Midway Revisited

I was anxiously awaiting Craig Symonds' new book on the Battle of Midway.  Having read both Miracle at Midway and Incredible Victory, I wasn't sure what Professor Symonds could offer.  I haven't read the newer edition of Shattered Sword, which relates an almost exclusive Japanese viewpoint of the battle.  But I was very interested to read this volume since this was the first book on the battle in nearly 25 years and I wondered what Professor Symonds had to say.  Yes, that's right Craig Symonds was my academic adviser when I was at USNA and one of my favorite professors.  SO, yes, I could be a little biased.

However, I have to say that Professor Symonds not only brought out some details of the battle that I don't remember in the other books, but does an excellent job of putting Midway into the context of the naval campaign fought between the US Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy during the first six months of 1942.  Specifically, Professor Symonds narrates how Adm Chester Nimitz brought the US Pacific Fleet from the depths of Pearl Harbor to turn back the Japanese at Midway.  The early American carrier operations, Doolittle's Raid, and the Battle of Coral Sea are all placed in operational context by Symonds, including the Japanese and American planning for the battle.

Operationally, the crucial day of June 4 is outlined in excellent but not overwhelming detail, and Symonds pulls no punches in his critique of both Japanese and American leadership.  I actually understood the story of the Hornet air group and how they became lost during the battle and played no role in the sinking of 3 Japanese carriers that crucial morning.  More interesting is what happened after the air group got back and how the Hornet captain and group commander essentially gun-decked the after action report to cover up the navigational error.  More fascinating is the detail on the attrition of the American air groups and how even the victors were nearly out of airplanes and pilots by the time the battle was over. 

Professor Symonds also busts many of the "miracle myths" of the battle by showing that Nimitz actually had a well thought out plan, based on pretty solid intelligence, and an acute understanding of what his forces were and were not capable of carrying out.

This was indeed a fresh take on this battle and an excellent addition to the growing literature on the naval side of World War II.