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Visual Guide to US Fleet Subs Pt 1
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Operation Rusty: The Gehlen-U.S. Army Connection
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Hitler, Germany's Worst General
Surface Actions of World War II
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Japan's Monster Sub
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Hitler Youth: An Effective Organization
After Midway: The Fates of the Warships
Barbarossa: Strategic Miscalculation
The Story of a "Go Devil"
Long Range Desert Group
Island of Death
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The Liberation of Czechoslovakia 1945
Only the Admirals were Happy
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Good Grief Sir, We're in Trier!
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After Midway: The Fates of the Warships
Liberation of Czechoslovakia
U.S. Army vs. The Maginot Line

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After Midway: The Fates of the U.S. and Japanese Warships
After Midway: The Fates of the U.S. and Japanese Warships
by Bryan J. Dickerson

Midway was the pivotal battle of the war in the Pacific. Originally conceived by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as a trap to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its remaining aircraft carriers, the battle turned out to be a disaster for the IJN instead. When it was over, four Japanese aircraft carriers had been sunk and the tide of the war had been turned against them.
Altogether, some 200 warships fought in the Battle of Midway or supported the combat operations. Four Japanese carriers and a cruiser were sunk. The U.S. Navy lost one carrier and one destroyer. But what became of the remaining ships of the Battle of Midway? Of the IJN's ships, nearly all were sunk during the war. With one exception, the few that survived the war were scrapped within a couple years of the Japanese surrender. Of the U.S. Navy's warships, 39.5% were sunk or lost at sea during the war. The rest served for varying lengths of time before being mothballed and scrapped or scuttled. Today, virtually all traces of the Midway combatants have disappeared, save those upon the ocean's floor where they lay to decay.

Prelude to Battle of Midway

The first six months of the war in the Pacific were disastrous for the United States Navy. It began with the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that devastated the battleship force of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The U.S. Navy's Asiatic Fleet was wiped out in the early months of 1942 along with naval squadrons from other Allied nations. The Navy was able to turn back a Japanese invasion force at the Battle of Coral Sea in May 1942 but at a cost of one of its precious aircraft carriers USS Lexington (CV-2) being sunk and another – USS Yorktown (CV-5) -- severely damaged.

Scarcely a month later, the Imperial Japanese Navy attempted to lure the U.S. Pacific Fleet into a decisive battle off Midway Island, an obscure coral atoll several thousand miles from Hawaii. Their goal was to destroy the remaining American naval forces, and capture Midway. From Midway, the Japanese could then threaten Hawaii and defend its vast Pacific Empire from U.S. counter-attacks. The seizure of Midway would also eliminate the island as a re-fueling base for U.S. submarines and prevent another Doolittle Raid from occurring. As Japanese Admiral Chuichi Nagumo – commander of the aircraft carrier striking force - later stated, "Midway Island acts as a sentry for Hawaii." [1] 

The Midway operation was under the command of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who also conceived and executed the Pearl Harbor attack. His plan was three-fold: (1) occupy Midway Island, (2) occupy the western Aleutian Islands and (3) destroy the U.S. fleet. To do so, Yamamoto broke his forces into five parts. The Advanced Expeditionary Force consisted of submarines. The Carrier Striking Force under Admiral Nagumo was centered upon the fleet carriers Akagi, Hiryu, Kagi, and Soryu . The Midway Occupation Force consisted of battleships, cruisers, transports and two seaplane carriers. Admiral Yamamoto sailed with the Main Body that held battleships and a light aircraft carrier. This group was further divided into an Aleutian Screening Force of battleships and light cruisers. The fifth component was the Northern Area Force which was tasked with occupying Kiska and Attu in the Aleutians. [2]

But events did not occur as the Japanese had planned. Utilizing code-breaking and intuitive intelligence analysis, Admiral Chester Nimitz and his staff were able to discern the Japanese intentions and devise a counter-strategy to turn the tables on the Japanese. In addition, USS Yorktown was hastily repaired at Pearl Harbor and rushed back into service. Now consisting of three aircraft carriers (USS Yorktown, USS Enterprise (CV-6) and USS Hornet (CV-8)), the U.S. forces lay in wait for the Japanese north-east of Midway Island.

