On this day, a Japanese submarine launches a brutal attack on Midway, a coral atoll used as a U.S. Navy base. It was the fourth bombing of the atoll by Japanese ships since December 7.
The capture of Midway was an important part of the broader Japanese strategy of trying to create a defensive line that would stretch from the western Aleutian Islands in the north to the Midway, Wake, Marshall, and Gilbert Islands in the south, then west to the Dutch West Indies. Occupying Midway would also mean depriving the United States of a submarine base and would provide the perfect launching pad for an all-out assault on Hawaii.
Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack and commander in chief of the Japanese combined fleet, knew that only the utter destruction of U.S. naval capacity would ensure Japanese free reign in the Pacific. Japanese bombing of the atoll by ship and submarine failed to break through the extraordinary defense put up by Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Navy in the Pacific, who used every resource available to protect Midway and, by extension, Hawaii. Yamamoto persevered with an elaborate warship operation, called Mi, launched in June, but the Battle of Midway was a disaster for Japan, and was the turning point for ultimate American victory in the Pacific.