13. At least twelve American submarines served at Midway
The American submarines operating in the region where the Battle of Midway occurred did not distinguish themselves, other than USS Nautilus. Submarine communications were not directly to Admiral Fletcher, or to Admiral Spruance after the former ceded command to him. Instead, they were sent to Commander, Submarines, Pacific (COMSUBPAC), Rear Admiral Robert English. English forwarded reports from his submarines to Nimitz, who sent them to his task force commanders. The submarines only communicated with Pearl Harbor while surfaced, during daylight hours they remained submerged as much as possible. Observations made at night were often inaccurate, erroneous, or vague.
USS Tambor sent a message to English describing “four large ships” heading toward Midway on the night of June 5/6. The English-Nimitz-Spruance trail left the latter furious. The information as it was provided left him with nothing but questions. Spruance was a former submarine commander himself (his son was an officer serving in Tambor at the time) and he couldn’t believe a message so vague would be transmitted to superiors. He received the message at a time when the location of the main Japanese invasion force was still unverified by Naval intelligence. Spruance was forced to maneuver to block the reported ships. They were not the main invasion force, as it turned out. After the battle, Spruance had the commander of Tambor, John Murphy, reassigned for his lack of aggression in identifying the enemy ships.