plant was thereafter used to produce steam and electricity for the shore installations. [9] [10] An anti-aircraft gun was blown up by a bomb and four U.S. Navy servicemen were killed. [8]

Two Japanese dive bombers and one fighter, damaged by anti-aircraft fire, failed to return to their carriers. On the way back, the Japanese planes encountered an air patrol of six Curtiss P-40 fighters over Otter Point. A short aerial battle ensued which resulted in the loss of one Japanese fighter and two more dive bombers. Two out of the six U.S. fighters were lost as well.

As a result of the enemy actions, the Eleventh Air Force lost four B-17s, two Martin B-26 Marauders, and two P-40s, while the Navy suffered the most with six PBY Catalinas destroyed. [1] 43 Americans were killed: 33 soldiers, eight sailors, a Marine, and a civilian. Another 50 were wounded in the attack. [11]

None of the Japanese ships were harmed, but one above-mentioned Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero was damaged by ground fire and crash-landed on Akutan Island, about 20 mi (17 nmi 32 km) northeast of Dutch Harbor. Although the pilot was killed, the plane was not seriously damaged. This Zero—known as the "Akutan Zero"—was recovered by American forces, inspected, and repaired. The recovery was an important technical intelligence gain for U.S., as it showed the strengths and weaknesses of the Zero's design. [12]

The following day, Admiral Kakuta received orders to break off further attacks and head for the central Pacific to support the Combined Fleet which was retreating after being defeated at Midway. Two days later, a small Japanese invasion force landed and occupied two of the Aleutian islands, Attu and Kiska, without further incident.

The bombing of Dutch Harbor and the subsequent occupations of Kiska and Attu by the Japanese helped trigger an impression among Americans that they were going to launch a full-scale attack along the United States West Coast. As a result, military and commandeered civilian aircraft flew nearly 2,300 troops to Nome, along with artillery and antiaircraft guns and several tons of other equipment and supplies to deter a possible Japanese landing in mainland Alaska.

Tanks Classics - Velocette Frequently Asked Questions

We will try to give some basic answers to the most frequently asked questions about these motorcycles and using them but please note our knowledge is not gospel, just a guide and help from our own personal experiences with the bikes.

  1. With the fuel on, pull the valve lifter lever in and using the kickstart, turn the engine over 4 or 5 times to get the fuel into the carb and cylinder head
  2. Release the valve lifter, and then depress the kickstart lever down until you find compression. Let the kickstart return to the top of it&rsquos stroke
  3. Pull the valve lifter in again and carefully depress the kickstart crank from the top to the bottom of the stroke, about a 6 o&rsquoclock position
  4. Let go of the valve lifter lever and also then let the kickstart crank return to the top position
  5. Now you are ready to give the kickstart lever a good kick, but make sure you go through the full swing of the kickstart from top to through the 6 o&rsquoclock position. You don&rsquot need to jump on it, just a good firm kick &ndash don&rsquot be frightened.
  6. If the bike doesn&rsquot not start YOU MUST then go back to point number 2) and go through the procedure again, if you just try to keep kicking you will just end up with one leg muscle bigger than the other and a Velo that hasn&rsquot started.

There is a set way of adjusting the clutch and we have found that you must stick to this procedure in order to get the correct slip and drag needed for a Velocette clutch. Don&rsquot listen to the people who say &lsquothe Velocette clutch is a nightmare&rsquo I have done over 8000 miles on my MSS and there has been no need to adjust the clutch from when we first fitted it, although it has been checked it on a regular basis.

  1. Slacken off the midway cable adjuster fully to allow the nipple to be detached from the handlebar lever and slip it out of the hole in the lever.
  2. Open the throttle and are controls fully. Select neutral in the gears, and depress the kickstart against compression and test for clutch slip. If the clutch is felt to slip, skip part 3) and carry on at part 4)
  3. If no slip can be felt then carry on with the following. After removing the gearbox sprocket cover, Use the clutch adjusting peg/tool through the hole in the gearbox sprocket and engage the flat into the spring carrier, pull the rear wheel backwards a quarter turn at a time, checking for clutch slip after each movement. This will involve taking out the adjusting peg from the spring carrier before each test. As soon as the clutch can be felt to slip (only just slip) move onto the next step
  4. Refit the clutch cable nipple to the lever. Re-adjust the midway adjuster until all motion is taken off the cable and the lever is drawn up against the lever bracket on the handlebar, do not force the adjustment, but only just remove all the play. When correct tighten the locknut on the adjuster
  5. Finally, refit the adjusting peg back through the sprocket and into the spring carrier, pull the rear wheel forward a little at a time until free play begins to appear at the handlebar lever. Adjust this a little at a time until you have 1/8th inch of free travel of the lever and cable. The clutch adjustment is now completed.
  • Symptom : Clutch Slipping. No lost motion on control cable
  • Remedy : Readjust clutch spring carrier forward
  • Symptom : Clutch slipping. Lost motion present on control cable
  • Remedy : Carry out operation 4) of the adjustment drill
  • Symptom : Clutch not freeing. Normal or excess lost motion on control cable
  • Remedy : Carry out full adjustment drill
  • Symptom : Clutch slipping and also not freeing
  • Remedy : Carry out operation 4) of the drill

The timing figures given in the service manuals are the factory recommended settings when petrol didn&rsquot have so much ethanol in it, so we have found that taking 1 or 2 degrees off these figures works well for our bikes, using the standard carbs for each model. Here we will give both figures for the OHV engines &ndash all at fully advanced

MOV &ndash Factory setting : 40 Degs BTDC. My setting : 36 Degs BTDC

MAC(IRON & ALLOY) &ndash Factory Setting : 40 Degs BTDC. My setting : 38 Degs BTDC

MSS(IRON) &ndash Factory Setting : 40 Degs BTDC. My setting : 38 Degs BTDC

MSS(ALLOY) &ndash Factory Setting : 36 Degs BTDC. My setting : 35 Degs BTDC

VIPER/VENOM/SCRAMBLER &ndash Factory Setting : 38 Degs BTDC. My setting : 37 Degs BTDC

Running Clearance : INLET &ndash 0.006&rdquo EXHUAST &ndash 0.008&rdquo

For Checking the valve timing : INLET &ndash 0.053&rdquo EXHAUST &ndash 0.052&rdquo

Now there is a vast difference in opinion regarding what oil to run in these bikes, however we would always recommend that you only use a classics type oil, i.e NOT semi-synthetic or fully synthetic modern oil. The reason being is that modern oil holds all the detritus (I love that word!) in suspension so that it can be filtered out by the cartridge filter system. But seeing as these old bikes don&rsquot filter the oil that way, the mono grade or classics 20/40 oils let the detritus sink, therefore it gathers at the bottom of the oil tank or crankcase, so that you can clean this out when you are servicing your bike. We would also recommend fitting magnetic drain plugs, see part number B38MS in our shop, to the oil tank, crankcase, gearbox and even the primary chaincase, which again helps gather any un-wanted metal particles that might be in the lubrication system. Again these are easily cleaned when changing the oil.

