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The Battle of Midway

Was the Battle of Midway the beginning of the end for the Empire of Japan? The Battle of Midway took place on June 6th 1942. Let’s rewind…


December 7th 1941 - alarms blared as the humming of Japanese planes flooded over American naval base Pearl Harbour. Seamen jumped into the water as Japanese ammunition was fired at them. Bombs dropped onto the fleet of battleships. The base was devastated, but a second wave entered the sky and gave a second blowout, but the Japanese failed to achieve their goal. Yes, they stopped intervention from the US Pacific Fleet in their expansion, but they hadn’t got the grand prize - the American, beast-like Fleet Carriers. They are the USS Enterprise (CV-6), the USS Saratoga (CV-3) and the flagship USS Lexington (CV-2). She was the pride of the American Navy.


The attack on Pearl Harbour left only one outcome - war. The British were pleased that the Americans were getting involved as the Japanese empire had eliminated British and European colonies in Asia, including British Malaya and the Dutch East Indies; they were now pushing deep into Burma and British India.


Back to Midway: American intelligence discovered that Midway was secretly codenamed ‘AF’. Consequently, the Americans sent all their resources into battle so the Japanese lost the element of surprise that they thought they had. Now, the Americans are surprising the unknowing Japanese. The Japanese’s aim was to bombard Midway's defenses and then have a landing craft capture the island. If they were to successfully capture it, they’d be one step closer to America and victory. They sent the Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu ships alongside the flagship Akagi. The battle began and, after one day, all four carriers were either burning wrecks, scuttled or sunk. Meanwhile, the American Yorktown wasn’t as lucky as it previously was - it was bombed, capsized and sank into the watery abyss. The Enterprise, however, survived the battle


That night Admiral Isokuru Yamamoto, the combined fleet admiral, was onboard the Yamato and ordered a retreat, giving the Americans confidence that there was still hope.


I think that the main reason for the Japanese loss was because, onboard the Akagi, Admiral Nagumo ordered for all the torpedo bombers to switch to land bombs, bombarding Midway again. At the time, this process would take about two hours. 90 minutes after this decision, the fleet discovered an enemy formation closing in on them. Realising his mistake, Admiral Nagumo ordered a switch back to torpedoes. Another two hours passed. Suddenly, the American planes made it rain with torpedoes, dive bombs and high altitude bombs. They hit the three ships rendering them unfit for combat. These three ships were the Soryu, Kaga and the Akagi, which had Nagumo watching from the inside - it proved to be a massive blow.


Admiral Yamaguchi, on the Hiryu, launched an attack that sank the USS Yorktown.

When the Hiryu was found, it too was destroyed and Admiral Yamaguchi went down with his ship. Planes, seamen and air crew plunged into the depths of the north Pacific.


My take is that, for the Imperial Japanese Navy, this was a real turning point and this definitely was the beginning of the end for the Japanese empire’s water superiority. A pattern emerged: with American carriers present, the Japanese would sorely lose, but when there were no carriers the Japanese would win. Knowing this, the United States created as many carriers as possible - at the start of the war, the US had only three aircraft carriers; by the end they had more than 90.


On the 2nd of September, 1945, Imperial Japan surrendered to the Allies and was occupied by the Americans for eight years.


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