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The Battle of Midway (Pivotal Moments in American History)

4.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,249 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
There are few moments in American history in which the course of events tipped so suddenly and so dramatically as at the Battle of Midway. At dawn of June 4, 1942, a rampaging Japanese navy ruled the Pacific. By sunset, their vaunted carrier force (the Kido Butai) had been sunk and their grip on the Pacific had been loosened forever.
In this absolutely riveting account of
Hardcover, 452 pages
Published October 5th 2011 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2011)
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With the Old Breed by Eugene B. SledgeThe Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. HornfischerEscape From Davao by John D. LukacsNeptune's Inferno by James D. HornfischerGhost Soldiers by Hampton Sides
Best Books on the Pacific War
16th out of 131 books — 177 voters
Unbroken by Laura HillenbrandWith the Old Breed by Eugene B. SledgeGoodbye, Darkness by William ManchesterNeptune's Inferno by James D. HornfischerThe Bridge Over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle
World War II - Pacific Theatre
30th out of 86 books — 66 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,919)
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Oct 24, 2012 happy rated it really liked it
This is a good overview of US Naval operations in the Pacific from the time Nimitz takes command of the Pacific Fleet in December of '41 thru the Battle of Midway.

Dr. Symonds does a good job of laying out the problems Nimitz had with both the Japanese and dealing with Adm King and the Washington establishment and how he dealt with them.

I felt the author has a reader friendly writing style and I was never bored or felt that he was overwhelming me with detail. At the same time, he does not gloss
Ree Linker
Mar 01, 2013 Ree Linker rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Disclaimer: I have never found the study of history to be entertaining. Thus I am embarrassingly ignorant about anything historical. I came into this book with no background on the battle of Midway, the war in the Pacific, or, to a large extent, WWII (sad, I know. I'm working on it).

* Symonds does a great job of providing the background and the lead up to the battle itself. So while things didn't really get exciting until about half-way through (the battle of the Coral Sea), it wasn't a t
Aug 21, 2014 Brian rated it it was amazing
The Battle of Midway by Craig Symonds is an excellent addition to the Pivotal Moments in American History series. This book provides a critical look at the time between Pearl Harbor and just after the Battle of Midway where America was finding its way against the combined fleet of the Japanese Navy. The book includes a discussion of Pearl Harbor and its impact on naval operations as well as the Doolittle raid that followed. Some time is spent on the Battle of the Coral Sea as well as the victori ...more
Oct 31, 2012 Neal rated it really liked it
Excellent military history of the Battle of Midway. Author avoids the trap of taking sides, doesn't call U.S. victory a "miracle,"' doesn't say we won because of democracy or being braver than the Japanese. Just a straightforward analysis of a military battle in which one side had radar (US), one side had advanced warning of the other side's intentions thanks to code breaking (US), one side was dropping 1,000-pound bombs vs. one side that had 500-pound bombs, etc. Extremely detailed analysis of ...more
Jean Poulos
I almost skipped over this book as over the years I have read so many books about the Battle of Midway; I thought to myself do I want to read another book on this subject. I am glad I did decide to read this book as I learned more about the battle from it.

Midway was a pivotal battle of WWII. Symond is a professor emeritus from the U. S. Naval Academy.
Many historians including Symonds have compared the Battle of Midway to that of Lord Nelson’s win at the Battle of Trafalgar. The comparison is ap
Jun 01, 2013 Ross rated it really liked it
This is a very detailed history of the famous battle that in 2 hours changed the course of WWII. About 1/3 of the book is a blow by blow account of the actual battle and the first 2/3's is a very good history of the key events that led up to the battle. These include the Doolittle raid on Japan and the Battle of the Coral Sea. Midway has long been hailed as a miracle for the U.S. and in the introduction the author suggests that the victory was really not all that surprising. I don't think he mak ...more
Mac McCormick III
Aug 22, 2014 Mac McCormick III rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, military
So many histories of the Battle of Midway consider the US Navy lucky in defeating the Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Historian and author Craig L. Symonds, in The Battle of Midway (Pivotal Moments in American History), argues that luck wasn't the primary factor in the US victory at Midway. In the process of showing that there was more than just luck involved Symonds shows how the US and Japanese navies came to be in their respective positions, debunks a myth, and casts a sha ...more
Mar 06, 2012 Philip rated it really liked it
"The Battle of Midway" is a great read for naval history aficionados as well as for those who want to learn more about this pivotal battle of World War II but don't know too much about military history, as Symonds is fairly careful to explain the terms he uses which may not be known to the casual reader.
The book begins with the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack in December, 1941, and includes the events (the Battle of the Coral Sea, etc.) that lead up to the Battle of Midway in June, 1942. It
Russ Smith
Apr 30, 2015 Russ Smith rated it really liked it
Good account of the Battle of Midway in 1942. The timeline of the battle itself is handled quite well, realizing that it is complicated. Symonds does a good job of providing background, and personality profiles of the primary combatants, a detail I find quite interesting. I also thought that Symonds discussing some of the details about the ships and planes as well as the ordnance was interesting: His explanation of the problems with the Mark 14 torpedo for example. I would have enjoyed a little ...more
Aug 17, 2014 Vern rated it it was amazing
Great read, especially if you consider yourself somewhat of a student of the WWII war in the Pacific. If you do, and think you know a lot about the battle of Midway, I will bet you will realized upon finishing this book that you knew about half of what you thought you knew.

