In Midway (2019), what are these things being launched from a cruiser?

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I draw the trajectory of those things with yellow lines.

2 Answers 2


They are indeed depth charges.

Note: what they fail to depict though, is that the depth charge Carrier is thrown with the actual depth charge. These are the parts that secured the DC to the thrower before launch.

And that is the IJN Arashi, a Japanese destroyer, being depicted attacking the US submarine USS Nautilus.

The scene before depicts USS Nautilus conducting an underwater torpedo attack on the Imperial Japanese Navy.

It then cuts to the Japanese Admiral saying:

"Order the Arashi to pin down that submarine"

Arashi carried more than 30-odd depth charges and 22 detonations were heard by Nautilius.

Here is a typical Japanese depth charge, DEPTH CHARGE TYPE 95, rather like those depicted in the movie:

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Notes on IJN Arashi vs USS Nautlius:



Japanese Type 94 Depth Charge Thrower: enter image description here

Note the Carrier w/stalk is shown separately here, and are missing from the movie scene.

Like all 'throwers' of the period, they literally throw the object out 45 yards, and depending on the settings, detonate at a certain depth.

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Heres a real thrower in action:

  • 5
    @RonJohn Yes, that is a destroyer’s job, but the writer (or someone else involved in the production) probably thought that a nontrivial percentage of the audience would not know that, so they decided to do some questionable exposition to inform them about it (were it me, I would have probably had the captain of the Arashi make a comment about them needing to pin down the sub instead, as I agree that the exposition is probably needed but having the admiral say it just seems so wrong and out of place). Feb 23, 2022 at 12:47
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    @kloddant - Torpedo guidance at the time didn't have any sort of homing (and was mostly limited to dead reckoning), and US torpedoes had multiple issues at the time (mostly in the detonators). Also, surface speeds far exceed submerged speeds - a submarine couldn't outrun a destroyer (much less do it quietly). The only reliable way to attack a submerged submarine at the time was depth charges - you couldn't aim a torpedo down, if you could set its depth at all. Feb 23, 2022 at 18:53
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    @kloddant: Basically, the submarine gets one chance at hitting ((stuff)) with torpedoes, then it has to dive to avoid getting shelled in return. Once submerged, the submarine cannot fire any more torpedoes, and cannot be hit by torpedoes either (if anyone would actually bother trying to fire torps at such a small target). It also cannot move at any significant speed. So, while surface warships move in and drop depth charges at leisure, the sub tries to crawl a bit this way or that trying to dodge attack runs for long enough for the surface ships to run out of depth charges.
    – DevSolar
    Feb 23, 2022 at 22:28
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    (ctd.) If you're interested in the most realistic depiction of contemporary submarine / anti-submarine warfare ever put to film (and that is just fact, not hyperbole), watch the movie "Das Boot".
    – DevSolar
    Feb 23, 2022 at 22:29
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    @RonJohn yes. The destroyer's job was to prevent the submarine from surfacing. Underwater the submarine is very slow. On the surface it's slightly faster than the carrier group. So keep it under for a couple hours, and the carrier group will be too far away to pursue even on the surface. The destroyer is faster still, and can catch up. Feb 23, 2022 at 23:33

Probably depth charges.

Designed to sink submarines by exploding near them. They were launched into the sea and would explode at a given depth, controlled by a pressure switch - partly through guesswork & partly by them having a spread of depths, for a better chance of a strike. They were originally little more than oil drums with explosive and a switch. Later they became more streamlined and could impart spin for better accuracy. They were used from WWI right though WWII and beyond.

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