It is difficult to imagine living in a country without the freedoms that are so easily provided for us in the United States. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence) are things that we have all grown up having, and most of us have not even thought twice about. Had the tables been turned in the Pacific War during World War II however, there is no telling where our country would be today; what language we would be speaking, what holidays we would be celebrating, what food we would be eating.
There are countless possibilities, had the circumstances been different some fifty years ago. The Battle of Midway is known by many as the single most decisive battle of World War II, as it was the battle that determined who controlled the Pacific. By 1942, while World War II was in full swing, the Japanese had naval supremacy over the United States in the Pacific Ocean War and possessed the advantage of deciding when and where battles took place. After an “operational and strategic loss” (www. history. navy. om “Battle of The Coral Sea”) at The Battle of The Coral Sea in May of 1942, and a humiliating defeat in the Doolittle Raid in April, Japan was more determined than ever to take back full control of the Pacific and demolish the US naval strength. They planned to do this by surprise attacking the United States at the Midway atoll and establishing a Japanese airbase there. However, due to the ignorance and over-confidence of the Japanese and the superior naval leadership by Chester Nimitz along with technological advantages, perseverance and skill of the United States, Japan’s ingenious plan rebounded.
The Battle of Midway, June 4-7, 1942, is extensively known as the turning point of the Pacific War during World War II, as it was the battle that completely altered the outcome of the war and the point when the United Sates gained control of the Pacific. At the time that the Battle of Midway was occurring, World War II was well under way. Known as the deadliest, most costly and most effective war the world has ever seen, this war brought unimaginable change to all countries involved. Although there were many different reasons for the start World War II, the tock market crash and the Great Depression were some of the leading causes. The damaged economies of Europe and America, along with the aftermath of World War I, created a major shift in world power and influence. This economic instability then led to the formation of new totalitarian governments in Japan, Germany, and the Soviet Union Over fifty countries participated in one of the mightiest struggles of humankind, and among these countries there were two main sides: the Allies and the Axis.
The United States hoped to stay out of the war, however they were immediately plunged into it after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. The historical background of the Battle of Midway is crucial to understanding the success of the United States, and the reason for it being the major turning point of World War II. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the US Naval forces in the Pacific, was a large contributor towards the United States Navy’s success at Midway. Coming from German descent and a family tree that traced back to Ernst Freiherr von Nimitz, “an eighteenth-century German major, with a crowned coat of arms. (War and Remembrance, 280), Nimitz was born of excellence. The Japanese original plan was to defeat the US at Midway by outnumbering them and ambushing them, while creating a distraction at the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska to lure Nimitz’s smaller forces away and give Yamamoto’s fleet the opportunity to seize Midway. A delay in the replacement of the Japanese military code, along with the superior American communications intelligence allowed the United States to discern Japan’s battle plan and plot a counter-attack.
Nimitz’s risky decision to conduct an ambush assault on Admiral Yamamoto’s fleet was not only brave and admirable, but it put the Japanese on the defensive side of the Pacific War. The counter-attack was successful, as Yamamoto drove his fleet straight into it, and from that point on the tables of the Pacific War were turned. The Japanese, though not completely defeated, were forced to abort their attempt to land on Midway, and thereafter abandon their planned incursions on Fiji, Samoa and New Caledonia.
The Battle of Midway was a necessary and very much crucial battle in the Pacific War. Had it not been for the United States strong military tactics and advanced communication intelligence, World War II would not have resulted in the way that it did. Had the Japanese succeeded in their plan to overtake the Midway atoll, the threat to Hawaii would have become colossal. The Japanese long-range campaigns called for a full-scale conquest in 1943 and, if they had succeeded in that conquest, carrier raids would have been made against the United States Pacific Coast.
Along with threats to America, it would have been quite possible for Japan to occupy part of Australia had they won control of the Pacific. There are numerous situations and possibilities that could have occurred had Japan succeeded in their strategy, that would have changed the world indefinitely. The impact of America’s victory at Midway began to reveal itself soon after the battle. This was the first real American battle triumph in the Pacific, the most decisive, and the most critical.
It would serve as a catalyst, leading to a sequence of American victories that would regain all the lost territory in the region. “Our citizens can now rejoice that a momentous victory is in the making. Perhaps we will be forgiven if we claim we are about midway to our objective. ” said Admiral Chester W. Nimitz after America’s victory in 1942. For the Japanese, the defeat was immensely difficult. They were unable to rebuild their damaged aircraft carriers, putting them at a serious naval disadvantage, and were most of all simply discouraged.
The idea of a Japanese victory now seemed nearly impossible to achieve. The United States on the other hand wasted no time in progressing forward with their conquests. They commenced their “Island Hopping” strategy as Japan assumed the defensive position, and “Attrition” became the new Japanese policy. This was the beginning of the end of Japanese rule in the Pacific during World War II. The attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, is considered one of the most important days in American history, and also marks the United Sates entering World War II and the day that we declared war on Japan.
Four days later, on December 11, we declared war on Germany. This surprising attack on America and our naval fleet gave us motivation for the defeat of Japan at Midway. As a symbol of the foundation of not only our navy, but our entire country- “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of all who threaten it. ” This infamous and well-known quote easily sums up the basis of America and all that we stand for as a united nation. The victory at Midway was simply icing on the cake, only adding to our country’s pride and nationalism. This turning point, among others, is one of the biggest in US and world history.
Its significance is just as important today as it was fifty years ago, that we are still one nation, under God with freedoms like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not only did the Battle of Midway change the outcome of World War II, but also changed the outcome of our nation, along with many others. The lives that were lost in Midway, Pearl Harbor, Coral Sea, and many others will be remembered and honored forever. And thanks to these brave individuals, America is still a land of opportunity and equality, and will remain this way for many years to come.
Bibliography & Citations
“The Battle of Midway Roundtable.” The Battle of Midway Roundtable. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2013. “Battle of Midway.” Battle of Midway. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2013. “Battle of the Coral Sea.” Battle of the Coral Sea. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2013. “Doolittle Raid on Japan, 18 April 1942.” Doolittle Raid on Japan, 18 April 1942. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2013. “World War II.” World War II. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2013.
“Pearl Harbor.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2013. “About Battle of Midway.” Battle of Midway. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2013.
Wouk, Herman. War and Remembrance: A Novel. Boston: Little, Brown, 1978. Print.
Stevens, Richard G. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America: The Texts. Washington, DC: National Defense UP, 1995. Print.