The many errors of Mitsuo Fuchida’s Midway

The post title is from Amazon page of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway

Here is the entire blub:

Many consider the Battle of Midway to have turned the tide of the Pacific War. It is without question one of the most famous battles in history. Now, for the first time since Gordon W. Prange’s bestselling Miracle at Midway , Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully offer a new interpretation of this great naval engagement. Unlike previous accounts, Shattered Sword makes extensive use of Japanese primary sources. It also corrects the many errors of Mitsuo Fuchida’s Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan , an uncritical reliance upon which has tainted every previous Western account. It thus forces a major, potentially controversial reevaluation of the great battle.

Parshall and Tully examine the battle in detail and effortlessly place it within the context of the Imperial Navy’s doctrine and technology. With a foreword by leading World War II naval historian John Lundstrom, Shattered Sword is an indispensable part of any military buff’s library.

Shattered Sword is the winner of the 2005 John Lyman Book Award for the “Best Book in U.S. Naval History” and was cited by Proceedings as one of its “Notable Naval Books” for 2005.



I followed the criticisms about Fuchida’s book. However, I recall that they concern mostly the Pearl Harbor attack, for the Midway Battle they were more about peanuts.

Fuchida was the flying commander of the Pearl Harbor attack. Reading an involved person’s book, it must always be seen as it is; it is human, to beatify the own errors…
At Midway he was involved during the planning, but not in the execution. He was just a battle spectator on “Akagi”, recovering from an appendectomy at sea.

My personal interest is about why the Japanese started this non-sustainable war.
Then, Pearl Harbor was just the first error of the Japanese in WW2, a costly wake-up of the American people, and the strategic end of the Japanese expansion politics from long before WW2.

It seems, Admiral Yamamoto had seen this, and, short of a reasonable exit, he just tried to gamble with the American people; first at Pearl Harbor and then at Midway.
Like most top-officers of the Navy, he knew something about the Americans; he spent some time at their embassy at Washington, as Naval Attaché.

Fuchida could not see, from Akagi, what happened on board Kaga. However, after the battle and not fit for active service, he was part of the secret “After Battle Investigation”, with access to secret documents.

1 Like

They wanted to be a colonial nation like the preeminent western powers and were not happy their ambitions were being thwarted.

1 Like

I highly recommend Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway

It’s a real page-turner and uses a wider range of sources, tells a different story then other books about Midway I’ve read.

From the blurb:

Unlike previous accounts, Shattered Sword makes extensive use of Japanese primary sources. It also corrects the many errors of Mitsuo Fuchida’s Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan , an uncritical reliance upon which has tainted every previous Western account. It thus forces a major, potentially controversial reevaluation of the great battle

The book does discuss the militarization of Japan in the 1920s and 30s.

1 Like

I appreciate your posting this about the book and I am heartened to see many people still studying this.
Be it known many battles and conflicts from any time in history are yet studied today by obscure historians.
While I’ll certainly read the book I’m only familiar with what happened in the very final few days in tokyo with the various commanders/emperor etc. but I do find much interest in the land warfare of ww2 with the Germans and those far flung incidents one hardly knows of. ((ww2 weather stations in remote locations, fishing boat excursions into Norway xporting spies/supplies, russian front in finland and so many more.

1 Like

For background on the events leading up to the war in the Pacific, I strongly recommend Herbert P. Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. Amazon

Bix gives a compelling argument that Hirohito was a driving force in the initiation and prosecution of the war, and that idea that militarists in the Army pushed him (and the Imperial aristocracy) into war is a myth.

A similar argument was made by David Bergamini in 1971, in Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy. You can pick up all 1200 pages of it at AbeBooks for not much. AbeBooks

Bergamini was trashed by academics and foreign service types in 1971 for accusing Hirohito of starting the war. In 2009 Bix got a Pulitzer for saying essentially the same thing. Times change.

Bergamini is worth reading, whether you think it’s history or historical fiction, and full of great stories.

Another, somewhat tangential, work is Visions of Infamy by William Honan. Amazon This is a biography of the journalist and probable British spook Hector Bywater, who in 1924 wrote a novel describing a big-gun war in Pacific between the US and Japan, starting with sneak attack and ending with an island-hopping campaign back to Japan. The book is called The Great Pacific War. It’s available on Kindle Amazon

Bywater was murdered in 1941, probably by Japanese intelligence.




I would add Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy by Eri Hotta. It can be a tedious read at times but contains a lot of information.

1 Like

So Mitsuo Fuchida had errors in his book but what difference does any of this make now 76 years later? The US had the intelligence advantage over the Japanese but even with that, it was a matter of who found who first that determined the outcome plus a whole lot of luck. US aviators found the Japanese carriers before the Japanese found the Americans and thus we got the first shot at their foe. The luck part was that our torpedo bombers distracted the Japanese long enough to allow the dive bombers to arrive unseen with the Japanese CAP fighters too low to intervene. The rest is simple history. Our dive bombers rained hell down on the unarmored decks of the AKAGI, KAGA and SORYU. Additional luck was that Admiral Nagumo dithered on the 2nd strike on Midway delaying the rearming of this planes. As it was, the Japanese planes were all preparing to take off right at the moment that the Dauntlesses all started their plunge. The Japanese planes were fully fueled and armed so when their ships started to feel the effect of the American bombs, their own added to the ships blowing to pieces which they did in rapid succession and quite completely.

