Military Monday: The Battle of Midway – A Turning Point Anchored by Sea Control

June 2, 2017


This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, which is believed by many to be the turning point of World War II. The battle was a moment in time when the only thing standing between tyranny and freedom was the United States military. This is a time to commemorate the battle in which the toughness, initiative, integrity and accountability of American Sailors and Marines proved essential to the victory that changed the tide of the war in the Pacific.

Such toughness is embodied in Sailors like Admiral Raymond Ames Spruance who assumed command of Cruiser Division Five on Sept. 17, 1941, served as second in command during operations in the Marshall Islands and at Wake Island in February 1942, and in the same capacity during the Marcus Island operations in the following months. He was Junior Task Force Commander during the Battle of Midway in June 1942, where his force assisted in inflicting the Japanese Navy with its first decisive defeat in three hundred and fifty years.

ed-midway-at-a-glance-gallery3The Distinguished Service Medal Spruance was awarded cited the following: “For exceptionally meritorious service… as Task Force Commander, United States Pacific Fleet, during the Midway engagement which resulted in the defeat of and heavy losses to the enemy fleet, his seamanship, endurance, and tenacity in handling his task force were of the highest quality.”

More than battles and bullets, toughness, initiative, accountability, and integrity of leaders such as this proved the outcome of a decisive victory for allied forces at Midway. Long considered to be a battle fought between U.S. and Imperial aircraft carriers, the lethal and capable American warships, driven by our brave Sailors, ultimately delivered crushing blows to Imperial forces. However, their lethality would not have been possible without the assurances of the operational opportunity in the surrounding waters – battlespace sea control – provided by the surface combatants escorting them.

Admiral Chester Nimitz, right, commander-in-chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet.

Admiral Chester Nimitz, then Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, another tenacious and insightful leader, and Adm. Isoroku Yamomoto, Japanese Imperial Navy, strategized the same overall objective for the battle for the enemy; sink the enemy aircraft carriers. Each approach, however, contrasted the other. While Yamomoto planned to disperse the Allied forces in such a way that turned groups into single units and make it near impossible for the surface combatants to do their job and maintain sea control, Nimitz saw right through it. In the final analysis, the simplicity of his plan proved there was little purpose for the extensive and unnecessary orders Yamamoto produced prior to the battle. Nimitz, with possessed a clear vision of what he wanted to do and clearly communicated those objectives to his operational commanders. That being said, the simplistically strategy would have been considered ludicrous without the integrity and accountability of the operational commanders who understood the orders and took action.

USS Dewey Lost Bell

The Dewey was commissioned on October 4th 1934. She survived the attack on Pearl Harbor while undergoing tender overhaul. She later formed part of the Enterprise task force at Midway. The Dewey was awarded 13 battle stars for service during World War II.

Under direction from Nimitz, the U.S. force’s goal, made up largely of surface combatants, was to draw the Imperial fleet out, maintain control of the sea and crush the Kido Butai (at the time, the largest Japanese maritime force). The warrior spirit of American Sailors and Marines aboard the seven cruisers and 17 destroyers involved in Midway epitomize maritime superiority by the “Greatest Generation,” and the truth of their actions remains relevant today: the world’s vast oceans and America’s security depend on a capable and credible U.S. Navy.


Surface Combatants Involved in Midway:

  1. Task Group 17.2, Cruiser Group
    1. Rear Adm. William W. Smith, USN
      1. USS Astoria (CA-34)
      2. USS Portland (CA-33)
    2. Task Group 17.4, Destroyer Screen
      1. Gilbert C. Hoover, USN, Commander Destroyer Squadron 2
        1. USS Hammann (DD-412) – torpedoed and sunk by Japanese submarine I-168 on 6 June 1942.
        2. USS Hughes (DD-410)
  • USS Morris (DD-417)
  1. USS Anderson (DD-411)
  2. USS Russell (DD-414)
  3. USS Gwin (DD-433) (diverted to join Yorktown, arrived on 5 June 1942)
  1. Task Group 16.2, Cruiser Group
    1. Rear Adm. Thomas C. Kinkaid, USN, Commander Cruiser Division 6
      1. USS New Orleans (CA-32)
      2. USS Minneapolis (CA-36)
  • USS Vincennes (CA-44)
  1. USS Northampton (CA-26)
  2. USS Pensacola (CA-24)
  1. Task Group 16.4, Destroyer Screen
    1. Alexander R. Early, USN, Commander Destroyer Squadron 1
      1. USS Phelps (DD-360)
      2. USS Worden (DD-352)
  • USS Monaghan (DD-354)
  1. USS Aylwin (DD-355)
  1. Edward P. Sauer, USN, Destroyer Squadron 6
    1. USS Balch (DD-363)
    2. USS Conyngham (DD-371)
  • USS Benham (DD-397)
  1. USS Ellet (DD-398)
  2. USS Maury (DD-401)
  1. Oiler Group
    1. USS Dewey (DD-349)
    2. USS Monssen (DD-436)

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