by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully
Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books, 2005. Pp. 612..
Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio.. $35.00. ISBN:1-57488-923-0
The Battle of Midway is one of the most famous in history. The story is well-known. After a string of failed attacks, the four carriers of Kido Butai under Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo were ready to launch the air strike that would have sunk the carriers Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown in one decisive blow. However, with the strike on the flight decks, this was thwarted by the timely arrival of SBD Dauntlesses from Enterprise and Yorktown, which planted their bombs to do fatal damage to the Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu – the bombs igniting a devastating chain-reaction on the decks of these carriers. It’s a story that Hollywood would make a great movie (and did, with 1976’s Midway).
But as is often the case, the version Hollywood went with was wrong. Jon Parshall and Anthony Tully, the creative force behind the web site CombinedFleet.com, began looking at this battle from the Japanese perspective, one that has been widely ignored. This book releases a large number of bombshells, blowing apart the account of Mitsuo Fuchida, the air commander who wrote a book on Midway. They also tell a gripping story, that is backed up by evidence in a massive book that sets the new starting point for the discussion of Midway.
The Imperial Japanese Navy is presented as far from the united, unstoppable juggernaut it was painted as. Instead, there were personality clashes and more intrigue than the entire run of “The Sopranos”. One admiral placed his superior in a headlock. Another admiral, while intoxicated, threatened to knife another admiral. Yamamoto was placed in command of the Combined Fleet to avoid getting assassinated by warmongers in Tokyo. The Japanese Navy’s command structure was extremely dysfunctional. That is not a good thing in the middle of the war.
This book brings a well-presented case, one that places the “Incredible Victory” in a whole new context. New information on the sinkings of the Kaga and Soryu appears in this book. The authors have not only provided charts of the damage done in the American attacks (via excellent illustrations of the hit locations), they also have detailed many of the other incidents in the battle (including a chart showing how the collision of the heavy cruisers Mikuma and Mogami happened). The revelation of the real reason that the Japanese carriers were vulnerable when the attack from VB-6, VS-6, and VB-3 arrived at 1020 on June 4, 1942.
Shattered Sword is a superb work that should become the definitive reference when the Battle of Midway is discussed. Gordon W. Prange and Walter Lord have been thoroughly eclipsed by this new work creating a full perspective of the pivotal battle of World War II in the Pacific Theater.