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Second World War: Pacific
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Books - Second World War- Pacific - Midway

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]


Midway: The Turning Point , Arthur J. Barker, Macdonald & Co, London, 1970


Midway, Hugh Bicheno and Richard Holmes, Cassell Military, London, 2001.


The Midway Campaign , Jack Greene, Combined Books, Conshohocken, PA, 1995


Midway 1942, Mark Healy, Osprey Publishing Ltd, Oxford, 1993, Campaign Series No. 30.


Midway: The Incredible Victory , Walter Lord, Wordsworth Editions Ltd, Ware, 2000


Miracle at Midway , Gordon W Prange et al, Penguin Books, London, 2002.


The Battle of Midway , Peter C. Smith, Spellmount, Staplehurst, 1996


There are few moments in American history in which the course of events tipped so suddenly and so dramatically as at the Battle of Midway. At dawn of June 4, 1942, a rampaging Japanese navy ruled the Pacific. By sunset, their vaunted carrier force (the Kido Butai) had been sunk and their grip on the Pacific had been loosened forever.

In this riveting account of a key moment in the history of World War II, one of America's leading naval historians, Craig L. Symonds, paints an unforgettable portrait of ingenuity, courage, and sacrifice. Symonds begins with the arrival of Admiral Chester A. Nimitz at Pearl Harbor after the devastating Japanese attack, and describes the key events leading to the climactic battle, including both Coral Sea-the first battle in history against opposing carrier forces-and Jimmy Doolittle's daring
raid of Tokyo. He focuses throughout on the people involved, offering telling portraits of Admirals Nimitz, Halsey, Spruance and numerous other Americans, as well as the leading Japanese figures, including the poker-loving Admiral Yamamoto. Indeed, Symonds sheds much light on the aspects of Japanese
culture-such as their single-minded devotion to combat, which led to poorly armored planes and inadequate fire-safety measures on their ships-that contributed to their defeat. Symond's account of the battle itself is masterful, weaving together the many disparate threads of attack-attacks which failed in the early going-that ultimately created a five-minute window in which three of the four Japanese carriers were mortally wounded, changing the course of the Pacific war in an eye-blink.

Symonds is the first historian to argue that the victory at Midway was not simply a matter of luck, pointing out that Nimitz had equal forces, superior intelligence, and the element of surprise. Nimitz had a strong hand, Symonds concludes, and he rightly expected to win.
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The Silver Waterfall: A Novel of the Battle of Midway

Since its inception, the Naval Historical Foundation book review program has welcomed historical fiction submissions, recognizing that fictional writers, released from the constraints of demonstrating documented sources, can sometimes convey a better sense of what actually happened to a broader audience. Such is the case with The Silver Waterfall, Kevin Miller’s first attempt at historical fiction. A retired Navy captain, Miller had earned his wings of gold and first flew A-7 Corsairs before switching to the cockpit of an F/A-18 Hornet. I first met Miller when he had command of VFA-105 embarked in Enterprise in the aftermath of strikes his squadron made against Iraq in December 1998 – an operation called Desert Fox. We later crossed paths when he was Chief Operating Officer of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. Since then he has taken to writing. Following in the wake of Tom Clancy in the techno-thriller genre, he has published a trio of contemporary novels drawing on his experience as a naval aviator that have built quite the following.

Turning to the past, Miller now aims to replicate for Midway what Michael Shaara had accomplished for Gettysburg, A gifted story-teller, Miller’s depiction of the banter and emotions felt by the participants of the battle – mostly aviators – seems very credible. While he drew on his own time in the cockpit piloting Navy attack jets to relate to the reader the experience of diving on a Japanese carrier in a SBD Dauntless, what’s more evident is he spent much time with many of the veterans. Furthermore, during his tenure at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Miller got to know their aircraft.

Like Gettysburg, Midway is a three-day battle. For Shaara the battle climaxes on the third day with George Pickett’s charge through the wheat fields which is turned back after bloody hand-to-hand combat. Midway doesn’t play out as nicely for Miller. The climax of the battle occurs on the first day when “The Silver Waterfall” descends on Kido Butai to successfully takeout three of the four Japanese carriers supporting the planned seizure of Midway.

Miller handled the challenge of keeping the reader engaged over the following two days by recreating tensions and turmoil that where known to be present between Raymond Spruance, his chief of staff Miles Browning, and the carrier, air group, and squadron commanders. Miller makes it abundantly clear that in the American destruction of four of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s finest flattops, that Hornet did not cover itself in glory as its fighter and dive bomber squadrons missed out on the action of June 4 to leave Torpedo Squadron 8 to attack alone and get annihilated.

Indeed, Miller’s depiction of the discussions on the bridges of Japanese and American flagships make this book worthy reading material for case studies on command decision making.

