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?
Where was the Battle of Midway fought?
Who won the Battle of Midway?
When was the Battle of Midway?
What was the key to the American success at the Battle of Midway?
Why was the Battle of Midway important?
Battle of Midway Aircraft Carriers
US Force at the Battle of Midway: Order of Battle
Japanese Force at the Battle of Midway: Order of Battle
Casualties and Death Toll
Facts about 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.
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