The Battle of Midway Roundtable

The Midway Library

BOOKS, MOVIES, AND VIDEOS ON THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY AND RELATED TOPICS

Updated:  5 April 2016

Listed here are most of the important references on the Battle of Midway, plus a number of secondary works that anyone with a desire to learn about the battle may find interesting or useful.  Books are listed in numerical order by their approximate value as a Battle of Midway reference, as determined by feedback from Roundtable members.

 

Many of the listings have detailed reviews elsewhere on our web site—a link is provided for each.

 

Note:  The mention or linking of various resources for purchasing books or other media is intended only as a convenience to our members and not as an endorsement of any such resource.

 

Please report any errors, browser problems, or bad links on this page to the Roundtable editor:  midwayroundtable@gmail.com


I.   BOOKS
(ranked in approximate order of value as a Battle of Midway reference)


1: THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
by Craig L. Symonds (2011)

Relying on the Midway Roundtable itself for much of his research, Annapolis professor Craig Symonds has produced the best, most up-to-date account of the BOM to be found.

Click for a detailed review.

2: SHATTERED SWORD: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully (2005)

The definitive history of the Imperial Japanese Navy at Midway.

Click for detailed review         Shattered Sword web site

3: A GLORIOUS PAGE IN OUR HISTORY
by Robert Cressman, et al (1990)

A Glorious Page is considered by most members of the BOMRT to be the best single-volume reference on the Battle of Midway.  It was produced by a group of military historians who felt that nothing then available provided full and accurate coverage of all of the important elements of the battle.  If you can only afford one book on the Battle of Midway, Roundtable members will tell you to get this one.

4: INCREDIBLE VICTORY
by Walter Lord (1967)

Walter Lord’s book is considered by most to be the classic reference on the Battle of Midway.  Virtually every known resource available to the public in both the U.S. and Japan was meticulously researched by the author, resulting in a superb and highly accurate accounting of the battle.  Its faults are few and minor, and can generally be attributed to the limits of known and unclassified information in 1967.

5: JOE ROCHEFORT’S WAR
by Elliot Carlson (2011)

The biography of Station Hypo’s commander who personally led the successful intel attack against the Japanese navy’s radio communications, thus making victory at Midway possible.

Click for detailed review

6: AND I WAS THERE
by Rear Admiral Edwin T. Layton (1985)

The whole story of communications intelligence in the Pacific, by CINCPAC’s intel officer

Click for detailed review

:7 THE FIRST TEAM
by John Lundstrom (1984; revised 2nd edition 1990)

The First Team is 560 pages of amazing detail, covering everything one might want to know about "Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway" (the subtitle).  John Lundstrom knows this topic extremely well and his writing shows it—the book is essentially devoid of the common errors found in other works.  The only reason it is not higher on the list is because the Battle of Midway only comprises the last chapter of the book, about 140 pages.  Nevertheless, its Midway chapter is widely regarded as one of the most accurate accounts of the battle.

This review is based on the original 1984 edition.  The author advises that the second edition has some updates on the Battle of the Coral Sea, but the Midway section is basically unchanged.

8: MIRACLE AT MIDWAY
by Gordon W. Prange (1982)

This book has been the number one best seller among those that are exclusively focused on the Battle of Midway, although it is not technically nor historically the best of them.  That explains its ranking behind several other works.  It does provide a good narrative description of the battle, reading more like an interesting novel than a history reference.  Knowledgeable readers will find a number of minor errors in the text (and perhaps a couple of major ones), but most will still find it highly interesting and an essential component of any Midway library.  The “Chronology” (timeline) at the end of the book is a particularly useful resource.

9: THE JAPANESE STORY OF THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
U.S. Navy publication OPNAV P32-1002 (1947)

This is the official Japanese after-action report on the Battle of Midway.  It includes a detailed chronology of each event during the battle, and there is an abundance of supporting graphics, charts, and tables.  This work has served as a fundamental resource for most of the books written about the battle.  It's readily available on the Internet—to access it directly, click here.

10: THE LAST FLIGHT OF ENSIGN C. MARKLAND KELLY, JUNIOR, USNR
by Bowen P. Weisheit (1996)

Bowen Weisheit’s history-changing revelations about the USS Hornet air group on 4 June 1942.

Click for detailed review

11: BLACK SHOE CARRIER ADMIRAL: FRANK JACK FLETCHER AT CORAL SEA, MIDWAY, AND GUADALCANAL
by John Lundstrom  (2006)

An exhaustively researched and revealing account of Admiral Fletcher during the first year of the war.

Click for detailed review

12: NO RIGHT TO WIN: A CONTINUING DIALOGUE WITH VETERANS OF THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
by Ronald W. Russell (2006)

Full disclosure: both the book as well as this brief description were written by this site’s webmaster.  That said, I have objectively attempted to rank it at a level that is warranted by reader feedback plus the nature of its content.  It has been unanimously endorsed by the Roundtable’s Midway veterans, which merits a preferred placement on this list.

