Timeline of Events at the Battle of Midway

Battle of Midway timeline

The Battle of Midway was one of the most important battles in World War II whereupon the timeline of major events lasted just a single day. In the span of a couple hours – a few minutes really – the Japanese war effort suffered a major blow.

Prior to this battle the Japanese appeared unstoppable in the Pacific. They had expanded their island perimeter to frightening lengths, and easily defeated every force in their way.

The United States entered the Pacific theater following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Even so, they fared just as poorly as their allies against the well-trained Japanese military. Unlike the Battle of the Atlantic where German U-boats posed the primary main threat, full scale naval battles appeared in the Pacific.

In early May 1942, the United States fought the Japanese to a relative stalemate at the Battle of Coral Sea. Despite this, the Japanese resumed their offensive much to the chagrin of the allied forces. Due to US code breakers intercepting enemy radio messages, they knew where the next attack was coming: tiny Midway Island.

Battle of Midway Timeline of Events

The timeline of major events at the Battle of Midway lasted just a single day on June 4, 1942. In the span of two minutes, American dive bombers destroyed 3 out of 4 Japanese aircraft carriers dealing a permanent blow Japanese naval power for the remainder of the war.

On the eve of battle, the Americans knew of the Japanese intentions and their target. Four Japanese heavy aircraft carriers were involved, along with hundreds of other ships. To counter the attack the US had three heavy carriers present with one major advantage: the element of surprise.

On June 4th the battle began, and the Japanese navy would never be the same. The battle began in the early morning with a Japanese bombing of the island to attempt to destroy the US airfield on the island.

Battle of Midway Timeline of Events

After the US repelled the initial attack, US aircraft spotted the location of the Japanese carriers. Launching planes from their 3 carriers, the Americans attacked 3 of the Japanese carriers all at virtually the same time. The results were devastating, with the 3 carriers Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu engulfed in flames and knocked out of commission in just two minutes.

After the Japanese counter attacked and severely damaged a US carrier (Yorktown), US planes spotted the 4th Japanese carrier, the Hiryu. The resulting attack scored a direct hit causing yet another loss to the Japanese navy.

The results of the battle completely changed the outlook of the Pacific war. With four Japanese carriers sunk (compared to just one US carrier) it was perhaps the most impactful victory in the history of naval warfare.


To learn more about US history, check out this timeline of the history of the United States.


1) Isom, Dallas Woodbury. “The Battle of Midway: Why the Japanese Lost.” Naval War College Review, vol. 53, no. 3, 2000, pp. 60–100. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/44638333.

2) Bongers, Anelí, and José L. Torres. “Revisiting the Battle of Midway: A Counterfactual Analysis.” Military Operations Research, vol. 25, no. 2, 2020, pp. 49–68. JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/26917214.

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