Pre-battle Documents
CinCPac. Operation Plan 29-42 CinCPac. Letter. May 28, 1942 Cmdr PatWing 2. Memorandum Cmdr VP-44. Operation Plan CO 6th Def. Bn. Instruction
Action Reports
CinCPac. June 28, 1942 Cmdr TF 16. June 16, 1942 Cmdr TF 17. June 14, 1942 CO CV-5. June 18, 1942 CO CV-6. June 8,  1942 CO CV-6. June 13, 1942 CO CV-8. June 13, 1942 Cmdr VB-3. June 10, 1942 Cmdr VS-5. June 7,  1942 Cmdr VB-6. June 10, 1942 Cmdr VS-6. June 20, 1942 CO NAS Midway. June 18, 1942 OO NAS Midway. June 15, 1942 CO 6th Def.Bn. June 13, 1942 CO MAG-22. June 7, 1942 XO MAG-22. June 7, 1942 CO VMF-221. June 6, 1942 CO VMSB-241. June 12, 1942
War Diaries, Logs
NAS Midway. May 1942 NAS Midway. June 1942 CV-6 War Diary. June 1942 CV-8 Deck Logs. June 1942
Early Researches
ONI Combat Narratives, 1943 The Japanese Story, 1947 Naval War College, 1948
  Operations Officer NAS Midway. Action Report. June 15, 1942
 
A16-3/A4-3/VZ/
    (0027)
  Sr.

S E C R E T

  June 15, 1942.

From:
To:
Via:



Subject:    

Commander Logan C. Ramsey, U.S. Navy.
The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
(1) The Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Air Station,
    Midway Island.
(2) The Commander Task Force NINE.

Air Operations of Midway Defense Forces during Battle
of Midway May 30, 1942, to June 6, 1942.

 

1.     The following report concerning the air operations by Midway Defense Forces covers the period May 30 to June 6, 1942.

 

2.     The general plan of procedure was based upon the following assumptions :

 

(a) That ordinarily an area of reduced visibility could be expected about 300 to 400 miles to the northwest.

 

(b) That, as a result of (a), the discovery of enemy carriers approaching Midway from this direction the day prior to any attack could hardly be expected. Accordingly, on any given date, we on Midway might expect an attack early in the morning. However, just as the low visibility area to the northwest covered the night run of the enemy, it also prevented a sufficient degree of accuracy in their surface navigation to permit a night launching. Consequently, we assumed that the enemy would pass out of the bad weather area in the wee small hours but would not launch until he had obtained a navigation fix at morning twilight. From this premise we decided that the enemy would launch about 0430 to 0500 yoke from about 150 to 200 miles out and would therefore strike Midway about 0600 yoke. (The first bomb dropped at 0635).

 

3.     Based upon the foregoing we decided to launch our search group each day as early as practicable and to have the heavy planes in the air immediately thereafter. The usual times were: search group 0415 yoke; B-17's 0430 yoke. Other planes at Midway, which, in addition to the 27 VF and 27 VB of the Marine Air Group, consisted of B-26's and 6 TBF's loaded with torpedoes, were kept on the ground in the fully alert status until after the search group passed beyond 400 miles on their outward legs.

 

4.     This daily plan definitely increased the logistic problem on Eastern Island as it was not possible to have the B-17's land again until they had been in the air for at least four hours in order to reduce their loading to a point where safe landing was practicable.

 

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A16-3/A4-3/VZ/
    (0027)
  Sr.

S E C R E T

  June 15, 1942.
Subject:    Air Operations of Midway Defense Forces during Battle
            of Midway May 30, 1942, to June 6, 1942.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


However, the hazard of having the B-17's caught on the ground was so great, this difficulty had to be accepted.

 

5.      During the opening phases our greatest concern was as to whether or not we might be hit during the night by planes operating from Wake. Particularly, we feared a night gas attack on Eastern Island. The difficulties of night navigation over the distance involved are not insuperable, particularly if the attacking planes are equipped with RADAR.

 

6.     The Commander-in-Chief, United States Pacific Fleet, ordered that, if practicable, the expected enemy rendezvous, 700 miles to the westward be investigated by B-17's on May 31st and June 1st at about 1500 yoke each day.