We always run good quality engine oil in our bikes and when we build bikes for people, what is the point in going cheap on the only thing that keeps our engines healthy? When you balance this cost against what the bike is worth, it&rsquos a no brainer to me, for the sake of saving £10 a year is it worth it? We change the oil in our bikes every 500 miles or so, but certainly at least once a year.

When building a wheel, whether you have the cotton reel hub or the full width hub, the off set for both the front and back wheel should be 9/16&rdquo. This is from the machined edge of the rear hub(where the brake drum bolts to) and the machined edge of the brake drum on the front hub, to the outside of the rim

Series 11 and 14 - These were found on all the MAC models and the MSS from 1955 onwards

Series 12 &ndash These were found on the first run of swing arm MSS models until 1955 and all the Vipers, Venoms, Scramblers, and Endurance models. They were also an option on the Clubman.

Series 12R &ndash There are two sets of gear ratios in these boxes, the close ratio and the TT ratio. These were normally fitted to the Clubman and Thruxton model but you could choose which ration you wanted. From the end of 1960 the TT ratios were fitted to the Clubman as standard.

The Battle of Midway: Turning the Tide in the Pacific (Teaching with Historic Places)

F or centuries, thousands of albatrosses have lived on the desolate islands that comprise the Midway Atoll. Beautiful in flight, but ungainly in their movement on land, the albatrosses were called "gooney birds" by the men stationed on the islands during World War II. The birds soiled the runways, clogged the engines of departing aircraft, and were always, always underfoot. Today, the shadows of their huge wings still dapple the glassy sea as they glide towards the islands to nest. They still perch on the airport runways and the old ammunition magazines and gun batteries, but they no longer need to do daily battle with America's armed forces for possession of the islands.

Inhabited by humans for less than a century, Midway dominated world news for a brief time in the early summer of 1942. These tiny islands were the focus of a brutal struggle between the Japanese Imperial Navy and the United States Pacific Fleet. The U.S. victory here ended Japan's seemingly unstoppable advance across the Pacific and began a U.S. offensive that would end three years later at the doorstep of the Home Islands.

About This Lesson

This lesson plan is based on the National Historic Landmark nomination file, "World War II Facilities at Midway" (with photographs), and historic accounts of the campaign. Kathleen Hunter, an educational consultant, wrote The Battle of Midway: Turning the Tide in the Pacific. Marilyn Harper, Fay Metcalf, and the Teaching with Historic Places staff edited the lesson. TwHP is sponsored, in part, by the Cultural Resources Training Initiative and Parks as Classrooms programs of the National Park Service. This lesson is one in a series that brings the important stories of historic places into classrooms across the country.

Where it fits into the curriculum

Topics: This lesson can be used in American history, social studies, and geography courses in units on World War II.

Time period: Mid 20th century

United States History Standards for Grades 5-12

The Battle of Midway: Turning the Tide in the Pacific
relates to the following National Standards for History:

Era 8: The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)

Standard 3A- The student understands the international background of World War II.

Standard 3B- The student understands World War II and how the allies prevailed.

Curriculum Standards for Social Studies

National Council for the Social Studies

The Battle of Midway: Turning the Tide in the Pacific relates to the following Social Studies Standards:

Standard B - The student explains how information and experiences may be interpreted by people from diverse cultural perspectives and frames of reference.

Theme II: Time, Continuity and Change

Standard D - The student identifies and uses processes important to reconstructing and reinterpreting the past, such as using a variety of sources, providing, validating, and weighing evidence for claims, checking credibility of sources, and searching for causality.

Standard F - The student uses knowledge of facts and concepts drawn from history, along with methods of historical inquiry, to inform decision-making about and action-taking on public issues.

Theme III: People, Places and Environments

Standard A - The student elaborates mental maps of locales, regions, and the world that demonstrate understanding of relative location, direction, size, and shape.

Standard B - The student creates, interprets, uses, and distinguishes various representations of the earth, such as maps, globes, and photographs.

Standard C - The student uses appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools such as aerial photographs, satellite images, geographic information systems (GIS), map projections, and cartography to generate, manipulate, and interprets information such as atlases, data bases, grid systems, charts, graphs, and maps.

Standard E - The student locates and describes varying land forms and geographic features, such as mountains, plateaus, islands, rain forests, deserts, and oceans, and explain their relationships within the ecosystem.

Standard I - The student describes ways that historical events have been influenced by, and have influenced physical and human geographic factors in local, regional, national, and global settings.

Theme IV: Individual Development and Identity

Standard G - The student identifies and interprets examples of stereotyping, conformity, and altruism.

Standard H - The student works independently and cooperatively to accomplish goals.

Theme V: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions

Standard B - The student analyzes group and institutional influences on people, events, and elements of culture.

Standard C - The student describes the various forms institutions take and the interactions of people with institutions.

Standard G - The student applies knowledge of how groups and institutions work to meet individual needs and promote the common good.

Theme VI: Power, Authority and Governance

Standard C - The student analyzes and explains ideas and governmental mechanisms to meet wants and needs of citizens, regulate territory, manage conflict, and establish order and security.

Standard D - The student describes the way nations and organizations respond to forces of unity and diversity affecting order and security.

Standard G - The student describes and analyzes the role of technology in communications, transportation, information-processing, weapons development, and other areas as it contributes to or helps resolves issues.

Standard I - The student gives examples and how governemnts attempt to acheive their stated ideals at home and abroad.

Theme VIII: Science, Technology and Society

Standard A - The student examines and describes the influence of culture on scientific and technological choices and advancement, such as in transportation, medicine, and warfare.

Standard E - The student seeks reasonable and ethical solutions to problems that arise when scientific advancements and social norms or values come into conflict.

Theme IX: Global Connections

Standard C - The student describes and analyze the effects of changing technologies on the global community.

