Ja­panese Air­crew Loss at the Bat­tle of Mid­way

Flight Journal - - AIRDROP -

Thank you for pro­duc­ing such a fine pub­li­ca­tion; I look for­ward to each is­sue. I need to take is­sue, how­ever, con­cern­ing a state­ment that ap­pears in Bar­rett Till­man’s ar­ti­cle “The Seeds of Vic­tory Are Sown” (Au­gust 2017). He states, “the Im­pe­rial Ja­panese Navy suf­fered a crush­ing de­feat at Mid­way, los­ing... four pre­cious car­ri­ers and most of their air­crews.” The prob­lem with this state­ment is that the Ja­panese did not lose most of their air­crews at the Bat­tle of Mid­way. Jonathan Par­shall and Anthony Tully, in their ex­cel­lent book Shat­tered Sword: The Un­told Story of the Bat­tle of

Mid­way, doc­u­ment that the Kaga suf­fered 21 air­crew deaths, So­ryu lost 10, and the

Ak­agi 7. Only the Hiryu’s air group suf­fered ca­su­al­ties in ex­cess of 50 per­cent, los­ing 72. This is a to­tal of 110—com­pared to a Ja­panese loss of air­crew at the bat­tle of Santa Cruz of 145, where the Ja­panese did not lose any of their four car­ri­ers that par­tic­i­pated in the bat­tle.

The myth of Mid­way is that the Ja­panese car­ri­ers’ flight decks were cov­ered with armed and fu­eled air­craft ready to launch to de­stroy the U.S. car­ri­ers when the U.S. SBDs hit. The re­sult­ing im­age is that a ma­jor­ity of the flight crews were killed in ex­plo­sions from drop­ping bombs while sit­ting in their fully fu­eled and armed air­craft. The re­al­ity is that the strike air­craft were ac­tu­ally in the hangar decks be­ing

rearmed, and only a few CAP Zeros were on the flight decks when the SBDs from the

En­ter­prise and York­town hit. This is why so many Ja­panese flight crews sur­vived the bat­tle: They were not in their air­craft.

Note that the big loss in ir­re­place­able per­son­nel was main­te­nance crews at the Bat­tle of Mid­way.

One of the rea­sons that we have the be­lief that the Ja­panese decks were cov­ered with strike air­craft ready to take off and an­ni­hi­late the Amer­i­can fleet comes from Mit­suo Fuchida’s commentary about the bat­tle. Ja­panese his­to­ri­ans have com­mented that this mis­in­for­ma­tion may be a re­sult of his desire to up­hold the Bushido code. It makes a more heroic im­age that the killing blow from the SBDs hit an in­stant be­fore the Ja­panese were to un­leash the blow that would have led to their vic­tory. It just doesn’t sound as good that you got wiped out when you were down in the hangar deck get­ting your air­craft rearmed. That al­most gets to the level that you got wiped out an­swer­ing the call of na­ture, and no true war­rior would ever ad­mit that.

Thanks for con­sid­er­ing this. If there is in­for­ma­tion that coun­ters my state­ment above, please let me know. Den­nis N. Whit­mer, Golden, Colorado

Thank you for your at­ten­tion to de­tail. Since I proof­read Par­shall and Tully’s ex­cel­lent book, I know bet­ter. We’re check­ing to see how that creeped in.—Bar­rett T.

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