Though Akagi had been hit by only one bomb, the fires it caused were getting out of control, and by 1050 Admiral Nagumo was transferring his flag to the cruiser Nagara. For the moment, at least, Rear Admiral Hiroaki Abe on the Tone took command of Kido Butai. The first thing Abe did was to send a message to Admiral Yamamoto:
"Fires are raging aboard the Kaga, Soryu, and Akagi resulting from attacks carried out by land-based and carrier-based attack planes. We plan to have the Hiryu engage the enemy carriers. In the meantime, we are temporarily retiring to the north, and assembling our forces. . . ."
Yamamoto silently handed the message back to his chief of staff. His face was frozen, not even an eyebrow moved.
At the same time, Abe sent a message to Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi, the carrier division commander aboard Hiryu, "Attack enemy carriers."
By blinker, Yamaguchi immediately replied, "All our planes are taking off now for the purpose of destroying the enemy carriers." The carrier division commander did not need to be told to do what he had been wanting to do all morning. But his reply was inaccurate. The Nakajima B5N2 torpedo bombers that had returned from the morning's attack on Midway would require another hour to be armed with their deadly Long Lance torpedoes. So the Aichi D3A dive bombers would have to attack by themselves. Yamaguchi could not spare any more than 6 Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters to go with them.
Yamaguchi hadn't needed Abe to tell him what to do; the crew of Hiryu had been working hard since the end of the attack by the American dive bombers to prepare a strike. This furious activity is further evidence that Kido Butai had not been moments from launching a strike at 1020.
Lieutenant Michio Kobayashi led a force of 18 dive bombers. Once in the air the lieutenant had the good fortune of finding some American dive bombers to follow. They turned out to be SBDs from Lt. Commander Max Leslie's Bombing Three, and they led Kobayashi right to USS Yorktown.