The book is a compilation of eight years of veteran anecdotes and reminisces on the Roundtable and the understandings (some of them quite new) that can be derived from them.  All of the principal subjects explored and often vigorously debated on the Roundtable over the years are covered in depth.  Anyone having an interest in both the BOM and the Roundtable itself will find the book to be an essential primer on each.  Our web site includes an abundance of updated and added material not found in the printed book:

Note from Current site's webmaster:  Mr. Russell's book is a valuable resource for anyone wanting to understand the Battle from the men who were there.  Mr. Russell modestly ranked the book perhaps a little too far down on the list in my opinion.

Click here to read about the book and how and why it was written

13: MARINES AT MIDWAY
by R. D. Heinl (1948)

The whole story of the Corps at Midway.  Republished in 1990 under the title Defense of Wake: Marines at Midway.  You can view or download it on the Internet, although the book version has more coverage, including Wake Island. 

For the Web Version click the link below.

HyperLink

14: A DAWN LIKE THUNDER: THE TRUE STORY OF TORPEDO SQUADRON EIGHT
by Robert Mrazek (2008)

The whole story of VT-8, including the half that you most likely knew nothing about.

Click for detailed review

15: THE BARRIER AND THE JAVELIN: JAPANESE AND ALLIED STRATEGY, FEBRUARY-JUNE 1942
by H. P. Willmott (1983)

This book was enthusiastically endorsed by Jon Parshall as the source for much of his own understanding of Imperial Japanese Naval strategy and planning.  He rates it among his top three references on the Battle of Midway exclusive of his own book, Shattered Sword (which Roundtable members in general rate as number 2; see above).  Other reviewers, i.e. on Amazon.com, echo Jon’s praise of The Barrier and the Javelin, although some take issue with a few of Willmott’s opinions on what the Japanese could have done in the way of better strategies.

16: MIDWAY: DAUNTLESS VICTORY
by Peter C. Smith (2007)

Smith’s second and vastly better history of the battle.

Click for detailed review

17: MIDWAY INQUEST: WHY THE JAPANESE LOST THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
by Dallas W. Isom (2007)

Important new analyses of crucial elements of the battle.

Click for detailed review

18: DOUBLE-EDGED SECRETS
by Captain C. Jasper Holmes (1979)

This book nicely complements Layton’s And I Was There (above), since Jasper Holmes was an insider in the unit at Pearl Harbor that actually decrypted and analyzed Japanese radio traffic.

19: THAT GALLANT SHIP
by Robert Cressman (1985/2000)

That Gallant Ship is the complete story of USS Yorktown (CV-5), from its launch in 1936 to its loss at the Battle of Midway in 1942.  All of Yorktown's operations in the Atlantic, in the island raids of early '42, at Coral Sea, and at Midway are thoroughly covered.  The book is extensively illustrated with photographs.  It's now in its 4th printing (Feb 2000), and the 4th edition includes photos and text not included in the earlier ones.

20: COMBINED FLEET DECODED
by John Prados (1995)

A very highly regarded, detailed treatise on both U.S. and Japanese communications intelligence during WW2.

Click for detailed review.


21: A PRICELESS ADVANTAGE
by Frederick D. Parker (1993)

The subtitle of this work is "U.S. Navy Communications Intelligence and the Battles of Coral Sea, Midway, and the Aleutians." 

It's freely available in full on the Internet:  Click on the link below.


HyperLink

22: SBD-3 DAUNTLESS; THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
by Daniel Hernandez (2002)

An outstanding reference on the SBD and its role at Midway.

Click for detailed review

23: THE UNKNOWN BATTLE OF MIDWAY: THE DEATH OF THE TORPEDO SQUADRONS
by Alvin Kernan (2005)

VT-6 veteran Kernan’s account of VT-3, VT-6, and VT-8 on 4 June 1942.

Click for detailed review

24: MIDWAY: THE BATTLE THAT DOOMED JAPAN
by Mitsuo Fuchida and Masatake Okumiya (1955)

Until the appearance of Shattered Sword (above), this work was long accepted as the fundamental resource on the Japanese side of the battle, since one of its authors (Fuchida) personally led the attack on Pearl Harbor and was present on the Akagi at Midway.  However, new revelations show that Fuchida embellished his tale significantly for the sake of his primary audience in Japan.  But despite the book’s several faults (as outlined in Shattered Sword), readers may still find it important for its first-person Japanese view of the battle, however inaccurate it may be in some of the details.

25: SOLE SURVIVOR
by George Gay (1979)

George Gay was a pilot in Torpedo Squadron 8 aboard the USS Hornet and the only survivor among the ship’s TBD aircrews that attacked the Japanese carriers on 4 June 1942.  As such, he was both a participant in and an eyewitness to one of the most daring, aggressive, and sadly futile combat actions in American military history.

