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This article is about the 1942 battle. For other uses, see The Battle of Midway (disambiguation).

The Battle of Midway was a crucial and decisive naval battle in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, only six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea, the United States Navy under Admirals Chester Nimitz, Frank Jack Fletcher, and Raymond A. Spruance decisively defeated an attacking fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy under Admirals Isoroku Yamamoto, Chuichi Nagumo, and Nobutake Kondo near Midway Atoll, inflicting devastating damage on the Japanese fleet that proved irreparable. Military historian John Keegan called it "the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare." It was Japan's first naval defeat since the Battle of Shimonoseki Straits in 1863.

The Japanese operation, like the earlier attack on Pearl Harbor, sought to eliminate the United States as a strategic power in the Pacific, thereby giving Japan a free hand in establishing its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The Japanese hoped that another demoralizing defeat would force the U.S. to capitulate in the Pacific War and thus ensure Japanese dominance in the Pacific.

The Japanese plan was to lure the United States' aircraft carriers into a trap. The Japanese also intended to occupy Midway as part of an overall plan to extend their defensive perimeter in response to the Doolittle air raid on Tokyo. This operation was also considered preparatory for further attacks against Fiji, Samoa, and Hawaii itself.

The plan was handicapped by faulty Japanese assumptions of the American reaction and poor initial dispositions. Most significantly, American codebreakers were able to determine the date and location of the attack, enabling the forewarned U.S. Navy to prepare its own ambush. Four Japanese aircraft carriers—Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, all part of the six-carrier force that had attacked Pearl Harbor six months earlier—and a heavy cruiser were sunk at a cost of the carrier Yorktown and a destroyer. After Midway and the exhausting attrition of the Solomon Islands campaign, Japan's capacity to replace its losses in materiel (particularly aircraft carriers) and men (especially well-trained pilots) rapidly became insufficient to cope with mounting casualties, while the United States' massive industrial capabilities made American losses far easier to bear. Allied victories afterward thus became much more frequent as Japan desperately tried to restore its naval power, largely failing in part due to increased American ability to operate against the Japanese mainland. The Battle of Midway, in combination with the Soviet victory against Germany at the Battle of Stalingrad half a year later, are considered by some to be the turning points of the Second World War in favor of Allied victory.


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