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 Chapter 26


Carrier Akagi, 354 kilometers WNW of Midway, 0430, June 4.

Lt. Commander Saburo Sendai had arisen long before dawn to watch the first strike take off. Even after many years as a fighter pilot, and now group commander, it still exhilarated him to watch any airplane take off, even a light plane from a dirt landing strip. Now, on the flood-lit flight deck of a great carrier plunging headlong over the ocean swells, he was much more excited than he would have been if he had been leading the strike himself. Commander Sendai, who had spent some time in California, was what the Americans called a "fan." Not a movie fan or a sports fan, although he probably had at least the latter potentiality within him, but an aviation fan.

As the three-bladed propellor of the first ship spun four or five times without starting, Sendai found himself becoming anxious. If the engine didn't start, the plane would block the way for the ones following. Then, in order not to delay the launch, it would have to be pushed over the side. Just then, there was a puff of smoke, followed by coughs. After jerking around spasmodically for a moment, the blades became invisible amid more smoke and a full-throated roar. Sendai yelled and cheered louder than anyone when the chocks were pulled from the wheels and the Zero started slowly toward his position well down the flight deck.

As the first off, the pilot had a relatively short run, and there wasn't nearly enough wind for optimal launching. By the time that the wing-tip flashed over Sendai's head, the engine was screaming and the tail wheel was beginning to bounce. Sendai grabbed the shoulder of the seaman standing next to him. He held on tighter when the aircraft cleared the deck and dropped out of sight. He released his hold only when the glowing exhausts became visible as the fighter clawed for altitude.

Sendai was surprised to find Admiral Nagumo's Air Officer, Commander Minoru Genda, behind him. The latter smiled and asked, shouting to be heard over the growing din,

"Are you going to see each of the aircraft off this way?"

Commander Sendai laughed at himself. He knew that the others couldn't understand his penchant for cheerleading, particularly in view of his quite deserved reputation for coolness in the air. Indeed, his laconic orders over the radio in the midst of many desperate battles had become a legend. Going back even to the early days in China, there were pilots, no longer so young, who remembered that Sendai- san had once announced casually that his engine was on fire. That generally meant an imminent explosion and a burned corpse. But, somehow, Sendai had always survived. By now, he was thoroughly convinced that he was immune to the ordinary dangers of aerial combat.

Genda, as the principal planner for a long string of aerial victories, no longer flew in combat. However, in a quieter way, his confidence was at least the equal of Sendai's.

There had been only one disquieting incident in the years that the two men had been together. That had occurred recently when the carrier Shokaku had returned after the victory at the Battle of the Coral Sea. She was the first major Japanese warship to be heavily damaged since the Battle of Tsushima. Genda and Sendai had gone on board. They had never before seen a ship's structure twisted and blasted by bombs. The sight of wounded being carried off on stretchers, their burns covered with bandages, hadn't improved the occasion. That scene had set them thinking.

Sendai had been his usual self the next day. After all, even the Americans admitted that their biggest and most famous carrier, the Lexington, had been sunk, and it was likely that the other American carrier in the action was either sunk or heavily damaged. One had to expect to sustain some damage.

Genda, on the other hand, had pressed for a change of plans. While the Shokaku was far too heavily damaged for the Midway operation, her sister ship, the Zuikaku, hadn't been damaged at all. However, both ships had lost a high proportion of their air complement. Admiral Ugaki had been content to let Zuikaku train new airmen while the other four carriers headed for Midway. Genda pressed for more fighter defense. Even if a full air complement couldn't be found for Zuikaku, they could still round up some forty Zero fighters and pilots. Some of the pilots would be less than fully trained, and some would be newly converted dive bomber pilots, but they were much better than nothing. Then, too, the ship's mere presence would be helpful. She would presumably be attacked by bombers who would otherwise have gone after the other carriers.

Even now, as Sendai and Genda negotiated the catwalks along the Akagi's side, dawn revealed the Zuikaku steaming on a parallel course. Genda gestured toward her with a smile. She wouldn't contribute any aircraft to the strikes, but she would provide continuous fighter cover for the fleet. She was already launching a combat air patrol to guard against a dawn attack. Since the Americans weren't supposed to have discovered their presence, this was unlikely. Still, it felt good to be protected against all contingencies.

