World War II: Battle of Midway and the Aleutian Campaign


Six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan prepared to deal one more decisive blow to the U.S. Naval forces in the Pacific. Its aim was to destroy U.S. aircraft carriers and occupy Midway Atoll -- a tiny but strategically important island nearly halfway between Asia and North America, that was home to a U.S. Naval air station. American codebreakers deciphered the Japanese plans, allowing the U.S. Navy to plan an ambush. On June 3, 1942, the Battle of Midway commenced. Aircraft launched from Midway Atoll and from carriers of both navies and flew hundreds of miles, dropping torpedoes and bombs and fighting one another in the skies. At the end of several days of fighting, the Japanese Navy had lost four aircraft carriers and nearly 250 aircraft and suffered more than 3,000 deaths. In contrast, U.S. losses amounted to a single carrier and 307 deaths. It was a decisive victory for the U.S. Navy, and was later regarded as the most important battle of the Pacific Campaign. But at the same time as this battle was taking place, a Japanese aircraft carrier strike force thousands of miles to the north was attacking the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. After bombing Dutch Harbor, Japanese forces siezed the tiny islands of Attu and Kiska. It was the first time since the War of 1812 that American soil had been occupied by an enemy. The Japanese dug in and held the islands until mid-1943, when American and Canadian forces recaptured them in brutal invasions. (This entry is Part 11 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)
Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Alexandra Beier / Getty

    Oktoberfest 2018: Photos From the Opening Weekend

    The 185th Oktoberfest beer festival opened in Munich this weekend, and organizers are expecting more than 6 million visitors over the next two weeks.

  • Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Grassy Biker, Welsh Surfer, Chilean Pups

    A White Walker roams Northern Ireland, flooding threatens parts of the U.S. and Mali, a Japanese satellite visits an asteroid, American bison are raised in Mexico, and much more

  • Mahmud Hams / AFP / Getty

    Photos: 25 Fridays of Protest in Gaza

    For nearly six months now, Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip have been staging weekly demonstrations along the border between Gaza and Israel—protests they call the “Great March of Return.”

  • Lucas Jackson / Reuters

    Studying Greenland’s Ice to Understand Climate Change

    Lucas Jackson, a photographer with Reuters, recently joined a team of scientists studying Greenland’s ice sheet and glaciers.