Scouting and Early Attacks from Midway, 3-4 June 1942



Forewarned by Pacific Fleet codebreaking, Midway's patrol planes searched out hundreds of miles along probable Japanese approach routes. First contact was made with a pair of minesweepers some 470 miles to the west southwest at about 0900 on 3 June 1942. Within a half-hour, another PBY spotted the enemy's transport group, heading east about 700 miles west of Midway. Later that day, six Army B-17s bombed the transports, the Battle of Midway's first combat action, but only achieved near-misses. The Japanese were undeterred.

During the evening, four PBY-5A amphibians took off to make a night torpedo strike. Encountering the Japanese transport force in the early hours of 4 June, the slow patrol planes hit the oiler Akebono Maru with one torpedo, the only successful U.S. aerial torpedo attack of the entire battle. However, the damaged Japanese ship was able to keep up as the formation continued on.

Soon after 0530 on the morning of 4 June, about 200 miles northwest of Midway, a PBY reported the first contact with the Japanese carrier force, which had already launched over a hundred bombers and fighters to attack the American base. These were seen by another PBY several minutes later. The patrol planes' warnings prompted Midway to get all its aircraft in the air and to bring its defenses to full readiness. They also told the U.S. carrier task forces the enemy's approximate location and course, vital information sent from beyond the normal scouting range of the carriers' own planes. The Battle of Midway now began in earnest.


This page presents views related to Midway's PBY reconnaissance and torpedo attack missions on 3-4 June.

Images of preparations for the Battle of Midway Preparations for Battle, March 1942 to 4 June 1942

Views of other aspects of the Battle of Midway Battle of Midway, Overview and Special Image Selection


Click photograph for larger image.

Photo #: 80-G-701843

Battle of Midway, June 1942


Diorama by Norman Bel Geddes, depicting the sighting of the Japanese minesweepers Tama Maru No. 3 and Tama Maru No. 5 by a Midway-based PBY flown by Ensign James P.O. Lyle, at 0904 on 3 June 1942. These ships had left Wake on 31 May, and were the first units of the Japanese invasion force to be spotted enroute to Midway.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Online Image: 97KB; 740 x 610

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: 80-G-19974

Battle of Midway, June 1942


Crew of the Patrol Squadron 44 (VP-44) PBY-5A "Catalina" patrol bomber that found the approaching Japanese fleet's Midway Occupation Force on the morning of 3 June 1942.
Those present are identified in Photo # 80-G-19974 (Complete caption).

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Online Image: 103KB; 740 x 615

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: 80-G-701846

Battle of Midway, June 1942


Diorama by Norman Bel Geddes, depicting the moonlight torpedo attack made by four PBY-5A patrol bombers on the Japanese Midway Occupation Force during the night of 3-4 June 1942. The oiler Akebono Maru was hit during this attack, but was able to continue on her mission.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Online Image: 110KB; 740 x 535

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: 80-G-64819

Battle of Midway, June 1942


Pilots of the four Patrol Squadron 24 (VP-24) and Patrol Squadron 51 (VP-51) PBY-5A "Catalina" patrol bombers that flew the torpedo attack mission against the Japanese fleet's Midway Occupation Force during the night of 3-4 June 1942.
Those present are (left to right):
Lieutentant (Junior Grade) Douglas C. Davis, of VP-24;
Ensign Allan Rothenberg, of VP-51;
Lieutenant William L. Richards, Executive Officer of Patrol Squadron 44 (VP-44), who flew in a VP-24 aircraft on this mission; and
Ensign Gaylord D. Propst, of VP-24.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Online Image: 79KB; 740 x 610

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 


For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions





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