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The Battle of Midway (Pivotal Moments in American History)
 
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The Battle of Midway (Pivotal Moments in American History) [Kindle Edition]

Craig L. Symonds

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Review


"The Battle of Midway was the hinge on which the war in the Pacific turned. Its story deserves retelling, and Symonds' book does a wonderful job of it." --The American Spectator


"Mr. Symonds has marshaled the data of seven decades to produce an account that is clear and readable, benefiting from his easy expertise in naval matters." --The Wall Street Journal


"Important...documenting a role too often overlooked and too little understood: the essential role played by the U.S. Navy in winning the war in the Pacific." - The Dallas Morning News


"[W]holly satisfying . . . a lucid, intensely researched, mildly revisionist account of a significant moment in American military history." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review


"Craig Symonds has delivered yet another outstanding work, a work that will set the standard for studies of the Battle of Midway for years to come. Even if one thinks one knows all there is to know about Midway, Mr. Symonds' plethora of new facts, rationales for what and why each side performed the way it did, human interest stories and more make The Battle of Midway indispensable . . . The story of the battle unfolding and being fought is absolutely outstanding, but the events before and after it are equally well told. In addition, the supporting charts, photographs, references and bibliography are awesome. For anyone at all interested in the Battle of Midway, the Pacific War or the Navy, this is a must read."
--The Washington Times


Selected as a Best Book of 2011 by Military History Quarterly


"Deeply researched, shrewdly argued, and powerfully narrated, The Battle of Midway is a superb work of the historian's craft. It easily takes its place as the best and most comprehensive account of the pivotal battle from the American perspective." -Richard B. Frank, author of Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle and Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire


"In The Battle of Midway Symonds has effectively synthesized the huge mass of information about the Midway battle into a fast-moving, highly readable account filled with nuggets of fascinating biographical material about many of the principals, both American and Japanese . . . Symonds describes the scenes of the Battle of Midway itself with the knowing eye of a fine historian . . . Craig Symonds has crafted an excellent addition to the pantheon of important literature about the transcendent American naval victory at Midway. The Battle of Midway deserves to be read and enjoyed." --Naval History


"Compulsively readable" --The Week


"Well documented through interviews, official records, and secondary sources, the book will show readers that Midway was, as Wellington would have said, "a close-run thing." General military history enthusiasts will be fascinated, and specialists will revel in the careful dissection of the action. -- Library Journal


"[A] superb narrative, clearly, vividly, and energetically written, with attention to detail that is always relevant to his interpretation . . . this book will be read appreciatively by other non-specialists. Indeed, it demonstrates why military history should not be considered 'merely' a 'niche' subject, but part of the mainstream of the national narrative." --HNN.com


"A fascinating and informative retelling of the most important naval battle of the Pacific War. Symonds once again demonstrates his superb mastery of his craft." -Jonathan Parshall, co-author of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway


Chosen as one of Proceedings Notable Books of 2011


Product Description

There are few moments in American history in which the course of events tipped so suddenly and so dramatically as at the Battle of Midway. At dawn of June 4, 1942, a rampaging Japanese navy ruled the Pacific. By sunset, their vaunted carrier force (the Kido Butai) had been sunk and their grip on the Pacific had been loosened forever.
In this absolutely riveting account of a key moment in the history of World War II, one of America's leading naval historians, Craig L. Symonds paints an unforgettable portrait of ingenuity, courage, and sacrifice. Symonds begins with the arrival of Admiral Chester A. Nimitz at Pearl Harbor after the devastating Japanese attack, and describes the key events leading to the climactic battle, including both Coral Sea--the first battle in history against opposing carrier forces--and Jimmy Doolittle's daring raid of Tokyo. He focuses throughout on the people involved, offering telling portraits of Admirals Nimitz, Halsey, Spruance and numerous other Americans, as well as the leading Japanese figures, including the poker-loving Admiral Yamamoto. Indeed, Symonds sheds much light on the aspects of Japanese culture--such as their single-minded devotion to combat, which led to poorly armored planes and inadequate fire-safety measures on their ships--that contributed to their defeat. The author's account of the battle itself is masterful, weaving together the many disparate threads of attack--attacks which failed in the early going--that ultimately created a five-minute window in which three of the four Japanese carriers were mortally wounded, changing the course of the Pacific war in an eye-blink.
Symonds is the first historian to argue that the victory at Midway was not simply a matter of luck, pointing out that Nimitz had equal forces, superior intelligence, and the element of surprise. Nimitz had a strong hand, Symonds concludes, and he rightly expected to win.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3480 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (Sept. 7 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005G05WDO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #118,110 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  159 reviews
124 of 127 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Midway book you've been waiting for. Sept. 29 2011
By R. W. Russell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Craig Symond's new book may very well be the one that anyone deeply interested in its subject has long been waiting for--a book that tells the entire Midway story with all of the latter-day research and revelations that have enhanced or sometimes changed our understandings of the event.

