Midway through our series of Turning Points of WW2 we are now going to look at the Battle of Midway!
State of play beforehand
Due to the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, the USA entered World War Two and the Pacific Ocean Theatre opened.
Up to this point, Japan had been colonising East Asia in their attempt to create the ‘Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere’.
The US’s initial retaliation to Pearl Harbor was to bomb Tokyo. These were known as the Doolittle raids, named after Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle of the United States Army Air Forces. Whilst these attacks did little physical damage to the Japanese, the morale effects for both sides were big.
The raids by the US on Tokyo provided proof to the Japanese that they needed to push the US further back than previously thought, so as to stop them from being able to attack their home islands
For these attacks, the US were mostly using their bases on Midway, an atoll in the North Pacific Ocean approximately 1000 miles to the west of Hawaii, and the Aleutian Islands, which are just off the coast of Alaska.
Why didn’t it work for the Axis
As with D-Day, which we spoke about last blog, intelligence played a crucial part in the outcome of the battle. The US had cracked the Japanese coding system and knew extensive details about where and when the battle would happen, allowing the US to prepare effectively.
Japans battleplan is widely considered to have been majorly flawed. Mostly due to the fact that they spread their forces too far apart and so were unable to support and protect each other.
Why considered a turning point
Japan were Germanys biggest ally, as well as a naval superpower.
At the battle of Midway the Japanese suffered heavy losses. Most notably they lost all of the 4 aircraft carriers that were being used during the battle. Whilst they were able to eventually replace these ships, they were unable to launch any more attacks without them, halting any further progression plans.
Their naval power never fully recovered, and consequently, were unable to match the might that the Allies now brought with them with the addition of the US.
This had the knock on effect of making the Japanese less able to withstand the large attacks of the Allies, thus they could not tie up more Allied resources, which would have helped relive the pressure that both Germany and Italy were under.
Every loss the Japanese felt beyond this point was much harder to replace compared to the juggernaut of the US ship building and training programs.
All of the momentum that Japan had built up was lost, and the Japanese were slowly pushed back towards Japan.
At the end of the series, we’ll have a vote to see which of the featured events you think is the most significant. Will Midway be your choice?