The Battle of Midway Roundtable
"Bomb damage of IJN Carriers"
Much has been written about the damage inflicted on the Japanese carriers by the dive bomber squadrons from Enterprise and Yorktown on the morning of June 4th when Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu were fatally damaged. Later dive bombers from Enterprise that included orphans from Yorktown found and gutted the Hiryu. What I have put together here is a picture representation of where all the bombs landed and who was credited with the hits if one could be determined. Notes are below each picture. Sources differ on credits with hits and in some cases there was just too much confusion to determine who actually made the hit and in what order. All this is best estimate given sources available. Where sources conflict I used the latest information or information I determined to be more accurate. This is by no means conclusive or definitive but is an interesting visual representation if nothing else.
Of the 25+ Dauntless Dive Bombers that attacked Kaga there were numerous reports that more than 4 bombs struck the Kaga. Four were recorded for sure and a fifth by deductive reasoning is included. Both #3 & #4 could have been the same bomb claimed by two pilots. However there is sufficient cause to consider that #3 hit just forward of the Island and slightly more to the center of the flight deck while #4 hit almost exactly on the Island or immediately forward as one Japanese account said the Island had been flattened as if a giant hand had crushed it. Also the report that one hit a refueling cart that covered the bridge with burning gasoline leads one to believe another might have been the one to cause the destruction of the Island.
Dick Best could only call off his two wingman from attacking Kaga when the rest of Bombing Six followed McClusky down to attack the Kaga although some reports say 5 aircraft attacked Akagi. Realistically it is more probable that only his two wingman saw Best close his dive flaps and pull up and were close enough to actually see him call off the attack. At any rate no matter the number Best scored the direct hit that ultimately lead to the destruction of Akagi although from reports Weber's hit certainly might have taken Akagi out of the fight as it jammed the rudder. Whether the Japanese could have saved the Akagi and taken her back to Japan if not for the raging fires caused by Best's hit is hard to tell.
Here is a list of the airmen from Enterprise that attacked the Kaga and Akagi on June 4th and the fate of each one.
Enterprise dive-bombing attack on IJN Akagi & Kaga-June 4th 1942
Bombing Six & Scouting Six from the USS Enterprise did not escape totally unscathed in attacking Akagi and Kaga as can be seen by the summary of the returning aircraft. Only 15 made it back to Enterprise and four were damaged too severely to participate in the attack on Hiryu later in the day. Enterprise could only launch 11 of her own dive bombers, 7 from VS6 and 4 from VB6, to search for and attack the Hiryu. Ten eventually attacked the Hiryu as one had to turn back with a problem. It is interesting to note how many of Bombing 6 ran out of fuel compared to Scouting 6 due to the heavier bomb load meaning McClusky definitely lead his group further than the Dauntless's range in an attempt to find the Japanese fleet.
Flight group leader with wingmen (Part of VS6)
Lt-Cdr Clarence McClusky- Bombed/missed Kaga, McClusky wounded by fighter attack, returned but aircraft OOA.
Ens William Pittman- Bombed/missed Kaga, damaged by fighter attack, returned but aircraft OOA
Ens Richard Jaccard- Bombed/missed Kaga, later bombed/hit Hiryu
Scouting Squadron Six
Lt Wilmer Gallaher- Bombed/hit Kaga
Ens Reid Stone- Bombed/missed Kaga
Ens John Roberts- Shot down & killed by AA-fire whilst attacking Kaga
Lt Norman Kleiss- Bombed/hit Kaga
Ens James Dexter- Bombed/hit Kaga
Lt Clarence Dickinson- Bombed/hit Kaga, OOF en route back, ditched close to home, crew recovered
Ens John McCarthy- Bombed/missed Kaga, OOF en route back, ditched close to home, crew recovered
Ens Carl Pfeiffer- Bombed/missed Kaga, vanished en route home, crew never found
Lt Norman West- Bombed/missed Kaga
Ens Vernon Micheel- Bombed/missed Kaga
Ens John Lough- Bombed/missed Kaga, vanished en route home, crew never found
Lt Charles Ware- Bombed/missed Kaga, vanished en route home, crew never found
Ens Frank Flaherty- Bombed/missed Kaga, shot down by AA fire, crew captured and later executed
Ens James Shelton- Bombed/missed Kaga, vanished en route home, crew never found
Ens Eldor Rodenburg- Turned back early with engine trouble
Bombing Squadron Six
Lt Richard Best- Direct hit on Akagi
Lt Edwin Kroeger- Bombed/near-miss on Akagi
Ens Frederick Weber- Bombed/hit Akagi, later shot down and killed whilst attacking Hiryu
Lt Wilbur Roberts- Bombed/missed Kaga, landed on Yorktown, aircraft lost with ship
Ens Delbert Halsey- Bombed/missed Kaga, OOF en route home, ditched, crew never found
Lt Joe Penland- Bombed/missed Kaga, damaged by fighter attack, ditched, crew rescued 5th June
Ens Tony Schneider- OOF en route to target, ditched, crew rescued 6th June
Ens Eugene Greene- Bombed/missed Kaga, OOF en route home, ditched, crew never found.
