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Midway, The Battle of

The Japanese command of the Western Pacific was, in May 1942, still not secure. The Americans had managed to halt their advance towards Australia in the Battle of the Coral Sea where their carrier Lexington was lost and Yorktown damaged. Now what Japan required was security on the eastern flank which the taking of the American base at Midway would give. The plan was to attack from the air with machines flown from Akagi, Kaga, Soryuand Hiryu in a task force approaching from the north west and then to occupy the island with forces brought from the south west in another task force. To disguise this a feint would be made towards the Aleutian Islands in the north Pacific. Admiral Chester Nimitz was not fooled. His intelligence was vastly improved by the breaking of the Japanese Naval code JN-25 and he covered the Aleutians with a small force with no aircraft carrier. Thus when the real blow fell on Midway on 4 June an American force was to the north east. The first wave of Japanese aircraft were opposed bravely by inferior US Marine machines and great damage was done. Having failed to locate the US force, Admiral Nagumo (Nagumo, Chuichi) struck down his torpedo force in order to continue bombing Midway. By great good fortune the American SBD2 Dauntless dive-bombers from Enterprise and Yorktown found the Japanese carriers when their fighter cover was absent shooting down the American torpedo planes, and the carriers were cluttered with returned raiders from Midway. Akagi, Kaga and Soryu were set on fire and soon after Hiryu was also destroyed. The American carrier Yorktown was successfully attacked by Japanese aircraft and abandoned, then taken in tow and finally sunk by submarine. Although losses had been heavy for the USA, they had been very severe indeed for their enemies and the war in the Pacific can be said to have turned in America's favour with this victory.

See also: Akagi; Enterprise; Hiryu; Kaga; Lexington; Nagumo, Chuichi; Operation K; Soryu; Yorktown