The Battle of Midway

The Battle Of Midway: A Battleground Millions Of Years In The Making
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Manchuria and North Korea. Military historian John Keegan called it "the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare", [9] while naval historian Craig Symonds called it "one of the most consequential naval engagements in world history, ranking alongside Salamis , Trafalgar , and Tsushima Strait , as both tactically decisive and strategically influential. The Japanese hoped another demoralizing defeat would force the U.

Luring the American aircraft carriers into a trap and occupying Midway was part of an overall "barrier" strategy to extend Japan's defensive perimeter, in response to the Doolittle air raid on Tokyo. This operation was also considered preparatory for further attacks against Fiji , Samoa , and Hawaii itself. The plan was handicapped by faulty Japanese assumptions of the American reaction and poor initial dispositions. Most significantly, American cryptographers were able to determine the date and location of the planned attack, enabling the forewarned U.

Navy to prepare its own ambush.

The Battle of Midway

Four Japanese and three American aircraft carriers participated in the battle. The U. After Midway and the exhausting attrition of the Solomon Islands campaign , Japan's capacity to replace its losses in materiel particularly aircraft carriers and men especially well-trained pilots and maintenance crewmen rapidly became insufficient to cope with mounting casualties, while the United States' massive industrial and training capabilities made losses far easier to replace.

The Battle of Midway, along with the Guadalcanal campaign , is widely considered a turning point in the Pacific War. After expanding the war in the Pacific to include Western outposts, the Japanese Empire had attained its initial strategic goals quickly, taking the Philippines , Malaya , Singapore , and the Dutch East Indies modern Indonesia ; the latter, with its vital oil resources, was particularly important to Japan. Because of this, preliminary planning for a second phase of operations commenced as early as January Yamamoto's primary strategic goal was the elimination of America's carrier forces, which he regarded as the principal threat to the overall Pacific campaign.

This concern was acutely heightened by the Doolittle Raid on 18 April , in which 16 U. The raid, while militarily insignificant, was a shock to the Japanese and showed the existence of a gap in the defenses around the Japanese home islands as well as the accessibility of Japanese territory to American bombers. This, and other successful hit-and-run raids by American carriers in the South Pacific, showed that they were still a threat, although seemingly reluctant to be drawn into an all-out battle.

Naval base at Pearl Harbor would induce all of the American fleet to sail out to fight, including the carriers. However, considering the increased strength of American land-based air power on the Hawaiian Islands since the 7 December attack the previous year, he judged that it was now too risky to attack Pearl Harbor directly.

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Instead, Yamamoto selected Midway , a tiny atoll at the extreme northwest end of the Hawaiian Island chain, approximately 1, miles 1, nautical miles ; 2, kilometres from Oahu. This meant that Midway was outside the effective range of almost all of the American aircraft stationed on the main Hawaiian islands.

Midway was not especially important in the larger scheme of Japan's intentions, but the Japanese felt the Americans would consider Midway a vital outpost of Pearl Harbor and would therefore be compelled to defend it vigorously. In addition to serving as a seaplane base, Midway's airstrips also served as a forward staging point for bomber attacks on Wake Island. Finally, much of Yamamoto's planning, coinciding with the general feeling among the Japanese leadership at the time, was based on a gross misjudgment of American morale, which was believed to be debilitated from the string of Japanese victories in the preceding months.

Yamamoto felt deception would be required to lure the U. They were intended to come up and destroy whatever elements of the U. What Yamamoto did not know was that the U. His emphasis on dispersal also meant none of his formations were in a position to support the others. By contrast, Yamamoto and Kondo had between them two light carriers, five battleships, four heavy cruisers, and two light cruisers, none of which would see action at Midway.

Similarly, most Americans feared that the occupied islands would be used as potential jumping points for Japanese bombers to attack strategic targets and population centers along the West Coast of the United States. The Japanese operations in the Aleutian Islands Operation AL removed yet more ships that could otherwise have augmented the force striking Midway.

Whereas many earlier historical accounts considered the Aleutians operation as a feint to draw American forces away, according to the original Japanese battle plan, AL was intended to be launched simultaneously with the attack on Midway. A one-day delay in the sailing of Nagumo's task force resulted in Operation AL beginning a day before the Midway attack. To do battle with an enemy expected to muster four or five carriers, Admiral Chester W. Spruance , Halsey's escort commander. Despite estimates that Yorktown , damaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea , would require several months of repairs at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard , her elevators were intact and her flight deck largely so.

Battle of Midway Tactical Overview – World War II - History

Yorktown ' s partially depleted air group was rebuilt using whatever planes and pilots could be found. Some of the aircrew were inexperienced, which may have contributed to an accident in which Thach's executive officer Lieutenant Commander Donald Lovelace was killed.

The Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor

Although the fleet carrier Zuikaku escaped the battle undamaged, she had lost almost half her air group, and was in port in Kure awaiting replacement planes and pilots. That there were none immediately available is attributable to the failure of the IJN crew training program, which already showed signs of being unable to replace losses. Instructors from the Yokosuka Air Corps were employed in an effort to make up the shortfall. They also note that doing so would have violated Japanese carrier doctrine, which stressed that carriers and their airgroups must train as a single unit in contrast, American air squadrons were considered interchangeable between carriers.

In any case, the Japanese apparently made no serious attempt to get Zuikaku ready for the forthcoming battle. This was partly due to fatigue; Japanese carriers had been constantly on operations since 7 December , including raids on Darwin and Colombo. The main Japanese carrier-borne strike aircraft were the D3A1 "Val" dive bomber and the B5N2 "Kate", which was used either as a torpedo bomber or as a level bomber.

The main carrier fighter was the fast and highly maneuverable A6M "Zero". For a variety of reasons, production of the "Val" had been drastically reduced, while that of the "Kate" had been stopped completely and, as a consequence, there were none available to replace losses. These factors meant all carriers of the Kido Butai had fewer aircraft than their normal complement, with few spare aircraft or parts stored in the carriers' hangars.

In addition, Nagumo's carrier force suffered from several defensive deficiencies which gave it, in Mark Peattie 's words, a " ' glass jaw ': it could throw a punch but couldn't take one. The IJN's fleet combat air patrol CAP consisted of too few fighter aircraft and was hampered by an inadequate early warning system, including a lack of radar. Poor radio communications with the fighter aircraft inhibited effective command and control of the CAP. The carriers' escorting warships were deployed as visual scouts in a ring at long range, not as close anti-aircraft escorts, as they lacked training, doctrine, and sufficient anti-aircraft guns.

Japanese strategic scouting arrangements prior to the battle were also in disarray.

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A picket line of Japanese submarines was late getting into position partly because of Yamamoto's haste , which let the American carriers reach their assembly point northeast of Midway known as "Point Luck" without being detected. Thus, Japan was deprived of any knowledge concerning the movements of the American carriers immediately before the battle.

Japanese radio intercepts did notice an increase in both American submarine activity and message traffic. This information was in Yamamoto's hands prior to the battle. Japanese plans were not changed; Yamamoto, at sea in Yamato , assumed Nagumo had received the same signal from Tokyo, and did not communicate with him by radio, so as not to reveal his position.

For reasons which remain unclear, Nagumo did not alter his plans or take additional precautions. It was initially not known where "AF" was, but Commander Joseph Rochefort and his team at Station HYPO were able to confirm that it was Midway: Captain Wilfred Holmes devised a ruse of telling the base at Midway by secure undersea cable to broadcast an uncoded radio message stating that Midway's water purification system had broken down.

Japan had a new codebook, but its introduction had been delayed, enabling HYPO to read messages for several crucial days; the new code, which would take several days to be cracked, came into use on 24 May, but the important breaks had already been made. As a result, the Americans entered the battle with a very good picture of where, when, and in what strength the Japanese would appear. Nimitz knew that the Japanese had negated their numerical advantage by dividing their ships into four separate task groups, all too widely separated to be able to support each other.

Nimitz calculated that the aircraft on his three carriers, plus those on Midway Island, gave the U.

Battle of Midway

The Japanese, by contrast, remained mainly unaware of their opponent's true strength and dispositions even after the battle began. Navy patrol squadron VP , [59] spotted the Japanese Occupation Force nautical miles miles; kilometers to the west-southwest of Midway. He mistakenly reported this group as the Main Force. Nine Bs took off from Midway at for the first air attack. Three hours later, they found Tanaka's transport group nautical miles miles; 1, kilometers to the west.

Under heavy anti-aircraft fire, they dropped their bombs.

Although their crews reported hitting four ships, [61] none of the bombs actually hit anything and no significant damage was inflicted. This was the only successful air-launched torpedo attack by the U. At the same time, he launched his eight search aircraft one from the heavy cruiser Tone launched 30 minutes late. Japanese reconnaissance arrangements were flimsy, with too few aircraft to adequately cover the assigned search areas, laboring under poor weather conditions to the northeast and east of the task force.

As Nagumo's bombers and fighters were taking off, 11 PBYs were leaving Midway to run their search patterns.

Citation Information

The Battle of Midway was a decisive naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II that took place between 4 and 7 June , only six months after Japan's. Did you know? Six months before the Battle of Midway, the islands were attacked on December 7, , less than two hours after Pearl Harbor.