From: Jacksonville, FL, USA
The Japanese could easily have had a fifth fleet carrier at Midway if they had shown a little tactical flexibility. Although her air group was chewed up, the carrier Zuikaku was completely operational after the Coral Sea battle. If the Japanese had been willing to combine her remaining planes and pilots with those from the damaged Shokaku she would have been only seven planes short of her normal air compliment.
But the Japanese naval establishment at the time frowned on forming "pickup" teams of pilots who hadn't worked together before, so they left her behind in Japan. In marked contrast, the USN moved heaven and earth to get the damaged Yorktown into the picture.
Victory disease. It makes you complacent.
Not to mention wasting the carriers Ryūjō and Jun'yō at Dutch Harbor in a senseless "Diversion." Yes they weren't the Shokaku, but they would have made up for her being MIA at Midway and if your scenario of combining air groups, something I have considered many times myself as well, that's pretty much Kido Butai in strength.
Consider if Kido Butai wasn't broken up for the Coral Sea operation (and I believe it was broken up as not much resistance was anticipated and to save fuel). The five fleet carriers + Ryūjō (Remember Kaga was still being repaired during the Coral Sea operation from her encounter with the reef) vs. Lexington and Yorktown...
1. The Japanese decimate the American carrier air groups with much lighter losses. Greater number of Zeros just don't give the CAP a chance and the losses from AAA fire would be more evenly spread through the squadrons. So Yorktown's pilots are now MIA for Midway, but...
2. ...That really doesn't matter that much as well as Yorktown would most surely have been lost with Lexington.
So now Midway is Six IJN Fleet Carriers to two USN and with 3-1 odds I doubt Washington would have allowed Nimitz to risk the operation. If they did, almost surely the USN would have lost both carriers. Perhaps we might have gotten one or two of the Japanese carriers but overall we would have been down to the Wasp and Saratoga until the Essex Class carriers were available in decent numbers (late '43 early '44). None of that wins the war for Japan but it prolongs it and maybe it's 1946 before we have the bases to use the Atomic Bombs? Maybe by then the Soviet Union holds Hokkaido? Maybe even the northern part of Honshu? A very different Cold War in those circumstances.
< Message edited by BeirutDude -- 9/13/2021 3:01:28 AM >
"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem."
PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN, 1985
I was Navy, but Assigned TAD to the 24th MAU Hq in Beirut. By far the finest period of my service!