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June 4, 2006

Battle of Midway: June 4, 1942

F/A-18 Flightdeck CVN-72

U.S. Navy photo by PHAN James R. Evans

Flightdeck CVN-72: Pacific Ocean (March 30, 2006)

Flight deck personnel work to ready an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the “Fighting Vigilantes” of Strike Fighter Squadron One Five One (VFA-151) for take-off from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) during a snow storm. Lincoln and Carrier Air Wing Two (CVW-2) are currently underway in the Western Pacific conducting a scheduled deployment.

It was on this day in 1942 that the Battle of Midway took place over the Pacific Ocean. It was one of the first battles fought almost entirely in the air, and it's considered one of the major turning points of the Pacific half of World War II. At the time, the Japanese had a far superior naval and air fleet, and they had scored a series of victories over the Allies since bombing Pearl Harbor. They hoped to seize Midway Island because it was the last American outpost in the central Pacific. They could have use it to stage an invasion of Hawaii, which would have given them complete strategic control over the Pacific Ocean.

The Japanese had one of the largest and most heavily armed navel fleets ever assembled up to that time. They launched their first attack early in the morning on this day in 1942. The Japanese pilots dropped their bombs on the Midway airfield, and then flew back to their carriers to refuel and reload with bombs.

The U.S. knew that the Japanese would be attacking that day, because they had cracked the Japanese codes, but they didn't know where the Japanese fleet was located. While the Japanese were refueling, a squadron of American bombers noticed the wake of a small Japanese ship and decided to follow it. When they descended from the clouds, they realized that they had accidentally stumbled upon the Japanese fleet, caught almost defenseless, with all their planes docked and refueling. The American bombers dove down from 12,000 feet, dropped their bombs on the Japanese aircraft carriers, and took off again.

In just five minutes, the U.S. bombers had delivered a devastating blow to the Japanese fleet. The battle raged for three more days, but the Japanese never recovered from that first attack. Their navy was shattered, and from that battle onward, they were on the defensive. The Japanese never won another decisive naval battle for the rest of the war.
—Garrison Keillor

Source: Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac for Sunday, June 4, 2006
See also US. Navy's Navy Historical Center Midway FAQs

Posted by niganit at June 4, 2006 4:03 PM
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