The Battle of Midway was fought on Midway Island and the area surrounding the Island, from the 4th to the 7th June 1942. The Battle of Midway was fought by the Japanese as their commander Admiral Isoroku Yamamotoan wanted to draw the US Pacific Fleet into a battle where he could overwhelm and destroy it, unfortunately for him the Americans managed to break the Japanese code so they knew exactly where the Japanese were and where they were going to attack next. During the battle the Japanese lost 4 carriers, 1 cruiser, 248 aircraft and 3,057 men were killed. While the Americans only lost 1 carrier, 1 destroyer, 150 aircraft and 307 men were killed. The Battle was fought in awful conditions, for many men the Battle of midway was their first taste of war, survivors from the battle have said that what ‘the battle told us was that war is not fun, war is not wonderful’. The Battle of Midway encouraged many Americans to try their hardest to make sure the war in the Pacific was as short as possible. The Battle of Midway is seen by many people as the turning point in the Pacific war, this is seen as the turning point as it was the Japanese’s first loss in the war, the Japanese couldn’t replace their losses after the battle and it began the Japanese retreat. Although some other historians believe that Midway was not the main turning point in the Pacific war as the Japanese was still able to attack after the battle. The Battle of Midway made the Japanese desperate; they were on the retreat and began losing momentum and the resources they needed to win a long drawn out war fought on many different countries throughout the Pacific.
Significance to New Zealand:
The war in the Pacific was the closest that war had ever got to New Zealand. Japanese submarines were seen in New Zealand harbours and Japanese planes were spotted flying over Auckland, everyone in New Zealand began to prepare for the forecasted Japanese invasion ‘for the first time in our country’s history we are directly threatened by enemy attack.’ New Zealanders had to come together in something called a home front, which is where women and men that weren’t able to fight in the war did the jobs of the men that were fighting. The home front increased when Japan entered the war as more men were needed to defend New Zealand and more men were needed to fight in Europe as the devastation increased. This gave many women the opportunity to do jobs that they had always wanted to do, to have some freedom and to help defend/protect New Zealand however they could. The Pacific war was fought by many American men, these men took breaks from fighting in the front line in New Zealand. Many of these men pursued New Zealand women, taking back an estimated 1,500 New Zealand woman to America as war brides. This meant many communities lost both women and men from the next generation, reducing the number of children produced and the New Zealand overall population. The Pacific war was not fought by many New Zealanders (compared to the amount of men that fought in Europe and Africa), although thousands did fight but not on the same scale, the men fought mainly in Singapore, the seas around Japan and the Solomon Islands. This was significant to New Zealanders as it meant that New Zealand was vulnerable to Japanese invasion and relying on other countries to defend her like America.
Background from America's perspective
Prior to the war America and Japan signed a treaty in 1854. The treaty in which Japan agreed to help shipwrecked American sailors, to establish two ports for American trade and coal, and to allow a US consulate (small government) to be established in Japan, this treaty was ended right before World War two started in 1939. In 1939 when America started preparing for the Pacific war, the war started to become real for American citizens. America began freezing Japanese assets in 1939 (although they didn’t freeze imports of oil into Japan until the war had begun). America also began its campaign to get as many Americans into the war effort by using Propaganda posters. America was brought into the war officially by the Japanese attack on Pearl harbour on 7th December 1941. Although they had been supplying resources to Britain and the other allies since World War two had started. The Americans were caught by surprise by the attack on Pearl harbour as they hadn’t expected Japan to directly attack them. America and most of the Allies had under estimated the Japanese’s strength regarding them still as a ‘second-grade power.’ The attack on Pearl harbour was the main reason America came into the war on the 8th December 1941, this began the Pacific war that was to last until 1945.
Background from Japan's perspective:
The background of the Japanese entrance into the Pacific war against America dates back to the 19th century when the Americans broke Japan’s self imposed isolation from the Western world. The Pacific war is seen as the Japanese revenge on America for forcing a treaty on them stating that the Japanese had to help shipwrecked American sailors, two ports for trade and coal and to allow a US consulate (small government) to be established in Japan. In 1905 the Japanese defeated Russia, they also controlled the Korean Peninsula, Japan began to want a larger empire. After World War 1 Japan was included in the Treaty of Versailles (as the fought on the Allies side). America didn’t want the Japanese expanding their Empire into the Pacific as it threatened them, so at the meeting discussing the conditions of the treaty of Versailles they argued against the Japanese about their expansion into the Pacific. The Japanese hated America getting involved and wanting to get revenge on America for limiting their expansion. Both Japan and America began preparing for war in 1939, although within the Japanese war effort even Before the start of the war everything was done to get Japan into peak war state, lessons were given at school about how important the Emperor was, the imperialist ideas of the Empire and the nationalism/loyalty to Japan and the Emperor. As the devastation in Europe increased, Japan’s relationship with Germany began to grow and the tensions between America and Japan seemed to be highlighted and increased. The Japanese started to practice their attack on Pearl Harbour to make sure everything was perfect. On the 7th December 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl harbour and declared war on America and the other Allies.