It should be noted that Gay's perspective on the overall battle was rather limited, and he waited 37 years to write his book, long after his recollection of the details could be considered as fresh.  As a result, his text contains a number of factual errors and a few claims or conclusions that have been contested by respected historians.  However, Gay’s perspective on his squadron's action was that of one who was there, and therein lies the value of this book.  The last chapter, focusing entirely on his commanding officer, VT-8 skipper John Waldron, is especially good.It should be noted that Gay's perspective on the overall battle was rather limited, and he waited 37 years to write his book, long after his recollection of the details could be considered as fresh.  As a result, his text contains a number of factual errors and a few claims or conclusions that have been contested by respected historians.  However, Gay’s perspective on his squadron's action was that of one who was there, and therein lies the value of this book.  The last chapter, focusing entirely on his commanding officer, VT-8 skipper John Waldron, is especially good.

26: RETURN TO MIDWAY
by Robert Ballard (1999)

Undersea explorer Ballard's search for the wrecks of Yorktown and Kaga.  Published by National Geographic.  See also the video version, below.

27: MIDWAY
by Hugh Bicheno (2002)

Generally well written.  Includes a listing of all ships engaged and their disposition after the battle.  Compares the differences between Japanese and American cultures, their intelligence resources, and their ships, planes and other military hardware.  Includes colorful map graphics, although there are several errors in the placement of certain defenses on Midway atoll.

28: A BATTLE HISTORY OF THE IMPERIAL JAPANESE NAVY
by Paul Dull (1978)

Dull served in the Office of War Information during the war, and thereafter spent a number of years researching Japanese archives in order to get a view of the war as seen from the other side.  The book covers the entire war through 1945, but the 1942-43 segments are particularly good.  Approximately 10% of the book (56 pages) is on the Battle of Midway.

29: SUNBURST
by Mark Peattie (2002)

Subtitle: "The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power, 1909-1941."  This book is highly recommended for its coverage of Japanese training and doctrine, and especially for its very comprehensive appendices, which are packed with extensive information on key IJN personnel, organizations, ships and planes, and much more.

30: MIDWAY: TURNING POINT OF THE PACIFIC
by VADM William Ward Smith (1966)

The BOM as seen by the commander of the TF-17 screening force aboard USS Astoria (CA-34).

Click for detailed review

31: MIDWAY 1942
by Mark Stille (2010)

Probably the best very short history of the battle.

Click for detailed review

32: MIDWAY--BATTLE FOR THE PACIFIC
by Edmund L. Castillo (1968)

Among the best accounts the BOM written in that earlier era.

Click for detailed review

33: GOD WAS AT MIDWAY
by Stanford E. Linzey (1999)

Many adhere to the belief that the "incredible victory" at Midway could only have happened as it did through some sort of supernatural or divine intervention.  That theme is eloquently expressed by Navy chaplain Linzey, a survivor of the USS Yorktown.  His harrowing tale of escape from the stricken vessel is typical of what a couple thousand of the ship’s crew and air group experienced on the afternoon of 4 June 1942.

34: THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
by Ira Peck (1976)

This is an excellent choice for young readers.  It tells the story of the Pacific War from Pearl Harbor to Midway with rare accuracy for a book of this early vintage.  It includes a good photo set.

35: RENDEZVOUS AT MIDWAY: USS YORKTOWN AND THE JAPANESE CARRIER FLEET
by Pat Frank and Joseph D. Harrington (1967)

Another credible account of the BOM from an earlier era.

Click for detailed review

36: THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY: THE BATTLE THAT TURNED THE TIDE OF THE PACIFIC WAR
by Peter C. Smith (1976; 2nd edition 1996)

British author Smith’s first BOM book.

Click for detailed review  (including correction to comments in No Right to Win)

37: THEY TURNED THE WAR AROUND AT CORAL SEA AND MIDWAY
by Stuart Ludlum (2000)

This book is the story of Yorktown's air group, from Pearl Harbor to Midway.  There are a number of factual errors, but readers say the book still gets high marks for its first-person accounts from Yorktown aviators, particularly at Coral Sea.

38: MIDWAY 1942: TURNING POINT IN THE PACIFIC
by Mark Healy (1993)

The main value of this book is its excellent illustrations of ships and aircraft—modelers will find it particularly useful.

Click for detailed review

39: CLIMAX AT MIDWAY
by Thaddus Tuleja (1960)

One reviewer reports that this book is an “easy read” and covers the story fairly well, but a lot of the detail that readers are accustomed to seeing in other books is absent—there is scant mention of the battle on the atoll itself, and almost nothing concerning the vital role of communications intelligence.  It also suffers from the usual inaccuracies associated with reliance on Midway: the Battle That Doomed Japan (see above).

