Archive for the 'World War II' Category

Jun 3

Synopsis of the Battle of Midway (3-7 June 1942)

Monday, June 3, 2013 8:35 AM

Those who have only a casual knowledge of the Second World War might know little more about the Battle of Midway than the fact that it was an important American victory in the Pacific Theater. After all, the war had countless major battles, and a great many of them involved far more men and arms than fought at Midway. A tally of the forces engaged and lost there, pales to insignificance in the face of the much larger battles later in the war, particularly in Europe.

But in fact, the Battle of Midway was one of the most important battles of the war, in any theater. Indeed, some would argue that it was the most important of them all. For had the American side lost at Midway (which any reasonable analysis prior to the battle would readily support), not only would all of the subsequent allied successes in the Pacific theater been severely delayed or obviated altogether, but virtually all of world history from that point forward would certainly have been altered almost beyond comprehension.

In brief, here’s what happened at Midway, as related on the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command web site:

“The Battle of Midway, fought over and near the tiny U.S. mid-Pacific base at Midway atoll, represents the strategic high water mark of Japan’s Pacific Ocean war.g451086_MidwayIslandPrior to this action, Japan possessed general naval superiority over the United States and could usually choose where and when to attack. After Midway, the two opposing fleets were essentially equals, and the United States soon took the offensive.

“Japanese Combined Fleet commander Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto moved on Midway in an effort to draw out and destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s aircraft carrier striking forces, which had embarrassed the Japanese Navy in the mid-April Doolittle Raid on Japan’s home islands and at the Battle of Coral Sea in early May. He planned to quickly knock down Midway’s defenses, follow up with an invasion of the atoll’s two small islands, and establish a Japanese air base there. He expected the U.S. carriers to come out and fight, but to arrive too late to save Midway and in insufficient strength to avoid defeat by his own well-tested carrier air power.

“Yamamoto’s intended surprise was thwarted by superior American communications intelligence, which deduced his scheme well before battle was joined. This allowed Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, to establish an ambush by having his carriers ready and waiting for the Japanese. On 4 June 1942, in the second of the Pacific War’s great carrier battles, the trap was sprung. The perseverance, sacrifice and skill of U.S. Navy aviators, plus a great deal of good luck on the American side, cost Japan four irreplaceable fleet carriers, while only one of the three U.S. carriers present was lost. The base at Midway, though damaged by Japanese air attack, remained operational and later became a vital component in the American trans-Pacific offensive.”

Winston Churchill said of the Battle of Midway, “this memorable American victory was of cardinal importance, not only to the United States but to the whole Allied cause…At one stroke, the dominant position of Japan in the Pacific was reversed.” And that is why Midway was among the most important battles of the war, for if the Japanese had prevailed—and the order of battle certainly suggests that they should have—consider what would have ensued. All of the following are highly likely:

1. There would have been no invasion of Guadalcanal in 1942.

2. Because of that, a Japanese threat to Australia, blunted at Coral Sea, would have been renewed, with isolation likely and perhaps even partial occupation.

 3. A threat of that magnitude to the Australian homeland may have resulted in the recall of their army from North Africa, where Rommel’s Afrika Corps was still a threat to the Suez Canal.

 4. With Australia neutralized, MacArthur would have had no convenient springboard for his return the Philippines, and he may have even risked the capture that he avoided at Corregidor.

 5. Without Australia, American submarines would have been denied the advance bases that allowed them to prey so successfully upon Japanese shipping in the western Pacific.

 6. With the Japanese in control of Midway, the threat to Hawaii would have been enormous. Their long range plans included a full scale invasion in 1943, the success of which would likely have led to carrier raids against the U.S. Pacific coast.

 7. With a powerful enemy virtually on its western shores, American resolve to prosecute the war in Europe would have been severely tested. And a reduced American commitment in Europe would have led to one of two probable scenarios, both of which are painful to contemplate:

 (a) An allied invasion of France in June 1944 would not have been possible, at least not then, giving the Nazis additional time to fortify their western defenses and thus make a successful invasion less likely. A delayed or even failed invasion in the west could have improved the Germans’ ability to defend themselves in the east, allowing Hitler and the Nazis to remain in power far longer than they did, with unimaginable consequences for Europe.