Composition of the Fleets: [3]

Imperial Japanese Navy – [4]

Fleet Carriers: Akagi, Hiryu, Kaga, Soryu

Light Carriers: Hosho, Zuiho

Seaplane Carriers: Chitose, Kamikawa Maru, Chiyoda, Nisshin

Battleships: Fuso, Haruna, Hiei, Hyuga, Ise, Kirishima, Kongo, Mutsu, Nagato, Yamashiro, Yamato

Cruisers: Atago, Chikuma, Chokai, Haguro, Jintsu, Kitagami, Kumano, Mikuma, Mogami, Myoko, Nagara, Oi, Suzuya, Tone

Destroyers: Akigumo, Amagiri, Amatsukaze, Arare, Arashi, Arashio, Asagiri, Asashio, Asagumo, Ayanami, Fubuki, Hagikaze, Hamakaze, Harusame, Hatsukaze, Hatsuyuki, Hayashio, Isokaze, Isonami, Kagero, Kasumi, Kazagumo, Kuroshio, Maikaze, Makigumo, Minegumo, Mirazuki, Murakumo, Murasame, Natsugumo, Nowake, Oyashio, Samidare, Shikinami, Shiranuhi, Shirakumo, Shirayuki, Tanikaze, Tokitsukaze, Urakaze, Uranami, Yudachi, Yugiri, Yugumo, Yukaze, Yukikaze

Submarines: I-121, I-122, I-123, I-156, I-157, I-158, I-159, I-162, I-164*, I-165, I-166, I-168,

I-169, I-171, I-174, I-175


Oilers: Akebono Maru, Genyo Maru, Kenyo Maru, Kokuyo Maru, Kyokuto Maru, Naruto, Nichiei Maru, Nippon Maru, San Clemente Maru, Sata, Shnikoku Maru, Toa Maru, Toei Maru, Tohu Maru, Tsurumi

Repair Ship: Akashi

Transports: Soya, Meiyo Maru, Yamafuku Maru

Patrol Boats: No. 1, No. 2, No. 34, No. 35

Submarine Chasers: No. 16, No. 17, No. 18

Converted Minesweepers: Tama Maru No. 3, Tama Maru No. 5, Showa Maru No. 7, Showa Maru No. 8

U.S. Navy – [5]

Aircraft Carriers: Enterprise, Hornet, Yorktown

Battleships: None. Despite the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy had several battleships still available for service. However, these battleships were slow and unable to keep up with the fast carriers. So the battleships were held in reserve on the West Coast of the United States. [6]

Cruisers: Astoria, Atlanta, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Northampton, Pensacola, Portland, Vincennes

Destroyers: Aylwin, Anderson, Balch, Benham, Blue, Clark, Conyngham, Dewey, Ellet, Gwin, Hammann, Hughes, Maury, Monaghan, Monssen, Morris, Phelps, Russell, Ralph Talbot, Worden

Submarines: Cachalot, Cuttlefish, Dolphin, Finback, Flying Fish, Gato, Grayling, Grenadier, Grouper, Growler, Grudgeon, Narwhal, Nautilus, Pike, Plunger, Tambor, Tarpon, Trigger, Trout

Oilers: Cimarron, Guadalupe, Platte

Support Ships and Miscellaneous Craft: PT-20, PT-21, PT-22, PT-24, PT-25, PT-26, PT-27, PT-28,(at Midway Atoll), PT-29, PT-30 and four small patrol craft (at Kure Island), Thornton, Ballard, Kakoli, Crystal, Vireo and four YPs.

The Battle of Midway [7]

In the early days of June 1942, American and Japanese forces clashed in the region around Midway Island. The IJN and the American defenders of Midway launched successive air attacks against each other. Then the U.S. Navy got into the fray and a series of air attacks were exchanged with the IJN.

Brilliant strategy, courage and good fortune produced a decisive American victory. U.S. carrier planes caught the Japanese carriers re-fueling and re-arming their aircraft and set three of them ablaze in a matter of minutes. The U.S. Navy was able to thwart the Japanese plans and inflict the first devastating defeat upon the IJN in 500 years.

