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Battle of Midway

Battle of Midway
Part of the Pacific Theater of World War II

U.S. Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers from the USS Hornet about to attack the burning Japanese cruiser Mikuma for the third time on 6 June 1942
Date 4–7 June 1942
Location Midway Atoll
Result Decisive American victory
 United States  Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
Chester W. Nimitz
Frank Jack Fletcher
Raymond Spruance
Marc A. Mitscher
Thomas C. Kinkaid
Isoroku Yamamoto
Nobutake Kondō
Chūichi Nagumo
Tamon Yamaguchi 
Ryusaku Yanagimoto 
3 carriers
7 heavy cruisers
1 light cruiser
15 destroyers
233 carrier-based aircraft
127 land-based aircraft
16 submarines[1]
4 carriers
2 battleships
2 heavy cruisers
1 light cruiser
12 destroyers
248 carrier-based aircraft[2]
16 floatplanes

Did not participate in battle:
2 light carriers
5 battleships
4 heavy cruisers
2 light cruisers
~35 support ships
Casualties and losses
1 carrier sunk
1 destroyer sunk
~150 aircraft destroyed
307 killed[3]
4 carriers sunk
1 heavy cruiser sunk
1 heavy cruiser damaged
248 aircraft destroyed[4]
3,057 killed[5]

The Battle of Midway in the Pacific Theater of Operations was one of the most important naval battles of World War II.[6][7][8] Between 4 and 7 June 1942, only six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, and one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea, the United States Navy (USN), under Admirals Chester W. Nimitz, Frank Jack Fletcher, and Raymond A. Spruance decisively defeated an attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), under Admirals Isoroku Yamamoto, Chuichi Nagumo, and Nobutake Kondo on Midway Atoll, inflicting irreparable damage on the Japanese fleet.[9] Military historian John Keegan called it "the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare."[10] It was Japan's first naval defeat since the Battle of Shimonoseki Straits in 1863.

The Japanese operation, like the earlier attack on Pearl Harbor, sought to eliminate the United States as a strategic power in the Pacific, thereby giving Japan a free hand in establishing its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The Japanese hoped that another demoralizing defeat would force the U.S. to capitulate in the Pacific War and thus ensure Japanese dominance in the Pacific.[11]

The Japanese plan was to lure the United States' aircraft carriers into a trap.[12] The Japanese also intended to occupy Midway as part of an overall plan to extend their defensive perimeter in response to the Doolittle air raid on Tokyo. This operation was also considered preparatory for further attacks against Fiji, Samoa, and Hawaii itself.

The plan was handicapped by faulty Japanese assumptions of the American reaction and poor initial dispositions.[13] Most significantly, American codebreakers were able to determine the date and location of the attack, enabling the forewarned U.S. Navy to set up an ambush of its own. Four Japanese aircraft carriers—Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, all part of the six-carrier force that had attacked Pearl Harbor six months earlier—and a heavy cruiser were sunk at a cost of one American aircraft carrier and a destroyer. After Midway and the exhausting attrition of the Solomon Islands campaign, Japan's shipbuilding and pilot training programs were unable to keep pace in replacing their losses, while the U.S. steadily increased its output in both areas.[14]


  • Background 1
    • Yamamoto's plan: Operation MI 1.1
    • Aleutian invasion 1.2
  • Prelude to battle 2
    • American reinforcements 2.1
    • Japanese shortcomings 2.2
    • Allied code-breaking 2.3
  • Battle 3
    • Order of battle 3.1
    • Initial air attacks 3.2
    • Nagumo's dilemma 3.3
    • Attacks on the Japanese fleet 3.4
    • Japanese counterattacks 3.5
    • American counterattack 3.6
  • Japanese casualties 4
  • Aftermath 5
    • American prisoners 5.1
  • Impact 6
  • Discovery of sunken vessels 7
  • Remembrances 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
    • Footnotes 10.1
    • Citations 10.2
    • Bibliography 10.3
  • Further reading 11
    • Books 11.1
    • 11.2 Articles
    • Historic documents 11.3
    • Miscellaneous 11.4


The extent of Japanese military expansion in the Pacific, April 1942.

Japan had attained its initial strategic goals quickly, taking the Philippines, Malaya, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia); the latter, with its vital oil resources, was particularly important to Japan. Because of this, preliminary planning for a second phase of operations commenced as early as January 1942. However, there were strategic disagreements between the Imperial Army and Imperial Navy, and infighting between the Navy's GHQ and Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's Combined Fleet, such that a follow-up strategy was not formed until April 1942.[15] Admiral Yamamoto finally succeeded in winning the bureaucratic struggle with a thinly veiled threat to resign, after which his plan for the Central Pacific was adopted.[16]

Yamamoto's primary strategic goal was the elimination of America's carrier forces, which he regarded as the principal threat to the overall Pacific campaign.[nb 1] This concern was acutely heightened by the Doolittle Raid on 18 April 1942, in which 16 US Army Air Forces B-25 Mitchell bombers launched from USS Hornet bombed targets in Tokyo and several other Japanese cities. The raid, while militarily insignificant, was a severe psychological shock to the Japanese and showed the existence of a gap in the defenses around the Japanese home islands as well as the accessibility of Japanese territory to American bombers.[17][nb 2]

This, and other successful hit-and-run raids by American carriers in the South Pacific, showed that they were still a threat, although seemingly reluctant to be drawn into an all-out battle.[18] Yamamoto reasoned that another attack on the main U.S Naval base at Pearl Harbor would induce all of the American fleet to sail out to fight, including the carriers. However, due to the strength of American land-based air power on the Hawaiian Islands, he judged that it was too risky to attack Pearl Harbor directly.[19]

Instead, Yamamoto selected Midway, a tiny atoll at the extreme northwest end of the Hawaiian Island chain, approximately 1,300 miles (1,100 nautical miles; 2,100 kilometres) from Oahu. [nb 3] Midway was not especially important in the larger scheme of Japan's intentions, but the Japanese felt the Americans would consider Midway a vital outpost of Pearl Harbor and would therefore be compelled to defend it vigorously.[20] The U.S. did consider Midway vital; after the battle, establishment of a U.S. submarine base on Midway allowed submarines operating from Pearl Harbor to refuel and reprovision, extending their radius of operations by 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometres). In addition to serving as a seaplane base, Midway's airstrips also served as a forward staging point for bomber attacks on Wake Island.[21]

Yamamoto's plan: Operation MI

Midway Atoll, several months before the battle. Eastern Island (with the airfield) is in the foreground, and the larger Sand Island is in the background to the west.

Typical of Japanese naval planning during World War II, Yamamoto's battle plan was exceedingly complex,[22] requiring the careful and timely coordination of multiple battle groups over hundreds of miles of open sea. Additionally, his design was predicated on optimistic intelligence suggesting that USS Enterprise and USS Hornet, forming Task Force 16, were the only carriers available to the U.S. Pacific Fleet. During the Battle of the Coral Sea one month earlier, USS Lexington had been sunk and USS Yorktown damaged so severely that the Japanese believed she too had been lost. In actuality, Yorktown would be deployed also, after being hastily repaired at Pearl Harbor and would later play a critical role in the discovery and eventual destruction of the Japanese fleet carriers at Midway. Perhaps most critically, much of Yamamoto's planning, coinciding with the general feeling among the Japanese leadership at the time, was based on a gross misjudgement of American morale which was believed to be debilitated from the string of Japanese victories in the preceding months.