What could make the book more suitable for such use is if Miller provided more explanatory footnotes. Because I’ve read many takes on the battle, including Craig Symonds most recent study, The Battle of Midway (2011), I understood the “backstory.” Readers unfamiliar with the battle do not. Miller provides some explanatory notes such as the Mogami-Mukuma collision, but he could have further enhanced his work had he chose to include biographical notes about his featured individuals, factoids about the ships and aircraft involved in the engagement, and additional aspects about the battle that could not be practically included in the narrative.

Overall, did Miller accomplish do for Midway what Shaara did for Gettysburg. I would have to answer with a resounding “Yes!”

Kevin Miller. The Silver Waterfall: A Novel of the Battle of Midway. Braveship Books, Los Angeles CA. 2020

Dr. David F. Winkler is the Staff Historian for the Naval Historical Foundation and the 2020-2021 Charles Lindbergh Chair of Aerospace History at the Smithian Institute.


Throw Away Your History Book: This Is the Battle That Won World War II (Not D-Day)

The fact that Midway’s anniversary falls one day after D-Day may be part of the reason – it is overshadowed. It may also be that the story of American ground troops at Normandy, braving the horrors on the beach to secure a toehold in Europe, is something that resonates more personally with people on the most basic and emotional levels. We understand it better because of its mortal qualities. We’re more affected by – and thus seem to appreciate more – the visceral aspects of combat, the grit and grind and human tragedy of war. Perhaps Midway is less captivating in this regard.

Thursday, June 6th saw the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion at Normandy, the amphibious assault phase of Operation Neptune, or what we commonly remember as D-Day. U.S. troops who landed at Normandy – particularly at Omaha Beach – waded ashore amidst a storm of chaos, a blizzard of machine gun fire, and a hail of plunging mortars. Despite great confusion and casualties, at the squad level and below, the men at Omaha rallied and pressed forth with tenacity and nerve to breach sand-berms and barricades, neutralize enemy positions, and salvage their sectors. Losses at Omaha were immense – but American resolve helped establish a foothold on the coast of France – and “the rest,” they say, “is history.”

(This appeared earlier in June 2019.)

Without doubt, the enormous importance of D-Day as a logistical and operational undertaking – and the gallantry of Allied forces that June morning is unquestioned. It rightfully exemplifies American character, courage, and commitment. However, it is important to note that as far as the battle’s strategic significance is concerned, a strong case can be made that other battles of World War II are more critical than D-Day.

The Battle of Midway in 1942 is one.

Today – June 7th – is the 77th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, an engagement that not only follows one calendar day after D-Day but is a battle that is consistently considered to be a critical turning point for America in World War II. Midway was likely the most strategically significant battle for the U.S. in the Pacific Theater. Not only did U.S. Naval forces halt Japan’s dynamic and multi-pronged advancement across the Pacific at Midway, but the battle occurred in midyear 1942 when victory for the Allies was far from certain.

While the tactical result of the battle was stunning – the U.S. sunk four Japanese fleet carriers Hiryu, Soryu, Kaga and Akagi, a heavy cruiser and destroyed 248 enemy aircraft – it is the perilous backdrop of America’s war fortunes in 1942 that make Midway’s tide-turning outcomes all the more significant.

Recall that Midway occurred only six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor – a period when America’s military and industrial capabilities were a far cry from the potent war-machine they would be by 1944 and ’45. Aside from Colonel Jimmy Doolittle’s gutsy bombing raid in April, demoralizing defeats had largely characterized the Allied combat experience in early 1942 – from Wake Island, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines in Asia, to the disastrous Raid on Dieppe in France. Other engagements – such as the Battle of the Coral Sea – were more akin to arguably draws than outright victories. Midway halted that trend with a shocking blow.

Midway is also crucial because of when it occurred in the context of Allied Grand Strategy for the war. Although both Roosevelt and Churchill had agreed to a "Europe First" approach to defeating the Axis Powers, in mid-1942, it was in the Pacific Theater where the U.S. was executing significant offensive operations with joint forces and combined arms. It was at Midway where the U.S. demonstrated effective combat capability very early on – inflicting severe damage on a motivated and experienced enemy. Conversely, American efforts in the European Theater in 1942 primarily consisted of naval blockade and convoy protection in the Atlantic and continued material support to Great Britain and the Soviet Union. It wouldn’t be until Operation Torch in late 1942 where the Allies – led by the U.S. – opened a genuine "Second Front" on Europe’s doorstep.

