33 - The Battle of Midway

The Battle of Midway

the story of the Douglas SBD Dauntless

Models and diorama by Bjørn Jacobsen 

4th of June 1942:

One aeroplane turned the disastrous tide for the Americans

and changed a potentially damaging defeat into the US Navy’s proudest victory of World War II


Six months after Pearl Harbor,

this one-day battle reversed the tide of war in the Pacific.

The B-25 raid on Japan in April 1942 demolished the Japanese military's perception that their homeland was immune from air attack. They realized that in order to protect Japan, they had to extend the defensive perimeter eastward.

In order to draw out the American fleet, Admiral

Yamamoto Isoroku, the Japanese fleet

commander chose to invade Midway, a target

relatively close to Pearl Harbor.

He calculated that when the United States began

its counterattack, the Japanese Imperial Fleet

would crush them.

Almost the entire Japanese fleet went into the

operation: Six aircraft carriers, eleven battleships,

thirteen cruisers, forty-five destroyers, assorted

submarines, transports and minesweepers.

Against this enormous fleet, the American forces

seem rather tiny: Three aircraft carriers (Hornet,

Enterprise and Yorktown), eight cruisers, fourteen

destroyers, and the aircrafts stationed on Midway


The carrier Yorktown, mauled in the Battle of the

Coral Sea, limped into battle after repaired at

Pearl Harbor.

However, the enormous Japanese fleet was in

for a surprise: The American had solved the

Japanese fleet codes and knew about their plan.

Therefore, the US moved its carrier to surprise

the Japanese when they strike at Midway.

American recognisant aircrafts found the

Japanese fleet early in the morning of June 4.

The initial strike from American carrier-based

aircraft was a disaster: 42 TBD Devastator

torpedo bombers fromHornet and Enterprise

attacked the Japanese carriers.

Anti-Aircraft Fire from the escort ships and the

efficient carrier based Zero fighters shot down

36 of the old and slow-moving Devastators.

Not one of the carriers was hit.

Wanting to follow up on their earlier attack on

Midway, the Japanese armed their bombers with

bombs. However, in the midst of the rearming,

scouts spotted the American Fleet, so the crew

started refitting the bombers with torpedoes.

Simultaneously, the Zeros defending the fleet returned to their carriers for rearming and refuelling.

At this crucial moment, the American Dauntless dive-bombers appeared over the Japanese fleet.

The Americans carriers had launched all they had. In all, 67 Dauntless dive- bombers, 29 Devastator torpedo-bombers and 20 Wildcat fighters.

But not all reached their targets. Unknown to the aircraft, the Imperial Fleet had changed course and when the planes arrived at the point they believed the Japanese would be at - they found nothing. Some planes searched in vain and many of the fighters had to ditch as they simply ran out of fuel.

However, the torpedo squadrons, flying low over the water, did find the Japanese carriers - but they had no fighter cover for the attack. Regardless of this, the attack went ahead despite the extreme danger.

The torpedo bombers met fearsome fire from the carriers escort ships and from the Zeros. None of the torpedoes hit their target. Only one pilot survived the onslaught.

The Japanese defenders, however, failed to notice the SBD dive-bombers flying at a much higher altitude.

With their decks crammed with planes about to take off, the Japanese carriers were prime targets.

The first attack took out the flight deck of the flagship 'Akagi' detonating a store of torpedoes. The flames soon reached fuel supplies and within minutes, the 'Akagi' was doomed.

Other SBDs attacked the 'Kaga'. Here again, fuel

was soon ignited and the ship suffered severely

damage, even if it took two hours to sink.

More dive-bombers attacked the 'Soryu' with the

same deadly impact. Only three bombs actually hit

the 'Soryu' but they did enough damage to sink the


The last carrier was the ‘Hiryu’, which was found

and attacked with the same devastating

consequences as the other three carriers.

The consequences of the Battle of Midway for the

Japanese were huge.

At a stroke, they had lost four vital aircraft carriers -

the entire strength of the task force - with 322

aircraft and over five thousand sailors of which many

were elite pilots and highly experienced ground

crews and mechanics.

The Japanese also lost the heavy cruiser Mikuma.

American losses included 147 aircraft and more than three hundred seamen.

SBD Dauntless went by many names.

The “official” nickname was “the Barge”, but “Clunk” was another name.

SBD (Scout Bomber Douglas) was soon renamed: “Slow But Deadly"

The Japanese Aircraft Carrier Kaga

  The TBD Devastator torpedo planes

  SBD Dauntless on the carrier deck

 The Akagi Carrier on fire after the SBDs attack

The Diorama:

I am going to use my models to tell the story of the SBD dive-bombers part in this very important battle: From the take-off from the US carriers to the destruction of the four Japanese Aircraft Carriers.

Of course, it is impossible to make a diorama covering all this, so I have to settle for pictures of the Dauntless on deck and in flight and concentrate the actual diorama to the bombing of the Japanese carrier Akagi.

