Today we remember the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Midway on June 4-6, 1942.  In just a couple of days, this battle changed the course of the war in the Pacific.  The loss of 4 of Japan’s 6 fast fleet carriers crippled the empire’s offensive strike capability as well as their ability to provide air cover for their large surface combatants. Japan had lost the initiative and would go over to the defensive and remain there until two atomic bombs ended its dream of ruling a vast empire in the Pacific.  SOFREP has written a few pieces on the battle in the past that you can read here and here.

Here are three mostly unknown and unusual facts about the Battle of Midway that have only recently come to light.

Screenshot of B-17s at Midway Island taken by film director John Ford just prior to the battle.

The first blow during the battle was struck by the Army Air Corps a day before the battle officially began.

While the Battle of Midway is generally thought of as a battle between two navies beginning on June 4th and ending on June 6th, 1942, but the first American attack on Japanese forces at sea was conducted by B-17s Flying Fortresses of the Army Air Corps on June 3rd.

On the afternoon of June 3rd, at 1623 hrs, nine B-17Es led by Lt. Col. Walter C. Sweeney Jr and the 431st Bombardment Squadron found the Japanese ground invasion task force of transports ships and escorts about 570 miles west of Midway Island.  From an altitude of 8,000ft, they dropped thirty-six 600lb bombs. Their pilots made exuberant claims of having made five direct hits on enemy vessels and several near misses.

Several photographs were taken of the Japanese ships evading their bombs.  Returning to Midway the army pilot’s reports made it into the press very quickly and headlines about Air Corps bombers smashing the Japanese fleet at Midway appeared back in the states while the actual naval battle raged for the next three days.

Because the Navy had taken the strategic loss of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown and about 140 aircraft in the battle its own reports to the press about the loss of the carrier and other details of the battle were slow in coming.  News of the Yorktown being sunk was not released until four months after the battle. Press reports about what the navy had achieved were slight in the details so the American public mostly believed that it was the Army Air Corps that won the victory at Midway because their reports were first and more detailed.