It is important to remember that by the time Overlord was launched in mid-1944, the noose around the neck of Nazi Germany had been steadily tightening. Italy’s role as an Axis power had been significantly reduced (having surrendered in 1943), the Wehrmacht had lost North Africa and suffered catastrophic defeats at Stalingrad and Kursk, the Red Army was sweeping back across Eastern Europe, Rome was liberated, and the Allies had primarily established air superiority over the continent. By 1944, the Allies were combat-hardened, and American war production was at peak levels. This all stood in stark contrast to 1942, when America and her allies remained largely on the defensive, and in many cases, in retreat.

So – with these points in mind, why is there not a greater appreciation for Midway every June? Its strategic importance in blunting the Japanese and the way the lopsided American victory lifted our morale at a tough period in the war, all argue for greater acknowledgment and understanding of the battle. And yet, Midway doesn’t seem to capture the same level of attention or interest that D-Day does every year.

The fact that Midway’s anniversary falls one day after D-Day may be part of the reason – it is overshadowed. It may also be that the story of American ground troops at Normandy, braving the horrors on the beach to secure a toehold in Europe, is something that resonates more personally with people on the most basic and emotional levels. We understand it better because of its mortal qualities. We’re more affected by – and thus seem to appreciate more – the visceral aspects of combat, the grit and grind and human tragedy of war. Perhaps Midway is less captivating in this regard.

The point of all of this is not – to diminish the heroism and experiences of anyone who landed ashore in France on June 6th. Nor is it to suggest that the contributions of those who did their duty in one theater at one time are greater or lesser than the contributions of those in another theater at a different time. Those who gave their all in World War II did so regardless of place, objectives, or the overarching status of the conflict.

The point of all of this is – that we have an obligation to develop a greater recognition of Midway and its strategic importance in the way that we recognize D-Day and its significance as exemplifying American valor and the American combat experience in Europe. There is an imperative to recognize the significance – from the personal to the academic – of all of these campaigns.

Looking ahead, 2019 marks the 75th anniversaries of several major battles of the Second World War – from Saipan and Peleliu to Anzio, Operation Market Garden, and the Hurtgen Forest. 1944 also saw the Battle of the Philippine Sea – known as “The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” – and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which is considered the biggest naval engagement of WWII and possibly the largest in world history.

As we commemorate each of these upcoming anniversaries, we have a golden and timely – but limited – opportunity to gain a new appreciation for the importance of these events and to understand the role that our fellow Americans played in them.

Connor Martin is a U.S. Marine veteran and policy analyst in Washington DC.

This article by Connor Martin originally appeared at Real Clear Defense. This article first appeared in 2019.


The Beginning of the End

It is an essential and oft-told chapter in the history of the war. It is also, retired Naval Academy history professor Craig Symonds argues, widely misunderstood. What he takes issue with is the idea—latent, he believes, in most of the popular accounts—that the outcome at Midway was a matter of luck. Walter Lord titled his immersive 1967 narrative of the battle "Incredible Victory." Gordon Prange titled his important 1982 book "Miracle at Midway." This perception, Mr. Symonds says, is "dominant." It is literally set in stone at the World War II memorial in Washington. The words, "They had no right to win. Yet they did, and in doing so they changed the course of a war"—a quote from Lord's book—sit on the southern wall.

But luck was the least of it, Mr. Symonds believes. Victory was "primarily the result of decisions made and actions taken by individuals who found themselves at the nexus of history at a decisive moment." Men are not the pawns of history but its prime movers, he claims.

The plan to draw the elusive American carrier fleet to its destruction by seizing Midway Atoll was the most ambitious operation that the Imperial Japanese Navy had ever conceived. But the plan assumed that the U.S. flattops would be idling at Pearl Harbor as their invasion began. They were not. Thanks to the success of his perspicacious codebreakers, Chester Nimitz, the Pacific Fleet commander in chief, knew the Japanese were coming and hurried his three carriers to sea to set an ambush for Chuichi Nagumo's four carriers. Frank Jack Fletcher's Task Force 17, with the carrier Yorktown, and Raymond A. Spruance's Task Force 16, with Enterprise and Hornet, took station 325 miles northeast of Midway, near a spot in the sea that Nimitz designated as, yes, "Point Luck." With specific forewarning and carrier strength nearly equal to Nagumo's (though with vastly inferior supporting forces), Nimitz liked his chances. So was American victory foreordained? Should we entirely dispense with the subjective notion of Midway as "incredible," a "miracle"?

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Battle of Midway Bookstore

Stop by our Battle of Midway Bookstore during your next visit!

The bookstore is usually open 7 days a week from 10 am -4 pm.

Located adjacent to The Battle of Midway Theater and Experience and staffed by library volunteers – explore the store for a wide range of used books at fair prices.

The bookstore features:

  • More than two dozen titles on the Battle of Midway
  • Books on naval history, ships, and aviation, as well as many general interest titles.
  • Unique professional aviation art not found elsewhere
  • Limited edition posters of Torpedo Squadron 8 and of the USS Midway

Get your copy of the remarkable “Voices of Midway” video which includes the 14-minute video seen in the Battle of Midway Theater and the 40-minute behind-the-scenes video showing what went into the making of the movie here onboard.

