Turning the Tide In the Pacific
Hot on the heels of the Doolittle Raid, the U.S. Navy’s carrier forces had begun to actively seek the Japanese carriers, hoping at each opportunity to even the playing field. While the encounter at Coral Sea was costly for both sides, it had cost the U.S. as much as it had gained. Something would need to happen to give the United States an edge. This edge was gained when Naval intelligence who had been deciphering pieces of Japanese coded transmissions determined that the next Japanese attack would fall on the tiny Midway Atoll. An invasion which would certainly be supported by the Japanese Carriers. Midway would be the bait – and the trap would be sprung by the USS Enterprise, USS Yorktown, and USS Hornet. In the final accounting of the Battle, the U.S. lost one carrier, to the Japanese four (each of which had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor) – a resounding victory, and a turning point in the Pacific War.
Featured Aircraft: Grumman F4F Wildcat
A stout airplane, the F4F Wildcat was outperformed by its Japanese Adversaries in almost all areas – however, the Wildcat was built tough – so tough that Grumman earned the nickname “Iron Works.” In the early days of the war, Wildcat pilots had been cautioned to avoid the Japanese fighters if possible – however, enterprising pilots developed techniques that would turn the Wildcat into a lethal dog-fighter. One of the most well-known of these tactics was the Thach Weave, developed by then Lieutenant Commander John “Jimmy” Thach. It involved a pair of Wildcats weaving between one another, catching their pursuers in deadly fire from each of the Wildcats in turn.
Featured Aircraft: Douglas SBD Dauntless
Responsible for the sinking of more ships than any other aircraft during the war, the SBD Dauntless was described by its crews as “Slow but Deadly.” The Dauntless itself was designed as a divebomber, a task which placed a huge strain upon the crew who flew it. The aircraft would approach enemy ships at a high altitude, enter a steep dive releasing the bomb at the opportune moment, leaving the pilot trying to pull out before hitting the target or the ocean. The massive forces applied to man and machine in this task lead many to label the two man crew “Dauntless” rather than the airplane. At Midway, three of the four Japanese carriers sunk were destroyed within 6 minutes by Dauntless’s. The fourth was attacked later in the day.
Featured Aircraft: Consolidated PBY Catalina
One of the unlikely heroes of the Battle of Midway was the ungainly PBY Catalina and its crews. These aircraft were designed for long range patrols. With a high mounted wing holding a considerable amount of fuel – they could stay in the air for hours, which is what it would take to locate the Japanese fleet steaming for Midway. Even though the U.S. Navy knew the Japanese were coming they could not be sure from which direction, and how many ships they would actually be bringing. The PBY provided them this information. In addition to its remarkable service in the Pacific, the PBY was used extensively across the globe, often for submarine hunting – a role at which it proved to be very successful.
Grumman F4F Wildcat
Aircraft Type: FM-2 Wildcat
Organization: Commemorative Air Force – Wildcat Group
Photo Credit: Kevin Hong
Douglas SBD Dauntless
Aircraft Type: SBD-5 Dauntless
Organization: Commemorative Air Force – Dixie Wing
Photo Credit: David F. Brown
Consolidated PBY Catalina
Aircraft Type: Consolidated PBY Catalina
Organization: Fighter Factory
Photo Credit: Richard Mallory Allnutt
**The aircraft listed have agreed to participate in the flyover, but due to factors such as weather or mechanical issues,participating aircraft are subject to change without notice.**