|USS Wasp. USN photo. Public domain|
The first day of battle, June 3, proceeded with some cat-and-mouse dodging and doubling-back and searching. My goal was to pull off an opening air strike on the American carriers on the first day, but the U.S. advantage in search planes left my position exposed, while I frequently lost track of the American fleet's location. I sent the light cruiser Nagara ahead as a picket to find the U.S. fleet, but she was caught by American planes and summarily sunk. My submarine searches had mixed success; I lost two Japanese subs but managed to inflict one torpedo hit on Wasp the one time I did locate the fleet. I ended up pulling back and having the carrier strike force rendezvous with four heavy cruisers to improve their air defense posture, then headed east to begin the process of reducing the defenses on Midway Island in preparation for the invasion.
At daybreak on the second day, June 4, my main invasion force arrived from the west,
|USN photo. Public domain|
At about that time, the Alaskan Strike Force arrived with the carriers Junyo and Ryujo, the heavy cruisers Maya and Takao, two transports, and three light cruisers. They were joined by the Yamato battleship group and so were well-escorted. But they were considerably west of my position and could only provide occasional fighter cover.
Early that afternoon, Akagi and Kaga launched follow-up strikes to complete the reduction of Midway. Now the island was ready for the arrival of my transports to complete the invasion. Again, I had given away the position of my carrier fleet, and so at 1500, the American counter-attack arrived. My CAP of fighters from Kaga, Ryuho, Junyo, and Zuikaku was overwhelmed by the F-4F Wildcats, so that the full power of the American dive bombers and torpedo bombers were unleashed on my four carriers without opposition from my Zeroes. The American attack was most heavily concentrated on Hiryu, which could not be saved. I tried desperately to coordinate air defenses to save Soryu, but she went to the bottom as well. Akagi meanwhile suffered 60% damage and Kaga 40%, which meant that they would probably not survive another American attack.
|Aircraft preparations aboard Shokaku. |
USN photo. Public domain
The night of June 4, the American commander considered that enough damage had been inflicted on the Japanese fleet that there was no sense in trying to make a stand and jeopardize the American carriers, so the U.S. fleet sailed away under cover of darkness. By the afternoon of June 5, the Japanese invasion was complete, but the loss of two carriers was too high a price to pay for the island.
Frank H., USN
2 submarines sunk
6 holding Midway until 1500 June 5
Paul O., IJN
1 submarine sunk
15 invasion of Midway
In retrospect, I think I made a strategic error in focusing my June 4 carrier strikes on reducing Midway island defenses rather than trying to sink American carriers. As I look at the points in the game, it is absolutely necessary for the Japanese to sink at least one and preferably two American carriers in order to secure a victory. I should have had the lead carrier strike force trade blows with the U.S. fleet and leave the Midway reduction to Zuikaku and Shokaku (a luxury not normally afforded the Japanese player in the original order of battle).
Frank and I are wondering whether there is an inherent bias in this game for an American victory. I've always felt that the U.S. had an advantage just in terms of the number of available dive bombers, which can concentrate in some alarming attacks. The weak air defense values of many of the Japanese heavy cruisers don't help, either. But the Japanese can certainly win - it just didn't happen this time.