Yamamoto felt deception would be required to lure the U.S. fleet into a fatally compromised situation.[23] To this end, he dispersed his forces so that their full extent (particularly his battleships) would be unlikely to be discovered by the Americans prior to battle. Critically, Yamamoto's supporting battleships and cruisers would trail Vice-Admiral Chūichi Nagumo's carrier striking force by several hundred miles. Japan's heavy surface forces were intended to destroy whatever elements of the U.S. fleet might come to Midway's defense once Nagumo's carriers had weakened them sufficiently for a daylight gun duel;[24] this was typical of the battle doctrine of most major navies.[25]

What Yamamoto did not know was that the U.S. had broken the main Japanese naval code (dubbed JN-25 by the Americans). His emphasis on dispersal also meant that none of his formations could support each other. For instance, the only warships larger than the 12 destroyers that screened Nagumo's fleet were two battleships, two heavy cruisers, and one light cruiser, despite his carriers being expected to carry out the strikes and bear the brunt of American counterattacks. By contrast, the flotillas of Yamamoto and Kondo had between them two light carriers, five battleships, four heavy cruisers, and two light cruisers, none of which would see any action at Midway.[24] Their distance from Nagumo's carriers would also have grave implications during the battle, because the larger warships in Yamamoto and Kondo's forces carried scout planes, an invaluable reconnaissance capability denied to Nagumo.[26][27]

Aleutian invasion

The Japanese operations in the Aleutian Islands (Operation AL) removed yet more ships that could otherwise have augmented the force striking Midway. Whereas many earlier historical accounts considered the Aleutians operation as a feint to draw American forces away, early twenty-first century research suggested that AL was supposed to be launched simultaneously with the attack on Midway.[25] However, a one-day delay in the sailing of Nagumo's task force resulted in Operation AL beginning a day before the Midway attack.[28]

Prelude to battle

American reinforcements

USS Yorktown at Pearl Harbor days before the battle.

To do battle with an enemy expected to muster four or five carriers, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, needed every available U.S. flight deck. He already had Vice Admiral William Halsey's two-carrier (Enterprise and Hornet) task force at hand, though Halsey was stricken with psoriasis and had to be replaced by Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Halsey's escort commander.[29] Nimitz also hurriedly recalled Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher's task force, including the carrier Yorktown (which had suffered considerable damage in the Battle of the Coral Sea), from the South West Pacific Area. It reached Pearl Harbor just in time to receive provisions and set sail.

Despite estimates that Yorktown would require several months of repairs at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, her elevators were intact, and her flight deck largely so.[30] The Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard worked around the clock, and in 72 hours she was restored to a battle-ready state,[31] judged good enough for two or three weeks of operations, as Nimitz required.[32] Her flight deck was patched, whole sections of internal frames had been cut out and replaced, and several squadrons of aircraft were drawn from USS Saratoga to augment Yorktown's partially depleted air group; they did not, however, get time to train.[33] [nb 4]

Nimitz disregarded established procedure in getting his third and last available carrier ready for battle. Just three days after putting into dry dock at Pearl Harbor, Yorktown was again under way. Repairs continued even as she sortied, with work crews from the repair ship USS Vestal, herself damaged in the attack on Pearl Harbor six months earlier, still aboard.[34]

On Midway, by 4 June the USN had stationed four squadrons of Consolidated PBY Catalinas—31 aircraft in total—for long-range reconnaissance duties, and six brand-new Grumman TBF-1 Avengers, the latter a detachment from Hornet '​s VT-8.[35] The Marine Corps had 19 Douglas SBD Dauntlesses, seven Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats, 17 Vought SB2U-3 Vindicators, and 21 Brewster F2A-3s. The USAAF contributed a squadron of 17 B-17 Flying Fortresses and eight B-26 Marauders equipped with torpedoes: in total 126 aircraft. Although many of these aircraft, in particular the Brewster F2A-3s, were obsolescent, they were the only aircraft available to the Marine Corps at the time.[36]

Japanese shortcomings

Akagi, the flagship of the Japanese carrier striking force which attacked Pearl Harbor, as well as Darwin, Rabaul, and Colombo, in April 1942 prior to the battle.

During the Battle of the Coral Sea one month earlier, the Japanese light carrier Shōhō had been sunk and the fleet carrier Shōkaku had sustained three bomb hits, and was in drydock undergoing repairs. Although the carrier Zuikaku escaped the battle undamaged, she had lost almost half her air group, and was in port in Kure awaiting replacement planes and pilots. That there were none immediately available was a failure of the IJN crew training program, which already showed signs of being unable to replace losses.[37] Instructors from the Yokosuka Air Corps were employed in an effort to make up the shortfall.[37]

Historians Parshall and Tully believe that by combining the surviving aircraft and pilots from Shōkaku and Zuikaku, it is likely that Zuikaku could have been equipped with almost a full composite air group. However, they also note that doing so would have violated Japanese carrier doctrine, which stressed that carriers and their pilots must train as a single unit (in contrast, American training was only conducted at the squadron level). In any event, the Japanese apparently made no serious attempt to get Zuikaku ready for the forthcoming battle.[38]

Thus, Carrier Division 5, consisting of the two most advanced aircraft carriers of the Kido Butai [nb 5] would not be available, which meant that Admiral Nagumo would have to rely on four fleet carriers: Kaga and Akagi forming Carrier Division 1; Hiryū and Sōryū as Carrier Division 2. At least part of this was due to fatigue; Japanese carriers had been constantly on operations since 7 December 1941, including raids on Darwin and Colombo.[nb 6]

The main Japanese carrier-borne strike aircraft were the Aichi D3A1 dive bomber and the Nakajima B5N2, which was used either as a torpedo bomber or as a level attack bomber. The main carrier fighter was the fast and highly maneuverable Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero". For a variety of reasons, production of the D3A had been drastically reduced, while that of the B5N had been stopped completely and, as a consequence, there were none available to replace losses.[39] In addition, many of the aircraft being used during the June 1942 operations had been operational since late November 1941 and, although they were well-maintained, many were almost worn out and had become increasingly unreliable. These factors meant that all carriers of the Kido Butai had fewer aircraft than their normal complement, with few spare aircraft or parts stored in the carriers' hangars.[40][nb 7]

Japanese strategic scouting arrangements prior to the battle were also in disarray. A picket line of Japanese submarines was late getting into position (partly because of Yamamoto's haste), which let the American carriers reach their assembly point northeast of Midway (known as "Point Luck") without being detected.[41] A second attempt at reconnaissance, using four-engine Kawanishi H8K flying boats to scout Pearl Harbor prior to the battle and detect whether the American carriers were there, part of Operation K, was also thwarted when Japanese submarines assigned to refuel the search aircraft discovered that the intended refueling point—a hitherto deserted bay off French Frigate Shoals - was now occupied by American warships, because the Japanese had carried out an identical mission in March.[42] Thus, Japan was deprived of any knowledge concerning the movements of the American carriers immediately before the battle.

Japanese radio intercepts did notice an increase in both American submarine activity and message traffic. This information was in Yamamoto's hands prior to the battle. However, Japanese plans were not changed; Yamamoto, at sea on Yamato, assumed that Nagumo had received the same signal from Tokyo, and did not communicate with him by radio, so as not to expose his position.[43] Nagumo's radio antennas, however, were unable to receive long-wave transmissions from Tokyo.[44]

Allied code-breaking

Admiral Nimitz had one priceless advantage: cryptanalysts had broken the Japanese Navy's JN-25b code.[45] Since the early spring of 1942, the US had been decoding messages stating that there would soon be an operation at objective "AF". It was not known where "AF" was, but Commander Joseph J. Rochefort and his team at Station HYPO were able to confirm that it was Midway by telling the base there by secure undersea cable to radio an uncoded false message stating that the water purification system it depended upon had broken down and that the base needed fresh water.[46] The code breakers then picked up a Japanese message that "AF was short on water."[47] HYPO was also able to determine the date of the attack as either 4 or 5 June, and to provide Nimitz with a complete IJN order of battle.[48] Japan had a new codebook, but its introduction had been delayed, enabling HYPO to read messages for several crucial days; the new code, which had not yet been cracked, came into use shortly before the attack began, but the important breaks had already been made.[49][nb 8]

As a result, the Americans entered the battle with a very good picture of where, when, and in what strength the Japanese would appear. Nimitz knew that the Japanese had negated their numerical advantage by dividing their ships into four separate task groups, all too widely separated to be able to support each other.[50][nb 9] Nimitz calculated that the aircraft on his three carriers, plus those on Midway Island, gave the U.S. rough parity with Yamamoto's four carriers, mainly because American carrier air groups were larger than Japanese ones. The Japanese, by contrast, remained almost totally unaware of their opponent's true strength and dispositions even after the battle began.[27]


