Thursday, June 4, 2009

This Day: June 4th

June 4-7, 1942.

The Battle of Midway was a major turning point in the war in the Pacific. Up until this point, the Japanese were dominating. The attack on Pearl Harbor was only six months prior to Midway. This tiny island, located approximately half way between Hawaii and Japan was a key piece of real estate. Midway Island housed an airport. We needed to keep it and Japan did not want us to have it.

On June 4th, Japan launched an aerial attack on the island using planes off of aircraft carriers. They were not aware that the US Navy had a major force waiting for them, just over the horizon.

The Navy had found a way to decode messages sent by the Japanese Navy and were able to determine, with reasonable certainty that Japan was preparing an attack on Midway.

Japan tried to convince us that they were preparing a major attack on Alaska, hoping that we would send most of our surviving Navy far north of Midway.

As they attacked Midway, we spotted their carrier force and launched an attack from the air against their ships. During the first day of battle, major damage was inflicted by both sides.

As the major emphasis of the battle shifted from the island to the ships, planes form both sides attacked multiple ships.

Our carrier, the USS Yorktown was hit and severely damaged on the 4th.

By the end of the battle, most of the Japanese carriers had been sunk and the US Navy had their first major victory in the war. The Japanese Navy never recovered from this battle and Midway began a shift in momentum that would carry on to the end of the war just over three years later.

The USS Yorktown did not survive the battle and sank on the 7th. The carrier had been in commission less than five years.

67 years ago today, the tide turned in the Pacific and began to flow west.

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