Radios permeated the airwaves of breaking news that Japanese planes bombed a U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The results of the attack killed more than 2,400 Americans as well as destroying 8 Navy battleships and more than 100 planes.The response was swift from the U.S.
"Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan," President Franklin D. Roosevelt said. Months later, on June 7, 1942, the Battle of Midway (Midway Islands) would draw the line for the American military by becoming a crucial victory in the war against Japan.
"We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us, this is an emergency as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war," Roosevelt added. There was a strategic reasoning behind Japan choosing Midway, which runs 1,000 miles Northwest of Honolulu. Japan knew that the U.S. didn't have much of a military presence at Midway and drawing them out would weaken them further after Pearl Harbor. The battle was a decisive win for the U.S., which became a turning point in the war. Here are 6 significance facts on the Battle of Midway.
The U.S. was outnumbered.The Pacific Fleet succeeded in destroying key Japanese aircraft carriers, despite being outmatched. The USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier was damaged at the Battle of Coral (a naval battle between the Japanese Navy, the U.S. and Australia) and survived Midway. The Lexington, another aircraft carrier, was destroyed during the bombing. As a result of the battle, "Japan lost most of its best naval pilots and first-line aircraft carriers and, in consequence, its ability to wage an offensive war in the Pacific. The U.S. gained control of the Pacific," history.com reported. American planes also sank the Japanese carrier Shoho. Military historian John Keegan said it was "the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare." Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Isoroku Yamamoto, who was the principle architect of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, believed a victory for his country was imminent.
U.S. intelligence broke the Japanese naval code.The U.S. intelligence broke the Japanese naval code, allowing the Americans to expect a visit from their enemies of the Pacific. "The Japanese had brought 124 ships, including 6 carriers against America’s 40 ships including only a few carriers," scout.com reported. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz of the U.S. Pacific Fleet knew what the moves of the Japanese were going to be and planned accordingly. We can thank naval code breaker, Joe Rochefort for this. Rochefort felt enormous guilt for not predicting the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and worked on decoding the Japanese naval code for 6 months. His persistence paid off and he received the Navy's Distinguished Service Medal a decade after his death.
The casualties of war were significant for Japan.The Japanese not only lost 248 planes, but they lost 3,057 of their men. The U.S. suffered the losses of 307 men. U.S. airmen Wesley Osmus, Frank O'Flaherty and Bruno Gaido were captured by the Japanese during the battle. All of them were tortured and killed by being tied to water-filled kerosene cans and thrown overboard.
The location was important.The Japanese's were already dominant in the Pacific before Midway. The had victories in Singapore, Malaysia, the Dutch East Indies and the Philippines. With the attack on Pearl Harbor, taking the U.S. at Midway Island made sense because most of the American aircrafts were stationed in Hawaii. By drawing the Americans out further, they could weaken their defenses. "Yamamoto knew that Midway was important to America as it was a vital outpost of Pearl Harbor. America would thus be compelled to defend it giving Japan an opportunity to crush their fleet when it would be drawn out," scout.com also reported.
The Japanse attacked Alaska.The Japanese attacked Alaska in an attempt to draw away American fleets from Midway. They seized Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands and also bombed the Dutch Harbor. The U.S. needed to counter as this could create a path for Japan towards the U.S. mainland. On May 11, 1943, U.S. forces landed on Attu and after 19 days of battle, the Japanese left due to harsh weather and being outmatched.
It became a turning point in the Pacific.The battle would be considered the first major win against the Japanese in the Pacific. "Historians see Midway as the turning point in the Pacific theater of the war, after which Americans rode straight to Tokyo; others view it as a cusp in the war, after which initiative hung in the balance, to swing toward the Allies," history.com shared. Today Midway Island is a territory of the U.S.
The world might be a different place if the Battle of Midway was never won by the U.S. The Germans were looking to form an alliance with the Japanese to assist them against the U.S. and the Allies in Europe. But the U.S. fortuitously was able to arrest the Japanese and help prevent Germany from conceivably taking over the Pacific and perhaps, North America (a goal of Adolf Hitler).