Key Point: The liberation of Europe wouldn't have happened without the battle for Midway.
Thursday, June 6th saw the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion at Normandy, the amphibious assault phase of Operation Neptune, or what we commonly remember as D-Day. U.S. troops who landed at Normandy – particularly at Omaha Beach – waded ashore amidst a storm of chaos, a blizzard of machine gun fire, and a hail of plunging mortars. Despite great confusion and casualties, at the squad level and below, the men at Omaha rallied and pressed forth with tenacity and nerve to breach sand-berms and barricades, neutralize enemy positions, and salvage their sectors. Losses at Omaha were immense – but American resolve helped establish a foothold on the coast of France – and “the rest,” they say, “is history.
Without doubt, the enormous importance of D-Day as a logistical and operational undertaking – and the gallantry of Allied forces that June morning is unquestioned. It rightfully exemplifies American character, courage, and commitment. However, it is important to note that as far as the battle’s strategic significance is concerned, a strong case can be made that other battles of World War II are more critical than D-Day.
The Battle of Midway in 1942 is one.
Today – June 7th – is the 77th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, an engagement that not only follows one calendar day after D-Day but is a battle that is consistently considered to be a critical turning point for America in World War II. Midway was likely the most strategically significant battle for the U.S. in the Pacific Theater. Not only did U.S. Naval forces halt Japan’s dynamic and multi-pronged advancement across the Pacific at Midway, but the battle occurred in midyear 1942 when victory for the Allies was far from certain.
While the tactical result of the battle was stunning – the U.S. sunk four Japanese fleet carriers Hiryu, Soryu, Kaga and Akagi, a heavy cruiser and destroyed 248 enemy aircraft – it is the perilous backdrop of America’s war fortunes in 1942 that make Midway’s tide-turning outcomes all the more significant.