The Battle of Midway: Five Minutes that Changed the Course of History

first published on June 4, 2019 by

Today marks the 77th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Midway. The US Navy’s astounding victory in June of 1942 that would forever alter the course of the war in the pacific, and ultimately world history.

Video courtesy of Daniel Garas with Naval History and Heritage Command

Following their nearly unbroken string of victories throughout Asia in late 1941 and early 1942, the imperial Japanese navy would set it sights on a tiny strip of land occupied by US forces in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean. With intent to make it their eastern most outpost and threaten the Hawaiian Islands directly, the Japanese assembled a carrier and amphibious assault task force and launched what they believed was another assured conquest.

However, having cracked the Japanese naval codes, the US Navy would set a deadly ambush poised to strike at this armada. Laying in wait, US carrier-based aircraft would deal a rapid succession of knockout blows that would see four Japanese carriers and hundreds of their all-important aircrews slip beneath the waves. Comparatively, the US would only lose the carrier Yorktown during the decisive action.

While the Battle of the Coral Sea would be the US’s first naval victory in May of 1942 and the subsequent series of carrier battles fought surrounding Guadalcanal later in the year would ultimately play a part in the defeat of the Japanese empire, Midway would prove to be the most important. The crippling loss at Midway by the Japanese navy would sound a dramatic turn of events that would see the US forever on the offensive in the Pacific war.