The Rising Sun, Part 5 - Dogfight in the Pacific | South Carolinians in WW II - Episode 5


Midway Island was a U.S. outpost located about a thousand miles west of Hawaii. Prior to World War II, it was basically a weather station with some U.S. Naval groups on it to protect it. The Japanese wanted to take Midway, so they could take control of everything west of the United States. When the Japanese found out that the United States could bomb their homeland, they lost face. The Americans knew that Japan was planning some sort of major move, but didn't know the specifics. They kept hearing in the code two specific letters, "AF"  and with no fresh water on Midway because all of their fresh water was made with evaporators, the Americans sent out in their communications that the Japanese could pick up that Midway lacked water and needed a large supply..In a day or so, the Japanese messaged to some of their units that AF was short of fresh water, and the Americans now knew that it was Midway the Japanese were talking about.

The Americans went to Point Luck and set a trap, with three carriers involved, the Yorktown, the Hornet, and the Enterprise. The Japanese split their forces and their commander, Yamamoto decided to feign an attack on the Aleutians and had a main invasion force that would take Midway after it was reduced. He also had an aircraft carrier force that would take the island and destroy the U.S. forces. Yamamoto thought the American carriers were still in the South Pacific, but the Americans knew how the Japanese were coming and how they were split, and they focused on the aircraft carriers. They sank three of their carriers. One of their carriers was under a rain cloud and didn't see the Americans and followed the American planes back and caught them.

The Japanese were dive-bombing at Midway and the Americans were all firing at them. The American dive-bombers went in very high, at about 18,000 feet, and the Japanese fighter planes were down low attacking the torpedo planes, so they had a clear field to dive, and on their first dive, they hit and mortally wounded three of the Japanese carriers. There was a Japanese plane coming from the starboard side, out of the Americans' field of fire, and the Japanese hit the Americans with three bomb hits, which killed all the men on the gun mounts and wiped out many of Hancock's boot camp buddies.

From the Japanese carrier Hiryu, the Japanese hit the Americans and within 30 seconds, the Japanese hit the Americans with two torpedoes. Marines were on the port catwalk firing at the Japanese, and the torpedoes stopped the Americans, and the ship began to list over and it seemed it would capsize. By word of mouth, the word came down to abandon ship. The badly wounded men were put into "biscuits" or "rings" amid waves that were about two stories high. They were in 18,000 feet of water. They realized the toughness of the adversary they faced. About 2,200 men got off the Yorktown. About 400 were killed or wounded. After getting on board the Balche, Brodie said, the Yorktown, in silhouette, looked so forlorn. 

More in this Series

SCETV Specials / South Carolinians in WW II / Episode 6: The Rising Sun

Episode : 1
Episode : 2
Episode : 3
Episode : 4
Episode : 6
Episode : 7