Altogether, four Japanese aircraft carriers (Akagi, Hiryu, Kaga, and Soryu) and the heavy cruiser Mikuma were sunk. The IJN submarine I-164 was sunk by the U.S. submarine USS Triton (SS-201) off Kyushu while steaming to participate in the Midway operation. The cruiser Mogami and destroyers Asashio and Arashio were damaged. The IJN also lost 253 aircraft and over 3,500 personnel. The U.S. Navy lost the carrier USS Yorktown, the destroyer USS Hammann (DD-412) and 150 aircraft and 307 personnel. The Japanese still occupied Kiska and Attu but the tide of war was decisively turned against them. The U.S. would soon go on the offensive in the Solomon Islands and begin the hard work of dismantling the Japanese Empire. [8]

The IJN After Midway

After Midway, the IJN fought a tenacious, at times desperate, war against the U.S. Navy. Ultimately, the IJN was devastated; scant few of its Midway ships survived the war.

Two light carriers and four seaplane carriers survived the carrier carnage at Midway. The seaplane carrier Nisshin was sunk by Allied aircraft off Bougainville on 22 July 1943. The seaplane carrier Kamikawa Maru was sunk by the USS Scamp (SS-277) in the Bismarck Archipelago at the end of May 1943. The carriers Zuiho, Chitose and Chiyoda were sunk by U.S. carrier planes north-east of Luzon in the Philippines on 25 October 1944. Only Hosho survived the war. [9]

Eleven Japanese battleships participated in or played supporting roles in the Battle of Midway. Of them, only Nagato survived the war. Hiei and Kirishima were sunk in the Solomons off Savo Island in mid-November 1942. Kirishima was sunk by the U.S. battleship USS Washington (BB-56) during one of the few battleship vs. battleship engagements of the war. Mutsu suffered a magazine explosion on 8 June 1943 in Hiroshima Bay, Japan, and sank. Fuso and Yamashiro were sunk during the Battle of Surigao Strait by a force of old U.S. battleships that had survived the Pearl Harbor attack. Kongo was sunk by USS Sealion (SS-315) on 21 November 1944 off Foochow, China with a spread of torpedoes that also sank the destroyer Urakaze. Haruna, Ise, and Hyuga were sunk in the shallow waters of Kure, Japan, by U.S. carrier planes on 28 July 1945. [10]

Ise and Hyuga had perhaps the most bizarre post-Midway lives. In an attempt to replace their carrier losses, the Japanese attempted to convert the two battleships into aircraft carriers. The aft pair of main turrets were removed and replaced by a short hangar deck and flight deck with catapults. They were designed to carry 22 aircraft but could only launch them. Their conversion tied up precious shipyard space and resources for nearly two years. U.S. carrier planes sunk them both at Kure on 28 July 1945. [11]

On 12 April 1945, Yamato and a force of destroyers attempted a suicide attack against the U.S. fleet off Okinawa. U.S. carrier planes struck the force well before they got in range of the U.S. ships and decimated them. Yamato was sunk along with her destroyer escorts Hamakaze, Isokaze, and Kasumi . [12]

Ten IJN heavy cruisers fought at Midway. One was sunk during the battle. Of the remaining nine, eight were sunk later in the war and one was so heavily damaged that it was scuttled after the war. Six of the IJN heavy cruisers were sunk by U.S. Navy air, surface, and submarine forces in the Philippines in the fall of 1944. U.S carrier planes sank Chikuma, Chokai, and Suzuya, and were assisted by surface forces in sinking Mogami. Atago was sunk by the submarine USS Darter (SS-227) off Palawan on 23 October 1944. At the time, she was serving as the flagship of Vice Admiral Kurita. Haguro was sunk by Royal Navy carrier planes on 16 May 1945 off Penang. The cruiser Tone was damaged several times throughout the war before finally being sunk in shallow water in Kure harbor on 28 July 1945 by U.S. carrier planes. [13]

