The Battle of Midway
This paper is a historical view of the Battle of Midway between the United States and the Japanese. The Purpose of this paper is to present evidence and insight to explain the reason that this battle in World War II is important in history. There will be three major points discussed in this paper to explain how the United States was able to win the Battle of Midway. The Battle of Midway was a battle that took place in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The battle started on June 4th, 1942 when the Japanese attacked Dutch harbor Alaska and the Island of Midway. The United States was able to win the battle in the long run; however there are many different factors that play in to the reason the United States was able to win the battle. Which raises the question of how the United States was able to win the Battle of Midway even though the Japanese had navel superiority in the Pacific at the time of the battle? The United States was able the win the Battle of Midway for three reasons; they had a better military intelligence, they took more strategic risks, and they had a more powerful and well supported air force. The reasons stated before will be explain in greater detail later in the body of this paper.
The Battle of Midway is an important battle in history for many different reasons. Many people believe that the battle was a major turning point in the Pacific theater. The Battle of Midway had come at a tough time for the United States. Just a month earlier the United States had suffer some big loses at the Battle of Coral Sea when the USS Yorktown was forced to go to port for repairs. Historians believe that the Battle of Midway lose, the Japanese suffered was one of the reasons that the Japanese lost the war in the Pacific. The historiography section will explain some of the other reasons why the Japanese may have lost the war along with the help of other historians.
Many historians have different theories about how the Allied powers won World War II. Better yet some historians question how the Axis powers lost the war. This section of the paper focuses particularly on the Japanese and the United States fighting in the Pacific theater. This section will analyze two different historians views on World War II and why the Japanese might have lost the war. Many historians believe many different reasons about why the Japanese lost but the two historians analyzed in this section breakdown the Japanese war tactics.
The first of the articles that will be analyzed is titled “Why Japan Surrendered” written by Robert A. Pape. Pape looks at three main ideas that might be the reasons why Japan surrendered. The first idea that is argued is that Japan surrendered before the U.S. invaded, because the U.S. had already used to atomic bombs on Japan. They were scared that the U.S. would continue to use atomic bombs and that why they surrendered. The next argument that Pape looked at is that the Japanese surrendered to avoid having their centers of population destroyed. The final argument that Pape looked at is that the U.S. would allow Japan to keep their emperor if they surrendered to the United States. However Pape said that all of the above reasons are not the real reason why the Japanese surrendered. Pape gives a fourth reason that he believed led to Japanese surrender. Pape said the reason the Japanese surrendered is because of military vulnerability. Pape supports his reason with three pieces of evidence. The first is the sea blockade that crippled the Japanese economy. The second piece of evidence that Pape used to show military vulnerability was the fall of Okinawa in June of 1945. Pape final piece of evidence was the collapse of the Japanese armies in Manchuria. These three pieces of evidence are the reasons that Pape believes the Japanese Surrendered and in turn lost the war.
The second article that analyses one of the reasons the Japanese many have lost the Pacific theater on the war is titled “American Navel Intelligence of Japanese Submarine Operations Early in the Pacific War”. World War II historian Carl Boyd wrote the article. In the article Boyd covers the relatively ineffective use of Japanese submarines in the Pacific during World War II. Boyd said the Japanese I class submarines were for the most part ineffective in sinking American ships as they had only sank one American ship by May 1942 while on the other hand the Americans had sank “seven I class subs and five midget subs”. Boyd also said the Japanese subs were ineffective during the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. had become very good at detecting Japanese subs by the end of December 1941. Boyd also states that the Japanese subs did a poor job of keeping U.S. mainland supplies from reaching Pearl Harbor, and the subs also did not attack the crippled American ships after the Pearl Harbor attack. Boyd uses the evidence in his article to formulate a reason that the Japanese lost in the Pacific theater.
Both of the two articles above give good evidence for why the Japanese may have lost World War II. However there are problems with both articles. In Pape’s article “Why Japan Surrendered” Pape is quick to overlook the significant role that the atomic bomb played in the surrendered of the Japanese. Pape says that the atomic bombings were an important part of the Japanese surrender, but then says that the Japanese surrendered only because their military was vulnerable, and not because they were afraid of the atomic bomb. There is too much evidence out there in history books and articles that would say that the atomic bomb was one of the many reasons behind the Japanese surrender. In Boyd’s article “American Navel Intelligence of Japanese Submarine Operations Early in the Pacific War” he only talks about how the Japanese subs were ineffective in attacking the American fleet. Boyd even says in his article that it was written only in terms of the ineffectiveness against the American Navy. Boyd does not really look into any other reasons that may have lead to the ineffectiveness of the Japanese submarines.
There are many different historians out there were and are willing to give reasons on why the Japanese may have lost the war. However the historiography on World War II is very incomplete. The reason that is, is because there are very few sources that give a reliable history of World War II from the standpoint of the Japanese and the rest of the Axis powers. Therefore it is very difficult to write an accurate historiography of World War II with out accurate perspective from both sides of World War II.
The Japanese going into the Battle of Midway had the upper hand in the Pacific. They had caused major damage to the USS Yorktown and other United States ships during the Battle of Coral Sea. The Japanese had also crippled the United States Pacific fleet On December 7, 1941 with their surprise attack the Untied States navel base in Pearl Harbor. Which became known as the “Day of infamy” in America. With the major loses at Pearl Harbor, and the loses at the Battle of Coral Sea the United States had to change their strategies in the Pacific to be able to defeat the Japanese in the Pacific.
