Midway Mythos - the ten minutes that changed history

I’m interested in what people think about the “debunking” of of the mythos around the battle of Midway put forward by Parshall and Tully in “Shattered Sword”

  1. As mentioned by Indy, the notion that the IJN combat air patrol was a low altitude due to the US torpedo squadron attacks and therefore couldn’t intercept the dive bombers that hit the three IJN carriers. Parshall and Tulley point out that there was 45 minutes between these attacks and a Zero could climb to 10k feet in “5 minutes flat”. So where were was the CAP and why?

  2. Fuchida’s account has Akagi ready to loaded with planes for a strike on the US fleet when she was hit by the Helldivers, so the the IJN was “missed it by that much” to a full strike on the USN carriers. But IJN ops records, timing of carrier operations and photographic evidence say otherwise. I’m persuaded, is anyone else?


Great points.

I really like the 2005 Parshall / Tully work does an excellent breakdown of the battle in detail including the timing/invasion myths and actually how carriers works. To me they overrule the Fuchida “we nearly won myth” where the planes were just about to fly off. Also his point that the Zeroes had the time to climb up to altitude makes sense to me. So it seems the video could have been a little better.

Also the book tries to explain the confusion about the attack doctrine causing 2 squadrons to go after the Kaga until Dick Best broke of his dive to take 2 planes to the Akagi. Their theory that they mutually blocked their mutual radiotraffic by transmitting at the same time makes sense. Lots of inexperience and luck.

The videos can’t redo all the gritty detail of Parshall/Tully and had to make a decision what to include and what not. I am pleased it included the horrible treatment of the Japanese survivors of the Kido Butai which virtually had no exposure so far.

Just a point:
I don’t think there where any Curtis Helldivers at Midway but only the Douglass Dauntless. (Feel free to prove me wrong. I don’t have the book at hand but I think it mentioned Helldivers in the 2008 edition which only came into service a year later.


Chewy… thanks for the response!

I am certain you are correct on the Helldiver vs. Dauntless. When writing I was thinking in context of the Fuchida quote from his book that it sometimes translated as “Helldivers!” and had forgotten about the Curtiss model.

I’m totally with you on Parshall/ Tully as well as the TG video constraints. They do a great job.




Come to think :thinking: of it. If I like Fuchida would have a “defeated leader” who knew that even the “dishonoured” wounded will be mocked by even the medical staff. I think I would fudge the reports if I could help it.

I kinda knew it from Shattered Sword, but after seeing the TG vid my opinion of him shifted from nasty :face_vomiting: liar :lying_face: to I might have done the same in his culture :thinking:


It’s been a while since I’ve read Shattered Sword, but didn’t they also present that Midway was not a decisive victory that changed the outcome of the war. I think they argue that Midway made the end of that war Pacific War ‘more clear, more early’.

By 1944 the US would be producing 1 carrier every two months with fresh planes and air crews. Kido Butai and the Japanese war production was not going prevail.


So a question about the Zero’s and where they were or should have been… when the diver bombers did show up, they came in unopposed, right? If the Zero’s could have gotten up there, why didn’t they?

The suggestion of target fixation to the torpedo bombers with escorts seems pretty valid. Which would mean the torpedo bombers brought the fighters down to the surface and not paying attention to altitude attacks.

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Alfa - I agree with you target fixation hypothesis . Just the same I went to looking into my own question and just found this YouTube timeline.

The sourcing is not made but I’ve watched the whole thing and I think this version matches what I already think I know. If correct, it surely accounts for the attention of at least a major fraction the CAP.

It has Yorktown’s VT-3 with fighter support attacking at 10:06am. Perhaps the combo of slow torpedo planes and a chance to dogfight was too alluring. Besides, weren’t torpedoes considering the more vital threat?

All the same, PashallTully’s point is that the object of the myth was around VT-6 and VT-8’s sacrifice. Perhaps the drama with Vt-8 and the “flight to nowhere” was a contributing factor to its creation.


One hindsight irony- the torpedoes were the more feared, but even though so many were properly lined up and dropped, they were completely ineffective thanks to the great maneuvering.

Maybe they also though the bombers would be ineffective thanks to the high altitude bombing that did nothing?

But the dive bombers sure did the job…


Regarding the CAP, if I remember rightly from my own treasured copy of Shattered Sword, it wasn’t the vertical separation between the Zeros and the incoming dive bombers which was the issue. It was more the horizontal distribution. Meaning that, rather than a distributed fighter umbrella over the entire formation, the Zeros of the CAP had become clustered in certain sectors, as they were drawn to the assorted incoming attacks. Fighter direction was rudimentary at best, so I don’t believe that there was any meaningful way of vectoring the pilots to the incoming threat (of which there was little to no warning, in any case).


Parshall is an on-going guest lecturer at both Annapolis and the Naval War College about the Battle of Midway. He teaches Cadets and USN Senior officers about Midway. His lectures are vetted and attended by Annapolis naval-history professors. Parshall has a boatload of credibility. In “Shattered Sword” Parshall and Tulley used Japanese primary source documents to examine what really happened. The intent was never to refute Fucida’s and other claims. The intent to was to undestand what happened. Both understand WWII carrier operations, so necessary to make sense out of reports and accounts. Another myth refuted is Midway is a “David versus Goliath” conflict. It wasn’t, the sides were quite equal. Regarding was Midway a turning point or decisive, this Parshall video is on the topic.


Welcome to the forum finntastic and thanks :pray: for the great :+1: first post.


Here also is a presentation on turning points by Parshall and Citinoon turning points. Filmed on 6 March at the US National WW2 museum. Parshall starts at 5h03 minutes or so.

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Thanks for posting!


Japanese CAP command and control was a major culprit. Pretty much their CAP fighters used their own judgement where to go. With no radar at Midway and a sub-standard radio communication system, even by 1942 standards, the Japanese had few options given their air-assets and decks and battle-doctrine.