Remember the collective crushing disappointment we all felt as we got settled in to watch Pearl Harbor in 2001, expecting a Saving Private Ryan-level war movie on a grander scale and suddenly realizing it was a love story and that the attack on Pearl Harbor was actually just part of the backstory? The bad news is that Pearl Harbor is still on television.
The good news is that the director of Independence Day just made a movie about the World War II Battle of Midway. And he even remade the attack on Pearl Harbor to get started.
All this and Woody Harrelson as Chester Nimitz? I’m interested. This still is from Planet of the Apes, but we all wish Nimitz shaved his head like this before combat. I do, anyway.
For the uninitiated, the Battle of Midway may have well been the turning point in the Pacific War of World War II. While the Doolittle Raid featured in Pearl Harbor showed American resolve and boosted morale, it did little to really hurt the Japanese in the Pacific (the Doolittle Raid appears to be in the Midway movie as well). Two months later in 1942, the U.S. Navy struck a decisive blow, delivering a devastating punch to the face of the Japanese Empire at the height of its power – just six months after the U.S. Navy was supposed to be knocked out of the war at Pearl Harbor.
The Americans had a complete intelligence advantage at Midway, having broken the Japanese radio codes and determining they were on their way to attack an island code-named “AF.” In order to figure out what objective “AF” was, American intelligence sent an uncoded message that the water purification system on Midway was down, they heard Japanese radio operators reporting objective “AF” was low on water. The target was Midway, and the Navy laid a trap for the oncoming Japanese fleet.
The United States ended up with the Japanese objective, the days the Japanese fleet would arrive, and the entire Japanese order of battle. What’s more, the Japanese were unaware of the Americans’ positions or that the Navy had broken their codes, so the Japanese Navy took the further steps of so dividing their forces into four subgroups, that they were unable to support each other. This might have been a great tactic in a surprise, but not so much when the Americans knew exactly where every ship would be and when they would be there. The result was, not surprisingly, a complete rout that could only be described as a major ass-kicking.
Japanese forces took massive losses. The Imperial Japanese Navy lost ten times the number of men, along with four aircraft carriers it could not replace, two heavy cruisers, and almost 250 aircraft. The Americans lost just 307 men, 150 planes, the carrier USS Yorktown and the destroyer USS Hammann.
Not bad for the first American victory in the Pacific.