Theme X: Civic Ideals and Practices

Standard B - The student identifies and interprets sources and examples of the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

Standard C - The student locate, access, analyze, organize, and apply information about selected public issues recognizing and explaining multiple points of view.

Standard D - The student practice forms of civic discussion and participation consistent with the ideals of citizens in a democratic republic.

Standard E - The student explain and analyze various forms of citizen action that influence public policy decisions.

Standard F - The student identifies and explain the roles of formal and informal political actors in influencing and shaping public policy and decision-making.

Standard G - The student analyze the influence of diverse forms of public opinion on the development of public policy and decision-making.

Objectives for students

1) To determine why Midway became strategically important during World War II.
2) To describe the course of the Battle of Midway.
3) To analyze accounts of participants in the battle.
4) To examine how changing technology affects the conduct of warfare.
5) To research war memorials in the local community.

Materials for students

The materials listed below either can be used directly on the computer or can be printed out, photocopied, and distributed to students. The maps and images appear twice: in a smaller, low-resolution version with associated questions and alone in a larger version.
1) two maps showing Japanese conquests in the South Pacific and the Midway Atoll
2) three readings on the Midway Atoll and the Battle of Midway
3) six photos of the atoll and the battle.

Visiting the site

The World War II facilities on Midway are now part of the Battle of Midway National Memorial. The Memorial is located in the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For more information, contact the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 29460, Station #4, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96820-1860, or visit the refuge's web site.

Getting Started

Inquiry Question

(National Archives and Records Administration)

What do you think caused the damage shown in this photograph?

Setting the Stage

In the early 20th century, Japan resolved to take its place among the world's great powers. The needs of its booming population, its lack of natural resources, and the growing power of its military led the nation on a search for more territory. Between 1905 and the late 1930s, it occupied Taiwan, Korea, Manchuria, and parts of China withdrew from the League of Nations and defied international naval arms restrictions. As Hitler and Mussolini set out to dominate Europe, Japan sought the same type of influence in the Pacific. In 1940, Japan signed the Tripartite Pact. The main purpose of the Tripartite Pack was to keep the United States out of the war by threatening a two-front war in the Atlantic and the Pacific. Germany, Italy, and Japan also divided Europe and Greater East Asia among themselves. German occupation of France and the Netherlands left the Southeast Asian colonies of those countries unprotected and vulnerable to Japanese invasion.

The United States and Britain applied harsh economic sanctions, hoping to slow Japanese expansion into the former colonial areas. In July 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt froze all Japanese assets in the U. S., shutting off vitally needed oil supplies. Even as negotiations were going on between the two governments, Japan continued its aggression in China, Indochina, and other Southeast Asian territories. Then, on December 7, 1941, Japan attacked U.S. ships and aircraft at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. By December 8, the United States and Japan were at war.

Locating the Site

Map 1: Japanese offensive, December 1941-April 1942.

South Asia, with its supplies of oil, tin, rubber, and quinine, was the first priority in Japanese plans for the war. The arrows on this map show Japan's apparently unstoppable advance during the months following Pearl Harbor. By early May, the Japanese controlled Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, the American islands of Wake and Guam, and much of south Asia.

Questions for Map 1

1. Locate Hawaii, Japan, China, and the clusters of islands between Hawaii and Japan. The headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were in Hawaii. Why do you think Americans were so shocked by the attack on Pearl Harbor?

2. Find Midway Atoll, located northwest of Honolulu about 3000 nautical miles from the west coast of the United States and 2250 from Tokyo, Japan. How do you think these tiny Pacific islands might have been useful to whatever country that controlled them during World War II?

3. Midway, the westernmost of the Hawaiian island chain, was sometimes called the "sentry to Hawaii." Why would the United States think it was essential to control the atoll?

4. Study the map carefully. How long did it take Japan to take control of these areas? Admiral Yamamoto, Commander of the Japanese Pacific Fleet, reportedly was concerned about the effect of "victory disease" on his forces? What do you think he meant by that?

Locating the Site

Map 2: Midway Atoll.

Questions for Map 2
1. An atoll is a ring of coral built up on the top of the crater of a submerged volcano to form a lagoon. How many islands are there inside the lagoon at Midway?
2. How large are Sand and Eastern Islands?
3. The islands are nearly flat and have very little natural vegetation. In spite of being surrounded by water, there is no fresh water. How much work do you think would be needed to construct and maintain a military base here?

Determining the Facts

Reading 1: Out of Obscurity

After the first recorded landing on the atoll in 1859, Midway became a United States possession in 1867. A trans-Pacific cable station was established there in 1903. In 1935, Pan American Airways used Sand Island as a stopover on its new seaplane route between the U.S. and Asia. A 1938-39 study of U.S. defense needs recommended Midway as a base for Navy patrol planes and submarines. Soon thereafter, construction began on a seaplane hangar and other facilities on Sand Island and an airfield on the smaller Eastern Island.

Midway occupied an important place in Japanese military planning. According to plans made before Pearl Harbor, the Japanese fleet would attack and occupy Midway and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska as soon as their position in South Asia was stabilized. Two Japanese destroyers bombarded the Navy base on Midway on December 7, 1941, damaging buildings and destroying one patrol plane. In the spring of 1942, flush with victory after victory in the Pacific and southeast Asia, Japan prepared to establish a toehold in the Aleutians to occupy Midway and convert it into an air base and jumping off point for an invasion of Hawaii and to lure what was left of the U.S. Pacific Fleet into the Midway area for a decisive battle that would finish it off.

The Americans had their own plans for the little atoll. With the fall of Wake Island to the Japanese in late December 1941, Midway became the westernmost U.S. outpost in the central Pacific. Defenses on the atoll were strengthened between December and April. Land-based bombers and fighters were stationed on Eastern Island. U.S. Marines provided defensive artillery and infantry. Operating from the atoll's lagoon, seaplanes patrolled toward the Japanese-held Marshall Islands and Wake, checking on enemy activities and guarding against further attacks on Hawaii. There were occasional clashes when planes from Midway and those from the Japanese islands met over the Pacific.

