Unsurprisingly, America’s Most Dramatic Naval Victory Was Great Movie Material
At 10:25AM, June 4th, 1942, Japan ruled the Pacific, and was dictating the terms of war. By 10:30AM, Japan had effectively lost World War II. That dramatic turnaround was depicted in not just one movie, but two, one released in 1976 and the other in 2019, both titled Midway. The US military cooperated in the production of both movies in exchange for the right to co-write the scripts. The lead up to that climactic showdown began after the attack on Pearl Harbor six months earlier, when Japan went on a rampage in which its armed forces won a series of stunning victories. The Japanese wanted to win a battle of annihilation, then negotiate a favorable peace.
Pearl Harbor was a success, but not decisive. So the Japanese decided to invade Midway Island in order to lure what’s left of the US Navy to show up for a climactic showdown. Assuming that the US Navy had only 1 or 2 aircraft carriers in the Pacific, the Japanese launched an operation with 4 fleet carriers. However, American cryptanalysts had cracked Japanese codes and knew of the upcoming attack. Moreover, the US had more carriers in the Pacific than expected. One had been transferred from the Atlantic, and another that had been damaged in an earlier battle and was expected to take months to fix, was rushed back into service after 48 hours of repairs. Thus, the Japanese would meet 3 US carriers, and an alert enemy waiting in ambush, rather than one caught off guard. They launched their first carrier attack on the morning of June 4th.