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Battle of Midway Question

Discussion in 'Naval Warfare in the Pacific' started by BigEFan, Jan 1, 2019.

  1. BigEFan

    BigEFan recruit

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    In all I've read and documentaries I've ever seen about the Battle of Midway, there is no mention of what happened to all the US fighter planes that were involved that day. Avenger and Devastator torpedo bombers were decimated because of no fighter protection, and the Dauntless dive bombers arrived like the cavalry to save the day. Did all the Wildcat fighters that took off during the battle get lost?
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2019
  2. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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  3. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member

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    Read here:
    Midway
    The battle of Midway was one of the crucial turning points of the war in the Pacific. The F4F Wildcat was the only American carrier based fighter involved in the battle (a small number of Brewster F2A Buffaloes were based on Midway Island itself). The three U.S. Carriers engaged at Midway each carried twenty seven F4F-4s. During the battle 23 were lost in action (including several forced to ditch after running out of fuel) and one in a accident, losses of 28%. The Japanese losses at Midway were staggeringly high, but this was because their four fleet carriers were sunk, with the inevitable loss of their aircraft. During the American attacks on the Japanese carriers, the small number of Wildcats that accompanied the bombers suffered heavy losses. When the Japanese launched their attack on the U.S.S. Yorktown, the Wildcats were unable to prevent the torpedo bombers from launching the attacks that crippled the American carrier.

    Grumman F4F Wildcat in US Service
     
  4. EKB

    EKB Member

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    Butch O'Hare.alt.jpg
     
  5. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    The only fighters that got "lost" were those of Hornet's VF-8, to be fair though, they were flying cover for Stanhope Ring's SBDs. So when Waldron's TBDs left to go attack the Japanese, the VF-8 fighters stayed with Ring. If it was not bad enough that the Hornet F4Fs failed to engage the enemy, upon returning, they thought their own task force was "Japanese", and avoided it. As a result, all of Hornet's 10 F4Fs ran out of gas and ditched in the ocean.

    With the problems of the Enterprise launch, the SBD's that VF-6 were supposed to protect, had already left, so VF-8 took up a covering position over what they thought was VT-6 - in reality, it was VT-8. VF-6 covered VT-8 until the Devastators began their attack on the Japanese fleet. At which point, VF-6 lost sight of VT-8 in a cloud bank. VF-6 circled the Japanese fleet at 22,000 feet, awaiting either the SBDs to arrive or a call to come down to protect VT-6. Having neither seen or heard from the SBDs or TBDs, and not having seen any Japanese aircraft to engage, VF-6 left their position over the Japanese fleet when their fuel got low.

    Only the Yorktown's strike escort of 6 F4F-4s of VF-3 was in the thick of the action. However, they had to not only protect their charges, but also to keep each other alive.

    If you can, get a copy of "The First Team : Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway" by John B. Lundstrom.
     
  6. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Ermmm...Butch O'Hare didn't fight at Midway. He'd been "beached" and was doing War Bond tours, and instructor duty training new pilots.
     
  7. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Hornet's ten VF-8 escort fighters had launched at the same time as the dive bombers, and spent about 40 minutes circling, burning fuel, waiting for the TBDs to take off (ironically, Waldron, who had wanted fighter escort for his torpedo planes, separated from the rest of the formation shortly after departure). So as Hornet's attack group headed west, the fighters found themselves running low on fuel, and eventually broke off without orders to return to the ship. As Takao mentioned, they spotted TF-16 in the distance, after flying back east for about the same time they had flown west, but thought they were Japanese.
     
  8. BigEFan

    BigEFan recruit

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    Thanks for the info folks! I suppose that the inexperienced American fighters were no match for the very experienced Zero fighters. And the only advantage the Wildcat had over the Zero was ability to withstand punishment.

    Then the question is why were the Wildcats launched so early? They were the fastest plane the US had and should have been the last to launch so they could catch up with the bombers, rather than burn fuel flying in circles.
     
  9. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Pre-war experience held that the fighters were the lightest carrier aircraft, thus needed the least deck space to launch, hence they were at the front of the pack.

    The Yorktown crew had the most combat experience, and had developed the "running rendezvous" - where the slowest TBDs are launched first, the slower SBDs are launched second, and the escort fighters launched last. The SBDs overtake the TBDs, and the F4Fs overtake them all, a and th a was how the formation formed up.

    This had not trickled down to the less experienced Enterprise and new Hornet.
     
  10. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    The six VF-3 Wildcats escorting Yorktown's strike group engaged 2-3 times their own number of Zeros and shot down 4 or 5 for one loss. They were led by Jimmy Thach, and this was the first application of the "Thach weave" although he had not had time to practice it with his men. F4Fs defending Yorktown later in the day broke even or better against A6Ms escorting Hiryu's attack groups. The First Team or Shattered Sword could provide exact numbers.

    The inexperienced Marine squadron defending Midway had a harder time, although most of them were flying F2A Buffalos.

    The First Team gives the total for carrier-based F4Fs vs. Zeros in the battles of Coral Sea and Midway as 14-10 in the F4Fs' favor.

    Yorktown did launch her F4Fs last as you suggest, and they conducted a "running rendezvous" with the strike force en route to the Japanese carriers.

    Hornet's air group, which was in its first combat, launched its SBDs and F4Fs together, with the intention that the TBDs would join them promptly. Our carriers (and the Japanese) used rolling takeoffs, so the number of planes that could be spotted on deck depended on the takeoff run needed for the ones at the front of the spot, which in turn depended on the wind over deck. The wind on June 4 was light, so only six of fifteen TBDs were spotted initially; the other nine had be brought up after the SBDs had taken off. Unfortunately this took longer than expected.
     