Order of battle

Initial air attacks

Battle deployment, according to William Koenig in Epic Sea Battles
Timeline of the Battle of Midway (acc. to William Koenig)
4 June
  • 04:30 First Japanese takeoff against Midway Islands
  • 04:30 10 planes (Yorktown) begin to search for the Japanese ships
  • 05:34 Japanese ships detected by Yorktown airplanes
  • 07:10 1 Avenger and 4 B26 of US-Army (from Midway I.) attack
  • 07:50 67 Dive-, 29 Torpedo-bombers, 20 Wildcats takeoff (Spruance)
  • 07:55 16 Dive bombers of the US-Navy (from Midway I.) attack
  • 08:10 17 B17 (from Midway Islands) attack
  • 08:20 11 Bombers of the US-Navy (from Midway I.) attack
  • 09:06 12 Torpedo-, 17 dive-bombers, 6 Wildcats takeoff (Yorktown)
  • 09:18 Nagumo to Northeast
  • 09:25 15 airplanes (Hornet) attack
  • 09:30 14 airplanes (Enterprise) attack
  • 10:00 12 T-Bombers (Yorktown) attack
  • 10:25 37 Dive bombers (Enterprise) attack on Akagi and Kaga
  • 10:25 17 Dive bombers (Yorktown) attack on Soryu
  • 11:00 18 Vals and 6 Zekes takeoff from Hiryu
  • 12:05 First attack on Yorktown
  • 13:30 24 Dive bombers takeoff against Hiryu (Spruance)
  • 13:31 10 Kates and 6 Zekes take off from Hiryu
  • 13:40 Yorktown again in service with 18 kn
  • 14:30 Second attack on Yorktown
  • 15:00 Yorktown abandoned
  • 16:10 Soryu sunk
  • 17:00 Dive bombers attack on Hiryu
  • 19:25 Kaga sunk
5 June
  • 05:00 Akagi sunk
  • 09:00 Hiryu sunk

At about 09:00 on 3 June, Ensign Jack Reid, piloting a PBY from US Navy patrol squadron VP-44,[51] spotted the Japanese Occupation Force some 500 nautical miles (580 miles; 930 kilometres) to the west-southwest of Midway. He mistakenly reported this group as the Main Force.[52] Nine B-17s took off from Midway at 12:30 for the first air attack. Three hours later, they found the Japanese Tanaka's transport group 570 nautical miles (660 miles; 1,060 kilometres) to the west.[53]

Under heavy anti-aircraft fire, they dropped their bombs. Though hits were reported,[53] none of the bombs actually hit and no significant damage was inflicted.[54] Early the following morning Japanese oil tanker Akebono Maru sustained the first hit when a torpedo from an attacking PBY struck her around 01:00. This was the only successful air-launched torpedo attack by the U.S. during the entire battle.[54]

At 04:30 on 4 June, Nagumo launched his initial attack on Midway itself, consisting of 36 Aichi D3A dive bombers and 36 Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers, escorted by 36 Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters. At the same time he launched a defensive combat air patrol (CAP) with his eight search aircraft (one from the heavy cruiser Tone launched 30 minutes late due to technical difficulties).

Japanese reconnaissance arrangements were flimsy, with too few aircraft to adequately cover the assigned search areas, laboring under poor weather conditions to the northeast and east of the task force.[55] Yamamoto's faulty dispositions had now become a serious liability.[56]

As Nagumo's bombers and fighters were taking off, 11 PBYs were leaving Midway to run their search patterns. At 05:30, a PBY reported sighting two Japanese carriers with empty decks, indicating an air strike en route.[52] American radar picked up the enemy at a distance of several miles, and interceptors were scrambled. Unescorted bombers headed off to attack the Japanese carrier fleet, their fighter escorts remaining behind to defend Midway.

At 06:20, Japanese carrier aircraft bombed and heavily damaged the U.S. base. Midway-based Marine fighters, which included 7 F4Fs and 21 F2As,[57] intercepted the Japanese and suffered heavy losses, though they managed to destroy four B5Ns and at least three A6Ms. Within the first few minutes, three F4Fs and 13 F2As were destroyed, while most of the surviving U.S. planes were damaged, with only two remaining airworthy. American anti-aircraft fire was intense and accurate, destroying four additional Japanese aircraft and damaging many more.[58]

Of the 108 Japanese aircraft involved in this attack, 11 were destroyed, 14 were heavily damaged, and 29 were damaged to some degree. The initial Japanese attack did not succeed in neutralizing Midway: American bombers could still use the airbase to refuel and attack the Japanese invasion force, and most of Midway's land-based defenses were intact. Japanese pilots reported to Nagumo that another aerial attack to soften Midway's defences would be necessary if troops were to go ashore by 7 June.[59]

Having taken off prior to the Japanese attack, American bombers based on Midway made several attacks on the Japanese carrier fleet. These included six Grumman Avengers, detached to Midway from the Hornet '​s VT-8 (Midway was the first combat mission for the VT-8 airmen, and it was the combat debut of the TBF), Marine Scout-Bombing Squadron 241 (VMSB-241), consisting of 11 SB2U-3s and 16 SBDs, plus four USAAF B-26s, armed with torpedoes, and 15 B-17s. The Japanese repelled these attacks, losing two fighters while destroying five TBFs, two SB2Us, eight SBDs and two B-26s.[60][61] The first Marine aviator to perish in the battle, Major Lofton R. Henderson of VMSB-241, was killed while leading his inexperienced Dauntless squadron into action. The main airfield at Guadalcanal was named Henderson Field after him in August 1942;[62] two civil airports also bear this name.

One B-26, after being seriously damaged by anti-aircraft fire, veered into a steep dive straight toward the Akagi. Making no attempt to pull out of its run, the aircraft narrowly missed crashing directly into the carrier's bridge, which could have killed Nagumo and his command staff. This experience may well have contributed to Nagumo's determination to launch another attack on Midway, in direct violation of Yamamoto's order to keep the reserve strike force armed for anti-ship operations.[60]

A B-17 attack misses Hiryū; this was taken some time between 08:00–08:30. A Shotai of three Zeros is lined up near the bridge. This was one of several combat air patrols launched during the day.[63]

Nagumo's dilemma

In accordance with Japanese carrier doctrine at the time, Admiral Nagumo had kept half of his aircraft in reserve. These comprised two squadrons each of dive bombers and torpedo bombers. The dive bombers were as yet unarmed. The torpedo bombers were armed with torpedoes should any American warships be located.[64]

At 07:15, Nagumo ordered his reserve planes to be re-armed with contact-fused general purpose bombs for use against land targets. This was a result of the attacks from Midway, as well as of the morning flight leader's recommendation of a second strike. Some sources maintain that this had been under way for about 30 minutes when, at 07:40,[65] the delayed scout plane from Tone signaled that it had sighted a sizeable American naval force to the east, but neglected to describe its composition. Later evidence, however, suggests Nagumo did not receive the sighting report until 08:00.[66]

Nagumo quickly reversed his order to re-arm the bombers with general purpose bombs and demanded that the scout plane ascertain the composition of the American force. However, another 20–40 minutes elapsed before Tone's scout finally radioed the presence of a single carrier in the American force. This was one of the carriers from Task Force 16. The other carrier was not sighted.[67]

Nagumo was now in a quandary. Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi, leading Carrier Division 2 (Hiryū and Sōryū), recommended that Nagumo strike immediately with the forces at hand: 18 Aichi D3A1 dive bombers each on Sōryū and Hiryū, and half the ready cover patrol aircraft.[68] However, Nagumo's opportunity to hit the American ships[69] was now limited by the imminent return of his Midway strike force. The returning strike force needed to land promptly or it would have to ditch into the sea.[70] Because of the constant flight deck activity associated with combat air patrol operations during the preceding hour, the Japanese never had an opportunity to position ("spot") their reserve planes on the flight deck for launch.

