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.
The Japanese had developed a complex plan 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 plan. So American admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, sent two task forces to meet the Japanese at Midway.
Battle of Midway
The Japanese began carrier-based air attacks on the Midway Islands at dawn on June 4 in preparation for a land invasion. But various waves of Midway- and carrier-based American planes found the Japanese fleet and caused devastating damage to all four of the Japanese carriers present. All four would eventually sink from the attacks.
However, the Americans also sustained a carrier loss when—on the afternoon of the 4th—Japanese planes found the USS 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.
Aftermath and Effects
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 killed and 4 carriers sunk, 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.
Learn more about the Battle of Midway through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.