 

7.     On May 30, 1942, the area between the bearings 200 to 020 from Midway was searched to 700 miles with no surface contacts. Coverage in the search was excellent except to the northward of bearing 325 and beyond a distance of about 350 miles, where low visibility prevented a thorough search. Two air contacts were made at the two points where the 500 mile circle from Midway intersected the 600 mile circle from Wake From this, and the estimated speed of the Japanese bombers used, it was possible to make a good estimate of the time the patrol from Wake was begun. This deduction indicated clearly that if Wake was to be attacked, that the proper time for such an attempt was just at sunset, as only then could these planes be caught on the ground. The question of putting some B-17's in the search was considered and discarded for two reasons: (1) reduction in the striking force would be involved; (2), it was desired to conceal from the enemy that Midway had 4-engined landplane bombers as long as possible. In these two contacts the weakness of the PBY as a search plane was apparent. Any type of Japanese plane could, and did, assume the offensive against the PBY. Several men were wounded and two PBY's put out of commission as a result of the contacts on this date.

 

8.     On May 31, 1942, the same search was made. Coverage was excellent except to the northward of 285 degrees beyond 300 miles, where practically zero-zero weather prevented all search. There were no contacts. The B-17 striking force was dispatched to the expected enemy rendezvous bearing about 276, distance 700 from Midway, with negative results. These planes, in returning, became lost and were finally by a combination of RADAR and radio direction finder bearings. The last plane landed at about 0330 yoke, May 30, 1942, being then about 4 1/2 hours overdue.

 

9.     On June 1, 1942, the same search was made. Coverage was

 

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A16-3/A4-3/VZ/
    (0027)
  Sr.

S E C R E T

  June 15, 1942.
Subject:    Air Operations of Midway Defense Forces during Battle
            of Midway May 30, 1942, to June 6, 1942.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


excellent except, that beyond a line running east and west and 300 miles to the northward, no search was possible due to fog. There were no surface contacts. One air contact was made by our patrol planes, almost on the direct line to Wake and a little farther from Midway than on the previous day. (We had varied the time of take off of our search group for two reasons: (1), to get an earlier start, and (2), by varying the time of contacts which might be made we could get a further check on the time of take off of the Wake search group if they were observing a routine. As a result of this we were able to confirm our previous estimate of the Wake take off and it also appeared that they searched only on alternate days). Again, the weakness of the PBY was obvious, and only the fact that a second PBY in the adjacent sector joined in the air contact prevented the probable loss of a patrol plane. The B-17 group was again dispatched to the expected enemy rendezvous 700 miles to the westward; again with negative results as they failed to reach the desired point due to unfavorable weather.

 

10.     On June 2, 1942, the same search was made with no contacts, either air or surface. Coverage was excellent except that between 292 and 315 beyond 400 miles coverage was practically nil. A special long range B-17 with no bomb load was dispatched to search to 800 miles to the westward, results negative. This mission was dispatched because of the strong representations of General Hale.

 

11.     On June 3, 1942, the usual search was made. Coverage was excellent except beyond 400 miles to the north-northwest. At 0430 yoke all search planes were in the air. At 0904 the FIRST SURFACE CONTACT was made when a patrol plane reported "Two Japanese cargo vessels sighted bearing 247 degrees, distance 470 miles. Fired upon by AA.". This was followed by a report from another plane at 0925 of "Main body bearing 261, distance 700, six large ships in column." This was amplified to 11 ships, course 090, speed 19. As the reporting plane did not have sufficient fuel to remain long on station, and as it would probably have been shot down had it attempted to track, it vas ordered to return to the base. At 1130 another patrol plane reported two cargo vessels and two small vessels, course 050, bearing 251, distance 270. (This distance was obviously in error as the plane was at this time about 500 miles out). Meanwhile, the long range B-17's (half bomb load and one bomb bay gas tank) were ordered to take off and attack the "main body" bearing 261, distance 700. At 1200 they took off (refueling after the early morning safety flight take off took time). At 1240 the special long range B-17, with a Navy observer aboard, was dispatched to track enemy forces, as we felt that a B-17 had a chance to fight off enemy aircraft. At 1640

 

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A16-3/A4-3/VZ/
    (0027)
  Sr.

S E C R E T

  June 15, 1942.
Subject:    Air Operations of Midway Defense Forces during Battle
            of Midway May 30, 1942, to June 6, 1942.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


this plane reported 2 transports and 2 destroyers bearing 261, distance 700. It made no other contacts. At 1640 the attack group made its attack. This group, led by Lieutenant Colonel Sweeny, reported bombing from 9 and 10 thousand feet and making a hit on a battleship and one on a transport. (One man's bombs hung and he later made an individual attack which accounts for the transport hit). At 2115 we launched an attack group of 4 PBY-5A planes led by Lieutenant W. L. Richards, USN, executive officer of Patrol Squadron FORTY-FOUR, to deliver a moonlight torpedo attack on the "main body". These pilots were volunteers. At 2145 the last Army bomber returned. (Lieutenant Colonel Sweeny's group was the most experienced group of B-17's and its effectiveness, resolution, and communication efficiency and discipline were outstanding). It now appears that Flight 44 (the night torpedo attack by 4 patrol planes ) made two torpedo hits on transports. Apparently this attack was a complete surprise to the Japanese as one pilot approached the formation singly, maneuvered to make an up-moon approach, dropped his torpedo and escaped - all without being fired upon. The other 3 planes, attacking in a group, were not fired upon until they had gotten clear. It appears likely that two separate formations were attacked. The distance from Midway at the time of these attacks was 560 miles.

