Allies Win Battle of Midway

U.S. #2697g – The U.S. lost the Yorktown and 1 destroyer while the Japanese lost four aircraft carriers and a heavy cruiser.
US #2697g – The US lost the Yorktown and one destroyer while the Japanese lost four aircraft carriers and a heavy cruiser.

On June 7, 1942, the Allies won the Battle of Midway in the Pacific, turning the tide of the war.

Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Japanese began mapping out a plan to take down America’s carrier forces.  Realizing Pearl Harbor was now too well defended, they set their sights northwest on Midway Island, at the end of the Hawaiian Island chain.

US #1869 – Nimitz was Commander in Chief of Pacific Ocean Areas during the battle.

Although they had naval superiority over the US and were essentially able to attack as they pleased, the Doolittle Raids on Tokyo and several other major cities had damaged the Japanese psychologically months earlier.

The Japanese plan was to disperse their ships around the area, hidden from American view.  They hoped to lure US aircraft carriers into a deadly ambush near the Midway atoll and eliminate the US presence in the Pacific Ocean.  With that accomplished, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto planned to invade the Atoll’s small islands and establish a Japanese air base there.  However, Yamamoto’s plans were thwarted when the Imperial Navy’s JN-25 code was cracked and plans for the raid were discovered in mid-May.

In addition to knowing where and when the attack was planned, American Admiral Chester Nimitz knew the battle order.  Another part of the Japanese plan that weighed against them was the fact that the ships were too far dispersed and were never able to aid the ships that were engaged in battle.

Item #20008 – Raymond Spruance led Task Force 16 at Midway.

Expecting the Japanese to send four or five carriers into battle, Admiral Nimitz ordered every available US flight deck to make its way to Midway.  By June 3, 1942, he had three carriers and a total of 124 aircraft ready and waiting for battle.  The American forces sent out their first planes at 12:30 p.m. on June 3.  Though they dropped bombs on the Japanese ships, they failed to inflict any damage.

The following morning, June 4, 1942, the Americans again sent out planes, this time striking a Japanese oil tanker.  The Japanese then retaliated, attacking the island itself.

US #2697g – Colorano Silk Cachet First Day Cover.

American torpedo bombers then drew Japanese fighters away from their ships, allowing dive-bombers from the Enterprise and Yorktown to take out three Japanese vessels.  The destruction of the fourth Japanese ship later that afternoon forced their retreat.  Though they managed to sink the Yorktown before dispersing.  The last air attacks of the battle took place on June 6, when Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bombers from the Hornet and Enterprise bombed and sunk the Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma.  American forces attempted to salvage the Yorktown into June 7, but when it was deemed impossible, efforts ended and so did the battle.

Item #M12347 includes stamps honoring the Battle of Midway.

Despite a three-to-one disadvantage in ships and aircraft, the US was able to inflict huge damages against the Japanese Navy, and force its retreat.  Three days of intense fighting and lightning raids led to the sinking of four Japanese fleet carriers.  Victory allowed the US to control Midway for the rest of the war.  One historian called it “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.”

Click here to view photos and maps of the Battle of Midway.

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  1. Up until April the U.S. was on the defense and the Japanese were winning everywhere, Singapore, The Philippines, Hong Kong, et al. They had plans for the invasion of Australia but the U.S. finally stopped the Japanese advance at the Battle of Coral Sea. It wasn’t a U.S. victory but it was a draw and the first time the Japanese had been stopped. Midway was a crushing defeat for the Japanese Navy as it now put them on the defensive for most of the war after that. The U.S. could replace losses (24 fleet carriers added in late 1942-1945) and the Japanese could not (they added 2 fleet carriers in the same period). The loss of 4 fleet carriers meant that the Japanese had only 7 fleet carriers and a couple of Battleships and Cruisers that catted a few planes. They had to go on the defensive.

  2. Probably more telling than the loss of ships was the fact that Japan had also committed her best naval aviators to the fight. With no carrier decks to land on, none of them survived the battle. Thus, by the end of the war, kamikaze was really the only tactic left to Japan. The pilots she had who could fly and fight at the same time were dead.

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