The author's writing style also makes this an easy read. Some writer's of military history get so hung up on the various units and sub-units, and unit designations that before long it is hard to remember who did what. I didn'
Jun 05, 2016 SKosc rated it it was amazing
Craig Symonds has, yet again, created a highly enjoyable and well- researched, wonderful book. This book does not simply retell the story of one of the most important battles of American history, it immerses you in the whole picture, which stretches back many years before the battle and extends several years beyond.
The story begins in a high flying seaplane, steadily circling around the wreckage and devastation of Pearl Harbor on Christmas Day, 1941. This aircraft is carrying precious cargo,
Rob Kitchin
May 08, 2016 Rob Kitchin rated it it was amazing
The Battle of Midway provides a very readable and highly informative account of the battle at Midway in June 1942, including some contextual framing with respect to Pearl Harbour, the Battle of the Coral Sea, and the first US air raid on Tokyo. Unlike previous accounts that suggest that the US were lucky to win the encounter, Symonds argues that the US won due to good intelligence, strong leadership, and the element of surprise. Nonetheless, the largely uncoordinated US air attacks on the Japane ...more
Mar 06, 2015 May rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, military
Unlike many other books on this battle, which tend to attribute the American victory in this pivotal battle to luck or good fortune, this author's premise is that the outcome of the Battle of Midway was a direct result of the personalities of the major players and the differences between Japanese and American cultures. The author credits the superiority of American technology, including its code-breaking efforts and the effectiveness of radar, as major factors in the battle. In addition, the aut ...more
Steven Hull
Feb 26, 2014 Steven Hull rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in WWII in the Pacific
The Battle of Midway. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. (Kindle Edition)

Chicago’s airports are the namesakes of a famous World War II Medal of Honor recipient and a pivotal battle. Lieutenant Butch O’Hare and the Battle of Midway are unfamiliar to most Americans today, but when the airports were renamed in 1949 everyone who had lived through the desperate days of early 1942 recognized why the airports’ new identities were fitting memorials to a brave Navy pilot and the turning point in th
Mike Moody
Oct 27, 2015 Mike Moody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great history of the Battle of Midway. Told in an exciting style but with tremendous historical detail, the book would be a great read even if the subject weren’t so fascinating. Whether you are a student of Pacific War history or not, you’ll enjoy this book.

The author spends much of the book setting the stage, which I think really helps put the battle in context. He focuses on the Japanese and their thinking both tactical and strategic and the various political and military condition
Robert Melnyk
May 27, 2013 Robert Melnyk rated it really liked it
Excellent account of this pivotal battle of WWII. The book goes into the days and events leading up to the battle, detailing both sides of the conflict. You are given a very good sense of the strategies and plans of both Japan and the U.S., and also are given insight into the personalities of the people involved. Very interesting read if you are a history buff, especially if you enjoy WWII history.
Jul 22, 2016 Paul rated it it was amazing
Very good and easy reading.

I learned at least a couple of things:

1. how long it takes to get everything right. The failure of Hornet's planes was a failure of leadership which was hidden by Mitscher who glossed over his failure by sending to the wrong place, Ring's leadership failure, the failure to file reports by squadron commanders, or disappearance thereof, Waldron's VT8 going off the right way by disobeying Ring's order to follow him, Ring's loss of control -- he got back from the June 4 mo
John Lomnicki,
Feb 15, 2012 John Lomnicki, rated it really liked it
I am glad that I read this book prior to Pacific Crucible. This is a good book that has some new information, but Ian Toll really pulls it altogether in a very readable volume.
May 18, 2014 Raymond rated it it was amazing
This was an enjoyable book to read. It was filled with numerous facts about the importance of the battle of Midway. It was written in a manner that was both highly informative and enjoyable to read. The author was very forth coming with the facts no matter how bad some of those facts might of made our military look.
All in all this was a book that provided a fair look at our military during this major battle.

