Battle of Midway

Date from 04 June 1942
Date to 07 June 1942
Category Battle
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

The battle of Midway was a decisive Allied naval victory and a major turning point in the Second World War. The battle was fought between Japanese and American carrier forces near the Midway Atoll, a territory of the United States in the central Pacific, from the fourth to seventh of June 1942.

The Japanese combined fleet aimed to invade the atoll and lure the smaller US Pacific Fleet into a decisive battle. The Japanese believed that the destruction of the US fleet, just six months after their attack on Pearl Harbor, would be a final blow for the Americans, forcing them to sue for a negotiated peace with Japan.

Crucially, the US Pacific Fleet’s commander in chief, Admiral Chester Nimitz, had been warned of Japanese intentions through Ultra, the Allied code-breaking network. Putting his faith in Ultra decrypts, Nimitz placed two carrier groups in waiting to ambush the Japanese.

The Japanese were not aware of the American carriers’ presence off Midway until it was too late.

American dive bombers, sighting the unsuspecting Japanese fleet through a break in the clouds, caused havoc. In just five minutes on the morning of the 4th of June, American aircraft disabled three Japanese carriers. A fourth Japanese carrier was destroyed in the mid-afternoon. In just one day, the Japanese combined fleet lost four modern carriers, 248 carrier aircraft and over 3,000 sailors and aircrews. The Americans lost one carrier, the USS Yorktown, sunk on the 7th of June.

It was a decisive American victory, and a savage blow to Japanese naval power. There was now parity in naval power in the Pacific, but the Japanese would never recover from the losses inflicted at Midway. From 1942 to 1944, the Japanese navy would maintain six carriers. In the same period, the might of American industrial power saw the US Navy launch fourteen carriers, nine light carriers and sixty-six escort carriers. The Japanese were now on the defensive in the Pacific, and the initiative lay with the Allies.

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