I only wished the US had not missed HIRYU like they did and allowed the Japanese the chance to get their own shot back at us. Then to allow a Japanese sub in so close to the YORKTOWN to sink her when she was almost underway back to Pearl Harbor was unconscionable and someone in the USN should have had their head handed to them over her being lost like she was. We damned near won that battle without losing any ships at all!

The only way Midway could have tipped any scales in favor of the Japanese would have been for them to have found the US carriers first and gotten in a blow like we got on them. Three US carriers caught on their heels and sent to the bottom would have left no serviceable carriers in the US fleet and the Japs would have owned the Western Pacific all of 1943 and well into 1944 before new US carriers would have arrived plus we would have had to overcome being the loser and feeling defensive about the employment of carriers. Midway put the US in the position of being the victor so the Japanese were always being defensive about employing their carriers. Guadalcanal likely would never have happened since we would have had zero carriers to support the Marines!

1 Like

USS Saratoga (CV 3), USS Ranger (CV 4), and USS Wasp (CV 7) disagree with your assessment of carrier availability in the event of a Midway catastrophe.

Midway may have marked the end of Japanese offensives, but that was bound to happen anyways - Yamamoto always intended to consolidate lines of defense and grind down our resolve to fight, leading to a negotiated peace*. As to the tenaciousness of the US Navy, there were still hard lessons to be learned in the night battles during the Solomons campaign, but the fleet emerged stronger for them. War is a brutal teacher.

*Which I’ve personally never understood. From the founding of the country, to the Civil War, to WWII, and today, every enemy assumes that we’ll get sick of fighting and sue for peace (on their terms). We never have; this October will mark 17 years in Afghanistan. We’re about the most fightingest people on the face of the earth, it’d be nice if we got treated like it.

1 Like

Th Essex (CV-9) was commissioned in December 1942 and moved to the Pacific for action May 1943.

I cannot agree with you more. As much as Midway is called the 'turning point" it was not really…Midway rocked the IJN to a level which their carrier air arm was seriously wounded to a point where full recovery was not possible but it’s surface navy was still a force the US Navy had yet to recon with and for some time the Japanese navy was mopping the floor with ours until the 2nd Battle of Guadalcanal when a certain battlewagon named the WASHINGTON under Willis Lee turned the tables on the IJN is what was the equivalent of hand to hand combat between warships.

To me that was the turning point when the USN became a winning Navy.

1 Like

RANGER was hardly a carrier to take on the best the of IJN nor was the SARATOGA or WASP had the Japanese Navy been triumphant at Midway.

of course many dozens of brand new fleet carriers were all enroute to the Pacific after ESSEX was commissioned but had our Navy been defeated at Midway, the Japanese carriers would still be a mighty force with well trained pilots while most of our best fliers would have been lost so the pilots constituting these new air wings would not have had the lessons learned from the men who trained them who had been victorious at Midway.

In the end, American industrial might was going to crush the Japanese but the road to that final victory might have been a much longer and harder one if Midway had not gone to the US like it did

Weeks ago, I reread Mitsuo Fuchida’s book “MIDWAY: The Battle That Doomed Japan, the Japanese Navy’s Story”.
He writes that the exploding avgas cart killed the bridge team.

Did he have the sequence of the explosions right? I do not know…

Japanese sources no longer use Fuchida’s account and Japan’s official war history now endorse the idea of a direct hit to Kaga’s bridge.

According to the book Shattered Sword there was an hour between the torpedo bomber attack and the arrival of the dive bombers, more than enough time to regain position, however the attack did disrupt the air defenses.

The same book says that this claim is "categorically not true". and that" few. if any Japanese attack planes were on deck". and the Japanese were at least 30 minutes away from being ready to launch.

Again, this is from Japanese sources.

I recall now that the original CAP planes had to land to refuel but the replacement planes were blocked by others so couldn’t get launched straight away

what I read is that the Japanese carriers took all there planes down into the hangar spaces to refuel and rearm them and I hear to even warm up their engines so when the Dauntlesses began dropping bombs onto their wooden flight decks they penetrated into those same hangars filled with fuel and explosives and this is the principle reason so few direct bomb hits spelled doom for AKAGI, KAGA and SORYU so quickly.

Well you are descendents of Europeans who had to ruin our continent twice to learn the lesson.

And the Russians has to take the first place of fightingest people, time after time losing battles and wars but not giving up or quitting. You would have thought they had learned something after the humiliation of Soviet Union breaking up and joined the rest of us in cooperation and trade. But now they are at it again.

1 Like

You’d think the French and Germans would’ve learned not to invade Russia in the Winter, but they were proven wrong multiple times throughout history. It must be that stubborn Neanderthal DNA in us European descendants.

You know the feeling of watching other people fail at something and thinking I would never do the same mistakes? Human hubris is powerful.

*Suuuper edit, words

And before c.c torp my ship, I must say that the Pacific Ocean theater is a fascinating part of history to read about.

During the interwar years, after Germany’s defeat in WWI, both the Germans and the French had to develop doctrine to account for increasing mechanization in the military. The French just tacked mechanization onto existing doctrine while the Germans integrated it.

That’s an over-simplification but is the gist of it, good book about it here: The Roots of Blitzkrieg: Hans von Seeckt and German Military Reform (Amazon)

In the war in the Pacific it was the Japanese Navy that first took full advantage of the characteristics of the aircraft carrier early in the war, Pearl Harbor was attacked by six carriers. As the war continued however it seems it was the U.S. Navy that more fully understood how aircraft carriers could be used most effectively.

Lesson being people shouldn’t act as if nothing has changed when things are in fact changing.

1 Like