Proceeds from the sale of the books and posters benefit the Research Library making possible the ability to purchase needed volumes for the Museum’s archives.

Proceeds from the sale of the “Voices of Midway” video benefit scholarships given by the Education Department to visiting school groups.


Bookshop: Battle of Midway - History

Craig L. Symonds, The Battle of Midway, Oxford University Press, 2011. 452 pp., appendices, notes, bibliography, photos, index.

Review by Dr. John Abbatiello
Monument, Colorado

The series editors of Oxford’s “Pivotal Moments in American History” collection certainly hit a home run when they asked Craig Symonds to write about the battle of Midway. Symonds needs no introduction to IJNH’s readership, having published widely in naval and American history and having taught countless midshipmen at Annapolis for thirty years.

Building on research for the Midway chapter from his 2005 Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles That Shaped American History (also an Oxford publication), Symonds synthesizes the recent superb scholarship on this decisive battle and adds his own emphasis and analysis. His focus is on the key decision makers, from King and Nimitz to the task force, ship, and aviation squadron commanders. His thesis is that while fortune played a minor role in the battle, Midway’s outcome “was primarily the result of decisions made and actions taken by individuals who found themselves at the nexus of history at a decisive moment.” So, when many previous authors counted luck as the key factor in Wade McClusky’s spotting the Arashi’s wake as it headed back to the Japanese carrier fleet alone at high speed, allowing the dive bombers of the USS Enterprise to follow it straight to their targets, Symonds explains this episode as being driven by individual decisions. Bill Brockman’s aggressive command of the USS Nautilus, which hounded the Kido Butai’s heavy escorts and forced the Japanese to detach Arashi to defeat this submarine threat, was instead the primary cause of McClusky’s sighting. According to Symonds, the naval culture that produced these leaders—both American and Japanese—likewise served to influence their actions and decisions in fundamental ways. For this reason, the author provides thorough biographical sketches of each of the key players throughout the narrative, focusing on education and previous naval experience. This serves the dual purposes of explaining cultural norms while offering the reader insights into individual personalities.

Symonds did not simply rely on the research of others his examination of operational archives, oral histories, memoirs, and official records was thorough and consistent with the comprehensive archival investigation one would expect. When borrowing from previous scholarship or debunking long-held myths, Symonds is careful with his language and endnotes. For example, the late launch of the Tone’s Number 4 search plane was for many years cited as a reason for the Japanese not sighting the US carriers first. Symonds relates later research by Dallas Isom—repeated in Parshall and Tully’s Shattered Sword—showing that an on time take off would have caused Number 4 to miss the US task forces completely.

So what is new and refreshing in this account of a well-worn topic? Primarily, the focus on the commanders and their interactions was most enlightening. Employing expert prose that is both clear and careful, Symonds highlights the relationships between the key leaders. For example, the author makes clear Nimitz’s frustration with King, who attempted to micro-manage the Pacific War from Washington. Symonds shows how Spruance resolved differences of opinion between his Chief of Staff, Miles Browning, and the Enterprise’s CAG, Wade McClusky. Symonds is not afraid to criticize when warranted, such as in the case of the less than stellar decision-making of Hornet’s CO, Pete Mitscher, and CAG, Stanhope Ring. Ring’s subordinate squadrons, including John Waldron’s VT-8, abandoned their CAG on the morning of 4 June once they realized he was not leading them to the Japanese carriers. Failing to sight the enemy, Ring flew back to the Hornet alone. Had Waldron survived his suicidal attack on the Japanese carriers that morning, he certainly would have been court-martialed for insubordination. On the Japanese side, descriptions of Yamamoto, Nagumo, and the carrier captains provide valuable insights into the naval culture of command of America’s Pacific adversary. In praise and criticism, the author presents an evenhanded treatment of the performance of the decision-makers at Midway.

Symonds’ The Battle of Midway is a must-read for naval historians. The award-winning author is a brilliant storyteller who weaves culture, leadership, doctrine, strategy, technology, and biography into a powerful narrative. His focus on decision-making is reasonable, well supported, and skillfully presented.


How Accurate is "Midway"? The Movie vs. the True Story of the Battle of Midway

Director Roland Emmerich's Midway, which is based on the true story of the Battle of Midway, covers roughly six months of the war in the Pacific, from the attack on Pearl Harbor through the decisive battle around Midway Atoll, which turned the tide of the war in favor of the U.S.

Is the attack on Pearl Harbor depicted accurately in the movie?