Kumano proved especially difficult to sink.   During the Battle off Samar in October 1944, she was struck by torpedoes fired by the USS Johnston (DD-577) and had her bow blown off.   After being towed from the battle, Kumano's bow was replaced and returned to service.  Not long after, she was caught by four U.S. submarines while escorting a convoy. A total of 23 torpedoes were fired at her, blowing off her bow again, but still she managed to stay afloat. She was towed to shallow water and beached.  U.S. carrier planes eventually finished her off in November 1944. [14]

Myoko was the only IJN heavy cruiser to survive the war afloat. She was torpedoed by the submarine USS Bergall (SS-320) on 13 December 1944 but survived. Her stern was cut-off and she was laid up at Singapore. At the war's end, she surrendered to the Royal Navy. [15]

Of the seven light cruisers fought at Midway, only one heavily damaged ship survived the war. Katori was sunk on 17 February 1944 near Truk in the central Pacific by U.S. air and surface forces. Nagara was sunk on 7 August 1944 by a U.S. submarine off Kyushu. Yura was sunk by U.S. carrier planes off Santa Isabel Island in the Solomons on 25 October 1942. Jintsu was sunk on 13 July 1943 north of Kolombangara by U.S. surface forces. Sendai was sunk on 2 November 1943 west of Bougainville by U.S. surface forces. Oi was torpedoed and sunk by USS Flasher (SS-249) in the South China Sea on 19 July 1944. Though damaged by U.S. carrier planes while at anchor in Kure on 24 July 1945, Kitagami was the only light cruiser to survive the war. [16]

The Japanese brought 46 destroyers to the Midway operation. Within six months of Midway, eight destroyers had been sunk. Seventeen more were sunk during 1943 and another fifteen were sunk the following year. The battles in the Solomon Islands proved the most disastrous for the IJN destroyers; twenty-three were sunk there. Sixteen IJN destroyers were sunk by aircraft. Of these, U.S. Navy and U.S. Army Air Force aircraft each sank seven and U.S. Marine Corps aircraft sank two. Mines sank five IJN destroyers. Only two IJN destroyers – Yukaze and Yukikaze -- survived the war. [17]

U.S. Navy surface forces accounted for the most IJN destroyers, sinking thirteen of them with naval gunfire and surface-launched torpedoes. Ayanami was sunk by USS Washington in the same battle in which the latter sank the IJN battleship Kirishima. Murasame and Minegumo were sunk by naval gunfire on the night of 5-6 March 1943 off New Georgia Island in the Solomons. Hagikazi and Arashi were sunk in Vella Gulf on the night of 6-7 August 1943 in the Solomons. [18]

U.S. submarines sank ten IJN destroyers. Two of these destroyers were sunk by USS Growler (SS-215) which had also been involved in the Midway operation. The destroyer Arare was sunk by torpedoes fired by Growler while she lay at anchor in Kiska in the Aleutians on 5 July 1942. This torpedo spread also inflicted severe damage on two other destroyers Kasumi and Shiranuhi. Two years later, Growler sank Shikinami in the South China Sea. [19]

The destroyer Amagiri had a brush – or more accurately a collision -- with destiny on the night of 2 August 1943. While participating in the Japanese re-supply effort dubbed "the Tokyo Express" by American combatants, Amagiri rammed and sank the U.S. torpedo boat PT-109 commanded by LT John F. Kennedy. Kennedy survived the encounter and the war to become U.S. President in 1961. Amagiri did not survive the war; she was sunk by a mine off Borneo on 23 April 1944. [20]

Sixteen IJN submarines were scheduled to participate in the Midway operation. I-164 was sunk en route by USS Triton. Of the remaining fifteen submarines which actually participated in Midway, nine were sunk during the war. I-122 was sunk by the U.S. submarine Skate (SS-305) in the Sea of Japan on 10 June 1945. I-121, I-156, I-157, I-158, I-159, and I-162 survived the war. [21]

The IJN's Midway Fleet After the War

Few ships of the IJN's Midway Fleet survived the Second World War. The survivors consisted of a battleship, a light aircraft carrier, two cruisers, a sunken cruiser that was re-floated, two destroyers, and six submarines. With one exception, those fortunate few outlived their Midway colleagues by only a few years at most.

