The Chicago Tribune, Midway, and MAGIC


The American success in the Battle of Midway (3-6 June 1942), the turning point in the naval war in the Pacific, is attributable in large part to the U.S. Navy's advance knowledge of Japanese plans. That knowledge came from communications intercepts and cryptanalysis (MAGIC). Soon after the Battle of Midway, the Chicago Tribune reported that U.S. naval intelligence knew the Japanese navy's plans, strength, and dispositions prior to the battle. As Holmes put it in Double-Edged Secrets, "[a]ny informed reader could only conclude that Japanese codes has been broken." (p. 107) The compromise of the security around MAGIC and the failed effort to hold the newspaper and journalist Stanley Johnston accountable is the focus of the material included here.

Ardman, Harvey. "U.S. Code-breakers vs. Japanese Code-breakers in World War II." American Legion Magazine, May 1972, 18-23, 38-42.

The author covers Magic and Enigma on the Allied side and the activities of the Tokumu Han on the Japanese side. The article was published before the main revelations about Ultra. A reproduction of the Chicago Tribune's infamous dispatch on the Battle of Midway appears on p. 21.

Frank, Larry J. "The United States Navy v. the Chicago Tribune." The Historian 41 (Feb. 1980): 284-303.

Goren, Dina. "Communications Intelligence and the Freedom of the Press: The Chicago Tribune's Battle of Midway Dispatch and the Breaking of the Japanese Naval Code." Journal of Contemporary History 16, no. 4 (Oct. 1981): 663-690.

MacPherson, B. Nelson. "The Compromise of US Navy Cryptanalysis After the Battle of Midway." Intelligence and National Security 2, no. 2 (Apr. 1987): 320-323.

The author attributes heavy U.S. naval losses at Cape Esperance, Santa Cruz, and Guadalcanal to the changing of the Japanese naval cipher as a result of the Chicago Tribune's publication of Stanley Johnston's dispatch.

Sanger, Grant. "Freedom of the Press or Treason?" U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Sep. 1977, 96-97.

The author discusses the controversy surrounding the Chicago Tribune's compromise of MAGIC in its reporting on the Battle of Midway.

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