40: THE BIG E: THE STORY OF THE USS ENTERPRISE
by Edward Stafford and Paul Stillwell (1962 - 2002)

The Big E is widely acclaimed as the best history of USS Enterprise (CV-6).

41: THE SHIP THAT HELD THE LINE
by Lisle A. Rose (1995)

Subtitle:  "The USS Hornet and the First Year of the Pacific War."

Click for detailed review

42: THE USS ENTERPRISE
by Steve Ewing (1982)

Subtitle:  "The Most Decorated Ship of World War II, A Pictorial History."  Another tribute to the Big E.  Extensive photos.  Reviewers rate Stafford’s The Big E as a preferred choice, followed by this book for its photographs.

43: MIRACLE AT MIDWAY
by Charles Mercer (1977)

Don't confuse this one with the Gordon Prange book by the same title (see above).  Contains interesting anecdotes and insight not found in other works.

Click for detailed review

44: THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
by Tom McGowan (Scholastic Children's Series, 2002)

For ages 9-12.  Has very good reviews on Amazon.com.

45: THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY ISLAND
by Theodore Taylor (1981)

An exceptionally poor work in several important regards.  The historical accuracy is worse than its competition and the images are simply abominable.  Among its peer group—brief treatises on the battle intended for youngsters or as a general overview—this is a clear last choice.

*** The following books have either been recently published or may be of interest. ***


46: SCREENED HER GOING DOWN
  by Noman W. Shaw (1984)

This is a story of the USS Hammann including the Battle of Midway and how she was sunk protecting the Yorktown. Norman self published the book, but you can get a copy on several booksellers sites. Even though it is limited in its distribution it still is an account of the battle from one of the ships involved. My uncle was on the Hammann and was lost with her. - Scott McIntyre

*** The following are works of fiction about the Battle of Midway—not ranked.  Listed in chronological order. ***


MIDWAY
by Donald Sanford (1976)

This is the novel version of the 1976 movie of the same name, and it therefore replicates the screenplay with all its flaws (see the movie review below).  But it’s a novel, not a history book, and as such the reader is propelled into the battle in the present tense.  That’s a “novel” experience, making the book worth reading despite the flaws.

Click for detailed review

DAUNTLESS
by Barrett Tillman (1992)

Dauntless, by Roundtable member Barrett Tillman, traces the fortunes of LT(jg) Philip "Buck" Rogers, a VB-3 SBD pilot, through Midway in CV-5 and Eastern Solomons in CV-3.  Other characters include Marine fighter pilot Captain Jim Carpenter and Flight Petty Officer Hiroyoshi Sakaida.  Those familiar with the facts of the battle will find this book highly interesting and entertaining.

LOVE AND GLORY
by Alvin Kernan (2004)

VT-6 veteran Kernan’s novel based on Torpedo Squadron 8 at Midway.

Click for detailed review

HALSEY’S BLUFF
by Larry Schweikart (2009)

A novel about the Battle of Midway that didn’t happen, but possibly should have.

Click for detailed review

 

II. Dramatizations of the Battle of Midway

Movie and television productions presented as historical dramas

(listed in chronological order)


A WING AND A PRAYER
Starring Don Ameche and Dana Andrews (1944)

A Wing and a Prayer  is a wartime-produced version of the Battle of Midway.  It is a very interesting film, although not for the reasons you might expect.  If you're looking for accuracy in detail, it's actually worse than the 1976 Midway movie (see below), with wrong planes, wrong attack scenes, and wrong, unidentified, or curiously missing ships (both U.S. and Japanese).  Worse, there are more fictional characters than in Midway.  But what you have to remember is that in 1944 the specifics of the BOM were still largely unknown to the general public (including movie producers), plus wartime security restrictions prevented revealing much of the detail we now take for granted, especially the names of the personalities.  Consequently, when we see Hellcats, Avengers, and Helldivers from an Essex-class CV destroying only three Japanese carriers (Akagi is a no-show in the movie), and absolutely no mention of reading the Japanese naval code, perhaps we can understand.

But its production during the war itself is actually what makes this a great BOM film.  You get the authentic feel of the times by watching rather good actors portray characters and events that, to them, are contemporary.  There is no misrepresentation of wartime social or moral values that inevitably creeps in to movies produced in other eras, like Midway and Pearl Harbor.  You are watching scenes and hearing dialog that is as close to the real thing as you're likely to ever experience.  This is a movie about the Battle of Midway that has most of the historic details quite wrong, yet you definitely don't feel disappointed when it ends.

