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World War II

Battle of Midway

The Battle of Midway was one of the most important battles of World War II. It was the turning point of the war in the Pacific between the United States and Japan. The battle took place over four days between June 4th and June 7th in 1942.

Battle of Midway bombs
USS Yorktown hit
Source: US Navy

Where is Midway?

Midway is an island located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean about half way between Asia and North America (hence the name "Midway"). It lies around 2,500 miles from Japan. Because of its location, Midway was considered an important strategic island for Japan in the war.

The Doolittle Raid

On April 18, 1942, the United States launched its first attack on the Japanese home islands. This raid caused the Japanese to want to push back the American presence in the Pacific Ocean. They decided to attack the American base at Midway Island.

How did the battle begin?

The Japanese formulated a plan to sneak up on the U.S. forces. They hoped to trap a number of the U.S. aircraft carriers in a bad situation where they could destroy them. However, American code breakers had intercepted a number of Japanese transmissions. The Americans knew the Japanese plans and prepared their own trap for the Japanese.

Who were the commanders in the battle?

The Japanese were led by Admiral Yamamoto. He was the same leader who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States was led by Admirals Chester Nimitz, Frank Jack Fletcher, and Raymond A. Spruance.

The Japanese Attack

On June 4, 1942, the Japanese launched a number of fighter planes and bombers from four aircraft carriers to attack the island of Midway. Meanwhile, three United States aircraft carriers (Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown) were closing in on the Japanese force.

Sinking of Japanese cruiser Mikuma
The Japanese Cruiser Mikuma Sinking
Source: US Navy

A Surprise Response

While the Japanese were focused on attacking Midway, the U.S. carriers launched an attack. The first wave of planes were torpedo bombers. These planes would fly in low and try to drop torpedoes that would strike the side of the ships to sink them. The Japanese were able to fend off the torpedo attacks. Most of the U.S. torpedo attack planes were shot down and none of the torpedoes hit their target.

However, while the Japanese guns were aimed low at the torpedo bombers, American dive bombers dove in and attacked from high up in the sky. These bombs hit their target and three of the four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk.

The Yorktown Sinks

The Yorktown then engaged in battle with the final Japanese carrier, the Hiryu. Both carriers were able to launch a number of bombers against the other. In the end, both the Yorktown and the Hiryu were sunk.

Sinking of the USS Yorktown from the US Navy
The Yorktown Sinking
Source: US Navy

Results of the Battle

The loss of four aircraft carriers was devastating to the Japanese. They also lost a number of other ships, 248 aircraft, and over 3,000 sailors. This battle was the turning point in the war and the first major victory for the Allies in the Pacific.

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