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Battle of Midway: 4-7 June 1942, Online Action Reports: Commander Cruisers, Pacific Fleet of 14 June 1942

  Pearl Harbor, T. H.,
14 June 1942.
From: Commander Cruisers, Pacific Fleet.
To: Commander-in-Chief, United States Pacific Fleet.
Subject: Battle of Midway.

1. The following general account of the Battle of Midway is submitted pending receipt of reports from subordinate commanders and the preparation of a detailed report.

2. All times are local, plus ten zone.

3. Task Force SIXTEEN was sighted in Latitude 32 - 04 N., Longitude 172 - 45 W. at 1730, June 2, 1942 and was directed to operate ten miles to Southward of Task Force SEVENTEEN. Both forces proceeded to the West during the night, and on the Third to the North. Searches of sector 240° - 060°, distance two hundred miles were conducted by Yorktown air group but poor visibility and rain squalls reduced their effectiveness. Enterprise and Hornet maintained their air groups in readiness as a striking force. During the night of June 3-4 both forces proceeded toward a point two hundred miles North of Midway. Reports of enemy forces to the Westward of Midway were received from Midway and Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet. These reports indicated the location of the enemy Occupation Force but not the Striking Force.

4. At 0620, June 4, Yorktown launched security search of Northern semi-circle distance one hundred miles and combat air patrol. Enterprise assumed functions of fighter director. The two forces were directed to operate five to ten miles apart. Task Force SIXTEEN to Southwestward. Course was initially to Eastward. At 0800 received contact report from Midway plane of enemy force consisting of two carriers and other types including battleships bearing 320°, distance 180 from Midway on course 135°, speed 25 knots. Directed Task Force SIXTEEN to proceed to Westward and launch attack groups against enemy forces. At 0845 landed Yorktown scouts and relieved combat air patrol. Changed course to 225° and speed to 25 knots. At 0910 Task Force SIXTEEN commenced launching attack groups and gave as their Point Option course 260°, speed 25 knots. Yorktown attack group was held in reserve pending receipt of information on additional enemy carriers which it was hoped would soon be located by our shore based aircraft. No such report having been received by 1025 and fearing that we might be caught with all planes on board it was decided to launch half the bombers and all torpedo planes with six fighters as escort to attack the same objective as Task Force SIXTEEN. Launching was completed at 1106 and combat patrol was relieved at 1118. Remaining half of bombers were brought up from hanger deck and made ready for an attack on the still unlocated additional carriers. During this period Task Forces SIXTEEN and SEVENTEEN drew out of sight of each other due to former proceeding to the Westward and the latter having to head Southeastward for launching. After launching Task Force SEVENTEEN took course 240°, speed 25 knots.

5. Many radar contacts commenced to develop about noon but there was no certainty as to their friendly or enemy character owing to their multiplicity and the fact that the aircraft of Task Forces SIXTEEN and SEVENTEEN were returning and the exact location of the former was not known. Radio intelligence indicated that the enemy had sighted our carriers. At 1327 bombers returned from the attack and reported having bombed and possibly destroyed on enemy carrier. A radar contact at 1335 bearing 320°, distance twenty five miles was believed to be enemy but fighter interception failed. It was decided to launch a search group as we still had no report of enemy carriers other than the one group sighted in the morning. At 1350 completed launching search group to search sector 280°-030°, distance 200 miles and twelve fighters for combat patrol. Search group was armed with bombs to attack enemy if located.

6. At 1352 radar contact bearing 275°, distance 32 miles closing. Increased speed to 30 knots. Fighters intercepted and shot down many enemy planes. At 1407 bombing and torpedo attack commenced on Yorktown and continued until 1415 at which time radar was out of commission and Yorktown had received three bomb hits causing Yorktown to stop. The fire from the island structure which resulted from bomb hits made the communication office and flag plot untenable and the Force Commander and Staff personnel assembled on the flight deck. Because of temporary loss of Radar and difficulty of communication from the Yorktown and control of the Task Forces, and because of the immobility of the Yorktown, the Force Commander decided to shift his flag to the Astoria. This was done at 1500. Air coverage was requested from Task Force SIXTEEN and Midway. Portland was directed to prepare to take Yorktown in tow.

7. The Pensacola, Vincennes, Balch and Benham joined from Task Force SIXTEEN at 1530. The 1600 position of Yorktown was latitude 33-52 N., Longitude 176-00 W. Shortly after 1600 Yorktown was able to increase speed and by 1625 was up to 17 knots. A visual message from Yorktown indicated that her search group had sighted previously unlocated enemy carrier which was later attacked by Task Force SIXTEEN. Radar contacts indicated enemy planes approaching. Those fighters which had been refueled were launched. About two fighters remained on board. At 1635 fighters intercepted and engaged enemy torpedo planes and fighter escorts, destroying many. At 1541 enemy torpedo attack was directed at Yorktown scoring two hits. The heavy explosion was followed by loss of light, power and mobility. The ship commenced listing to part and list increased to about twenty seven degrees. At 1714 started abandoning ship in anticipation of her capsizing and further enemy attacks. About twenty three hundred survivors were picked up by destroyers. At 1827 enemy single float seaplane sighted and destroyed by fighters. Other seaplanes were sighted during the following hour. some of which were probably destroyed by fighters. About 1830 completed recovery of survivors and due to reduced fighting efficiency as a result of overcrowded conditions and lack of air coverage, the Force proceeded to the Eastward. Hughes was left to guard Yorktown. Pensacola and Vincennes were detached to rejoin Task Force SIXTEEN which was sighted shortly before dark. It was intended to transfer survivors from destroyers to Portland during the night and have her return with them to Pearl. Astoria and destroyers were to return to Yorktown at daylight to attempt her salvage. A despatch was subsequently received from Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, directing the transfer of survivors to Fulton which he was sending out from Pearl Harbor. Key personnel were to be returned to Yorktown for salvage operations. Captain Buckmaster and about 180 of his key officers and enlisted men were placed aboard Hammann as a salvage party. Hammann, Balch and Benham were detached and returned to Yorktown. Other ships proceeded to Eastward to fuel and join Saratoga (Task Group 11.1) in accordance with orders from the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet.

Frank Jack Fletcher

Source: Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet report, Serial 01849 of 28 June 1942, World War II action reports, Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740.

[The document is also on microfiche, F-2042 (7 fiche) which can be ordered, using the duplication order form and the fee schedule, from the Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center at the above address.

09 January 2007