 (b) Or, alternately, the lack of American-British pressure in the west would have allowed the steamrolling Red Army to overrun all of Germany, not just the eastern third. Communist dominance of the entire European continent could easily have resulted, bringing a far more dismal set of conditions at the start of the Cold War than what actually occurred.

But none of those things came to be, because of the Incredible Victory, the Miracle at Midway. It shouldn’t have happened but it did nonetheless, through amazing courage, divine intervention, or unbelievable luck—or a combination of all three.

 
May 31

Commemorating the Battle of Midway

Friday, May 31, 2013 12:35 PM

The Battle of Midway, fought near the Central Pacific island of Midway, is considered the decisive battle of the war in the Pacific and one of the most significant events in US Navy history. Through innovative naval intelligence, bold tactics, raw courage, and determination, the US Navy emerged victorious and changed the tide of the war. The victory also had tremendous influence on the ethos of the US Navy and helped set the standard for expectations of today’s Sailors.

Join us online for the Battle of Midway panel “U.S. Navy: The Battle of Midway and the Pacific Today” using a Google+ Hangout scheduled for 2 p.m. EST on Monday, June 3rd. Those interested can participate on the US Navy’s Google+ page at http://www.google.com/+usnavy. Panel will be recorded and available for viewing afterwards at http://www.youtube.com/usnavy.

Please check out our Battle of Midway blog series at www.navalhistory.org from 3-7 June, as we investigate and discuss the innovative intelligence gathering and analysis techniques employed by the US Navy; share stories and experiences of the Sailors and pilots that fought the battle; and share the important lessons learned and the impact the battle had on shaping future Navy doctrine.

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We have a few other surprises planned throughout the week, so be sure to stay tuned to all of our digital properties for additional content.

Web: www.history.navy.mil

Naval History News: www.navy.mil/local/navhist

Facebook: www.facebook.com/navalhistory

Twitter: www.twitter.com/NavyHistoryNews

Naval History Blog: www.navalhistory.org

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/groups/Naval-History-Heritage-Command-1944509?trk=myg_ugrp_ovr

 

 
May 29

Sharing the Naval History Narrative: Battle of Midway

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 11:10 AM

 BOM 29 blog pic

Attention naval historians, authors, bloggers, web masters and enthusiasts: Next week marks the 71st Anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the nation’s most historically significant naval victory. As this historic event approaches, the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) has taken the liberty of listing out numerous Battle of Midway resources, such as videos, images, documents and more, so that you or your command can repurpose and share the Midway and Navy narrative. We hope that the below resources allow you to celebrate this important Naval victory and share this pivotal period in American and naval history.

Still Images:
Images from NHHC Photo Section
NHHC Art Collection

Videos:
The Course to MIDWAY Navy.mil
Battle of Midway: The Japanese Attack
Battle of Midway: The American Counterattack
CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert on the Battle of MIDWAY

Bio’s:
Rear Admiral John Ford
Lieutenant Commander George Henry Gay
Commodore Dixie Kiefer
Rear Admiral Clarence Wade McClusky, Jr.
Admiral Marc Andrew Mitscher
Admiral Frederick C. Sherman

Publications:
MIDWAY Remembered
Interrogations of Japanese Officials
Combat Narratives – Battle of Midway
US Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific) Account of the Battle of Midway
Aerology and Naval Warfare – The Battle of Midway
Japanese Story of the Battle of Midway

Additional Resources:
Commemoration Planning
NHHC Battle of Midway
Navy.mil Midway Page

 

 
Jul 24

Operation Forager

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 10:17 AM

Japanese planes burning on the air strip on Tinian Island.

On July 24, 1944, the Naval Task Force landed Marines on Tinian. After victory in the Battle of Saipan from June 15 to July 9, Tinian, which was 3.5 miles south of Saipan, was the next logical step in the U.S. strategy of island hopping. Tinian was Phase III of Operation Forager, which began with the capture of Saipan (Phase I) and the battle for the liberation of Guam (II), which was raging even as the Marines were approaching Tinian. Submarines were used to destroy enemy forces approaching the islands , clearing the way for the beach landing. The following article, published in the August 1964 issue of Proceedings, gives an account of the submarines’ success.

