The Importance of the Battle of Midway

Monday, April 18th, 2016

The importance of the Battle of Midway goes beyond shifting the balance of power and the initiative from the Imperial Japanese Navy to the U.S. Navy. The victory at Midway aided allied strategy worldwide:

That last point needs some explaining. To understand it, begin by putting yourself in the shoes of President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the beginning of May 1942. The military outlook across the world appears very bad for the Allies. The German army is smashing a Soviet offensive to regain Kharkov, and soon will begin a drive to grab the Soviet Union’s oil supplies in the Caucasus. A German and Italian force in North Africa is threatening the Suez Canal. The Japanese have seriously crippled the Pacific Fleet, driven Britain’s Royal Navy out of the Indian Ocean, and threaten to link up with the Germans in the Middle East.

If the Japanese and the Germans do link up, they will cut the British and American supply line through Iran to the Soviet Union, and they may pull the British and French colonies in the Middle East into the Axis orbit. If that happens, Britain may lose control of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Soviet Union may negotiate an armistice with Germany. Even worse, the Chinese, cut off from aid from the United States, may also negotiate a cease-fire with the Japanese. For Churchill, there is the added and dreaded prospect that the Japanese may spark a revolt that will take India from Britain. Something has to be done to stop the Japanese and force them to focus their naval and air forces in the Pacific—away from the Indian Ocean and (possibly) the Arabian Sea.

Midway saves the decision by the Americans and British to focus their major effort against Germany, and the American and British military staffs are free to plan their invasion of North Africa. The U.S. Navy and Marines also begin planning for an operation on Guadalcanal against the Japanese. As Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance—one of the Navy’s carrier task force commanders at Midway—put it after the battle, “We had not been defeated by these superior Japanese forces. Midway to us at the time meant that here is where we start from, here is where we really jump off in a hard, bitter war against the Japanese.” Note his words: “… here is where we start from…” Midway, then, was a turning point, but by no means were the leaders of Japan and Germany ready to throw in the towel.


  1. Slovenian Guest says:

    From Tullock’s American Foreign Affairs:

    The British had moved a sizable fleet to the Indian Ocean and when Nagumo moved his fleet into the Indian Ocean, bombing Port Darwin on the way, it put to sea intending to fight. At the last minute, it realized how strong the Japanese were and took a course intended to avoid combat. Nagumo’s reconnaissance was as usual poor and he failed to find them. For the rest of the war, the British fleet stayed west of India in order to avoid contact with the Japanese. The United States using its remaining carriers in the Pacific established a convoy system to Australia and New Zealand. Japanese efforts to interfere with this led to a battle between carriers, which was more or less a draw. The Japanese, however, made no further significant efforts to interfere with the convoys across the South Pacific. The Japanese then attacked Midway, reasoning that the Americans would have to fight for it. They turned out they were right about this, but the American fleet inflicted a severe defeat on the Japanese fleet at that battle. As usual, Nagumo’s reconnaissance failed. From then on the Japanese navy fought an essentially defensive war.

  2. Slovenian Guest says:

    Coolbert from Military Analysis quotes:

    “We had not been defeated by these superior Japanese forces. Midway to us at the time meant that here is where we start from, here is where we really jump off in a hard, bitter war against the Japanese.” – Ray Spruance

    And adds further:

    THE DESTRUCTION OF THE KIDO BUTAI! The Japanese First Air Fleet. That assemblage of aircraft carriers and air crews that up unto Midway were absolutely unstoppable and ever-victorious. NOT ONLY THOSE JAPANESE SHIPS SUNK BUT THOSE HIGHLY EFFECTIVE AND VERY ABLE AIR CREWS IRREPLACEABLE!!

    From the time of Pearl Harbor until Midway there was one Japan, very strong, in the aftermath of Midway there was a second much weaker Japan. That latter NEVER ABLE TO RECOVER FROM MIDWAY.

    Allied military planners, American and British both now able to concentrate 90% of the war effort against Germany without further fear of Japanese advance.


    Yet more thanks to

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