Posted by Mary Jones on Oct 04, 2018
Dick Campbell presented Monday's program.
Here is an edited version of his script:
It has been called the greatest naval battle since Trafalgar, which took place on October 1805, between the British Royal Navy and the  French and Spanish Navies, resulting in a British victory led by Admiral Horatio Nelson.
76 years ago on June 4, 1942, near  Midway Island, 1,200 miles west of Hawaii, the course of the Pacific War changed dramatically. Before the Battle of Midway the forces of Imperial Japan seemed unstoppable. After Midway the Japanese would seldom again take the offensive. 
The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor at 7:55 Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, seriously damaged eight U.S. battleships, sinking four, including the Arizona, which, was moored on Battleship Row. 
As stunning as it was for the United States, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was more a psychological setback than a military defeat. Although 21 ships were sunk or damaged, by a stroke of luck, all of the U.S. Pacific’s fleet of three aircraft carriers were at sea. 
The U.S. Navy had seven large aircraft carriers at the outbreak of World War II to defend both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They were the: Enterprise,  Hornet,  Lexington,  Ranger,  Saratoga,  Wasp, andYorktownJapan had 10 aircraft carriers before the war, but lost two before the Battle of Midway, reducing their number to eight.
As early as December 31, 1941, the psychological tide began to turn, when Admiral Chester Nimitz took over as the U.S. Commander in the Pacific.
The Japanese plan was to lure the U.S. aircraft carriers into a trap. Japan intended to occupy Midway as part of an overall plan to extend their defensive perimeter.  The plan was handicapped by faulty Japanese assumptions of American reaction. Most significantly, American code breakers were able to determine the date and location of the attack, enabling the forewarned U.S. Navy to set up an ambush of its own. 
 Japan’s naval leader, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’ s primary strategic goal was the elimination of America’s carrier forces, which he perceived as the principal threat to the overall Pacific campaign. 
However, given the strength of the American land-based air power in Hawaii, he judged that it was too risky to attack Pearl Harbor again directly. 
Instead, Yamamoto selected Midway, a tiny atoll at the northwest end of the Hawaiian Island chain. Midway was not  important in the larger scheme of Japan’s intentions, but the Japanese felt the Americans would consider Midway a vital outpost and would therefore be compelled to defend it vigorously. 
The U.S. did consider Midway vital, because after the battle, establishment of a U.S. submarine base on Midway allowed submarines operating from Pearl Harbor to refuel and reprovision, extending their radius of operations by 1,200 hundred miles.  
Yamamoto felt deception would be required to lure the U.S. fleet into a fatally compromised situation. To this end, he spread his invasion forces so that their full extent would unlikely be discovered by the Americans prior to the battle. 
Yamamoto’s supporting two battleships, three cruisers, and 11 destroyers would surround Vice-Admiral Chuichi Nagumo’s Carrier Striking Force, which consisted of four large aircraft carriers (the Akagi, the Hiryu, the Kaga, and the Soryu
Unknown to Yamamoto, he lost the advantage of surprise even before his ships left their bases in late May.
U.S. Naval Intelligence, located in Pearl Harbor, analyzed Japanese radio traffic and managed to crack some of Yamamoto’s naval codes. As a result, U.S. Intelligence worked out the size and makeup of the  enemy forces and decided that something very big was about to happen in the Midway area. 
 Japanese radio traffic referred to the target area simply as AF. By May 8, intelligence officer, Joseph Rochefort, knew that a major enemy operation, whose objective was sometimes called AF, was in the offing and that it would take place somewhere in the Central Pacific. Several days later, he was sure the target was Midway.
His superiors in Washington weren’t convinced, so Rochefort devised a test that would flush out the location of AF. The radio station in Midway dispatched an uncoded message falsely reporting that the water distillation plant on the island had broken down, causing a severe water shortage. Within 48 hours intelligence decrypted a Japanese radio transmission alerting their commanders that AF was short of water. And by May 27, Rochefort had built up such a detailed picture of their plans that he was able to predict almost precisely when and where the enemy striking force would appear. 
The Americans entered the battle with a very good picture of where, when, and in what strength the Japanese would appear. Nimitz knew that the Japanese had negated their numerical advantage by dividing their ships into four separate task groups, all too widely separated to be able to support each other.    