Operation Forager

by Sherwood R. Zimmerman, Ensign, U.S. Navy

By May 1944, General Douglas MacArthur, U.S. Army, and his Southwest Pacific Forces had driven westward along the northern coast of New Guinea to the island of Wakde, in preparation for the next step, the invasion of Biak. Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, U. S. Navy, in command of the Fifth Fleet, had completed Operation Desecrate on 30 March and, with a carrier air raid on the Palau Islands ended, plans were laid to thrust the sword of sea power deep into the underbelly of the Japanese Empire.

Meanwhile, Admiral Soemu Toyoda, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, was preparing for quite a different type of operation. The Japanese Empire had been pushed back to a line joining Biak to the Carolines, Marianas, and home islands. Toyoda realized that an attack on this perimeter was imminent, but was determined to hold the line at all costs. A confrontation of enemy fleets was, therefore, unavoidable; it resulted in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jun 21

Okinawa Operation

Thursday, June 21, 2012 9:51 AM

LVTs roll across terrain on Okinawa from beaches as Amphibious Task Force unloads. April 3, 1945.

The Battle of Okinawa was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II. On June 21, 1945, after 82 days of battle, the Japanese troops were defeated. This was not intended to be the final major battle of World War II, only the staging ground for the Allied invasion of Japan. The ferocity of the fighting on Okinawa, combined with the massive number of casualties, forced American strategists to seek alternative means for ending the war, as the destruction on Okinawa would surely have paled in comparison to any invasion of the Japanese home islands. The following article, originally published in the January 1946 issue of Proceedings, gives a personal account of the assault on Okinawa.

OKINAWA OPERATION
By Captain E. E. Paro, U.S. Navy
The High councils of war had reached a decision. They were in agreement and a directive was issued for a proposed amphibious operation in the Pacific.
There were many assumptions in the directive and the operation was to accomplish certain very desirable military objectives which later unfolded themselves but which are not discussed herein.
The target selected was Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyus. Information on this island was sketchy to say the least but its geographical location was very clear and definite. It is located 325 miles from the Japanese home island of Kyushu, 400 miles from Shanghai and about the same distance from Formosa. The directive stated that fanatical and determined air opposition by the entire Japanese air force could be expected. It was known that the Japanese had in existence certain paratroop units which would probably be employed, enemy surface naval opposition was a threat, and enemy troop reinforcements could be expected from any of the localities mentioned above. The target was heavily garrisoned and completely ringed by prepared enemy defense positions of great strength and in depth. It had a native population of 440,000 all of which must be assumed to be hostile. The terrain was exceedingly adaptable to defense, particularly in the northern and extreme southern positions of the island. The beaches were few and these were fringed by rough coral heads, and the depth of the water over them was unknown. The weather could be expected to be stormy for at least 20 per cent of the time and the island lay in the center of the path of most of the typhoons, which were frequent and severe. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jun 15

Prelude to Saipan: 15 June 1944

Friday, June 15, 2012 1:00 AM

A Marine-packed LCVP bears down upon the beach of Siapan. The Marines hold their fingers aloft with the "V for Victory" sign.

Saipan was an important strategic point for the Americans in the pacific theater. Gaining the island of Saipan, which is 1,300 miles from Japan, brought the war to the Japanese home islands. The May 1947 issue of Proceedings included an article written by Pete Zurlinden describing the atmosphere among the men as they prepared for the amphibious attack.

PRELUDE TO SAIPAN: 15 JUNE, 1944 (A Stirring Hour Relived in History)
By TECHNICAL SERGEANT PETE ZURLINDEN Marine Corps Combat Correspondent
Saipan, Marianas Islands, 15 June, 1944­. This ship sleeps as we plow toward Saipan -just 1,250 miles directly south of Tokyo-­where later today American Marines will begin the struggle for the valuable Japanese­ owned Island.
Below decks, sleeping soundly just as on any night-anywhere-an elite contingent of tried, battle-toughened Leathernecks, most of them stripped of all clothing, are stretched out in their bunks. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Dec 6

70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

Tuesday, December 6, 2011 11:10 AM

December 7th, 1941

The Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor

2011 marks the 70-year anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the beginning of American involvement in World War II. In December 1972, Proceedings published a first-hand retrospective of the event, written by a Naval Academy graduate and professor, who also served as Executive Secretary of the Naval Institute, Captain Joseph K. Taussig, Jr., USN (Ret.). Taussig’s account, titled “I Remember Pearl Harbor,” not only recalls his own experience aboard the USS Nevada when the attack began, but also draws on the vulnerability of American fleet that day to emphasize the importance of learning from the past for the sake of the future:

On the morning of 7 December 1941, I was awakened by the Assistant Quartermaster of the Watch of the USS Nevada (BB-36).

