0800 local time
4 June 1942
It’s 4 June 1942, the dawn of the epic “Battle of Midway,” a clash of giants, three US carriers vs four Japanese carriers that proved to be the turning point of the war in the Pacific. For more information, both real-life and how I’m running this campaign, please check here:
Yesterday at 0900 a US Navy PBY Catalina spotted Japanese ships 500nm west southwest of Midway; B-17s from the island were dispatched but failed to hit anything. US Navy PBYs continued to shadow the Japanese surface force, and actually attacked at 0100 this morning, scoring a torpedo hit on a Japanese merchant ship. Unbeknownst to US personnel, the Japanese carrier task force, as yet still unspotted, launched its first strike group against Midway at 0430. At 0530, the PBYs spotted the Japanese carriers, and noted their strike group inbound.
At 0610, the VMF-343 “Dirt Divers” scrambled six F4F Wildcats to intercept an inbound group of six D3A “Val” dive bombers escorted by four A6M “Zeros,” but were roughly handled, having three Wildcats shot down and the other three damaged, as the Japanese lost one Zero and one Val. The Japanese aerial attack caused 18/30 damage points.
At 0625, Captain Haynes led six Wildcats to intercept an inbound group of six B5N “Kate” torpedo bombers escorted by four A6M “Zeros.” Again it was rough: the Marines lost five of six aircraft, with one pilot KIA, one MIA, and two WIA, while the Japanese lost four of their six torpedo bombers, which did light damage to Midway’s shore installations (26/30, total).
At 0645, Major Chandler led four Dirt Divers in escort of a flight of six TBF torpedo bombers to attack the Japanese carriers, running right into the Japanese CAP of six Zeros, and it was a debacle: the Americans lost one Wildcat and five TBFs, the last being damaged and forced to return to base without even spotting the Japanese carriers. Oh, and the Japanese did lose two Zeros, but they were both to the TBFs!!!
At 0715, 2nd Lt Herman led a flight of four Wildcats in escort of six SBD Dauntless dive bombers from Marine Scouting-Bombing Squadron 241 (VMSB-241), up against six Zeros of the Japanese Combat Air Patrol. The mission was sort of a success: five Zeros were downed (two by SBDs!) and the sixth was shot up, no Wildcats were lost, only three Dauntlesses were lost, but no hits were scored on the enemy carriers.
It’s now 0800, and Major Chandler is leading a flight of four Wildcats on an escort mission for four US Army Air Corps B-26s specially modified to carry torpedoes. The Marine escorts have done a pretty good job so far of beating up on the Japanese CAP, so that the enemy is only able to get four Zeros in the air to oppose them.
The Marine escorts are getting caught out, staring, as the Japanese Zeros maneuver aggressively against the US bombers.
It’s a furball, sky full of twisting planes and tracers.
Lt Cross nurses his wounded Wildcat home (bottom right) as Lt Higbe pulls onto a Zero’s tail and opens fire. To see how the fight went, please check the blog at:
Next up, we’re back to the US Navy’s Killer Pelicans, which will see them carry out their (world famous) strikes on the Japanese carriers, then attempt to defend the Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown from the Japanese strikes. I expect the Navy pilots to do better, on two accounts: first, they have much more experienced pilots (having flown more sorties in the Dutch East Indies, and having fought at Coral Sea), and second, this is a campaign that is weighted towards the Americans, meaning the US forces had both the Dirt Divers and the Killer Pelicans committed, while the Japanese have considerably fewer fighters, and they’ve sustained significant losses in the first five fights.
Just saying the Marines did all the heavy lifting, so the Navy could slide in here and get four Japanese carriers 😉