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, inspected Midway in early May 1942, conferring with the local commanders, Navy Capt. Cyril T. Simard and Marine Col. Harold D. Shannon. Based on reports coming from U.S. intelligence, Nimitz believed the Japanese were planning an attack on Midway. The Japanese Combined Fleet depended on a complex system of codes to communicate by radio. The codes were regularly modified to avoid detection, but in the confusion of the rapid Japanese expansion in the South Pacific the change scheduled for early 1942 was delayed. In Washington, DC, and Hawaii, codebreakers worked around-the-clock to interpret every detail of the complex secret messages. By the spring, they were having some success--picking up words and phrases that gave them clues to Japan's naval strategies. One communication from the Japanese navy suggested they needed supplies for a powerful long distance strike. Were they planning to hit Hawaii again? The west coast of the United States? Midway? The abbreviation "AF" appeared frequently in radio communications. Navy intelligence in Hawaii concluded that Midway was the target and they convinced Admiral Nimitz.

Top Naval officers in Washington were not so sure. They could not believe that the Japanese would send a huge fleet to take a little atoll. It would be like fishing for minnows with a harpoon.¹ Lt. Comm. Jasper Homes came up with a brilliant idea. Knowing that Midway depended on desalinated water, he used the old undersea cable to send a message to the military there. He asked them to send out an uncoded radio message stating that the purification system had broken down: "We have only enough water for two weeks. Please supply us immediately."² A few days later, the code breakers picked up a Japanese message saying that AF had water problems. That made it certain. They now knew that the Japanese would send a small force to the Aleutian Islands, as originally planned, but that the main target would be Midway.

Nimitz asked Simard and Shannon what they needed to protect the islands. They reeled off a long list. He asked Shannon: "If I get you all these things you say you need, then can you hold Midway against a major amphibious assault?" The reply was a simple "Yes, sir."³ Within a week anti-aircraft guns, rifles, and other war materiel arrived at Midway. Eastern Island was crowded with Marine Corps, Navy, and Army Air Force planes--fighters, small dive bombers, and larger B-17 and B-26 bombers. Every piece of land bristled with barbed wire entanglements and guns, the beaches and waters were studded with mines. Eleven torpedo boats were ready to circle the reefs, patrol the lagoon, pick up ditched airmen, and assist ground forces with anti-aircraft fire. Nineteen submarines guarded the approaches from 100 to 200 miles northwest and north. By June 4, 1942, Midway was as ready as possible to face the oncoming Japanese.

Questions for Reading 1
1. What did the Japanese hope to accomplish by occupying Midway?
2. What actions did the Americans take to protect the islands?
3. How did the Navy determine that Midway was the target for the Japanese fleet?
4. Why was it difficult to convince people in Washington that the information provided by the code breakers was correct?

Reading 1 was adapted from Erwin N. Thompson, "World War II Facilities at Midway" (Midway Islands, U.S. Minor Islands), National Historic Landmark documentation, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1986 Gordon W. Prange, Donald M. Goldstein, and Katherine V. Dillon,
Miracle at Midway (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982) Edmund L. Castillo, Midway: Battle for the Pacific (New York: Random House, 1989) Edwin T. Layton, Roger Pineau, and John Costello, And I Was There, Pearl Harbor and Midway--Breaking the Secrets (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1985) and the Naval Historical Center Web site.

¹ Gordon W. Prange, Donald M. Goldstein, and Katherine V. Dillon,
Miracle at Midway (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982), xiii.
² Edwin T. Layton, Roger Pineau, and John Costello, And I Was There, Pearl Harbor and Midway--Breaking the Secrets (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1985), 422.
³ Prange, et al., Miracle at Midway, 74.

Determining the Facts

Reading 2: The Battle of Midway

By early June, the Japanese attacks on the Aleutians and on Midway were underway. The Midway attack force was divided into three parts. First the aircraft carriers would approach from the northwest and knock out the islands' defenses. Coming in from the west and southwest, the Second Fleet would invade and capture Midway. Admiral Yamamoto's battleships would remain 300 miles to the west, awaiting the U. S. Pacific Fleet.

Because of the work of the American code breakers, the United States knew Yamamoto's plans in detail by the middle of May: his target, his order of battle, and his schedule. When the battle opened, the U.S. had three carriers waiting in ambush, 200 miles to the east of Midway. The two opposing fleets sent out search planes the Americans to locate an enemy they knew was there and the Japanese as a matter of ordinary prudence.

Seaplanes from Midway also were looking for the expected enemy fleet. One of the planes spotted the Japanese carrier force at about 5:30 on the morning of June 4. The plane also reported Japanese aircraft heading for the atoll. Marine Corps planes from Midway soon intercepted the enemy formation. However, the Marines were hopelessly outnumbered and their planes were no match for the Japanese "Zero" fighter planes. They were able to shoot down only a few of the enemy bombers, while suffering great losses themselves. The torpedo boats and anti-aircraft fire from Midway's guns were somewhat more successful in disrupting the Japanese attack.

One hundred and eight Japanese planes hit Midway's two islands at 6:30. Twenty minutes of bombing and machine-gun fire knocked out some facilities on Eastern Island, but did not disable the airfield there. Sand Island's oil tanks, seaplane hangar, and other buildings were set afire. The commander of the Japanese attack radioed that another air strike was required to soften up Midway's defenses for invasion.

The Japanese carriers received several counterstrikes from Midway's torpedo planes and bombers. Faced with overwhelming fighter opposition, these uncoordinated efforts suffered severe losses and hit nothing but seawater. The only positive results were photographs of three Japanese carriers taken by the high-flying B-17s, the sole surviving photos of the day's attacks on the Japanese carriers.

Meanwhile, a Japanese scout plane had spotted the U.S. fleet and reported the presence of a carrier. Japanese commander Nagumo had already begun loading bombs into his second group of planes for another strike on Midway. This news forced him to rethink his strategy. He decided to wait for the planes returning from Midway and rearm all the planes with torpedoes for an attack on the U.S. ships. He almost had enough time.

Beginning about 9:30, torpedo planes from the U.S. carriers Hornet, Enterprise, and Yorktown made a series of attacks that, despite nearly total losses, made no hits. Then, about 10:25, everything changed. Three squadrons of dive bombers, two from Enterprise and one from Yorktown, almost simultaneously dove on three of the four Japanese carriers, whose decks were crowded with fully armed and fueled planes. By 10:30, Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu were ablaze and out of action.

Of the once overwhelming Japanese carrier force, only Hiryu remained operational. Shortly before 11:00 she launched 18 of her own dive-bombers. At about noon, as these planes approached Yorktown, they were intercepted by U.S. fighter planes, which shot down most of the bombers. Seven survived, however, hitting Yorktown with three bombs and stopping her.

