Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Battle of Midway by Craig L. Symonds

A great deal has been written on the Battle of Midway, some good and some not so good. The Battle of Midway by Craig L. Symonds has to be one of the most definitive works on the Battle of Midway. And one of the better books on this subject by a long way.

The Battle of Midway. Was it a miraculous event, as some see it? Or a culmination of tactics and weapons?

Craig L. Symonds takes a long view of this key battle in World War 2. He traces the origins of some of the points that would be of vital importance, back to the latter years of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century.

He examines the military careers of the Japanese officers and the American officers from their earliest days at their military academies, teasing out facts that would prove important in the roles they played in the battle of Midway.

He also examined how blunders on both sides cost many lives and could have impacted on the outcome of not only the Battle of Midway but on the outcome of the war itself.

He points out that the decisions of Japanese officers was often coloured by their very real fear of being murdered by their subordinates, of how hundreds of US pilots were sent to their deaths because their planes had dreadful design  faults or their torpedoes just did not work.

Apparently the US government in pre-war days did not want to 'waste money' on testing the new design of torpedo, so the many faults in the design were not discovered in a timely manner and corrected. Instead they chose to blame the pilots, many of whom lost their lives attempting to launch useless, inert torpedoes. The torpedoes used by the US Navy submarines were just as bad.

The Japanese side was no better. They failed to provide adequate damage control facilities on their warships, so that a fairly minor explosion or fire could result in the loss of a ship and the subsequent unnecessary loss of many lives. Symonds also points out that the Japanese were doomed to fail by their desire for quality in pilot training and the construction of ships, planes, etc.

Symonds looks afresh at what we thought we knew about the progress of the battle, and has discovered that some of it was flawed due to error and that other information was simply wrong due to what appeared to be covering up by some persons involved.

The book is superbly illustrated with battle maps and photographs. These appear throughout the text, so do help to tell the story.

Although very readable indeed, the book will make a most suitable textbook for students of World War 2. The footnotes,  appendixes, notes and index are worth their weight in gold.

It is 452 pages long and published in hardback by the Oxford University Press at $27.95.

I can heartily recommend this book to old servicemen, their families, students of military history and serving forces personnel.

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