by Paulina Hernandez
[The painting above depicts an encounter between the TBD Destroyer and the Japanese Navy during the naval battle of the Midway Island]
A month before the attack, American cryptographers were able to decode transmissions sent amongst the Japanese forces. The mission of the United States Navy was to ambush the Japanese Navy. The Japanese Navy under the leadership of Admiral Naguma, had no inkling that they were about to be ambushed. Admiral Naguma came upon an American aircraft carrier but, chose to wait rather than attack. Naguma mistakenly assumed that the American aircraft was alone. Naguma’s decision changed the course of the Asia-Pacific war.
Naguma chose to wait before attacking the US Navy. While Naguma was waiting, American squadrons of torpedo bombers, en route to the Japanese went separate ways without air support, leaving themselves vulnerable to enemy fire. In the ensuing battle against Japanese fighter pilots, the Enterprise Torpedo Squadron lost 18 of 28 men, the Yorktown squadron lost 21 men out of 24, and the Hornet squadron lost all of 30 except 1. Sadly, none of the torpedo squadrons were successful in striking against the Japanese fleet.
At this point in time, America was facing defeat at Midway while Admiral Nagumo was planning an attack that would end the American fight for Midway. American forces were able to recuperate and began attacking the Japanese fleet. As American dive bombers flew around looking for the Japanese, they were unable to find them because the Japanese had moved position northward. The reason for this, was so the Japanese could engage in battle with the remaining US ships. On a whim, the Enterprise squadron changed their course and spotted four Japanese carriers. The Japanese carriers were without air support as the Japanese pilots were engaging in battle with the last of the American torpedo planes. The lack of air support enabled the Enterprise dive bombers to open fire on the Japanese carriers. Torpedo squadrons and dive bombers were successful in striking at the Japanese Navy fleet carriers.
The four fleet carriers were the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu1 .The Japanese Navy had lost 322 aircraft and over five thousand men3 while the American forces had lost 147 aircraft and more than 300 men3 . The destruction of Japanese carriers resulted in survivors floating in the water for hours waiting for rescue while others committed suicide. In just five minutes, the heart of the Japanese Navy was decimated.
Over the next two days, the US continually attacked the Japanese causing them retreat. In the end, the Japanese lost 3,057 men, four carriers, one cruiser, and hundreds of aircraft4. The United States had lost 362 men, one carrier, one destroyer, and 144 aircraft5.