Battle of Midway
4-7 June 1942

The Battle of Midway was the first American victory against the Japanese military during  World War 2.

Deciphering the Japanese Navy's Code

After the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. aircraft carriers were seen by the Japanese as the last obstacle in the way of their undisputed domination in the western Pacific, so Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy, thought of a plan to attract them into a trap.

Yamamoto assumed that an invasion of Midway Atoll, located at the western extremity of the Hawaiian archipelago, would attract the U.S. carriers into combat. However, the Americans had broken the Japanese Navy's code, which provided U.S. Navy a major advantage in preparing the battle.

By Createaccount (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Navy had managed to repair the carrier Yorktown, damaged after the Battle of the Coral Sea, bringing it to Pearl Harbor to participate in the upcoming battle. Yorktown joined the carriers Enterprise and Hornet, which were already in the area. The Americans had 232 aircraft on carriers and other 126 planes on the Midway Atoll's airfield.

The striking force of the Imperial Japanese Navy had four carriers - Kaga, Akagi, Hiryu, and Soryu - with 248 aircraft. The Japanese invasion fleet was also supported by a large number of battleships but, to disguise the attack, most of the battleships were far behind the aircraft carriers, which rendered their role insignificant. However, the biggest problem of the Japanese was that, before the battle, they had failed to discover the U.S. aircraft carriers' location.

TBD Devastators' Sacrifice

The Battle of Midway began on June 4, 1942, at 6:20 a.m. when 108 planes from the Japanese carriers attacked the U.S. base at Midway to enable a safe landing of the invasion force. The Americans had detected timely the Japanese carriers and launched the first attacks upon them with bombers based at Midway, but these raids were unsuccessful. Aircraft from the U.S. carriers initiated the second wave of attacks. The Japanese found late the American carriers' position, the U.S. planes already flying to targets.

The F4F Wildcat escort fighters had to turn back because they were risking to remain out of fuel due to the long distance. Therefore, the TBD Devastator torpedo bombers, which attacked at 9:40, became an easy prey for the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters. Most TBD's were shut down, and no torpedo launched by them hit the Japanese ships, but the good thing for the Americans was that they drew away the Japanese Zero fighters from their initial altitude, consuming their fuel and ammunition. 

Disastrous End of the Japanese Fleet in the Battle of Midway

Thus, the Japanese carriers' defense had become vulnerable in the crucial moment of the battle when the SBD Dauntless dive bombers attacked. The Japanese planes in process of refueling and rearming on the carriers' decks amplified the devastating effect of the bombs dropped by the Americans. Three carriers - Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu - were severely damaged, resulting in uncontrollable fires, which led to their subsequent sinking.

The Japanese fought back with aircraft from Hiryu - their only carrier escaped untouched. The Japanese planes managed to damage seriously the U.S. carrier Yorktown, which would be sunk two days later, after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.

On the afternoon of June 4, 1942, aircraft from the U.S. carriers gave the final blow, inflicting severe damage on Hiryu, which resulted in its sinking. Destroying four Japanese aircraft carriers and losing only one, the Americans had obtained a resounding victory in the Battle of Midway, that turned the course of the Pacific War in their favor, but the war with Japan was far from being finished.

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