Sunday 27 January 2013

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The Battle of Midway was one of the more famous naval battles in the Pacific. Here are a few of the first pages from the "Battle of Midway" chapter:

By April 1942, the Japanese Empire stretched from Manchuria to New Guinea on the outskirts of Australia; after Pearl Harbour Japan's advances in the Pacific had been almost entirely victorious. Allied armies in the Philippines, Malaya, Singapore and the Dutch East Indies had all been defeated. Victory for Japan was seemingly close, but the Pacific War was far from over.

After the Pearl Harbour debacle, the United States had little to celebrate in the Pacific. Salvage teams at the Hawaiian base were restoring and repairing U.S. battleships and other warships, but the survival of the U.S. aircraft carriers did give the Allies something to counter further Japanese naval advances. It was not long before they were called into action for naval support in the Pacific.

These aircraft carriers also provided a platform for early bombing missions such as the Doolittle Raid. With aircraft carriers the United States launched its first bombing raid of the war towards Japan. In the month of April, a squadron of B-25s, even though they were not carrier aircraft, somehow took off from the decks of an aircraft carrier and bombed Japanese cities. The Doolittle Raid proved that Japan could be bombed, and was celebrated by the Allies.

Further naval battles in the Pacific took place in May. At the Battle of Coral Sea the IJN was targeting Port Moresby, which if taken could provide a base for a potential invasion of Australia. The occupation of southeast New Guinea was another part of the plan. For this operation Japan sent out two fleet aircraft carriers to intercept any Allied naval fleets.

The U.S. Navy was ready and waiting for the IJN at Coral Sea. It was here that the first aircraft carrier naval battle of the Pacific War emerged, as both sides launched aircraft sorties from their carriers. The U.S. aircraft carriers Lexington and Yorktown were both attacked by the Japanese bombers. The Lexington was struck by torpedoes and was lost, while the bomb damaged Yorktown survived the battle and returned to Pearl Harbour for further repairs.

Despite the loss of the Lexington, the Battle of Coral Sea was not entirely a defeat for the United States. The IJN withdrew from the battle, and so the Allies still held Port Moresby which would remain out of reach for the rest of the Pacific War. Japanese fleet aircraft carriers required repairs after the battle, and they also lost a light carrier.

The remaining U.S. aircraft carriers were a primary target for the IJN. They had escaped Pearl Harbour, and three of those remained intact after the Battle of Coral Sea. Indeed, the next battle was less than a month away.

For this operation, Admiral Yamamoto aimed at the occupation of the Midway Atoll, a small island in the Pacific, approximately 1,300 miles northwest of Hawaii, which was a U.S. naval and flying-boat base. For Japan, it was a good location to establish a forward position in the Pacific with airfields. It was expected that U.S. aircraft carriers could be trapped, and wiped out, by the Japanese carrier fleet in a naval battle around Midway Island. Japanese troops would also land at and occupy the Aleutian Islands to the north to divert some U.S. vessels away from Midway.

Yamamoto divided the Japanese Combined Fleet into five naval groups that were dispersed across hundreds of miles of ocean. The most essential of these groups was the Carrier Striking Force, under Admiral Nagumo, which included four Japanese aircraft carriers with approximately 280 aircraft. These were the ships that would target the U.S. carriers, and aircraft, around Midway.

Behind the Carrier Striking Force were further supporting Japanese fleet groups. These fleets included a variety of cruisers, destroyers and battleships such as the 72,809 ton Yamato. One of the groups was also a transport group which was expected to carry approximately 5,000 Japanese troops to occupy Midway. Japanese submarines would also play their part in the operation. Japan sent out a forward screen of submarines between Midway and Pearl Harbour to intercept U.S. aircraft carriers approaching Midway....