Midway. On 4th to 7th June 1942, US and Japanese naval forces engaged in a five-day battle in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that changed the course of the war in the Pacific.
The Japanese plan was to attack Midway Island with aircraft from four fleet carriers, and then await in ambush with a second Battleship force to annihilate the American carriers.
But the Americans had partly cracked the Japanese naval codes, and sent their precious carriers to lie undetected to the north-east of Midway. The initial attacks on Midway were largely successful, but American island-based air attacks on the Japanese fleet, although unsuccessful, made the Japanese plan for a second attack. So they struck down all their bombers, removed the torpedoes which had been loaded in anticipation of the American carriers, and rearmed them with bombs.
It was then that the last Japanese reconnaissance plane reported at least one heavy ship and escorts to the north-east of the Jap fleet, and the deadly fifteen minute delay commenced, as the Japanese Admiral, convinced that the American carriers were close, demanded that the bombs be dismounted again, and replaced with torpedoes.
The American torpedo bomber squadrons, flying old, slow and badly armed aircraft arrived, and, although they knew it was a literal death sentence for them, commenced their runs against the Japanese fleet. The Japanese combat air patrol dived from their commanding heights, and commenced the slaughter of the American fliers. One pilot survived and returned to the American fleet. Three American fliers were ‘rescued’ by the Japs; all three were summarily executed.
But at the very second that the Japs were triumphantly waving their swords and shouting ‘Banzai’, the first of three American dive bomber squadrons arrived in quick succession, more admittedly by luck than design. The “Silver Waterfall” claimed three Fleet carriers severely damaged and later sunk in the space of five minutes. The victorious Americans returned to the carriers, but, while rearming, the remaining Japanese carrier-based bombers and torpedo planes arrived and in two attacks hit the Yorktown several times. But the Americans still had two operational carriers, and in two combined attacks hit the remaining Jap carrier, damaging her so badly she was later sunk as the Japanese realised that the damage was so severe as to be lethal.
So ended Yamamoto’s dream of destroying the American carriers, and also, in the long term, ended any chance of Japanese expansion in the oceans. American industrial might brought forth fleet after fleet, and made real Yamamoto’s whisper that Pearl Harbour had simply awakened a Giant.