The few aircraft on the Japanese flight decks at the time of the attack were either defensive fighters or, in the case of Sōryū, fighters being spotted to augment the task force defenses.[71] Spotting his flight decks and launching aircraft would have required at least 30 to 45 minutes.[72] Furthermore, by spotting and launching immediately, Nagumo would be committing some of his reserve to battle without proper anti-ship armament; he had just witnessed how easily unescorted American bombers had been shot down.[73] Poor discipline caused many of the Japanese bombers to ditch their bombs and attempt to dogfight intercepting F4Fs.[74]

Japanese carrier doctrine preferred the launching of fully constituted strikes rather than piecemeal attacks. Without confirmation of whether the American force included carriers (not received until 08:20), Nagumo's reaction was doctrinaire.[75] In addition, the arrival of another American air strike at 07:53 gave weight to the need to attack the island again. In the end, Nagumo decided to wait for his first strike force to land, then launch the reserve, which would by then be properly armed with torpedoes.[76]

In the final analysis, it made no difference; Fletcher's carriers had launched their planes beginning at 07:00, so the aircraft that would deliver the crushing blow were already on their way. Even if Nagumo had not followed strictly traditional battleship doctrine, he would not have prevented the launch of the American attack.[77]

Attacks on the Japanese fleet

TBD Devastator squadron, in front of his aircraft, 4 June 1942.
Devastators of VT-6 aboard USS Enterprise being prepared for take off during the battle.

The Americans had already launched their carrier aircraft against the Japanese. Admiral Fletcher, in overall command aboard Yorktown, and benefiting from PBY sighting reports from the early morning, ordered Spruance to launch against the Japanese as soon as was practical, while initially holding Yorktown in reserve in case any other Japanese carriers were found.[78] (Fletcher's directions to Spruance were relayed via Nimitz who, unlike Yamamoto, had remained ashore.)

Spruance judged that, though the range was extreme, a strike could succeed and gave the order to launch the attack at around 06:00. He then left Halsey's Chief of Staff, Captain Miles Browning, to work out the details and oversee the launch, which did not go smoothly. The first plane was only able to take off from Spruance's carriers Enterprise and Hornet a few minutes after 07:00. Fletcher, upon completing his own scouting flights, followed suit at 08:00 from Yorktown.[79]

Admiral Fletcher (commanding the Yorktown [80]

Spruance judged that the need to throw something at the enemy as soon as possible was greater than the need to coordinate the attack by aircraft of different types and speeds (fighters, bombers, and torpedo bombers). Accordingly, American squadrons were launched piecemeal and proceeded to the target in several different groups. It was accepted that the lack of coordination would diminish the impact of the American attacks and increase their casualties, but Spruance calculated that this was worthwhile, since keeping the Japanese under aerial attack impaired their ability to launch a counterstrike (Japanese tactics preferred fully constituted attacks), and he gambled that he would find Nagumo with his flight decks at their most vulnerable.[79][80]

American carrier aircraft had difficulty locating the target, despite the positions they had been given. The strike from Hornet, led by Commander Stanhope C. Ring, followed an incorrect heading of 263 degrees rather than the 240 degrees indicated by the contact report. As a result, Air Group Eight's dive bombers missed the Japanese carriers.[81] Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8, from Hornet), led by Lieutenant Commander John C. Waldron, broke formation from Ring and followed the correct heading. However, the 10 F4Fs from Hornet had run out of fuel and had to ditch.[82]

Waldron's squadron sighted the enemy carriers and began attacking at 09:20, followed by Mark 13 torpedoes.[84]

Senior Navy and Bureau of Ordnance officers never questioned why half a dozen torpedoes, released so close to the Japanese carriers, produced no results.[85] The Japanese combat air patrol, flying Mitsubishi A6M2 Zeros[86] made short work of the unescorted, slow, under-armed TBDs. A few TBDs managed to get within a few ship-lengths range of their targets before dropping their torpedoes—close enough to be able to strafe the enemy ships and force the Japanese carriers to make sharp evasive maneuvers—but all of their torpedoes either missed or failed to explode.[87] Midway was the last time that the TBD Devastator was used in combat.

Despite their failure to score any hits, the American torpedo attacks indirectly achieved three important results. First, they kept the Japanese carriers off balance and unable to prepare and launch their own counterstrike. Second, they pulled the Japanese combat air patrol (CAP) out of position. Third, many of the Zeros ran low on ammunition and fuel.[88] The appearance of a third torpedo plane attack from the southeast by Torpedo Squadron 3 (VT-3 from Yorktown) at 10:00 very quickly drew the majority of the Japanese CAP to the southeast quadrant of the fleet.[89] Better discipline, and the employment of a greater number of Zeroes for the CAP might have enabled Nagumo to prevent (or at least mitigate the damage caused by) the coming American attacks.[90]

By chance, at the same time VT-3 was sighted by the Japanese, three squadrons of SBDs from Enterprise and Yorktown (VB-6, VS-6 and VB-3, respectively) were approaching from the southwest and northeast. The Yorktown squadron (VB-3) had flown just behind VT-3 but elected to attack from a different course. The two squadrons from Enterprise were running low on fuel because of the time spent looking for the enemy. However, squadron commander C. Wade McClusky, Jr. decided to continue the search, and by good fortune spotted the wake of the Japanese destroyer Arashi, steaming at full speed to rejoin Nagumo's carriers after having unsuccessfully depth-charged U.S. submarine Nautilus, which had earlier unsuccessfully attacked the battleship Kirishima.[91] Some bombers were lost from fuel exhaustion before the attack commenced.[92]

McClusky's decision to continue the search and his judgment, in the opinion of Admiral Chester Nimitz, "decided the fate of our carrier task force and our forces at Midway ..."[93] All three American dive-bomber squadrons (VB-6, VS-6 and VB-3) arrived almost simultaneously at the perfect time, locations and altitudes to attack.[94] Most of the Japanese CAP was focusing on the torpedo planes of VT-3 and were out of position, armed Japanese strike aircraft filled the hangar decks, fuel hoses snaked across the decks as refueling operations were hastily being completed, and the repeated change of ordnance meant that bombs and torpedoes were stacked around the hangars, rather than stowed safely in the magazines,[95] making the Japanese carriers extraordinarily vulnerable.

Beginning at 10:22, the two squadrons of Enterprise '​s air group split up with the intention of sending one squadron each to attack Kaga and Akagi. However, a miscommunication caused both of the squadrons to dive at the Kaga. Recognizing the error, Lieutenant Commander Richard Halsey Best and his two wingmen were able to pull out of their dive and headed north to attack Akagi. Coming under an onslaught of bombs from almost two full squadrons, Kaga sustained four or five direct hits, which caused heavy damage and started multiple fires. One of the bombs landed near the bridge, killing Captain Jisaku Okada and most of the ship's senior officers.[87]

Several minutes later, Best and his two wingmen dived on the Akagi. Although Akagi sustained only one direct hit (almost certainly dropped by Lieutenant Commander Best), it proved to be a fatal blow; the bomb struck the edge of the mid-ship deck elevator and penetrated to the upper hangar deck, where it exploded among the armed and fueled aircraft in the vicinity. Another bomb exploded underwater very close astern; the resulting geyser bent the flight deck upward and caused crucial rudder damage.[nb 10][87]

Simultaneously, Yorktown '​s VB-3, commanded by Max Leslie, went for Sōryū, scoring at least three hits and causing extensive damage. VT-3 targeted Hiryū, which was hemmed in by Sōryū, Kaga, and Akagi, but achieved no hits.[96]

Within six minutes, Sōryū and Kaga were ablaze from stem to stern, as fires continued to spread through the ships. Akagi, having been struck by only one bomb, took longer to burn, but the resulting fires quickly expanded and soon proved impossible to extinguish; she too was eventually consumed by the flames and had to be abandoned. Despite initial hopes that Akagi could be saved or at least towed back to Japan, all three carriers were eventually abandoned and scuttled.[96][nb 11]

Japanese counterattacks

The Yorktown at the moment of impact of a torpedo from a chūtai.[97]

Hiryū, the sole surviving Japanese aircraft carrier, wasted little time in counterattacking. Hiryū's first attack wave, consisting of 18 dive bombers and six fighter escorts, followed the retreating American aircraft and attacked the first carrier they encountered, Yorktown, hitting her with three bombs, which blew a hole in the deck, snuffed out her boilers, and destroyed several anti-aircraft turrets. Despite the damage, repair teams were able to plank over the flight deck and restore power to several boilers within an hour, giving her a speed of 19 knots and enabling her to resume air operations. Twelve Japanese dive bombers and four escorting fighters were lost in this attack.

