Here's How The Battle Of Midway Crushed The Japanese Empire

James Holmes

Key Point: Historian Craig Symonds pronounces Midway “the most complete naval victory” since 1805.

Founding German chancellor Otto von Bismarck was not a funny guy. As a rule, in fact, Bismarck was downright grim. He glowers at us from eternity. Once in awhile, though, the Iron Chancellor came out with a jest worthy of the great Yogi Berra—as when he reputedly proclaimed that Providence smiles on “fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.” Foolish besotted ‘Mercans must be triply blessed.

Yet Providence seldom does it all. It furnishes opportunity perchance. Individuals must grab and exploit opportunities fortune’s favor deigns to bestow on them.

Never was this truer than June 1942, when U.S. Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) aircraft-carrier task forces met in battle off Midway Island, an atoll northwest of Hawaii. Hollywood essays a rare look at naval history this weekend with the release of director Roland Emmerich’s Midway, the first cinematic account of this epic clash since the 1970s. Not having seen the film yet, I can neither praise its wholesome goodness nor damn its failings.

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