Historian Remembers “Greatest American Naval Victory”

Story Number: NNS020606-06Release Date: 6/6/2002 12:36:00 PM
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By Journalist 2nd Class Eric Durie, USS Harry S. Truman Public Affairs

ABOARD USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (NNS) -- Rarely does one battle affect the outcome of a war as profoundly as the Battle of Midway. Prior to June 4, 1942, during World War II, American forces were struggling on the Pacific front against numerous Japanese assaults. This battle, which lasted three days, completely changed the complexion of the hostilities and the face of naval warfare forever.

Recently, Sailors on board USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) commemorated the 60th anniversary of this battle with a ceremony held in the carrier's hangar bay, honoring both the significance of the battle and remembering the lives lost and heroes made during this legendary naval confrontation.

The ceremony's keynote speaker was Dr. Donald M. Goldstein, a professor of public and international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and one of the United States' foremost authorities on the Battle of Midway. Goldstein averages more than 200 speaking engagements a year and his book, Miracle at Midway, was on the bestseller list for nine weeks.

According to Goldstein, the events at Midway were some of the most significant in military history. "This was the greatest victory in American naval history," he said.

What made the battle's outcome so amazing is the fact that the Japanese forces were so powerful at the time. "In the early days of the war, the Japanese were invincible," said Goldstein. "Their aircraft were better, they could go 50 miles-per-hour faster than anything we had," he said. "We were really the underdogs in this one."

The Battle of Midway was the turning point that helped lead these underdogs to victory.

After discovering Japan's plan to attack Midway Island, three carriers were dispatched to thwart the Japanese plan. During the ensuing battle, American forces were able to sink four Japanese carriers in three minutes.

It was a relatively new style of warfare implemented by the Americans that made this feat possible. "This was one of the first battles where airplanes did all the fighting," said Goldstein. "It changed the concept of naval warfare."

While the Japanese suffered tremendous losses, four carriers and 291 aircraft, the Americans also experienced some casualties. The U.S. lost one carrier, the USS Yorktown (CV 2), and 145 aircraft. Nonetheless, Midway is considered the battle that gave the U.S. the upper hand in the Pacific. "It won the war for us," said Goldstein. "It stopped them. After this, we threw down the shield and picked up the sword."

Three years and three months later, the war in the Pacific ended with the Japanese surrender on board USS Missouri (BB 63) in Tokyo Bay.

For more information about USS Harry S. Truman, go to www.navy.mil/homepages.cvn75.

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