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Battle of Midway: June 4–7, 1942

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Fold3 Image - Map of the Battle of Midway
On June 4–7, 1942, American naval and air forces met the Japanese near Midway Atoll in one of the most decisive naval battles of the war. The Battle of Midway would become a turning point in the naval war in the Pacific, as the Japanese losses sustained there proved irreparable.

Following the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in April 1942, the Japanese felt the need to force a decisive battle with the U.S Pacific Fleet that would leave America powerless in the Pacific and perhaps even lead America to accept peace on Japan’s terms. The Japanese developed a complex plan, to be carried out under the general direction of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, that involved attacking and occupying both the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and Midway Atoll, not far from Hawaii, in an attempt to lure the American fleet into a trap. However, American cryptanalysts were able to break enough of the Japanese code to be fairly certain of the basics of the Japanese plan.

American admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, sent two task forces to meet the Japanese at Midway: Task Force 16, with the carriers Hornet and Enterprise, under Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance; and Task Force 17, with the carrier Yorktown, under Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher. The Japanese Midway force brought four carriers: the Soryu, Hiryu, Kaga, and Akagi.

Fold3 Image - Map of Midway Islands
The Japanese began carrier-based air attacks on the Midway Islands at dawn on June 4 in preparation for a land invasion. As the Japanese carriers were preparing to recover the planes from their Midway strike and launch others, various waves of Midway- and carrier-based American planes found the Japanese ships. Although the American planes in these initial attacks sustained great losses themselves, they did not do serious damage to the Japanese. However, they did prepare the way for subsequent American dive-bombers from the Enterprise and Yorktown to cause devastating damage to three of the Japanese carriers. Planes from the Enterprise destroyed the fourth Japanese carrier later that day as well, and all four carriers would eventually sink from the attack.

However, the Americans also sustained a carrier loss when—on the afternoon of the 4th—Japanese planes found the Yorktown and damaged her badly enough that the captain had the ship abandoned. A Japanese submarine finished off the Yorktown two days later and sunk it.

As a result of the various engagements between the Japanese and Americans from June 4th to 7th, the Japanese sustained heavy losses: 3,000 men and 4 carriers, while the Americans lost 300 men and 1 carrier. The Battle of Midway would prove a turning point in the naval fight in the Pacific, as it hobbled the Japanese carrier fleet and put Japan on the defensive at sea for the remainder of the war.

Did you have family who fought at Midway? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the battle on Fold3.

106 Comments

  1. Yes, my first cousin Jack Caddel, was stationed on the Yorktown. He was off the ship flying when sunk. The three man crew flew to another ship to land.

  2. The Doolittle raid had nothing to do with the battle of Midway. The Japanese started planning the operation early in 1942. Also the invasion of Attu and Kiska was a totally separate operation and not part of the Midway planning. See “The Battle of Midway” by Craig Symonds published in 2011.

    • I am sure there is much debate concerning the correlation of the Doolittle Raid and the Midway battle. In his book, “First Heroes”, Craig Nelson, (2015), the Japanese did want to draw out the American carriers and had planned the attack for some time. However, the Raid forced them to try and “save face” in their homeland for allowing bombs to hit the Japanese homeland. Nelson goes into great detail how several Japanese operations, including Midway, were in retaliation for the Doolittle Raid.

  3. My Graddaddy was on the USS Yorktown CV-5 in the Battle of Midway. I am so thankful I got to hear many of his war stories before he passed. We went to his shipmates reunion in Mobile in 2003 I think. Such a great experience meeting all those brave souls. They along with many from the WWII Generation truly put the ERA in America.

  4. My Father was on the Astoria was his ship in the battell of Midway atoll

  5. My cousin, Preston Mobley was on the USS Enterprise at the battle of Midway.’ I also had 2 brothers in the Pacific 1 army Jessie A. Kilgore , wounded in the invasion of the Philippines and again on Okinawa. William E. Kilgore USN served on the USS BULL DE 639 (I believe) In the battle of the Philippine Sea where it fought alongside the USS JOHNSON and other Destroyers against overwhelming Japanese odds. He was severely wounded. I also had 3 brothers in Korea . 2 Army , Kenneth W. Kilgore and John L. Kilgore. James R. Kilgore USN on the USS Hornet CVA 12. My other brother, Marion J. and I served in the Army.
    The youngest brother did not have to serve’

    • My husband Lyle Albaugh served on the USS Hornet CVA-12 during the Korean conflict. We had the opportunity to visit the Hornet in San Diego as a museum.

  6. My father, Joseph Trapasoo was a photographer and naval officer who fought in the Philippines (PHOM3). He took a lot of great pictures, some sad and others amazing. I still have the pictures of the memories back then. Tragedy to see how many men lost their lives and what they went through.

  7. Correction on my post named spelled wrong. Should be Joseph Trapasso

  8. My grandparents were friends with a military family who had two sons in the Army and two in the Navy. The oldest son was on the destroyer Hammann DD-318, I think, as it was accompanying the severely damaged Yorktown after the Battle of Midway. A Japanese sub torpedoed the Hammann and the Yorktown. The Hammann broke in half and sank in 10 minutes, killing over 80 men, some of whom died when the depth charges went off as they sank. The oldest son lost his life. The younger son was on the Yorktown when this happened and witnessed the disaster and loss of his brother.

  9. My Dad, James A. Baker served on the Enterprise and he was proud of his ship from 1940-1945. He saw many battles, but only spoke of one when he with 20 other shipmates were together when a bomb came through the compartment , lights went off, when there was light again.. He discovered that all were killed, he only lost his hearing in one ear. Some miracle. He passed away in 1974.

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