January 2023

Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryū dodges bombs from American B-17s on the morning of June 4, 1942.

Source: Naval History and Heritage Command

from each other. Therefore, in case it was

necessary, they could not help each other

and their coordination was very demanding. The battle started on June 3, 1942, by

the unsuccessful B-17 attack against the

transportation ships from the invasion fleet. At night the PBY Catalina flying boat’s

torpedo hit and damaged the tanker Akebono Maru. It was the only American successful torpedo attack during the whole

battle. In the morning of June 4 Admiral

Chūichi Nagumo dispatched the Japanese

carrier-borne aircraft to attack Midway Island. They were opposed by 26 F2A Buffalo

and F4F Wildcat fighters of the US Marines

led by Major Floyd Parks. Fifteen of them

were shot down and most of the returning

aircraft were seriously damaged. Among

them a Wildcat flown by Marion Carl for

who this mission was a baptism of fire.

Several months later he became famous

during the battles of Guadalcanal where he

was credited with the majority of his 18.5


In the meantime, bombers from the island

were sent on the counterattack against the Japanese aircraft carriers. Without

the fighter escort however, they did not

score any hits and suffered heavy losses.

Five out of six Avengers were shot down,

out of fours B-26 Marauders two did not

return, out of eleven SB2U Vindicator two

were lost and out of 16 SBD Dauntless eight were destroyed. Their pilots had not

been trained sufficiently yet and attacked

from gliding flight instead of diving. Their

commander, Major Lofton Henderson was

killed and in August 1942 an airport at Guadalcanal was named after him. Only 15 B-17

bombers attacking from the high altitude

returned without a loss. It was clear to

Nagumo that the aircraft arrived from Midway where Japanese failed to catch them

on the ground. The first attacking wave

also reported that they did not manage to

destroy all installations and suggested to

launch another wave. Therefore, its aircraft

were being prepared in hangars to attack

the ground targets. Nagumo however had

no idea that at that time the aircraft from

the American carriers were already airborne. One of the ships was discovered by

a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft and

Nagumo ordered to stop the aircraft re-arming and armed them with torpedoes and

armor piercing bombs.

And then all hell broke loose for the Japanese Admiral. Arming the aircraft and

dispatch of the second attack wave from the

carriers ideally took Japanese 45 minutes

but experiencing the complications it could

have easily been an hour and even more.

He did not have that time. The first wave

Source: US Navy


A Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat (BuNo 5244) takes off from Yorktown on the morning of June 4, 1942. This is aircraft

No. 13 of the VF-3 unit flown by Lt. (JG) William Leonard.

from the attack on Midway was returning

and if he did not want to lose them ditching

in the ocean having exhausted all their

fuel, he had to receive those first. At the

same time first aircraft from the American

carriers showed up. They however did not

wait to form a large group but dispatched

their units individually. Consequently, TBD

Devastator torpedo bombers reached the

Japanese formation first. Attacking one

after another it was first 15 aircraft from

Hornet’s VT-8, then 14 from VT-6 from Enterprise and 12 from Yorktown’s VT-3. All

15 Devastators from the first group were

shot down and 29 out of 30 aviators were

killed including the commander, John Waldron. The commander of the second group,

Eugene Lindsay was also killed. VT-6 lost

nine aircraft and only two Devastators

from the last group survived.

Therefore 34 out of 41 deployed torpedo

bombers were lost without achieving a

INFO Eduard