  11. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    All the stats I've seen indicate that the F4F was a pretty even match for the Zero. Most indicate that it had a slight edge in win loss ratio. While the Zero had a 20 mm cannon it had a very limited amount of ammo, I haven't worked out the exact numbers but I'm pretty sure the F4F had more "stowed kills" especially if the target was on the fragile side as most Japanese planes were. The F4F could also out dive the Zero which gave it an edge if using energy tactics. At high speeds it may also have either had an edge or at least been comparable to the Zero in maneuverability. One of the Zeros big edges in some senses, its range, may have worked against it in the Solomon's as it resulted in damaged planes having a very long flight home. Even a little link in a gas tank for instance meant you didn't make it or a little engine damage.
     
  12. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    I cannot recommend more strongly the mentioned work by John Lundstrom, The First Team - Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway. In the mid-1970's John was able to get to so many of the USN VF types of the period before they started slipping away one by one. Pretty sure there are none left now. I met John one afternoon upon arriving home for spring break and there he was in the living room with my father discussing one of my favorite subjects, that at hand here. John's book has just about anything you ever wanted to know. Don't know who else looked at it, but I know my father reviewed and commented on every single chapter before it was put to bed for publication. I have two 4 inch binders of rough draft.

    I'd also be a little careful of the "golly gee whiz superdooper Japanese pilots" mythology as well. A lot of that came from the 1950's a la Caiden and simply is not true. The same would apply to the overly vaunted A6M2 . . . very good at its game, but the rules of its game were not the rules by which the USN played. Those factors, except, perhaps, range (which turned out to be a not so good thing in the Solomons), for which some like to puff up the A6M2 were not really advantages except under very narrow circumstances and, as demonstrated by the record, were offset by the qualities of the F4F.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
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  13. EKB

    EKB Member

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    At little more than 6,000 lbs. the original F4F-3 tested by the U.S. Navy in 1940 was light and fast climbing, having a higher ceiling than top of the line Spitfires.

    However the Wildcat suffered badly from a gradual weight gain. The planes used in combat were heavier than the early edition. From the chart I attached, you can see how the overall performance fell off due to weight increases. I don't have numbers for changes in turning circle, but that definitely widened as the Wildcat became more bloated with extra equipment.

    Chart Wildcat copy.jpg

    F4F Performance Trials
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2019
  14. WILD DUKW

    WILD DUKW Active Member

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    This subject is far afield for me. What is a "stowed kill?"
     
  15. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    To a man, all the VF combat drivers of both the F4F-3 and the F4F-4 in action with whom I've ever spoken, preferred the -3 as a mount over the -4. One might note the deficiencies in weight and power, too much of the first and not enough of the second, with the -4 were corrected in the Eastern FM-2 . . . better engine, only four guns. The FM-2 had one of the best credit to loss rates of WW2 fighters.

    One also might want to note that the original F4F-3s did not have armor plating nor self sealing gas tanks, just the sort of arrangement that became so unpleasant for A6M drivers. VF-42 picked up self sealing tank liners and armor kits in Norfolk before heading west in December 1941 and finished installing same before Yorktown reached Panama. They also removed the mounting hardware for the underwing bombs, correctly guessing that they, the bombs, would not be needed. It is not at all surprising that b/n 1845 posted such heady results, it was totally unsat for combat. Also, b/n 1845, as shown in the picture, had but two guns, .50's firing through the propeller.

    My father's first F4F-3 was b/n 1895, which John Preston, erstwhile Yorktown LSO getting in his flight time, wrecked at Otay Mesa on 2 Jan 1942, victim of a runaway prop. Couldn't say which F4F-3 he flew at Coral Sea, that log book went down with Yorktown at Midway . . . best recollection was "25xx". He flew F4F-4 b/n 5244 at Midway, landed first on Enterprise after Yorktown was dead in the water and after a CAP mission the next day ended up on Hornet with most of the VF-3-42 survivors. Last F4F-4 he flew in combat was b/n 11985, this his regularly assigned mount, while in VF-11 in the Solomons in the spring and summer of 1943. Picked off two A6Ms on 12 June bringing his total to 6 (other 4 were 2 F1Ms, 1 D3A, and 1 B5N while in VF-42 and TAD to VF-3).
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
  16. EKB

    EKB Member

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    Good point.


    Fixed it. Original performance graph says loaded as "normal fighter". I didn't realize until now that meant two guns. Serial No. 1848 cites four.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
  17. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    How many kills one could expect to get out of the ammo on board on average. Basically Number of rounds X P(K)/round. Assumes average P(H) and some standardized target. Used more often in armored warfare.
     
  18. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Regretfully, you were correct the first time. As 1845 was outfitted and tested with two .30 cals in the fuselage an two .50 cals in the wings.

    You can find the original Navy test report over at WWII Aircraft Performance

    I would add that although the four of these aaircraft are given as F4F-3s. They are very much XF4F-3s, as Grumman was still testing and tweaking the -3 design.
     
  19. WILD DUKW

    WILD DUKW Active Member

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    Fascinating. Thanks.
     
  20. EKB

    EKB Member

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    WTF! :confused:

    As RLeonard said it looks like there is no gun portal on the starboard wing. Unless the opening was covered the gun must have been added after the picture was made.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2019

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