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
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
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
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.
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)
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.
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 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