Coral Sea and Midway
While the Germans began to lose to their grip on Africa, U.S. forces also started to turn the tide in the Pacific. During May 3-9, 1942, the navy sunk or disabled more than 25 Japanese ships, blocking Japan’s extension to the south and preventing the Japanese from severing supply lines to Australia. However, the Japanese soon returned to the offensive by attacking the island of Midway, some 1,100 miles northwest of Hawaii. Marshalling a task force of 200 ships and 600 planes, the Japanese counted on the element of surprise to achieve a rapid victory. But, unknown to them, American intelligence officers had broken Japanese codes, and the navy had advance warning of the task force.
The battle commenced on June 3, 1942, and U.S. aircraft, launched from the Hornet, Yorktown, and Enterprise, sank four Japanese carriers. Reeling from this blow, the Imperial Navy withdrew their fleet, but the Americans gave chase, sinking or disabling two heavy cruisers and three destroyers, as well as destroying 322 planes. Although the U.S. Navy took heavy losses—the carrier Yorktown, a destroyer, and 147 aircraft—Midway Island remained in American hands, and the Japanese were never able to resume the offensive in the Pacific.