Successful Bombing Raids
By the time the 32 SBDs led by McClusky and Best found them, the Japanese ships were scattered over a large area and couldn’t easily give each other anti-aircraft cover. Moreover, because they’d had to rush to re-arm, many of their fighter planes didn’t have their torpedoes safely stowed in their magazines. The moment finally had come for the U.S. to take advantage of Japanese vulnerability.
With no enemy fighters to get in their way, McClusky and Best’s SBD squadron began their attack runs on the two closest Japanese carriers, Kaga and Akagi. They hit Kaga an estimated six times.
Best led only three planes to attack Akagi, but that was enough. One 1,000-pound bomb penetrated Akagi’s elevator at mid-ship. It exploded on the hangar deck and in the process detonated aircraft, bombs, and fuel.
At almost the same time, the dive bombers from the Yorktown flew in from the southeast. Led by Lieutenant Commander Maxwell Leslie, they attacked the easternmost carrier in the Japanese formation, the Sōryū.
They, too, faced no opposition. They scored perhaps five hits, with their bombs landing on a deck crowded with aircraft prepped for launch. The fuel tanks erupted into flames. Twenty minutes later, Sōryū’s captain gave the order to abandon ship.
Diorama by Norman Bel Geddes depicts the attack by USS Enterprise (CV-6) and USS Yorktown (CV-5) dive bombers on the Japanese aircraft carriers Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu on the morning of 4 June 1942. The diorama was created during World War II on the basis of the information then available. (Credit: National Archives #: 80-G-701869).
The Japanese aircraft carrier Soryu circles while under a high-level bombing attack by USAAF B-17 bombers from the Midway base on 4 June 1942. (Credit: U.S. Air Force Photograph, #USAF ID 4845).