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Midway, A Book Review

Discussion in 'The Pacific and CBI' started by belasar, Mar 2, 2012.

  1. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Midway, The Battle That Doomed Japan, the JapaneseNavy's Story, By Mitsuo Fuchida and Masatake Okumiya, Bluejacket Books, 1992, 307 pages, 16 pages of photos, 2 Appendix, Index. Amazon New $14.63, Used $6,49

    My edition is a reprint of the 1955 book, and when it first appeared in Japan the original was something of a revelation to its Japanese audience. Until this point all the Japanese public had was the American accounts to the battle and they were not to be entirely trusted. As such it was an indictment on the failures of the Japanese naval command and the way Japan made war.

    The first third of the book covers Japanese operations leading up to the launch of the operation, as well as the planning for it. The middle third covers the actual battle, with the final third an explanation of why the battle turned out as it did, and what could and should have been done differently to win the battle for Japan.

    Despite being translated from the original Japanese, the book is a easy and pleasant read. The editors/translators have done an excellent job in presenting the text in a manner that is comfortable to a english speaking audience. This is aided by the fact that this is not the most detailed account of the battle, but was intended as a general introduction to a Japanese public unfamiliar with the details of the battle.

    While the author's give full credit to American cryptology, intelligence and daring, there is no mistaking their belief that Japan's defeat came about primarily though Japanese actions or their lack. I personally find it difficult to dispute much of their arguments, at least in general terms. In breif they are as follows, Disconnect between the Combined Fleet HQ and the Naval General Staff, A lack of a coherent strategy for victory, a disbelief of the abilities and capabilities of the American fleet bordering upon self delusion, Planning that was excessively complex, Formations deployed too far apart to effectively support one another, a loss of perspective that the purpose of the operation was to catch and destroy the American fleet, not to capture an island and ethos of attack over any other consideration.

    The authors also offer a critical assesment of Nagumo's actions, starting with a poorly planned search for US carriers, poor choice of carrier and airgroup assignments, and of course the decision of re-arming the strike group rather than launching as soon as American naval units were sighted.

    While credited to both Fuchida and Okumiya, this book is really Fuchida's. This can be something of a problem for some as he is held in some caution by many for his somewhat revisionist views. As this was written about a decade before some of his 'new' views of what did and did not happen at Pearl Harbor, I am inclined to give him a bit of a pass here upon the elements of the narrative I disagree with.

    As I have seen little in the way of Japanese view of the battle, particularly what occured after the American divebombers flew away, this book has all the more value to me. By no means the most detailed account of the battle, it is still a perspective that many western readers do not get to see, and for that reason alone worth the read. Just do not make it your only source, but then that is true of every account written by a participant.

    BR-XVII
     
  2. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    It's been on my bookshelf for decades. A great companion book to Incredible Victory by Walter Lord.
     
  3. syscom3

    syscom3 Member

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    How does that book square with the scholarly research put into "Shattered Sword"?
     
  4. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Sadly, I do not have Shattered Sword, so I cannot give an honest answer, but I suspect not to its benefit as 'Midway' is by its American editor's admission not as detailed as contemporary (1950's) American accounts.
     
  5. mikebatzel

    mikebatzel Dreadnaught

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    It's a good book to read if you enjoy the aspects of first person history but not as much in the accuracy department. I think of it much in the same was as I do Japanese Detroyer Captain. A great read taken with a grain of salt.
     
  6. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    I usually give eye witness account a higher rating than a "scholarly" effort. First person makes it real to me, and Shattered Sword for instance, came to a few conclusions I don't agree with. In fact I found it to be a very pretentious book.
     
  7. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I have not read either book, but the reading I have done leads me more to the "scholarly" book. The author has access to a variety of points of view. These lead the writer to a conclusion that is supported by these disparate accounts. The first person account is skewed by the writer's point of view. In some cases, the writer has an ax to grind or an apology for his actions (or lack thereof). In any case, I agree that no reader should depend on a single source for information.
     
  8. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I also tend to like the scholarly works best, multiple sources makes it more intertesting to me, I have both shattered sword and miracle at Midway (and the first team but haven't got to Midway on that one and it's not specific to that battle anyway), and would recomend all of them.
    BTW while scholars don't have a "personal agenda" they often have a "pet theory" with similar results. IMO some "revisionism" is badly needed in WW2 naval history as the "conventional wisdom" is often derived only from allied sources.
     
  9. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    If I had to chose between a scholorly and first hand accounts I would go with the former, but fortunately I don't! I aggree with Gromit that Ist person's are invaluable to the insight of those actually there, just have to use a little filtering.
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    One of the problems that has become fairly clear in the last few years is that Fuchida was not all that reliable as a first hand withens. There are several threads on this topic over on the IJN board with even supporters of his having to admit that he made some rather glaring errors. The authors of Shattered Sword as well as a number of other books are fairly common posters there.
     

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