Nagato was the only Japanese battleship to survive the war relatively intact. She was used as a target ship during the U.S. atomic bomb tests at Bikini atoll. Heavily damaged during Test Baker, she sank on 29 July 1946. [22]

Two of the three Japanese cruisers were too heavily damaged for any viable post-war use. At war's end, Tone was resting in shallow water in Kure Harbor, Japan, having been sunk by U.S. carrier aircraft in July 1945. She was re-floated and towed to a dry-dock. In 1948, Tone was cut up for scrap. Myoko was in Singapore when the Japanese surrendered. Her stern had been cut off after being heavily damaged by a torpedo the previous December. Myoko was scuttled by the Royal Navy in Malacca Strait on 8 August 1946. [23]

Several of the IJN ships that survived the war were utilized as repatriation vessels to transport surrendered Japanese troops and civilians from various parts of their former Empire back to the Home Islands. The cruiser Kitagami was used as a repair ship for repatriation ships. On 21 September 1946, she was transferred to the Japanese Home Ministry and scrapped at Nagasaki the following year. The light carrier Hosho was also used for repatriation service. On 31 August 1946, she was transferred to the Home Ministry and scrapped at Osaka the following spring. The destroyer Yukaze also served on repatriation duty. In 1947, she was turned over to the Royal Navy and subsequently scrapped. [24]

The destroyer Yukikaze proved to be a most resilient warship. She survived the sea battles in the Solomon Islands that claimed many of her sister ships, U.S. air attacks during the Battle of Bismarck Sea, the Battle of Leyte Gulf and Yamato's suicide run against the U.S. fleet in April 1945. After the war, Yukikaze served on repatriation duty until July 1947. Following this, Yukikaze was transferred to the Chinese Navy and re-named Tan Yang. When the Chinese Nationalist Government was forced to flee to Formosa (Taiwan) in 1949, Yukikaze (Tan Yang) became part of the Nationalist naval forces. After thirty years of service defending Taiwan, Yukikaze was scrapped in 1971. [25]

The U.S. Navy After Midway

The U.S. Navy's Midway force fared much better than their Japanese counter-parts. Of the U.S. naval force at Midway, two carriers, four cruisers, eight destroyers and six submarines were sunk during the war. [26]

Two of the U.S. Navy's three aircraft carriers survived the Battle of Midway. Following Midway, they participated in the Solomon Islands campaign. At the Battle of Santa Cruz on 25 October 1942, Enterprise and Hornet took on a Japanese fleet consisting of four aircraft carriers, two battleships, four cruisers and fourteen destroyers. Both U.S. carriers were hit. Enterprise survived three bomb hits. Hornet was heavily damaged by several bombs and torpedoes. U.S. destroyers attempted to scuttle her but a Japanese surface force arrived before they were able to do so. Hornet was then sunk by the Japanese. [27]

Enterprise went on to become one of the most distinguished American warships in naval history. She was the first carrier to earn the Presidential Unit Citation and also earned the Navy Unit Commendation. She survived sixteen hits and near misses and also several kamikaze strikes. By war's end, her aircraft had sunk 74 Japanese ships and damaged or probably sunk another 192 ships. Her aircraft and anti-aircraft batteries also shot down 911 Japanese aircraft. [28]

American cruisers suffered heavily after the Midway victory. By the end of 1942, four cruisers had been sunk and three more heavily damaged – all as a result of surface actions in the Solomon Islands.

