I like Keegan, but I'm not sure what book you have when you say "compact
Accounts like the one by Keegan you quote from are throughout Parshall &
Tully's Shattered Sword. Ian Toll gave the impression in his second volume of
his “Pacific War Trilogy” entitled The Conquering Tide that the Shattered Sword
was unsurpassed on Midway.
The Conquering Tide was written in 2015 three years after Keegan’s death. Toll
is still working on his volume three, Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western
Pacific, 1944-1945. It is scheduled to be available from Amazon on July 21,
2020. Toll’s three volume work is being described as the first history that
covers the entire Pacific War.
I looked for the “best histories” on each of the battles Toll deals with.
Parshall and Tully have taken what seems to me to be an encyclopedic approach
to the battle of Midway. I don’t have any other history of a Pacific battle
that is dealt with as thoroughly and in as much seemingly authoritative detail
as this one on Midway.
From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On
Behalf Of david ritchie
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2020 8:12 PM
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: On underestimating America
You’ll read all this in Keegan’s compact account. Here’s the best bit.
American planes have found and attacked the Japanese carriers doing pretty much
no damage at all, but they have scattered the fleet and brought the protective
fighter cover down to sea level. Nagumo has been indecisive. Yorktown has
been found and damaged. The Japanese gird for a killer blow.
"Still, ninety-three aircraft—Vals and Kates—were ready to depart. The time
for the decisive strike against the American carriers, whose location was now
known within close limits…The Japanese air groups were intact, greatly
outnumbered the American groups even before they had suffered their recent
losses and must certainly succeed in devastating Hornet, Enterprise and
Yorktown, at latest by noon…the big ship began turning into the wind. Within
five minutes all her planes must have been launched.
“Those five minutes were to constitute one of the few truly crucial ‘moments of
decision’ which can be isolated in the whole course of warfare. At 1025 Naugmo
stood poised on the brink of perhaps the greatest naval victory ever promised
an admiral, certain to be spectacular in itself and destined to alter the
balance of power between the Western and Asian world for decades to come. At
1030 he confronted not victory but disaster. This change of fortune was the
result of two accidents. The first was the course chosen, quite by chance, an
hour earlier, by Yorktown’s torpedo-bombers, which gave them sight of the
Japanese carriers and so called their combat air patrol down to sea level
[Inferior planes armed with inferior torpedoes, they were annhilated, but the
Japanes fighters came down to join the turkey shoot]. The second was the
random intervention of an American submarine Nautilus, whose straying into the
First Air Fleet’s path caused a destroyer, Araksi, to be detached from the
carriers to drop depth charges. Araski’s depth charges missed; but the white
ribbon of its wake, as it worked up speed to rejoin Nagumo’s covering screen,
caught the eye of the leader of Enterprise’s dive-bomber group at 0955 and
sowed a seed of suspicion.
“Enterprise’s Bombing 6 squadron had, like others, lost its way when Nagumo
altered course. Now its leader, Lieutenant-Commander Wade McClusky, dtected,
even from 14,000 feet, that Aruski was in a hurry and guessed that she was
steaming to rejoine the Japanese main body. The stream of her wake was a
perfect indicator of the main body’s position. McClusky now lined up his
formation—thirty-seven Devastators—on Aruski and headed north-east. Shortly
after 1020 he sighted Akagi, Soryu and Kaga steaming north-west in a ‘circular
disposition [of] roughly eight miles’…The sky was empty of Zeros, [which could
fly a good deal faster than the bombers] all at sea level or on their mother
ships’ decks, and nothing impeded the trajectory of their 500lb and 1000 lb
You’ll recall that refueling hoses were out all over the decks and planes were
crowded for take-off. From the U.S. point of view and, I think, humanity's
that was one really lucky moment.
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