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Alternate History

Hornet's dive bombers at Midway

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OTL: Repeated attacks on the Japanese strike force at Midway pull all the Japanese fighters down to sea level so when SBDs from Enterprise and Yorktown attack, the Japanese Zeros are out of position. In five minutes three Japanese carriers are sunk, the damage being done by only half of the American dive bombers. Admiral Fletcher on Yorktown kept one squadron back and both of Hornet's squadrons failed to find the Japanese task force. What then, would have been the results of Bombing and Scouting Eight finding the Japanese carriers at 10:30 local time, June 4, 1942?

Midway

POD 10:30 Local Time June 4, 1942.

Lieutenant Commander S.G. Mitchell was about to give up and turn his thirty-five Douglas SBDs and fifteen Wildcat fighters towards Midway when the last pilot in Scouting 8 reported sighting smoke to the southeast. "Sir, smoke, multiple columns rising fast. Looks tike thirty miles bearing 120. Sir, it rising fast, looks like three columns, it has to be the Japanese carriers!"

Mitchell glanced at his fuel state, made a quick transmission to the leader of the Wildcats and sent the fighters to the beach. He then gave his orders. "Scouting 8, go in first, if you see a carrier go for it. Bombing 8 will follow up." Thirty-five dive bombers banked to the right while their fighter protection continued on a course back to Midway Island, Mitchell knowing that his decision would either go a long way to winning the war or get him in front of a court martial.

"There goes Scouting Eight," the Lt. Commander's gunner observed as the seventeen dive bombers, each armed with a 500 pound bomb nosed over and began their dives. Beneath Bombing Eight Mitcher could see the three burning Japanese carriers, along with the fourth, now the target of the lighter armed dive bombers of Scouting Eight. "No, he's going in!" Someone called over the radio. The first of Scouting Eight's dive bomber's had failed to pull out of it's dive, crashing into the bow of the one undamaged Japanese carrier. In the next minute one more Douglas bomber was shot from the sky, but the other fifteen escaped. Mitchell couldn't have known that the few Japanese fighter still aloft were after the retreating planes from Yorktown and Enterprise.

"Okay, she's as done as the other three," Mitchell stated. We'll put our thousand pounders down on the battleship to the left." Flak was already reaching up to the eighteen SBDs but the opportunity was one that couldn't be missed. The dive bomber entered its 70 degree dive, Mitchell aiming for the rear of the Kirishima class battleship. Two thousand feet passed quickly and at just over 1,100 feet above the sea Mitchell released his half-ton of armor piercing high explosive, the bomb piercing the thin deck armor before exploding between the three and four propeller shafts of Kirishima causing what would have been months of damage on the Japanese dreadnought. Kirishima didn't have that long to live as seven thousand tons of high explosives ripped through her leaving the battleship dead in the water, without power on fire and sinking.

After Midway

Certainly, with all three flight decks intact, the ninety or so surviving American dive bombers would have managed a second attack as a much smaller group, flying only from Enterprise managed in OTL. With the loss of four carriers and a battleship already, another battleship and perhaps a cruiser and some destroyers would have also been lost. The real question, however, would have been, what next? Saratoga had just missed the battle and Wasp was on her way to the Pacific. Admiral Nimitz would have found himself with five flight decks in the summer of 1942 but without the landing craft to do much else beyond supporting the attacks in the South Pacific or raiding deeper into Japanese waters half a year earlier than in OTL. Would a greater American victory at Midway have shortened the war? Doubtful. Would the Japanese navy have been rendered ineffective well before the middle of 1944 as it had in OTL? Probably.

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