 

12.     On June 4, 1942, it was expected that the enemy would attack Midway. We had previously estimated that the attack would commence at about 0600 yoke. The search group was dispatched as usual at 0415 and the B-17's launched immediately thereafter. The Marine Air Group, plus the 4 B-26's and the 6 TBF's, were manned and their engines warmed. As we could not afford to land the B-17's until their load had been lightened, they were ordered to attack the enemy group to the westward which we estimated would be about 480 miles out. However, they were cautioned to be on the alert for orders to change their attack to a carrier group which we expected to find to the northwest. If the carriers had not been located in time for this change of objective it was hoped that this group would be able to land, rearm, refuel, and take off again between raids. There were 16 B-17's in the group. However, at 0545 a patrol plane reported in PLAIN ENGLISH (the first use of plain english that was made) "Many planes heading Midway bearing 320, distance 150". At 0550 the RADAR on Midway picked up many planes, distance 93, altitude 10,000. At 0552 another patrol plane reported 2 carriers and main body ships, carriers in front, course 135, speed 25. At 0555 the air raid alarm, was sounded arid prior to 0600 the field was clear; all planes able to take the air being off with the exception of one J2F. Meanwhile, the B-17 group had been ordered to change its objective and attack the carriers. At 0622

 

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A16-3/A4-3/VZ/
    (0027)
  Sr.

S E C R E T

  June 15, 1942.
Subject:    Air Operations of Midway Defense Forces during Battle
            of Midway May 30, 1942, to June 6, 1942.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


two planes were reported on fire 25 miles to the north of Midway. At 0635 the air raid began. I observed three groups of nine high altitude horizontal bombers at 12,000 feet and a hit by the anti-aircraft batteries of Midway on the leader or number 2 man of the closest group before I was able to induce Captain Simard to return to the underground Command Center. The patrol planes had been ordered to report all contacts fully and search to 425 miles unless 4 enemy carriers were located earlier. They were then to rendezvous at Laysan and Lisianski Islands and await orders. It was felt that keeping them on the scene would merely result in their being shot down. At 0710 NPM advised us we were observing improper circuit discipline. At 0715 8-V-55, a patrol plane, reported being attacked by two enemy observation planes. (This plane was shot down in flames and 6 men killed). At about 0720 the second wave of the attack came in and at 0725 all power was off. Auxiliary power was switched on, but communication with Eastern Island was lost, except by radio, due to a direct hit on the Eastern Island Command Center, At about 0750 the remnants of the Marine Air Group returned, and we received a report that only 3 fighters able to fly were remaining. At 0843 a patrol plane reported 4 CA, 2 AK, 2 AO, many DD bearing 265, distance 400. At 0900 the B-17 group, led by Lieutenant Colonel Sweeny, reported attack completed and 1 enemy carrier damaged. At 0910 9-V-55 reported 8 cruisers course 085, distance 320, bearing 265. At 0915 4-V-58 was attacked by a single engine seaplane fighter (many other such attacks were probably made, of which I have at present no information). At 0930 received reports that only 1 TBF and 2 B-26's had returned. They dropped at carriers, but no results were observed due to the necessity for defense against zero fighters. At 0945 the B-17's were back and were ordered to refuel and rearm. At 0951 6-V-55, a patrol plane, reported a large vessel, possibly an aircraft carrier, and a destroyer bearing 262, distance 330. This incomplete report is understandable, as the plane was, at the time, being attacked by enemy aircraft. At 0958 the Marine dive bomber group reported two hits on an enemy carrier and one on a battleship and that fires were started on each. At 1100 5-V-58, a patrol plane, reported being attacked by enemy aircraft. At 1125 we found a position in English numerals on a dead Japanese aviator bearing 329°, 129 miles from Midway (It was in latitude and longitude). At 1150 Scouting Squadron SIGHT from the Hornet landed for fuel. At 1200 received a report that Hornet was bearing 310°, distance 212 from Midway. At 1252 Yorktown reported being attacked 150 miles north of Midway. At 1253 V92 (6 B-17's) reported proceeding to Oahu unless otherwise directed. (This message was, for some reason, overlooked in the turmoil and no directions were given). At this time things looked very black. While the reports of

 

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A16-3/A4-3/VZ/
    (0027)
  Sr.

