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In June 1942, what remained of the United States Navy’s Pacific Fleet after the disaster at Pearl Harbor was on its way to destiny at Midway. With knowledge provided by their top-secret codebreaking efforts, the American commanders know the intent and size of the Japanese fleet. With only three carriers and the garrison of Midway against Japan’s four, America’s only hope was to pull off an ambush. To make matters worse, a powerful bombardment and invasion force was following the Japanese carriers and would launch the invasion of Midway itself. Yet another Japanese task force was en route to attack our bases in Alaska.

The Japanese thought they were in a win-win position. If the American fleet did not show, then they would seize Midway, a base that would threaten Hawaii. If the Americans did rise to the challenge, the overwhelming might of the Imperial Japanese Navy would destroy them.

To get in position, the American forces would have to slip past a picket line of Japanese submarines before they could set up and attack the Japanese carrier force.

In actual history, the U.S. Navy won an overwhelming victory that some have described as miraculous. The Japanese subs were on duty a day late and the proverbial dollar short, and all four Japanese carriers were sunk at a cost of one of ours. In the space of a few minutes, the course of the war in the Pacific was changed forever. Japan’s death spiral to ultimate defeat in August 1945 had begun and she would never again be able to seize the initiative.

* * *

In this tale of alternate history, some of the Japanese submarines are in place when the American carriers attempt to steam by. Enemy submarines attack, unleashing a storm of torpedoes that sink two American carriers. The surviving ships of the American fleet fall back in disarray to Hawaii. The third American carrier is hunted down and destroyed, all without significant loss to the Japanese. Midway is forced to surrender and the Japanese win another tremendous victory.

Victory fever again grips the Japanese and Admiral Yamamoto is not immune. He’d originally felt that the victory at Pearl Harbor would give him a year before the U.S. could react. Now he feels that he can gain at least two more years of supremacy against the United States, perhaps much longer, by devastating America’s West Coast. He hopes that bloody pressure will be enough to ensure a diplomatic peace that will preserve most, if not all, that Japan has conquered.

However, there are those who have doubts. “The fruits of war are tumbling into our mouths almost too quickly,” Emperor Hirohito said in real history and before Midway. Events would prove him right.

* * *

As I did in my previous novels about the war in the Pacific, I’ve conveniently ignored the International Date Line. I’ve also adopted our way of using Japanese names. It’s just easier that way.

Also, while the very real problems with American torpedoes are chronicled in my earlier novel, 1942, they could not be ignored in this story as they were a significant part of the early war in the Pacific.

Regarding the Battle of Midway, a number of fine histories by the likes of Lord and Prange have been written and I’ve used them extensively. A more recent and very intriguing history of Midway, Shattered Sword by Parshall and Tully, was written largely from the Japanese perspective. Along with being well-written and fascinating, it was a great help in sorting out Japanese motives, doctrine, and capabilities.

Robert Conroy

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