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Midway 1942

Midway 1942 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review June 2012 Title Midway 1942
Author Mark Stille Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2012 ISBN 9781846035012
Format 96 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $19.95


June 2012 marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway.  And Osprey’s Midway 1942 offers an enlightening introduction to this “turning point” in World War II Pacific combat.

In typically methodical manner, Mark Stille painstakingly proceeds from introductory notes and chronology through opposing commanders, fleets, and planning.  Coverage then chronicles the battle and its aftermath.

Leveraging latest research, the author’s ambitious effort contests two putatively prevailing “myths”: Midway as “the most decisive naval battle of the entire war” and “an incredible victory against overwhelming odds”.

Only propagandists claimed the first.  So Stille logically levels the second – at least partially.

He scrupulously shows how flawed notions and brash beliefs doomed Imperial Japanese Navy chances.  Combined Fleet Commander Admiral Isorokku Yamamoto, for instance, simultaneously and needlessly attacked the Aleutians – diverting “50 ships into a strategic deadend”.  The move, Stille correctly contends, “violated the principle of concentration”.  So when Midway forces finally clashed, Japan was “actually outnumbered at the point of contact where the battle would be decided”.

Hardly “overwhelming odds”.  But despite dire operational and equipment deficiencies – and with guts, grit, and luck – American commanders still snatched “incredible victory” at Midway.  And despite prevailing postmodernist perspectives, all honest historians admit that.

Some nitpicks mar this otherwise useful effort.  Stille lists Japanese personalities, surname first.  A nomenclature note would enormously aid novitiates.  And maybe it’s the academic in me.  But many details – like the captured VT-3 pilot who “confirmed the identification of the three US carriers”, ultimately leading to Yorktown’s destruction – simply scream “citation”.

Still, I enjoyed Midway 1942.  Photos, illustrations, maps and bibliography supplement this tidy tome.  Alone, the 3-D battle maps brilliantly enhance Stille’s pithy portrait.  Make it your springboard to further study of this decisive event.


My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!