On board the USS Yorktown, Battle of Midway, June 1942 (U.S. National Archives)
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Six months after the devastating attack on its naval base at Pearl Harbor, the American Pacific fleet collided with an attack fleet of the Japanese Imperial Navy near Midway atoll. What followed was one of the most stunning and lopsided defeats in the history of war—not just the most decisive naval battle of the Pacific War, but one of the most consequential naval battles in all of history.
The shocking defeat in June 1942 ended Japan’s plans for continued expansion in the Pacific, and dramatically reversed the two sides’ fortunes in the war. It was, as American Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, described it, “a momentous victory,” and one that began the long and often brutal slog to American victory in August of 1945.
Christopher Hamner, an associate professor of history at George Mason University, looks at the events of the battle—from preparations to consequences—that led to victory.
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