Approximately one hour later, Hiryū's second attack wave, consisting of ten torpedo bombers and six escorting A6Ms, arrived over the Yorktown; however, the repair efforts had been so effective that the Japanese pilots assumed that Yorktown must be a different, undamaged carrier.[98] In the subsequent attack, Yorktown was struck by two torpedoes; she lost all power and developed a 26-degree list to port, which put her out of action and forced Admiral Fletcher to move his command staff to the heavy cruiser Astoria. Neither of the carriers of Spruance's Task Force 16 was damaged.[99]

News of the two strikes, with the reports each had sunk an American carrier (actually both strikes had damaged, but not sunk, Yorktown), greatly improved morale in the Kido Butai. Its few surviving aircraft were all recovered aboard Hiryū. Despite the heavy losses, the Japanese believed that they could scrape together enough aircraft for one more strike against what was believed to be the only remaining American carrier.[100]

American counterattack

Late in the afternoon, a Yorktown scout aircraft located Hiryū, prompting Enterprise to launch a final strike of dive bombers (including 10 SBDs from Yorktown). Despite Hiryū being defended by a strong cover of more than a dozen Zero fighters, the attack by Enterprise was successful: four, possibly five bombs hit Hiryū, leaving her ablaze and unable to operate aircraft. Hornet '​s strike, launched late because of a communications error, concentrated on the remaining escort ships but failed to score any hits.[101]

After futile attempts at controlling the blaze, most of the crew remaining on Hiryū were evacuated and the remainder of the fleet continued sailing northeast in an attempt to intercept the American carriers. Hiryū stayed afloat for several more hours, being discovered early the next morning by an aircraft from the escort carrier Hōshō and prompting hopes she could be saved, or at least towed back to Japan. However, soon after being spotted, Hiryū sank. Rear Admiral Yamaguchi chose to go down with his ship, costing Japan perhaps her best carrier officer.[101]

The Hiryū, shortly before sinking. This photo was taken by Special Service Ensign Kiyoshi Ōniwa from a Yokosuka B4Y off the carrier Hōshō.[102]

As darkness fell, both sides took stock and made tentative plans for continuing the action. Admiral Fletcher, obliged to abandon the derelict Yorktown and feeling he could not adequately command from a cruiser, ceded operational command to Spruance. Spruance knew the United States had won a great victory, but he was still unsure of what Japanese forces remained and was determined to safeguard both Midway and his carriers. To aid his aviators, who had launched at extreme range, he had continued to close with Nagumo during the day and persisted as night fell.[103]

Finally, fearing a possible night encounter with Japanese surface forces[103] and believing Yamamoto still intended to invade,[104] Spruance changed course and withdrew to the east, turning back west towards the enemy at midnight.[105] For his part, Yamamoto initially decided to continue the engagement and sent his remaining surface forces searching eastward for the American carriers. Simultaneously, he detached a cruiser raiding force to bombard the island. The Japanese surface forces failed to make contact with the Americans due to Spruance's decision to briefly withdraw eastward, and Yamamoto ordered a general withdrawal to the west.[106] [nb 12]

Spruance failed to regain contact with Yamamoto's forces on 5 June despite extensive searches. Towards the end of the day he launched a search-and-destroy mission to seek out any remnants of Nagumo's carrier force. This late afternoon strike narrowly missed detecting Yamamoto's main body, and failed to score hits on a straggling Japanese destroyer. The strike planes returned to the carriers after nightfall, prompting Spruance to order Enterprise and Hornet to turn on their lights to aid the landings.[108][nb 13]

At 02:15 on the night of 5/6 June, Commander John Murphy's Tambor, lying some 90 nautical miles (100 miles; 170 kilometres) west of Midway, made the second of the submarine force's two major contributions to the battle's outcome, although its impact was heavily blunted by Murphy himself.[109] Sighting several ships, neither Murphy nor his executive officer, Ray Spruance, Jr., could identify them. Uncertain of whether they were friendly or not and unwilling to approach any closer to verify their heading or type, Murphy decided to send a vague report of "four large ships" to Admiral Robert English, Commander, Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC). This report was passed on by English to Nimitz, who then sent it to Spruance. Spruance, a former submarine commander, was "understandably furious" at the vagueness of Murphy's report, as it provided him with little more than suspicion and no concrete information on which to make his preparations.[110] Unaware of the exact location of Yamamoto's "Main Body" (a persistent problem since the time PBYs had first sighted the Japanese), Spruance was forced to assume the "four large ships" reported by Tambor represented the main invasion force, and thus he moved to block it while staying some 100 nautical miles (120 miles; 190 kilometres) northeast of Midway.[111]

In reality, the ships sighted by Tambor were the smaller detachment of four cruisers and two destroyers Yamamoto had sent to bombard Midway. At 02:55 these ships received Yamamoto's order to retire and changed course to comply.[111] At about the same time as the course change, Tambor was sighted, and during maneuvers designed to avoid a submarine attack Mogami and Mikuma collided, inflicting serious damage to Mogami '​s bow. The less severely damaged Mikuma slowed to 12 knots (22 kilometres per hour; 14 miles per hour) to keep pace.[112] Only at 04:12 did the sky brighten enough for Murphy to be certain the ships were Japanese, by which time staying surfaced was hazardous, and he dived to approach for an attack. The attack was unsuccessful, and at around 06:00 he finally reported two westbound Mogami-class cruisers before diving again and playing no further role in the battle.[113] Limping along on a straight course at 12 knots—roughly one-third their top speed and only 1 knot faster than Tambor while submerged—Mogami and Mikuma had been almost perfect targets for a submarine attack; Spruance had Murphy immediately relieved of duty and reassigned to a shore station when Tambor returned to port, citing his confusing contact report, poor torpedo shooting during his attack run and general lack of aggression, especially as compared to Nautilus, the oldest of the 12 boats at Midway and the only one who had successfully placed a torpedo on target (albeit a dud).[109][110]

Over the following two days, first Midway and then Spruance's carriers launched several strikes against the stragglers. Mikuma was eventually sunk by Dauntlesses,[114] while Mogami survived further severe damage to return home for repairs. The destroyers Arashio and Asashio were also bombed and strafed during the last of these attacks.[115] Captain Richard E. Fleming, a U.S. Marine Corps aviator, was killed while executing a glide bomb run on Mikuma and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.[116]

Meanwhile, salvage efforts on Yorktown were encouraging, and she was taken in tow by USS Vireo. In the late afternoon of 6 June, however, the Japanese submarine I-168, which had managed to slip through the cordon of destroyers (possibly due to the large amount of debris in the water), fired a salvo of torpedoes, two of which struck Yorktown. There were few casualties aboard, since most of the crew had already been evacuated, but a third torpedo from this salvo struck the destroyer USS Hammann, which had been providing auxiliary power to Yorktown. Hammann broke in two and sank with the loss of 80 lives, mostly due to her own depth charges exploding. With further salvage efforts deemed hopeless, the remaining repair crews were evacuated from Yorktown, which sank just after 05:00 on 7 June.[117]

Japanese casualties

The Mikuma shortly before sinking.

By the time the battle ended, 3,057 Japanese had died. Casualties aboard the four carriers were: Akagi: 267; Kaga: 811; Hiryu: 392; Soryu: 711; a total of 2,181.[118] The heavy cruisers Mikuma (sunk; 700 casualties) and Mogami (badly damaged; 92) accounted for another 792 deaths.[119]

In addition, the destroyers Arashio (bombed; 35) and Asashio (strafed by aircraft; 21) were both damaged during the air attacks which sank Mikuma and caused further damage to Mogami. Floatplanes were lost from the cruisers Chikuma (3) and Tone (2). Dead aboard the destroyers Tanikaze (11), Arashi (1), Kazagumo (1) and the fleet oiler Akebono Maru (10) made up the remaining 23 casualties.[nb 14]


A rescued US airman on Midway.

