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

  • Jason Weingart / Barcroft Media via Getty

    Nebraska: Images of the Cornhusker State

    A few glimpses of the landscape of Nebraska, and some of the animals and people calling it home

  • Chris Hyde / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Tinside Lido, Log Climber, Dragon Temple

    The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, wildfire damage in Oregon, flooding in Florida from Hurricane Sally, continued protests in Belarus, smoky skies over Seattle, and much more

  • Marco Bertorello / AFP / Getty

    Scenes From the 2020 Tour de France

    Images from the first 17 stages of this year’s Tour de France cycling race

  • Esteban Felix / AP

    Life in the Wake of COVID-19

    Images of the difficult personal journey of a father and daughter, in the months after the loss of their wife and mother due to COVID-19