The Yorktown's crew managed to repair the damage and get their ship underway. Two more groups of torpedo planes and fighters from Hiryu soon spotted the Yorktown, which they mistook for a second U.S. carrier. Despite losses to the defending fighters and heavy anti-aircraft fire, the Japanese planes pushed on to deliver a beautifully coordinated torpedo attack. The stricken ship again went dead in the water. Concerned that the severely listing vessel was about to roll over, her captain ordered his crew to abandon ship. Late on June 4, U.S. carrier planes found and bombed Hiryu, which sank the next day. Two days later, a Japanese submarine located the Yorktown and the U.S. destroyer Hammann, which was helping the Yorktown return to Pearl Harbor for repairs. The submarine torpedoed both vessels. The Hammann sank immediately, and the Yorktown finally sank the following morning.

By the end of the battle, the perseverance, sacrifice, and skill of American pilots, plus a great deal of good luck, cost Japan four irreplaceable aircraft carriers, while only one of the three U.S. carriers was sunk. The Japanese lost 332 of their finest aircraft and more than 200 of their most experienced pilots. Deprived of useful air cover, and after several hours of shocked indecision, Yamamoto called off the Midway operation and retreated. The Japanese navy never fully recovered from its losses. Six months after it began, the great Japanese Pacific War offensive was over. From June 1942 to the end of the war three years later, it was the Americans who were on the offense.

Questions for Reading 2
1. What three elements were involved in the Japanese attack on Midway?
2. What damage was done to the islands in the Japanese attack?
3. How successful were Midway's counterattacks? Why?
4. What changed at 10:25? Admiral Nimitz later said that the dive-bombers were "worth their weight in gold." What did he mean by that?

Reading 2 was compiled from Erwin N. Thompson, "World War II Facilities at Midway" (Midway Islands, U.S. Minor Islands), National Historic Landmark documentation, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1986 Sidney C. Moody, Jr. and the Associated Press, War Against Japan (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1994) Edmund L. Castillo, Midway: Battle for the Pacific (New York: Random House, 1989) and the Naval Historical Center Web site.

Determining the Facts

Reading 3: Voices from Midway

The following are excerpts from reports and oral histories from participants in the Battle of Midway:

Commander John Thach, the leader of Yorktown's fighter pilots, was escorting torpedo planes attacking the Japanese carriers:

Several Zeros came in on a head-on attack on the torpedo planes. In the meantime, a number of Zeros were coming down in a string on our fighters. The air was just like a beehive. I was utterly convinced that we weren't any of us coming back because there were still so many Zeros. And then I saw a glint in the sun that looked like a beautiful silver waterfall. It was the dive-bombers coming in. I could see them very well because they came from the same direction as the Zeros. I'd never seen such superb dive-bombing. After the dive-bomber attack was over, I stayed there. I could only see three carriers. And one of them was burning with bright pink flames and sometimes blue flames. I remember gauging the height of those flames by the length of the ship, the distance was about the same. It was just solid flame going skyward and there was a lot of smoke on top of that. Before I left the scene I saw three carriers burning pretty furiously.

Thach later defended Yorktown during its attack by Japanese dive-bombers:

Now I saw a torpedo plane coming. I made a good side approach on him and got him on fire. The whole left wing was burning and I could see the ribs showing through the flames. But that devil stayed in the air until he got close enough and dropped his torpedo. That one hit the Yorktown. He was a dedicated torpedo plane pilot, for even though his plane was on fire and he was falling, he went ahead and dropped his torpedo. He fell into the water immediately after, very close to the ship. These Japanese pilots were excellent in their tactics and in their determination. In fact, as far as determination was concerned, you could hardly tell any difference between the Japanese carrier-based pilots and the American carrier-based pilots. Nothing would stop them if they had anything to say about it.

Mitsuo Fuchida commanded one of the Japanese carrier squadrons at Pearl Harbor, but did not participate in the action at Midway because he was recovering from an appendectomy. He observed the battle from Akagi:

Preparations for counterstrike against the enemy had continued on board our four carriers throughout the enemy torpedo attacks. One after another, planes were hoisted from the hangar and quickly arranged on the flight deck. At 10:24 the first Zero fighter gathered speed and whizzed off the deck. At that instant a lookout screamed: "Hell-divers!" I looked up to see three black enemy planes plummeting toward our ship. Some of our machine guns managed to fire a few frantic bursts at them, but it was too late. The plump silhouettes of the American Dauntless dive-bombers quickly grew larger, and then a number of black objects suddenly floated eerily from their wings. Bombs! Down they came straight toward me! I fell instinctively to the deck and crawled behind a command post mantelet.The terrifying scream of the dive-bombers reached me first, followed by the crashing explosion of a direct hit. There was a blinding flash and then a second explosion, much louder than the first. I was shaken by a weird blast of warm air. There was still another shock, but less severe, apparently a near miss. Then followed a startling quiet as the barking of guns suddenly ceased. I got up and looked at the sky. The enemy planes were already out of sight.

The attackers had gotten in unimpeded because our fighters, which had engaged the preceding wave of torpedo planes only a few moments earlier, had not yet had time to regain altitude. Consequently, it may be said that the American dive-bombers' success was made possible by the earlier martyrdom of their torpedo planes. We had been caught flatfooted in the most vulnerable condition possible--decks loaded with planes armed and fueled.

Looking about, I was horrified at the destruction that had been wrought in a matter of seconds. Planes stood tail up, belching livid flame and jet-black smoke. Reluctant tears streamed down my cheeks as I watched the fires spread. Explosions of fuel and munitions devastated whole sections of the ship. As the fire spread among planes lined up wing to wing on the after flight deck, their torpedoes began to explode, making it impossible to bring the fires under control. The entire hangar area was a blazing inferno, and the flames moved swiftly toward the bridge.

On June 28, 1942, Admiral Nimitz filed his official report on the battle:

In numerous and widespread engagements lasting from the 3rd to 6th of June, with carrier based planes as the spearhead of the attack, combined forces of the Navy, Marine Corps and Army in the Hawaiian Area defeated a large part of the Japanese fleet and frustrated the enemy's powerful move against Midway that was undoubtedly the keystone of larger plans. All participating personnel, without exception, displayed unhesitating devotion to duty, loyalty and courage. This superb spirit in all three services made possible the application of the destructive power that routed the enemy.

