Just six months after the attack on Pearl Harbour, a major battle took place in the Pacific Ocean between the United States and Japan. The battle of Midway proved to be a decisive turning point in the Second World War and took place between 4-7 June 1942.
What Is the Background?
The Japanese Empire’s main strategic goal in the early parts of the war was to achieve dominance in the Pacific Ocean. By early 1942 this had largely been achieved following the capture of the Philippines, Malaya, Singapore and the Dutch East Indies (modern day Indonesia) with the oil resources available from the latter proving extremely important.
Within the Japanese High Command, there was much debate on the next set of strategic goals but following the United States raid on Tokyo (known as the Doolittle Raid) on Saturday April 18, 1942 the main aim focused on the elimination of the American presence in the Pacific theatre. Whilst the raid was strategic irrelevant, the Doolittle Raid demonstrated that they were still a threat to Japanese territory and interests.
With Pearl Harbour deemed too risky to attack for a second time, the Japanese led by Admiral Yamamoto, selected the Pacific island of Midway, situated around 2,500 miles from Japan to attack. The United States had a navy base on the island and considered it to be strategically crucial for refuelling and repairs. It also acted as a staging point for bomber attacks.
What Happened Next?
The battle of Midway began when the Japanese launched fighter planes and bombers from four aircraft carriers in the early hours of June 4, 1942. Their intelligence reports had suggested that the Americans only had two operational aircraft carriers (Enterprise and Hornet). The third, the Yorktown they believed was out of action and it was this miscalculation along with the United States ability to break the Japanese naval code that led to a decisive victory.
With the knowledge of the Japanese plans, the U.S were able to ambush their attackers by launching a series of bomber attacks on the their aircraft carriers. As a consequence, three out of the four Japanese carriers were sunk during the battle with the United States losing one.
The Battle of Midway was a decisive victory for the United States. It proved the importance of intelligence and the superiority of air power in what lay ahead. Following the loss of their aircraft carrier, the Japanese were never again able to launch a major offensive for the remainder of the war.
About the Documentary: “The Battle of Midway” is a 1942 short documentary film directed by John Ford and produced by the United States Navy. It shows authentic footage from the battle and was one of four winners for the first Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1942.