Nimitz calculated that the aircraft on his three carriers, Enterprise,Hornetand Yorktownplus 128 aircraft on Midway Island Air Base, gave the U.S. equality with Yamamoto’s four carriers. The Japanese, by contrast, remained almost totally unaware of their opponent’s true strength and dispositions even after the battle began. 
The Yorktownwhich had been damaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May, limped back to Pearl Harbor on May 27, placed in Dry Dock, where 1,400 dockside workers returned her to service within a remarkable 48 hours.  She moved out of Pearl Harbor on May 30, making up Task Force 17.
Waiting 350 miles northeast of Midway was Task Force 16, made up of the two carriers Enterpriseand Hornettwo cruisers and eleven destroyers, which had departed Pearl Harbor on May 28.
Together these ships of Task Force 16 and 17 formed the striking heart of a sizable American force, the greatest yet assembled in the first year of the war in the Pacific. 
On June 2, the two Task Forces arrived at the appointed rendezvous spot, “Point Luck,” 320 miles northeast of Midway, to await the enemy. Nimitz knew what sort of a gamble he was taking. If he lost his three carriers and their planes there was nothing to take their place.  
They planned to lie well to the north of Midway and rely on search planes from Midway Island to spot the Japanese. Then they would move in fast and launch a heavy air strike at Yamamoto’s carriers. The carriers were the key as without the air cover they provided, the rest of the Japanese fleet would be wide open to attack from the sky. 
Shortly after 0900 on June 3, an American Catalina PBY scout plane from Midway Island spotted a group of ships west of the island. Fletcher correctly decided this must be Admiral Kondo’s Invasion Force, which he knew would mark time until American opposition had been eliminated. He saved his precious advantage of surprise for bigger game. 
Nagumo’s four carriers had rushed through the evening darkness of June 3/4, toward Midway. U.S. Commanders Fletcher and Spruance were also on the move that night, aiming for a dawn position that would put them within striking distance of the enemy carriers. June 4 was clearly going to be the day of battle, and a good deal would depend on which side made the first sighting.
At 043 0 on June 4, Nagumo launched 108 aircraft from his carriers for his initial attack on Midway Island.  Nagumo also launched several scout planes for a precautionary search to the north. As Nagumo’s aircraft were taking off, American PBYs were again leaving Midway to run their search patterns. 
At 0530 the American PBY scout planes reported sighting two Japanese carriers, the Kaga and Akagiwith empty decks, indicating an air strike was probably en route to Midway.  
At 0620 Japanese carrier aircraft bombed and heavily damaged the base at Midway but did not succeed in neutralizing Midway. American bombers could still use the airbase to refuel and attack the Japanese invasion force. Another Japanese aerial attack would be necessary if troops were to go ashore by June 7. 
Nagumo had kept half of his aircraft in reservebelow in their carrier hangar decks. At 0715, Nagumo ordered his reserve planes to have their torpedoes replaced by heavy bombs, more suited to landtargets on Midway. 
At that moment, some 200 miles away, Admiral Spruance also had to make an agonizing decision. If he launched immediately, he stood a chance of catching the enemy carriers when they were most vulnerable- refueling and rearming the planes returned from the Midway strike. But he also knew that many of his planes might not have enough fuel to make it back to their carriers. He decided to take the risk and hit with everything he had and ordered off all the attack planes that could fly. 
Sixteen SBD Dauntless dive bombers, flown by inexperienced Marine pilots, glided in to attack the Japanese carriers and were shot to pieces by Japanese Zeros and antiaircraft fire. A few moments’ later geysers of water erupted around the Japanese carriers as nine Army B-17 bombers from Midway tried to hit the twisting ships from 20,000 feet high above. Like the dive bombers they scored no hits. 
As the surviving American planes disappeared in the distance back to Midway, Nagumo, faced a second critical decision. His search plane had reported that the enemy is accompanied by an aircraft carrier. Just as he ordered his planes to be armed once again with torpedoesso that they could attack ships, Nagumo’s Midway strike force returned. 
Nagumo could continue rearming those bombers of the reserve force , bring them up on the flight decks, and then launch them without fighter escorts against the American carrier  or he could  recover his Midway raiders, and later send off a strong, well-balanced force to hit the enemy. He chose the second option.