There are two good reasons for that. One, Symonds is an acclaimed professor emeritus from the U.S. Naval Academy, with over a dozen books on American naval and military history in print. But equally important if not more so, he relied very heavily on his association with the Battle of Midway Roundtable, an internet forum that for years has included scores of actual Midway veterans plus many of its premier historians and authors. For nitty-gritty details on any element of the battle, there is no better resource.

But as you might expect from an author of this caliber, Symonds reached far beyond the internet for research. Primary sources include material in the National Archives and from the Naval War College, the Naval History and Heritage Command, and of course the Naval Academy. The references include the author's interviews with and oral histories by some of Midway's key participants, including Joseph Rochefort, Edwin Layton, Richard Best, John "Jimmie" Thach, Albert Earnest, N. J. "Dusty" Kleiss, and Donald "Mac" Showers. While an impressive source list like that can also be found in other books, Symonds has managed to couple them with an account of the battle that overcomes the criticisms commonly leveled at some of the less successful Midway authors. His book is a dual dose of thorough research and expert composition that should propel it toward the top of any critical listing of works on Midway.

If one were to read this book's coverage of the American side of the battle, then follow that with "Shattered Sword" (Parshall & Tully's masterful account of the Japanese navy at Midway), he could rightly consider himself among the very best informed among those with an interest in the Battle of Midway at any level.
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Paced Overview With Newest Research Oct. 2 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Craig Symonds's newest book is a wonderful read for both those who know little about Midway or have read older accounts such as Walter Lord's INCREDIBLE VICTORY and Prange et al's MIRACLE AT MIDWAY. Though maybe not as dramatic as the former or detailed as the latter, it offers a great overview of the battle and the Pacific campaign that led up to it. While I am fairly new to the study of the battle, the book definitely has piqued my interest and most likely will do the same for any one else who picks it up to want to read more. Symonds has been able to pull together some of the more recent research about the battle (including Weisheit's conclusions about the true flight path of most of USS Hornet's squadrons) as well as helping to attack many of the myths we have long heard about Midway. Symonds is willing to share his own opinions of that conflict that clash with commonly held views about the battle. He is quite critical in his opinions of Mitscher's and and Stanhope Ring's performances on June 4, 1942. However, after reading his evidence it is hard to disagree with his conclusions.

Though this is part of the Pivotal Moments of American History series that often offer quite superficial approaches to the topic discussed, I was impressed by the detail and individual accounts. Some readers may get impatient as about a third to half of the book is devoted to the period immediately after Pearl Harbor to Midway. However, I found the author's accounts of Coral Sea and the Japanese foray into the Indian Ocean informative and useful setting up his great story.

The only area that I wish were improved was the "postscripts type" section. As a reader who enjoys reading what happened to many of a book's participants, I found this too brief in the book. Major figures's fates are mentioned though only a couple or more of the Japanese ones are described (yes we know most of the Japanese pilots probably died later in the war but how, when?
I realize a search on the Internet can satisfy this curiosity but I did want to know more about what eventually happened to many of the veterans (both Japanese and American).

American history teachers will also appreciate some of the websites that Symonds offers that give veteran's accounts as well as combat reports that can be beneficial in constructing primary source lessons. The bibliography is quite detailed for anyone who wants to explore the topic in more detail.

