The Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway (June 3-6, 1942), was a World War II naval battle, fought
almost entirely with aircraft, in which the United States destroyed Japan's
first-line carrier strength and most of its best trained naval pilots and ended
the threat of further Japanese invasion in the Pacific.
a setback in May 1942 in the indecisive Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese
had continued with plans to seize Midway Island and bases in the Aleutians.
Seeking a naval showdown with the numerically inferior U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm.
Yamamoto Isoroku sent out the bulk of the Japanese fleet, including four heavy
and three light aircraft carriers, with orders to engage and destroy the
American fleet and invade Midway. U.S. intelligence had divined Japanese
intentions after breaking the Japanese naval code, however, and the Americans
were ready: three heavy aircraft carriers of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were
mustered. These ships were stationed 350 mi northeast of Midway and awaited the
westward advance of Yamamoto's armada. Whereas the Japanese had no land-based
air support, the Americans from Midway and from Hawaii could commit about 115
battle began on June 3, 1942, when U.S. bombers from Midway Island struck
ineffectually at the Japanese carrier strike force about 220 mi southwest of the
U.S. fleet. Early the next morning Japanese planes from the strike force
attacked and bombed Midway heavily, while the Japanese carriers again escaped
damage from U.S. land-based planes. But as the morning progressed the Japanese
carriers were soon overwhelmed by the logistics of almost simultaneously sending
a second wave of bombers to finish off the Midway runways, zigzagging to avoid
the bombs of attacking U.S. aircraft, and trying to launch more planes to sink
the now-sighted U.S. naval forces. A wave of U.S. torpedo bombers was almost
completely destroyed during their attack on the Japanese carriers at 9:20 Am,
but at around 10:30 Am 36 carrier-launched U.S. dive-bombers caught the Japanese
carriers while their decks were cluttered with armed aircraft and fuel. The U.S.
planes quickly sank three of the heavy Japanese carriers and one heavy cruiser.
In the late afternoon U.S. planes disabled the fourth heavy carrier (scuttled
the next morning), but its aircraft had badly damaged the U.S. carrier Yorktown.
On June 6, a Japanese submarine fatally torpedoed the Yorktown and an escorting
American destroyer; that day a Japanese heavy cruiser was sunk. The Japanese,
however, appalled by the loss of their carriers, had already begun a general
retirement on the night of June 4-5 without attempting to land on Midway.