Ens Thomas Ramsey- Bombed/missed Kaga, OOF en route home, ditched, crew rescued 10th June
Ens Lewis Hopkins- Bombed/missed Kaga, damaged by fighter attack, returned but aircraft OOA
Lt John Van-Buren- Bombed/missed Kaga, OOF en route home, ditched, crew never found
Ens Norman Vandivier- Bombed/missed Kaga, OOF en route home, ditched, crew never found
Ens George Goldsmith- Bombed/hit Kaga, damaged by fighter attack, landed on Yorktown, aircraft lost with ship
Lt Edward Anderson- Bombed/missed Kaga, damaged by fighter attack, returned but aircraft OOA
Ens Bertram Varian- Bombed/missed Kaga, damaged by fighter attack, ditched en route home, crew never found.
OOA- Out of Action
OOF- Out of Fuel
Aircraft Shot down: 2
Ditched but crew rescued: 5
Ditched but crew lost: 9
Landed on Yorktown, later lost when ship sank: 2
Returned to Enterprise but out-of-action (OOA): 4
Returned to Enterprise intact: 11
It is not known who scored the last hit. Indeed most early sources say that the Soryu only received two hits which certainly would have been enough to doom the ship. However later sources as well as Japanese sources say a third and last bomb did hit near the rear of the flight deck. All three divisions of VB3 attacked and it appears they attacked according to doctrine. The first to dive was the 1st division lead by Leslie. Holmberg, the second to dive right behind Leslie, scored the first hit. The next 2 divisions dived in order. This is backed up by Bottomly scoring the second hit. He was in the second part of the 2nd division. This left only three other pilots to actually dive on Soryu, that being Lane, Butler, and Shumway who was leading the 3rd division. The last four aircraft from the 3rd division dived on other targets as Soryu was a mass of flames by then. While I'm inclined to give the last hit to either Lane or Butler it is curious that Shumway dove on Soryu while
the other aircraft in his division decided that Soryu was no longer a worthwhile target. So I cannot discount that Shumway quite possibly was the last to hit Soryu. In some way that makes sense. Shumway never claimed credit for the hit but he might never have seen it as the rear of Soryu's flight deck was most likely obscured by smoke at that point. Only later when Japanese sources confirmed a 3rd hit was it positively known a third bomb hit her. Shumway also hit Hiryu later in the day confirming that he was a good dive bomber pilot which kind of plays into the theory as Best and Kleiss also had hits in each of their two attacks that day.
The dive bombing of Hiryu on the afternoon of June 4th was in some cases the most interesting. Enterprise launched her remaining 11 dive bombers and a further 14 of Yorktown's Bombing 3 under overall command of Lt. Gallaher. The aircraft in VS6, VB6, and VB3 were armed with a mix of 500lb and 1000lb bombs although it appears that they may have been mixed even in the respective squadrons. Really unsure of the reason but it might have been because of the orphans from Yorktown. Whatever the reason we cannot assume all hits were 1000lb and there is no record to say who was armed with what. I just put down the most likely cases. The second part of the attack that is interesting is that Gallaher dove first leading VS6 down. He assigned Shumway and VB3 to attack the nearby Battleship. Best with VB6 brought up the rear of the Enterprise squadron with only 3 aircraft again because the 4th had turned back with engine trouble. Gallaher also meant for Best to follow him on the attack on
Hiryu in all likelihood. There is some thought that Shumway seeing that Gallaher and several more of his squadron missed Hiryu switched his attack from the Battleship to Hiryu. But it is entirely likely that Shumway only used that as a convenient excuse. I don't think he was happy with letting Enterprise attack the carrier while his group was assigned to attack a Battleship given what Hiryu had done to Yorktown. At any rate he jumped into the attack cutting Best and his two wingman off from making their dive. The second time in the day that had happened to Best. This ultimately cost Weber his life as he was shot down by the CAP when trying to reform with Best. Both Enterprise and Yorktown claim the first hit, Jaccard for VS6 and Shumway for VB3. Given that the blast blew the elevator against Hiryu's bridge that most likely was a 1000lb bomb giving the edge to Shumway. However, Jaccard with VS6 would normally have carried a 500lb bomb but may well have been carrying a 1000lb.
Shumway wth Bombing 3 and Best with Bombing 6 most likely had 1000lb bombs. For some reason Kleiss was one of the last to dive and had the 4th hit. Exactly why he was one of the last to dive probably comes down to Shumway jumping the attack on Hiryu when he saw most of VS6 miss and Kleiss was cut off by Shumway like Best.