By AUDREY McAVOY
Associated Press Writer
HONOLULU — Six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a weakened and outnumbered U.S. fleet limped north to confront a flotilla of Japanese ships advancing on the remote Pacific atoll of Midway.
A Japanese victory would have cost the U.S. a strategically critical scrap of land between Hawaii and Japan, and could have decimated U.S. naval forces. Instead, the U.S. sank four Japanese aircraft carriers and snatched the military advantage from Tokyo.
Monday marks the 65th anniversary of the start of the three-day battle that changed the course of the World War II. Three Midway veterans in their 80s and 90s and the current Pacific Fleet commander will visit the island 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu for a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which today runs a nature reserve on the atoll.
“Americans like underdogs, and here we are underdogs,” said Donald Goldstein, a University of Pittsburgh history professor. “I think that’s what made it so good — that we shouldn’t have won and we did.”
The victory came after a string of U.S. setbacks in the Pacific.
Japanese forces ousted the U.S. from Wake Island, Guam and the Philippines in rapid succession in the months after Pearl Harbor. Japan also drove the British, U.S. allies, from Singapore.
By targeting Midway, the Japanese navy aimed to take control of the U.S. patrol plane base there and destroy what was left of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Conquering the island was a way to protect the Japanese homeland from U.S. air raids and prevent the U.S. from interfering with Tokyo’s plans to dominate the Asia-Pacific.
One of the U.S. aircraft carriers sent to confront the Japanese, the USS Yorktown, had been hastily patched up just few weeks after being severely damaged in Battle of the Coral Sea.
By AUDREY McAVOY
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