However the Battle of Midway way turned out differently because the United States Military intelligent had discovered the Japanese plans to attack Midway. The Japanese had planed to attack the Aleutian Islands in Alaska to distract the American Navy from the real target, which was the Island of Midway. According to an article written by Lloyd Wendt it said that the Americans had cracked the Japanese secrete codes before the battle of Coral Sea. Which allowed them decode the Japanese plan to attack Midway and use the attack on the Aleutian island as a distraction. It was because of the United States Navel intelligence that the United States knew the Japanese were going to attack Midway and they were able to prepare for the battle. Also because the codes were cracked the Americans had more time to put up anti-air defenses on Midway. The decoding of the Japanese plans put the Japanese force at a huge disadvantage because the United States was able to take advantage of the extra time they had to prepare for the upcoming battle and more their navel forces to were they needed to in order to defend the Island of Midway. Despite the superior American military intelligence playing a factor in the Battle of Midway there was more to the American victory at Midway then just military intelligence.
The United States was forced to make a choice when they cracked the Japanese codes they had to decide if they should put more troops at Midway or more troops in the Aleutian Islands because some military officials believed that the Japanese codes may have contained false information and that the Japanese true target was the Aleutian Islands. However more forces were posted at Midway to defend the Island. The Americans also needed to take more risks in order to defeat the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. Part of the United States strategy was to perform long range attacks on the Japanese to keep them from reaching Midway. Also according to the Lloyd Wendt article part of the United States Strategy to attack and sink the Japanese carriers because they believed that was the only way the stop the Japanese attack.
The Japanese attacks on the Island of Midway were not very successful. During the attack on Midway the Japanese lost 243 aircrafts, one heavy cruiser, and four aircraft carriers. The United States however lost 152 aircrafts, one destroyer, and one aircraft carrier. Both sides lost hundreds of aircrafts, however the Japanese lost many more aircraft carriers then the United States did so the battle was more devastating the Japanese in terms of the naval force that was lost. Also the United States was able to stop the Japanese from taking over Midway. However, the Japanese were able to take control of the islands Attu, and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands, which did help boost Japanese morale. It is fair to say that the Japanese plans to attack Midway and the Aleutians was not a total failure but major loses at Midway hurt the Japanese, and in turn may have lost them war in the long run.
One of the major reasons that the United States won the battle of Midway is because of the Japanese air force’s lack of coordination, and the stronger U.S. Air Force. The United States Naval War College claims that the timing of their attacks was off which, one the major reasons the Japanese did not succeed at the Battle of Midway. The Naval College also claimed that if the Japanese would have had their plane lunching time down better they might have been able to win the battle. Although the United States Air Force had better coordination then the Japanese air force it still suffered its fair share of problems during the battle. According to Ensign George H. Gay a pilot account from the book The Battle of Midway by Irving Werstein, who was part of the Torpedo Squadron 8 remembers diving in on the Japanese carriers and him rest of him squadron were shot out of the sky before they were able to do any damage to the carriers. When Gay’s plane was shot down he landed in the water and saw that they had not done any damage to the carrier. However the next attacks the Americans did on the carriers was much more successful and devastating to the Japanese carriers. By 10:24 AM on June 4th the Americans started their attack on the Japanese carriers for a second time. The Americans attacked the Japanese carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu. Six minutes later the Akagi, Kaga and Soryu were all very badly damaged and all but done for. Although both the United States and Japanese lost many aircrafts, it was the Japanese that suffered the bigger losses as mentioned before the Japanese lost a total of four aircraft carriers. In the end it was the United States Air Force that proved too much for the Japanese navy, and allowed the United States to win the Battle of Midway.
There were many different factors that played into the American victory at Midway. It is not possible to say that one factor is more important then the others in the American Victory at Midway. Every factor played into the victory whether it was military intelligence, the risk they took or the strength of the Air Force that helped the United States to victory at Midway despite the strength of the Japanese navy at the time of the Battle of Midway. Although the battle proved to be very difficult for the United States it was the three factors listed above that made it possible for the United States to win the Battle of Midway.
Bates, Richard., W. “ The Battle of Midway: Including the Aleutian Phase June 3 to
June 14 1942. Washington: U.S. Navel War College, 1948.
Boyd, Carl. “American Navel Intelligence of Japanese Submarine Operations Early in
the Pacific War” The Journal of Military History 53 No. 2. (April 1989): 169- 189.
Pape A. Robert. “Why Japan Surrendered”. International Security 18 No. 2 (Fall
1993): 154- 201.
Sears, Stephen W. Carrier War In The Pacific. New York: American Heritage, 1966.
Wendt, Lloyd. “The First Complete Story Of The Battle of Midway” Chicago Tribune
(Chicago), June 5, 1949. Accessed September 27, 2014.
Werstein, Irving. The Battle of Midway. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company,
 Richard, Bates., W. “ The Battle of Midway: Including the Aleutian Phase June 3 to June 14 1942. Washington: U.S. Navel War College, 1948. https://archive.org/details/battleofmidwayin00bate. 5.
 Ibid 2.
 Robert A. Pape. “Why Japan Surrendered”. International Security 18 No. 2 (Fall 1993): 155
 Ibid 155.
 Ibid 156.
 Carl Boyd. “American Navel Intelligence of Japanese Submarine Operations Early in the Pacific War” The Journal of Military History 53 No. 2. (April 1989): 169.
 Ibid 171
 Ibid 172
 Bates., 2.
 Stephen, Sears, W. Carrier War in The Pacific. New York: American Heritage (1966.) 22-27
 Ibid., 27.
 Bates., 2.
 Lloyd Wendt. “The First Complete Story Of The Battle of Midway” Chicago Tribune June 5, 1949. 2.
 Ibid., 2.
 Ibid., 2.
 Ibid., 2-3.
 Bates., 4.
 Ibid., 4.
 Ibid., 84
 Irving, Werstein. The Battle of Midway. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company,
 Ibid., 89.
 Ibid., 91.