What happened during the battle for the Pacific?
The battle in the Pacific had been unavoidable since the start of World War Two, but when France fell and the devastation in Europe began to increase it highlighted the ever growing tension within the Pacific. The Pacific war was broken up into many different smaller battles and events these include, Pearl Harbour, Battle of Midway, Battle for Saipan and the Atomic bombings. The first important event happened on December 7th 1941 at 7:30am. The idea behind the attack was to catch America off guard and take out their navy and air force so they were unable to fight in the Pacific. Although the Japanese were able to take out some of the American army and navy, a lot of it was out doing training drills (especially the all important aircraft carriers) so were unaffected by the surprise attack on the harbour. The next day American declared war on Japan. The next important event during the Pacific war was the Battle for Midway Island. This battle took place on the 4th – 7th June 1942 on Midway Island and in the surrounding area. The battle was important as it was Japan’s first defeat in the war. The battle was also important as it put Japan on the back foot as they were struggling to replace their loses and began retreating. The next important event in the Pacific War was the subscription of Japanese kamikaze pilots. This was when a man was prepared to crash his plane into a ship killing himself to show his loyalty to Japan and the emperor. Dying for Japan had always been a Japanese tradition but they were not used until later in the war. Kamikaze pilots highlight the desperation of the Japanese cause as the Japanese position in the war deteriorated. The next important battle in the Pacific war was the Battle for Saipan fought from 15th June – 9th July 1944. If the Battle of Midway was the military turning point Saipan was the emotional turning point for the Japanese people as they realised the war wasn’t going as well as they had been told. The Battle for Saipan was a military success for the Allies, as the main battle was pretty much over after a few hours leaving only about 1,000 unwounded Japanese soldiers were left fighting, the battle continued until the 9th of June due to the Japanese 'fight to the death' mentality meaning not even the citizens surrendered. On the 30th June the remaining Japanese soldiers and some civilians joined together in one last suicide charge, which nearly overwhelmed the Americans if it wasn’t for the intervention of some American tanks. The Battle for Saipan sealed the Japanese fate but it also highlighted to the rest of the world the Japanese ‘fight to the death for your country and emperor’ mentality. The last and arguably the most important event during the Pacific war was the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Americans dropped the first bomb named ‘little boy’ on Hiroshima on the 6th August and they dropped the second 3 days later on the 9th of August called ‘fat man’ on Nagasaki. The atomic bombs killed in total 150,000-246,000 people (mostly civilians) while starting a new kind of warfare, they also ended World War two ( as Germany had already unconditionally surrendered on May 7th 1945) and the Pacific war, when the Japanese emperor announced the surrender personally on the 15th August 1945, while the official surrender agreement was signed on the 2nd September 1945 which officially ended the Pacific war along with World War 2.
How did people respond to the war?
Most people in countries part of the Pacific war responded to the war especially the bombing’s by uniting the people. This was especially evident in Japan and the smaller countries of the Pacific where bombing was most intense. Often bombing’s would have increased the resistance within the countries. In America women and the men not able to fight responded to the Pacific war by beginning to do the jobs of the men who were fighting. There were even cases of people dying from the strain of the war effort. There was also much Propaganda going around about the severity of the Japanese prisoner of war camps during the war, this made a lot of American people angry and made them agree with the atomic bombings. In Japan they responded to the war by creating a ‘fight to the death’ mentality for Japan and the emperor not just soldiers many Japanese citizens had this mentality as well. Often Japanese citizens would suicide, even kill their children so they won’t have to surrender. An example of this is one Japanese lady in Saipan who threw her baby off the edge of a cliff then jumped off herself killing both of them. This showed the Japanese desperation and the Japanese nationalism/loyalty.
How people were affected by the Pacific war?
In some way or another the Pacific war affected most people on Earth. As most people heard about the brutality of the Japanese, the atomic bombings, or knew someone who had died or was personally part of the war effort. People in countries around the Pacific would have been affected by the lack of food as crops as they would have been destroyed by the fighting. In America most people would have known people who were killed, communities destroyed. In Japan people were affected as they didn’t have any idea what was happening in the war until right at the end, they would not have realised how desperate and close to losing they had become. The Japanese were also affected as the Americans dropped two atomic bombs on them which killed 150,000-246,000 people. The atomic bomb affected everyone in the world as it ended not only the Pacific War but the whole of World War 2.