Questions for Reading 3
1. Why did Commander Thach think he would not survive?
2. What did Thach think about the Japanese pilots against whom he fought? Thach's account was recorded in 1971. Do you think his opinion might have been different in 1942? Why or why not?
3. What were Fuchida's feelings during the attack? How do you think you would have felt?
4. What role did the unsuccessful attacks of the torpedo planes play in the success of the dive-bombers?
5. How long did the attack of the American dive-bombers take? How do you think the course of the battle might have been affected if it had come after the Japanese planes had taken off?
6. Based on what you have read, do you think Nimitz's summary of the battle was accurate?

Reading 3 was compiled from John T. Mason, ed.,
The Pacific War Remembered: An Oral History Collection (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986), 103-105 and David C. Evans, ed., The Japanese Navy in World War II: In the Words of Former Japanese Naval Officers, 2nd ed. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986), 140-142. Admiral Nimitz's report was taken from the Online Action Reports of the Battle pages of the Naval Historical Center's Web site.

Battle of Midway and the Aleutian Campaign in rare pictures, 1942-1943

An SBD-3 dive bomber of Bombing Squadron Six, on the deck of USS Yorktown. The aircraft was flown by Ensign G.H. Goldsmith and ARM3c J. W. Patterson, Jr., during the June 4, 1942 strike against the Japanese carrier Akagi. Note the battle damage on the tail.

The Battle of Midway was a turning point in the Pacific War. Before the Battle of the Coral Sea on 7-8 May 1942, the Imperial Navy of Japan had swept aside all of its enemies from the Pacific and Indian oceans. At the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese won a tactical victory, but suffered an operational-level defeat: it did not invade Port Moresby in New Guinea and set up a base from which its land-based planes could dominate the skies over northern Australia. However, the overall military initiative was still in the hands of the Japanese. Their carrier striking force was still the strongest mobile air unit in the Pacific, and Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese fleet commander, hoped to use it to smash what remained of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet.

Yamamoto’s plan was to attack and then assault the two islands that make up the Midway atoll. He reasoned that the U.S. Navy could not tolerate such an operation so close to its base in Hawaii, and he believed—correctly, as it happened—that what was left of the U.S. Pacific Fleet would sortie from Pearl Harbor and expose itself to the power of his carrier force and his most powerful battleships. Yamamoto wanted his carriers, led by Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, to ambush any American carriers and surface ships that ventured to contest the Japanese attack and assault on Midway. Instead, he was ambushed by the three U.S. carriers—Yorktown, Enterprise, and Hornet—that had steamed north and west from Hawaii. In just one day—4 June 1942—Admiral Nagumo lost his four carriers to the air units of his American opponents, while U.S. naval forces lost only one carrier (Yorktown) in return.

Why was Midway such a critical victory? First, the fact that the U.S. Navy lost just one carrier at Midway meant that four carriers (Enterprise, Hornet, Saratoga, and Wasp) were available when the U.S. Navy went on the offensive during the Guadalcanal campaign that began the first week of August 1942. Second, the march of the Imperial Japanese Navy across the Pacific was halted at Midway and never restarted. After Midway, the Japanese would react to the Americans, and not the other way around. In the language of the Naval War College, the “operational initiative” had passed from the Japanese to the Americans. Third, the victory at Midway aided allied strategy worldwide.

That last point needs some explaining. To understand it, begin by putting yourself in the shoes of President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the beginning of May 1942. The military outlook across the world appears very bad for the Allies. The German army is smashing a Soviet offensive to regain Kharkov, and soon will begin a drive to grab the Soviet Union’s oil supplies in the Caucasus. A German and Italian force in North Africa is threatening the Suez Canal. The Japanese have seriously crippled the Pacific Fleet, driven Britain’s Royal Navy out of the Indian Ocean, and threaten to link up with the Germans in the Middle East.

If the Japanese and the Germans do link up, they will cut the British and American supply line through Iran to the Soviet Union, and they may pull the British and French colonies in the Middle East into the Axis orbit. If that happens, Britain may lose control of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Soviet Union may negotiate an armistice with Germany. Even worse, the Chinese, cut off from aid from the United States, may also negotiate a cease-fire with the Japanese. For Churchill, there is the added and dreaded prospect that the Japanese may spark a revolt that will take India from Britain. Something has to be done to stop the Japanese and force them to focus their naval and air forces in the Pacific—away from the Indian Ocean and (possibly) the Arabian Sea.

Midway saves the decision by the Americans and British to focus their major effort against Germany, and the American and British military staff are free to plan their invasion of North Africa. The U.S. Navy and Marines also begin planning for an operation on Guadalcanal against the Japanese. As Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance—one of the Navy’s carrier task force commanders at Midway—put it after the battle, “We had not been defeated by these superior Japanese forces. Midway to us at the time meant that here is where we start from, here is where we really jump off in a hard, bitter war against the Japanese.” Note his words: “… here is where we start from…” Midway, then, was a turning point, but by no means were the leaders of Japan and Germany ready to throw in the towel.

At the same time as the Battle of Midway was taking place, a Japanese aircraft carrier strike force thousands of miles to the north was attacking the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. After bombing Dutch Harbor, Japanese forces seized the tiny islands of Attu and Kiska. It was the first time since the War of 1812 that American soil had been occupied by an enemy. The Japanese dug in and held the islands until mid-1943, when American and Canadian forces recaptured them in brutal invasions. The campaign is known as the “Forgotten Battle”. Military historians believe it was a diversionary or feint attack during the Battle of Midway, meant to draw out the U.S. Pacific Fleet from Midway Atoll, as it was launched simultaneously under the same commander, Isoroku Yamamoto. Some historians have argued against this interpretation, believing that the Japanese invaded the Aleutians to protect their northern flank, and did not intend it as a diversion.

Aircraft carrier USS Enterprise at Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in late May 1942, being readied for the Battle of Midway.

TBD-1 torpedo bombers of Torpedo Squadron Six unfold their wings on the deck of USS Enterprise prior to launching an attack against four Japanese carriers on the first day of the Battle of Midway. Launched on the morning of June 4, 1942, against the Japanese carrier fleet during the Battle of Midway, the squadron lost ten of fourteen aircraft during their attack.

View showing the stern quarter of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise in the Pacific in 1942.

A Grumman F4F-4 “Wildcat” fighter takes off from USS Yorktown on combat air patrol, on the morning of 4 June 1942. This plane is Number 13 of Fighting Squadron Three, flown by the squadron Executive Officer, Lt(jg) William N. Leonard. Note .50 caliber machine gun at right and mattresses hung on the lifeline for splinter-protection.