After winning a clear victory, and as pursuit became too hazardous near Wake,[120] American forces retired. Spruance once again withdrew to the east to refuel his destroyers and rendezvous with the carrier Saratoga, which was ferrying much-needed replacement aircraft. Fletcher transferred his flag to Saratoga and resumed command of the carrier force. The American carriers eventually returned to Pearl Harbor.[121]

Historian Samuel E. Morison wrote in 1949 that Spruance was subjected to much criticism for not pursuing the retreating Japanese, thus allowing their surface fleet to escape.[122] Clay Blair argued in 1975 that had Spruance pressed on, he would have been unable to launch his aircraft after nightfall, and his cruisers would have been overwhelmed by Yamamoto's powerful surface units, including Yamato.[120] Furthermore, as pointed out by Parshall and Tully, the American airgroups had suffered considerable losses, including most of their torpedo bombers. This made it unlikely that they would be effective in an airstrike against the Japanese Battleships, even if they had managed to catch them during daytime.[123] Also, by this time Spruance's destroyers were critically low on fuel.[124][125]

Japanese survivors of the Hiryu picked up by the USS Ballard.

On 10 June, the Imperial Japanese Navy conveyed to the military liaison conference an incomplete picture of the results of the battle. Chūichi Nagumo's detailed battle report was submitted to the high command on 15 June. It was intended only for the highest echelons in the Japanese Navy and government, and was guarded closely throughout the war. In it, one of the more striking revelations is the comment on the Mobile Force Commander's (Nagumo's) estimates: "The enemy is not aware of our plans (we were not discovered till early in the morning of the 5th at the earliest)."[126] In reality, the whole operation had been compromised from the very beginning due to Allied code-breaking efforts that would crucially disadvantage future Japanese operations throughout the war.

The Japanese public and much of the military command structure were kept in the dark about the extent of the defeat: Japanese news announced a great victory. Only Emperor Hirohito and the highest Navy command personnel were accurately informed of the carrier and pilot losses. Consequently, even the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) continued to believe, for at least a short time, that the fleet was in good condition.[127]

On the return of the Japanese fleet to Hashirajima on 14 June the wounded were immediately transferred to naval hospitals; most were classified as "secret patients", placed in isolation wards and quarantined from other patients and their own families to keep this major defeat secret.[128] The remaining officers and men were quickly dispersed to other units of the fleet and, without being allowed to see family or friends, were shipped to units in the South Pacific, where the majority were killed.[129] None of the flag officers or staff of the Combined Fleet was penalized, with Nagumo later being placed in command of the rebuilt carrier force.[130]

The Japanese Navy learned some lessons from Midway: new procedures were adopted whereby more aircraft were refueled and re-armed on the flight deck, rather than in the hangars, and the practice of draining all unused fuel lines was adopted. The new carriers being built were redesigned to incorporate only two flight deck elevators and new firefighting equipment. More carrier crew members were trained in damage-control and firefighting techniques, although the losses later in the war of Shōkaku, Hiyō, and especially Taihō suggest that there were still problems in this area.[131]

Replacement pilots were pushed through an abbreviated training regimen in order to meet the short-term needs of the fleet. However, this led to a sharp decline in the quality of the aviators produced. These inexperienced pilots were fed into front-line units, while the veterans who remained after Midway and the Solomons campaign were forced to share an increased workload as conditions grew more desperate, with few being given a chance to rest in rear areas or in the home islands. As a result, Japanese naval air groups as a whole progressively deteriorated during the war while their American adversaries continued to improve.[132]

American prisoners

Three U.S. airmen, Ensign Wesley Osmus (pilot, Yorktown), Ensign Frank O'Flaherty (pilot, Enterprise) and Aviation Machinist's Mate B. F. (or B. P.) Bruno Gaido (radioman-gunner of O'Flaherty's SBD) were captured by the Japanese during the battle. Osmus was held on the Arashi, with O'Flaherty and Gaido on the cruiser Nagara (or destroyer Makigumo, sources vary); all three were interrogated, and then killed by being tied to water-filled kerosene cans and thrown overboard to drown.[133] The report filed by Admiral Nagumo tersely states of Ensign Osmus, "He died on 6 June and was buried at sea"; O'Flaherty and Gaido's fates were not mentioned.[nb 15]


The Battle of Midway has often been called "the turning point of the Pacific".[134] However, the Japanese continued to try to secure more strategic territory in the South Pacific, and the U.S. did not move from a state of naval parity to one of increasing supremacy until after several more months of hard combat.[135] Thus, although Midway was the Allies' first major victory against the Japanese, it did not radically change the course of the war; instead it was the cumulative effects of the battles of Coral Sea and Midway that reduced Japan's ability to undertake major offensives.[9]

In addition Midway paved the way for the landings on Guadalcanal, and the prolonged attrition of the Solomon Islands campaign, both of which finally allowed the Allies to take the strategic initiative and swing onto the offensive for the rest of the Pacific War.[136] Finally, Midway bought the United States valuable time until the first of the new Essex-class fleet carriers became available at the end of 1942.[137]

The battle also showed the worth of pre-war naval cryptanalysis and intelligence-gathering. These efforts continued and were expanded throughout the war in both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters. Successes were numerous and significant. For instance, Navy cryptanalysis made possible the shooting down of Admiral Yamamoto's airplane.

Some authors have stated heavy losses in carriers and veteran aircrews at Midway permanently weakened the Imperial Japanese Navy.[138] Parshall and Tully, however, have stated that the losses in veteran aircrew, while heavy (110, just under 25% of the aircrew embarked on the four carriers),[139] were not crippling to the Japanese naval air-corps as a whole: the Japanese navy had some 2,000 carrier-qualified aircrew at the start of the Pacific war.[140]

A few months after Midway, the JNAF sustained similar casualty rates at both the

  • Cook, Theodore F., Jr. (2000). "Our Midway Disaster". In Robert Cowley (ed.). What if?. London: Macmillan.   Counterfactual fiction has the Japanese winning.
  • Schlesinger, James R., "Midway in Retrospect: The Still Under-Appreciated Victory", 5 June 2005. (An analysis by former Secretary of Defense Schlesinger.) Available from the Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy.
  • WW2DB: The Battle of Midway
  • After Midway: The Fates of the U.S. and Japanese Warships by Bryan J. Dickerson
  • Animated History of The Battle of Midway
  • Midway Chronology 1
  • Midway Chronology 2
  • Map of Asia and the Pacific at the time of Battle of Midway (omniatlas)


  • The Japanese Story of the Battle of Midway, prepared by U.S. Naval Intelligence from captured Japanese documents
  • Battle of Midway Movie (1942) – U.S. Navy propaganda film directed by John Ford.
  • Victory At Sea: Midway Is East (1952) – Episode 4 from a 26-episode series about naval combat during World War II.
  • The Battle of Midway (1942) at the Internet Movie Database
  • The Course to Midway Turning Point in the Pacific, Comprehensive historic overview created by Bill Spencer
  • Naval Historical Center Midway Page
  • "The Japanese Story of the Battle of Midway" – ONI Review – Vol. 2, No. 5 (May 1947)

Historic documents

  • The Course to Midway Turning Point in the Pacific, Comprehensive historic overview


  • Bess, Michael (2006). Choices Under Fire: Moral Dimensions of World War II. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.  
  • Chesneau, Roger (ed.) (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922–1946. London: Conway Maritime Press.  
  • Ewing, Steve (2004). Thach Weave: The Life of Jimmie Thach. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.  
  • Ewing, Steve (2002). Reaper Leader: The Life of Jimmy Flatley. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.  
  •   First-hand account by Japanese captain, often inaccurate.
  •   Significant section on Midway
  •   An account of the blunders that led to the near total destruction of the American torpedo squadrons, and of what the author calls a cover-up by naval officers after the battle.
  • Lundstrom, John B. (2005). First Team And the Guadalcanal Campaign: Naval Fighter Combat from August to November 1942 (New ed.). Naval Institute Press.  
  •   (History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume 4) official U.S. history.
  • Smith, Douglas V. (2006). Carrier Battles: Command Decision in Harm's Way. U.S. Naval Institute Press.  
  •   Detailed study of battle, from planning to the effects on World War II
  • Stille, Mark (2007). USN Carriers vs IJN Carriers: The Pacific 1942. New York: Osprey.  
  • Thruelsen, Richard (1976). The Grumman Story. Prager Press.  
  • Tillman, Barrett (1976). The Dauntless Dive-bomber of World War Two. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.  
  • Tillman, Barrett (1979). Hellcat, The F6F in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press (Blue Jacket).  
  • Willmott, H. P. The Second World War in the Far East (Smithsonian History of Warfare). Smithsonian Books. p. 240.  


