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Fighters at Midway

Discussion in 'Air War in the Pacific' started by GunSlinger86, May 30, 2016.

  1. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    All of the VT initially had fighter cover to protect them. However, there were not enough fighters to protect both the torpedo bombers and the dive bombers...So, most air groups would have the fighters with the dive bombers - Then when and if the torpedo bombers came under attack, the fighters would dive down to protect them.

    Waldron, of VT-8, essentially committed "mutiny", when he left the rest of the Hornet Air Group and went off on his own to attack the Japanese - Thus, he abandoned his fighter cover.

    VF-6 was to protect VT-6, but ran across VT-8. VF-6 thought VT-8 was VT-6, and then flew high cover above them, only to lose VT-8 when they went into clouds just before attacking the Japanese fleet. VF-6 stayed in the area for as long as possible, but had to return for home when fuel became critical. IIRC, they began their return right as, unseen by them, VT-6 was beginning it's attack.

    VT-3 had two VF-3 fighters as close cover, and four VF-3 fighters as high cover. VF-3 performed quite admirably protecting their charges, but were soon overwhelmed by the Japanese CAP, and they were forced to focus on their own survival in the intense air battle.
     
  2. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    GunSlinger,

    I forgot to tell you to add Volume 1 of Lundstrom's "The First Team" series. This book completely covers the American side of the battle.
     
    DT1991 likes this.
  3. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    Really it comes down to, there were none to be had. All the P-40's available went to the Philippines, then Australia, Java, and a trickle to the CBI. The USAAF didn't have P-39's to spare either. The first of the type to even see combat in the Pacific were the P-400 version diverted from the British when the US entered the war, and that wasn't until Guadalcanal.
     
  4. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Just noticed noone seems to have responded to this. The Avengers did attack, five out of six were shot down and the sixth badly damaged, with one crewman killed.

    The four torpedo-carrying B-26s attacked at about the same time, although this appears to have been more chance than design. Two of them were shot down. No torpedo hits were scored, but they did shoot down one or more Japanese fighters, and strafing killed two men on Akagi. That bomber also came close to hitting Akagi's bridge, which may have helped Nagumo decide that the air base on Midway needed further attention - although ironically most of its aircraft were being destroyed.

    IIRC the TBFs and B-26s were the first aircraft to attack Kido Butai. Although faster and better armed than TBDs, they were no more successful. They did force the Japanese carriers to maneuver and to launch additional fighters.

    Torpedo planes would first appear only a degree or so above the horizon; for lookouts, spotting them was essentially a two-dimensional problem. Dive bombers were more challenging, although the Marine SBDs and SB2Us coming from the expected direction - Midway - were picked up. Most of us have had the experience of hearing an airplane overhead and looking for it, and finding it hard to spot even with the sound cue - the sky is a big place ;)

    Enterprise's dive bombers had the fortuitious advantage of approaching not only at altitude but from an unexpected direction, southwest, coming up Kido Butai's own track.

    We might also note that when Yorktown's group attacked, the TBDs and their fighter escort were spotted and engaged, while the SBDs went undetected until it was too late.
     
  5. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Active Member

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    If the B-26 and Avengers had fighter cover would they have achieved success, or was it the disappointing performance of our actual torpedoes, which I have read were abyssal. Some of the torpedo planes got off torpedoes but had no hits, which could be the torpedo more than the plane.
     
  6. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    I suppose it's a question of how many fighters.... VT-3 was escorted by six F4Fs which kept a large number of Japanes fighters busy and shot down as many as 6?? - this engagement featured James Thach's first use of his Beam Defense aka Thach Weave. However there were still enough A6Ms to shoot down most of the torpedo planes.

    As often happens, there was a combination of circumstances. The attrition being inflicted by the Japanese fighters caused the surviving torpedo planes to drop earlier than they might have otherwise, and of course is was hard to hit a 34-knot ship with a 33-knot torpedo! The only feasible tactic would be for groups of TBDs to come up on both sides of the ship and attack simultaneously, so she couldn't dodge them all, but they didn't have a chance to do that.

    Thought about the TBFs and B-26s; their speed might help them get into position, but they would have to slow to about 100 knots to successfully drop the tender Mark 13s. Particularly at that point in the war, most of them would go astray if dropped at too high a speed (in time, the torpedos' shortcomings were documented and some improvements made).
     
  7. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    I think we often miss too just how new the aerial torpedo was in the USN. The Mark 13 Mod 0 was only accepted in service in 1938 and only 156 were made; two loads for each of the four 18-aircraft VT squadrons formed. What was worse BUORD decided to tinker with the design immediately, producing the Mod 1 in 1940 moving the propellers behind the rudders...which totally screwed up the performance. In 1943 analysis showed if the Mark 13 Mod 1 was dropped much in excess of its 110 knot, 50 foot height parameters, only 31% would have a normal run. AFAIK all the war shots carried at Midway were the Mod 1.

    Later in 1943 the addition of a water trip ignition and shroud ring in the Mods 6-9 and then in 1944 improvements to the strength of the body and other details in Mods 10-13 meant that in a drop as high as 5,000 to 7,000 feet five of six functioned normally, running hot and straight and that normal maximum operational parameters were at speeds up to 410 knots and 2,400 feet altitude.

    BTW, the Mod 0 and Mod 1 speed was only 30 knots.
     
  8. Greg Boeser

    Greg Boeser New Member

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    There were no US Army fighters at Midway. They were held in reserve for the defense of Hawaii. The 11th Fighter Squadron, with P-40Es, was stationed at Ft. Glenn, Umnak, Alaska and engaged elements of the Japanese Northern Force attacking Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians. They shot down two E8N floatplanes and several Aichi D3A dive bombers, losing two planes and one pilot. They were reinforced the next day by the 54th Fighter squadron, with P-38Es. The 18th Fighter Squadron was also involved in the Dutch Harbor defense, but failed to make contact. P-40s and P-39s/P-400s were already in action in Northern Australia and New Guinea, as well as garrisoning a number of islands in the South Pacific.
     
  9. Greg Boeser

    Greg Boeser New Member

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    Re: B-26s at Midway. The B-26s dropped their torpedoes at about 200 mph from 200'. No crew had ever dropped a torpedo before. So it's no surprise that they scored no hits.
     

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