Midway was at the center of a battle between the Imperial Japanese forces and the US Navy for its control. The battle was vital to both the Japanese and the Americans since it was a strategic point for any military power in the Pacific. The Imperial Japanese forces were busy waging a war of expansion in the Pacific region. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese had staged a daring raid at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii that destroyed the American naval force stationed there. The attack had caught the Americans by surprise and the Japanese Commanders wanted to get full control of Midway.
Preparation for the Battle
Imperial Japanese Admirals Isoroku Yamamoto, Chuichi Nagumo and Nobutake designed a plan that would lure the American aircraft carriers and ships into a trap. The Japanese navy ships were to spread out to avoid being spotted by the Americans. But this meant that the Japanese ships would not be close enough to offer support for each other in case of an attack. The admirals chose Midway since they felt that it was out of range from Pearl Harbor. After the battle of the Coral Sea where the Americans had lost USS Lexington and USS York was damaged. The intelligence given to the Japanese painted a picture of demoralized Americans who may not want to fight. Also, it allegedly showed that there were only two carriers present at Midway. The whole plan was complicated due to the level of coordination involved in the operation.
The Battle of Midway
The battle began on June 3, 1941, when American naval planes discovered the Japanese ships. The Japanese ships came under attack but one was struck by a torpedo and was damaged. Acting on information decoded from Japanese transmissions, American fighter planes set off from Midway to attack the Japanese targets. The Japanese launched their own attack on the USS York. Another attack on the USS York would force the ship to be abandoned despite the quick fixes on it. The rescue ship USS Hammann that towed the USS York was sunk by Japanese attacks. The Japanese naval ships were coming under constant attacks from wave after wave of torpedo and aerial attacks from the American Navy and Airforce. The Japanese had lost their aircraft carriers, Soryu and Kaga. The following day Hiryu and Akagi were sunk. The remaining Japanese forces retreated and the Americans celebrated their victory.
Reasons for the Japanese Failure
The Japanese operation failed due to the fact that it was compromised from the beginning. American military intelligence officials had managed to break the Japanese communication codes. Every detail of the operation was well known to the Americans and they had enough time to prepare their countermeasures. The Japanese had also underestimated the Americans morale to fight. The Japanese planes were also refueled and rearmed while in the hangars even in war. A single bomb attack drew devastating explosions and fires that were uncontrollable. The Japanese could not replace their destroyed equipment and fallen pilots faster than the Americans. The defeat marked the beginning of the Japanese downfall that culminated in its surrender in 1945.