The turning point of the war in the Pacific came the
next month at the Battle of Midway. The Japanese had
concentrated on the central Pacific with the intention of
occupying Midway Island. The four-carrier Japanese
task force was met by a U.S. carrier force. The U.S.
force included the carriers USS Yorktown, USS Hornet,
and USS Enterprise, plus Navy, Marine, and Army air
units from Midway.
Dive bombers proved to be the downfall of the
Japanese carrier force. When the battle ended, the
Japanese had lost four carriers, one heavy cruiser, and
258 aircraft. The United States had lost 132 aircraft, the
destroyer USS Hammann (DD 412), and the aircraft
carrier USS Yorktown (CV 5). In April 1943, another
USS Yorktown was commissioned; and it continued in
the proud tradition established by its predecessor.
In November 1942. the Navy fought the Battle of
Guadalcanal. After 3 days of bitter fighting, the
Japanese naval forces retreated, and U.S. Marines were
able to secure the island. With the fall of Guadalcanal,
the southern Solomons came under Allied control and
Australia was in less danger of attack.
On June 19, 1944, U.S. Task Force 58 (fig. 5-11)
caught the combined Japanese fleet steaming out of
Tawi in the southern Philippines. The Battle of the
Philippine Sea ended with the Japanese carrier forces
short of ships, planes, gas, and pilots. Unable to replace
these, the Imperial Navy was never able to recover from
losses, although many desperate battles were to follow.
The final blow to the Japanese Navy came October
23, 1944. In a last-chance effort to salvage the
Philippines, the Japanese sent a naval force to the Leyte
Gulf to attack the U.S. Fleet. Their plan backfired and
the operation was a complete failure: It was the deciding
catastrophe for their Navy. The loss of the Philippines
severed their empire, and the homeland was cut off from
its main source of supply from the south. With the losses
at Okinawa and Iwo Jima, the war in the Pacific was
approaching its final days.
On the Atlantic side of World War II, the U.S. Navy
had been fighting off U-boats in the long-running Battle
of the Atlantic. The Navy protected convoys bound for
Europe. Small escort carriers dubbed jeeps were
operating with convoys; and their aircraft were
successfully attacking German submarines as they
surfaced to recharge their batteries. Limited range of
land-based airplanes was no longer a significant factor;
and distance offered no sanctuary for the U-boat.
Eventually, the German submarine menace was
contained, and England and Europe got vital supplies
The Navys most notable Atlantic action may have
been its part in the June 6, 1944, invasion of
Normandythe largest amphibious operation in
history. The greatest armada ever assembled carried out
minesweeping, shore-bombardment, amphibious
operations, and transported supplies and troops. Those
operations let the Allies complete D-Day landings
successfully and eventually push on to Germany.
Widespread fighting on the oceans brought about
the building of a fleet unlike any in history. This was a
swift striking force. It had the advantages of speed,
mobility, and surprise, yet it possessed the firepower
and protective armor to stand and slug it out with enemy
forces. Such a fleet was made up of ships with names
synonymous with heroism, such as the USS Tarawa,
USS Missouri (fig. 5-12), USS Tucson, USS Higbee,
and USS OBannon.
Other Events during WWII
During the 5-year period ending in late 1944, 9
million tons of vessels had been added to the U.S. Navy.
One novel development was the large assortment of
landing ships that began appearing in the early stages of
Figure 5-11.Part of Task Force 58 at anchor in the Marshall
Islands, April 1944.