Once they were settled with coffee in the wardroom, they began going over the figures again. Each carrier (except Zuikaku) had contributed 9 fighters to the strike. The Akagi and Kaga were sending 18 dive bombers each. The Hiryu and Soryu were each sending 18 torpedo bombers, acting as level bombers. That added up to a powerful strike of 108 planes to attack Midway. It left, again excepting Zuikaku's 42 fighters, a force of 48 fighters under Sendai, 48 dive bombers under Egusa, and 57 torpedo bombers under the command of the redoubtable Murata. All these aircraft were armed and being held in readiness to attack the enemy fleet whenever it might be discovered.

This force was smaller than the one that had attacked Pearl Harbor, but a balanced group of 153 aircraft was still a mighty offensive instrument. Since, as far as anyone knew, the Americans had at most one modern carrier and one (or possibly two) old converted battleships, they could hardly have more than 160 aircraft. Genda spoke matter-of-factly.

"One doesn't like to seem over-confident, but I really don't think they can stop you. You ought to have enough fighters to keep their fighters off our bombers. Then, given a free shot, we'll certainly get at least ten per cent hits, probably much more. That's six torpedoes and five bombs, probably on two carriers. There isn't a carrier made that can take three torpedoes and two bombs."

"No. Carriers certainly are vulnerable. There's always the chance that they'll slip through to hit one of our carriers, the way they did Shokaku."

Genda laughed.

"So, for once, I may be in more danger on Akagi than you are in the air."

Sendai knew that Genda was uncomfortable about being left out of combat, and joined heartily in his laughter. Then Genda corrected himself.

"Of course, the real danger is that we just won't find any enemy fleet to attack."

"Then we'll be able to take the Midway Islands easily."

"They aren't good for much. They're too far from Hawaii to use as a base for land-based air attacks. We can use them as seaplane bases, but that's about all. If the Americans are smart, they'll let us have Midway. Then we'll have to attack Hawaii next."

Sendai grimaced at the prospect of sending a carrier force within the range of the air bases that now existed on Hawaii. But he still had confidence in a victory that day.

"They'll come out and fight out of frustration, even if it's bad strategy. They need a victory too badly to stay home. It would be dishonorable for them to simply let us take Midway."

Genda nodded in agreement.

"Sometimes I wonder if a sense of honor doesn't do more harm than good."

Genda then looked at his watch and suggested that they join the staff up on the bridge.

"Since you'll have to wait for a scouting report to take off, you may as well be at the center of things."

The Bridge of the Akagi, 0550, June 4.

So as not to interfere unduly with the launching and recovery of planes, the Akagi had a very small island superstructure on the starboard side of the flight deck. Wags sometimes compared the ship to a brontosausus, with its huge body and tiny head and brain. The chart room and bridge were therefore extremely small compared to the Yamato's, and it was fortunate that Admiral Nagumo had a much smaller staff. Even so, it was sufficiently crowded to make Commander Sendai wonder whether he was, despite Genda's invitation, really welcome there. In any case, he was uncomfortable with his current role. In the past, he had always led the fighters in the first strike. There had never been any but tactical decisions to make. Above all, there had never before been a period of hanging around trying to decide what to do.

In theory, everything was simple and straightforward. They would wait until the search planes discovered the enemy carrier force, and they would then attack it. The trouble, from Sendai's point of view, was that the scout planes had been out a long time without reporting anything. Before too long, they would be on their homeward legs, where they would almost certainly discover nothing. There being nothing else to do, he observed the functioning of the staff.

Admiral Nagumo always struck Sendai as an ex-athlete whose health was no longer very good. There was still authority and pugnaciousness in his presence, and his voice was still appropriate to the occasional speeches that came over the ship's loudspeakers when action was imminent. But one wondered how much was behind it. Despite all his victories, he didn't inspire the kind of loyalty and reverence which was so marked in the case of Admiral Yamamoto.

The chief of staff, Rear Admiral Kusaka, was another type altogether. If Nagumo was the man of action, Kusaka was the scholar whose intelligence was versatile enough to be useful outside the walls of a university. To this extent, the two men complemented each other. Kusaka knew what decisions to make, but wasn't forceful enough to make them stick. Nagumo knew how to give orders, but didn't quite know what orders to give.

The extra ingedient was, of course, Minoru Genda. As Kusaka was the first to admit, Genda could do everything he could do, but do it a little bit better. What was also true, but wasn't admitted except in the privacy of certain gatherings, was that Genda could also do everything Nagumo could do, more than a little bit better. However, Genda was rather young, even for the rank of full commander. Given a fleet, he might have been a Nelson or Togo. However, with the fairly rigid seniority system of the IJN, there was no chance of his getting one.