Further reading

  • Barde, Robert E. "Midway: Tarnished Victory", Military Affairs, v. 47, no. 4 (December 1983)
  • Bergerud, Eric M. (2000). Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. p. 752.  
  • Bicheno, Hugh. Midway. London: Orion Publishing Group, 2001 (reprints Cassell 2001 edition)
  • Buell, Thomas B. (1987). The Quiet Warrior: a Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. p. 518.  
  • Cressman, Robert J.; et al. (1990). "A Glorious page in our history", Adm. Chester Nimitz, 1942: the Battle of Midway, 4–6 June 1942. Missoula, Mont.: Pictorial Histories Pub. Co.  
  • Dull, Paul S. (1978). A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941–1945). US Naval Institute Press. 
  • Evans, David; Peattie, Mark R. (1997). Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887–1941. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.  
  •   A Japanese account; numerous assertions in this work have been challenged by more recent sources.
  • Stephan, John J. (1984). Hawaii Under the Rising Sun: Japan's Plans for Conquest after Pearl Harbor. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.  
  • Holmes, W. (1979). Double-Edged Secrets: U.S. Naval Intelligence Operations in the Pacific During World War II (Bluejacket Books). Naval Institute Press.  
  • Hakim, Joy (1995). A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press.  
  • Isom, Dallas Woodbury (2007). Midway Inquest: Why the Japanese Lost the Battle of Midway. Indiana University Press.  
  • Layton, Rear Admiral Edwin T. (1985). And I Was There: Pearl Harbor and Midway, Konecky and Konecky.
  •   Focuses primarily on the human experience of the battle.
  • Lundstrom, John B. (2005). The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway (new ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.  
  • Parillo, Mark. Japanese Merchant Marine in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute Press, 1993.
  • Parshall, Jonathan; Tully, Anthony (2005). Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books.   Uses recently translated Japanese sources.
  •   The standard academic history of the battle based on massive research into American and Japanese sources.
  • Scrivner, Charles L. (1987). TBM/TBF Avenger in Action. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc. 1987. ISBN 0-89747-197-0 Page 8: Photos of VT-8 TBF-1s, including sole survivor of VT-8's attack against Japanese carrier fleet.
  • Smith, Michael (2000). The Emperor's Codes: Bletchley Park and the breaking of Japan's secret ciphers, Bantam Press, ISBN 0-593-04642-0. Chapter 11: "Midway: The battle that turned the tide"
  • Toll, Ian (2012). Pacific Crucible, War in the Pacific, 1941–1942. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Co.  
  • Willmott, H. P. (1983). The Barrier and the Javelin: Japanese and Allied Strategies, February to June 1942. United States Naval Institute Press. p. 616.   Broad-scale history of the naval war with detailed accounts of order of battle and dispositions.


  1. ^ Blair 1975, p. 240 map
  2. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 90–91
  3. ^ "The Battle of Midway". Office of Naval Intelligence. 
  4. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, p. 524
  5. ^ a b Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 114, 365, 377–380, 476
  6. ^ "Battle of Midway: June 4–7,1942". Naval History & Heritage Command. 27 April 2005. Archived from the original on 2 March 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2009.  "... considered the decisive battle of the war in the Pacific."
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  13. ^ Willmott 1983
  14. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 416–419
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  21. ^ "After the Battle of Midway". Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. 
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  40. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 89–91
  41. ^ Willmott 1983, p. 351; Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 98–99.
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  43. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 102–104; Willmott 1983
  44. ^ Isom 2007, pp. 95–99
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  50. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, p. 409
  51. ^ Watson, Richard. "VP-44 at Ford Island and the Battle of Midway". Retrieved 5 Oct 2013. 
  52. ^ a b Hixson, Walter L. (2003). The American Experience, Taylor & Francis, p. 306. ISBN 0-415-94028-1
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  54. ^ a b Interrogation of: Captain TOYAMA, Yasumi, IJN; Chief of Staff Second Destroyer Squadron, flagship Jintsu (CL), at MIDWAY USSBS From Hyperwar. Retrieved 14 February 2008.
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  56. ^ Willmott 1983
  57. ^ Stephen, Martin. Sea Battles in Close-up: World War Two (Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan, 1988), Volume 1, pp.166 & 167.
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  61. ^ Office of Naval Intelligence Combat Narrative: "MIDWAY'S ATTACK ON THE ENEMY CARRIERS" June 4 retrieved 28 January 2012
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  72. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 121–124
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  74. ^ Bicheno, p.163.
  75. ^ Prange, Goldstein & Dillon 1982, pp. 217–218, 372–373; Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 170–173.
  76. ^ Prange, Goldstein & Dillon 1982, pp. 231–237; Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 170–173; Willmott 1983; Fuchida & Okumiya, Midway.
  77. ^ Willmott 1983; Fuchida & Okumiya, Midway.
  78. ^ 1942 – Battle of Midway
  79. ^ a b c Cressman et al., A Glorious Page in Our History, pp. 84–89; Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 215–216, 226–227; Buehl, The Quiet Warrior (1987), p. 494ff.
  80. ^ a b c Battle of Midway (pg 2)
  81. ^ Mrazek, Robert, "A Dawn Like Thunder", testimony from surviving pilots
  82. ^ a b Ewing (2004) p 71,85, 86, 307
  83. ^ Cressman et al., A Glorious Page in Our History, pp.91–94.
  84. ^ Blair 1975, p. 238
  85. ^ Crenshaw Jr., Russell S. The Battle of Tassafaronga, p.158.
  86. ^ Thruelsen p. 186, 189, 190
  87. ^ a b c Battle of Midway (pg 3)
  88. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 215–216, 226–227
  89. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 226–227
  90. ^ Bicheno, Midway, p.62.
  91. ^ "IJN KIRISHIMA: Tabular Record of Movement". Senkan!. 2006. Archived from the original on 10 June 2007. Retrieved 6 June 2007. 
  92. ^ Tillman (1976) pp.69–73
  93. ^ "Accounts – C. Wade McClusky". Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  94. ^ Prange, Goldstein & Dillon 1982, pp. 259–261, 267–269; Cressman et al., A Glorious Page in Our History, pp. 96–97; Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 215–216, 226–227
  95. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, p. 250
  96. ^ a b Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 330–353
  97. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 312–318
  98. ^ Ballard, Robert D. and Archbold, Rick. Return to Midway. Madison Press Books: Toronto ISBN 0-7922-7500-4
  99. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 318
  100. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, p. 323
  101. ^ a b Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 328–329, 354–359
  102. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, p. 356
  103. ^ a b Potter & Nimitz 1960 p.682
  104. ^ Based in part on a misleading contact report from Tambor. Blair 1975, pp. 246–7
  105. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, p. 344
  106. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 382–383
  107. ^ Blair 1975, pp. 246–7; Willmott 1983
  108. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 364–365
  109. ^ a b Blair 1975, p. 250
  110. ^ a b Parshall & Tully, 359.
  111. ^ a b Prange, Goldstein & Dillon 1982, p. 320; Parshall & Tully 2005, p. 345.
  112. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 345–346, diagram 347, 348
  113. ^ Blair 1975, pp. 246–7
  114. ^ Allen, Thomas B. (April 1999). "Return to the Battle of MIDWAY". Journal of the National Geographic Society (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic) 195 (4): 80–103 (p.89).  
  115. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, p. 377
  116. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 362
  117. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 374–375, 383
  118. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, p. 476
  119. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 378, 380
  120. ^ a b Blair 1975, p. 247
  121. ^ Prange, Goldstein & Dillon 1982, p. , Stafford, "The Big E".
  122. ^ Morison, Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Actions: May 1942 – August 1942. (History of United States Naval Operations in World War II), Volume IV, p. 142
  123. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 330
  124. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 382
  125. ^ Toll (2012) p.471
  126. ^ Chūichi Nagumo (June 1942). "CINC First Air Fleet Detailed Battle Report no. 6". 
  127. ^ Herbert Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, 2001, p. 449
  128. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 386
  129. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 386–387
  130. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, p. 388
  131. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 388–389
  132. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 390–391
  133. ^ Robert E. Barde, "Midway: Tarnished Victory", Military Affairs, v. 47, no. 4 (December 1983), pp. 188–192.
  134. ^ Dull, p.166; Prange, Goldstein & Dillon 1982, p. 395
  135. ^ Willmott 1983, pp. 522–523; Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 416–430.
  136. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 422–423
  137. ^ Michael D. Hull, World War II magazine, May 1998 issue
  138. ^ Dull, The Imperial Japanese Navy: A Battle History, p.166; Willmott 1983, pp. 519–523; Prange, Goldstein & Dillon 1982, p. 395
  139. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 432
  140. ^ a b Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 417
  141. ^ a b Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 416–417, 432
  142. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, p. 421
  143. ^ "Why Japan Really Lost The War – War Production". 
  144. ^ Hakim, A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz
  145. ^ "Titanic explorer finds Yorktown". CNN. 4 June 1998. Retrieved 1 July 2007. 
  146. ^ Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 491–493
  147. ^ "Battle of Midway National Memorial". U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2010-03-22. Retrieved 2012-03-10. 