For the most part, yes. It would be hard to make a movie about the Battle of Midway without putting at least some emphasis on the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The December 7, 1941 surprise attack was arguably the U.S. Navy's greatest defeat. It's also what prompted the U.S. to enter the war, and it set the American Navy on a course to victory at Midway. The movie's version of the attack on Pearl Harbor is largely accurate. This includes the salvage operations we see going on afterwards.

The Midway true story confirms that the two U.S. aircraft carriers based at Pearl Harbor at the time were not there on the day of the Japanese attack. USS Enterprise and USS Lexington were out on identical missions, ferrying aircraft to island outposts. USS Enterprise had delivered 12 Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats to Wake Island and USS Lexington was on its way to Midway Island with 18 Vought SB2U-3 Vindicators. The fact that the two carriers were spared would come back to haunt the Japanese fleet. -We Are The Mighty

Is Mandy Moore's character, Anne Best, based on a real person?

Yes. At 32 years old, Dick Best was older than most of the men serving around him. Though we couldn't find much information about his wife, we do know that he was married at the time and had a four-year-old daughter, Barbara Ann, similar to what's seen in the movie. The Bests were living in Waikiki, Hawaii. After retiring from the Navy in 1944 following 32 months of treatment for tuberculosis, he moved his family to Santa Monica, California where he lived for the rest of his life.

Was the situation really that precarious for the U.S. Navy following the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Yes. A Midway movie fact check confirms that the U.S. was in a precarious situation. Things were really that dire for Admiral Nimitz and the U.S. Navy following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. When Admiral Nimitz took command of the Pacific Fleet following the attack, there were just a few support ships left to protect the aircraft carriers from the gigantic Japanese Navy. Morale among the U.S. Navy was low and most sailors lacked experience. At the time, the U.S. military ranked only fifth in the world, behind the UK, Germany, Soviet Union and Japan. -We Are The Mighty

If the U.S. had been defeated in the Pacific, could the Japanese have invaded the West Coast of America?

Dick Best (Ed Skrein) tells his wife Anne (Mandy Moore) this in the movie, which heightens the stakes before he goes off to battle. In reality, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were far from a land invasion of the West Coast of America, which was beyond their capability. At best, Admiral Yamamoto and the Japanese Army were considering an invasion of the Hawaiian island chain (Midway Island is part of that chain). It's also possible that Japan would have tried to bomb cities along the West Coast of America, similar to what the U.S. did to Tokyo. However, Japan's loss at Midway put a stop to their ability to do either.

Did Lieutenant Commander Edwin T. Layton's intelligence unit crack the Japanese code?

Yes. Edwin T. Layton, who is portrayed by Patrick Wilson in the movie, commanded the intelligence unit that cracked the Japanese code. Working in an underground bunker nicknamed the "Dungeon," his unit ciphered through thousands of Japanese messages. It's true that Navy Band members were brought in to help decode. Despite the success of the codebreakers, they were only able to come up with an educated guess as to the location of the Japanese fleet. As a result, the leaders in Washington opted to instead strike the Japanese homeland, sanctioning a mission known as the "Doolittle Raid," named after the man who planned and led the operation, Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle (Aarron Eckhart). A fact check of the Midway movie's historical accuracy reveals that there was indeed a turf battle between the cryptologists in Washington, D.C. and the cryptologists in Hawaii under Layton, who were correct in their conclusions about the Japanese Navy attacking Midway. -We Are The Mighty

Why was the Battle of Midway so important?

Eventually, Edwin T. Layton's codebreakers were able to determine the likely location of the Japanese fleet. While they weren't able to decipher all of the Japanese code, the bits of information they understood pointed to Midway as the location of the fleet. Admiral Nimitz put his faith in Layton's unit and ordered the two carriers to Midway. It is believed that the Japanese were on their way to capture Midway Atoll and use it as an advance base from which to attack and destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The island is part of the Hawaiian archipelago. Midway's significance lies in the fact that it is roughly halfway between Asia and North America, making it an optimal strategic location.

The Battle of Midway marked the first decisive victory for American forces in the Pacific Theater during WWII. Following six months of bad news that began with Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, which kicks off the film, Midway was the first significant step in a three-year campaign to defeat Japan. During the June 4-7, 1942 air and sea battle, American forces levied a decisive blow on the attacking Japanese fleet, securing a victory that has been heralded as the U.S. Navy's greatest comeback.

How accurate are the ships and planes seen in Midway?

When director Roland Emmerich set out to make Midway, he ran into a problem. None of the historic aircraft carriers and planes from that time period are in their wartime condition. "Even when you have some aircraft carrier sitting around, like one in Alameda and one in, I think, South Carolina or [the Intrepid] in New York, they were altered in the '60s," says Emmerich. "The flight deck is totally different, et cetera, et cetera. And then they have actually put modern technology in some of the flak turrets." This goes for the military aircraft too, including the Douglas SBDs (scout bombers) that still exist. They've been altered so that they're allowed to be flown. Emmerich could not find Douglas TBDs (torpedo bombers) anywhere since most were probably scrapped since they weren't stellar airplanes.

