Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Review of The Battle of Midway by Craig L Symonds (OUP, 2011)
The Battle of Midway provides a very readable and highly informative account of the battle at Midway in June 1942, including some contextual framing with respect to Pearl Harbour, the Battle of the Coral Sea, and the first US air raid on Tokyo. Unlike previous accounts that suggest that the US were lucky to win the encounter, Symonds argues that the US won due to good intelligence, strong leadership, and the element of surprise. Nonetheless, the largely uncoordinated US air attacks on the Japanese fleet proved mostly ineffective until a five minute window when three of the four carriers were hit turning the battle in the US’s favour. Given the number of different threads and personalities involved the narrative could have easily become quite jumbled or bogged down in detail, but Symonds manages to blend the various strands into a coherent, gripping and page-turning story told with an engaging voice. The result is a book which is full of historical detail and biographical sketches of the main actors that clearly explains the battle and its context.