IJN Mikuma Wrecked and Burning

Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma, photographed by J.A. Mihalovic from from a USS Enterprise (CV-6) Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber flown by Lieutenant Cleo Dobson of VB-6 during the afternoon of June 6, 1942, after she had been bombed by planes from Enterprise and USS Hornet (CV-8). Note her shattered midships structure, torpedo dangling from the after port side tubes and wreckage atop her number four eight-inch gun turret. At the stern (lower right) Japanese survivors are leaving the sinking ship. They perished in the open water of the Pacific Ocean. This photo and the wreckage on the turret are subject to debate. After an unsuccessful high level attack by United States Army B-17 Flying Fortresses, Medal of Honor winner Marine Captain Richard E. Fleming, commanding six Chance-Vought SB2U Vindicators from VMSB-241, led his flight in a glide bombing attack at 0805 Hours on June 6. His Vindicator was hit hundreds of times and crashed in the sea after releasing his bomb, which missed Mikuma. That afternoon, in three waves, 81 Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers attacked Mikuma, scoring five hits, and also seriously damage IJN Mogami and two destroyers. The third wave avoids the burning Mikuma, but an SBD from USS Enterprise (CV-6) takes this photo. In 1948, the official Marine Corps history of the Battle of Midway identifies the wreckage on turret four as the wreck of Captain Fleming's plane. A witness, Imperial Japanese Navy Rear Admiral Akira Soji, is quoted, "I saw a dive bomber dive in to the last turret and start fires. He was very brave." However, Soji may be mistakenly referring to an attack on IJN Maya in November 1942, as his interview was taken years later. Fleming's Medal of Honor citation doesn't mention him crashing into the plane, but does mention him pulling away. Nevertheless, Fleming's attack in an obsolete, lightly armed attack plane that was incapable of dive bombing was extremely brave. His sacrifice delayed Mikuma and her consorts and allowed the Navy SBDs to catch up and sink the cruiser and damage the other ships.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
United States Naval Historical C
Date Photographed: 
Saturday, June 6, 1942
IJN Mikuma
Battle of Midway