The heavy cruisers Vincennes (CA-44) and Astoria (CA-34) were both sunk at the disastrous Battle of Savo Island on 8 August 1942. Vincennes alone was struck by 57 naval shells and one torpedo. The heavy cruiser Northampton (CA-26) was struck by torpedoes at the Battle of Tassafaronga on 30 November; she sank the next day. At the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the light cruiser Atlanta (CL-51) helped sink the Japanese destroyer Akatsuki but then was pummeled by naval gunfire and torpedoes. In the confusion and chaos, Atlanta was hammered by salvoes mistakenly fired by another U.S. cruiser. One shell struck her conning tower, killing Rear Admiral Norman Scott. An attempt to tow her to safety failed and she was scuttled to prevent capture. [29]

New Orleans (CA-32) also fought at Tassafaronga. Early in the battle, she sank a Japanese destroyer. Soon after, she was struck by a Japanese torpedo between Turrets One and Two. The ensuing explosion blew off her bow forward of Turret Two. Through skillful damage control and seamanship, she limped to Tulagi Harbor for emergency repairs and then on to Australia. There a temporary bow was installed and she sailed for the West Coast for reconstruction. New Orleans returned to service in September 1943. In a surface engagement off Truk Island on 13 February 1944, New Orleans helped sink a Katori-class cruiser and a Shiguri -class destroyer. Then in October 1944, she sank a light carrier and another destroyer. [30]

Another cruiser that fought at Tassafaronga was USS Minneapolis (CA-36). In that battle, she sank a Japanese destroyer but was also struck by two torpedoes. She was repaired and later supported the Marianas Island invasion. Altogether, she fought in twenty-five actions, earning sixteen battle stars and sinking four enemy ships. On 9 September 1945, she was flying the flag of Admiral Thomas Kinkaid when he accepted the Japanese surrender of Korea. [31]

During World War II, Portland (CA-33) fought in twenty-four major actions and earned fifteen battle stars. At the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on 12-13 November, Portland sank two Japanese destroyers and damaged a heavy cruiser. She was also struck by several torpedoes that knocked out two engines, her steering and her Number Three Turret. After extensive repairs, Portland returned to service in May 1943. She fought in numerous campaigns. On 2 September 1945, the commanders of the Japanese garrison of Truk Island surrendered aboard Portland. During the war, she sank two destroyers, assisted in sinking two battleships and two more destroyers, and damaged another battleship, two cruisers, and shot down twenty-two enemy aircraft. [32]

USS Pensacola (CA-24) was also heavily damaged at Tassafaronga. She was repaired and returned to action. While covering minesweeping operations prior to the Iwo Jima invasion, Pensacola was struck six times by shore batteries, suffering 17 killed and 120 wounded. She later fought in the Okinawa invasion. [33]

The U.S. Navy brought twenty destroyers to the Midway operation. Of these, one was sunk at Midway, eight others were sunk later in the war and the remainder survived the war.

USS Blue (DD-387) survived Midway by about three months. On 23 August 1942, Blue was struck by two Japanese torpedoes while in the Solomon Islands. An attempt to tow her to safety was abandoned at the approach of a Japanese task force and she was scuttled to prevent her capture.

USS Ralph Talbott (DD-390) survived Pearl Harbor, Midway and ultimately the entire war. She fought in the sea battles around Guadalcanal, took part in the Philippine invasion, fought at Iwo Jima and survived the kamikaze-filled skies off Okinawa. Altogether, Ralph Talbott participated in over 20 amphibious operations in the Pacific and shot down twenty Japanese warplanes. She rescued survivors of the torpedoed cruiser USS Indianapolis and was present for the Japanese surrender of Truk Island. [35]

USS Benham (DD-397) was one of many U.S. warships sunk in the Solomons. On 14 November 1942, Benham was part of Rear Admiral Willis Lee's Task Force 64 when it attempted to intercept Vice Admiral Kondo's bombardment force off Savo Island. A torpedo took off fifteen feet of her bow and flooded many of her forward compartments. Escorted by USS Gwin, Benham was able to steam out of the battle area at 12 knots. On the afternoon of the following day, her hull began to creak and groan. Her commanding officer – LCDR John Taylor – ordered her abandoned. Not long after, the destroyer split in two but both sections remained afloat. Gwin sank them with 5-inch shells. [36]

After Midway, USS Monssen (DD-436) supported U.S. fleet operations in the Solomons, including the amphibious assault on Guadalcanal. On 12 November 1942, she was hit by a Japanese bomb that damaged her fire control radar. That night, she sailed with Task Group 67.4 to intercept Vice Admiral Hiroki Abe's bombardment force off Savo Island. In the early hours of 13 November, Monssen took on the battleship Hiei , inflicting several hits. Then she was illuminated by searchlights and pummeled by 37 shells of various sizes. Damage was extensive. Her bridge, engineering spaces, and gun mounts were all knocked out. She drifted afire for several hours before her magazines exploded and she sank. [37]

