Midway was the pivotal battle of the war in the Pacific. Originally conceived by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as a trap to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its remaining aircraft carriers, the battle turned out to be a disaster for the IJN instead. When it was over, four Japanese aircraft carriers had been sunk and the tide of the war had been turned against them.
Altogether, some 200 warships fought in the Battle of Midway or supported the combat operations. Four Japanese carriers and a cruiser were sunk. The U.S. Navy lost one carrier and one destroyer. But what became of the remaining ships of the Battle of Midway? Of the IJN's ships, nearly all were sunk during the war. With one exception, the few that survived the war were scrapped within a couple years of the Japanese surrender. Of the U.S. Navy's warships, 39.5% were sunk or lost at sea during the war. The rest served for varying lengths of time before being mothballed and scrapped or scuttled. Today, virtually all traces of the Midway combatants have disappeared, save those upon the ocean's floor where they lay to decay.
Prelude to Battle of Midway
The first six months of the war in the Pacific were disastrous for the United States Navy. It began with the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that devastated the battleship force of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The U.S. Navy's Asiatic Fleet was wiped out in the early months of 1942 along with naval squadrons from other Allied nations. The Navy was able to turn back a Japanese invasion force at the Battle of Coral Sea in May 1942 but at a cost of one of its precious aircraft carriers USS Lexington (CV-2) being sunk and another – USS Yorktown (CV-5) -- severely damaged.