Dark Cloud logo

 

Home

Columns

Commentary

Dark Endeavors

Midway

spare a thought

Anyone who has read as much military history as I have starts to get uncomfortable when writers with purple pen get their dander up. It is, for example, hard to argue with the fact that Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor was a blunder, poorly done, and put the United States into the war under the best possible circumstances.

Aside from the fact that the Japanese missed all aircraft carriers, which were absent, they also missed all fuel storage, without which Pearl would have had to be abandoned and the Navy pulled back to San Diego. Much is made about the number of battleships sunk and horrid that was. The facts are different. All but two of the 'sunk' ships were refloated and used during the war. But so old and decrepit were the ships that they would have been an actual handicap to fleet actions in the first year of the war. They were all old enough to vote and slower ships are hard to imagine; in short, they would have slowed down the carrier actions and kept the Fleet under Japanese planes till their modern battleships would have blown ours apart.

The point being, Pearl Harbor is exaggerated as a disaster. It was a unifying action, sealing a determination to win.

Later in the war, the United States enjoyed advantages in material and ships truly enormous. Even so, historians wax heroically upon such actions as The Battle of Surigao Strait, a part of the action known as Leyte Gulf. In this battle, a total of fourteen Japanese ships, divided into two parts, tried to attack a small portion of our fleet, a portion made up of Pearl Harbor battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and thirty-nine PT boats. which so annoyed the Japanese fleet only three of their ships were available to receive fire from our battleships. It was as one-sided a slaughter as has been recorded.It is good and well for us, then, to remember June 4, 1942, a battle fought in which the United States was inferior to the enemy in every category of equipment, from planes to ships to torpedoes that, simply, did not work at all. And yet, we won the Battle of Midway. Or, rather, young and brave men did.

While our prowess later in the war is exaggerated, for some reason it is subjegated at Midway. History tells how our Naval Intelligence broke the Japanese code and allowed Nimitz and Spruance to place our fleet for its remote chance to win. But not enough is said about planes, full of young men, who knowingly took off to certain death as surely as any Kamikaze later in the war. Japanese pilots had been fighting in China for ten years; their planes were faster. We were outnumbered in ships by about the same ratio as the Japanese would be in two years. And yet, those lousy planes sank four Japanese carriers in the space of seven hours and did, quite simply, win the war. Knowing what we know of, say, Torpedo Squadron 8, from which only Ensign Gay survived the battle, exaggeration seems, not only unnecessary, but squalid.

It is, in fact, the rather incredible victory at Midway that pales future efforts in the war.Today, there are two bestselling books in Japan of passing interest. One is a glowing supposition of what the war would have been like had Japan won at Midway and, therefore, the war. The other is an effort extolling Japan's natural superiority foolishly downplayed because it lost a stupid war. These are but remnants of the mentalities the propelled Japan in 1942.

Only Hitler and the Nazis could dim the viciousness and racist dreck that ruled Japan then. And we often forget how fortunate we were to win on June 4th, 1942. Spare a moment today. Remember. Imagine. Be very, very grateful.