The Battle That Doomed Japan
By Capt. Nancy Aldrich
This morning, June 5, 2012, I went to the Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola to witness a Ceremony Commemorating the Battle of Midway. The parking lot was packed, and the museum was crowded. I went into the atrium hoping to get a seat for the ceremony, but with over 1000 people in attendance there was standing room only, so I stood.
At the end of the Ceremony, 5 Midway survivors, Wiley Bartlett, Victor Kalfus, Leon Resmondo, James Stofer and Charles Wheeler, who were in attendance, were presented with American Flags. A reception followed the ceremony, and each of the survivors sliced the cake using a Navy sword.
The Battle of Midway occurred 70 years ago, June 4-7, 1942, just 6 months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese planned to destroy what remained of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. They sent four aircraft carriers to the tiny Pacific atoll.
The U. S. was badly outnumbered, and had less experienced pilots. With the odds against them, they managed to sink the four aircraft carriers on the first day of the battle, putting Japan on the defensive.
The U.S. cryptologists had been able to crack the Japanese communication codes. They were able to give Admiral Chester Nimitz notice of the day and time the strike would occur, and what ships the enemy was bringing to the fight.
On Friday, June 1, 2012, Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, commander of the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, said, “After the battle of Midway, we always maintained the initiative, and for the remaining three years of the war, the Japanese reacted to us.
“It all started really in May of 1942, with station Hypo (the Combat Intelligence Unit at Pearl Harbor) and the work of some great people working together to try to understand what were the Japanese thinking, and what were they going to do.”
Japan’s vessels outnumbered U.S. ships 4-to-1, and Japan’s aviators had more experience. It’s Zero fighters could outmaneuver U. S. aircraft. However, Admiral Nimitz said, “had it not been for the excellent intelligence that was provided, we would have read about the capture of Midway in the morning newspaper.” Unlike the U.S., Japan had little knowledge of what we were doing.
Retired Rear Admiral Mac Showers, who was an Ensign in the Office at the time, is the last surviving member of the intelligence team that deciphered the Japanese messages. He explained that the Japanese used 45,000 five-digit numbers to represent words and phrases. “In order to read the messages, we had to recover the meaning of each one of those code groups. The main story of our work was recovering code group meanings one-by-painful-one,” he said.
A key breakthrough was when they determined that Japan was using the letters “AF” to mean Midway. Nimitz was convinced, but had to convince Admiral Ernest King, the Navy’s top commander. Nimitz sent a message to Oahu saying the island’s distillation plant was down, and it needed fresh water. Soon Japanese messages were picked up saying that “AF” had a water shortage. That was the convincing evidence.
The U.S. lost one carrier, 145 airplanes, and 307 men. According to the account by former Japanese naval officers, in “Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan, The Japanese Navy’s Story,” Japan lost four aircraft carriers, a heavy cruiser, 291 airplanes, and 4,800 men. The defeat was so overwhelming that the Japanese navy kept the information a closely guarded secret. Most Japanese never heard of the battle until after the surrender.
Showers said, “It used to be, a lot of people thought intelligence was something mysterious, and they didn’t believe in it, and they didn’t have to pay attention to it. Admiral Nimitz was, fortunately, what we call intelligence friendly.”
That intelligence friendly attitude gave the U.S. Navy the information it needed to win the Battle of Midway, in June of 1942, and greatly diminished Japan’s air power capabilities, and eventually lead to the defeat of Japan and the end of World War II.
Make a Joyful shout to God, all the earth! Sing out the Honor of His name; Make His praise Glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are Your works!” Psalms 66:1-3
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