1992 29¢ World War II: Yorktown Lost, US Wins at Midway
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.

1992 29c World War II: B-25 Takes off to Raid Tokyo
US #2697a – The Doolittle raid bombed 16 targets, mostly military installations, in six cities.
1985 50¢ Great Americans: Chester W. Nimitz
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.

World War II Pearl Harbor to The Battle of Midway, Mint, Sheet of 10 Stamps, Gambia
Item #M8053 – Mint sheet honoring WWII events from Pearl Harbor to the Battle of Midway.

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.

1984 Raymond Spruance Commemorative Cover
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.

1992 29¢ World War II: Yorktown Lost, US Wins at Midway Colorano Silk Cachet First Day Cover
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.

2012 World War II 70th Anniversary
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 an animated map of the battle.

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  1. Another great reminder of the past and of good overcoming evil making it a memorable history lesson for all of America.

  2. A highly significant comment was made by Winston Churchill when he said that the courage and skill of the American will stand as one of the most heroic actions of the war, or any war. At this point the war turned (although the Allies did not know it at the time) and the Japanese were no longer able to mount an effective offensive for the rest of the war The sweetness of the victory was that three of the Japanese carriers wer the ones which had launched the attack on Pearl Harbor. Go Navy!!

  3. The breaking of the Japanese code certainly gave the U.S. an advantage. The insight of one bombing squadron upon spotting a lone enemy destroyer making its way back to the it’s fleet, and the simultaneous sacrifice of Torpedo 8 was the crux of the battle. Midway was a near thing, and we owe those servicemen a great debt. An epic event

  4. My father and all of his brothers fought in WW2. My mother lost her brother in a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines. They were the greatest generation. What happened to us? Our country is far from that now.

  5. Great article! However, in the last paragraph, third line, the word should be “lightning” not “lightening.”

  6. The torpedo bombers that ” lured” the Japanese fighters high over the battle did allow the dive bombers to get off their drops. Unfortunately, every single one of those torpedo bombers were shot down before they dropped a single torpedo. ONE pilot survived the attack , ditched and watched the battle from the ocean level; Nimitz remarked he wished he had “that seat” for the battle. Also, after the battle, we harassed the fleeing Japanese Navy- that was when all their support vessels got taken out. We let those Nippon sailors clinging to rafts go down to Jones’ locker gladly. It was a neat trick how they broke the code [even though the English had broken it previously] the Americans said they were out of water at Midway Island and when that showed up in the Japanese code-we knew what was going on.
    Incredible good luck and desperate courage from everyone. Thanks Mystic!

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