Battle of Midway, 4-7 June 1942

Posted: Monday, June 07, 2010 by Travis Cody in

From 4 June through 7 June 1942, the battle for Midway Island devastated the Japanese fleet and proved that the reach of American of air power on board aircraft carriers was the way to begin the long process of dislodging the Japanese from the Pacific. If the Japanese campaign to invade Midway had succeeded, they would have been able to threaten US holdings in the Pacific right up to the west coast.

You can read last year's post here.  For an excellent study of the battle, click the link above or this link here.

Today I would like to commemorate three gals involved in the battle.

USS Hornet, designated CV-8, was a Yorktown class aircraft carrier.  Her keel was laid down on 25 September 1939 and she was launched on 14 December 1940.  Before Midway, in April 1942, Hornet launched the 16 B-25 bombers that participated in the Doolittle raid on Tokyo.

During the battle for Midway, although some bombers and fighters from Hornet did not find the Japanese fleet, Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8) did.  Those torpedo bombers were all shot down, with only Ensign George Gay surviving the attack.  Still, this attack combined with several others helped to disperse the Japanese fighter cover and allowed later attacks to destroy four enemy carriers.  Planes from Hornet sank cruiser Mikuma, set cruiser Mogami on fire, and damaged a Japanese destroyer.  

Hornet met her end off the Santa Cruz Islands after taking heavy damage during the battle for the Solomons.  She was under tow when she was attacked again.  US destroyers attempted to scuttle her, but ultimately she was sunk by Japanese destroyers.  She sank on 27 October 1942.

USS Hornet was awarded the American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four battle stars, and World War II Victory Medal.  She was the last full sized US aircraft carrier lost in WWII.

USS Enterprise, designated CV-6 and affectionately called Big E, was a Yorktown class aircraft carrier.  Her keel was laid down on 16 July 1934 and she was launched on 3 October 1936.  Along with USS Saratoga and USS Ranger, she is one of the only pre-WWII carriers to survive the war.

Enterprise escorted her sister ship USS Hornet and the bombers during the Doolittle raid.  Then she became part of Task Force 16 and headed to Midway.

The initial attack launched from Enterprise was disorganized.  But relentless and repeated attacks against the Japanese carriers used up the fighter umbrella.  Later attacks were unopposed.  Bombers from Big E destroyed the fleet carriers Kaga and Akagi, and eventually found Hiryu with her flight deck full of aircraft and destroyed her as well. 

Something that often goes unmentioned...after the attacks on the Japanese carriers, many of the planes from Enterprise were too low on fuel to make it back to Big E's flight deck and were forced to ditch.  These crews were rescued by ships from the Task Force or by search parties from Midway Island.

When Hornet sank in Oct 1942, Big E was the last operational US aircraft carrier in the Pacific theater, until the great engine of the US war machine launched the Essex class carriers.  They began service in December 1942.

USS Enterprise is the most decorated ship from World War II.  She was awarded 20 battle stars, Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Commendation, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 20 battle stars, World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, Philippine Liberation Medal with 1 battle star, and a British Admiralty Pennant.

USS Yorktown, designated CV-5, was a Yorktown class aircraft carrier.  Her keel was laid down on 21 May 1934 and she was launched on 4 April 1936.  She was heavily damaged during the battle of the Coral Sea and managed to limp back to Pearl Harbor for repairs.

Crews swarmed Yorktown's decks in dry dock and had her seaworthy within 72 hours.  With planes and crews from USS Saratoga on board in addition to her own, Yorktown joined Enterprise and Hornet northeast of Midway.

Later during the battle, dive bombers from Yorktown encountered almost no enemy opposition and sank the Japanese carrier Soryu.  But the lone remaining enemy carrier, Hiryu, located Yorktown.  Although American fighters valiantly tried to screen their ship, enemy bombs hit Yorktown and set her on fire.  Planes from Enterprise would finally locate and destroy Hiryu, but not in time to prevent planes from the enemy ship from setting in motion Yorktown's final hours.

Dead in the water for a short time, crews managed to put out the fires and get Yorktown under way again.  But a second wave of enemy bombers struck.  Even so, Yorktown might have been saved if Japanese submarine I-168 hadn't found her and hit her with two torpedoes. 

USS Yorktown stayed afloat until the evening of 7 June, when she rolled and sank.  She was awarded the American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three battle stars, and World War II Victory Medal.


  1. Akelamalu says:

    Nice tribute Trav and I hope you do get to Normandy one day.

  1. Akelamalu: I'll see all the things I want to see one day.

  1. Coco says:

    This is great Trav - I just got finished teaching the unit on the war and I'm making good use of the links you've provided, so thanks!

    Hope you get your wish. It would be a fascinating trip.

  1. Cool! You don't get as much info on WWII sea operations, I find (although here in Halifax you do, because we're a naval port and we commemorate the navy engagements.)

    On Sunday as I was driving to Wal-Mart to get dog supplies for my Xena, I passed an older man waiting for the bus, wearing a dark blazer coated in medals.

    Oh, I thought to myself, he's obviously heading out to some kind of war memorial service. And then I popped by your D-Day post.

    *slapping my forhead*

  1. Ivanhoe says: called them gals :) Normandy would be on my list as well. Together with Paris, of course ;)
    Go Lakers!

  1. Linda says:

    I was talking to someone the other day (darned if I can remember who) about war and how they'll never be fought on the sea again like they used to be due to the advent of long-range bombs and such.

    There was such a great loss of life on ships during World War II, it's pretty mind-boggling, and I sincerely hope we never reach numbers like that ever again.

    I really need to get over and visit the USS Massachusetts again sometime soon, it's in Battleship Cove over in Fall River, Massachusetts; I haven't been there since I was in 7th grade. I was awestruck then and I bet I would be again even now.

  1. History wasn't my thing in school, but now that I'm long gone from there, I enjoy it more (go figure.) The more I learn about WWII, the more amazed (& horrified,) I am...