The United States had no business winning the Battle of Midway. Its three carriers – ENTERPRISE, HORNET and YORKTOWN – were outgunned by four Japanese carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, and a huge fleet of battleships, cruisers, destroyers and light carriers. To make matters worse, YORKTOWN had been damaged so severely at the Battle of Coral Sea a month earlier that she was barely able to get back to Pearl Harbor for repairs. She was presumed to be out of commission.
American presence on the island itself consisted of a hodgepodge of discarded aircraft, new arrivals and hastily built defenses. Lined up against them was a huge Japanese fleet determined to take over the island and use it as an airstrip. 5000 hardened Japanese troops were on their way and ready to invade.
The chief Japanese goal was to take over Midway Island, but a secondary objective was to lure the crippled American fleet into a fatal fight. Annihilation of the remaining American carriers would all but guarantee Japanese dominance in the Pacific.
But American ingenuity and grit came to the fore seventy four years ago. Shipyard workers in Pearl Harbor pulled off one of the most miraculous repair jobs in history, patching up YORKTOWN in a matter of hours and allowing her to get underway to join ENTERPRISE and HORNET as they sailed to intercept the Japanese fleet.
In addition, American cryptologists had broken the Japanese codes and identified Midway as the next target of the Japanese fleet, so the U.S. Navy was able to position itself against the invaders at the proper time and place.
What had been designed as a trap for the Americans became a disaster for the Japanese. All four heavy carriers were sunk. The Americans lost one: YORKTOWN.
Loss of life was about 340 Americans, but ten times that number of Japanese.
The invasion was canceled and the Japanese fleet limped home. Designed to be an invasion and occupation of Midway Island as a trap to destroy the remaining U.S. carriers in the Pacific, the battle turned out to be just the opposite and changed the tide of the war in the Pacific.