- - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Chester Nimitz arrived by Catalina flying boat to command the Pacific Fleet. He saw the Pearl Harbor attack had missed dry docks, repair shops and the tank farm. Therefore the carriers, their escorts and submarines stood ready to take the offensive. Nimitz knew some very good men had taken a terrible beating, so when he officially took command on Dec. 31, he told the assembled staffs he had complete and unlimited confidence in every one of them.

He immediately sent submarines into Japanese waters and conducted carrier operations, thwarting Japanese initiatives. However, the discovery through code breaking of enemy intentions for Midway provided a unique opportunity to fight their main fleet, but against long odds. Preparing Midway Island for invasion and assembling the carrier task forces for battle required the combined achievements of thousands in logistics, ship repair and naval intelligence.

Yet on June 4, 1942, the final margin for victory resided with the fearful sacrifice of a few brave men. About 550 airmen lost half their number, killed when flying into the concentrated anti-aircraft fire and carrier-plane attacks to destroy four heavy carriers and defend Midway.

One could easily paraphrase Winston Churchill to say never have so many who fought in the Pacific owed so much to so few. Walter Lord and Gordon W. Prange considered this an incredible, miraculous victory. For Mitsuo Fuchida and Masatake Okumiya, it was the battle that doomed Japan.

NOLAN NELSON

Eugene, Ore.

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