This week, we’re marking the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway. On the seventh of June, 1942, U.S.S. Yorktown slipped beneath the waves, in the last act of the battle. In Today’s Pacific News Minute, Neal Conan focuses on what happened next.
Yorktown and the destroyer U.S.S. Monaghan were the only American ships lost at Midway; as he turned for home Japanese Commander Isoroku Yamamoto considered much more grievous losses. Four aircraft carriers that made up the heart of the Kido Butai – the innovative striking force that lead Japan’s Combined Fleet to victories from Pearl Harbor to Sri Lanka.
When they operated together, Japan’s six carriers constituted the most powerful fleet on earth. They began the war with better planes, better weapons, better technique and better trained pilots. Well aware of the vast gap in industrial power, Yamamoto knew that Japan’s only chance, was to use that weapon to win quickly. The loss at Midway erased that hope.
Two years later, June 1944, the American fleet that scrambled to send three carriers to Midway assembled 15 for the invasion of the Mariana Islands. This time, the Americans had better planes, better weapons, better technique and better pilots and they destroyed the Japanese fleet at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
That same month, the U.S. also provided a major fraction of the invasion force at Normandy, half a world away. That same month, American long range bombers attacked the Japanese Home Islands from bases in China. Midway gave the United States the breathing room to let its vast power develop, and, within two years, America emerged as a superpower.