At Pearl Harbor, America suffered a terrible blow and sent sailors itching for revenge...and they soon had their chance. How much do you know about the Battle of Midway?
The battle lasted only about three days. But it turned out to be one of the most important naval battles in the history of warfare.
The Japanese wanted the American navy to engage in a decisive battle. Their hope was that in attacking Midway, the U.S. would send its carriers to respond, and the Japanese navy would have a chance to destroy them.
The Allies had been beaten back time and again in the months leading up to the Battle of Midway. Japanese leaders were counting on facing demoralized Americans at Midway. In reality, the Americans were more than ready to fight.
The Midway atoll is at the very northwest tip of the Hawaiian Island chain -- far enough to be out of range of most of Pearl Harbor's warplanes, but close enough that the Americans might be forced to defend it if it fell under attack.
Six months prior to Midway, the Japanese inflicted a horrific surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, killing thousands of American personnel. At Midway, Pearl Harbor was fresh in the minds of the Americans.
Midway is about 1,300 miles from Oahu and Pearl Harbor. The Japanese figured that this was a sufficient cushion to prevent U.S. air superiority from planes based at Pearl Harbor, giving the Japanese navy a significant tactical advantage.
The Japanese deployed four of their prized carriers for this battle -- the Americans had just three. Both sides had about an equal number of carrier-based warplanes.
The Americans intercepted and decoded Japanese radio transmissions. They not only knew where Japan would attack, but they knew the date and order of battle, too.
The Japanese liked to send fully formed squadrons for attacks. At Midway, American commanders did the opposite, sending their warplanes in smaller groups as soon as they were ready to attack.
Halsey was one of the Navy's top commanders, but in the days before Midway he was suffering from uncontrollable itching all over his body. The resulting lack of sleep made it impossible for him to be in command during this decisive battle.
Chester Nimitz was the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Ocean Areas during the battle. Along with Rear Admirals Fletcher and Spruance, the Americans devised a plan to thwart the Japanese attack.
JN-25 stood for Japanese Naval communications, and it was the 25th type of encoded system that the Americans identified during the war. Using deception and logic, the Americans were able to intercept and partially decode JN-25 and then anticipate the Midway attack.
Although many battles of World War II proved indecisive, Midway wasn't one of them. The Americans scored a rousing victory that changed the course of the war and eventually handed Japan a humiliating defeat.
The Japanese were unkind to American prisoners, but the Americans treated Japanese military men with some semblance of decency. They gave them medical care, and of course, thoroughly interrogated them. At least one Japanese man offered useable intelligence.
Midway is a tiny atoll (small coral islands) about halfway between Asia and North America. The atoll is now a U.S. territory and just a few dozen people live there.
Three unfortunate sailors fell into Japanese hands during Midway. They were all interrogated and then thrown overboard to drown.
The Shoho was a light carrier that was sunk earlier at the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Japanese had four carriers present: Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu.
The Saratoga was damaged in earlier battles and receiving repair work on the West Coast. She set off to battle but only made it to Pearl Harbor (still 1,300 miles away from Midway) when the last day of Midway unfolded.
Skilled veteran pilots were some of the most valuable resources in the war, and Japan lost about a quarter of its veteran carrier aircrews during the battle. Although these men were ultimately replaceable, their loss made it more difficult for Japan to plan new attacks.
Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku was known for his complex and intricate battle plans. But American intelligence trumped all of his detailed plots, leading to Japan's abject defeat at Midway.
Japanese bombs did in fact cause substantial damage to the airfield, but it wasn't a decisive blow. The American planes were still able to take off and then engage Japanese forces.
Soundly defeated, the Japanese navy began retreating towards the west. The Americans opted to withdraw and take stock of the situation, a fact that drew some criticism following the battle.
The wounded soldiers were sequestered from the general public and treated in private. The government did not want the country to know just how soundly their forces were defeated at Midway.
One search team found the USS Yorktown, which was in fairly good condition. But in the extreme depths of the Pacific, no one has been able to locate the remains of the gigantic Japanese carriers that were lost at Midway.
Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi had the chance to abandon the ship, but he chose to sink with her into the waves of the Pacific. In one fell swoop, Japan lost one of its carriers and one of its finest naval commanders.
All 15 Devastators were shot down … and they didn't manage to cause any damage to the Japanese ships. The Devastators exhibited terrible performance at Midway and were never used again in battle.
Only 6 of the 41 planes survived the battle. They were so slow and difficult to maneuver that they were essentially cannon fodder during the fight.
The Americans lost one of their precious aircraft carriers, but casualties were actually low -- 307 men perished. That number was a fraction of Japanese losses.
With more than 3,000 men dead, Japanese casualties were 10 times higher than those suffered by the Americans. Their four destroyed aircraft carriers were even more significant, as those ships couldn't be replaced in time to affect the Pacific War.
Fleming's bomber was damaged as he dove towards a heavy cruiser named the Mikuma. Rather than pull up and fly away, he continued his attack, missed the target and crashed into the sea.