"So, we had to pretty much create everything," says Emmerich. "When you can create everything, then naturally you can be absolutely exact. Our aircraft carriers, both Japanese and Enterprise and the Hornet, what you see is super correct because there's endless research material, photographs and stuff." The filmmakers shot much of Midway indoors against a blue screen on a giant soundstage in Montreal, where they built part of a flight deck. "It's a relatively perfect re-creation of everything," Emmerich added. However, what arguably detracts from Midway's historical accuracy is the fact that many of the planes and shots of the carriers were created digitally and therefore are not authentic replications of the originals. -Military.com

Some of the payloads seen on the planes in the film are represented inaccurately. For example, while the Douglas TBD-1 Devastator could be equipped with a torpedo or bombs, the aircraft would not have been equipped with both at the same time as shown in the movie. It was an underpowered airplane that could barely make it off the carrier with the weight of just a torpedo. Furthermore, if the filmmakers had accurately researched the Midway true story, they would know that the real-life Devastator did not have wing racks that could carry two 500 pound bombs like we see it doing in the film (pictured below). -Military Aviation History

How accurate are the combat sequences in Midway?

While a Midway fact check reveals the combat sequences to be mostly accurate, the filmmakers seemed to sacrifice various details in order to get the shots they wanted. For example, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that opens the film, it appears that the torpedo bombers are attacking from the wrong angles, including when the Japanese aircraft are attacking down battleship row. The latter was very likely done to get a long tracking shot showing all of the different types of enemy aircraft.

A somewhat far-fetched scene later in the film is when we see Dick Best (Ed Skrein) performing a hammerhead stall in his Dauntless in order to make Japanese aircraft overshoot him. The maneuver involves his plane heading into a vertical climb until it almost stalls and then dropping the nose to reverse the direction of flight. Although this is an actual combat maneuver, it is not one that a pilot would have attempted in a Dauntless.

The formations of the planes and ships in the movie are often too close together. This was likely done in order to capture more planes and ships in the shot. The planes are often seen flying too low as well. An example of this can be observed during the Japanese attack on Midway Atoll.

The destruction is also exaggerated at times. For example, in one scene we see the U.S. conducting an air raid in the Marshall Islands on a Japanese-controlled air base. The Dauntlesses blow up five or so Mitsubishi G3Ms on the ground. However, in real life, it is believed they only hit one G3M on the ground. The reality of combat during that time is that many of the bombs that were dropped didn't hit their targets. However, for the purpose of a movie, the destruction is conveyed more effectively if we see an exaggerated number of successful hits, or the hits happening all at once. -Military Aviation History

Did a burning Mitsubishi G4M bomber crash into a Dauntless SBD on the carrier deck as Bruno Gaido fired at the bomber from the SBD's turret?

Yes. In the movie, we see Nick Jonas' character, Aviation Machinist Mate Bruno Gaido, jumping into a Dauntless SBD's turret while the plane is still parked on the USS Enterprise's deck. He mans the .30 caliber machine gun and fires at an incoming Japanese Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bomber that has both engines on fire. The G4M crashes into the Dauntless SBD, cutting off the SBD's tail before the G4M cartwheels off the carrier's deck into the ocean. You might have rolled your eyes at this scene, but while researching the Midway true story, we surprisingly learned that it indeed happened in real life. The incident unfolded when the Enterprise was in the Central Pacific near the Marshall Islands on February 1, 1942. Like in the movie, Bruno Gaido lived through the incident and his shipmates later said that it was his relentless firing that caused the incoming bomber to spin at a ninety degree angle, sparing the carrier from a direct hit. After the event, Vice Admiral William F. Halsey promoted Gaido from Third Class to First Class.

Was Bruno Gaido captured and drowned by the Japanese?

Was pilot Dick Best instrumental in the sinking of two Japanese aircraft carriers?

Yes. Lieutenant Dick Best scored hits on the Akagi and the Hiryu, two of the four Japanese aircraft carriers that were sunk during the Battle of Midway. Things really were that dangerous for the dive bomber pilots, who faced anti-aircraft fire and an onslaught of Japanese fighter planes. During Best's first mission on the morning of June 4, 1942, the bomb he dropped on the Akagi went through the flight deck and exploded in the upper hanger, delivering a catastrophic blow to the carrier and the 18 Nakajima B5N2 planes parked there. When Best's squadron return to the USS Enterprise, only three planes out of fifteen arrived in good condition.

