June 4, 1942
Today in World War II Pacific History
Day by day chronology
THURSDAY, 4 JUNE 1942
ALASKA (11th Air Force): Japanese carrier planes from Junyō attacks Dutch
Harbor with eleven Val bombers led by Lt. Zenji Abe,
10 A6M2 Zeros led
by Lt. Yoshio Shiga and eight B5N Kates attacking in several waves. Just before noon, two P-40s intercept four bombers over
Umnak Pass and claim 3 shot down. During the afternoon P-40s intercept 9 fighters;
a dogfight claims 1 enemy aircraft and 1 P-40, the Eleventh Air Force's first
combat casualty. AA fire claims another Japanese bomber. In all, four Vals and a Zero were lost, and two P-40s. A6M2 Zero 4593 force landed on Akutan Island. During the afternoon
2 B-17s and 5 B-26s attack the carrier force, and three more B-26s strike the cruiser
Takao; no hits are scored, returning B-26 40-1408 is lost; 1 B-24 and 1 B-25 fail to return. 36th Bombardment
Squadron (Heavy), 28th Composite Group, based at Fort Greeley, Kodiak with B-17Es
and LB-30s, sends detachments to operate from various bases in the Aleutians.
CHINA-BURMA-INDIA (CBI) THEATER OF OPERATIONS (10th Air Force): Two heavy bombers
bomb Rangoon but are attacked by 10 fighters; 1 heavy bomber is shot
down and the other badly damaged. This raid ends two months of harassing strikes
against Rangoon; soon all heavy bombers are grounded by the monsoons. 11th Bombardment
Squadron (Heavy), 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy), is established at Kunming with B-25s.
USN: The Battle of Midway begins at 5:32am when a PBY Catalina spots the Japanese Fleet northwest of Midway Atoll. The result will become the first decisive defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) in over
300 years and the loss of four aircraft carriers. After the Japanese fleet was spotted, land based aircraft from Midway Airfield are scrambled with bombers attacking the warships while the fighters including 18 Buffaloes and 6 Wildcats remained behind to defend the area.
IJN: In the early morning, the Japanese fleet launches patrol aircraft to search for American vessels without results. Between 6:20am to 6:50am Japanese carrier planes strike Midway Atoll with Sōryū B5N1 Kates followed by Akagi D3A Vals bomb Midway Airfield and Eastern Island hitting the powerplant, command post and gas tanks but only cause minor damage to the runways. Meanwhile, Hiryū B5N1 Kates followed by Kaga D3A Vals bomb Sand Island that hit oil tanks and damage water lines and destroy a seaplane hanger.
Meanwhile, all available American aircraft were involved in the battle. The TBF Grumman Avenger flown
by pilots of shore based element of Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8), began its combat career
with attacks on the Japanese Fleet. Lost is F4F 3989 (MIA).
USMC: VMSB-241 attack Japanese fleet aircraft carriers including sixteen SBD 2129 led by Major Lofton R. Henderson. Flying faster than the Vindicators, the Dauntless formation climbed to 9,000' and sighted the Japanese fleet at 7:55am including at least two enemy carriers. Henderson's formation circled to 8,500' in preparation for initiating a glide bombing attack from 4,000'. At roughly 8,000' the formation was intercepted by Japanese A6M2 Zeros. As lead aircraft, Henderson's SBD 2129 was one of the first targeted by Zeros and hit by gunfire causing his left wing burst into flames from enemy anti-aircraft fire, but he continued his attack until his plane crashed. After Henderson was shot down, Captain Glidden took command of the rest of the formation and attacked despite heavy anti-aircraft fire and Zeros. Although the Marines claimed one of the carriers was burning and smoking heavily, they claimed three direct hits and two near misses. From the Japanese side, three SBDs from VMSB-241 likely scored near misses against Kaga at 8:30 and four near misses against Hiryū at 8:50am. Possibly, one of the SBDs (misidentified as a fighter by the Japanese) strafed Hiryū and killed four crew. Nagumo erroneously noted that Akagi and Soryu sustained bomb hits but this seems to have been reported in error as the damage caused to both carriers were likely caused by U.S. Navy SBD Dauntless dive bombers later in the morning. In total, eight VMSB-241 dive bombers were lost including SBD 2129 (MIA) and SBD 2148 (pilot survived, gunner MIA). Also, eleven SB2U-3 led by Major Benjamin W. Norris.
PACIFIC OCEAN AREA (POA, 7th Air Force): Four B-26s
in conjunction with US Navy (USN) torpedo bombers, attack a carrier; two are shot down B-26B 41-17570 and B-26 "Satan's Playmate" 40-1424 and B-26B 41-17570. After releasing its torpedo aimed at Akagi but missed, B-26 "Suzy-Q" 40-1391 flys down its flight deck then force lands at Midway Airfield with heavy damage. In further morning action 14 B-17s attack a task force
approaching Midway at a distance of
145 miles (232 km); they claim several hits on carriers and 2 Zekes shot down.
In the late afternoon, two B-17s attack a carrier force at Lat 31° 40N Long 179° 10W, claiming
hits on a battleship and a carrier and 9 aircraft shot down; 4 other B-17s claim
a hit on heavy cruiser 185 miles off Midway.
Six B-17s, en route from Hickham Field to Midway Airfield bomb ships 170 miles from Midway,
claiming hits on a burning Hiryu plus
a destroyer, which is claimed as sunk but remains afloat until early the next morning.
IJN: Heavily damaged, Kaga is scuttled at at 7:25pm by two torpedoes fired by Hagikaze.