Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Battle of Midway - 75 Years Later

Sunday marked the 75th Anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Midway.  In the battle the US Navy faced off against the Japanese Navy.
 The six months following Pearl Harbor had been pretty bad for the United States.  The Japanese had conquered the Philippines and various other islands in the western Pacific.  It seemed like the Japanese had been a juggernaut.  The Doolittle Raid provided a shot in the arm for US morale but tactically had little effect.  The Battle of Coral Sea in May of 1942 provided a brief reprieve for the United States as they were able to prevent the start of the Australian invasion.  The battle itself was not decisive but it did show that the United States Navy could hold it's own against the (at the time) superior Japanese Navy.
 Those two events led Japan's Admiral Yamamoto to realize that if the Japanese were going to secure their gains, they had to strike a decisive blow to the United States Navy.  He knew that he had to knock out the US aircraft carriers.  During the Battle of Coral Sea, the Japanese managed to sink the USS Lexington and badly damage the USS Yorktown but that wasn't enough.
This led Yamamoto to believe that he would be facing two US Aircraft Carriers at best (the USS Enterprise and USS Hornet).  The Yorktown was able to limp back to Pearl Harbor and expedited repairs were carried out on her and she was able to join the American Task Force at Midway.
 In order to lure the American Navy into a trap, Admiral Yamamoto developed a two pronged attack.  One part would attack the Alaskan Aleutian Islands.  He figured that since that was pretty close to the continental US, the Americans would send their carriers up there to fight the Japanese.  In the process, he sent another group to attack Midway.  He was hoping that the American Navy would be caught between the two groups and could get destroyed by the two groups.
The thing he didn't count on was that the US had broken the Japanese Naval code at this point and was aware what the main target was.   The US Force under the command of Admiral Spruance was able to take position off Midway that would give them maximum tactical advantage.
The Battle of Midway ended up being a decisive victory for the United States Navy.  They were able to sink the Japanese Aircraft Carriers Soryu, Kaga, Akagi and Hiryu.  The Japanese managed to sink the USS Yorktown.  The Japanese still had a formidable surface fleet, but because Spruance didn't press the attack, Yamamoto decided that discretion was the better part of valor and withdrew.  This battle marked the turning point of the war in the Pacific.

Despite being such bitter enemies during World War II, the Japanese and Americans because very good friends after the war.  Sure there are some bad moments, but when doesn't that happen. 

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