TASK FORCE
Starring Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan (1949)

The BOM is a 30-minute segment in this nearly two-hour movie.  The story centers on the fictional Jonathan Scott (Cooper), the quintessential naval aviator who rises from a 1920s biplane pilot to the commander of a carrier task group just prior to retiring from the Navy.  The BOM sequence is fairly well done, with mostly accurate scenes of ships and aircraft.  Unlike the both the previous and following entry in this list, the producers were as meticulous as the state of the art would allow in showing scenes of real SBDs, F4Fs, and even TBDs.  The facts of the battle were mostly portrayed accurately, if a little too briefly.

MIDWAY
Starring Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchum, and Glenn Ford (1976)

Midway is the only other full-length, major Hollywood feature film (in addition to A Wing and a Prayer) that focuses solely on the Battle of Midway.  It is a lavish production, representing about the best that Hollywood could do given the resources and techniques available in 1976.  Unfortunately, that did not include the realistic computer graphics appearing in later productions, which meant that Midway's producers had to resort to the familiar tactic of incorporating old combat footage, carefully spliced, edited, and colorized as best they could in order to convey a more or less authentic look.  To the uninitiated moviegoer, the effect was very good: the scenes were dramatic and the audio (in theaters during the initial 1976 release) was positively awesome.  But to anyone with a modest amount of familiarity with U.S. aircraft in WW2, particularly naval aircraft in the Pacific theater, there is much that disappoints.

However, the non-authentic aircraft issue is insignificant compared to the plot, which suffers from excessive soap opera dramatics revolving around Charlton Heston's fictional character, a CINCPAC staff captain.  It is understood that such scenes were inserted into the film in order to broaden its appeal—presumably, women would have no interest in a movie giving an accurate portrayal of an air-sea battle and nothing more.  If you're a fan of wartime history, you simply have to let this sort of thing pass and focus on the majority of the film, which more or less adequately deals with things that really happened.

Roundtable members have generally echoed the above criticism, but many still give Midway high marks for at least bringing an awareness of the battle to the general public.  And on balance, even with the wrong planes and the sappy soap opera fiction, it's still a good movie that should be seen at least once by everyone.

Footnote:  later releases of the film, principally shown on cable TV channels in recent years, include a lengthy segment on the Battle of the Coral Sea that was not included in the theatrical release.

(For a commentary on what this much-flawed production got refreshingly right, click here, then scroll down to "Return to Midway.")

WAR AND REMEMBRANCE (VOLUME 1, PART 3)
(single episode within a television miniseries, 1988)

War and Remembrance is the sequel to The Winds of War, an expansive TV miniseries about a family caught up in the worldwide trauma of World War II.  Both series are now available on DVD, and the third disk in Volume 1 of War and Remembrance is an excellent stand-alone depiction of the BOM.  Indeed, compared to other dramatic re-enactments of the battle, as in the above movies, this production excels in historical accuracy, authentic dialogue, and in the director’s choices for scenes of the battle to include in a limited scope of time.

Since it was produced before the advent of computer-generated imagery (CGI) such as you see in the likes of Jurassic Park and the 2001 Pearl Harbor movie, this film contains some of the usual mismatches for aircraft and ships of the BOM era, but the producers did rather well with what the state of the art allowed in the 1980s.  There are numerous scenes with real SBDs, and other flying sequences are passably well done using scale models.  The ships are less convincing, but again, there were no Yorktown or Akagi-class carriers to film in 1980.  Besides, the superb quality of the production in other respects easily overshadows any issues concerning non-authentic hardware.

This video is highly recommended to anyone who wants to view a good re-enactment of the BOM, as opposed to a documentary.  The War and Remembrance series is available in two volumes from Internet vendors, but you can get the one disk with the BOM segment if you subscribe to an on-line rental service like Netflix or Blockbuster.


III.  Movie and Video Documentaries


(listed in chronological order)

THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
documentary by John Ford (1942)

Famous Hollywood producer John Ford, equipped with a 16 mm. camera and color film, was dispatched by Admiral Nimitz to Midway just prior to the battle.  He obtained remarkable footage of the Marines' preparations for the battle plus amazing scenes of the Japanese air attack.  Ford accomplished this at considerable danger to himself, but the results obtained are excellent--graphic, real, and professional.  This brief documentary is currently available as an added feature on various commercial DVDs, and segments from the film have been included in a great many war movies.  This is the only film footage available showing a significant portion of the Battle of Midway from the actual scene.  (Note:  Ford's camera on Midway had no sound capability, so any audio that accompanies your copy of the film has been inserted by its producers.)

You can view the film on-line at the Navy’s The Course to Midway web site.  Allow time for the web page to open (watch the aircraft carrier silhouette turn from black to blue, indicating loading progress), after which the movie should start automatically.  If it doesn’t, click “The Battle of Midway” at the bottom of the screen.