“Mr. Taussig, it’s 0700. You have the forenoon watch, Sir.” Read the rest of this entry »

 
Nov 13

Eugene A. Barham: A JO Steps Up to the Plate

Sunday, November 13, 2011 12:01 AM

During combat, situations often arise that cause junior officers to step up to the plate, testing their mettle.

Eugene A. Barham’s critical moment came during the Guadalcanal campaign. “Slim” Barham had graduated from the Naval Academy in 1935 and had become engineer officer of the destroyer Laffey at her commissioning on 31 March 1942. The Laffey spent the next 228 days in the Pacific, escorting aircraft carriers and trying to stop the “Tokyo Express” from delivering reinforcements down “the Slot” to Guadalcanal.

On Friday 13 November 1942, the Laffey and seven other American destroyers and five cruisers fought eleven Japanese destroyers, one cruiser, and two battleships in a naval melee that one U.S. skipper likened to “a barroom brawl after the lights had been shot out.” The Laffey nearly got sliced in two by the Japanese battleship Hiei when she crossed the Hiei’s “T,” her stern clearing the battleship’s bow by less than 20 feet. As the Laffey moved off she poured fire from every available gun into the Hiei’s tall, pagoda-like superstructure, which seemed to collapse like a house of cards. A few minutes later, shells from three Japanese destroyers and the battleship Kirishima ripped into the Laffey while a torpedo blew off her stern. In an instant the once taut ship became a blazing, sinking wreck.

Barham was below at his post in the engineering spaces when the torpedo struck. All the lights went out and the temperature suddenly shot up as steam poured in. Barham ordered the spaces evacuated. All the men got out. Barham grabbed a flashlight and tried to return below to inspect the damage, but the engineering spaces were so hot that water pouring in began jumping up and down and boiling as soon as it hit the steel floor plates.

Barham returned topside and made a quick survey. The ship was strewn with dead and injured Sailors, some with their legs severed. One young Sailor, still conscious, lay on the deck, his broken legs pinned under twisted steel. Fires raged in the space below, heating the deck plates and scorching his flesh. Two torpedomen worked frantically to free him before he was cooked, blown away by incoming shells, or drowned by rising water.

Barham went to the bridge. He told the skipper that they had to abandon ship. The captain argued, but then gave Barham permission to get the men organized. The executive officer, who should have been performing this duty, had frozen. The men got the boats and rafts in the water, climbed on board when their turn came, and shoved off. Barham led the “swimming party” of twenty-five men, for whom there was no room on the boats and rafts. The swimming party jumped into the oil-covered water and swam for their lives. They got only about fifty to one hundred feet away when the destroyer exploded. With debris falling around him, Barham dove down under the water. When he could hold his breath no longer, he returned to the surface and watched the Laffey’s bow rear up and plunge beneath the surface.

Barham turned to look for the others in swimming party, but didn’t see anyone. He remained still and listened. Soon, he heard the chugging of a small motor. He pulled his flashlight from his pocket and flashed it in the direction of the sound. A boat appeared and the sailors on board fished him out of the water. As ranking officer, Barham took charge of the boat. He picked up several swimmers, put five life rafts under tow, and began pulling them toward Guadalcanal.

As the raft chain drew near the island, Higgins boats full of U.S. Marines picked up the Sailors and took them ashore. Most of the wounded survived. For his conduct that night Barham received the Bronze Star and command of his own destroyer. In 1958 he retired from the Navy at the rank of rear admiral.

Despite fires raging and enemy fire pouring on the Laffey, Barham managed to assess the situation, quickly determine what needed to be done, and take the steps necessary to save his men. Somehow he remained unafraid and stayed focused on the job throughout the ordeal. It was an innate courage, the kind that can’t be taught, that enabled him to keep his cool under the most intense stress imaginable and to put saving lives above taking a chance at glory.

Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, himself a World War II destroyerman, once said that an officer has only seconds to make decisions in combat. “If he waits too long,” Burke declared, “he’s useless, which is worse than being dead.” Eugene A. Barham had mustered his courage in the nick of time.

 
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