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Japanese planes @ Midway

Discussion in 'Air War in the Pacific' started by Hummel, Oct 21, 2010.

  1. Hummel

    Hummel Member

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    Hi all,
    I was watching the Gary Cooper movie "Task Force", and I started wondering; Presumably, there were Japanese planes in the air during the American attacks on the Japanese carriers. Now, as far as I know, there were four carriers in the IJN fleet there: Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, and Soryu, and all of them were sunk, right? What happened to the planes that were still in the air and came back to find their airfields had been sunk?

    Is there any documentation on this, please? Thank you.
     
  2. Spartanroller

    Spartanroller Ace

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  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    If you are interested in the battle of Midway especially as relates to Japanese ships and planes you really should read Shattered Sword.
    I think the short answer was the Midway strike was mostly recovered before the carriers were sunk but that's from my fallible memory so could be wrong.
     
  4. mikebatzel

    mikebatzel Dreadnaught

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    Once the first three Japanese carriers had been hit, their CAP planes landed on Hiryu. When Hiryu was hit with the four 1000 pounders that would cause her demise, her CAP consisted of Zero's from all four of the carriers. Of course, with no where else to go, they were forced to perform a water landing.
     
  5. ResearcherAtLarge

    ResearcherAtLarge Member

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    Second the recommendation for Shattered Sword. A must.
     
  6. Hummel

    Hummel Member

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    I am hoping this is related enough to be here . . .
    At this point in the war, did the IJN pilots have a stronger sense of duty to the Empire to stay alive and continue to fly, or was there the beginning of the "go out and purposely die killing Americans" thinking? I know by Okinawa the majority of highly trained pilots were dead, and so the result was the kamikaze. In 1942 was there enough esprit de corps post-Midway remaining to NOT start the suicides?
     
  7. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I wouldn't doubt that even by Midway, the fact they had no "friendly" landing area would lead to their following the warped new "Bushido" code introduced in the 20th Century, by refusing to either surrender or allow the enemy access to their technology.

    It wasn't so much "hari-kari" as it was reverence for the Emperor, their god on earth and the concept of fighting the enemy by any means possible. Now, while losing the trained pilots was without doubt a blow to the IJN, I personally think the loss of the thousands of trained mechaincs and supply personnel on the carriers was nearly as much of a set-back.

    Even today, pilots acknowledge that it is their ground crews that allow them to be the "stars".
     
  8. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Good answer above - Should be noted though that most were just young sprogglets, and it was the heirarchy and officers who thought up and actioned the kamikaze - Japanese teenagers don't want to die like anyone else - They do what they're told and are also impressionable. I remember one story where a young kamikaze pilot flew off with all the fanfare, only to have his aircraft putt out on him on his way to the target. He managed to get back to base where he was met by his cheif mechanic - He was astonished to see him and, after learning what happened told the pilot to head off and make sure the CO didn't see him! - "Oh ****! Okay..." :)
     
  9. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    The Akagi, Kaga and Soryu were sunk on the 5th. The Hiryu was sunk on the 6th. I would expect that it is was possble that any aircraft aloft duing the attacks on the 5th could have landed on the Hiryu. Maybe someone will come along that could verify that this happened.

    The movie made it appear to me that the carriers were sunk a lot closer together in time than they actually were.
     
  10. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    If my memory serves me (probably doesn't)...there were many that ditched. The Hiryu, or last carrier standing, was full up and had deck damage...Some just ditched, others had to whilst waiting for clearance...I'm working on about five years ago here...!
     
  11. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    IIRC Mike has gotten it right, there were some episodes of damaged planes apparently deliberately crashing on ships long before the "official" Kamikaze were formed (and not just from Japanese ones!) but they were pretty rare. If you look up shattered sword or the less daunting French samourai sur porte avions, you will get data down to practically individual plane level.
    The undamaged Hiryu had 10 Zero 18 Val and 9 Kates on board and recovered 27 fighters that were on CAP, IIRC there were no attack planes in flight so ditchings were unlikely on the first day.
     
