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Battle of Midway sees Darwin carriers sunk

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Just months after they were the launching pad for the first bombing of Darwin in February 2942, four Japanese aircraft carriers met their end at the hands of the United States Navy in the Battle of Midway.

The allies finally found their revenge on the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu in a battle that took place over several days from 3 to 7 June 1942. It was a fight between hundreds of aircraft of Japan and the United States, flown mostly off many aircraft carriers.

The battle really should have been won by the Japanese, who had a much stronger force. At the time they were attempting to take the island of Midway, which would have allowed them to dominate the Pacific, and drive the Americans out of effective action. They also anticipated the USA would attempt to stop them, and therefore the aircraft carriers which had not been sunk when Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941 would be sunk in the ensuing combat action.

The Americans, however, had cracked the Japanese radio codes and knew the enemy’s intentions. They stationed their carriers accordingly. The US forces were also able to position some land-based aircraft which were of assistance in the combat action.

As in Darwin, the fight was between dive bombers, fighters and high level bombers on each side. However, torpedoes were included in the aircraft armament, a factor not seen in Darwin. Luck played a part, with the right combination of American aircraft finding the Japanese carrier fleet while they were refueling and re-arming. There was a desperate struggle between attacking American aircraft and the Japanese defence.

All four carriers were sunk with 322 aircraft lost and around 5000 sailors. The Japanese lost the heavy cruiser Mikuma as well. American losses included the carrier Yorktown, 147 aircraft and more than 300 seamen.

The Battle of Midway was a major blow to the Japanese expansion and their ability to protect what they had already won across Southeast Asia and the Pacific. But it would take three more years to push them back to the Home Islands and win the war.

Survivors of Hiryu at Midway (USN)
The flight deck of the USS Yorktown shortly after being hit by Japanese bombs during the Battle of Midway, northeast of the Midway Islands. (USN)