TORPEDO SQUADRON 8
U.S. Navy short film (1942)

This official U.S. Navy short subject was made as a tribute to VT-8 shortly after the battle.  The loss of all 15 of the squadron’s TBDs aboard USS Hornet and all but one of the 30 men who flew them was an exceptionally emotional event for the Navy as well as the public in 1942, and you sense that emotion in watching this production.  It was filmed aboard the Hornet shortly after the Coral Sea battle.  It opens with the 15 pilots assembled for their group photo; the famous VT-8 portrait seen as a still photo in many sources, i.e. p. 91 of A Glorious Page In Our History.  We then see close-ups of the TBDs and clips of the aircraft taking off on a mission.  The heart of the film is the man-by-man tribute to the aircrews:  each pilot is seen with his R/G, preceded by the view of a memorial plaque bearing their two names.

For fans of wartime history and students of the Battle of Midway, watching this film can be a poignant experience.  You get to see the pilots and gunners of  VT-8 up close and personal, and in real life.  It makes them much more than a grim statistic in a history book, and gives one pause to reflect upon who they really were and what they really did.

The film is in color and runs for only a few minutes.  It currently can be found as an added feature on certain DVDs or other video productions, and as of December 2008 you can view it on-line at the Navy’s The Course to Midway web site.  Allow time for the web page to open (watch the aircraft carrier silhouette turn from black to blue, indicating loading progress), then click the “Torpedo Squadron 8” button at the bottom of the screen.

BATTLEFIELD: THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
PBS telecast, 1994

Unlike most of the listings that follow, this video does not appear to be readily available for purchase.  That’s unfortunate, because it is a rather good production, among the best of the lot.  For example, there are plenty of scenes with F4Fs, SBDs, TBDs, and nary a single Hellcat, Corsair, or Essex-class CV.  Another plus: the program starts with a very good segment on the Coral Sea, including helpful map graphics.  On the down side, it perpetuates some of the familiar myths about the battle; not too surprising for a 1994 production.  On balance, though, it’s a worthy addition to anyone’s BOM video library if a copy can be found.

THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
Discovery Channel documentary (Thomas H. Horton production, 1999)

As Battle of Midway documentaries intended for the general public go, this may be the best of them all.  Some of our members are quick to point out a few errors in archival film footage showing the wrong aircraft or ships, but you always get that in such productions.  The Horton program stands out for its extensive use of the correct ships and planes, including many scenes of SBDs in action, and a few decent clips of TBDs.  One movie clip even appeared to show the listing Yorktown with the Hammann alongside.

From the standpoint of the Roundtable, the program is especially interesting for its extensive participation by three of our membes:  F4F pilot Tom Cheek, Midway Marine Bill Lucius, and VT-8 TBF radioman Harry Ferrier.  Other BOM vets contributing to the program include VB-6 skipper Dick Best, VB-6 pilot Wilbur Roberts, John Snowden (VS-6 gunner with LTjg Kleiss), Donald Hoff (VS-6 gunner with ENS Dexter), and Stuart Mason (VB-6 gunner with LTjg Anderson).  Several Japanese vets were also interviewed, including Bill Surgi's friend and Kate crewman Taisuke Maruyama.

The program includes some simple computerized images showing the four Japanese carriers, and a very good map graphic that displayed the enemy's complex three-prong strategy for Midway and the Aleutians.  The carrier images are a bit crude, but the map graphic is excellent for its clear explanation of Yamamoto's convoluted plan.

A couple of errors in the narration were noteworthy:  the program perpetuated the myth that the Midway "water plant failure" ruse was an attempt to learn the meaning of the Japanese code symbol "AF."  Of course, Roundtable members are aware that our signal intelligence experts in Hawaii knew full well before the battle that AF was Midway, but it was necessary to prove it to Washington.  And, there was a statement that Admiral Nimitz had made an on-the-spot decision to go after the Hiryu on the afternoon of June 4th.  Not hardly—Nimitz was pretty much in the dark about the battle at that point.  The decision was obviously made by the on-scene commander (Spruance).

But in summary, this is an excellent portrayal of the BOM, as good as you're going to get until someone decides to make a better one using modern computer imagery in order to show the correct ships and planes, and knowledgeable technical consultants in order to get every last factual detail right.

Commercial copies of the program, new and used, can be found on Amazon.com and Ebay.

THE BATTLE FOR MIDWAY: DISCOVERY OF THE USS YORKTOWN
National Geographic documentary (1999)

The Battle for Midway is a special National Geographic production covering undersea explorer Robert Ballard's expedition to find and photograph the wrecks of the Yorktown and Kaga.  The video includes a lot of wartime footage, some from the John Ford film.  (A few of the clips were non-authentic, but like the 1976 Midway movie, they had to use what was available.)  But the main thrust of the production is the modern-day search for the two carriers, and it's a highly interesting quest.