S E C R E T

  June 15, 1942.
Subject:    Air Operations of Midway Defense Forces during Battle
            of Midway May 30, 1942, to June 6, 1942.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


damage to Japanese carriers are noted as being made earlier, those from the Marine Air Group were made by voice to Eastern Island and had not been received at the Command Center. Our estimate at this time was as follows: One Japanese carrier had been damaged by the Army. The losses of the Marine Air Group were so heavy that it appeared their attack had been broken up before reaching the enemy. The Yorktown had been hit. The battleships to the northwest, the four cruisers on 265°, the possible enemy carrier on 262°, and the large group to the west were all boring in. Three enemy carriers appeared to be left to deal with Task Force 16. Consequently, it was decided to evacuate all Task Force NINE personnel not essential to the functioning of the Naval Air Station, Midway. Commander Hughes was ordered to depart and collect all patrol planes at the two rendezvous and act at his discretion after that action. It appeared that it was quite possible we would be under heavy bombardment from surface vessels before sunset. The PT group was warned to be ready to deliver night attacks. Thirty minutes later, however, the picture changed with startling rapidity. More combat information was received, from the Marine Air Group, indicating that fires had been started on two Japanese carriers and one battleship. This data was received just before 1 V 58, a patrol plane, made the following report: "Searched sector assigned to 700 miles information negative bearing 296°, distance 300 from Midway fuel 600. I request instructions". He was ordered to search the sector with a median bearing of 335° from Midway. At 1558 he reported three burning ships bearing 320°, distance 170, plus two cruisers. At 1610 we ordered V 97 flight of B-17's coming out from Pearl, to attack before landing at Midway. (This message was repeated ten times before a receipt was obtained). At 1745 1 V 58 reported the three burning ships were Japanese carriers and that two cruisers and four destroyers were with them, bearing 320°, distance 170. At 1800 1 V 58 reported forces engaged in a surface battle distance 180, and that he was being attacked by zero fighters. At 1830 a flight of B-17's from Midway (second trip) reported having attacked a cruiser and set it on fire and that they had not located the carriers. At 1920 all eleven PT boats were dispatched to the northwest to deliver night torpedo attacks. At 2030 the flight of B-17's from Pearl reported having made two hits on a burning carrier and near misses on a destroyer.

 

13.    On June 5 the daily search was modified to cover sector 250 to 020 to a distance of 250 miles. The coverage on this search was excellent throughout. At about midnight, a flight of two patrol planes was ordered to deliver an attack on the transport group to the westward with torpedoes. At 0130 a submarine shelled Midway. Local batteries returned the fire, claiming one hit. At this time our estimate of

 

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A16-3/A4-3/VZ/
    (0027)
  Sr.

S E C R E T

  June 15, 1942.
Subject:    Air Operations of Midway Defense Forces during Battle
            of Midway May 30, 1942, to June 6, 1942.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


the situation was that he was following the original plan to create a diversion to cover the attack of a landing party. However, in view of the losses sustained by the Japanese, it was felt that, when nothing further developed, that a retreat had been ordered, and that the Japanese submarine commander was the proverbial one "who didn't get the word". The usual routine was followed: search planes in the air at 0415, B-17's immediately thereafter, with a target to be given after take-off. By 0430 they were all in the air. Meanwhile, a submarine had reported a large enemy force at 28 -23 north 179 - 09 west. This was passed to the B-17's. At 0615 the B-17's reported unfavorable weather and their inability to locate a target. At 0625 this group was ordered to return to Kure and await orders. At 0630 2 V 55, a patrol plane, reported two battleships bearing 265°, distance 125 miles, course 268°, speed 15. This confirmed our estimate that a retreat had been ordered. At 0632 the same patrol plane reported that these ships were damaged and were streaming oil. At 0700 4 V 58 reported two enemy cruisers bearing 286°, distance 174, course 310, speed 20. At 0719 7 V 55 reported five ships, course 338°, speed 25, latitude 31 - 15, longitude 179 - 55. At 0800 6 V 55 reported two battleships, one carrier on fire, three heavy cruisers bearing 325°, distance 240, course 310, speed 12; followed by an amplifying report that the light vessels were screening the burning carrier and that the battleships were well ahead. At 0855 8 V 55 reported one carrier bearing 335°, distance 250, course 245. At 0821 10 V 55 reported Enterprise on fire and sinking. (This was Yorktown). At 0850 a submarine reported a land-plane 279 1/2°, distance 570. At 1000 V 92 (B-17's) reported making hits on a Japanese battleship (later reported as a cruiser). At 1220 the remains of the Marine Air Group scared a dive bombing hit on a damaged enemy cruiser to the westward. The plane scoring the hit was shot down by Aft. fire. At 1320 a second trip for the B-17's launched to attack the crippled carriers to the northwest. At 1430 this flight (which had a Navy observer on board) reported Task Force SIXTEEN bearing 322°, distance 105, course 322, speed 25. At 1545 despatched another group of B-17's to attack the enemy to the northwest. At 1610 1 V 56 reported one carrier, two battleships, three heavy cruisers, five destroyers, course 280°, speed 10, bearing 325, distance 110, friendly ships. At 1800 V 92 (B-17's) reported they could find only a single cruiser. They scored near misses. At 1845 2 V 56 reported being attacked by 12 fighters bearing 313, distance 350 (This was later corrected to scouting planes, not fighters). One B-17, 2 7 93, was never heard on the radio and failed to return. Another 3 V 93 never appeared on the radar screen (within 93 miles of Midway) and efforts to use lost plane procedure with radio direction finder bearings were not successful, due to the prior exhaustion of his fuel supply.