The Japanese carrier Hiryu maneuvers to avoid bombs dropped by Army Air Forces B-17 Flying Fortresses during the Battle of Midway, on June 4, 1942.

U.S. Navy LCdr Maxwell F. Leslie, commanding officer of bombing squadron VB-3, ditches in the ocean next to the heavy cruiser USS Astoria, after successfully attacking the Japanese carrier Soryu during the Battle of Midway, on June 4, 1942. Leslie and his wingman Lt(jg) P.A. Holmberg ditched near Astoria due to fuel exhaustion, after their parent carrier USS Yorktown was under attack by Japanese planes when they returned. Leslie, Holmberg, and their gunners were rescued by one of the cruiser’s whaleboats. Note one of the cruiser’s Curtiss SOC Seagull floatplanes on the catapult at right.

Black smoke rises from a burning U.S. oil tank, set afire during a Japanese air raid on Naval Air Station Midway on Midway Atoll, on June 4, 1942. American forces maintained an airstrip with dozens of aircraft stationed on the tiny island. The attack inflicted heavy damage, but the airstrip was still usable.

A VB-8 SBD lands far off center, flying right over the head of the Landing Signal Officer aboard USS Hornet during the Battle of Midway, on June 4, 1942.

Japanese Type 97 shipboard attack aircraft from the carrier Hiryu amid heavy anti-aircraft fire, during the torpedo attack on USS Yorktown in the mid-afternoon of June 4, 1942. At least three planes are visible, the nearest having already dropped its torpedo. The other two are lower and closer to the center, apparently withdrawing. Smoke on the horizon in right center is from a crashed plane.

Smoke rises from the USS Yorktown after a Japanese bomber hit the aircraft carrier in the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942. Bursts from anti-aircraft fire fill the air.

Scene on board USS Yorktown, shortly after she was hit by three Japanese bombs on June 4, 1942. The dense smoke is from fires in her uptakes, caused by a bomb that punctured them and knocked out her boilers. Panorama made from two photographs taken by Photographer 2rd Class William G. Roy from the starboard side of the flight deck, just in front of the forward 5″/38 gun gallery. Man with hammer at right is probably covering a bomb entry hole in the forward elevator.

Black smoke pours from the aircraft carrier Yorktown after she suffered hits from Japanese aircraft during the Battle of Midway, on June 4, 1942.

A Japanese Type 97 attack aircraft is shot down while attempting to carry out a torpedo attack on USS Yorktown, during the mid-afternoon of 4 June 1942.

Navy fighters during the attack on the Japanese fleet off Midway, in June of 1942. At center a burning Japanese ship is visible.

The Japanese aircraft carrier Soryu maneuvers to avoid bombs dropped by Army Air Forces B-17 Flying Fortresses during the Battle of Midway, on June 4, 1942.

The heavily damaged, burning Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu, photographed by a plane from the carrier Hosho shortly after sunrise on June 5, 1942. Hiryu sank a few hours later. Note collapsed flight deck over the forward hangar.

Flying dangerously close, a U.S. Navy photographer got this spectacular aerial view of a heavy Japanese cruiser of the Mogima class, demolished by Navy bombs, in the battle of Midway, in June of 1942. Armor plate, steel decks and superstructure are a tumbled mass.

The USS Yorktown lists heavily to port after being struck by Japanese bombers and torpedo planes in the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942. A destroyer stands by at right to assist as a salvage crew on the flight deck tries to right the stricken aircraft carrier.

Crewmen of the USS Yorktown pick their way along the sloping flight deck of the aircraft carrier as the ship listed heavily, heading for damaged sections to see if they can patch up the crippled ship, in June of 1942.

After Japanese bombers damaged the USS Yorktown, crewmen climb down ropes and ladders to small boats that transferred them to rescue ships, including the destroyer at right, on June 4, 1942 in the Pacific Ocean. Later, a salvage crew returned to the abandoned ship and as she made progress toward port, a torpedo from a Japanese submarine destroyed and sank the Yorktown.

The United States destroyer Hammann, background, on its way to the bottom of the Pacific after having been hit by a Japanese torpedo during the battle of Midway, in June of 1942. The Hammann had been providing auxiliary power to damaged USS Yorktown while salvage operations were underway. The same attack also struck the Yorktown, which sank the following morning. Crewmen of another U.S. warship, foreground, line the rail as their vessel stands by to rescue survivors.

A U.S. seaman, wounded during the Battle of Midway, is transferred from one warship to another at sea in June of 1942.

Japanese prisoners of war under guard on Midway, following their rescue from an open lifeboat by USS Ballard, on June 19, 1942. They were survivors of the sunken aircraft carrier Hiryu. After being held for a few days on Midway, they were sent on to Pearl Harbor on June 23, aboard USS Sirius.

Bleak, mountainous Attu Island in Alaska had a population of only about 46 people prior to the Japanese invasion. On June 6, 1942, a Japanese force of 1,100 soldiers landed, occupying the island. One resident was killed in the invasion, the remaining 45 were shipped to a Japanese prison camp near Otaru, Hokkaido, where sixteen died while in captivity. This is a picture of Attu village situated on Chichagof Harbor.

On June 3, 1942, a Japanese aircraft carrier strike force launched air attacks over two days against the Dutch Harbor Naval Base and Fort Mears in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. In this photo, bombs explode in the water near Dutch Harbor, during the attack on June 4, 1942.

U.S. forces watch a massive fireball rise above Dutch Harbor, Alaska after a Japanese air strike in June of 1942.

Defending Dutch Harbor, Alaska during the Japanese air attacks of June 3-4, 1942.

Bombing of SS Northwestern and oil tanks in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, by Japanese carrier-based aircraft on June 4, 1942.

U.S. soldiers fight a fire after an air raid by Japanese dive bombers on their base in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in June 1942.

Oil tanks, the SS Northwestern, a beached transport ship, and warehouses on fire after Japanese air raids in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, on June 4, 1942.

The ruins of a bombed ship at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, on June 5, 1942.

Decoy aircraft are laid out by occupying Japanese forces on a shoreline on Kiska Island on June 18, 1942.

A train of bombs drops from United States Army Air forces plane on territory in the Aleutians held by the Japanese in 1943.

Bombs dropped from a U.S. bomber detonate on Japanese-occupied Kiska Island, Alaska, on August 10, 1943.