At the time that Nagumo made his course change, 151 U.S. carrier planes were winging across the Pacific. Spruance had practically emptied the Hornet and Enterprisekeeping back only enough fighters for a combat air patrol over the two carriers. 
Flying low without fighter cover, at 0920, the 15TBDs were pounced on by Japanese Zeros. One after another the lumbering TBDs were torn apart or set ablaze. Every oneof Torpedo Squadron - 8’s planes was shot down. 
A few minutes later the Enterprise Torpedo Squadron - 6TBD planes bored in to attack. The Zeros swarmed in for the kill and shot down 11of the 14TBD Devastators. 
At 0950the Yorktown’s Torpedo Squadron - 3TBDs turn. Nine of them also went crashing into the sea. Of the 41 TBD Devastators, 35 had been lost, and not a single one of their torpedoes had found its mark. The TBD Devastator was never again used in combat.
Throughout the failed attack by American torpedo planes, the Japanese carriers were conducting takeoff or landing operations. Just then, at 1022, some 15,000 feet up, pilots and gunners in 54 SBD Dauntless dive bombers were staring in amazement at the sight below. They could not understand why they had come this far without having Japanese fighters swarming around them. Two dive-bomber groups, which had taken off from the Enterprise and the Yorktown, arrived over the Japanese fleet at the same moment and were poised to attack just when most of the enemy fighters were flying low,and all the enemy carriers were in a state of maximum vulnerability
The stage was now set for the single most decisive aerial attack in naval history. Almost simultaneously, the Kagathe Soryuand the Akagi came under dive-bomberattack. Only the Hiryu escaped their attention at that time. 
The first bomb hit the Kaga at 1022. The last bomb to find the Soryu struck about 1028. Within this six-minute span,all three of the Japanese carriers under attack were mortally damaged.
Nagumo ordered his one remaining carrier, the Hiryu, to continue the fight. Hiryu’s first attack wave, consisting of 18 dive bombers and six fighter escorts, took off at 1057 and followed the retreating American aircraft back to their carriers. 
Shortly after 1200 noon they attacked the Yorktown as she was preparing to recover her returning planes,hitting her with three bombs, which blew a hole in the deck, snuffed out her boilers, and destroyed several anti-aircraft turrets. 
At 1437 a second wave of Hiyru planes plunged in, and two torpedoes ripped into the carrier’s hull. The boiler rooms flooded, and the Yorktown again lost power and came to a stop, this time at a 23-degree list to port. Fearing she was about to capsize, her captain, Elliott Buckmaster, gave the order to abandoned ship at 1500. 
Many of the Yorktown survivors were taken aboard the destroyer, Benham and other ships standing by. In all, 2,270 men were rescued out of 2,300 on board the Yorktown. 
Shortly after 1300 on June 6, a Japanese submarine fired a salvo of torpedoes. Two struck the Yorktown,  but a third struck the destroyer, Hamman, which sank in five minutes.
The Yorktown lingered on through the night. It wasn’t until dawn on June 7 that the Yorktown’s flight deck disappeared beneath a giant oil slick, not to be seen again for 56 years. Within hours the Yorktown was avenged. A strike force of planes from the Enterprise andHornet launched and caught the Hiyru preparing to launch her remaining bombers.  
Once more American SBD dive bomber’s screamed down out of the sky and once more the effect was lethal. One by one, during the night and into the next day, the four carriers of the Japanese Carrier Striking Force were scuttled by Japanese torpedoes and disappeared into the depths of the Pacific Ocean.
When the remaining Japanese ships withdrew from the battle, they had lost in the course of only a few days, 4 carriers, 2 cruisers, 3 destroyers, 1 transport, 332 aircraft, and 3,057 men, which included many of their finest carrier pilots, mechanics, and engineers. American losses included the carrier Yorktown and destroyer Hammann,144 aircraft, and362 men, including 104 carrier pilots and aircrew.
So ended the Battle of Midway. It had been won, and won brilliantly, by U.S. carrier forces, and historians rank it as a major turning point of World War II. The Japanese never fully recovered from the loss of their four big fleet aircraft carriers sunk at Midway. Even more critically, Japan never recovered from the loss of so many of airplanes, carrier pilots, mechanics, and engineers. The course of history had tilted on the fulcrum of the Battle of Midway.