Added note for those history buffs that enjoy really digging into a subject. The Naval Ac
Doreen Petersen
Sep 21, 2015 Doreen Petersen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwii
Excellent book on World War II. I would definitely recommend this one!
George Michelson
An Excellent History of the Battle of Midway

What sets this book apart from many historical accounts of famous military campaigns is the amount of details about the personalities of the principle characters, and the recounting of the historical prequel of this key campaign in the eventual success of America's war with Japan. The presentation of the large amount of information that is required to understand the importance of the Battle of Midway in a simple and elegantly written book was a joy to
Dec 03, 2015 Darrell rated it really liked it
The battle of Midway was a turning point in World War II for the U.S. Mr. Symonds goes into great detail with the lead up and actual battle that provides great insight. It is often called the 'miracle victory' and it is apparent in this book of how the U.S. have a lot of luck on it's side that led to the sinking of 4 Japanese carriers. When I say luck, I don't mean to imply that there was no sacrifice or skill on both sides. It's that just the right circumstances led to this not only being a vic ...more
Alex Krembs
May 13, 2014 Alex Krembs rated it really liked it
For the uninitiated to WWII Pacific History author Symonds provides enough background story to appreciate the impact of this battle in the context of the world conflict. For those who know the history well, there is an excellent telling of each battle in a blow by blow sequence, as well as uncovering some new information, and offering a different perspective. For those who want to come up to speed on the Pacific War, and selects only a handful of books on the subject, this should be one of them.
Apr 13, 2014 Dale rated it it was amazing
Without question, this is one of the best war accounts I have ever read. Symonds has that rare ability to cram tons of facts and research into a book, yet still make it a compelling read. Anyone who has ever served in the Navy knows the basics of this battle--it is considered the pivotal moment in 20th Century US Navy history--but I learned much by reading this book. Symonds does an excellent job of profiling many of the key characters like Nimitz, Spruance, Yamamoto, and Nagumo, and then showin ...more
Paul Donahue
Mar 20, 2012 Paul Donahue rated it really liked it
The only thing which fascinates me more than the amount of trees in the world is the amount of water in the world. The depth and scope of the ocean has always intrigued me in a uniquely terrifying way. I don't mean I'm scared of drowning or sharks or Cthulu, there's just something overwhelming about the magnitude of the ocean depths. Like space, only if you couldn't see beyond the first bluish-green layer, and you knew that somewhere at the end of the vast beyond was a dark, finite end inhabited ...more
Jul 17, 2012 Jeff rated it really liked it
Craig Symonds has written a book that has been sorely needed - a good, general history of the Battle of Midway that incorporates all of the recent scholarship and information that has come to light in the last ten years from the likes of Lundstrom, Isom, Parshall & Tully, Russell, and sources like the Battle of Midway Roundtable. I would put it at the top of the list for any newcomer to Midway.

What this book also does is put the battle in context by starting with the appointment of Admiral N
Gary Braham
Jun 21, 2012 Gary Braham rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I've always had an interest in history, as well as in WWII history. I knew the basics of the Battle of Midway, but had always wanted to read more. The authors style is very detailed, but it still flows very easily. I got caught several nights staying up too late just because I didn't want to put the book down. The book is some 450 pages long, but the last 150 are all notes. (As a side note, this is pretty annoying on a Kindle when you think you are only 65% of the way through a book, and then it ...more
Brit Hopper
Jun 13, 2015 Brit Hopper rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book that provides a very thorough overview of the War in the Pacific leading up to America's entry into the war, turning point Midway, and the eventual destruction of the Japanese empire. Great overview of the leaders, technology, and tactics that shaped Naval warfare in the Pacific- the highlight being the shift from the battleship to carrier and the very important aircraft. Brilliant bios on key leaders and pilots kept me enthralled while the blow-by-blow air battles were nail biter ...more
May 17, 2013 Mark rated it it was amazing
Continuing my journey through WW2 I wanted to continue my understanding of the far east campaigns and in particular some of the Naval campaigns that happened on the American front.

Most people have seen the film, but I wanted more details on the full aspects of the Battle of Midway, the build up to it following Pearl Harbour and the advance across the Pacific until the final victory over the Japanese Empire.

This book isn't just about the one Battle, it takes you through the whole sea war in the
Apr 11, 2016 Ethan rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Having never been a big reader of historical or non-fiction works, I was surprised to find I couldn't put this book (well, my Kindle) down. The author is former professor at the United States Naval Academy and offers an utterly compelling account of the events leading up to, and the battle of, Midway.

What I found most interesting was the human element of it all. Most of my prior familiarity with the Pacific Theater stemmed from history classes in high school, which are simply unable to devote t
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Craig Lee Symonds is a retired professor and chairman of the history department at the United States Naval Academy.
More about Craig L. Symonds...

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