Once again a great book both for those who know little about the battle (Symonds explains naval and aviation matters in a way that anyone can understand them) as well as others who have read a considerable amount on the battle. Experts may already have read much of what he says in recent books but will still find the book valuable and nice having it in one place!
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The new standard on the battle of Midway Oct. 4 2011
By MarkK - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When considering the truly pivotal events in American history, it is difficult to find many that are as significant as the battle of Midway. As Craig Symonds notes in his introduction, "there are few moments in American history in which the course of events tipped so suddenly and so dramatically as it did on June 4, 1942." For it was on that day that the United States Navy succeeded in smashing the heart of the Japanese carrier force that had so completely dominated the Pacific Ocean during the first six months of the war there, scoring a victory that changed the course of World War II. Symonds's book provides an account of this dramatic battle, as well as an understanding of the chain of events that led up to the clash between the American and Japanese fleets.

One of the key factors he identifies early on is the growing presence of the "victory disease" infecting the thinking of Japanese naval officers. An increasing assumption of victory was perhaps understandable, though, given the successes Japanese forces enjoyed at the start of the war. Much of this success was the consequence of the quality of Japanese equipment, as well as the demanding levels of training and previous combat experience of Japanese forces. Yet these advantages would prove to be temporary the longer the war wore on, as they were products of a system ill capable of replacing losses at the pace necessary. In the short term, though, Japan went from triumph to triumph, conquering southeast Asia and dominating Allied forces in the naval battles waged.

Yet American commanders were determined to punch back. Symonds' account of the war in the early months of 1942 is one of the great strengths of his book, as he shows how a seemingly minor series of carrier strikes against Japanese forces in the Pacific influenced subsequent events. Faced with a number of options, Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku ultimately resolved to attack Midway as a means of drawing out the American carrier forces and forcing the "decisive battle" called for by Japanese doctrine. The overly complicated plan was compromised almost from that start, though, as American codebreakers quickly uncovered some of its basic details. Armed with this information, the American commander of Pacific forces, Chester Nimitz, set a trap of his own, using all of his available carriers in a bid to cripple the Kido Butai, the carrier strike force that was the core of the Imperial Japanese Navy's offensive power.

The outcome was devastating for the Japanese. Symonds relies upon a mixture of published accounts and interviews to reconstruct events, using them to address the myths and misconceptions that have emerged about the battle. Among the participants whose role he highlights is that of Frank Jack Fletcher, the commander of American forces in the battle. Long overshadowed by other figures, Symonds credits his cool and experienced judgment for much of the outcome. The pilots are also prominently featured in his account, and he makes clear just how devastating a toll the battle took among the ranks of American flyers as well as the Japanese forces. Yet he demonstrates how their sacrifice contributed to the American victory, which permanently shifted the balance of power of the Pacific and forced the Japanese to adopt a defensive strategy that could only delay their eventual defeat.

Clearly written and supplemented with a helpful collection of maps and photographs, Symonds' book provides an excellent introduction to the battle. Though not as detailed as Gordon Prange's classic study, Miracle at Midway, it benefits from the insights of more recent works such as Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully's Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway, while the extensive coverage of the context of the battle offers a perspective lacking in most other accounts. With this book, Symonds has set the standard by which other histories of the battle are judged, one that is unlikely to be surpassed anytime soon.
85 of 101 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Comment from a dive bomber's perspective Nov. 4 2011
By Lt. Cmdr. George J. Walsh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book for students of the Battle of Midway. It is very well written, fast paced and interesting throughout, neatly organized and annotated. Buy it for these reasons.

However it adds nothing new to our history of the Battle. As the author points out in his Acknowledgments Chapter he has drawn heavily on recently published authors for both source and editing. At the same time he has ignored the work of his predecessor on the Annapolis faculty, Professor E. B. Potter, who wrote the biography of Admiral Chester Nimitz with the admiral's cooperation.

On pages 86-87 of the Nimitz biography Professor Potter describes the meeting of the evening of May 27th at which Admiral Spruance and Fletcher and their staffs were briefed on the plan to ambush the Japanese carriers as they were engaged in attacking the islands of Midway. It specified the dawn ambush station for our Navy's fleet to be 200 miles north of Midway, with the Japanese carriers well within range of all of our aircraft.1

Professor Symonds ignores this meeting and its significance. On page 225 of his new book he reports that Admiral Fletcher launched his CAP and search planes at 4:20 AM on the morning of June 4th from a position "320 miles northwest of Midway". It was 6:20 AM before Admiral Spruance and Task Force 16 were released to proceed southwesterly and attack the enemy. Our carrier attack planes were launched too late and at extreme range, extended well beyond the range planned for the dawn ambush station 200 miles north of Midway.