Since the strike against the Midway islands had formed up and departed in the early light, at 0445, it had been a slow morning. For a long time, they had steamed east- southeast, toward Midway, making their own wind at 25 knots. The Akagi had an odd slow pitching motion in gentle swells, ever so gradually burying her bow, and then suddenly snatching it up again. The pitch sometimes came when one was taking off, which produced a decidedly unpleasant few seconds. However, those thoughts were far from Sendai now. On the contrary, he found the ship's motion so restful that he almost fell asleep on his feet as he leaned against the after bulkhead, watching the others from the greatest possible distance.

Sendai roused suddenly from his stupor when the cruiser Tone reported an enemy search plane. Everyone else rushed to the window to catch a glimpse of the two-engined PBY flying boat, but Sendai merely looked at his watch. It had taken the Americans well over an hour since first light to find them.

Knowing how lax the security had been, Sendai had half expected a patrol plane to pick them up at dawn, and then call in a strike force. Indeed, he had been told that the American radio traffic in the Midway area had reached an unprecedented level in the last week or two. There had also been an unusually high percentage of messages which intelligence had been able to recognize as marked "urgent." Sendai had taken it as a matter of course that they were expected. Now he began to wonder. They might only have been spotted by a routine patrol plane, not something special laid on for the occasion.

Even when he thought that they would be greeted with force, Sendai hadn't worried overmuch. Twenty one Zeroes had been in the air continuously with twenty one more waiting on Shokaku's flight deck. Green as some of them were, it was still a formidable force, and the Americans wouldn't get past them. On the other hand, if the Americans were anything less than totally prepared, it might be possible to achieve another victory of the scale of Pearl Harbor. Commander Sendai smelled blood.

The Yamato, 0550.

The scene in the chart room was much the same, now that they were headed for battle, as it had been back at Hashirajima. True, there was considerable vibration as they steamed at close to full speed, but that was hardly noticed in the swirling discussions of the staff officers. It seemed to Commander Tanaka, with only a few hours' sleep, that this was a world apart, undisturbed except for occasional scraps of paper brought by ghostly messengers. These messages, and even their bearers, were so obviously part of a play that he wondered, in his present mood, how anyone could take them seriously.

Hiroshi was aware that the Yamato housed many different attitudes. According to his friend, Miura, the lower decks were full of seamen who were extremely apprehensive as they waited for their first battle. While confident of victory, they expected to be attacked at any moment. Miura himself was rather grim. He expected, and indeed hoped, that the ship would bear the brunt of the enemy attacks. Despite his belief that the ship herself was almost unsinkable, he had settled his own affairs before sailing.

With the staff it was altogether different. Hiroshi, to the extent that he had expressed himself at all, was regarded as a potential alarmist. He believed that, while the American search might be less efficient than their own, they would be spotted by the time that their planes attacked Midway. Captain Kuroshima, as usual, made predictions which contradicted one another, and which no one took seriously. The rest of the staff, even including Captain Miwa, seemed to feel that the Combined Fleet could steam anywhere it wanted with safety, comfort, and a decent seclusion.

Hiroshi had roused himself enough so that he could accept the reality of the next messenger, the one who arrived with the Tone's sighting report of the American flying boat. Glancing at the large clock, it seemed to him that it had come rather early. Miura might be right about the lax security. They might have been expected.

The real surprise wasn't the report, but the reaction that Admiral Ugaki tried to suppress. Hiroshi had known him long enough to know the signs. He was really disconcerted. He had evidently believed that they could achieve, against a nation now at war, the surprise that had occurred at Pearl Harbor.

It was now, thought Hiroshi, that the command situation would sort itself out if it ever did. Admiral Nagumo, over in the Akagi, was used to independent command, thousands of miles away from his superiors. But, since the addition of the Yamato force, his commander-in-chief was in the next ship.