 

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A16-3/A4-3/VZ/
    (0027)
  Sr.

S E C R E T

  June 15, 1942.
Subject:    Air Operations of Midway Defense Forces during Battle
            of Midway May 30, 1942, to June 6, 1942.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

 

14.    On June 6 two enemy groups were located. One, included a damaged battleship and several cruisers and was steaming northwest. The other, consisting of 2 heavy cruisers and 2 destroyers was headed southwest. It was assumed that Task Force 16 would dispose of the northern group and consequently all available B-17's (26 as it later developed) were dispatched to attack the group headed southwest. It was hoped that this group would rendezvous with the transports and thus produce profitable targets. However, the only contact made by these B-17's was with what one group of ten reported as a cruiser. This, they claimed to have hit with 2 1100 pound demolition bombs, resulting in the sinking of the vessel in 15 seconds.

 

15.    On June 7 a sector search was made to 550 miles between the bearings of 263 and 283. Coverage was excellent; results were negative. In addition 21 patrol planes made a rescue search, covering the area 220 miles north of Midway by 350 miles to the westward. A number of pilots, not only from Midway forces, but from Task Forces 16 and 17 as well, were recovered. This rescue search is still continuing.

 

16.    A copy of this report is being forwarded directly to the Commander-in-Chief, U. S. Pacific Fleet due to my present geographical separation from the U. S. Naval Air Station, Midway.

 

17.    The following damage to the enemy is reported having been inflicted by forces operating from Midway:

 

34 aircraft destroyed) Marine Air Group plus
14 damaged           ) 6th. Defense Battalion AA fire

 2 hits on a carrier, setting it on fire (Marine Air
   Group)

 1 hit on a carrier, setting it on fire Lt-Col. Sweeny's
   B-17 squadron)

 1 hit on a battleship, setting it on fire (Lt-Col.
   Sweeny's B-17 squadron)

 2 hits on a burning carrier (B-17 group enroute from
   Pearl)

 1 hit on a battleship (cruiser ?)(Lt-Col.Sweeny's B-17)

 1 hit on a transport (Lt-Col. Sweeny's B-17 squadron)

 1 hit on a damaged heavy cruiser (Marine Air Group)

 1 hit on a heavy cruiser (Lt-Col. Sweeny's B-17
   squadron)

 2 Torpedo hits on transports (Lt-Richards, Patrol Plane
   Night Torpedo Attack)

 

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A16-3/A4-3/VZ/
    (0027)
  Sr.

S E C R E T

  June 15, 1942.
Subject:    Air Operations of Midway Defense Forces during Battle
            of Midway May 30, 1942, to June 6, 1942.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


18.    The following planes of the Midway forces were lost in action:

SB2U-3's      5 out of 12 engaged

SBD's         7 out of 13 engaged

F2A-3        13 out of 21 engaged

F4F-3         2 out of  6 engaged

B-26          2 out of  4 engaged

TBF           5 out of  6 engaged

B-17's        0 out of 26 engaged

PBY's         1 out of 31 engaged


Additional planes were damaged by action with the enemy. One B-17 was lost because of faulty navigation and one is missing. One J2F was destroyed on the ground.

 

 

 

 

 




LOGAN C. RAMSEY,    
Captain, U. S. Navy.

 


Copy to:
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  CinCPac
  Cominch

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