Japanese ship aground in Kiska Harbor, on September 18, 1943.

Dozens of bombs fall from a U.S. bomber toward Japanese-occupied Kiska Island, Alaska, on August 10, 1943. Note the craters from previous bombing runs and the zig-zag trenches dug by the Japanese.

Adak Harbor in the Aleutians, with part of huge U.S. fleet at anchor, ready to move against Kiska in August of 1943.

USS Pruitt leads landing craft from USS Heywood toward their landing beaches in Massacre Bay, Attu, on the first day of the May 11, 1943 invasion of Attu. Pruitt used her radar and searchlight to guide the boats nine miles through the fog. The searchlight beam is faintly visible pointing aft from atop her pilothouse. Some 15,000 American and Canadian troops successfully landed on the island.

Landing boats pouring soldiers and their equipment onto the beach at Massacre Bay, Attu Island, Alaska. This is the southern landing force on May 11, 1943. The American and Canadian troops took control of Attu within two weeks, after fierce fighting with the Japanese occupying forces. Of the allied troops, 549 were killed and 1,148 wounded — of the Japanese troops, only 29 men survived. U.S. burial teams counted 2,351 Japanese dead, and presumed hundreds more were unaccounted for.

A Canadian member of the joint American-Canadian landing force squints down the sights of a Japanese machine gun found in a trench on Kiska Island, Alaska, on August 16, 1943. After the brutal fighting in the battle to retake Attu Island, U.S. and Canadian forces were prepared for even more of a fight on Kiska. Unknown to the Allies though, the Japanese had evacuated all their troops two weeks earlier. Although the invasion was unopposed, 32 soldiers were killed in friendly-fire incidents, four more by booby traps, and a further 191 were listed as Missing in Action.

Wrecked Japanese planes, oil and gas drums are a mass of rubble on Kiska, Aleutian Islands, on August 19, 1943, as a result of Allied bombings.

A heavily damaged midget submarine base constructed by occupying Japanese forces on Kiska Island, photo taken sometime in 1943, after Allied forces retook the island.

On Kiska Island, after Allied troops had landed, this grave marker was discovered in a small graveyard amid the bombed-out ruins in August of 1943. The marker was made and placed by members of the occupying Japanese Army, after they had buried an American pilot who had crashed on the island. The marker reads: “Sleeping here, a brave air-hero who lost youth and happiness for his Mother land. July 25 – Nippon Army”

Burning Oil Tank – Spindletop – 1902

Frank Trost (1868-1944) of Port Arthur, Texas photographed early scenes of the Spindletop oilfield (discovered in 1901), including the famous photograph of the Lucas Gusher. His other Spindletop views were of oilfield fires, derrick scenes, and other gushers. Trost became known as “The Gusher Photographer.”

Many of Trost’s photographs were copyrighted and produced as postcards. Several have labels stating that they were produced by the Tom Jones Publishing Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, and sold by the Szafirs Stationers of Beaumont, Texas. The Tom Jones Art Publishing Company was a printing and engraving company from 1900-1917. The company also published scenic souvenirs and postcards.

Trost’s photograph of a burning oil storage tank near Spindletop was included in the 1906 USGS Bulletin #282 (Plate IV) and the caption identifies the scene as a September, 1902 fire. This photograph was produced as a postcard, in a “stained” red version and in black and white both captioned, “Greetings from Beaumont, Tex.” Another version of this postcard has a title of “Greetings from Lima, Ohio.”

The postcard scans here include the two Beaumont versions the black & white is postmarked 9/8/1904 and the red stained is postmarked 5/4/1905. The Lima version is postmarked from Lima on 12/22/1904 (also dated on the handwriting).

SPENCER, Jeff A., 2011, Oilfield photographers – three who captured North American oil booms, Frank Robbins, Frank Trost, and Jack Nolan, Oil-Industry History, v. 12, p. 45-57.

The Battle of Midway

One of Japan’s main goals during World War II was to remove the United States as a Pacific power in order to gain territory in east Asia and the southwest Pacific islands. Japan hoped to defeat the US Pacific Fleet and use Midway as a base to attack Pearl Harbor, securing dominance in the region and then forcing a negotiated peace.

Top Image: The USS Yorktown is hit on the port side by a torpedo launched from a plane off the Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu during the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942. (Image: National Archives and Records Administration, 80-G-414423.)

One of Japan’s main goals during World War II was to remove the United States as a Pacific power in order to gain territory in east Asia and the southwest Pacific islands. Japan hoped to defeat the US Pacific Fleet and use Midway as a base to attack Pearl Harbor, securing dominance in the region and then forcing a negotiated peace.

Breaking the Code

The United States was aware that the Japanese were planning an attack in the Pacific (on a location the Japanese code-named “AF”) because Navy cryptanalysts had begun breaking Japanese communication codes in early 1942. The attack location and time were confirmed when the American base at Midway sent out a false message that it was short of fresh water. Japan then sent a message that “AF” was short of fresh water, confirming that the location for the attack was the base at Midway. Station Hypo (where the cryptanalysts were based in Hawaii) was able to also give the date (June 4 or 5) and the order of battle of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Early on the morning of June 4, aircraft from four Japanese aircraft carriers attacked and severely damaged the US base on Midway. Unbeknownst to the Japanese, the US carrier forces were just to the east of the island and ready for battle. After their initial attacks, the Japanese aircraft headed back to their carriers to rearm and refuel. While the aircraft were returning, the Japanese navy became aware of the presence of US naval forces in the area.

Oil tanks on Sand Island spew fire and smoke after being hit by a Japanese attack early on June 4, 1942. The birds visible in the foreground are Laysan Albatross (“Gooney Bird”) chicks. (Image: National Archives and Records Administration, 80-G-17056.)

TBD Devastator torpedo-bombers and SBD Dauntless dive-bombers from the USS Enterprise, USS Hornet, and USS Yorktown attacked the Japanese fleet. The Japanese carriers Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu were hit, set ablaze, and abandoned. Hiryu, the only surviving Japanese carrier, responded with two waves of attacks—both times bombing the USS Yorktown, leaving it severely damaged but still afloat. (A Japanese submarine later sank the Yorktown on June 7.) On the afternoon of June 4, a USS Yorktown scout plane located the Hiryu, and the Enterprise sent dive-bombers to attack. That attack left the Hiryu burning and without the ability to launch aircraft before it finally sank.

Watch the video: Massive oil tank explosion filmed from 2 km away (July 2022).


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