Professor Symonds support of the theory that the Japanese Kido Butai attack fleet may have been split into two separate task forces is also questionable. Ensign Ady's initial contact report of two carriers was immediately dismissed by Admiral Nimitz, as stated on page 93 of his biography. From the detailed reports of Cmdr. Rochefort's code breakers he knew that the number of Japanese destroyers, only eleven committed to the escort of the whole Nagumo force, would have been insufficient to support two separate task forces.

Admiral Fletcher presumably would have had the same information. No one really knows why he abandoned the ambush station to go on the defensive that morning, long before receipt of Ensign Ady's two carriers sighting. There has been much conjecture about his reasons and what he expected to accomplish with a search a mere 100 miles to his north. Using the two carrier report as an excuse for his action has been mentioned so frequently that it is being accepted as fact.
This is also true of Chapter 12's titillating tale of the "Flight to Nowhere".
This conjecture is disputed by Clayton Fisher, one of the two veteran dive bomber pilots of the Battle of Midway still alive. Ensign Fisher was Commander Ring's wingman for the entire flight. Professor Symonds relegates this protest to Note 18 of his book's Appendix 7. I would have given more credibility to an actual participant in the event than to writers 70 years after the event pushing their own agenda.

It is too bad that this excellent book follows the lead of other "black shoe" historians who seem to be determined to absolve Admiral Fletcher of any responsibility by transferring blame to the aviation contingent. Loss of the Yorktown, combat losses due to the lack of co-ordination in the strikes, and the losses of US aircraft, pilots and crews through lack of fuel were the responsibility of Admiral Fletcher, whose days as a fleet commander were soon terminated. Admiral Mitscher and Commander Ring went on to illustrious careers throughout the war.

Professor Symonds has done such a beautiful job of writing this book that it bothers me to offer critical comments. To compensate let me say to readers who have reached this point, "Buy the book, it's a great read."

* NOTE
"During the night of June 3d-4th our task forces moved south-southwest to a position about 200 miles north of Midway. It was hoped that they would be able to catch the enemy striking force on the flank when it launched its anticipated attack on the islands. At 0420 on June 4th the Yorktown launched a security search of the sector to the north and put a fighter patrol into the air. The Enterprise, 5 or 10 miles to the southwest with Task Force SUGAR, took over direction of fighters."
Combat Intelligence Branch, OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE- 1943

Cmdr. Edwin T. Layton attended the May 27th briefing and mentions it in his book, "And I Was There".

Jon Lundstrom. The First Team, Opening of Chapter 15
"As Wednesday turned into Thursday, 4 June, Fletcher's Striking Force steamed southward at an economical 13.5 knots, the two carrier task forces remaining about 10 miles apart. First light (around 0430) was to see Striking Force at a point bearing 013 degrees, 202 miles from Midway. This constituted the famous flank ambush position planned by Nimitz, Fletcher, and Spruance. They expected the Japanese carriers to roar down on Midway from the northwest and launch a massive air strike at dawn to pummel the island's defenses."

Other sources confirming the 200 mile north ambush station:
The Barrier and the Javelin by H. P. Wilmot, Page 364
Morison, Vol. IV, Page 102
Incredible Victory, Walter Lord, Page 83
Miracle at Midway, Gordon Prange, Page 170
Midway, Dauntless Victory, Peter Smith, Chapter Three
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Substantial, Well-written Authoratative Book Of History Dec 23 2011
By James Barton Phelps - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942 was as decisive for Americans as was the Battle for Britain in 1940 for the British or the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943 for the Russian. In each case that battle marked the high water mark for the aggressor and turning point of the war for the victor.