USS Worden (DD-352) survived Pearl Harbor, Midway and the Solomon Islands only to strike a submerged rock and be lost in the Aleutians. On 12 January 1943, Worden was covering the landing of U.S. troops on Amchitka Island when she ran over a submerged rock that tore a huge gash in her hull. USS Dewey attempted to tow her but the line snapped. Heavy seas drove her onto more rocks. Heavy flooding ensued and she was abandoned. She broke in two and sank. Fourteen of her crew were lost. That following August, her wreck re-emerged and she was destroyed by explosives. [35]

USS Gwin (DD-433) attempted to save Yorktown but was unsuccessful. During the 14-15 November 1942 Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, Gwin helped sink the cruiser Nagara. She also sustained two hits on her forward engine room and stern. She limped out of the battle, restored power and then attempted to assist her stricken sister Benham. After Benham broke up and sank, Gwin rescued the survivors. She was repaired at Mare Island Shipyard in California and returned to the war. While covering the New Georgia landing on 30 June 1943, Gwin was struck in the after engine room by a 47mm shell from a coastal battery. Seven of her crew were killed. Repaired again, she returned to action and rescued survivors of the torpedoed USS Helena. As part of Rear Admiral W. L. Ainsworth's TF 36.1, she fought to intercept a Japanese reinforcement flotilla at Kolombangara on 13 July 1943. A Long Lance torpedo struck her amidships, killing everyone in her forward engine room and after fire room. Ralph Talbott rescued her survivors and then scuttled her with four torpedoes. [39]

USS Monaghan (DD-354) earned twelve battle stars during the war, fighting at Pearl Harbor, Coral Sea, Midway, the Aleutians, the Kormandorski Islands and Tarawa. On 18 December 1944, Monaghan succumbed to a typhoon and sank with only six survivors. [40]

The three fleet oilers that supported the Midway operations all survived the war. They played a vital role in supplying the fuel that sustained the U.S. Navy's campaigns across the Pacific Theater. Cimarron was even present in Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender. [41]

Though American submarines played a minor role during the Battle of Midway, they contributed significantly to the U.S. victory in the Pacific. Cachalot (SS-170), Cuttlefish (SS-171) and Dolphin (SS-169) were withdrawn from active service several months later due to their age but were retained for training. Trout (SS-202), Grayling (SS-209), Gudgeon (SS-211), Trigger (SS-237), and Growler (SS-215) were lost at sea. In April 1943, Grenadier (SS-210) was damaged by a Japanese air attack and scuttled by her crew to prevent capture. Her crew was picked up by a Japanese merchant ship and spent the remainder of the war as prisoners of war. Miraculously all but four crew members survived captivity. In twelve war patrols, Flying Fish (SS-229) sank 58,306 tons of Japanese shipping. Trigger sank 86,552 tons of Japanese shipping. Trout sank the Japanese submarine I-182 in the Philippines in September 1943. Nautilus (SS-168) performed numerous reconnaissance missions and special operations. On 7 February 1943, Growler rammed a Japanese gunboat in a desperate night surface action. Seriously wounded, her skipper Commander Howard Gilmore ordered "Take her down," and sacrificed his own life for those of his submarine and crew. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. His submarine, however, was later sunk by the Japanese in November 1944. [42]

The American Midway Fleet After the War

Most of the U.S. ships and submarines of the Midway force survived the war.