For this, I need the Dauntless, the Akagi, an escort light cruiser and a plate that can simulate the Pacific Ocean.

For the Dauntless, I choose the 1:48 from Accurate Miniatures/Academy

For the warships, I will use the Hasegawa (Akagi) 1/700 and the (Tamiya) Abukuma light cruise 1/700

For the Pacific, I had to settle for a plywood board I found in my garage.

Building the Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bomber

The manual for this kit is not the best I have

seen, but besides that, the SBD from

Accurate Miniatures is a pleasure to build.

Everything fits nicely together and very little

filling and sanding are needed.

The cockpit interior is painted Chromate

Green before it is glued to the fuselage.

The engine and cowling with the double

machine guns on the top are next.

I lubricating the propeller shaft so it might spin with a little help from a hairdryer.

The first coat on the fuselage is the black

Kryon Fusion, followed by the Alclad

Aluminium and then the camouflage which

in this case is Blue Grey on top and Light Grey on the bottom part.

A coat with Johnson Future is applied

before the decals.

I need a crew, and since there were no

figures in the kit, I chose a pilot from

JP-products and a gunner from my box with

old bits and pieces.

The weathering on the machines operating

from the carriers, relates mostly to oil spill

from the engines (the radial engines was

always leaking oil), some exhaust stains

and of course the wear and tear on the paint..

What will be a challenge in this build is the

bomb rack, the flaps, the landing gears and

the dive brakes.

The reason is I want pictures of this plane

on the carrier deck, ready for take-off.

I want pictures in flight towards the IJN

(Imperial Japanese Navy) and I want pictures when the SBD dive-bombed the carrier Kaga.

That means the landing gear should be

both out and in a retracted position.

The dive brake should be fully employed

and fully pulled in.

The bomb should be secured to the aircraft and dropped when dive-bombing.

Since none of these parts is movable on

this model, I just have to improvise, by

glueing the parts lightly so they are easily removed and then glued in any other position.

The Akagi Aircraft Carrier

Akagi was originally an Amagi-class battlecruiser but converted to

an aircraft carrier while still under construction to comply with the

terms of the Washington Naval Treaty.


With other fleet carriers, she took part in the Attack on Pearl Harbor

in December 1941 and the invasion of Rabaul in the Southwest

Pacific in January 1942.

The following month, her aircraft bombed Darwin, Australia, and

assisted in the conquest of the Dutch East Indies. In March and

April 1942,

Akagi 's aircraft helped sink a British heavy cruiser and an

Australian destroyer in the Indian Ocean Raid.

After a brief refit, Akagi and three other fleet carriers participated

in the Battle of Midway in June 1942.

Akagi specifications:

Speed:31.5 knots (58.3 km/h; 36.2 mph)

Range:19,000 km; (12,000 mi) at 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)

Displacement:36,500 tons

Length:260m (855 ft)

Aircraft carried: 66 (+25 reserve)

21 Mitsubishi A6M Zero,

18 Aichi D3A Val

27 Nakajima B5N Kate

The picture to the right:

Akagi takes evasive action during the aerial attack by US B-17s

shortly after 08:00 on 4 June 1942.

The B-17 attack did no harm to the Japanese fleet.

The trailing ship at left is probably the carrier's plane guard


Building the Akagi aircraft carrier

and the light cruiser escort ship

I am told that the 1/700 from Hasegawa is a rather old kit,

and not the best of today’s standard, but my feeling is that the

kit is very good, taking the scale into consideration.

There is no shortage of parts in the box. All together 238 parts.

So naturally, there were a lot of very small bits and pieces which

should be put in place.

But with good glasses, a quality tweezers

and a steady hand, it was just a lot of fun building the Akagi.

The kit has three types of aircraft: The Zero Fighter Type 21,

the Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber Model 3 (Kate) and the

Type 99 Carrier Dive-Bomber Model 11 (Val)

There are decals for the aircraft and one sheet of paper flags.

Both decals and flags were very easy to place.

I think the 1/700 model of Akagi will do nicely in the diorama.

The 1/700 light cruiser was equally easy to build and will fit nicely

together with the big aircraft carrier

About 300 small parts later, both ships are ready for the Pacific

Ocean, which actually is a painted plywood board.

To make the diorama as realistic as possible, I used some cotton

to make smoke pouring out of the ships funnels. The white cotton

was airbrushed with black colour.

The Akagi had the funnels below the flight deck on the starboard

side. This made more room on the carrier deck.

The three fatal bombs 

As you can see from the illustration the Akagi was hit by 1000lb bombs, one in the middle of the flight deck and two extremely close to the port side

Some reports say five SBDs attacked Akagi.  At any rate,

the first to attack was Lieutenant Commander “Dick” Best, who hit the Akagi in the middle of the flight deck which was crowded with Japanese planes re-arming and re-fuelling.

The direct hit (#2) led to a raging fire and ultimately to the

destruction of the carrier.

