The Battle of Midway

Topics: Battle of Midway, Imperial Japanese Navy, Attack on Pearl Harbor Pages: 17 (6548 words) Published: October 20, 2008
Battle of Midway was a major naval battle, widely regarded as the most important one of the Pacific Campaign of World War II.[3] It took place from June 4 to 7, 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea, five months after the Japanese capture of Wake Island, and exactly six months to the day after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States Navy decisively defeated a Japanese attack against Midway Atoll. Both sides sustained significant losses. Four Japanese aircraft carriers and a heavy cruiser were sunk in exchange for one American aircraft carrier and a destroyer. The heavy losses permanently weakened the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), in particular the four fleet carriers and over 200 experienced naval aviators.[4] Japan was unable to keep pace with American shipbuilding and aircrew training programs in providing replacements. By 1942, the United States was three years into a massive ship building program intended to make the navy larger than Japan's.[5] As a result of Midway, strategically, the U.S. Navy was able to seize the initiative in the Pacific and go on the offensive. The Japanese plan was to lure America's few remaining carriers into a trap and sink them.[6] The Japanese also intended to occupy Midway Atoll to extend their defensive perimeter. This operation was considered preparatory for further attacks against Fiji and Samoa, as well as an invasion of Hawaii.[7] The Midway operation, like the attack on Pearl Harbor, was not part of a campaign for the conquest of the United States, but was aimed at its elimination as a strategic Pacific power, thereby giving Japan a free hand in establishing its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. It was also hoped another defeat would force the U.S. to negotiate an end to the Pacific War with conditions favorable for Japan.[8] Japan had been highly successful in rapidly securing its initial war goals, including the takeover of the Philippines, capture of Malaya and Singapore, and securing vital resource areas in Java, Borneo, and other islands of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). As such, preliminary planning for a second phase of operations commenced as early as January 1942. However, because of strategic differences between the Imperial Army and Imperial Navy, as well as infighting between the Navy's GHQ and Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s Combined Fleet, the formulation of effective strategy was hampered, and the follow-up strategy was not finalized until April 1942.[9] Admiral Yamamoto succeeded in winning a bureaucratic struggle placing his operational concept—further operations in the Central Pacific—ahead of other contending plans. These included operations either directly or indirectly aimed at Australia and into the Indian Ocean. In the end, Yamamoto's barely-veiled threat to resign unless he got his way succeeded in carrying his agenda forward.[10] Yamamoto's primary strategic concern was the elimination of America's remaining carrier forces, the principal obstacle to the overall campaign. This concern was acutely heightened by the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo (April 18, 1942) by USAAF B-25s, launching from USS Hornet. The raid, while militarily insignificant, was a severe psychological shock to the Japanese and proved the existence of a gap in the defenses around the Japanese home islands.[11] Sinking America's aircraft carriers and seizing Midway, the only strategic island besides Hawaii in the East Pacific, was seen as the only means of nullifying this threat. Yamamoto reasoned an operation against the main carrier base at Pearl Harbor would induce the U.S. forces to fight. However, given the strength of American land-based air-power on Hawaii, he judged the powerful American base could not be attacked directly.[12] Instead, he selected Midway, at the extreme northwest end of the Hawaiian Island chain, some 1,300 miles (2,100 km) from Oahu. Midway was not especially important in the larger scheme of Japan's intentions; however, the...
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