Turning the Tide: Part Two
Timing is everything
The intelligence had confirmed it: the Japanese were going to attack Midway. An ambush would certainly give the U.S. the tactical advantage so desperately needed, but it in no way guaranteed a victory - let alone the military superiority needed to hold off the massive, battle-tested Japanese fleet.
Nimitz realized he had only one shot to pull this off. The Pacific Fleet's remaining carriers and all available ships needed to be ready.
Coral Sea showed just what they were up against: a much larger fleet, including four carriers, each loaded with the same deadly Japanese aircraft that had delivered the crippling blow to Pearl Harbor. The Zeros, which dominated the Pacific skies, were piloted by the fiercest warriors any American aviator had ever faced.
Suffering a heavy beating at Coral Sea, USS Yorktown (CV 5) limped into Pearl Harbor and entered dry dock. Fifteen-hundred yard workers toiled around the clock to repair the damage to Yorktown's flight deck. Repairs that were needed would normally take weeks to achieve. Enough were completed to get her battle-ready in a miraculous three days.
Confident she was ready to fight, Nimitz ordered Yorktown to rejoin USS Hornet (CV 8) and USS Enterprise (CV 6) positioned to the northeast of Midway. There they assembled undetected.
Timing would be everything. Launch an attack too early, and the ships' locations would be revealed to the enemy. Attack too late and it would be impossible to wrestle control of the island from the enemy while fighting the Japanese fleet at the same time.
The plan was to draw the Japanese fleet out to attack the island and then catch them completely off guard with coordinated attacks from the assembled carriers. With no protection from above, the Japanese carriers would be at the mercy of U.S. torpedo squadrons from Midway and the carriers Hornet and Yorktown as well as Midway-based bombers.
Ensign George Gay, like the rest of Hornet's Torpedo Squadron 8, was more than eager to deliver Pearl's revenge. He joined the rest of his crew topside and prepared to launch.