Tag Archives: Nakajima B5N

4 June 1942: Carrier vs. Carrier

USS Yorktown (CV-5) immediately after aerial torpedo hit, 4 June 1942. (U.S. Navy)

4 June 1942: The Battle of Midway: By the afternoon American planes had heavily damaged three Japanese Aircraft carriers. They would later sink. Planes from the fourth carrier, IJN Hiryu, were launched to attack the American aircraft carriers.

USS Yorktown (CV-5) was hit by two aerial torpedoes from Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers. She listed sharply, lost power and was out of action. She would later be sunk by the Japanese submarine I-168. Hiryu was attacked by U.S. Navy SBD Dauntless dive bombers and was badly damaged, set on fire, and sank later in the day.

The Battle of Midway was not over. It would go on until 7 June. However, the outcome was clear. Midway was a decisive American victory.

The Americans lost 1 aircraft carrier and 1 destroyer, about 150 aircraft, with 307 soldiers, sailors and airmen killed. The island outpost was saved and would never again be seriously threatened.

The Imperial Japanese Navy lost 4 aircraft carriers and one cruiser, with other warships, including battleships, so heavily damaged that they were out of the war for some time. Also lost were 248 aircraft and 3,057 sailors and airmen killed.

For the rest of the War, the Japanese Navy suffered from the loss of these highly experienced naval aviators. Though they could replace the men, they could not replace their years of combat experience. From this point forward, Japan was on the defensive with its defeat inevitable.

The Battle of Midway was the most decisive naval battle in history. It was fought almost entirely by aircraft.

IJN Hiryu heavily damaged and on fire, shortly before sinking, 4 June 1942 (IJN photograph)

Very Highly Recommended: History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume IV, Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Actions, May 1942—August 1942, by Samuel Eliot Morison, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, September 1949. The entire 15-volume series has TDiA’s highest possible recommendation.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 June 1942, 0430: Admiral Nagumo Attacks

Midway Atoll, looking from east to west. Eastern Island in foreground, Sand Island in background. (U.S. Navy)

4 June 1942: The Battle of Midway: The Japanese naval task force (First Mobile Force) under Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, consisting of the aircraft carriers IJN Agagi, IJN Kaga, IJN Hiryu and IJN Soryu, along with their escorts of battleships, cruisers, destroyers and supporting tankers, launched the first attack at 0430 against the United States base at Midway Island. The attackers consisted of 36 Aichi D3A dive bombers, 36 Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers and 36 Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters as escort.

The incoming aircraft were detected by radar on the island and defending U.S. Marines fighters—obsolescent Grumman F4F Wildcats and obsolete Brewster F2A Buffalos—were launched to defend the island’s airstrip and facilities. 15 U.S. Army Air Force B-17E Flying Fortress heavy bombers and 4 Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers took off to attack the Japanese carriers.

The Marine fighters were outnumbered and technologically inferior. 4 of the F4Fs and all 12 F2As were shot down. The Japanese lost 4 torpedo bombers and 3 Zero fighters. Facilities on the island were heavily damaged by the dive bomber attack, but it was not put out of action.

IJN Hiryu evading B-17 bomber attack at Battle of Midway, 4 June 1942. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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