The very close hit (#3) by Ens. Thomas Weber at the rear port side jammed the rudder and sealed the Akagi’s destiny.

The explosion

I placed a 12v halogen lamp on the carrier deck to simulate the explosion and fire and made the smoke from the burning carrier with airbrushed cotton.

This made a good background when photographing

the SBDs getaway from the burning carrier.

You can see the lamp sticking up from the deck in the picture to the right.

The electrical wires will be hidden under the diorama base.

Besides the actual bomb blast, a lot of aviation fuel ignited on the deck.

To make the colour of the explosion more realistic, I placed some red and yellow cellophane inside the cotton.

To the right is the finished diorama with the bomb exploding on the Akagi deck among all the plane desperately trying to re-fuelling and re-arming.

The Pacific

The Pacific base is a plywood plate (71 x 87 cm) I found

in my garage.

The first I did was to paint it blue, and then I painted the wake from the ships desperate manoeuvring to avoid the bombs from the American dive-bombers.

I was recommended to use clear silicone as water surface instead of Woodland Realistic Water (which I normally would have used)

I, therefore, covered the whole “sea” with clear silicon, using a spoon to make the “waves” and made “room” for the carrier and the escort ship

The silicone was good at making bomb- and shell

impact on the water.

What it was not good at, was when I tried to add

additional paint on the surface. Of course, I should have known that acryl paint on silicone is a no-no.

Anyway, I tried to highlight the wakes and the bombs and shell impacts in the sea, and also add some Realistic Water to the silicone surface.

In the end, it turned out quite OK, but I will be reluctant to recommend the silicone surface if you want to add additional paint afterwards.

Then I painted a background and included smoke

from a burning Japanese carrier.

Using the carrier with and without the bomb blast:

The Japanese carrier Akagi, without any bomb damages but with smoke pouring out of her funnels, was placed on the base and used as background when I photographed the dive-bombers closing in.

Later I used the Akagi with the bomb blast as a background for picture taking of the SBD breaking away from the carrier.

To the right: A picture of the base and background with the carrier before it was damaged by the dive-bombers

At Midway, thanks to a few US Navy torpedo- and dive- bombers,

the Japanese lost an elite naval air force that had been the terror

of the Pacific in the first six months of the war.

This overwhelming force would never again come back and spread

destruction and fear.

Midway was the turning point of the war in the Pacific.

And here is my Midway story:

SBD Dauntless warming up prior to launch from the carrier deck.

The deck and the background are painted cardboard. The propeller is spinning thanks to a light breeze from my wife’s hairdryer.

The “Barge” - ready for take off.

Take Off for attack against the Japanese Imperial Navy – the world’s the mightiest fleet.

For this picture, I have used a b/w picture from one of the US carriers as background.  I think the result is rather “authentic” – even if it is the “wrong” carrier (but only a very few Navy geeks will know that)

Climbing to 14000 feet (4.250m), and heading for the Japanese fleet: Six aircraft carriers, eleven battleships, thirteen cruisers and forty-five destroyers.

The SBDs kept close together, normally two sections (6 planes), in case they were jumped by Zeros. Six pair of movable machine guns were better than one. The Zeros had a lot of respect for the Dauntless.

(The pictures of the model are just pasted on a background with help from a photo editing program)

At 14.000 ft. above the Japanese Carriers, the Dauntless goes into a 70-degree dive with the airbrakes fully extended.

Below, the Imperial warships are making evasive manoeuvres.

(The background is an airbrush painted picture)

The Japanese fleet have spotted the dive-bombers and put up an awesome barrage of anti-aircraft fire.

Closing in   (The background is the diorama with the model of the carrier Akagi and the escort ship)                                                 

Bomb away - at 1.500 ft. (450m) - through an inferno of smoke and exploding AA shells. The pilots often blacked-out because of the G-force when pulling hard out of the steep dive, often regaining eye sight just a few feet above the sea     

Pulling away at full throttle while the warships threw everything they had at the American planes

Home! Mission accomplished!

Making the pictures

Some of you might wonder how I made the pictures of the Dauntless attacking the Japanese Carrier.

Actually, it is not very difficult.  For most of the pictures, I needed two pictures: One of the aircraft and one of the background.

The plane (or planes) is then pasted on the background by the help of a photo editing program.

That way, I could place the plane exactly where I wanted it.

I will give you a couple of examples:

The picture with three aircraft on the carrier deck.

I took three pictures of the same model with different placing on the carrier deck.

Then I pasted the “last” aircraft, then the “middle” aircraft and then the “front” aircraft.

Landing: A picture of the carrier + the plane = The Landing

If you are interested in the aerial warfare in the Pacific War Theatre,

please have a look at

Page 39  Grumman F6F Hellcat – the Zero Killer

Page 40  The A6M Zero – the ruler of the Pacific sky from 1940 to mid-1943

I hope you enjoyed this website!

Thank you for visiting!


Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or comments




Bjørn Jacobsen

August 2015