U.S. History Since 1877
November 29, 2005
The Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway was not the first battle or the last battle of the Second World War, but there is not question that it was the most decisive battle of World War II in the Pacific. Midway is nothing special—just a small string of islands six miles across built up to form coral—however its location and resources are important. If the United States of America had not been in possession of Midway, the Empire of Japan could have easily attacked Pearl Harbor, or possibly even the west coast of the United States. I believe the possession of the Island of Midway was a key ingredient to winning the war in the Pacific. Japan, which has almost no natural resources, would also have had access to the oil supplies on Midway, from which it would stage attacks. Had the United States not won this battle, I believe the war in the Pacific would have taken a lot more time.
The Midway Islands were important in World War II because of their strategic location in the Pacific Ocean—halfway between Tokyo, Japan, and the United States. The Pacific is enormous; victory would be determined by which country controlled which bases. Large fleets would be used to guard each base, and troops would be used to try to capture the bases. In 1941, the United States of America, the Empire of Japan, Great Brittan and the Netherlands had a great number of Pacific bases. The Japanese invaded many Pacific bases so they could further connect their supply chain. The United States was in possession of the Aleutian Islands off the tip of Alaska, Wake Island, the Midway Islands and the Hawaiian Islands. Possibly the most important base for the United States was Pearl Harbor, located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
In late 1941, the United States fleet at Pearl Harbor had eight battleships, eight cruisers, twenty-nine destroyers, and another twenty or so miscellaneous ships (McGowen 11). Early on the morning of December 7, low-flying Japanese planes suddenly swooped into and engulfed the harbor. The United States’ loss was excruciating, but fortunately, three aircraft carriers were out at see and not harmed. The Japanese had dropped the first bomb, and it would be another 1,336 days before the whole ordeal with Japan in the Pacific would be over.
The reason the Japanese had gone after the United States Pacific fleet was because it was Japan’s greatest threat. After bombing Pearl Harbor, the next part of the plan was to capture British Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies, so that Japan could have a source of oil and string of islands to make their bases more accessible. On December 10, 1941, the Japanese landed 6,000 troops on the Untied States’ base of Guam. Then they stormed Singapore and captured it on February 8, 1942 (McGowen 15). In response, the United States aircraft carrier Yorktown went to help the United States Pacific fleet by going from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal.
Chester W. Nimitz was the commander of the Pacific fleet. Nimitz created small task forces whose job was to go out and inflict as much damage on the enemy as possible. On the 10th of March, 1942, the carriers Lexington and Yorktown bombed the Japanese bases of New Guinea, damaging many small ships (McGowen 15). These task force attacks were not major, but were supposed to be nuisance attacks to annoy Japan and stop their progress. The Japanese were taking over each island in the Pacific swiftly and powerfully. Momentum was in heavy favor for the Empire of Japan. In the United States; people on the West coast were becoming nervous and were afraid that Japan would invade the mainland of the United States. In spite of these events, most American politicians saw the Pacific war as unimportant. To them, the war in Europe was more vital. The Japanese economy was not as strong as the American economy. If the war dragged on, the politicians believed the...
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