The only American carrier to survive the war was USS Enterprise. A year and a half after the war ended, Enterprise was decommissioned and tied up in mothballs in Bayonne, New Jersey. Efforts to preserve her as a museum failed and the Navy sold her to Lippsett, Inc. of Kearney for scrap in July 1958. Systematically, the scrappers took Enterprise apart and by June 1960, she was gone. [43]

Four U.S. cruisers survived the war. Pensacola survived the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests. Following post-blast assessments, she was scuttled near Kwajalein atoll in November 1948. Minneapolis was decommissioned in February 1947 and scrapped in July 1960. New Orleans was used to bring Allied prisoners of war home from China. She was decommissioned in February 1947 and sold for scrapping to the Boston Metals Company of Baltimore, Maryland in September 1959. Portland was decommissioned in July 1946 and sold for scrapping to the Union Mineral and Alloys Corporation of New York in October 1959. [44]

Twelve U.S. destroyers survived the war but not for long afterwards. By the end of 1948, Aylwin, Balch, Clark, Dewey, Ellet, Maury, Morris, Phelps, and Russell had all been sold for scrap. Anderson, Conyngham, Hughes and Ralph Talbott were used in the Bikini atomic bomb tests. Anderson was sunk during Test Able. The other three destroyers survived and were scuttled afterwards. [45]

Thirteen U.S. submarines survived the war. After the war, eight of them -- Cachalot, Cuttlefish, Dolphin, Pike, Plunger, and Tambor served as either training ships or with the Naval Reserve. Grouper served as a training ship and a floating laboratory and was the Navy's first hunter-killer submarine. Tarpon was sunk as a target in August 1957 off Cape Hatteras. The remaining submarines were all scrapped with Grouper being the last one in the early 1970s. [46]

The post-war lives of the several auxiliary vessels that supported the Midway operation were varied. The aviation fuel tanker Kaloli (AOG-13) and Ballard (AVD-10) were sold for scrapping in 1946. Crystal (PY-25) was sold and used as a passenger vessel / freighter in Central and South America for many years. The tug Vireo (ATO-144) was transferred for disposal in February 1947 but her subsequent fate is unknown. Thornton (AVD-11) suffered a collision in April 1945 off the Rykukus Islands and was beached. All salvageable material was removed and she was abandoned. In July 1957, the hulk was donated to the government of the islands. [47]

The U.S. Navy ships that served the longest on active duty were the fleet oilers that supported the Midway operations. Cimarron (AO-22), Platte (AO-24) and Guadalupe (AO-32) all supported fleet operations during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Cimarron was sold for scrapping in 1969, and Platte was sold for scrapping in 1971. Amazingly, Guadalupe continued serving on active duty until 1974 and was sold for scrapping the following year. [48]

USS Enterprise (CV-6)

Though USS Enterprise was scrapped in 1960, several pieces of her still remain. Her bell is on display at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. One of her 15-foot tall anchors is on display at the Washington Navy Yard. Engineer W. Henry Hoffman was responsible for salvaging a major piece of her. While directing the scrapping of the famed carrier, Hoffman salvaged her stern plate with her name emblazoned upon it. For years, the 16-foot long stern plate was displayed at a Little League baseball field in River Vale, New Jersey. Then in 2000, the stern plate was restored, and re-located to Veterans Memorial Park in the same town. [49]

Conclusion

Upon the outcome of the Battle of Midway hinged the future course of the war in the Pacific. Through a combination of courage, strategy and good fortune, the U.S. Navy was able to turn the tables on the IJN and deal them a disastrous defeat. Altogether, over 200 Japanese and U.S. warships and support vessels fought in the battle. Today, none of the Midway ships remain afloat. Nearly all of the IJN ships and twenty-one of the U.S. Navy ships were sunk during the war. The remainder that survived the war were all scrapped or scuttled. Aside from the hulks of deteriorating hulks on the ocean's floor, virtually all traces of the Midway fleets are gone.

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Show Footnotes and Bibliography

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Copyright © 2006 Bryan J. Dickerson.

Written by Bryan Dickerson. If you have questions or comments on this article, please contact Bryan Dickerson at:
jbentrada@yahoo.com.

About the author:
Bryan J. Dickerson is a military historian specializing in World War Two and a Navy Reserve veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He earned a Masters of Arts in American History from Monmouth University in New Jersey in 1999. He is the former Editor of Cold War Times - the online newsletter of the Cold War Museum in Virginia.

Published online: 11/19/2006.

* Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent those of MHO.
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