What Happened at the Battle of Midway

What actually is the Battle of Midway?
The new war film, Midway, from director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) is based on a completely true story. The Battle of Midway was a real battle that was fought from June the 4th to June the 7th, 1942, six months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour.


The Midway islands are technically a U.S. territory and are halfway between Asia and America, and were of major strategic importance. In early ’42, US Navy codebreakers had figured out that the Japanese were planning a huge attack somewhere in the pacific, at a location they were only calling “AF”. Midway base, acting on a hunch, then did something bordering on genius.

They broadcast a message claiming they were running short on fresh water. Their codebreakers then intercepted a Japanese military signal stating that “AF” was out of fresh water, which confirmed the location of the impending Japanese attack. But now, those stationed at Midway would be ready. They even had a date: either June the 4th of June the 5th.


Second only to Pearl Harbour in terms of strategic worth, Midway was a huge deal for Japan, and would let them easily get further into the U.S. mainland, and they planned to commit as many numbers as they could to their attack. But when they arrived, they were treated to a truly nasty shock.
Midway was ready.

Thanks to the intel and their cunning ruse, fighters were instantly put into the air. Bombers strafed the Japanese ships, and anti-aircraft guns were loaded up, flooding the skies with defensive artillery. The U.S. forces pursued the attackers back to their main body of forces and went on the offensive. 


After the second day, Chester Nimitz (played in Midway by Woody Harrelson) issued a statement:

“It is too early to claim a major Japanese disaster…The enemy appears to be withdrawing, but we are continuing the battle. A momentous victory is in the making…Pearl Harbor has now been partially avenged. Vengeance will not be complete until Japanese sea power is reduced to impotence. We have made substantial progress in that direction. Perhaps we will be forgiven if we claim that we are about midway* to that objective. The battle is not over…”

One of the great things about Midway is that he characters are based on real people, and what they faced during the Battle of Midway really happened. Screenwriter Wes Tooke poured over the history books, first hand account and textbooks to create something as accurate as possible.


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