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    Midway Atoll Minor Outlying Islands USA

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USN November 24, 1941

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USN June 1942

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USN 1945

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Google Earth 2016

Location
Midway Atoll is located in the North Pacific Ocean with a total land area of 2.4 square miles including Eastern Island separated by the entrance channel from Spit Island and Sand Island to the north is Sand Islet fringed by a coral reef that forms Midway Lagoon. The International Dateline is located 161 miles to the west. Hawaii is 1,385 miles to the southeast and Japan is 2,627 miles to the northwest. During the Pacific War, Midway was code named "Balsa" by the Americans and "AF" by the Japanese.

Prewar
During April 1935, a Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) Sikorsky S-42 "Pan American Clipper" piloted by Captain Edwin Musick  with a crew of five on a transpacific survey flight visited Midway Atoll to establish an aerial route linking Hawaii to Midway then onward to Wake, Guam and Manila.

To develop facilities at Midway, Pan Am mounted mounted two expeditions to Midway Atoll to establish facilities on Sand Island, the first "North Haven Expedition" in 1935 and the second "North Haven Expedition II" in 1936 using steamer SS North Haven traveling from San Francisco transporting construction materials, fuel and six months of supplies for the construction crew.

Wartime History
During 1939 the U. S. Navy (USN) contracted several construction firms, which formed Contractors Pacific Naval Air Base to build facilities for Naval Air Station Midway Islands (NAS Midway Islands) on Eastern Island and Sand Island. Work began on Eastern Island with the construction of Midway Airfield.

On February 14, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8682 established "Midway Island Naval Defensive Sea Area," which encompassed the territorial waters between the extreme high-water marks and the three-mile marine boundaries surrounding Midway. "Midway Island Naval Airspace Reservation" was also established to restrict access to the airspace over the naval defense sea area. Only U.S. government ships and aircraft were permitted to enter the naval defense areas at Midway Atoll unless authorized by the U. S. Navy.

On December 7, 1941 after learning of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu, USS Lexington (CV-2) enroute to Midway with USMC SB2U-3 Vindicators from VMSB-231 for Midway Airfield aborted the delivery to search for the Japanese fleet instead. Between 9:31am to 9:54am, Midway Atoll was bombarded by Japanese destroyers Ushio and Sazanami that shelled Sand Island, killing four and damaging installations.

On March 10, 1942 H6K Mavis piloted by Lt. Hashizume attempts to photograph Midway. Over the target, shot down by F2A Buffalo.

Japanese missions against Midway Atoll
December 7, 1941 - June 4, 1942

Battle of Midway
During the Battle of Midway, Midway Atoll was the target of the Japanese Navy and was a turning point in the Pacific War in the Pacific, when American aircraft sank four Japanese aircraft carriers in a two-day sea battle that broke the back of the Imperial Japanese fleet.

TBF Avengers from Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8) shore based element began their combat career with attacks against the Japanese Fleet during the Battle of Midway. During the battle, six B-26s, in conjunction with US Navy torpedo bombers, attack a carrier; two of the B-26s are shot down. In further morning action 14 B-17s attacked the task force approaching Midway at a distance of 145 miles; they claim several hits on carriers and 2 Zekes shot down. In the late afternoon 2 B-17s attack a carrier force, claiming hits on a battleship and a carrier and 9 aircraft shot down; 4 other B-17s claim a hit on heavy cruiser 185 miles from Midway. 6 B-17s, en route to Midway from Hawaii, bomb ships 170 miles from Midway, claiming hits on Hiryu, hit earlier in the battle, and a destroyer, which is claimed sunk ending the Battle of Midway.

In total, Japanese losses included four aircraft carriers: Kaga and Soryu on June 4 plus Akagi and Hiryu on June 6 and cruiser Mikuma, 332 aircraft and 3,500 men killed. American losses included the loss of aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) and destroyer USS Hammann DD-412, 105 aircraft and a total of 307 men killed, a decisive American victory.

Today
Midway Atoll is an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the United States, administratively considered part of the Minor Outlying Islands of the United States.

On April 22, 1988 designated a National Wildlife Refuge under the jurisdiction of the U. S. Navy. On October 1, 1993 the U. S. Navy closed NAS Midway Islands. Between August 1996 until 2002 the general public could visit Midway Atoll.

On October 31, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13022 that transfered transferred the jurisdiction and control of the atoll to the United States Department of the Interior, administered by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). On September 13, 2000 designated the "Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial".

On June 15, 2006 President George W. Bush designated Midway part of the  Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. In 2007, renamed Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument administered by both the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the State of Hawaii. A visitor program began in March 2008 but was suspended in 2013 due to budget cuts.

Visitors to Midway Islands can observe many wartime relics including the original runways, buildings, bunkers and other wartime remnants remain on the islands. Bomb craters and long strings of strafing bullet marks from Japanese Zero fighter aircraft still visible across runway aprons and buildings.

Eastern Island
Located at the eastern end of Midway Atoll, includes Midway Airfield (Eastern Island Airfield, Henderson Field).

Sand Island
Located at the southern end of Midway Atoll, includes Sand Island Airfield (Henderson Field) and Sand Island Seaplane Base. At the western end is Inner Harbor.

Spit Island
Located between Sand Island and Eastern Island.

F4U-1 Corsair Bureau Number 02326
Pilot Smith ditched June 22, 1943

LB-30 Liberator Serial Number AL589
Pilot Major General Clarance Tinker KIA June 7, 1942

References
Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial
The Battle of Midway (1942) directed by John Ford includes combat footage during the Battle of Midway June 1942
Revenge of the Red Raiders pages 101-105

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Last Updated
August 12, 2017

 

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