“Through the skill and devotion to duty of their armed forces of all branches in the Midway area our citizens can now rejoice that a momentous victory is in the making.
It was on a Sunday just six months ago that the Japanese made their peace‑time attack on our fleet and army activities on Oahu. At that time they created heavy damage, it is true, but their act aroused the grim determination of our citizenry to avenge such treachery, and it raised, not lowered, the morale of our fighting men.
Pearl Harbor has now been partially avenged. Vengeance will not be complete until Japanese sea power has been reduced to impotence. We have made substantial progress in that direction. Perhaps we will be forgiven if we claim we are about midway to our objective!”
---Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet, June 6, 1942
Admiral Nimitz’s words on June 6, 1942 gave hope to a country that had little of such in the ever-escalating war with Japan. Before the Battle of Midway, Japan was heavily on the offensive. The Empire had decimated US forces at Pearl Harbor, seized Malaysia, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines and other island groups in the central and western Pacific, landed forces on Sumatra and Bali, and begun bombing New Guinea. It appeared that Japan’s total control of the Pacific was inevitable. This idea was further cemented in April 1942 when US intelligence discovered that the Japanese were planning a major offensive that summer. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Chester Nimitz suspected Midway was their target.
On June 3, 1942 Admiral Nimitz received word that Japanese forces were close to Midway. He relayed this information to his carrier forces and added the dire warning, “That is not repeat not the enemy striking force—stop— That is the landing force. The striking force will hit from the northwest at daylight tomorrow.”
The battle began at dawn when Japan sent a carrier air strike to Midway unaware that US carrier forces were located and ready for battle just to the east of the island. US forces were sent to intercept the Japanese and the conflict raged for two days. In the end the US lost over 300 men, one carrier, one destroyer, and close to a 150 aircraft. The Japanese suffered far worse, losing over 3,000 men, four carriers, one cruiser, and hundreds of aircraft.
This heavy blow to Japanese forces ceased the Empire’s expansion of the Pacific. More importantly, it gave the United States hope that the war could be won.