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The middle of April found Combined Fleet and the Naval General Staff still haggling over various details of the Midway plan, and it was evident that the latter, in spite of having consented in principle, remained highly skeptical about the whole operation. On 18 April, however, a development intervened which quickly put an end to further debate. 4: DOOLITTLE ENDS DEBATE Concern Over Enemy Air Threat Despite Japan's glowing successes on every front in the first four months of the Pacific War, April of 1942 found her Army and especially her Navy leaders unable to free their minds of one ever-present and highly disturbing worry.

Accordingly the Nagumo Force, less the units which had been detached to support the Wake invasion, sortied from the Inland Sea on 5 January 1942 and, after calling briefly at Truk, continued south to launch preinvasion air strikes. On 20 January attack groups took off from the four carriers northeast of New Ireland and struck Rabaul. The following day Kavieng was hit, simultaneously with neutralization strikes by aircraft from Zuikaku and Shokaku on airfields at Lae and Salamaua, on the eastern New Guinea coast.

Carrier Division 5, detached in February, was now restored to Admiral Nagumo's command for the operation, and the task force was further reinforced by two of Admiral Kondo's battleships. Sortieing from Staring Bay on 26 March, the Force headed into the Indian Ocean and opened its offensive with a surprise air strike at Colombo, Ceylon, on 5 April. All the carriers that had hit Pearl Harbor were participating except Kaga, which had gone to the homeland for repairs. The first attack wave took off from the carriers at thirty minutes before dawn, about 200 miles south of Ceylon.

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