Battle of Midway, 4-7 June 1942
Overview and Special Image Selection



The Battle of Midway, fought over and near the tiny U.S. mid-Pacific base at Midway atoll, represents the strategic high water mark of Japan's Pacific Ocean war. Prior to this action, Japan possessed general naval superiority over the United States and could usually choose where and when to attack. After Midway, the two opposing fleets were essentially equals, and the United States soon took the offensive.

Japanese Combined Fleet commander Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto moved on Midway in an effort to draw out and destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet's aircraft carrier striking forces, which had embarassed the Japanese Navy in the mid-April Doolittle Raid on Japan's home islands and at the Battle of Coral Sea in early May. He planned to quickly knock down Midway's defenses, follow up with an invasion of the atoll's two small islands and establish a Japanese air base there. He expected the U.S. carriers to come out and fight, but to arrive too late to save Midway and in insufficient strength to avoid defeat by his own well-tested carrier air power.

Yamamoto's intended surprise was thwarted by superior American communications intelligence, which deduced his scheme well before battle was joined. This allowed Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, to establish an ambush by having his carriers ready and waiting for the Japanese. On 4 June 1942, in the second of the Pacific War's great carrier battles, the trap was sprung. The perserverance, sacrifice and skill of U.S. Navy aviators, plus a great deal of good luck on the American side, cost Japan four irreplaceable fleet carriers, while only one of the three U.S. carriers present was lost. The base at Midway, though damaged by Japanese air attack, remained operational and later became a vital component in the American trans-Pacific offensive.


This page presents a special selection of Battle of Midway views, chosen from the more comprehensive coverage featured in the following pages, and those linked from them:

For artwork related to the Battle of Midway, see the Navy Art Gallery The Battle of Midway.

For more information and links to related resources:



Click the photograph for larger image.

Photo #: 80-G-451086

Midway Atoll


Aerial photograph, looking just south of west across the southern side of the atoll, 24 November 1941. Eastern Island, then the site of Midway's airfield, is in the foreground. Sand Island, location of most other base facilities, is across the entrance channel.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, U.S. National Archives Collection.

Online Image: 127KB; 680 x 765

Reproductions may also be available at National Archives.

 
Photo #: 80-G-17056

Battle of Midway, June 1942


Burning oil tanks on Sand Island, Midway, following the Japanese air attack delivered on the morning of 4 June 1942.
These tanks were located near what was then the southern shore of Sand Island. This view looks inland from the vicinity of the beach.
Three Laysan Albatross ("Gooney Bird") chicks are visible in the foreground.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.

Online Image: 85KB; 740 x 615

Reproductions may also be available at National Archives.

 
Photo #: USAF 75712 AC

Battle of Midway, June 1942


Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu maneuvering during a high-level bombing attack by USAAF B-17 bombers, shortly after 8AM, 4 June 1942.
Note ship's flight deck markings, including Katakana identification character "hi" on her after flight deck.
This image is cropped from USAF Photo # 3725 AC.

U.S. Air Force Photograph.

Online Image: 108KB; 595 x 765

Reproductions may also be available at National Archives.

 
Photo #: NH 73065

Battle of Midway, June 1942


The burning Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu, photographed by a plane from the carrier Hosho shortly after sunrise on 5 June 1942. Hiryu sank a few hours later.
Note collapsed flight deck over the forward hangar.

Donation of Kazutoshi Hando, 1970.

NHHC Photograph.

Online Image: 109KB; 740 x 520

 
Photo #: 80-G-312018

Battle of Midway, June 1942


Scene on board USS Yorktown (CV-5), shortly after she was hit by three Japanese bombs on 4 June 1942. Dense smoke is from fires in her uptakes, caused by a bomb that punctured them and knocked out her boilers.
Taken by Photographer 2rd Class William G. Roy from the starboard side of the flight deck, just in front of the forward 5"/38 gun gallery. Man with hammer at right is probably covering a bomb entry hole in the forward elevator.
Note arresting gear cables and forward palisade elements on the flight deck; CXAM radar antenna, large national ensign and YE homing beacon antenna atop the foremast; 5"/38, .50 caliber and 1.1" guns manned and ready at left.
This view forms a panorama with Photo # 80-G-312019.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, U.S. National Archives Collection.

Online Image: 119KB; 700 x 645

Reproductions may also be available at National Archives.

 
Photo #: 80-G-17054

Battle of Midway, June 1942


SBD "Dauntless" dive bombers from USS Hornet (CV-8) approaching the burning Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma to make the third set of attacks on her, during the early afternoon of 6 June 1942.
Mikuma had been hit earlier by strikes from Hornet and USS Enterprise (CV-6), leaving her dead in the water and fatally damaged.
Photo was enlarged from a 16mm color motion picture film.
Note bombs hung beneath these planes.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.

Online Image: 152KB; 740 x 610

Reproductions may also be available at National Archives.

 
Photo #: 80-G-32320

Battle of Midway, June 1942


USS Hammann (DD-412) sinking with stern high, after being torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-168 in the afternoon of 6 June 1942.
Photographed from the starboard forecastle deck of USS Yorktown (CV-5) by Photographer 2nd Class William G. Roy. Angular structure in right foreground is the front of Yorktown's forward starboard 5-inch gun gallery.
Note knotted lines hanging down from the carrier's flight deck, remaining from her initial abandonment on 4 June.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, U.S. National Archives Collection.

Online Image: 59KB; 740 x 620

Reproductions may also be available at National Archives.

 
Photo #: 80-G-17678

Battle of Midway, June 1942


Ensign George H. Gay at Pearl Harbor Naval Hospital, with a nurse and a copy of the "Honolulu Star-Bulletin" newspaper featuring accounts of the battle. He was the only survivor of the 4 June 1942 Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8) TBD torpedo plane attack on the Japanese carrier force.
Gay's book "Sole Survivor" indicates that the date of this photograph is probably 7 June 1942, following an operation to repair his injured left hand and a meeting with Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, U.S. National Archives Collection.

Online Image: 86KB; 580 x 765

Reproductions may also be available at National Archives.

 


For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions





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