So far, Admiral Yamamoto had acted as if he were still back at Hashirajima. Admiral Nagumo had, as usual, navigated his fleet, the First Mobile Striking Force. The Yamato, her two battleship consorts, and their own destroyer screen were, so to speak, caught in the middle of the larger fleet. Moreover, since the carriers had to head into the wind to launch and recover aircraft, the Yamato force had simply conformed to Nagumo's movements. But what now? They were in contact with the enemy, and it was necessary to make a decision. Should they change course after their fighters had shot down or chased off the shadower? In that case, a message would have to be sent to the strike force, so that it wouldn't return to find only empty sea. As Hiroshi watched, the admiral sat still, showed nothing, and said nothing. At length, he spoke softly to his flag lieutenant, who went in search of Captain Miwa. When the latter, who had been outside trying to see the PBY, returned, the admiral addressed him.

"Captain Miwa, will our fighters be able to shoot down this unwelcome visitor?"

"I don't believe so, sir. There's just enough cloud cover to enable him to hide."

"So the enemy will be able to shadow us all day, ducking into the clouds whenever our fighters approach?"

"I'm afraid so, sir."

"Thank you, captain."

In view of these facts, there was little point in changing course. Would Admiral Yamamoto give orders to the carrier fleet if the situation required it? Or would he leave it to Nagumo? That meant, in effect, leaving it to Minoru Genda. Hiroshi considered Genda an unprincipled adventurer. There was no man he distrusted as much.

Akagi, 304 kilometers WNW of Midway, 0625.

One of the search planes had just made the sighting. The message was there on the board, just as the radio operator had received it.

"Many ships, distance 330 kilometers, bearing 73 degrees. No carriers."

No one on Akagi's bridge took very seriously the part about there not being any carriers. The Americans would certainly not send out a fleet without the two to three carriers that they possessed. But the force might be spread over many miles of ocean, and the scout had seen only part of it. Genda had immediately signalled back a request for amplification.

Sendai had woken suddenly and completely. He was now hardly able to restrain himself. There was no need to wait. They knew where to go. Once there, they would find the carriers and sink them. It was as simple as that. He said as much to Genda.

What he didn't say was that he would prefer to attack without the forces now attacking Midway. The best and most experienced pilots were now waiting with the aircraft on the flight decks. There were Egusa's dive bombers and Murata's torpedo bombers. The latter were the real key to any great naval engagement. Murata, in appearance too slight to fly a heavy torpedo plane, was the best in the world. The others weren't far behind. The bombers would be covered by Sendai's own fighter force. That, too, was the best of its kind in the world.

On the other hand, if they waited to recover the Midway strike, Sendai would have on his hands a score of the less experienced fighter pilots. They might be good enough to escort bombers over a land target, and even shoot down enemy fighters. But their discipline in the air wasn't yet of a high enough standard. They might be difficult to control and orchestrate in a large and complex attack against a carrier force.

Sendai was convinced that Genda, on his own, would have ordered an immediate attack. But Admiral Kusaka had doubts. This might only be a decoy fleet to lure them in one direction while the carriers were elsewhere. Genda replied,

"The Americans don't have enough ships to engage in elaborate feints. We don't have time to lose."

Sendai thought to himself that some people could always find a reason not to fight. He said only,

"Once we're in the air, we can be re-directed if the carriers are found somewhere alse."

All of them had one eye on Admiral Nagumo and the other on the signalman. The Yamato would have received the same message, and an order from Admiral Yamamoto would settle the matter.

There was no message from the Yamato. But there was one from the scout plane, no doubt ducking in and out of clouds and feeling its way around the American fleet.

"There are ten, repeat ten, carriers."

Everyone present was stunned. Sendai himself could think only that there must have been a mistake.

Yamato, 0630

There was pandemonium in the chart room. Everyone was talking at once. It had been that way since the report of ten enemy carriers had come in. There was, apart from Admiral Yamamoto, only one man who was quiet. Commanda Tanaka was secretly pleased. It was really the pleasure of seeing a theory confirmed. He had always believed that, if things ever came to a real crisis, the staff of the Combined Fleet would fall apart.

It wasn't true that every member of it had lost his composure. It was probable that Captain Miwa was talking sense, and the emergency might even have brought out the underlying sanity in Captain Kuroshima. If so, no one was listening to them.

Hiroshi himself wondered about all those carriers as much as anyone. Except that he almost savored the idea. Those clever Americans. How was it possible to build something as large as a carrier and conceal it? Except, of course, those wouldn't be new carriers. They had already converted one or two old battleships. It was possible that they could have done a couple more since the war had begun, but certainly not six or seven. The other old battleships were, in any case, resting on the bottom at Pearl Harbor.