Ballard took four Midway veterans with him on the expedition, including Roundtable members Harry Ferrier and Bill Surgi, plus two Japanese vets from the Kaga.  The video also includes interviews of Roundtable members Lloyd Childers and Bert Earnest, plus VB-6 skipper Dick Best.  The participation of these seven veterans is a key part of the production and adds greatly to its interest.  The surround-sound audio is also excellent.

This video is available from National Geographic, and can be obtained by calling 800-427-5521.  Ask for stock number M1750002.  This review is of the DVD version.  A VHS tape version is also available.

[ Update 5/29/2009:  at this time the entire video can be viewed on-line:  click here. ]

THE SEARCH FOR THE JAPANESE FLEET
Discovery Channel documentary (2000)

Like the Ballard expedition above, this is another search for the sunken ships of the Battle of Midway; the Japanese carrier Kaga in this case.  The search team uses the recorded track of the submarine USS Nautilus, which had attacked the Kaga at a known position, to successfully plot the location of the sunken carrier.  The sophisticated equipment aboard the research vessel first produces sonar images of the wreck, and eventually video of pieces of the carrier strewn about the sea floor.

The program gives a good overview of the battle itself, including good coverage on the signal intelligence aspect.  However, it's somewhat disappointing in that, unlike Ballard's search for the Yorktown above, the Kaga itself is not found and photographed, due to limitations in the research vessel's availability.  Aside from that, this is a very well done production that anyone having a high interest in the Battle of Midway will want to see.

Roundtable member Jon Parshall appears at the end of the production, aiding the team in determining exactly what pieces of the ship had been photographed.

The video can be ordered directly from the Discovery Channel web site.  The cost for the VHS tape (as of mid-2003) is $19.95 plus shipping and state tax, if applicable.

WAR STORIES WITH OLIVER NORTH: THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
Fox News Channel documentary (2002)

This is one of the weekly documentaries presented on the Fox News Channel and hosted by Oliver North.  It's a good overall presentation of the Battle of Midway, ranking a very close second to the Thomas Horton Battle of Midway documentary (above).  But it particularly excels in its coverage of the signal intelligence aspect of the American victory.

Roundtable members and Midway veterans Mac Showers, Lew Hopkins, and Bill Surgi are extensively interviewed in the program, as are Roundtable members Mark Horan and Robert Cressman, two of the co-authors of A Glorious Page In Our History.  This is a video that most roundtable members will want to possess, for its commendable all-around treatment of the battle plus the valuable participation in the production by our members.

The video can be ordered directly from the Fox News Channel by calling 800-933-0760.  The cost for the VHS tape (as of mid-2003) is $19.95 plus shipping and state tax, if applicable.

F4F WILDCAT
Aircraft Films DVD set (2003)

This 2-disk set includes film and still photos of just about every F4F you'll ever want to see, including a lengthy segment on the magnificently restored Wildcat at the Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola.  But most of the photography is vintage, showing early development of the Wildcat (including its biplane predecessors) during the 1930s, a huge assortment of WWII combat film and stills, and interesting close-ups with Jimmy Thach and Butch O'Hare.  There is also a lot of actual combat footage of the Yorktown at Midway, the Enterprise at Eastern Solomons, and the Hornet at Santa Cruz.  And this isn't just a few grainy glimpses of carriers under attack as viewed from a distant destroyer--we're looking at film from the carriers themselves; some from a photographer's camera and some from fixed cameras.  The fixed cameras, in particular, show gripping footage of the attacks on Enterprise and Hornet.  Another plus:  this set includes the John Ford Battle of Midway movie.

Roundtable member and BOM veteran Tom Cheek is featured as the narrator on a couple of the segments, one of which shows his crash landing on the Yorktown during the battle.

Bottom line:  this set will tell you about all there is to know about the history and employment of the F4F, and it includes extras that are worth the purchase price by themselves.

(Update June 2009:  the set is no longer available from Aircraft Films, but it can be ordered on line here.)

COMMAND DECISION: THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
History Channel production (2004)

After this program’s debut in 2004, Roundtable members unanimously lambasted it as the most dismally inept film or video production on the Battle of Midway ever foisted upon the public.  In their opinion, its errors are so egregious as to make the other works in this section, however flawed, seem brilliant by comparison.

Ironically, one of the interviewed experts on the show was Robert Cressman, lead author on one of the most thorough and accurate BOM references available (A Glorious Day In Our History; see the top of this web page).  But he obviously didn’t have much control over the script itself.

Producing a good, reasonably accurate video account of the BOM is not that hard (see “Final Note” below).  The History Channel, though, can’t legitimately claim this one to be in that category, and in fact, they’ve apparently pulled it from their rerun schedule.  That alone speaks volumes, as they seem to routinely rebroadcast most of their documentaries, often multiple times.

DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD: THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
Lion Television Productions (2005)

This British production has some interesting qualities, but numerous flaws.