  1. ^ In fact, U.S. submarines were more dangerous to Japan's efforts. Blair 1975, p. passim; Parillo, Japanese Merchant Marine.
  2. ^ Apparently, because of poor IJN ASW training and doctrine, the Japanese ignored the presence of American submarines off their coast, beginning with Joe Grenfell's Gudgeon which arrived some three weeks after Pearl Harbor. Blair 1975, p. 110; Parillo, Japanese Merchant Marine; Peattie & Evans, Kaigun.
  3. ^ This distance meant that Midway was outside the effective range of almost all of the American aircraft stationed on the main Hawaiian islands.
  4. ^ Saratoga herself had been undergoing repairs on the American West coast, and would not be able to reach Midway until after the battle.
  5. ^ The IJN 3rd Fleet.
  6. ^ If all six of Japan's fleet carriers, and their ~350 veteran aircrews, had participated in this operation, Parshall and Tully believe that "it would have been difficult" for Japan to have lost. Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 57.
  7. ^ The code names "Val", "Kate" and "Zeke", which are often applied to these aircraft, were not introduced until late 1943 by the Allied forces. The D3A was normally referred to by the Japanese as Type 99 navy dive bomber, the B5N as the Type 97 navy torpedo bomber and the A6M as the Type 0 navy fighter; the latter was colloquially known as the "Zero". Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 78–80.
  8. ^ There are occasional references to "deception", notably in the film Midway, referring to the false traffic before Pearl Harbor; this reflects a complete misunderstanding of the issue.
  9. ^ This dispersal resulted in few fast ships being available to escort the Carrier Striking Force, limiting the numbers of anti-aircraft guns able to protect the carriers.
  10. ^ Other sources claim a stern hit, but Parshall & Tully 2005, pp. 253–354 and 256–259, make a case for a near miss, because of rudder damage from a high explosive bomb.
  11. ^ Parshall and Tully speculate that even if Akagi could have somehow been towed back to Japan, the permanent structural damage caused by the inferno onboard would likely have made the carrier unusable for anything except scrapping.
  12. ^ It was fortunate Spruance did not pursue, for had he come in contact with Yamamoto's heavy ships, including Yamato, in the dark, and considering the Japanese Navy's superiority in night-attack tactics at the time, his cruisers would have been overwhelmed, and his carriers rendered helpless.[107] At that time, only Britain's Fleet Air Arm was capable of night carrier operations, thanks in part to the slow speed of the Fairey Swordfish. Stephen, Martin. Sea Battles in Close-up: World War 2 (Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan, 1988), Volume 1, p.34.
  13. ^ Two years later Marc Mitscher, commanding Hornet would issue the same order as the carrier force commander under similar circumstances during the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
  14. ^ Japanese casualty figures for the battle were compiled by Sawaichi Hisae for her book Midowei Kaisen: Kiroku p. 550: the list was compiled from Japanese prefectural records and is the most accurate to date.[5]
  15. ^ The execution of Ensign Wesley Osmus in this manner was apparently ordered by Arashi CO Watanabe Yasumasa; Parshall and Tully speculate that had Watanabe survived the war (he died in December 1943), he would have likely been executed as a war criminal.
  16. ^ Pre-war Japan was less mechanized than America, and the highly trained aircraft mechanics, fitters and technicians lost at Midway were all but impossible to replace and train to a similar level of efficiency. In contrast, the extensive use of machinery in the United States meant that a much larger portion of the population had a mechanical/technical background.[140]
  17. ^ Shinano, commissioned on 19 November 1944, was only the fourth fleet carrier commissioned by Japan during the war, after Taihō, Unryū, and Amagi.Chesneau (ed.) Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1922–1946 pp. 169–170, 183–184.



See also

On 13 September 2000, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt designated the lands and waters of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge as the Battle of Midway National Memorial.[147]

An escort carrier, USS Midway (CVE-63) was commissioned on 17 August 1943. She was renamed St. Lo on 10 October 1944 to clear the name Midway for a large fleet aircraft carrier, USS Midway (CV-41), commissioned on 10 September 1945, eight days after the Japanese surrender, and now docked in San Diego, California as the USS Midway Museum.

Henderson Field (Guadalcanal) was named in honor of United States Marine Corps Major Lofton Henderson, who was killed during the Battle of Midway, thereby becoming the first Marine aviator to perish during the battle.

Waldron Field, an outlying training landing strip, at Corpus Christi NAS as well Waldron Road leading to the strip, was named in honor of the commander of USS Hornet's Torpedo Squadron 8. Yorktown Blvd leading away from the strip was named for the U.S. carrier sunk in the battle.

Chicago Municipal Airport, important to the war effort in World War II, was renamed Chicago Midway International Airport (or simply Midway Airport) in 1949 in honor of the battle.

The Midway Memorial


Ballard's subsequent search for the Japanese carriers was ultimately unsuccessful. In September 1999, a joint expedition between Nauticos Corp. and the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office searched for the Japanese aircraft carriers. Using advanced renavigation techniques in conjunction with the ship's log of the submarine USS Nautilus, the expedition located a large piece of wreckage, subsequently identified as having come from the upper hangar deck of Kaga.[146] The main wreck of the Kaga, however, has yet to be located.

Because of the extreme depth of the ocean in the area of the battle (more than 17,000 ft or 5,200 m), researching the battlefield has presented extraordinary difficulties. However, on 19 May 1998, Robert Ballard and a team of scientists and Midway veterans from both sides located and photographed Yorktown. The ship was remarkably intact for a vessel that sank in 1942; much of the original equipment and even the original paint scheme were still visible.[145]

Discovery of sunken vessels

In the time it took Japan to build three carriers, the U.S. Navy commissioned more than two dozen fleet and light fleet carriers, and numerous escort carriers.[143] By 1942 the United States was already three years into a shipbuilding program mandated by the Second Vinson Act, intended to make the navy larger than Japan's.[144] The greater number of USN aviators survived the Battle of Midway and subsequent battles of 1942, and combined with growing pilot training programs, the US accumulated a large number of skilled pilots to complement its material advantages in ships and planes.

After the battle Shōkaku and Zuikaku were the only large carriers of the original Pearl Harbor strike-force left for offensive actions. Of Japan's other carriers, Taihō, which was not commissioned until early 1944, would be the only fleet carrier worth teaming with Shōkaku and Zuikaku; Ryūjō and Zuihō were light carriers, while Junyo and Hiyō, although technically classified as fleet carriers, were second-rate ships of comparatively limited effectiveness.[142] By the time of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the Japanese had nearly rebuilt their carrier forces in terms of numbers, but their planes, many of which were obsolescent, were largely flown by inexperienced and poorly trained pilots. [nb 17]

[nb 16][141]

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