And, then, where would they get the planes and pilots to complement them? Even at the outbreak of war, their navy had been awfully short of both. There had been reports that they were picking up all sorts of virtually untrained youngsters, and trying to make carrier pilots out of them. Most of them had probably killed themselves trying to land on a carrier by this time.

Hiroshi tried to think back over all those years in Washington and London for anything that concerned carriers. Could they have gotten them from the British? Hardly. The British were in no position to loan anyone carriers. Or anything else.

Looking up from his thoughts, Hiroshi saw no more signs of order than there had been a few minutes previously. The Yamato was still charging along on her course. No one had given any orders. There was no signal from the Akagi. It looked as if everyone was waiting for someone else to do something. The command structure was at least temporarily paralyzed. Fun was fun, but this could have serious consequences. The fate of Japan, for example. Then he began to remember something.

It had been back in London, in their little flat. Mitsuko and her friend Cynthia, or Eustacia, or whatever her name really was, had been in the bedroom. They were playing with their wardrobes as usual. They hadn't heard him come into the apartment and sit down in the next room. The door to the bedroom had been left partly open, and he had followed their English as best he could. They had stopped talking about clothes after a while, and Mitsuko had said something awful, much worse than he had realized at the time. He remembered it perfectly.

"They think that you've converted another old battleship. They saw it from the air. They said it wasn't the Mississippi."

The other had been quite upset. She had said something about being blamed for things they hadn't done yet. She had insisted that the ship must have been the Mississippi.

Now, of course, Hiroshi realized how incriminating the conversation had been. Mitsuko must have been working for the Americans. He had wondered at the time, but had put it out of his mind. But, now, as memories flooded in on him, there had been something else. Mitsuko had said, seemingly in order to calm her friend,

"We could tell them it was really a big navy tanker. With their flat decks and little superstructures, they'd look like carriers from the air."

That had upset Cynthia much more. She had replied almost anrgily.

"Don't ever mention carriers and tankers in the same breath. No matter what. Even if they think we have one more carrier than we do."

There it was, the answer. There were tankers got up as carriers out there. Perhaps they really did have flight decks, and could land a few fighters. But they'd be no threat. There would be no bombers below those decks.

As nearly as Hiroshi could judge, one view seemed to be winning, not least because Captain Kuroshima opposed it. It was that they turn to starboard, steam due south, and recover the aircraft returning from Midway. That would open up the distance between the two fleets. At present, the range would have closed to something like 320 kilometers, near the maximum range for the Americans to strike if they expected their aircraft to make it home again. If they opened up the distance another fifty or sixty kilometers, it would be out of the question.

It seemed to be taken for granted that the enemy did have an enormous strike force, but that it would be impotent at that range. However, since they themselves could launch an attack from as much as 450 kilometers, they would still be in range. The Midway strike force would be landed, rearmed, and refuelled. Then, everything would be launched in one great coordinated strike. The emerging plan indicated that rationality might triumph out of confusion. Except that the most important premise happened to be false.

While the argument still went on, no one approached Admiral Yamamoto. It looked as if he was waiting for Ugaki to inform him of the consensus of opinion. Unfortunately, it was Ugaki who seemed the least resolute of any. After all, it was he who expected to find no enemy at all. Now he was confronted with a force three times the size that the pessimists had allowed for.

Hiroshi went over to Admiral Yamamoto and bowed. The admiral invited him to speak, and he stated his suspicions about the enemy carriers, without, of course, mentioning any overheard bedroom conversations. The admiral didn't seem to take it amiss that Hiroshi hadn't first gone to Ugaki. In truth, he would have had to jostle through a mob of twenty officers to even reach Ugaki. When he had finished, the admiral asked,

"I believe it is known, Commander Tanaka, that the slow American fleet takes its tankers with it."

"Yes, sir."

"Well, then. If the tankers are disguised as carriers, our scout should report that there are no tankers."

As Hiroshi replied, he felt a great relief. He himself hadn't thought of such a simple expedient. On the admiral's orders, it was the work of a minute to have the message sent to the scout.

Akagi, 0640

The next message to come in had been expected, Tomonaga's report that the strike had been completed, and that they were heading home. The report after that was almost as unexpected as the report of the ten enemy carriers. It was the intercept of a message from the Yamato to the scout plane in contact. Why, of all things, was the staff of the Combined Fleet worried about tankers? Everyone had the greatest respect for Admiral Yamamoto, but his staff was accorded very little respect at all. It was possible for the men on Akagi's bridge to imagine that Captain Kuroshima had managed to assert himself over the others. In that case, almost anything could be expected.