Click for a detailed review

WARSHIPS: PEARL HARBOR TO MIDWAY
PeriscopeFilm.com DVD (2006)

This DVD set is a compilation of mostly WWII-era motion picture film clips from official USN sources as well as studio archives and newsreel footage.  Some of it is familiar, but there is quite a lot that is seldom seen.

The program is arranged into 8 discreet segments:  (1) the Pearl Harbor attack, (2) the Marshall Islands raids, (3) the Doolittle raid, (4) "Carrier X" (Yorktown and Coral Sea), (5) Coral Sea and Midway, (6) the John Ford Battle of Midway film, (7) "Hook Down, Wheels Down" Part 1, and (8) "Hook Down Wheels Down" Part 2.

The principal value of this program is its original film footage from the era.  You’re watching scenes as they actually occurred, not Hollywood’s attempt to recreate them in later years, thereby losing authenticity.  That said, viewers will need to remember that the film segments and their accompanying dialogue were created in the early 1940s, when the true facts of the battles were often unknown or classified.  Thus when the announcer on original footage makes a statement that we now know to be historically wrong, remember the vintage of what you are watching and appreciate it for its classic quality.

Speaking of quality, the video imagery is as good as modern digital remastering can make it, and the surround-sound background music that the producer has inserted here and there sounds great.

The disk is sold on the PeriscopeFilm web site.  Click the "Warship DVD Series" button on the left side of the page.   You can also find it on Amazon.

DESTINATION POINT LUCK: VOICES FROM MIDWAY
U.S. Naval Media Center documentary (2007)

This DVD program was produced by the Navy for internal distribution in connection with the 65th anniversary of the battle in June 2007.  Its focus is entirely on veteran interviews, and 14 of the 15 Midway vets appearing in the program are members of the Roundtable.  In that sense, this video is virtually “the Battle of Midway Roundtable on DVD,” for the vets’ stories are the tales we’ve seen from them down through the years in their circulated e-mails and contributions to our Roundtable Forum newsletter.  The program puts a face and a voice to the likes of HYPO vet Mac Showers, SBD pilots Dusty Kleiss and Roy Gee, and Enterprise vet and popular author Alvin Kernan, plus several others.

The production has the usual problem of mismatched archive clips of ships and planes, scenes that don’t belong in 1942.  But that’s understandable since the resources of the Naval Media Center don’t compare with those of a major Hollywood studio.  Viewers of this program need to ignore that minor issue and focus on the veteran testimony, which is invaluable history.

As of December 2008, the program can be viewed on-line:  click here.

AT THE INTERFACE: THE WWII RECOLLECTIONS OF DONALD M. SHOWERS
Shoestring Educational Productions (2007)

Rear Admiral “Mac” Showers was an intel analyst at  the Combat Intelligence Center at Pearl Harbor during most of the war.  His first-hand recollections of the communications intelligence (ComInt) side of the war’s most notable naval battles in the Pacific comprise the heart of this production.  It is ably aided by an excellent assortment of archive film clips and graphics.  You can read about ComInt from one “who was there” (See I Was There in the book listings above), but here you can see and listen to another veteran who also was there and directly involved in the intel aspect of some of the war’s most crucial battles and operations.

A brief excerpt from the DVD can be viewed on the Navy TV web site.  The full program on DVD can be ordered directly from the producer.  For full information, click here.

BATTLE 360 (EPISODE #2): VENGEANCE AT MIDWAY
History Channel production (2008)

This 10-part miniseries covers the entire history of USS Enterprise (CV-6) during World War II.  The second episode, “Vengeance at Midway,” is a rather good documentary on the BOM.  While its main focus is the Enterprise, the rest of the battle is covered in sufficient detail to make this one of the better video productions in this listing, even superior to the rest of them in a few regards.

The program features extensive narration by Roundtable veteran members Dusty Kleiss, Ed Anderson, Lew Hopkins, and Lloyd Childers, plus insight on the Japanese side of the battle by Jon Parshall (see Shattered Sword at the top of this page).  Anderson had been Hopkins’ radioman-gunner in VB-6 at Midway, and production of this documentary resulted in the two men coming together for the first time in over 60 years.  Their on-screen reunion is a delight to watch.

Vengeance at Midway is for sale in DVD on the History Channel web site.

FINAL NOTE REGARDING VIDEO PRODUCTIONS:


In ranking all of the videos in this section of the Library, three of them stand out for their general accuracy and thoroughness with regard to the Battle of Midway.  They are the PBS Battlefield episode, Horton’s Discovery Channel program, and Oliver North’s War Stories episode.  If you could only acquire a single Battle of Midway video, any one of those three would be very good choices.  The Naval Media Center DVD is special for its focus on Roundtable members, and anyone familiar with those particular veterans will definitely want to see it.  The same can be said for the “Battle 360” episode.  For a total focus on communications intelligence at Midway, the “At the Interface” DVD is excellent.

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