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Shown Their Work / Midway (2019)

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Based on the true events surrounding the decisive American victory at the Battle of Midway in June 1942, Roland Emmerich's Midway was extensively researched, and this attention to detail shows throughout the film.


  • Rather than rely on dressed up modern ships to serve as stand-ins, as was done in Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor, Midway instead elects to use computer generate effects to recreate all of the ships, as even most of those which survived the battle didn't survive the war. Even Enterprise, which did, was ultimately scrapped in the 1950s.
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  • Isoroku Yamamoto is missing two fingers on his left hand, an actual injury he suffered during the Battle of Tsushima.
  • Emperor Hirohito is seen eating French food when the Dolittle Raid happened. The actual Emperor Hirohito was a Francophile, and French Cuisine was standard for royalty and government officials during the Meiji to Showa Pre-WWII era.
  • Dick Best's Dauntless is labeled with the number "B-1." This was the actual fuselage number his aircraft carried during the Battle of Midway. Additionally, the two white stripes on the vertical stabilizer was the actual insignia that designated his aircraft as part of Enterprise's air group.
  • In an early scene, Best speaks disparagingly to Lindsey about the unreliability of his (Lindsey's) squadron's torpedoes. Sure enough, during the Marshall Islands raids Lindsey makes a perfect drop only for his torpedo to break up upon striking his target. This is very much Truth in Television: the Mark 13 aerial torpedo had a notorious failure rate, and substantially hampered the effectiveness of the American torpedo squadrons early in the war. The Mark 13 was prone to running wild, diving too deep, porpoising, or just plain breaking up when dropped. And even if the pilot did get a clean drop and an accurate run, the torpedoes often failed to explode altogether.note 
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  • Almost all of the named characters in the film are historical persons, and their fates before, during, and after the battle are accurate.
  • While the previous film did show the Japanese destroyer Arashi out of position, which McClusky used to locate the Japanese fleet, it left out why she had separated from it. However this film includes USS Nautilus, which was omitted from the previous film, making an attack against the Japanese carriers. Arashi fell behind to launch depth charges against Nautilus before turning back to rejoin the fleet, leading McClusky's dive bombers right to their target.
  • John Ford appears on Midway atoll to film the pending battle. This was Truth in Television: Ford was sent specifically to document the battle, and captured the assault on Midway Island on film. Unfortunately, he was unable to get film crews aboard the carriers, so no known footage of operations aboard Enterprise, Yorktown, or Hornet from the battle is known to exist. Additionally, as depicted in the film, Ford was struck and wounded in the arm by enemy fire during the Japanese attacks.
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  • Although it's popularly cited — and utilized in the 1976 film — that the Japanese carriers had aircraft spotted on their flight decks and were in the midst of rearming them when McClusky and his dive bombers began their attacks, this was actually not the case. While Nagumo was in the middle of rearming his aircraftnote  during McClusky's attack, the bombers were all below decks. This film correctly depicts this. The effect, of course, was no less disastrous with munitions out of their bunkers, and lack of armor on the flight decks or hangars allowing the Americans' bombs to penetrate all the way to the hangar decks...
  • As shown in the film, many ranking Japanese naval officers didn't consider Nagumo suited for his post as First Air Fleet commander. In reality, he received the assignment simply because of his seniority, rather than competency; Nagumo was versed in the prevailing tactics of naval gunnery and torpedo attacks, but not in the application of naval aviation. This was quickly made apparent in his failure to launch the third wave against the oil bunkers and drydocks at Pearl Harbor, and ultimately led to the destruction of his carriers at Midway.
  • During the first attack by Enterprise's air group at Midway, Best and his two wingmen pull off their attacks on Kaga when McClusky — whom Best had previously noted wasn't as experienced with dive bombers (he had formerly flown fighters and was commander of Fighting Squadron Six from April, 1941 through April, 1942) — mistakenly stacks up both Bombing and Scouting Six on Kaga. He redirects his attack against Akagi instead. This did actually happen at the historical battle. Furthermore, Best and his wingmen make their attack in a V-formation, rather than trailing line-astern. This also happened; because of their abrupt change in target, Best and his wingmen didn't have time to properly set up the trail formation, so instead they attacked in a V. Best's wingmen missed fore and aft of the carrier, while Best's bomb hit Akagi just astern of the aft elevator.
  • Several of Enterprise's Dauntlesses, led by the first Air Group Commander (Lt. Cmdr. Howard Young) were ferrying from Enterprise to Pearl Harbor, and arrived during the midst of the attack. Some were shot down by Japanese fighters, as depicted in the film. More tragically, several (along with a number of Wildcat fighters which arrived at Ford Island later in the evening) were also downed by frantic American gunners. In a bit of military Gallows Humor, Enterprise's aircraft were subsequently repainted with comically oversized national insignia for several months following the friendly fire incidents.
  • Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Enterprise, which was the closest American carrier, (as noted, she was putting in to dock and dispatched several of her aircraft on ferry flights for R&R) was indeed dispatched to pursue the retiring Japanese. As depicted in the film, Enterprise failed to locate Nagumo's carriers, then returned to Pearl Harbor on the night of December 7th.
  • While criticized by IGN's review as revising history to make it look as if the Americans invented the kamikaze, the attempt by one of the crippled B-26's to ram Akagi at the Battle of Midway was an incident that actually happened during the failed attack by Midway-based aircraft. It really had nothing to do with "inventing the kamikaze tactic", for two reasons. First is that the kamikaze tactics were designed as suicide-attacks from the get-go, while the B-26 pilot in question spontaneously attempted to crash into Akagi because his plane was going down anyway and he was hoping for a Taking You with Me. Second is that nothing was invented by this incident at all, since it was already somewhat common for a pilot of an aircraft that had been shot down to at least attempt to crash into something useful if the pilot didn't have time to bail out. The first time this actually happens in the film, it's a Japanese Betty bomber that takes damage from AA fire and turns to try and make a suicide attack on Enterprise.
  • Although it can be difficult to notice, Hiryu and Akagi both have their islands on the port side of the ship. These were the only two carriers in history with such a configuration, as every other aircraft carrier has the island structure to starboard.
  • The incident of Bruno Gaido shooting down a Japanese level bomber attempting to ram Enterprise from the back seat of a parked SBD sitting on the flight deck actually happened. note 
    • As did him being killed by drowning while tied to an anchor.
  • In another show of realism, Doolittle's Chinese rescuers and guerrillas hold a mix of German, Chinese and Japanese rifles and pistols rather than a uniform arsenal, reflecting the real life ad-hoc nature of their equipment and units.
  • There's also Layton's report: finally, there is the cinematic recognition that the destruction of Pearl Harbor fuel storage facilities would been a much more serious blow against the US Pacific Fleet than any of the ships being hit.
  • While somewhat exaggerated for the film, the dogfight between Best's SBD and a Zero fighter in the Marshalls was not an uncommon occurrence. Though slow and underpowered compared to the Zero, the Dauntless was a very stable gunnery platform and, more significantly, surprisingly maneuverable, helped by a very sturdy airframe that could handle even more stress than many fighters due to the nature of its primary mission.note  The Dauntless was often used to supplement combat air patrols early in the war, and managed a respectable 3.2 to 1 kill/loss ratio in air combat, among the best of any dedicated bomber aircraft during the war.note  During the Battle of the Coral Sea "Swede" Vestja shot down three enemy fighters. John Leppla and his gunner, John Liska, claimed seven (four for Leppla and three for Liska).

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