5 Things You Didn't Know About The Battle of Midway

On June 7, 1942, the Battle of Midway—one of the most decisive U.S. victories in its war against Japan—came to an end.  This epic clash was one of the most important battles in World War II and is considered a turning point on the war in the Pacific. Here are 5 things you didn't know about the Battle of Midway.

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The Japanese Chose Midway Because It Was out of Range of Most U.S. Aircraft The Japanese wanted a way to hurt U.S. forces, particularly the fleet of aircraft carriers, with minimal risk to their own troops and ships. Attacking Hawaii again was not seen as an option because the U.S. had substantial firepower there. So the Japanese looked at more remote areas for a suitable target. Midway caught their eye because it was both strategically important to the U.S. but also well out of range of aircraft stationed at Pearl Harbor. The idea was to launch an attack on Midway and then pick off the U.S. forces as they made their way to the island of Midway to defend it. That did not work out as planned thanks to U.S. codebreakers.

The U.S. Got Advance Notice Thanks to Codebreakers U.S. codebreakers managed to crack Japanese code just in time to learn of the planned attack. The new knowledge wasn't set in stone; Japanese codes required some guesswork to interpret even after the framework of the code became known. Two separate codebreaking groups had worked on a message that definitely indicated that Midway would be a target but that was not clear on exactly when the attack would happen. One group thought it would be in June 1942, while the other -- the one that actually cracked the code -- thought late May or early June 1942 was correct. In the end, Chester Nimitz, who commanded the U.S. Pacific Fleet, chose to follow the earlier group's recommendation to prepare for an earlier attack.

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The Japanese Lost All Four Aircraft Carriers Involved In The Battle The Japanese had planned to decimate the U.S. fleet at Midway, but instead, the opposite happened; the U.S. destroyed all four of the Japanese aircraft carriers at the battle. Initially, things didn't look that bright for the U.S.; it launched an initial attack that had little effect other than having the aircraft carrier Yorktown damaged. The Japanese later launched their attack, heavily damaging the base at Midway but not destroying it. The U.S. fought back with bombers launched from a repaired Yorktown and two other carriers, the Enterprise and Hornet. Three of the Japanese carriers (Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu) were sunk. The fourth Japanese carrier, Hiryu, launched another attack, resulting in the destruction of the Yorktown, but bombers from the Enterprise sunk that fourth Japanese carrier.

Japan Lost More Than 3,00 Men In The Battle Compared To America's 300 The Japanese losses in the Battle of Midway included 4 aircraft carriers, nearly 300 planes and as many as 3,000 men, including Japan’s most experienced pilots. U.S. losses were comparatively very less. They lost 1 aircraft carrier, 1 destroyer and around 150 aircraft. 307 Americans were killed in the battle while 3 were captured and put to death. The purpose of Japan’s attack was thus completely defeated and it also had to suffer heavy losses. The battle was a major victory for the Allied forces.

A Famous Hollywood Director Shot Footage Of The Battle Best known for his masterful Westerns, and his longtime collaboration with John Wayne, director John Ford was also an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve, and was tasked with making documentary films for the Navy during World War II. At Admiral Nimitz’s request, the director was stationed on Midway during the battle, and suffered a “bomb concussion” and gunshot wound during the Japanese raid. U.S. Marines gave Ford first aid, but he “did not leave his station until he had completed his photographic mission.”Ford’s footage of the battle, appeared in "The Battle of Midway", which won an Oscar for best documentary that year. Ford went on to lead the photographic unit for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA, for the remainder of the war.