Much has been written about each of them, but the literature on the Battle of Midway is not as voluminous as that with respect to the others- probably because it was a single event, essentially over in a matter of hours, but no less important. But. regardless of any other stories, there are two marvelous histories about Midway that every American should read. The first - and perhaps the more readable - is Incredible Victory by Walter Lord, published in 1967 (a book which I have read and reread at least three times over the years,), and now there is this new one by Craig L. Symonds who is a professional historian, a Professor of History and the retired Chairman of the Department of History at the Naval Academy, a book which is by far the more scholarly of the two but no less enthralling. The APPENDICES contain a lot of useful technical information and source material for those who want to explore further.

I think most of you know the plot: The prewar Japanese strategy was to invite a battle to the death with the American fleet after which, assuming the Americans were defeated, America would settle with Japan for some kind of deal which would give Japan the territorial security and resources she so badly needed to become a true world power. Hence the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor which failed in the sense that, while it destroyed the American battle line, it didn't destroy any American carriers. So the ongoing Japanese strategy after December 7, 1941 was to create an incident that would cause the carriers and what was left of the fleet to come out and fight, the hope being that the ensuing Japanese victory would result in an American compromise before American manpower and the American industrial machine became overwhelming.

The bait for the Americans was Midway. In Japanese hands it would be an intolerable threat to Hawaii and the Eastern Pacific, including the American West Coast. Hence the conceived seizure of Midway in June 1941 with the main Japanese surface fleet lying in wait to the North with the Kido Butai not too far away. (The Kino Butai was the Japanese Striking Force of four front-line carriers (Kaga, Akaki, Soryu and Hiryu) which had laid waste to opposing naval forces in the Southwest Pacific from December on and was now ready to take out the American carriers when they appeared. - after which the main fleet would do its duty.)

Most of you know what happened. The Americans had broken the Japanese Naval Code and rather than the Kido Butai which lay in wait there were three American carriers - Yorktown, Enterprise and Hornet - which lay in wait 200 miles northeast of the Kido Butai and, attacking the Kido Butai when its carriers were recovering planes, inflicted fatal damage on three in eight minutes and finished off the fourth later in the day.

Symonds writes with authority. He's easily read, gives more factual detail than Lord and seems to me to a bit more at home with the facts.

There ere are two problems common to both books with respect to which you need to be warned. First, the general outline of who flew where and when and what happened is pretty clear, but as a reader I have always been confused in trying to follow the action of several units fighting contemporaneously over several miles of sky and in several locations; and, frankly, I'm not sure that having read all the action reports and talking with the survivors the authors themselves know exactly what happened. Two men involved in a real action don't always see it the same ; so if you have ten men in one flight it's even more difficult to "get the story straight". Second, You need good charts to follow the action. Incredible Victory didn't have them and while The Battle Of Midway did have several I simply couldn't follow them as they appeared on my Kindle (the scale was too small).

I would be remiss without mentioning the fact that each of these books read now in 2011 bring back memories of how anxious we were on the West Coast (I was then in a dull job in Naval Intelligence in San Francisco.) during and after Coral Sea and how relieved we were after Midway. We owed so much to the heroic and superbly trained Naval Aviators who fought the Zeroes and their bombers (Kates et. al.) with inadequate F4Fs and the Dauntless dive bombers. While a good part of the Japanese Naval air power was lost at Midway, it continued to be a power until the F6Fs and the F4Us came on line with the new carriers in 1943. Carrier duty is still hazardous - very hazardous - but then it was a killer - literarilly.

To sum up this writers opinion of the subject book: This is a substantial well-written authoritative book of history which deserves the attention and thought of everyone interested in the subject of Midway. It's not a major "literary" event; it's a good book, and for all Americans who want to know about how their countrymen fought the Second World War it's a "must".

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The decision to minimize the importance of armor derived from a Japanese worldview that valued attack over protection. As a result, Japanese airplanes carried heavy armament but little armor; they could fly long distances on a single tank of fuel, but those fuel tanks were not self-sealing, which meant that a single bullet could ignite an explosion. &quote;
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The result was that while Japan began the war with a cadre of very highly skilled and intensively trained pilots, there was no established program to add large numbers of new pilots to the fleet as the war went on. &quote;
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The Doolittle raid did not trigger the Midway expeditionthat decision had already been made. It did, however, remove any doubts the Army had about backing the operation. &quote;
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