  12. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    First, a couple of points of clarification:

    IJN dates will be one day ahead of US dates, as they used the Tokyo date and the USN used the local date.

    While Hiryu technically remained afloat into the early morning of the second day of the battle (June 5/6), she was rendered inoperative by air attack late on the first day (June 4/5). (I actually don't think any of the carriers sank before midnight Midway time, though Kaga might have.)

    Shattered Sword does indeed give a very good account of the particulars, so all I will do is summarize briefly from memory.

    The Japanese had taken aboard most of their strike aircraft during the lull between US attacks. A few stragglers were still waiting to land including, I think Lt. Heijiro Abe, who led Soryu's dive bomber force. All aircraft that were aboard during the attack on Soryu, Kaga, and Akagi were destroyed with the ships, though a great many of the pilots were able to abandon ship.

    However, a very large number of CAP aircraft from all four carriers were aloft by that time, and all of these landed or attempted to land aboard Hiryu. A few heavily damaged aircraft were pushed overboard or had to ditch, but quite few, if memory serves. Losses to both the strike force and CAP were serious enough that Hiryu had difficulty scraping together a full strike even during her first attack against the US fleet. The second strike was woefully inadequate, particularly in torpedo planes, of which there were perhaps a half dozen by then.

    By the time of the US strike against Hiryu she was no longer able to mount much more than a token airwing. Her final CAP was obliged to ditch, but by that point I believe there were fewer than a dozen aircraft aloft, and nearly all of them were A6Ms. Certainly some went down with the ship, but fewer than any of the other carriers, as losses in the preceding two strikes against the US fleet had been cripplingly high. So of the 250 odd IJN aircraft losses, off the top of my head, I would guess no more than a couple dozen were forced to ditch. I believe more were shot down in combat. But the bulk of the losses were in the hangars of Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu. All three went down with the majority of their aircraft aboard, and air losses to that point had been relatively light for the IJN.

    To my recollection no IJN aircraft crashed into US ships at Midway, intentionally or otherwise, though one US SBD did dive into a Japanese cruiser.
     
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  13. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    Ironically, Hiryu's strike group had suffered the heaviest VT and VB losses in the strike against Midway, as I recall. Any of the other carriers would have been able to scrape together a better reply, had they not lost the opportunity.
     
  14. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    There is more reason to believe the SBD-cruiser incident did not happen than there is to believe it did - - - especially since the aircraft supposedly involved was an SB2U - - - but even then the event was unlikely.

    Regards
     
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  15. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Captain Richard E. Fleming's CMOH citation clearly states that he crashed into the sea.
     
  16. humancertainty

    humancertainty Member

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    Slightly OT, perhaps, but was The Battle of Midway the one where three Japanese fighters tried to land on an American carrier because they thought it was their carrier?
     
  17. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I think the episode was at Corral Sea and they were not fighters as the night strike that lost it's way was made up of 12 Vals and 15 Kates but no Zeros.
     
  18. Poppy

    Poppy grasshopper

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    The Kamikaze has always been interesting to me. In the course of history there are memorable events which changed the outcome of war. Wonderful that a Kamikaze actually repelled an invasion fleet not once, but twice in the 1200's. I'm sure those events convinced Japan it was a divine power. Also fueling Japanese pilots to make the ultimate sacrifice thinking they could reverse the war they had already lost at Pearl Harbor.
     
  19. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Quite.

    Regards
     
  20. mikebatzel

    mikebatzel Dreadnaught

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    I believe the myth behind the story came only after the war. The first mention of his plane crashing into the Mikuma came in a postwar interview. Off the top of my head I do not remember who told the story, but I believe he was recalling a diffrent event off Guadalcanal later in the war. The image of a crippled Mikuma with wreckage above the turret caused the story to become more widespread. Ultra intercepted a damage report from the cruiser claiming no damage from the attack.
     

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