The Japanese cruiser Mikuma, above, was just one of the devastating casualties endured by the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway, a major American victory and turning point of World War II.
Photograph courtesy U.S. Navy

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  • On June 4, 1942, the Battle of Midway, fought between American and Japanese fleets in the Pacific Ocean, began. The Battle of Midway became one of the most important American naval victories of World War II.
    Midway Island is a fairly isolated atoll, so named because it is midway between North America and Asia in the North Pacific Ocean. Midway was an incredibly strategic location; the Imperial Japanese Navy planned to use it to secure their sphere of influence in the Pacific theater of the war. 
    The Japanese had not lost a naval battle in more than 50 years, and had nearly destroyed the American fleet just six months earlier in a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (Pearl Harbor is about 2,100 kilometers (1,300 miles) east of Midway.)
    American military and intelligence forces worked together to defeat the Japanese. Code-breakers were able to decipher Japanese naval code, allowing American leaders to anticipate Japanese maneuvers. The U.S. Navy was then able to launch a surprise attack on the larger Japanese fleet in the area.
    The Battle of Midway turned the tide of the war. Japanese and American naval powers were roughly equalized. The war ended three years later, and today the battle is memorialized by such monuments as Chicago Midway International Airport and the Battle of Midway National Memorial.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    anticipate Verb

    to expect or act in advance.

    atoll Noun

    a coral reef or string of coral islands that surrounds a lagoon.

    Encyclopedic Entry: atoll
    code Verb

    to arrange information into a system for communication.

    decipher Verb

    to figure out or interpret.

    destroy Verb

    to ruin or make useless.

    fleet Noun

    group of ships, usually organized for military purposes.

    isolate Verb

    to set one thing or organism apart from others.

    maneuver Noun

    a skillful movement.

    memorial adjective, noun

    something designed or written to preserve the memory of an event or person.

    military Noun

    armed forces.

    monument Noun

    large structure representing an event, idea, or person.

    Pacific theater Noun

    military operations taking place in the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific theater usually refers to actions during World War II.

    secure Verb

    to guarantee, or make safe and certain.

    sphere of influence Noun

    area or region where a nation or cultural group has cultural, economic, military, or political influence.

    strategic Adjective

    important part of a place or plan.

    World War II Noun

    (1939-1945) armed conflict between the Allies (represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (represented by Germany, Italy, and Japan.)