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Battle of Midway

Franklin D Roosevelt

Battle of Midway: Franklin Roosevelt was the 32nd American President who served in office from March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945. One of the important events during his presidency was the Battle of Midway.

Definition and Summary of the Battle of Midway
Summary and definition:
The Battle of Midway was fought June 3–7, 1942 and was the turning point of the war in the Pacific between the United States and Japan. It was an important and decisive victory for the US, during which four important Japanese aircraft  carriers were destroyed enabling America to halt the Japanese advance in the Pacific.

The Japanese strategy was to attack the American base at Midway Island. However American naval intelligence and Allied code-breakers had intercepted Japanese radio transmissions and learnt about the war plan.

 The United States prepared Midway Island for the planned attack and to ambush the Japanese fleet. The American ambush came as a complete surprise as the Japanese planes ran into a storm of anti-aircraft fire and American carriers Hornet, Yorktown, and Enterprise with their carrier planes.

Why was it called the Battle of Midway?
Why was it called the Battle of Midway? It was called the Battle of Midway because the fighting took place around the Midway Atoll, part of the Hawaiian islands half-way (midway) between East Asia and California. Definition: An atoll is a ring-shaped reef, island, or chain of islands formed of coral. The Midway Islands measure just 2.4 sq miles (6.2 sq km) covering 1,540 acres and consists of Sand Island, Spit Island and Eastern Island.

Where was the Battle of Midway fought?
The Battle of Midway was fought over, and near, the tiny US Pacific base at Midway Islands.

Who won the Battle of Midway?
The Battle of Midway was won by America when the United States Navy defeated the Imperial Japanese naval force and in one stroke reversed the dominant position of Japan in the Pacific. The Japanese navy lost four aircraft carriers, a cruiser, 270 aircraft and over 3,000 men during the battle including the highly trained and efficient Japanese aircraft maintenance teams. The United States lost one aircraft carrier, 307 men and 150 aircraft.

When was the Battle of Midway?
The Battle of Midway was fought June 3 - 7, 1942. The times and events of the battle are described in the
Battle of Midway Timeline.

What was the key to the American success at the Battle of Midway?
The key to the American success at the Battle of Midway was due to three important factors:

  • American naval intelligence broke Japan’s JN-25 code and knew at least a week in advance that the Japanese naval force were planning to attack Midway Islands around June 4, 1942. The US Navy therefore knew when and where the Japanese would attack and how many aircraft and ships it would attack with

  • The Yorktown aircraft carrier, which was undertaking repairs after damage at Pearl Harbor, was rushed to reinforce the American force at Midway Islands

  • The United States had land-based aircraft and also troops available for the battle enabling the U.S. Marine Corps to shot down significant numbers of enemy planes

Why was the Battle of Midway important?
The Battle of Midway was a decisive victory for the United States and turning point in the Pacific War. Four important Japanese aircraft  carriers were destroyed which enabled America to halt the Japanese advance in the Pacific.

Battle of Midway Aircraft Carriers
The names of the US and Japanese aircraft carriers at the Battle of Midway were as follows. The US had three Aircraft Carriers: The USS Enterprise (CV-6), USS Hornet (CV-8) and USS Yorktown (CV-5). The USS Yorktown was sunk in the battle. The Japanese had six Aircraft Carriers: The Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu. The Zuiho and Hosho were light carriers. The Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu were all sunk

US Force at the Battle of Midway: Order of Battle
The Order of battle relates to the units, formations, and equipment. The US Force at the Battle of Midway consisted of 3 carriers (Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown), 8 cruisers,16 destroyers and 360 aircraft.

Japanese Force at the Battle of Midway: Order of Battle
The Japanese Force at the Battle of Midway consisted of 4 large carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu), 2 light carriers (Zuiho and Hosho), 7 battleships, 14 cruisers, 15 submarines, 42 destroyers, 35 supporting ships and 280 planes.

Casualties and Death Toll
The United States lost 1 carrier, 1 destroyer and 150 aircraft were destroyed. 307 US servicemen were killed at the Battle of Midway. The Japanese lost 4 carriers, 1 heavy cruiser and 248 aircraft. The Japanese death toll was 3,057.

Facts about Battle of Midway
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Battle of Midway.

Background History: Following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor the United States launched its first attack on the Japan by the "Doolittle Tokyo Raiders". The Doolittle Raid shocked the Japanese who began to make plans to destroy the American fleet in the Pacific in order to protect Tokyo from further bombing.

Background History: Allied code-breakers and American naval intelligence had alerted the US of the Japanese war plans to invade New Guinea which resulted in the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Background History: Naval intelligence then provided information about Japanese plans to attack the American base at Midway Island. American code breakers were able to determine the date and the size of the attack, enabling the forewarned U.S. Navy to set up an ambush of its own to trap the Japanese fleet.

Achieving complete surprise over the Americans was the key prerequisite for Japanese success at Midway. Japan had no idea that the US had broken their codes. 

The complex Japanese war plan involved launching an attack on the Aleutian Islands near Alaska in an attempt to divert some of the American fleet. Two Japanese aircraft carriers and 58 other ships were sent to the Aleutians. This part of the Japanese plan failed, as the Americans did not respond to the diversion.

Due to battle damage following the Battle of Coral Sea, the Americans knew that the Japanese Carrier Strike Force consisted of only four Aircraft Carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, would guarded by just a handful of cruisers and destroyers.

The destruction of the four Japanese aircraft carriers would effectively destroy Japan's naval strength. Aircraft Carriers allowed for planes to take off and land from anywhere in the ocean

The US Commanders at the Battle of Midway were Admiral Chester Nimitz, Rear Admiral Frank J. Fletcher (Task Force 17) and Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance (Task Force 16).

The commanders of the Imperial Japanese Navy were Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet and Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo of the First Air Fleet. 

The powerful Japanese fleet was led by the four heavy carrier Mobile Force supported by heavy units of the Main Body (First Fleet) which vastly outnumbered the U.S. carrier force.

The Fleet Marine Force defense battalion consisting of Navy personnel, Marine Corps, and Army air units were based on Midway Islands.

The conflict began on June 4, 1942 as the Japanese, unaware they were heading into an ambush, launched their aircraft to attack the Midway Islands.

The Americans were well prepared for the attack and although the Marine Corps suffered losses, 38 enemy warplanes were shot down in a hail of anti-aircraft fire. The first Japanese wave of attack returned to their aircraft carriers to refuel and to re-arm.

A second wave of attack was launched by the Japanese only to be met by aircraft launched from the three American carriers USS Hornet, Yorktown, and Enterprise.

Admiral Yamamoto was shocked to learn about American aircraft carriers so near the area of conflict. And the Japanese thought the U.S. only had two carriers. They were not counting on the battle-damaged Yorktown also being in the area.

US dive bombers and torpedo bombers were launched from the US aircraft carriers. The US Dive bombers dropped bombs on top of the flight decks of the Japanese Aircraft carriers. The US Torpedo bombers dropped torpedoes into the water which propelled themselves in the direction of the enemy warships. 

Within a matter of minutes 3 Japanese aircraft carriers, the Kaga, Akagi and Soryu  were reduced to burning wrecks. The Japanese also lost the heavy cruiser Mikuma. The fourth Japanese aircraft carrier, the fourth was sunk a few hours late, was sunk several hours later.

The Americans  had dealt the Japanese navy a terrible blow and Admiral Yamamoto ordered his remaining ships to retreat.

US American History
1929-1945: Depression & WW2

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