Midway (Anglais) Broché – 13 décembre 2001
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There are some strong points to the book, including:
Social Coverage: I was pleased (and chagrined) to see that Bicheno had covered the social aspect of the navies, something I plan to do myself. I thought he did a good job of that.
Good tabular data: Bicheno presents good order of battle data, as well as some good tabular data on the individual air strikes of the morning. It's by no means complete, but it's much better than what you'll find in books like Prange's "Miracle at Midway."
Visual Presentation: The book is lovely to look at; lots of photos (albeit all the same ones we've all seen in Midway books before--there is a shortage of photographs for this battle), and well illustrated with colorful maps. Nicely done. However, this leads us to some of the...
Less Strong Points:
Some of the Illustrations are misleading. For instance, the map on page 128, showing various attacks on the Japanese carrier formation between 0700-0820 goes into great detail regarding the individual placement of Japanese vessels, the *entirety* of which is completely wrong. The four carriers are misplaced relative to their known divisional alignments. Furthermore, the outlying escort vessels are badly represented as well, with those few destroyers that we can be reasonably sure were close to the carriers (since they were plane-guard escorts) shown out on the perimeter. In other words, for this map at least Bicheno simply took a wild guess and drew some pretty pictures. But the picture is utterly wrong.
Nothing Much New. The author is using secondary sources, and not surprisingly hasn't dug up much new to say about the battle in a concrete sense. That's a pity, because there *are* new things to relate on the battle, had the author done a little more digging. He could have, for instance, read both Dallas Isom's 2000, and my own 2001 articles in the U.S. Naval War College Review about what was occurring with regards to Japanese recon, re-arming, and fighter operations during the battle, some of which is quite important. So, while it's a good read, you can get essentially the same account from Lord, Prange, or Cressman's works. But the pictures, again, are prettier in this one.
Hope this is of some use to people.
I was impressed with Mr. Bicheno's investigation of the cultural and psychological identity of each nation. That, integrated with insightful profiles of the commanders and their key staff members, and their approaches to the management process of war, created an inside view of the capabilities and limitations of the command and control structures of each side.
The notion of getting inside the head of your enemy is powerful, and basic. "...the field of battle is in the mind and ...to force one's enemy into a denial of reality is surely the greatest victory of all."
An excellent addition to your naval library.
Bicheno's basic argument is that, far from being an unavoidable defeat, the Japanese disaster at Midway was the result of a succession of mistakes born out of arrogance. Some of these stretched back to before the war, with an overall strategy against the United States dependent on too many assumptions that the Americans would react as the Japanese expected. Added to this was an arrogance built up over six months of victories, campaigning which left the Japanese fleet exhausted. By contrast, the Americans benefited from intelligence decryptions which alerted them in advance to Japanese intentions and allowed them to plan for a successful counterstroke. Yet Bicheno continually notes the factor of chance in shaping the outcome, from the illness that replaced "Bull" Halsey with Raymond Spruance, to off-course scouts coming across the enemy fleet. Together they provide a compelling portrait of the chaos of battle, from which it was the Americans who would emerge triumphant.
Though a military historian, Bicheno is not a specialist in the Second World War or in naval warfare. While this gives him a relatively fresh perspective to the conflict, the lack of original research limits the novelty of some of his more provocative challenges to the received wisdom about the battle. Nevertheless, with its useful tables, judicious analysis, and copious use of maps and pictures, Bicheno's book is an enjoyable and stimulating study of the battle of Midway, one that can serve as a provocative introduction for any newcomer to the historic naval clash.