It's true that Dick Best's military career ended following the first day of fighting at Midway. While flying on his first mission, he breathed in caustic soda to clear out a faulty oxygen canister. Later that day, he began coughing up blood and started with a fever. After being transported from the Enterprise to the hospital in Pearl Harbor, X-rays revealed cloudy spots on his lungs. It was determined that breathing in the caustic soda activated latent tuberculosis. He endured 32 months of treatment and then retired from the Navy in 1944. He never flew again. -Los Angeles Times

What were the Japanese and U.S. casualties at the Battle of Midway?

The WWII Battle of Midway lasted from June 4, 1942 until June 7, 1942, though the bulk of the fighting took place on June 4. In the end, 307 U.S. servicemen lost their lives. The United States also lost 145 aircraft, 1 destroyer and 1 aircraft carrier, the USS Yorktown. Japan suffered more devastating losses, including 2,500 servicemen, 292 aircraft, 1 heavy cruiser and 4 aircraft carriers.

Was the U.S. Navy involved in the making of Midway?

Yes. Defense Department historians from the Naval History and Heritage Command were involved throughout the entire process, both during script development and production. The screenplay for the film was written by Navy veteran Wes Tooke. Each scene of the Midway movie was carefully reviewed to make sure it was historically accurate. "Despite some of the 'Hollywood' aspects, this is still the most realistic movie about naval combat ever made," commented retired Navy Rear Adm. Sam Cox, who oversaw the fact-checking. "It does real credit to the courage and sacrifice of those who fought in the battle on both sides."

The actors were equally concerned about Midway's historical accuracy. Woody Harrelson, who plays Admiral Chester Nimitz, discussed the character with Navy Rear Admiral Brian Fort, commander of Navy Region Hawaii. Harrelson wanted a better understanding of who Nimitz was and what led him to make the decisions he made. Harrelson also headed out into the Pacific to spend time on USS John C. Stennis as the ship carried out operations at sea. Actor Patrick Wilson, who portrays naval intelligence officer Lt. Commander Edwin Layton, met with retired intelligence officer Navy Captain Dale Rielage to talk about Layton and his relationship with Nimitz. -U.S. Department of Defense

Have any other movies been made about the Battle of Midway?

Add to your understanding of the Battle of Midway's significance by watching these videos that outline what happened during the battle, including code-breaking, carrier movements, and air attacks.


USS Midway Research Library

Its goals are:

  • To be a repository for resources that will help to preserve global and national naval aviation and naval history.
  • To provide support for staff research projects within the museum.
  • To provide a resource for the San Diego community.

The library is open to staff and volunteers of the Museum, former crewmen of the Midway, members at the Circle Level, and researchers. Hours are usually 7 days a week from 8 am – 4 pm. It is always best to call first, (619) 398-8275. The library can also be reached by email at [email protected]

Our collection includes a collection of over 10,000 items. The major holdings are in naval aviation, aircraft carriers, and World War II in the Pacific. The library has 1,500 cruise books including 600 aircraft carrier cruise books. Click here to access the USS Midway Museum Library Online Catalog sorted by title.

Our Projects

Database of Men Who Served

We are combing through muster rolls, cruise books, and newsletters to create a database of the men who served on the USS Midway. Currently, there are approximately 85,000 names on the list, with more added every day.

U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings Project

In a joint project with the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI), we have volunteers reading every article in the Proceedings back to 1874. These volunteers catalog and summarize all important articles from each issue. The volunteer team compiling summaries for the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) Proceedings Database cruised into its eighth year of work recently in what appears to be a 10-year project. The searchable database, which will eventually be accessible via the USS Midway Museum and USNI websites, will provide interested parties with a valuable research tool heretofore unavailable. Over 10,000 summaries have been completed of a target set of over 13,000 main articles covering the period 1874 to date. As part of the joint project, USNI has digitized its entire Proceedings collection and it is available on their website.

Battle of Midway Bookstore

This space is adjacent to The Battle of Midway Experience and staffed by library volunteers. The Bookstore features a wide range of used books at fair prices. Featured are more than two dozen titles on the Battle of Midway books on naval history, ships, and aviation, as well as many general interest titles. We also sell unique professional aviation art not found elsewhere, including limited edition posters of Torpedo Squadron 8 and of the USS Midway, as well as other unique aviation art posters. The bookstore sells the “Voices of Midway” video which includes the 14 minute video seen in the Battle of Midway Theater and the 40 minute behind-the-scenes video showing what went into the making of the movie here onboard.

Proceeds from the sale of the books and posters benefit the Research Library (enabling us to buy needed volumes for the library) and proceeds from the sale of the Voices of Midway videos benefit scholarships given by the Education Department to visiting school groups. The bookstore is usually open 7 days a week from 10 AM – 4 PM.

