CACI Commemorates the 73rd Anniversary of the Battle of Midway, June 4-7, 1942
""The Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard join in admiration for the American Naval, Marine and Army forces, who have so gallantly and effectively repelled the enemy advance on Midway, and are confident that their comrades in arms will continue to make the enemy realize that war is hell."
- Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet, message to Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet
Arguably the greatest naval engagement in American history, the World War II Battle of Midway was replete with moments of courage, sacrifice, deception, and decisiveness. Much as the British Royal Navy has long celebrated its victory at Trafalgar, the U.S. Navy marks the Battle of Midway as a defining event in its history, and in the history of our nation.
The Japanese Strategy
America's Midway Islands were home to U.S. submarine and seaplane bases, and served as a forward staging point for American bombers. While the islands were not of overriding military value, Japanese Combined Fleet Commander Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto sought to use them to lure American naval forces into a trap and cripple U.S. Pacific power. Occupying Midway would also extend Japan's defensive perimeter and position it for further attacks against Fiji and Samoa, as well as an invasion of Hawaii.
Yamamoto's plan was to attack and rapidly destroy Midway's defenses, then invade and establish a Japanese air base. He expected this would draw U.S. carriers into battle, where Yamamoto would surprise them with his own huge fleet of carriers, aircraft, and warships.
He began his attack in the early morning of June 4, 1942, sending 108 dive bombers, torpedo bombers, and fighter escorts - 36 of each - to begin the raid. He counted on superior force and surprise to make quick work of the small islands. What he did not count on was this: the U.S. Navy already knew of his plans.
Defeated by Intelligence
Then, as now, the U.S. Navy was skilled at electronic communications surveillance, and American communications intelligence had learned of Yamamoto's scheme well before he began. After the war, it was revealed they had intercepted more than 1,000 messages detailing Japanese plans for Midway. With this intelligence in hand, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, had his forces ready and waiting for the Japanese.
Yamamoto's strategy relied on stealth and surprise that he did not have. It backfired horribly. He had dispersed the bulk of his force to reduce the chance of discovery. But this meant they were too far away to support his aircraft when they encountered American fire. Yamamoto's decision to maintain radio silence for the same reason all but eliminated his ability to respond when his forces engaged Nimitz's. Compounding the problem was the failure of earlier Japanese reconnaissance flights to track American movement.
The difference in communications and intelligence-gathering was decisive. Nimitz knew where, when, and in what strength the Japanese would appear. Yamamoto expected minimal defense of the islands and did not possess the force or agility to respond effectively to anything else.
By the morning of June 5, the battle was effectively over. American forces hunted Japanese stragglers for another few days, but Yamamoto had suffered a crushing defeat and withdrawn. The American victory permanently weakened the Japanese Navy and turned the tide of war in the Pacific.
As noted by Dr. J.P. (Jack) London, CACI Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board, "We are forever grateful for the bravery of American sailors and naval aviators at Midway. In Fleet Commander Admiral Nimitz, we had the decisive leadership to challenge Japan's greatest fleet, and on the deck of every American ship and in the cockpit of every American aircraft, we had the heroes who kept our nation free."
In 2007, Dr. London was the recipient of the Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Award from the Navy League of the United States for service and support to the U.S. Navy as an industry civilian and executive leader.