The negative reply as to the presence of tankers caused no stir when it came in a few minutes later. Apart from the fast carriers, which had recently been sunk in the Coral Sea, the American fleet was known to steam with supply ships and tankers in formation with slow carriers and battleships. They apparently had given up that practice. But what of that?

Just as Sendai was beginning to feel that the great opportunity might be lost, there were blinking lights from the Yamato's signal bridge. The message was the one he had been waiting for.

"Attack enemy fleet as soon as possible."

Sendai jumped to the ladder, and was about to descend, when Genda caught him by the arm.

"I'm sending all the fighters with you except the ones now in the air. That includes twenty one from Zuikaku in addition to the forty eight you already have. You'll probably encounter strong fighter opposition."

Sendai, wanting the pilots from Ziukaku even less than the ones from the Midway strike, demurred.

"That'll leave you only the twenty one already in the air to protect the whole fleet. A strike may be heading for us now."

"We'll turn south after we launch, and we can get the fighters back from the Midway strike in an hour or so."

"They'll have to land and refuel before they can do you any good."

"There's something else. We'll have you orbiting while the strike forms up. If a strong enemy attack comes in during that time, we'll vector you on to it. We'll only be unprotected for a very short time."

Sendai saw that it was pointless to argue further. It was a plan typical of Genda. He had again, in a few seconds, figured out a way to make maximum use of available resoucres.

Fearful of more delays, Sendai practically slid down the ladder. He actually had one foot on the wing of his throbbing fighter when he was called back yet again. He was wanted urgently on the bridge. Another pilot would fly his lead ship, and he, along with the other leaders, would fly the last few aircraft to take off.

When he got back up to the bridge, Genda, reading his mood, apologized immediately.

"Sorry to do this to you, Saburo, but we've had a long message from the Yamato.

It turned out that, according to the best intelligence estimates, the Americans had fleet tankers done up as mock carriers. Genda seemed to accept this.

"After all, they couldn't really have ten carriers. However, this creates a problem. Murata and Egusa will have to distinguish the real carriers from the others, and they'll need more time to do it. You'll have to see that they get it."

"With sixty nine Zeroes, I think I can guarantee that."

"It may be harder than you think. Those tankers really do have flight decks, and they could carry ten or twenty fighters each. You could be heavily outnumbered. And we're still being shadowed. They'll know exactly when to expect you."

The thought struck Sendai that it had been some time since Genda had led an IJN aerobatic stunt team. Moreover, he had never commanded a large fighter formation in combat. He didn't understand certain aspects of fighter tactics. He didn't fully realize that, the larger the formation, the greater are the demands placed, not only on the leader, but on each pilot. A half-trained enemy force of a hundred or more fighters could very quickly degenerate into chaos under the stress of combat.

Any but the best and most experienced pilots would, for example, shoot at each other by mistake. From what he had seen of the Americans, he guessed that they wouldn't be able to put to good use a fighter formation of much more than twenty planes. Even if they did put a large number of fighters in the air, it would be better to attack them with a smaller, but more cohesive, force. Past a certain point, numerical advantage meant very little. However, it was too late to try to explain all that now.

Despite these doubts as to the correctness of Genda's plan, there was something else, much more comforting, of which Sendai felt certain. The Americans wouldn't have a group commander of anything like his own ability.

Akagi, 0655

By now, most of the planes were in the air, and Commander Sendai began to edge toward the bridge ladder. Genda followed him.

"One more thing, Saburo. One isn't supposed to burden a combat leader with too many instructions, but we've been at it a long time. They'll probably shadow you all the way and time your approach to the minute. If they're smart, they'll get their bombers in the air just before you get to them, and then follow you back. But remember this .."

Genda was as excited as Sendai had ever seen him. His eyes, always bright, were now wild. He was jabbing Sendai with his finger as he continued.

"Their fuel situation will be critical, and they won't be able to send their bombers off on a long detour while we attack. They'll be somewhere near the ships. See if you can save some ammunition and still get our bombers through. Then you could attack their bomber formations. You might be able to disrupt them before they can even get started."

It was a large order, of course. Even Sendai was doubtful. But he promised Genda that he'd bear it in mind.


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