Research Library Facebook Page

The Research Library created a Facebook page in June of 2014 in celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Museum. Today, the focus of the page is the history of the USS Midway as well as the history of naval aviation and aircraft carriers. Click here to access our page, and “like” it!

Milestone Landings Aboard

We believe that there were over 325,000 landings (or traps) aboard the USS Midway. We are keeping a database of every thousandth landing from 1945 to 1992. This information will be used to recreate the ten large brass plaques that used to display those milestones here onboard the ship. There are many gaps in the record (especially in the final years) and this special project is determined to find the missing information regarding pilot names, dates, and aircraft types involved.

Magazine Indexing

Library volunteers sort our collection of naval aviation and naval history magazines, and indexing and summarizing all important information.

Cruise Book & Newsletter Indexing

Library volunteers sort all Midway cruise books and all available Midway newsletters to capture the history of the ship and create a reference database.

The Complete Rhymes of the Midway Mariners

From commissioning in 1945 to decommissioning in 1992, the USS Midway inspired men to write about her in rhyme. “The Complete Rhymes of the Midway Mariners” book features verses written by the Officer of the Deck in official Deck Logs during the first watch of a new year.

Accompanied throughout by photographs of Midway crew and air wings, the book includes additional verses discovered in the ship’s newsletters and cruise books. All reveal the spirit of the thousands who served during her 42 years of active duty and contribute to the magic that continues aboard the USS Midway Museum today.


Battle of Midway - World War II: A History From Beginning to End (World War 2 Battles) Kindle Edition

Hourly History, the aptly named publisher of dozens of histories and biographies available for sale on Amazon, has an admirable goal in their works. Their aim is to provide readers with an introduction to famous historical events through pseudonymous books of some 40-50 pages that can be read in an hour or so. Many of their books cover extensive topics like the Industrial Revolution or the life of Abraham Lincoln (two of their current best-selling works). However, their editorial approach is best suited for briefer events that can be covered adequately in far less space. At first glance, it would seem that “Battle of Midway,” the story of the battle that proved the turning point of the Pacific campaign in World War II, would be a perfect example of the Hourly History approach. Unfortunately, some questionable decision making and editing make this book far from an ideal choice for an introduction to the battle.

The Battle of Midway was a naval engagement between the U.S. and Japan that took place in the waters off Midway Island in June 1942. The crucial part of the fighting occurred over about eight hours during which U.S. aircraft destroyed all four Japanese aircraft carriers involved in the battle. As a result, the planned Japanese attack on the strategic target of Midway was called off. The U.S. victory was due to a combination of superior military intelligence, daring command strategy, incredible self-sacrifice by some of the pilots involved, and some good old fashioned luck.

There have been several excellent histories written about the Battle of Midway (and two major-studio films made about the battle as well). Some of these histories run hundreds of pages. Obviously, an author trying to capture the essence of the battle in under 50 pages as opposed to over 500 pages is going to have to make some judicious editing decisions. And that’s where Hourly History’s “Battle of Midway” goes wrong.

The author spends far too much on peripheral topics and far too little on the battle itself. “Battle of Midway” includes half a chapter on President Franklin Roosevelt’s experience as Secretary of the Navy in World War I and another chapter on the life on the battle’s commander, Admiral Chester Nimitz, including his days at Annapolis. While there is some interesting material in these passages, very little of it is essential to an understanding of the battle. Similarly, discussing the U.S. codebreaking efforts prior to the battle is vital to understanding the American strategy (by breaking the Japanese Naval Code, Nimitz knew just where and when the Japanese would attack). However, the author spends several unnecessary pages discussing the rather unfortunate fate of American codebreaker Leon Rochefort after the war.

The inordinate amount of time and space the author devotes to these peripheral topics comes at the expense of the discussion of the actual battle itself. Ironically, the author spends more time describing the Battle of the Coral Sea two months earlier that the actual combat in the seas off Midway. That description takes about two rather poorly written pages. The net result of the battle (the Japanese lost all four of their aircraft carriers) is barely given a passing mention. Readers who aren’t already familiar with the battle’s outcome are likely to miss that mention.

Someone with no knowledge of the Battle of Midway other than, perhaps, who won and in what war might feel that this book gives them a better feel for the conflict. And, indeed, it does, but primarily along the edges. The necessary details of the battle that would put it in its proper context aren’t there, and what is present is somewhat confusing. Indeed, readers would get a better view of the battle by reading the Wikipedia article about the battle. And the author can’t really use the book’s brevity as an excuse due to the excessive amount of non-essential material present. From previous experience, I know that some Hourly History works do a much better job of summarizing similar events. The author just missed the boat on this one.


Watch the video: Ναυμαχία του Ρίβερ Πλέιτ 1956 Πολεμικη Ταινία (August 2022).

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