The Battle of Midway may be the most important naval engagement of WWII. In the battle, which lasted from June 4 to June 6, the balance of power and strategic initiative shifted from the Japanese Imperial Navy to the U.S. Navy. Two months after Midway the United States would go over to the offensive invading the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. They would remain on the offensive until the Japanese surrender in 1945.

Numerous books and movies have attempted to tell the story of that battle with varying degrees of success, promoting some inaccurate ideas about what actually occurred. But some recent historical accounts have corrected a pair of major inaccuracies over the last 15 years.

Operation AL, the Invasion of the Aleutian Islands

Accepted as gospel in most western accounts of the battle was the assertion that the Japanese navy’s operation against Midway Island included air attacks and an invasion of the Aleutian Islands off Alaska was a diversion. As these accounts go, the American Navy would respond to the attack on the Aleutians by sending its carriers to the North West Pacific, then the attack on Midway would take place and the U.S. would find itself trapped between two Japanese fleets and would be annihilated. Instead of taking the bait offered to him, a wily Admiral Nimitz acted on intelligence that said Midway was the actual intended target of the Japanese and ambushed the Japanese carriers from a position northeast of Midway. Except that does not appear to be what happened at all.

Historians Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully in their book Shattered Sword, The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway incorporate Japanese Imperial Navy records of the battle to convincingly dispel the myth of the Aleutian Islands diversion.